16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

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This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned in previous articles, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

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Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

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To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

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@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

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200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

not-members-of-blasted-mechanism-with-magnuspim-and-vasco-croft-aphroswines-vinhoverde

Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

what-is-rockpile-time-in-and-time-out-the-fun-stuff-keith-moon-of-zinfandel-mauritsonwinery-sonomacounty-jameswood

Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

weinbach

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

thoroughly-enamoured-with-the-purechablis-made-by-athenais-at-chateau-de-beru-chablis-monopoleleclosberu

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016       

remelluri

Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

dominus

Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

its-ok-it-was-a-half-bottle-ridgevineyards-montebello-noguilt-rogcowines-2010-draperperfume-balance-structure-beautiful

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

schram

Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

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Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

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Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Alessandro, your grandfather was a very good winemaker @luiluiano @chianticlassico #fattoriadiluiano #chianticlassicoriserva #1979 #sangiovese #alessandropalombo #antoniopalombo #luiano

By the time I landed in Florence and had settled into the Kraft Hotel it was pushing 3:00 pm and I needed to be ready just a few hours later to meet my Chianti Classico hosts for dinner. It had been 21 years since I last wandered aimlessly, holistically and believe me, blissfully through the streets of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s Florence. Greater men than me had walked these narrow strade. Pietro Cimabue, Giotto di Bondone, Dante Alighieri, Arnolfo di Cambio, Desiderio da Settignano, Donatello, Lorenzo “The Magnificent” de’ Medici, Michelangelo Buonarotti, Botticelli, Lorenzo “The Magnificent” de’ Medici, Giovanni Boccacio, Raphael Sanzio, Vincenzo Danti, Leonardo Da Vinci, Francesco Furini and Filippo Brunelleschi. Twenty-one years should distort and disorient one’s sense of direction but I found myself at home, mapless, confident in finding my way from landmark to landmark. Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio and Il Duomo. Hours later, wide-eyed and energized, the dinner bell sounded and then forward, for three extensive immersion days, it was all Chianti Classico.

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Godello and #brunelleschi together at last #firenze #piazzadelduomo

I spent some time in Chianti Classico at the beginning of May. I had been to Toscana before, in 1986, 1989 and in 1995. With twenty years having passed, so much had changed and in some ways, nothing at all. What I learned this time around can’t be found in a book, online or in scattered, random tastings here in Toronto. I found people, I found place and I found progression. The wines of Chianti Classico have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age.

On September the 24th, 1716 the Black Rooster was born. A notice was given by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de ‘Medici who decided to demarcate the territories dedicated to the production of high quality wines. To protect and to safeguard this special place, found in the hills and valleys between Siena and Florence. Chianti Classico. Three hundred years later the Gallo Nero, quintessential symbol synonymous with the Chianti Classico DOCG, is celebrating its birth.

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The sheer breadth of #ilduomo is just amazing #firenze #piazzamichelangelo #brunelleschi #toscana

All who serve to ride shotgun as sentinels to the profound history and quality of Chianti Classico are very sensitive and protective of the term, so the use of the full name “Chianti Classico” is essential. In Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, as well as press releases, articles and conversation, the omission of “Classico” is akin to liking it to that other lesser wine that shall not be named, and could result in being taken outside and subjected to some dark arts. The two names, as a matter of fact, represent two DOCG with distinct and separate production territories, histories and consortia.

#tranquillo #greveinchianti #ChiantiClassico

#tranquillo #greveinchianti #ChiantiClassico

Chi-anti Classi-co. Two very important words. Classic Chianti. Classical Chianti. Take away the demonstrative qualifier and what do you have. You have Chianti. With no disrespect to some very honest, simple and pleasurable Chianti produced outside of the boundaries that define Chianti Classico, the difference between the two is night and day. When you travel through the verdant, rolling hills, in and out of wine estates and villages of the region, you can’t help but feel the sense of tranquillo. Calm. You are also hyper aware of the singularity, diversity and quality of the produce. This is Chianti Classico. You do not get lazy and say I am in Chianti or I have travelled through Chianti. Per favore, Chianti Classico. In fact, the moment you leave Chianti Classico and pass through the terra-cotta villages just south of Firenze the landscape changes immediately. It’s just not the same.

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Dropped in on some old friends today @VilladiGeggiano @BarrelSelect #bianchibandinelli #castelnuovoberardegna

Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. In my three full days of exploring the region I visited eight wine estates, and no two were the same. Each have vines growing on different soils, each vinify with varying techniques and all eight treat l’élevage of their wines with surprisingly divergent approaches.

Related  – Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione plan

My visits to these eight estates (plus one 21-year later reunion with Andrea Bianchi Bandinelli at Villa di Geggiano) was made possible and with thanks to the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico. In particular President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Christine Lechner and Silvia Fiorentini.  Last week I published links to 21 tasting notes on Chianti Classico Gran Selezione over at WineAlign. The full notes will go live on Godello next week. This week you can read 28 tasting notes on the non-Gran Selezione wines I tasted In Chianti Classico back in May.

Luiano

Luiano as from the Latin, “janus,” where all begins from Jaunary, with an eye to the past and forward to the future. Located in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, through Impruneta due south of Firenze. Passed down from grandfather Alberto, now Alessandro and father Antonio Palombo’s vineyards fan out to an amphitheatre with four distinct (cru) climats. The use of merlot and cabernet sauvignon is employed to achieve roundness with the tannic and tougher sangiovese, to avoid the classic, firm and historically at times infirm and instead go for the amenable. Representation in Ontario is with Tre Amici Wines.

alessandro-luiluiano-palumbo-announces-chianticlassico-quality-luiano-even-before-you-have-ascended-his-drive

Alessandro @luiluiano Palombo announces @chianticlassico quality #luiano even before you have ascended his drive

Luiano Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.50, WineAlign)

From a challenging vintage and winemaker Alessandro Palombo admits readily to much fruit purposefully languished on the vine. Field selection was the sine qua non, inexorable and moral imperative to seek this floral sangiovese from a less than homogeneous vintage. With a father’s wise voice resonating in his ear it was the inborn proclivity to resist temptation and not to over press and to focus on freshness. Some cabernet sauvignon and merlot urges the chamomile, jasmine, black tea and candied orange peel with some healthy contrariety by underbrush (mushroom and forest floor) and truffle shaved over black cherry. A bit iron rich though righteously clean, with no exaggerations, in avoidance of arbitration, greenness or pepper pyrazine. “It’s not the greatest Chianti Classico I’ve ever made but it’s one I’m very proud of.” 60,000 bottles made. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted May 2016

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With Alessandro and Antonio Palombo

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

There was some rain and cold at the climax of maturation, so here the sangiovese is grittier, shivered with sweetmeat and somewhat bitter tannins, but otherwise a “normale” vintage. Here we have 100 per cent sangiovese of the best selections and the first vintage not in true French oak. It is in fact larger barriques (French but made in Italy). Still the forest floor and a hint of truffle, albeit slathered with a deeper richness, whiffing some leather and tobacco. The wood is present but respectful to the fruit, as is the verdant streak running through the tremendous San Casciano in Val di Pesa acidity. The bitter and drying tannins will require time to help soften the astringency and relent they will though not completely, but age will certainly help. 13,000 cases made from a vintage with no Grand Selezione. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016

Lornano

Fattoria Lornano had been a Napoleanic French property taken from the church and re-assigned.  Like many properties in Chianti Classico the 180 hectare estate was originally a church, in Lornano’s case a privilege of Pope Innocent III who was entrusted with the administration of other neighbouring churches and adjacent agricultural lands. The Taddei family-owned Lornano is located on the south west hills of Castellina in Chianti and Monteriggioni, five kilometres from Siena.

Nicolò Pozzoli’s great grandfather bought Lornano in 1904 after making a fortune in matches followed by owning a glass factory in Empoli. This from Nicolò’s mother’s side of the family and it was aunt Katerina who ran the winery, now in the hands of Pozzoli. In 1998 they re-planted six hectares and in 2013, replaced seven hectares of Chianti Classico on the upper hill. Today the team is led by General Director Pozzoli, Agronomist Silvio Campatelli and Enologists Franco and Matteo Bernabei. They are represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.

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Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Lornano Chianti Classico 2012, Tuscany, Italy (211599, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lornano’s Chianti Classico benchmark endeavours from lock, stock and barrel sangiovese and is held back from market longer than most, to soften the 100 per cent edges and give the round, plumate feel. The vintage is nothing if not consistent with the Lornano house style, divaricated rich and dishing out some evolution. The fifty-fifty small and large barrel split and 12 months of aging following a 22-day fermentation at 25-28 degrees is more than just a jumpstart and a kicker. The integral technical play celebrates and elevates the elegant vintage of very pure fruit, almost biting, ricercato crack spice and finally, very silky tannins. A seven to 10 years Chianti Classico with significant poise for so little salvo. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted May 2016

Lornano Le Bandite Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

Le Bandite, “the banned,” is a cru special for its content of white sand. This is the place “where the hunters went hunting,” notes Direttore generale Nicolò Pozzoli, Monteriggioni territory in which, for public tender are prohibited hunting, fishing or grazing. So what is the significance with respect to Chianti Classico Riserva? Simple. The hunter’s loss is the wine consumer’s gain. Here a wine that spent 21 months in barrels, of wise character, evolved and integrated inherent, thanks to an extra year in bottle before release. Sangiovese from clay, of earthy density settled, on the palate, with three to five years left for prime drinking. When tasted alongside the 2009 Le Bandite, it shows more is less vitality and acidity than when that vintage was last tasted in November 2013. This 2011 will soon revive a pop and a feeling that brings leather and liquorice into the fray. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2016

with-thanks-to-nicolo-pozzoli-e-silvio-campatelli-inowfeellikenew-lornanochiantic-chianticlassico-fattorialornano-castellinainchianti

With thanks to Nicolò Pozzoli e Silvio Campatelli #inowfeellikenew @LornanoChiantiC @chianticlassico #fattorialornano #castellinainchianti

Lornano Commendator Enrico 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (211615, $29.95, WineAlign)

In reference to a time in Lornano’s history when the property was placed in trust as a commendam, “the temporary holding of an ecclesiastical benefice.” The Igt blend is sangiovese (50 per cent), merlot (25) and cabernet sauvignon (25) housed for 20 months in new barrels and large barriques. Nothing but rich and intense with the most spice and also the notion of liquid violets. As an aside to the Chianti Classicos there is here a new texture, the merlot giving dusty brushes, the cabernet blackberry, Cassis and with a savoury side. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016

Lornano Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (244947, 375ml, $29.95, WineAlign)

So very nutty, of almonds and hazelnuts and then marzipan. Succinctly apricot and ripe peach with acidity that hits during the initial shot of fresh fruit into frutta secca and then again at the back end. A dessert wine unique to its own character, perfectly clean and pure. From the oldest plantings of trebbiano and malvasia, one hectare of each, aged for up to six years. Picked in late October, brought in and hung up in a well-ventilated room with humidity and mildew control, then sorted before fermentation. Up to 30 per cent is lost or discarded. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted May 2016

Villa Trasqua

Located north of Siena in Castellina in Chianti with Monteriggioni rising majestically above the estate, Villa Trasqua is built around the ancient and exceptional vineyard known as Nerento. The estate dates back to 1965 and cultivates its 120 hectares and 10 vineyards in the oldest part of Castellina in Chianti. Trasqua is owned by Swiss brothers Sven and Alan Hulsbergen. Organically farmed vines and the gravity fed winery built on several levels are overseen by oenologist Franco Bernabei and Director Armand Metalla. The estate is represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.

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How about this beauty at Villa Trasqua? #berkel #1912 #slicingmachines

Villa Trasqua Trasquanello Rosé 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $13.95, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent sangiovese designed out of a quick bleed for minor colour and the result is great elegance. Saline, savoury and with a bit of sweetness, sexy, easy going Rosé with oomph. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted May 2016

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

From serene Castellina in Chianti wide open spaces vineyards and built upon sangiovese plus (five per cent) colorino and malvasia nera. Leaf savour of and with the tart sweetness of frutti di bosco. Spicy oak and depths plumbed but ultimately fresh elegance with acidity to lift, clean and place this in the new echelon of Chianti Classico. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle

If any Chianti Classico estate speaks of family values, tradition and a deeply profound, contiguous lineage it is Losi Querciavalle. Located a stone’s throw across a few valleys southeast towards Siena in the Comune di Castelnuovo Berardenga, the Losi family are the custodians of the purest Albarese soils in the hills of Pontignano. The Albarese here is so pronounced and so defined from plot to plot and vine to vine that Pietro Losi is able to distinguish and differentiate specific vines for the purpose of choosing identified bunches of grapes for each of his wines. Pietro and daughter Valeria take the torch from Cavaliere Tranquillo Losi, mezzadro (cropper) and a man who pioneered farming and winemaking methods to make wines that purely and clearly define the region’s Chianti Classico. Tranquillo’s transference of indispensable Chianti Classico information came from his father Emilio Losi and from Brunello of Montalcino’s Tancredi Biondi Santi.

Pietro continues the work of his forefathers, along with Valeria and brother Riccardo. The Querciavalle farm, acquired in 1954 with the establishment of the company, covers 35 hectares of vineyards while Pontignanello farm, acquired in 1998, bordering on the Querciavalle farm, covers 15 hectares. The estate is represented in Ontario by Natural Vines.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Malvasia Nera 2015 (Barrel Sample)

Aged in tonneaux barriques, the blending grape on a possible solo mission gives green vegetal and floral aromatics, violets, like petit verdot in a way, with great acidity. Pietro Losi is considering producing a single-varietal wine, is cloning to try and plant more for such a purpose. Tannins are grainy but sweet, fine and delicate. Three words for you Pietro. Go for it.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

The historical south-facing “Leccino” family vineyard is situated at 300-350 above sea level, from sandstone in the higher areas and from Galestro and Albarese, so typical from the lower areas of Chianti Classico. Sangiovese (90 per cent) and canaiolo see 18 months in 50 hectolitre barrels and in concrete. Here the natural world and the particular poetry of “old school” dialectical sangiovese speech is heard. It is certainly traditional and pure, clean, crisp, structured, taut and of that wise liqueur. The verbiage is all that plus what feels like dusty ancient mountain brush mixed with albarese soil minerality. In the end it is the canaiolo that brings the perfume. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

With five per cent canaiolo instilling just enough potpourri into the fine-grained sangiovese, this could be easily pass for Gran Selezione from an inelastic vintage. The 30 months in 20hL barrels has crafted a structured, elegant, firm and classic Riserva. More than sixty vintages have gathered up the albarese and here, from Querciavalle’s “Vigna del Pino” vineyard. Forest floor, vanilla and berries cull the traditional, resting calm, balanced, noiseless and bitterless. The aftertaste comes out the habits of generations, with a sweet amaro finish, a smooth digestivo. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign)

Every drop poured and considered from this ambrosial elixir solicits memories from and for a family’s history and tradition. From trebbiano and malvasia, the grapes picked on the 15th and dried from September to December. The pick has graduated to become earlier over the years, and the new, soft press to fermentation heads directly into the cartelli. Querciavalle’s patience exceeds the the five years (as required by the DOCG), usually waiting eight and making use of stainless steel to lower the natural sediment. “An immortal wine, already in paradise,” smiles Pietro Losi, knowingly, of dried fruit and of course almonds. There also challenges a depth and an aridity amongst this sugar, a depth of intensity through acidity that lines and then rounds without a moment of searing. This is true gran selezione calm, gorgeous and alone, warm and full of love. A dessert wine that takes minutes to finish, stays warm in the belly, helpful, coating and comforting. The best and correct story for Vin Santo is of the black plague when the monks believed it held the power to cure. What’s not to believe? Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli – Castello di Brolio

The history of Chianti Classico, Tuscany and for that matter, Italian wine can’t be discussed or put into perspective without mention of Barone Ricasoli. That name has been linked to wine since 1141, when Brolio Castle passed into the hands of the Ricasoli family. The first 700 years of Tuscany’s most famous castle and the family aside, it is the work of Baron Bettino Ricasoli, Prime Minister of Italy, researcher, innovator and first marketing expert for the regions wines.  Bettino is credited with having invented the Chianti formula in 1872. When I visited the Ricasoli family crypt in May I was struck by the fact that the Iron Baron passed away on my wife’s birthday. Then shivers travelled down my spine when I noticed a second Bettino Ricasoli shared a birthday with me.

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#castellodibrolio

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Francesco Ricasoli, 32nd Baron of Brolio has been at the helm of the castle and the family business since 1993. In the past 20 years he has overseen the re-planting of vineyards, isolated exceptional soils, plots and exposures. The five types of soils found on the estate; sandstone, argilliti, montemorello, pliocene and fluvial deposits all play major rolls on vineyard demarcations and which blocks are used for which wines. This research with nearly 1000 years of experience in the current hands of Francesco Ricasoli has transformed an historic estate into a new golden age as one of Chianti Classico’s most important producers. Massimiliano Biagi is now head of winemaking and Commercial Director Stefano Capurso is responsible for bringing Ricasoli’s exceptional wines to the world. Churchill Cellars is the Ontario Agent.

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Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

When you consider that this Chianti Classcio enjoys a production of 8000,000 bottles, you might think it a huge salad of over determination. It’s not but instead gleefully full of coincidence and implausibility. Sangiovese (80 per cent) mingles with merlot and cabernet sauvignon for nine months in barrique and tonneau. The goal is freshness from fruit with Chianti Classico character. The exactitude of resolution is a full expression, of cherries, dusty character and a meeting point from and for all five terroirs across the estate. Carries its full fleshy fruit with some liquorice in a dichotomous combo of exceptional quality and high quantity, incorporating diversity, brought together with simple but highly technological vinification. This is now as much a vision of Toscana, even as it resonates as Chianti Classico, than what it used to be. That is to say internationally stylized, but isn’t this in effect true of all sangiovese, not especially of Chianti Classico? Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli Brolio-Bettino Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This ulterior Chianti Classico label is dedicated to Bettino Ricasoli who invented the formula for the production of Chianti in 1872. The Iron Baron must have been a hard-nosed, get things accomplished kind of Prime Minister-Researcher-Inventor-Marketer because the sangiovese (with a splash or two of colorino) is a gritty effort, firm and taut. Aged in refurbished old casks, this unfiltered and bullish Chianti Classico is built upon a full-frontal fun nation of black cherry fruit. There is a textile texture that is not quite the CC leather of old but something newer, modern, hand-crafted and woven, silky and gentile. This is the elegance of such a form ridable sangiovese, on the tongue, to the touch and the feel. Bettino’s ode is dark and brooding but it is so very sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2016

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Fettuccine con #crema di #tartufo #osteriadelcastello @barone_ricasoli #madonnaabrolio #gaioleinchianti

Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (943613, $24.95, WineAlign)

The blend for the Riserva (first introduced out of the exceptional 1999 vintage) is very similar to the Brolio (beginning with 80 per cent sangiovese), but here the l’élevage sees time in large casks with some canaiolo in the mix. Carries the Brolio gene and the torch, takes the diversity of sangiovese from the cinque terroirs and distills it into a very fresh (especially for CCR) but certainly rich and velvety red. Firm, taut and finishing on its recurring entry note of round acidity and sweet tannin. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2016

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Not all #terroir is created equal. Cinque #cru @barone_ricasoli #granselezione #castellodibrolio #ChiantiClassico #massimilianobiagi #francescoricasoli #stefanocapurso

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (122598, $51.95, WineAlign)

Casalferro is 100 per cent merlot wrought from a southeast exposure, single vineyard cru for a total of 27,000 bottles. New barriques for 18 months are filled from fruit picked in late september (after the rest) and eight or nine further months in bottle before release. Here despite the wood and the varietal, this is as much a study in Chianti Classico as it is merlot, chiantified so to speak, of pure sweet acidity and red cherry like no other Tuscan merlot will espouse to show. This is surely not Redigaffi, Galatrona, Masseto or L’Apparita. None of them. It may not be the richest or silkiest but it is very pure and it has a naturally cured, sandstone and schisty feel. At a modest 14 per cent alcohol it feels light and ethereal. A great vintage for Casalferro. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace

Frank and Judy Grace purchased the vineyards in the mid 1990’s and restored an abandoned 19th century ruin into what is now the cantina of il Molino di Grace, named for the centuries-old historic water-mill. The first vintage out of the new winery was in 1999. MdG became a certified organic winery in 2013, something they and indeed the entire 20 viticultural Panzano-in-Chianti producers are extremely proud of, all together as one. It took 20 years to get this way, with no spraying and even the workers who work the roads will cut, but never spray.

Tim Grace runs Il Molino di Grace along with Director Iacopo Morganti. Their consulting oenologist is none other than Franco Bernabei. To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.

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Galèstro and #panzano in every pour. With Iacopo Morganti @IlMolinodiGrace @chianticlassico #toscana #organic #granselezione #ilmargone #gratius

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sangiovese running 100 per cent solo, but from a vintage that surrendered 50 per cent of the crop in the spring to frost. The absence of quantity is quality’s coup for a mere 48,000 bottles of Molino di Grace’s normale. Aging happened in Botti (25 hL) for one year. There is a distinct opposition to the other house stylistics, here fresh and fruit massive meets a beautifully dusty, high quality, straight and taut line. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

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“Just need a place where I can lay my head.” #panzano #ChiantiClassico

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

From a hot vintage you can feel straight away on the nose, augmented corporeal and heavy hued. A perspicuous selection from the vineyard is kept in old tonneaux (2nd and 3rd fill), then tasted through those barrels to decide on the Riserva’s final blend. Another Il Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese and the last vintage produced of the regular Riserva. Here again you note the house-style liqueur, the deep seep of cherry and the indubitable vineyard. The culmination of the calefactive vintage offer, from fruit to strength, inclusive with deep intent and a burrowing into the galestro. This the rooted riserva, firm and stretched to elegant. The spice and the tannin are late arriving, tied up in sapidity, graced by comfort. Still so very young, with chards nicking and drawing blood, in need of three years for the fragments of stone to peel away and dissolve into the liquid. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Gratius, meaning more pleasing, the author of a poem on hunting, opponent of the poet Archias and a contemporary of Ovid. The other sangiovese from Il Molino di Grace whose first vintage was 1999, of “a nose incredible,” says a wistful Iacopo Morganti and he is not wrong. From the Panzano-Greve in Chianti slopes of Montefili, at 500 meters, a 2.2 hectare single vineyard of old vines (70 years) co-planted with some colorino and canaiolo. So in that sense it’s a field blend but essentially sangiovese. Tuscan climat of rock and poor soil, where the wind blows and grapes whose fate is two weeks later maturation. Aromatics and elegance are in a calm struggle and like two brothers, rolling but not fighting. Such a wine of clean, pristine purity does not exist just anywhere. The inviting perfume solicits readiness and a willingness to be generous. No need to wait. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Darker, exuding more heat and vineyard funk with an emphatic oomph. You can’t help but notice it, the Galestro, screaming to be heard. This has that natural cure, that wisdom, the kind of feeling that the wine was always as it is now, borne this way. From the windy Montefili, 500m limestone and marl single-vineyard. Usually late maturing but warmer from 2009 and slightly obscuring but not smothering the Gratius “more pleasing” perfume. Very ready sangiovese field blend intensified in augmentation by canaiolo and colorino. Ready for drinking alongside the enchanting 2010. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2005, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Gratius 2005 shares DNA with 2009 aromatically speaking but in texture and expression the litheness is pinot noir like, with a bit of bretty volatility as an impression that is vineyard funk derived. Just now beginning a drinking window in performance for the art of perfect timing but why not imagine the installation persisting for 10-12 more years? Here the Montefili Galestro vineyard is clearly iterated in a funk-soil-chalk-liquid rubies way. A brilliant peek back because the tart is just so right. Ask the question, “what was the old wine like?” The answer is “it was like old wine, that is to say, like all old wines.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Colle Bereto

The Pinzauti family have transformed one of Chianti Classico’s most idyllic settings into an architectural and wine-producing estate of the highest elegance and excellence. Bernardo Bianchi is winemaker and the estate’s total production is 80,000 bottles per year. “The 60 hectares of the estate, of which 15 are devoted to grape growing, are skillfully arranged and tended to obtain excellent quality wines.” Sangiovese, the area’s “noble vine,” is used for Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, while the Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes give their best in Il Cenno and Il Tocco, respectively.”

The approach is through a very careful selection in the vineyard, stems removed and the thickest skinned sangiovese selected for Riserva. The avoidance of green berries is exercised with extreme prejudice, they do no crushing and only work with gravity fed juice followed by the gentlest fermentation. The Ontario agent is Nokhrin wines.

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At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.15, WineAlign)

From a vintage with no Riserva or Gran Selezione, so 50,000 bottles of sangiovese (97 per cent) and colorino (3) were produced. Fermented in botti, finished in stainless steel and bottled the first week of February. Includes fruit from the single-vineyard “la vigna del Convento” that lays beneath il convento di Radda in Chianti, now the restored home of the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico. The ’14 CC is possessive of the most liberal import and impart of local mineral. “We are very lucky, it is all Galestro,” says winemaker Bernardo Bianchi. This is Chianti Classico of tradition and progress defined, with the better and best grapes instilling structure, full of the kind of fruit that will last for 10 years. Who needs Riserva when you have this. Liquid concentrated must and dust, mineral and mouthfeel. Great round acidity and finally, blessed bitters. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016

Castello di Gabbiano

Castello di Gabbiano was built in the 12th century, just south of Florence in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The estate has been protecting its estate-grown grapes since 1124. The castle remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century when it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence. It was the Soderini who were responsible for the conversion of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is in the hands of Treasury Wine Estates, one of the most progressive wine companies in the world. The vineyards are divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. Winemaker Federico Cerelli has dedicated the best blocks of exceptional aspect and exposure upon the finest clay and limestone rock-filled soils for Gabbiano’s most important cuvées. Cerelli pays painful attention to both his agronomy and his winemaking. He is constantly analyzing the soils, carefully selecting the choice of rootstocks and clones, as well as pruning back in a careful, skillful handling of the vines. In the winery and in the cellars he exercises the balanced epitome of melding a natural approach to traditional methods and technical innovation to both large and small productions.

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Federico Cirelli brought the @CastelloGabbiano & @barquebbq supplied the sampler #treasurywineestates #greatmatch #chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #bellezza #chianti #chianticlassicoriserva

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (219808, $18.15, WineAlign)

Classic red sauce pasta appendage, for Monday and Tuesday, along with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Though the varietal and regional specificity floats in the Tuscan wind, the local tension, tang and tannin make for some robust Chianti Classico moments. Fashioned from 90 per cent sangiovese, the rest merlot with some colorino and canaiolo, moist from the fresh maker Branca vintage of deep, fertile soil. Partial carbonic fermentation after five days of cold (15c) maceration. Aging done in 70 per cent (five tonnes) cask and some 3-4 year old barrels plus 30 per cent in cement. The latter gives the exposure of freshness in fruit. Quite pure, clean and soil driven, earthy enough to soak up swimming pools of sugo all’arrabbiata or amatriciana. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February and May 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

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Really getting to know these guys @CastelloGabbiano #chianticlassico #chianti #granselezione #bellezza

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Federico Cerelli’s 2012 Riserva goes at the ancient ideal with (95 per cent) sangiovese and (5) merlot, of which 70 per cent of all estate grapes are used to produce this wine. From the Mercatale Val di Pesa castle vineyards, the CCR is a work of time, energy and investment spent in the vineyard. The elevated tonality can’t help but be assessed as compared with the ‘normale,’ here fermented in small (10 tonne) tanks, of a wild ferment, a warmer maceration and 20-25 days of skin contact. The new and improved state of the art incarnation of this Gabbiano is a by-product of Cerelli’s major reduction in pump overs (like, zero), a bit extra delestage, sangiovese malolactic in cement and merlot in barrel. Then into wood (20 per cent new French) plus (80) in third and fourth fill. A minor amount sees large cask. The totality is 12 plus 12 months (wood and bottle). Such a smooth operator with spice accents, again that classic rolling hills red fruit, great length, remarkable breadth and quality for the price. It’s amenable to immediate consumption with some air but will benefit from two more years imagined aeration. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2016

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Castello Di Gabbiano Alleanza 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

A single block alliance between merlot and cabernet sauvignon, less than 10,000 bottles per year, from low lying vines on clay soil, consummated out of a late harvest. “I like to pick when the vine has lost their leaves,” notes winemaker Federico Cerelli, “that is the right time to pick. It’s not too hot so this is when the phenolics are ripe.” Just a few hectares of cabernet see a separate, mostly wild ferment, mostly in concrete and normally 40-45 days of skin contact. It then spends 14 months in (100 per cent) new French oak. So very, very vanilla, caky but not milk-shaken, urged am biliously forward by crazy acidity, (5.7 tA) and high pH (3.9). The nose wields blackberry and Cassis and then the palate seems to veer wholly Merlot, dusty, silky and sandalwood soft. Just a faint note of dill pickle and it’s quite cool and savoury, of some black olive and brine, no animale, clean, almost anti-super Tuscan. There is no beast here. There is tannin and an edgy level but no brood. There is drinkability and it uses its wood well. A real improvement for this bottle, with thanks to Federico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016

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The river #arno beneath a #florentine night @WestinFlorence

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