On a Rall in South Africa

Donovan Rall

When I returned from South Africa two months ago people immediately began to ask. What’s it like? What’s new, what’s changed, what’s hot? I asked myself the same questions and the most obvious answers forthcoming were charged with the notions of quality and especially confidence. Case in point, fact and controlled emotion regarding the man, the winemaker and the wines of Donovan Rall.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

Three years ago I had the opportunity to taste two of Rall’s wines at Cape Wine 2015. I was impressed with the quiet swagger of the Rall White and Rall Red. The former was from old Swartland (Paardeberg) and Stellenbosch (Bottelary and Helderberg) fruit I noted as “pure white stone groove.” The latter of Swartland schist to cure what troubles and saps. This sourcing, grabbing and snapping up grapes from vineyards, blocks and plots spread across the Western Cape is the humanistic phenomena of an independent South African winemaker’s condition. It’s what they do and yet Donovan Rall has taken the art form to a whole new level.

For one thing he has found the last Mohican of Wellington cinsault blanc and kept it alive for a very small portion of the world to enjoy. He’s mainly a Swartland guy but he also climbs high into the Piekenierskloof and dips into the depths of Darling cinsault. Mostly Donovan Rall is a Schistosier, a man of the Schist, El Schistorino, the Schister. He likes vines grown in the coarse-grained metamorphic rock, especially syrah and it is his latest varietal effort that blew my mind. It is truly one of South Africa’s most impressive varietal syrah.

Rall wines was established in 2008 after Donovan graduated with a Viticulture and Oenology degree from Stellenbosch University in 2005. He set out to travel and then returned to South Africa in 2007 for a Swartland vintage. Mediterranean varietals under his own label from scattered old Cape vineyards was the natural next step. Cape Wine 2018 marked the release of his 10th and 11th vintages in bottle, quite significant to mark the inaugural culmination of his early life’s work.

Donovan and I made eye contact at this most recent Cape Wine and I was flattered that he remembered tasting with me three years before. And so he went out of his way to pull seven bottles, disappear behind a partition and away from the mayhem of the Swartland booth and taste these seven South African beauties with me. The quantities are small but the hearts so very big. Here are my notes.

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Rall Wines Grenache Blanc 2017, Piekenierskloof, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

It would be hard to argue with Donovan Rall that in the Western Cape grenache blanc needs to be made in the freshest, anti-oxidative, anti-leesy way. Zippy, salty, driven by minerals and acidity. In the Piekenierskloof, at 650m plus, done in concrete egg after early-picked fruit, but some skin-contact (like red wine, done in open top vessels constantly punched down) for texture because it’s approached with early-picked acidity preservation. Has the texture but no melon flavours. Love the unique epsom saltiness, low pH and generous spicing. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines White 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Leaving out the chardonnay component, the signature Rall White is now chenin blanc (60ish per cent), verdelho (30ish) and viognier. Mostly old oak, five years being the youngest, with various sizes. Other than the chard omission it’s the earlier picking that makes the difference to…lets say three years ago. That and the increase of the verdelho, which brings acidity. Whatever Donovan thought he might have been looking for and doing then, well he’s really doing it now. This shows how proper wine is being made out of necessity, not from a recipe, but most importantly out of adaptation. Great saltiness, bite, drive and instruction. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Chenin Blanc AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

AVA is named after Donovan’s daughter. From an adjuvant site close to Riebeek-Kasteel off of 20 year-old vines that deliver great concentration by the impetus of decomposed shale, schist and quartz. There are two unique vineyards with rocks galore in the soil. Richly textured and so layered. The concentration delivered is ridiculous. It’s somehow stretched elastic and makes for this viscous, saline, briny and beautiful wine. Malo was done in a week, the pH low and then, nine months of beautiful fluidity and suppleness. While not exactly dry, the minor tough of sugar will help it go petrol, glück and oily over time. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Cinsault 2017, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

From two vineyards, one in Swartland and one in Darling. A direct, lithe and purposed red looking for freshness and the Darling light transparency this varietal storm has created. Really pure berry fruit. Delightful, chalky, traversing the new South African ethos into a realm occupied by the ethereal. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Red 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Four poster blend, Rhône-related, deeply rendered with great transparency but also major tannins. The syrah is 18 months in barrels, the cinsault and carignan are 15 per cent 2017 vintage, allowed under Swartland regulations. They bring back freshness and nervousness into the wine. It helps to manage that tannin and injects some life and spirit into their grainy weight. The red fruit also balances the purple profile of the syrah. Good glycerin and length. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines AVA 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Donovan Rall

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES, February 18th, 2017

#newyear #newedges

#newyear #newedges

as seen on WineAlign

Local best buys ahead of Taste Ontario and Cuvée, Kosher for Passover and searching for common ground

In advance of the fourth VINTAGES release of 2017 and just a shade post Valentine’s Day we find ourselves in anticipatory times. Here at the crossroads of February and depending on which overfed rodent’s shadow you align with, we may yet be faced with four more potential weeks of winter. Concerning ourselves with more important things, we turn to the Ontario wine industry’s lead in anticipation of Wine Country Ontario’s big month of March. Two seminal events lie in wait just around the corner, ahead of and into spring.

Taste Ontario! Toronto Trade and Media Tasting 2017 comes to the Royal Ontario Museum on March 6th and the 29th edition of Cuvée will happen in Niagara Falls. Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) will host more than 800 guests at the Scotiabank Convention Centre for the Cuvée Grand Tasting on Friday March 24th.

After tasting at Cuvée in 2016 I noted how riesling and chardonnay have not relinquished any stronghold on their domination, nor should they anytime soon. I can’t help but feel and notice that winemakers continue to reach for the big red machine and wish upon an intangible Bordeaux star when they should be concentrating on fresh, gulpable cabernet franc and gamay. They should also take some risk-reward chances with these necessary, best Ontario option red varieties. Press less, reveal freshness and let natural ferments find low-alcohol impressions of impossible, ethereal beauty.

It’s not just a matter of what, but where. By sifting through leads in geography, in the orientation of escarpments, benches and lakeshore flats, in the gestalt of the archaeology of tomorrow, in the vineyard landscape of today we can perchance unlock the riddle of the what and the why for varietal planting. The end game is to unlock the mystery within the puzzle of terroir, to figure out what grapes will thrive and where they can be given the best shot at success. It is not just about what happens beneath the soil, but also what happens above, around, beyond and in the minds of growers and winemakers.

Passover is sill nearly two months away but ever the proactive agency, VINTAGES lays out the usual Kosher for Passover suspects in the February 18th release, some Mevushal (cooked or, flash pasteurized), some not. Let us first examine the concept and then, the cuisine. An understanding of the rules and laws that govern wine on Passover is on a need to know basis. There are really just three key variants of information essential to purchasing and consuming on PesachThis applies to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Number one. Passover wine is specific to a Jew’s level of Kosher. From Reform, to Conservative, to Orthodox, all Jews have different variances of belief. A Reform Jew will likely drink any wine on Passover and then again, may not. But, he or she will almost certainly not require the bottle to be Mevushal. A Conservative may only drink Mevushal but in more cases than not, Kosher is good enough. An Orthodox Jew goes it only one way or the highway. Strictly Mevushal KFP, do not pass go, do not collect the Afikoman (the broken Matzah) money. Most Jews who appreciate a glass of good wine with dinner, and especially those who double as wine geeks avoid Mevushal wine at all costs, thought being, consuming heat-damaged wine is no way to go through life. That said, a good deal of the Kosher for Passover wines in our market are Mevushal (KPM) and some are really quite agreeable.

It’s quite simple, really. All wines labelled “Kosher for Passover” are kosher, but not all kosher wines are kosher for Passover. Further to that, wine does not become kosher by being blessed. It can be considered kosher (from the Hebrew; pure, proper) once it has complied with strict rabbinic criteria that render it acceptable for Orthodox Jews.

Few holidays put food under as much duress as Passover. The cooking is a science and an art unto itself, having to make use of Matzo, eggs and oil for eight days. It is a form of penitence, a tortuous walk through a culinary desert, at times horrific like a Fear Factor episode. Charred eggs, Haroseth, Chopped Liver, Kugel, Farfel Stuffing and desserts made with cake meal and Matzo Meal. Believe me, this chef has had nightmares.

Up until a year or two ago I noticed that Kosher wines seemed to have migrated bigger and bigger with each passing Lunisolar calendar year. Israel continued to race towards big, lush, often high alcohol reds. This trend could be seen as a masking or a compensating/mitigating strategy to oppose the rigours and past failings of making Kosher wine. It can also be viewed as a stylistic choice, to mirror what has taken place in Bordeaux, in California and in Australia for the past 20 years. For the first time, the reds on this VINTAGES release seem to collectively take an extraction and alcohol step back.

The Kosher contingent on the VINTAGES February 18th release continues to be Israel-focused, which is not a bad thing, but if you really want a better selection, head to one of three LCBO kosher boutique locations; 675 Wilson Ave., 180 Promenade Circle, Promenade Mall and 502 Lawrence Ave. W. It is here that the LCBO has stepped up their Kosher game.

As for scouring the best of the rest, WineAlign’s John Szabo laid down the low-down on Australia’s impressive showing in this release and found great value in a hodge-podge of VINTAGES value releases. I am searching for common ground and was quite impressed with two iconic southern French producers and their stellar-valued, pull no punches red and white. One hails from arid Côtes du Roussillon, the other off of old vines in Costières de Nîmes. Magic and lithe Oregon, endemic Greece and a most pleasurable drop of Sagrantino round out my shortlist. David and Sara shore up the global list with much needed and appreciated support with pertinent finds of their own.

February 18th Buyers’ Guide:

Keep on tasting Ontario

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 201513th Street Cabernet Merlot 2013Kew Marsanne 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89029, $18.95, WineAlign)

@Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (56598, $19.95, WineAlign)

@13thStreetWines  @Noble_Estates

Kew Marsanne 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (485334, $19.95, WineAlign)

@kewvineyards

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012Huff Reserve Pinot Noir 2014

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment (268391, $24.95, WineAlign)

@HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Huff Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Prince Edward County (489708, $35.00, WineAlign)

@HuffEstatesWine  @PECWines

Kosher for Passover

Recanati Chardonnay Kp 2014Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium Shiraz Kp 2013Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Recanati Chardonnay 2014, Kosher For Passover, Non-Mevushal, Upper Galilee, Israel (128322, $24.95, WineAlign)

@recanati_winery

Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium Shiraz 2013, Kosher For Passover, Non Mevushal, Judean Hills, Israel (473900, $24.95, WineAlign)

Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Israel (128058, $24.95, WineAlign)

@azureau  

Searching for common ground

Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2012Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2014

Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2012, PDO Rapsani, Thessalia, Greece (734855, $18.95, WineAlign)

@TSANTALI_wines  @DrinkGreekWine  @KolonakiGroup

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013,  AP Côtes Du Roussillon Les Aspres, France (413245, $18.95, WineAlign)

@GBvins  @FWMCan    @Vins_Roussillon

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc (Bio) 2014, Costières de Nîmes, France (479659, $19.95, WineAlign)

@chateaudenages  @MichelGassier    @ProfileWineGrp

Omero Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013Lungarotti Sagrantino Di Montefalco 2010

Omero Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (470146, $29.95, WineAlign)

@OmeroCellars  Brand New Day Wines & Spirits  @Oregon_Wine

Lungarotti Sagrantino Di Montefalco 2010, DOCG Umbria, Italy (315499, $42.95, WineAlign)

@lungarottiwine  @ProfileWineGrp  

 

While I sip and taste through Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino at Antiprime Toscane I hope you all find your gems from the February 18th release. See you in March for a taste of Ontario.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys

John’s The Good Oz and Miscellaneous Best Buys

But first, October

steak

L’shanah tova, happy new year, peace, happiness and health to all the members of the tribe out there. New beginnings, sweet and good times to you and yours. I’ve just returned from Italy, specifically Verona and Valpolicella. While I was in transit a new VINTAGES release crept into stores.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

Tuscany, Rioja, Thanksgiving. These are the main themes of the VINTAGES October 1st release. As from me for the first it is Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione that occupies the best sangiovese position in the central thematic. Second comes entry-level excellence from Álvaro Palacios and for the last three, pinot noir from disparate outposts; Sonoma County, the Willamette and Hemel-En-Aarde Valleys. A further 12 recommendations explore 10 regions; South Africa’s Coastal Region, Veneto, Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Alsace, Piedmont, Calatayud, Montagny, Paarl, Arroyo Seco and 14 additional grape varieties; chenin blanc, garganega, sauvignon blanc, gamay, riesling, arneis, garnacha, sylvaner, chardonnay, grenache blanc, picpoul blanc, roussanne and nebbiolo. Something for everyone.

Boschendal Rachelsfontein Chenin Blanc 2015, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (455881, $12.95, WineAlign)

Classic chenin blanc from Boschendal, tart, balmy, savoury, smoky and spirited. Conjures up simple pleasures, breathing and bliss. A morning walk in a glade, a bubbling brook, herbs everywhere, wildlife. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @BoschendalWines  @LiffordON  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada

San Raffaele Monte Tabor Soave 2015, Doc Veneto, Italy (277392, $14.95, WineAlign)

Always a good Soave buy and especially in the ripe and easily commercialized 2015 vintage. In fact this preface is a clear indication for such a wine because it can basically make itself so it smells, tastes and delivers just like itself. Citrus and herbs, Maresina, Pisacan, Sciopeti and then more citrus, followed by a mouth feel with an accent of stone. Delicious little commercial Soave. So correct. Drink 2016-2018.   Tasted September 2016    @RegioneVeneto

versant

Foncalieu Le Versant Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Vins De Pays D’oc, Loire, France (470336, $14.95, WineAlign)

Terrific scintillant of a sauvignon blanc with extract to burn and the gesture of giving generously. Pungency be damned this goes at it with vitality, energy and the great sweetness feigning, peachy sauvignon blanc equalizer. There are few Midi SBs that can both thrill and appease with ease like this Pays d’Oc. Crowd pleaser to pour at weddings and other large gatherings. The finish guarantees success. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @foncalieuwines  @LoireValleyWine  @azureau

aviron

Stephane Aviron Beaujolais Villages 2014, Beaujolais, France (468744, $15.95, WineAlign)

The juicy appeal of gamay. In its purest form it struts and flaunts in full peacock display as in this $16 Aviron Beaujolais. He or she who could not drink a tank full of this BV is missing out on one of the go to pleasures of the wine world. Fresh and outright getable, when risked with a more than slight chill this could do no harm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016 @DiscoverBojo  @Nicholaspearce_

palacios

Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2014, Doca Rioja, Spain (674564, $15.95, WineAlign)

Rioja to grab for, spread out the blanket, pull out the jamon and kick back. Fresh, juicy, slightly smoky and full of nothing but fruit with a quick shake of spice. The simple pleasures provided by Alvaro Palacios at the lowest of low affordability. You can find Rioja with a much greater and historically profound sense of place but it will cost an arm and a leg. And I’m not sure it will get you anywhere. So put aside the serious face and embrace this modish value-driven sketch by Palacios. I too will abide. “It’s not that I care any less for that philosophy, but I would spend one night with you in trade for all that I’ve achieved.” Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @WoodmanWS  @RiojaWine

kuhlmann

Kuhlmann Platz Riesling 2014, Ac Alsace, France (196741, $16.95, WineAlign)

From the cooperative Cave de Hunawihr where the winemaking is overseen by Nicolas Garde here is a typically tart and citrus-driven riesling from alluvial flats. Salinity and a touch of brine with a minor note of spritz makes this nothing but fun. It’s certainly lean and direct but such an Alsace riesling line is fine when done with no agenda in mind. Well made with enough complexity to add five years onto its life. Drink 2016-2021. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted September 2016  @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ChartonHobbs

arneis

Cordero Di Montezemolo Langhe Arneis 2015, Piedmont, Italy (455162, $21.95, WineAlign)

Prodigious and revered producer meets resurrected varietal in this hear me roar and highly expressive roero arneis. From Langhe vineyards in La Morra, Guarene and Govone. The level of extract and texture is elevated to where the grape can go but we so very rarely get a chance to enjoy. This has mineral, loads of mineral, like a chew of rocks in bubble gum form. With this on offer who wouldn’t choose to chew every day. More acclaim for arneis and that makes me smile. The freshness will offer perfect window drinking in years one through three but why not put one or two aside and watch them develop some honey and petrol in years five through ten. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016    @ProfileWineGrp

breca

Breca Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Do Calatayud, Spain (329086, $22.95, WineAlign)

Very floral garnacha from gravelly slate with more than enough blueberry and blackberry to bake into a hundred pies. As per the modern norm this 100 per cent garnacha from typically regional (upwards of 100 year) old vines pushes the scales in extraction, weight and alcohol. If any Aragonese garnacha can handle such largesse it is Calatayud because the combination of gnarly vines and rocky soil gives essential nutrients to fruit for balance. It may only be a distraction but when the wine is polished (albeit sweetly so) the looming alcohol is kept in threaded check. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016  @CSWS_ON  @WinesofGarnacha  @GarnachaOrigen  @docalatayud

wildewood

Wildewood Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon (462994, $23.95, WineAlign)

If mountain herbs and tea could burrow or seep their savoury ways into a Willamette Valley pinot noir this Wildewood would be a viable candidate. It’s a global, pinot from everywhere and for everyone affair in here so call the aromas what you will; fynbos, rooibos, Peloponnese clandestina, wild thyme, rosemary, lavender. So pretty in its sauvage, so suave in its ruggedness. This pinot noir understands what it is saying and selling. Unlike the gritty poet, it is in complete control of its phenolics and its faculties. The palate pales but delivers straight to structure. The aridity and the salinity seal the deal. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016     @Nicholaspearce_

Maison Roche De Bellene Montagny 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (470476, $26.95, WineAlign)

Such thews and texture are wonderful to elevate Montagny and you can tell that important Nicolas Potel time was allocated into turning this into something rocking. Plenty of citrus and wood intertwine in layers of chardonnay flesh. This is quite something. Gregarious, talkative and alive. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @RochedeBellene  @vinsdebourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  @BourgogneWines

sylvaner

Domaine Loew Vérité Sylvaner 2013, Ac Alsace, France (462598, $25.95, WineAlign)

The truth of sylvaner explodes into olfaction with the flats left for others and the slopes of Alsace greasing their way into this wine. A wow factor of 13 on the texture scale brings it here. Oily doesn’t due this sylvaner justice. You could run heavy machinery on this juice. Beyond the oléagineux there is great bite from old wood, tonic from the varietal necessity and bitters so very artisan crafted in nature. More British aperitif than Italian digestif in that sense but strictly Alsatian and in requiem for a match made in Foie Gras heaven. Needs two years to settle. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted September 2016     @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace

avondale

Avondale Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2009, Méthode Cap Classique, Wo Paarl, South Africa (451930, $29.95, WineAlign)

From a farm dating to 1693 purchased by Johnathan Grieve’s family in 1996. Poster bubbles, for the Blanc de blancs habitation and for the Avondale oeuvre, the Armillary sphere, Roman “circle of life” and ancient astronomical instrument used to show the position of stars around the earth. Traditional production, with a kiss of oak and a final act of dosage. Five total years on the lees, including two on coarse and one in bottle. Picking was accomplished at the end of that January, in purpose of stylistic elegance and beautiful bitters born of natural and integrated acidity. Terrific dip of biscuits into honey. Like Baklava in a glass though equally savoury to dessert. Baller bubble, balanced and with the sense to envision evolution, to the look ahead of an adult age. Would retail for approximately $28 CAN. Drink 2015-2027. Tasted twice, May and September 2015  @Avondalewine  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  @RareEarth_Wines

doon

Bonny Doon Beeswax Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2013, Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, California (95331, $34.95, WineAlign)

The Beeswax Vineyard is not just a pretty face. That this blend reeks of the bee’s work can’t be a coincidence. The ‎Rhône is but a mere smirk or memory here with fruit so ripe and vital you can hear yourself think. Arroyo Seco does cool chardonnay but it works for these varieties in another worldly way; with viscosity and texture. The pitch from the lemon and the flesh of creamy tropical fruits come together with a party gathering crafted tonic. And yet there is this rhythmic, low-toned, folk-roots-blues riff tenderness to Le Cigare Blanc. Really. J.J. Cale (by way of Don Nix) if you will. I’m going Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016  @BonnyDoonVineyd  @RandallGrahm

ama

Castello Di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Ama has chosen their signature San Lorenzo Vineyard to qualify for Gran Selezione designation, one of three such highest level Chianti Classico produced at the estate. The high Gaiole elevation and argilo-calcaire soil make for a specific style, still deep and mineral but not so much like what happens from sangiovese raised on Galestro or Albarese solis. The liqueur here is a grander kind of sangiovese ooze (with 20 per cent malvasia and merlot), more hematic and of a purity only it can express. There is more liquorice and less leather, more iron and less cherry. Certainly less fruity but not as mineral. Here the umami is conspicuously undefined and so I am oriented to say it is simply San Lorenzo. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2016  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @chianticlassico

ratti

Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2011, Docg Piedmont, Italy (713479, $53.95, WineAlign)

The Ratti Marcenasco is in a league of it own but it shares the club with like-minded nebbioli, wines that steep in tradition and breath an aromatic liqueur only its kind resemble. Deep waters here, always mysterious and hiding sunken treasures. Candied roses and liquid tar, savoury forbidden forests and intricate tannic chains. You have to exercise extreme patience with Marcenasco, avoiding years five to 10 and best to look in at 15. Everything will rise to the surface. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted September 2016    @LiffordON

hr-pinot

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $57.95, WineAlign)

In 2015 the hyperbole of the Hemel-en-Aarde shines bright in magnified reflection with fruit and land combining for full effect. I get cola and beet root in ways I cant necessarily recall from most recent Hamilton Russell pinot noir and I also get depth like I’ve not encountered before. This is a massive expression in 2015, not a gentle one. I imagine the vintage was raging with adrenaline and testosterone so you have to take what is given. A masculine wine is the result, muscular, chiseled and ripped. At present the Hamilton Russell homiletic Hemel-En-Aarde verbiage is a tad evangelical. With such Adonis-like features and marbled structure it will need a few years to recoil, recalibrate and recharge. By next decade it will soften and preach with a bold style yet remain humble enough to change. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016  @OliveHR  @hermanuswine

flowers

Flowers Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (215202, $68.95, WineAlign)

Pinot Noir that is all coastal, from vineyards far and wide but inclusive of some fruit from the Sea Ridge Estate Vineyard. An extreme brightness of being pinot noir with that distinctive Sonoma Coast feigned red candy nose, first raspberry and then strawberry. Exquisitely perfumed and gainfully rendered with mindful, purposed and calibrating acidity, propped up and misty fine. Such effete fruit and unassuming character does not materialize with enough regularity out of these parts. The finesse and fineness of this wine is what California does best when it comes from the heart and not from the hand. Though his chardonnay is otherworldly you just have to appreciate David Keatley’s touch with Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted twice, February and September 2016  @FlowersWinery  @rogcowines  @sonomavintners

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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If I could buy only thirteen

Look at all that chicken

Look at all that chicken

Over at WineAlign we recently introduced a new feature in our already comprehensive coverage of the bi-weekly VINTAGES releases.  If I Could Buy Only One offers subscribers a first in line, get inside the minds of four Ontario critics. As part of the overall recap on each release David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato and I are asked the question: “If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?”

When it comes to tasting, assessing and scoring VINTAGES wines there is simply no equal to what WineAlign covers in Ontario. As a group we four are sure to collectively provide at least one tasting note and score for 100 or more wines per release. In most cases there are two and sometimes three or even all four. Where else in print or online can you access such a synoptic scope of sweeping current information?

We are not alone but we are at the head of the game. Our colleague Michael Vaughan is the only critic who tastes every wine on every VINTAGES release. His nearly three decades of utter dedication and encyclopedic memory is nothing short of incredible. Tony Aspler covers the releases and contributes to Vaughan’s newsletter. Tony’s decades of experience are invaluable to both his and Michael’s readership. Beppi Crosariol offers a handful of concise and epigrammatic weekly recommendations in the Globe and Mail, Carolyn Hammond in a Toronto Star nutshell and Rod Phillips meaty and marrowy in the Ottawa Sun.

The LCBO media tasting lab is frequented by many Ontario writers. Most notable is Tim Appelt. Tim sounds off extensively on the releases. Eric Vellend publishes recos in his column “Bottle Shop” for Billy, the Toronto Island Airport’s magazine. André Proulx brings his own ignited take to his website, Andre Wine Review and Michael Pinkus publishes his broad brushstroke on his Wine Review. Erin Henderson does so on The Wine Sister’s website and Dean Tudor at Gothic Epicures World Wine Watch. If you follow what comes through VINTAGES and sequester help and ideas, who do you turn to? The answer is simply WineAlign.

When asked to single out just one I chose another Chablis from the current September 17th release. Look for the stellar Simonnet Febvre & Fils Côte De Lechet Chablis 1er Cru 2013 review in my upcoming report on Chablis in Ontario. Today I’ve got 13 other solid recommendations from a wide range of places.

first-6

Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Les Darons 2014, Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014

Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (461004, $13.95, WineAlign)

Man’s upper reaches sauvignon blanc whirls and winds around open-affable, semi-pungent fruit and churns like citrus juice through a windmill. This multi-purpose white speaks with great acidity and deep tart flavours. Just a touch of sweet peach with lime zest and a spritz keeps it spinning. Lots of bang for just a few bucks. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741785, $10.95, 375ml, WineAlign)

Tasted from a half bottle, The Zingarelli Chianti Classico 2014 is as expected, classic. Hits all the appropriate and life-affirming sangiovese notes; cherries, fresh leather, dried figs, old wood walls, bright acidity and fine-grained tannin. When commercial, protective and attention to detail get together in Chianti Classico, this is what comes out. Expectations met and dinner accompanied. Ready to drink now and should be so because of the freshness afforded. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @roccadellemacie  @chianticlassico  @ProfileWineGrp

Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (393140, $15.95, WineAlign)

Flat out juicy prieto picudo if you must know is 100 per cent employed out of Castilla Y Leon. Drinkable and gulpable don’t get much better than this, like spicy gamay but with more weight. You can put the truck in reverse and open the back doors wide for this and its sultry sway from French and American oak. The oak does not intrude mind you but it certainly adds texture and punch. Utterly delectable. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @DominiodeTares  @oenophilia1

Les Darons 2014, Ap Languedoc, France, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (448464, $17.95, WineAlign)

Fresh and dramatic Languedoc with amazing floraility, namely violets but also rose bushes in a mid-summer swelter. Vitality is ensured by the top notch acidity and the tempering here has nothing to do with chocolate. Tart just right and back bite. While some from the warm region seem “toujours le cup entre demux chaises,” this Jeff Carrel red is right where it needs to be, comfortable in its own skin. No Ogres des Barback. Simply Les Darons. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @LanguedocWines

Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Do Rias Baixas, Spain (417667, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is a fine example of Albarino bringing miles of rich, ripe fruit into a brew of ripping acidity. Very mineral motive as as well, so with so much stewing in the pot you can expect a whole lot of vigor, revelry and magic. The citrus on the back side is nothing short of scintillant-spurred from lemon and lime. Miles from balmy, this is quite electric Galicia. Witches’ Brew, Bitches Brew in a Spanish Key. May not be a revolutionary bottle but it’s as close to jazz-rock fusion Albarino as you are likely to find. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016     @RiasBaixasWines

Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California (318360, $27.95, WineAlign)

Another well-managed, keep it in the cool-climate family entry-level chardonnay from Brian Talley, keeping the faith and the successful streak alive for the idea behind Edna Valley as an important haven for chardonnay. It’s nearly unoaked, with just some neutral barrels to keep it leesy and creamy but acidity and umami are clear to lead the way. Excellent effort if on the lean and mean side. Good length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @TalleyVineyards  @TheVine_RobGroh

From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L'hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013

From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013

Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Ac Loire, France (446401, $28.95, WineAlign)

Cured, natural, direct and experiential red Sancerre. A case of hands-off winemaking if there ever was, leaving exceptional fruit to walk the road and find its own way. Red berries, currants and just a hint of natural smoke. Savoury not even on its radar. Very fresh and alive. Freedom in red Sancerre. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @LoireValleyWine

Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Doc Collio, Friuli, Italy (165027, $32.95, WineAlign)

Ripe, pungent and forthright Collio sauvignon blanc from the regional leader Schiopetto, culled from top level terroir and exercised with great intent. No Aqualung here, no “start away uneasy.” Dives into stony, flinty and mineral tangy waters then emerges to tell a tale of richness and mille-feuille layering. Top level sauvignon blanc for anywhere but from a very specific, agriculturist place. Finishes with a creamy lemon curd and a shot of adrenaline. If any sauvignon blanc could help solve the answer to the distinction between religion and God, Schiopetto’s could very well be the one. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted  September 2016  @schiopetto  @LeSommelierWine

Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (469478, $34.95, WineAlign)

I will stand to be corrected but this first such sparkler from Thirty Bench (it’s my first) and its dry riesling stoicism is a first in its singular way for Ontario. Using a small dosage from Steel Post Vineyard riesling fruit, the quality level in this non-vintage bubble (but I would think that the primary vintage fruit is 2014) is elevated with that world-class juice and yet aridity is not compromised. The subtle, rich, elongated and amalgamated orchard fruit aromatics are pure Beamsville, Thirty Bench and Emma Garner with well-rounded Niagara Peninsula Sparkling couverture. One, Garner wouldn’t waste a thimble-full of her riesling to make less than stellar sparkling wine and two, it’s really good. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted  September 2016  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA

Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, Ac Alsace, France (462556, $39.95, WineAlign)

The tense and focused aromatics lead the way in this very generous gewürztraminer, classically styled to be off-dry but the sweetness is the furthest thing from your mind. Seeping rose petals and pure lychee syrup are graced with lemon zest, fennel frond and a curious note of rooibos tea. An exemplary vintage for an elixir that never cloys but just touches on something spicy and thinks about the bitterness of nuts though never really goes there. Subtle, refined and Eguisheim cultured from Emile Beyer. So impressive and a steal to drink in its first 10 years. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016  @EmileBeyer  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Los Carneros, Sonoma County, California (184929, $39.95, WineAlign)

Experience, vintage and location will conspire to deliver profundity when the winemaker is attuned to available excellence and in tune with the vines. La Crema’s Elizabeth Grant-Douglas has a large, who’s who and what’s what portfolio to plate. She does so with broad, brushstroke ability and triads. In 2014 she has simply dialled into Los Carneros. The cool, temperature mitigated rolling hills, wind and aspect/exposure of this largest appellation straddling Napa and Sonoma does wonders for Chardonnay. Here in ’14 the third of the drought vintages is cradled with zest, vitality and pure energy. If you like nougat then have a chew of this one. If rich and unctuous Champagne with a bit of age is your thing you may just sit back and sigh. This wine was fatter previously, vegetal and just too easy. Here it sings “cause it fits in well with the chords” its playing. Right in tune. “Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.” The line that runs through Carneros with chardonnay the voice and La Crema the orchestra. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @LaCremaWines  @bwwines  @sonomavintners  @thesirengroup

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014, Ac Rhone, France (704429, $56.95, WineAlign)

This is quite closed for white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, remarkable that way and dramatically caught between the rocks and stones of its upbringing. There is nothing yet fleshy or flashy about it but considering how tightly wound it is you just have to know that revelry is up around the bend. So many stone fruits will reveal during the unravel. At this rigid dry extract and carpeted stage something microbial stands out but this too shall pass. The grip is firm and the focus leering. A structurally imposing La Nerthe with the will to live 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted September 2016    @WoodmanWS  @VINSRHONE

Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013, Burgundy, France (286450, $59.95, WineAlign)

Sweet, expertly extracted and gently pressed fruit provides the bassinet for a subtle, charming and effluent pinot noir from Pascal Marchand. This falls on the lithe and graceful side of pinot noir with well-managed oak and an inherent structure that speaks as softly as the fruit but that does not mean its not capable of stretching this into a second decade. This is really pretty stuff. Would love to see its secondary stage and later fruition next decade. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016  @pasmarchand  @Burgundy_Direct  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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In VINTAGES May 14th

Villa di Geggiano, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, Italy, http://www.villadigeggiano.com

Villa di Geggiano, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, Italy, http://www.villadigeggiano.com

Current travels in Chianti Classico leave almost no time to scribble out more than paragraph let alone 10 but there is a VINTAGES release coming Saturday. The New Zealand Wine Fair rolls through Toronto today (which I will sadly miss) and I have some recommendations of excellence from that country. Canada (Ontario), France, Germany and Hungary round out my picks.

See you next week…Godello

Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand (450668, $19.95, WineAlign)

After tasting the winery’s Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc back in 2014 I wrote “If Te Pa can find a way to get their wines into VINTAGES stores, I will buy them by the case and hand them out on Halloween as adult treats.” The day has come with the release of this rocks off Sauvignon Blanc. The open G tuning is perfect for balance with the cumulative notes it plays, deep cuts of bluesy rock ’n roll from Marlborough soils. We’ve seen so many SB’s come through these parts but so few at this price deliver such a deft hook with exile on main street flavours. Singular, unctuous stuff and well worth finding a way to bring a deferent side of Marlborough and Sauvignon Blanc back into your heart. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @tePaWines  @FWMCan  @nzwine

Villa Maria and Te Pa

Villa Maria Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand (447474, $29.95, WineAlign)

The single-vineyard Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc is a highly concentrated, aroma-centric, splendored thing with inherent vegetal notes both smoky and subtle. The flavours are all white berry dusted with white pepper. The bite, the lees and the tart accents layer like a savoury dessert. This is formidable Sauvignon Blanc with high aspirations. I for one would like to see it settle and develop a secondary level of show. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @villamaria_wine  @Dandurandwines

Crawford

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (35337, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is a characterful, high-toned and slightly rustic Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford’s Small Parcels program in Central Otago. It’s all strawberry on the nose and black raspberry (with a lash of liquorice) on the palate. There is great grit and true breadth of texture, not to mention sweetness, forgiven with so much else going on. Love the tart finish and bitters linger. Tells me its best is just around the bend. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @kimcrawfordwine  @CBrandsCareers

The Stopper White Blend 2014, VQA Ontario (452235, $14.95, WineAlign)

Fun blend of Riesling and Vidal, put to good use in a variation of theme on the Ontario white appellative blend. The Riesling dominates with that atomic push and arid, saline sensibility. The vidal adds a squeeze of citrus (white grapefruit) and skin contact au naturale feel. A bit of unoaked Chardonnay or even some Musqué might not be such a stretch to fill in with some cool-climate tempering and hole filling assistance. A follow-up bit of research finds five per cent, along with Gewürztraminer. Depending on the vintage, it would be nice to see the Chardonnay increased.  Easy and tangy on the palate. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @AdamoEstateWine  @JohnPaulAdamo  @ProfileWineGrp

Tuzko

Tuzko Cabernet Franc 2012, Tolna, Hungary (438291, $14.95, WineAlign)

True cool climate cabernet franc from Hungary, savoury, full of leather, cedar and spice. A veritable forest of wild berries in a glass. Really unique find and very Lincoln Lakeshore for you that understand and prefer to compare within the context of an Ontario vernacular. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016  @ImportWineMAFWM  @MarkAnthonyWine  @WinesofHungary  @WineofHungary

Fielding

Fielding Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53421, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Rosé category can be fascinating and also slightly repellant. Whether it be the choice of varieties or the uncontrolled bleed hot off the press, it’s really hard to say, some Rosé just rubs the wrong way. At first sniff and sip you just know this Fielding ’15 is not one of those. It’s coolness is graced with restraint and it is nothing but a pleasure to drink. There certainly is candy floss and cut strawberry in the air. There is sweetness on the edge and cream floating around the rim. Separately pressed and vinified Gamay and Cabernet Franc are the key fixings though a minor sense of white percentages (like Riesling, Viognier and Vidal) would not be out of the supporting question. Sugar meets acid in equal and opposing fashion. Balance and humility are cut from the same cloth as pride. Nothing dominates and all components work seamlessly together. In its fresh and spritely youth this is one of the most pleasurable Rosés from Ontario. Drink it young. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March and May 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Bressades

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015, Ap Costières De Nîmes, France (701094, $17.95, WineAlign)

Really floral white blend from the Costières de Nîmes in which tropical blossoming Viognier really tends to gardening at night scents to lift the mistral rhythms of Grenache Blanc, Marssanne and Roussanne. Unctuous and the most ethereal character this wine has ever shown. Really special vintage from Mr. Marès. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016    @Vinexxperts  

Thorle

Thorle Riesling Trocken 2014, Rheinhesen, Germany (445817, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the Thörle brothers Johannes and Christoph, a dry, vivid Riesling with a vitality of spirit and a presence that comes from the heart. Lime juice and zest mark the territory, skin contact leaves its trace in hue and a natural ferment keeps it more than real. A minor residual (Co2) spritz still tickles on the palate while grape tannin strikes a dagger into the finish. Exemplary modern take on Trocken Riesling in a style that should appeal to a wide ranging audience. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted three times, May and November 2015, April 2016  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling

Bailly

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Burgundy, France (991562, $19.95, WineAlign)

This 100 per cent Pinot Noir may initiate with simple and eager fruit, of lemon and pink grapefruit but its subtle ability and mineral wager is a condition of its commitment. It will not shock, dream in multi-dimensional preoccupation or revamp the traditional methodology but it is nothing if not lovely. It takes you on a holiday. Lemon repeats in many ways, acidity survives without kindle or foment and the flavours linger like a haunting refrain. “Like the bubbles in a glass of Champagne, you go to my head.” Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015 and April 2016  @bourgognespress  @BourgogneWines  @Vinexxperts

Nyarai Cellars Cadence 2011, VQ Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (451781, $21.95, WineAlign)

Steve Byfield’s crimson blend of Cabernet Franc (42 per cent), Merlot (33), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Syrah (5) is at once so very Niagara while acting out anomalously in the 2011 vintage. Ripe, extracted fruit appears warm-vintage drawn, with its coated layers of primer, brushstroke and plummy stone fruit. The warmth is tempered by savour, oranges, figs and psalms. Its ability to find cadence and cascade keeps it “cool in the shade.” The varietal combining is delineated in balance, “sliding mystify, on the wine of the tide.” This effort, with its new name, could become one of the king’s amongst Ontario blends.  Tasted January 2015  @NyaraiCellars

viewpointe

Viewpointe Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc 2010, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (450916, $24.95, WineAlign)

Wine Country Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore appellation flashes onto the radar here with Viewpointe’s very youthful and soulful 2010 Cabernet Franc. It’s not spicy but there is a veritable pantry sprinkled into a simmering reduction sauce, breathing and exuding aromatics, of juniper, liquorice, Montreal smoked meat spices, cassia, star anise and chicory. It is utterly Cabernet Franc with righteously integrated barrel notes swirling in that demi-glace. The tannin and acidity persist strong and complimentary with nary a moment of raisin treason. So very well done. A huge accomplishment. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016  @viewpointewines  @WineCountryOnt

Pouilly

Ernest Meurgey Perron Pouilly Fuissé 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (448852, $31.95, WineAlign)

Rich and buttery Chardonnay that is the membrane holding and supporting the coolest contents, in limbo and needing two years to flesh, burst and break through. The tart, tight and angled shfits are the drive and the direction for the short term development. In 2018 this will be a humdinger to pour alongside butter-seared and caramelized scallops. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted April 2016  @BourgogneWines  @BourgogneWines

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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Got August, go cottage, get wine

Fiore di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

Fiore di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

Let’s just cut to the chase. It has been more than three weeks since I’ve posted to Godello, thanks to a trip to Greece, Cool Chardonnay and my #eastcoastswing15. Let’s face it, I’ve left you hanging, waiting, wondering and perchance, livid at not having received a recommendation for summer wines since, well, since July 15th. As my Achaian friend Dimos is like to say, on repeat, “sorry about that.”

VINTAGES rolls out the smallest (by quantity) release of the calendar but I’ve got to say that per wine offer capita, the quality level is set to high. There is much to choose, from refreshing whites to grill worthy reds. Got, go, get.

From left to right: Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Rosewood Süssreserve Riesling 2014, Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013, Lone Birch Syrah 2013 and The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013

From left to right: Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Rosewood Süssreserve Riesling 2014, Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013, Lone Birch Syrah 2013 and The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013

Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Do Empordà, Spain (422469, $14.95, WineAlign)

Such a formidable and concentrated liqueur dominates the nose on this heavily-textured Garnacha from maritime-influenced vines grown on decomposed granitic soils. Minor yet judicious oak works minor magic on the fruit for a feeling that is organza in sentiment if like fruit-roll up in reality. The couverture is quite natural and free-flowing, like waves lapping up a windless shore. Though flavours like liquorice, pomegranate and morello cherry are thought intrusive, the actuality here is simply Garnacha in pure, unadulterated form. This should be a late summer, early fall go to for BBQ, barbecue and grilling by all means possible. Gritty, grippy finish. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @CellerEspelt  @DOEmporda  @EmpordaWine  @ChartonHobbs

Rosewood Süssreserve Riesling 2014, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (258806, $14.95, WineAlign)

If you have never sussed out the Rosewood adaptation on the deutsches sweetness enhancement technique for Riesling, it’s honey time you did. The vintage brings out the best in and of all worlds; texture, high-rising graceful aromatics, burgeoning acidity and wait for it…honey. Mellifluous honey. This vintage seems to throw a gallon of juice at the charge in ways previous vintages did not seem to do. This is very easy and yet direct on the palate. Look at this Riesling and note there is nothing to hide. “She is good to me and there’s nothing she doesn’t see,” so in ’14, “honey, I want you.” Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Rosewoodwine

Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (179838, $24.95, WineAlign)

Combines Grenache Blanc with Vermentino for an identity crisis of Italo-French proportions and in the end it reminds so much of a southern French take on Viognier. Aromatically precious, from white flowers and tropical fruit. Has a cool metal stir to keep it alive, punchy, vibrant and then acidity up the back side, flip-flopping about and turning “cartwheels ‘cross the floor.” A harum of flavours follows suit, as per the modern protocol. Though it’s merely a whiter shade of pale there is more than ample personality and whip to work up a frenzy, to mingle and to sit down with dinner. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @DomaineLafage  @LaRegionLR

Lone Birch Syrah 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420695, $19.95, WineAlign)

A good, inexpensive, once upon a time in the west Syrah is hard to locate so when one like the Lone Birch comes along, it’s time to saddle up. The spice, pure fruit and smoky meat aromas are of an outdoor intoxicant kind, joined by notions of mesquite, lavender, creosote and thyme. The verbiage here is not so much green but more like the purple flowers that emerge late in the season. The chalky edge to the bright acidity makes for a fun texture to finish interplay. This is a great change in Syrah gears with horsepower and grace. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @LoneBirchWines  @WINESofWA  @HHDImports_Wine

The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (389767, $19.95, WineAlign)

Appassimento-style Sauvignon Blanc is both curious and an open target for accusations of vivid excesses. The detractor will look for swift “walls of insincerity,” the complimenter will say “I was enchanted to meet you.” Foreign Affair’s take has been injected with a cocktail of intensity; steroidal, hormonal and from concentrate. All the juicy orchard fruits are there; plum, apple, pear, nectarine, lemon, lime and grapefruit. This passes the appassimento SB test, if only and commodiously because it spreads fruit like confiture on warm toast.  Tasted October 2014  @wineaffair

From left to right: L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Rieflé Pinot Gris Steinert Grand Cru 2010, Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Easton Zinfandel 2012 and Domaine Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune Aux Grains 1er Cru 2012

From left to right: L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Rieflé Pinot Gris Steinert Grand Cru 2010, Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Easton Zinfandel 2012 and Domaine Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune Aux Grains 1er Cru 2012

L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington (982157, $24.95, WineAlign)

Sauvignon Blanc (13 per cent) adds buoyancy to the main attraction in this vanguard and reputable Columbia Valley pioneer. Quite toasty and marked by early nose-hair splitting and splintering barrel notes. Dare say reductive but not in a rubber sap run way. More like Sémillon-dominated Bordeaux, of big bones, cut through soluble rock, created a sinkhole that swallows up flavours, only to release them in geyser like fashion in later years. So with patience and age-time in mind, this Sem will have better years ahead, when the heavy (14.5 per cent) alcohol integrates and the lemon drop-butterscotch flavours mellow. Generous pH (3.2) and high Brix (24.2) were the product of a very warm vintage. Rounded by concentric circles of acidity and bitter pith tannin, this is very tropical, like Gewürztraminer, but more in mango than lychee. Needs five years minimum because the oak is overdone. Tasted March 2015  @lecole41  @WINESofWA  @TrialtoON

Rieflé Pinot Gris Steinert Grand Cru 2010, Ac Alsace, France (408229, $24.95, WineAlign)

Annick, Jean-Claude, Paul et Thomas Rieflé make their highly affordable Grand Cru Pinot Gris near Pfaffenheim in the southern stretch of the Vosges Mountains, on soils composed in limestone of marine origin intercalated with marls. This is rich, layered and spicy Pinot Gris, full on calculated with ripe, sunshine-laced fruit, orchards upon orchards of variegation and some, though not excessive tropical intentions. Has that distinct calcaire inflection that reminds of struck rocks, petrol and gardens giving off pretty smells at dusk. The finish is really long here so look for this to work well into the next decade. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted August 2015  @RiefleLandmann  @TandemSelection     @AlsaceWines

Easton Zinfandel 2012, Amador County, California (328377, $27.95, WineAlign)

A ripe, buoyant and near flashy example of Zinfandel without any necessity for speed, heat or mountain jam. Fruit is steamy but you can touch it. Aromas can cut through what Zinfandel often hides, which is freshness. There is spice on the nose for sure but it’s an accent, not a deterrent for disguise. The palate is racy and alive and while there is some cure and dried fruit in the mix it stops well short of confiture. The tailing trail of minor exhaust propels, not halts the length. Really good vintage for the Amador Zinfandel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @rhonist  @TheZinfandelOrg  @bwwines

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (285510, $27.95, WineAlign)

In terms of the modern Vino Nobile vernacular and even grander to a wider Tuscan vicissitude, Dei takes the reigns and offers zero apology for the way in which the wines talk their turkey. Clean, pure and plenty are the words to describe this Prugnolo Gentile, but also graceful and slender. Spoons out copious quantities of fruit and is yet chewy enough you might think of eating it with a fork. Has aromas that recall concepts both fresh and dry. Vino Nobile to gimme fiction, history and tradition. “Comes when you pirouette,” dances light and treading across the tongue, never hot and heavy, but stylish and pliantly balletic. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @consorzionobile  @Strada_Nobile

Domaine Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune Aux Gravains 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (206136, $53.95, WineAlign)

Even in Burgundy there is a scarcity and rarity with which a particular bottle can please, impress and instruct, vintage after vintage. Pavelot’s Aux Gravains is pure Beaune, even if it is on the showy side of Pinot Noir. This is just plain and simple perfectly ripe and at the same time grippy with the grandest ‘G” that can be drawn. The cherry, earth and roots are smouldering and yet not remotely smoky. It smells like a cigar as it’s being rolled, with nary a green moment. The palate is chewy, cranky, pure again and racked by veraciously munching acidity. Naturally cured as well. Such a Pinot Noir is to be lauded. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted August 2015  Vinifera Wine Services @DanielBeiles

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If it’s value you want, it’s South Africa you need

From left to right: Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Thelema Mountain Red 2012

From left to right: Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Thelema Mountain Red 2012

I sat down a few weeks back to taste 20 South African wines, all value-based, consumer-friendly and market-driven. With WineAlign colleagues David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Margaret Swaine, Steve Thurlow and Sara d’Amato on hand, the general consensus at the tasting was positive and only worked to re-enforce how competitive South African wines can be in the sub-$15 market.

While certainly not immune to flaws, some South African reds and whites can sometimes get right in your face and yet others show remarkable elegance and complexity at entry-level prices. When I taste wines such as these I imagine the catastrophe of grace. They are wines that move through history with the fluency of a spirit. Some make a house cleaning of belief, others are solid senders. The South African tasting was more than just a group of cheap wines with something to say, more than a pleasant surprise, it was in fact, a pleasure.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Swartland, South Africa (595280, $14.95, WineAlign)

Deep dish Syrah, with meaty and cured toppings and the mordant pitch of Swartland. Tarry, olivine rampant and filled with the late summer, sorrowful berries; blackberry and black raspberry. Naturally sweet, viscous, grainy and tannic mess of texture overlaying fruit. Tons of wine for the buck and a very promising vintage to lay down. Aridity takes over on the briery finish. Wow.  Tasted January 2015  @PorcupineWines

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (367698, $14.85, WineAlign)

Here is a buttery and toasty Western Cape Chardonnay, slightly dirty and reductive. Confused, seemingly high residual avoirdupois restricts the opening notes, though they surely begin to play. The aromatics are heavy with the soaking skins of pear, apple and quince in crumbled amaretto cookie and flaky pastry boozy waters. Give this three plus years to shed its nerdy phase and integrate its tangy persistence.  Tasted January 2015  @BoschendalWines  @liffordwine

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (292557, $13.95, WineAlign)

Referring to Marc Kent’s blend as traditionally Rhône may seem at odds in consideration of the north-south, modish chaos, the price and the locale, but folky it is. The blend is unvarying Boekenhoutskloof, grounded by Syrah with support from Mourvèdre and Viognier. The latter, aromatic white grape variety lifts and brightens the brooding load. This is quite sweet and sour, of high-toned red and black fruits meeting a reduction of Champagne vinegar. A tannic and mineral streak divides, circles and conquers all. This will drink better in a year and for a few more after that.  Tasted January 2015  

Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (292466, $12.95, WineAlign)

From the KWV stable, the triad of outwardly and rhetorically spoken culture is right there on the label, in all its java glory. Café, Coffee, Mocha. The charm here is that perhaps in 2014 it has actually been scaled back a touch, the wood suffusion, to at least reveal a modicum of red fruits. Nonetheless it is the notes of smoke, tar, rubber and of course coffee that dominate. “Cause it’s the new Mother Nature takin’ over.” There are also at least two spoonfuls too many of sugar. Like the annoying Guess Who song, this can only be taken in very small doses. “Find a corner where I can hide.”  Tasted January 2015  @TheCafeCult  @Diageo_News

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (222570, $12.95, WineAlign)

From fruit up on the slopes of the Simonsig Mountains, this has real, natural cherry brightness, not to mention a kitchen sink of varietal interplay. Shiraz (37 per cent), Petit Verdot (25), Cabernet Sauvignon (23), Merlot (10), Grenache (4) and Cabernet Franc (1) are coalesced by a lighter hand and the effect is less frightening than might be expected. Like similar California action (save for Zinfandel and/or Petite Sirah), this comes together nicely, even coherently, with just a few wrinkles. Represents very good value for a multitude of purposes; BBQ and barbecue being two of them.  Tasted January 2015  @ThelemaWines  @EpicW_S

From left to right: Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014

From left to right: Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014

Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (369967, $12.95, WineAlign)

If 2011 was sweet, this next vintage is like Carabao mango, Luohan duo and Deglet noor dates all cooked down together into a mawkish, sappy jam. Or maybe it’s much simpler than that; just deeply layered refined sugar and red dye number 40. There is almost no aromatic discernment beyond the crystalline layers. No fruit, no soil, no acidity, no tannin. Just sweetness.  Tasted January 2015

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (129874, $11.30, WineAlign)

The simple drawn label indicates honest design and intent. The alcohol (14.5 per cent) seems spot on and in sweetness, honestly declared. Stones of fruit, full on Cassis, vanilla and wood spice are in the glass and obviously so. Scales greater heights than most generic California counterparts and comes across as Cabernet Sauvignon, with savoury Western Cape scents closer to Sonoma than say, Central Coast. Some coal and tar come in play with a good, persistent finish.  Tasted January 2015  @liffordretail

Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (27128, $11.25, WineAlign)

With the simple aroma of vanilla drops on cut pears and refined sugar, this is clean, crystalline and simple Pinot Grigio. Inoffensive, for a large gathering it will not hurt any feelings. The production is mindlessly prepared and contrived, until a warm cookie dough nuance takes it to another level. Nothing shocking here.  Tasted January 2015  @FlatRoofManor

Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa (27128, $11.25, WineAlign)

A taut and toned Merlot, varietally correct and though the label reads 13.5 per cent alcohol, shows considerable heat. Very Merlot, dusty, mulberry scented, syrupy and familiar as a Cape red. Fully garnished, varnished and a rubber stamp this side of tarnished, the thick smoke does distort the clarity. Somewhat seamless in its heavy charms and structured, if quick to finish. Tasted January 2015  @FlatRoofManor

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (365353, $10.95, WineAlign)

Though the label has forsaken the partnership with (15 per cent) Viognier, the aromatic floral lilt persists, lifts and buoys the stoic and stark Chenin to impossible heights in a sub-$11 wine. The Chenin’s sharp reserve is inwardly atomic and the relationship with the 15 percenter strictly platonic. Together they create honeyed matter, walk hand in hand and handsomely forward. The residual sugar drip may be a touch heavy-handed but laying a bottle or two down for a few years is entirely possible and save for the price, even longer than that. The acidity circulates to the end, framed by a fine tannic texture.  Tasted January 2015  @BoschendalWines  @liffordwine

From left to right: Goats Do Roam White 2013, Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013

From left to right: Goats Do Roam White 2013, Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Coastal Region, South Africa (237313, $10.95, WineAlign)

The popular and successful Rhône-ish north-south blend in 2013 is Viognier (67 per cent), Roussane (19) and Grenache Blanc (14). In memory, mimic and polar fellowship of the mother land, the GdR is spic and span clean if slightly saccharine and sentimental. I find this to be a typically commercial and derivative South African white wine, with an aromatic and palate profile of sugary, viscous appliqué and rubber tree sap. Has that awkward, gummy resin sensation, along with tropical notes. It’s the pineapple expression that saves the day and makes it more fun to drink.  Tasted January 2015  @DonGoatti  @FairviewWine

Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (358754, $10.95, WineAlign)

Like flavoured, warmed to dripping chocolate, with splinters. Like overripe blackberries seeping in warm rainwater. There is some formidable tannin and acidity which could use some air time to resolve. Quite unique and fun for an inexpensive South African red with only a minute level of rubbery, volatile acidity. Some earth and plenty of spice, much of it from wood. Quite bright actually and well made.  Tasted January 2015  @flagstonewines  @CBrandsCareers

Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Durbanville, South Africa (22251, $10.95, WineAlign)

Extreme savour and notes for green vegetables are sprinkled with capsicum and dried caper dust in this piquant Sauvignon Blanc. Windswept tops of or cliff edges can be conjured at a sip, along with he dust of desert brush and spots of European gorse. Ocean mists join the notes of Ulex, contributing further green aromas and salty-based flavours. Acidity brings it all in focus. There is complexity in this SB’s drive.  Tasted January 2015  @dhillswine

Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (281311, $10.95, WineAlign)

Quite oxidized and based on the saccharine sugar aspect, “Extra-Dry” must be a translation from the local winemaker’s dialect. While it has some fining aridity on the back end, the early palate is coated with not so unpleasant sweetness. The capsicum captures the effectualness of the varietal, as do green vegetables and grasses. Intensity comes through in lemon curd and the finish is quite bitter.  Tasted January 2015

Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (350595, $10.80, WineAlign)

A Shiraz-Cabernet blend that’s all about the tree, the barrel and a winemaker’s loud and clear pronouncement of the way jammy Western Cape fruit should be treated. Tire tread and sappy tensor bandage smother along with all kinds of chocolate. Plenty of red fruit, grainy tannin and condensed acidity, straight out of the can. Big wine for so little.  Tasted January 2015  @DionysusWines

From left to right: Frisky Zebras From left to right: Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Shiraz 2013, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Blanc

From left to right: Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc

Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (527457, $9.95, WineAlign)

Have always had a soft spot for this hard-nosed, high-alcohol (pushing the 15 per cent limit, despite the declared 14.5 on the bottle) heavy lead and plush red berry Shiraz. Especially at under $10. Graphite and mephitic barks, ferrous bits and cool bites keep it dancing under ground. It’s sweet and sour, with soy and balsamic swirls. Covers a wide ranging set of Western Cape parameters. Runs the flavour gamut and represents more than solid value. It’s the style, love it or not.  Tasted January 2015  @Nederburg  @ImportWineMAFWM

Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (367821, $9.80, WineAlign)

Mr. Green Jr. has fashioned the goods, following in the footsteps of his father. This is a cheeky little Sauvignon Blanc. Slightly oxidized, certainly pumped up by a touch of effervescent CO2 and tempered by Western Cape sentiments. Has hallmark South African flaw-ish white wine tendencies but also plenty of back-end bite meets verve. Like Scatterlings in a bottle, “in their hearts a burning hunger, beneath the copper sun,” this SB has tons of tropical flavour. Also possesses a green apple crunch and a Cleggy, cool, minty middle. Most excellent and affordable juice.  Tasted January 2015  @DionysusWines

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (18689, $9.45, WineAlign)

Despite the obvious base, elemental and flinty suggestions, it would take some yoga like stretching to pull a Chenin Blanc muscle out of the overall aromatics in a blind tasting. Yet somehow it screams Western Cape and South Africa. Reeks of gauze, sacchariferous density and homeopathic remedy. Saps moisture with anti-vivid aridity. Must overs are in vegetative tones. And, it’s all in.  Tasted January 2015  @KWVwines  @DiamondEstates

Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (527465, $9.45, WineAlign)

Struts slowly out, the aromatic neck in craning position, the rotund body slightly awkward and stuck in one dimension. The sweet perfume is animal musky, in a medicinal way. The big bird is a perfectly planar white that is just and only that, hardly recognizable as Sauvignon Blanc, with no ties to any defined terroir. The ostrich abides for simple and ordinary quaffing.  Tasted January 2015  @ObikwaWines  @ImportWineMAFWM

Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc NV, Western Cape, South Africa (237685, $8.95, WineAlign)

From purchased fair-trade fruit, this non-vintage white wine is nondescript. Here brews honeydew in a bottle. Tinny, oxidized and briny, bronzing smells are also sunburnt. The mouth is the recipient of a greasy, reductive, effervescent and prickling salve. Non-Maleficence in Sauvignon Blanc.  Tasted January 2015

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