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

WineAlign

Three-chord wines, hold the rants

Wine on the rocks

Here are six rock ‘n’ roll wines, in four-four time, ready and willing to ease your mind.
Photo: Pavel Drozda/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The world’s most famous wine critic is not happy. His claim of “wannabe” scribes hell-bent to focus on obscure wines most consumers can never find has raised a maelstrom of retort. Robert Parker published a diatribe last month about “a vociferous minority” of “euro-elitists” vying for journalistic market share “perpetrating nothing short of absolute sham on wine consumers.”

Them’s fightin’ words. No, not that rant by Robert Parker about Robert Griffin III. Wine critic Robert Parker Jr. railed against a bevy of unnamed bloggers on the natural, honest and low-alcohol wine supporting bandwagon. His claim? Natural wines will be exposed as fraud. Parker’s would-be assailants are an outspoken generation who would seek to bring down those classic grapes capable of ripe extraction and elevated levels of sugar and alcohol, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The intensity-loving reviewer has positioned himself as the establishment, a victim agonizing over the sanctification of “godforsaken grapes,” like Blaufränkisch and Trousseau.

Alder Yarrow of Vinography took exception and proposed a cage match. His column: Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation. Rebecca Gibb’s take: Should Robert Parker Have Listened to Disraeli? Jamie Goode put in his ever-wry two cents: Novelty at the expense of quality? This after Jancis Robinson chimed in with Bottle fight: Novelty v classic wines. Talia Baiocchi had this to say: The Robert Parker Tirade, Continued. Eric Asimov brought it down to a New York state of mind with Why Can’t You Find That Wine? Meanwhile, Steve Heimoff took the other side: There are some kinds of blogs we just don’t need.

There isn’t a writer in the bunch I wouldn’t read, can’t learn from or don’t find funny, but the need to chime in on what is obvious and already understood leaves me dumbfounded. In wine, as in life, there are some things that just are what they are, like them or not. Mr. Parker, you carved your niche. Those who lay with you ate cake. The model worked. It held water and was extremely successful for a long time. You are this week’s Napa Wine Writers Symposium keynote speaker, where you will feel the love. No one will ask, what have you done for me lately? You created the establishment and are of course trying to protect the status quo. You’ve been ridiculously prolific. Integral to the high-frequency, high-end wine buyer. And you are just a writer. Really. So what if the dogs are seeing signs of Queegish dotage. You named no names in your rant, so who exactly did you mean to insult? The world is your oyster. What’s with the bitching?

Perhaps Parker touched an insecure spot, the one where self-doubt creeps in. The one that drives writers to defend themselves, even if the attack is not a personal one. The need to tear him down is strange at best. It smells of poli-campaign slander. If he’s no longer relevant, as a vehement bunch seem to scream and shout, why bother? Why is the wine writing community one where sides desperately need to be taken? To both sides I caution the high road. Let writers write and if you think they are wrong or have nothing to say, ignore them. Like a tree falling in the forest, is an unread writer ever really heard?

It’s understood that controversy sells and lively discourse is healthy. In this case it has produced more than a novella of interesting reads. The current generation of critics, bloggers and reviewers is replete with some stupidly smart writers who have chosen wine as their raison d’écrire. That they chime in and offer their take on everything from varietal obsessions to tasting bans and producer/journalist relationships is certainly fascinating. Arguing the merits of varietal worthiness is fine. Discussing the pros and cons of esoteric versus classic wines on restaurant cards is relevant. Throwing sticks onto the ice, choosing teams and starting fights simultaneous to the debate loses sight of the original topic. I am not suggesting a wine writer’s love in but would more levity and space not foster an environment where the wines themselves matter more than the people who talk about them?

Tasting, talking about and writing up wines seems the course to stay, whether it be reviews on varieties never heard of or an obnoxiously fat glass of buttery Chardonnay. Richard Auffrey fights the good fight but still takes a stab at the beast. The always dry W. Blake Gray floats on in his singular, ethereal way, and by doing so, gets it right. He wants you to know I’ll have some Roussillon, hold the Rivesaltes. With Tuba and Alto Sax. Perhaps Gray would agree with me. If I need a dose of scathing criticism or irony I’ll turn on Bill Maher, or put on a Bill Hicks Rant in E-Minor.

Music and wine can work magic when paired together. Jamie Goode has been exploring the possibilities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking wine down to the base, choosing grapes from places where they are made in straightforward and simply powerful ways. Likewise, clicking an uncomplicated, three-chord arrangement on YouTube or the I-pod can really change the outlook of a day. Here are six rock ‘n’ roll wines, in four-four time, ready and willing to ease your mind.

Clockwise from left: Alamos Torrontés 2013, Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, and Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008

Clockwise from left: Alamos Torrontés 2013, Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, and Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008

Alamos Torrontés 2013, Salta, Argentina (81539, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Salta in north west Argentina, what is so appealing about this well-priced bottling is the salinity and outright humidity it always displays. Torrontés gives so much away aromatically, by way of flowers and the verdigris of mountain ferns. This Catena entry-level wine achieves all of the above and for a song. This Alamos is medicinal, reeks of orchids sweating in a greenhouse and teases with white pepper. It’s short and quick but efficient. Excellent value.  88  Tasted January 2014  @CatenaMalbec  @MalbecLife

Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Rioja, Spain (358770, $16.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Entry-level Rioja was nothing but a house party. Was surely rocking a year ago but now a fading, dry cake of rusticity, with the slightest hydration of charred sour cherry. Solid Crianza, though short-lived, with some bitter notes and good acidity in tight corners. Where once it “said move it, groove it,” now it laments “baby, don’t you lose it.”  87  Tasted February 2014  @HHDImports_Wine

Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, New Zealand (353656, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Frothy, gregarious sparkler from New Zealand with extraordinarily large bubbles, a soft downy texture and a cottony nose. Gentle spice, sweet easy bake brioche and juicy grapefruit is inviting, if advanced by mechanical means. Mellow, smooth, pure and clean with no obvious toast, soap or bitters. Well-priced, drink now fizz.  89  Tasted February 2014  @Select_Wines

Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Barossa, South Australia, Australia (Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

High powered, ocean size aromas here, expressing the power and pomp inflection of the Barossan attitude. Very berry and not alcohol shy though it’s a gathered heat and nothing shocking. Swirl this wave of big juice for long enough and though it will feel “like a tooth aching a jawbone,” it’s fleeting and releases to a softer finish. Still, a Shiraz more John than Jane.  88  Tasted January 2014  @GrantBurgeWines  @TrialtoON

Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, Barossa, South Australia, Australia (922773, $43.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Surreal, impossibly dense and terrifically complex Barossa Shiraz, full of dark fruit blues and hard-rocking rhythms. Metallic zinc tincture, causing heavy breathing, steaming like a locomotive with “no way to slow down.” Steals words and all sensitivity from teeth and gums. Such a big expression but certainly not one of the all-time one-dimensional losers. So much more than jammy fruit. To put aside and revisit in 20 years.  91  Tasted February 2014  @pontewine

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008, Piedmont, Italy (596890, $49.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Pure Nebbiolo currency, bankable Barolo. This ’08 confirms the old-school austerity of the Colla caste and genre. Parlous handsome perfume, stark, raving Barolo, exact and definitive in angular tannin. Racy, deep and unctuous, nowhere even close to settled or responsive.  There is a lurking depth of flavour not yet willing to cooperate. My kingdom for your Bussia graces.  92  Tasted February 2014  @glencairnwines

Good to go!

A resolution to drink honest wine

Heart wine

What is honest wine? Above all else it is made by the grower who sleeps with the grapes.
Photo: Aleksandr Volkov/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

When the book closed on the Gregorian calendar year for 2012, I made the most basic of wine resolutions for 2013. Drink better wine. That I did. A year on, with thousands more wines tasted and contemplated under my belt, an unconquerable will to seek acts of volition compels me to declare this. Let 2014 be the year to drink honest wine.

If wine were considered as a Roman anagram, the Latin quid est veritas, translated as “what is truth,” should prompt the response, “why, this honest wine.” Try this instead, Est vir qui adest, in other words, “it is this man here.” The winemaker, the vintner, the cooperative, the winery working for the man. It matters not who you are. To be successful in 2014 you must make honest wine.

What is honest wine? Above all else it is made by the grower who sleeps with the grapes. Not literally and not with the fishes, but greatness comes from the farmer who spend more hours walking the rows then the halls of the home. Soul love. By extension or shoulder to shoulder the high-minded winemaker knows “all I have is my love of love and love is not loving.”

Honest wine is juice that conveys the salient facts of a grape’s life. Aromas and flavours emotive of the stages of the fruit’s history, its components; seed, pulp, skin and stem. The greatest wines, judged to make use of the entire fruit for best results, consider the parts as members of the whole.

For a bottle of wine to be on the up and up it must not be disguised by the unnatural ways of artificial intervention nor should it make itself so available as to be obvious. Fruit should reside in the realm of the sequestered and the sacred. The emotional response to sipping on fermented grapes can only be true if the juice offers no precise parameters. A fear of knowing and not knowing is key. Forbidden aromas and flavours are emotive because they are forbidden and they are forbidden because they are emotive.

Real wine elicits all of this and more. I am not alone in hoping for table wines to be stirring, gripping, unsweetened and unencumbered by an excessive coat of oak. My hard-earned dollars should earn the right to be stimulated and provoked to think in ways verging on stream of consciousness.

So welcome to 2014. The year of drinking honest wine. The more you seek it out, the more it will be made. Here are 10 current releases to get you going in the right direction.

From left: DE SOUSA SEASONS RESERVE MERITAGE 2011, QUINTA DAS CAMÉLIAS RESERVA 2010, 13TH STREET MERLOT 2010, and SEVEN FALLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010

From left: DE SOUSA SEASONS RESERVE MERITAGE 2011, QUINTA DAS CAMÉLIAS RESERVA 2010, 13TH STREET MERLOT 2010, and SEVEN FALLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010

DE SOUSA SEASONS RESERVE MERITAGE 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (315911, $14.95, WineAlign)

Aromatically drippy, reductive and heavy-handed in its oak soak but the concentration is really well-judged. Remains loyal and close to its Escarpment origins and walks the ridge point on a plane. Spice cupboard of scents dominate the basic, easy-going fruit. Proper and realistic use of its Bordeaux-derived, Cartesian coordinates. Worth a stroll through its Euclidean space.  87  Tasted December 2013  @DiamondEstates

QUINTA DAS CAMÉLIAS RESERVA 2010, Doc  Dão, Portugal (305334, $14.95, WineAlign)

Here comes another sure thing, best buy Portuguese red, this time from the rising star that is the Dão. Paradigmatic local combination of Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheiro. Modern but tight, brooding and juicy, approachable yet nearly, severely tannic. A Dão pulled in two directions by monster trucks, holding ground in bonded, erudite fashion, firmly in the middle. All thanks to a terrific combination of dark fruit and gritty, chunky grain. To this Dão I say, “I hope you appreciate the magnitude of your impending good fortune.”  88  Tasted December 2013  @NokhrinWines

13TH STREET MERLOT 2010, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, (270504, $17.95, WineAlign)

I’m just going to say three words to you baby.” Statu-tory buy. Can’t recommend it enough. What we have here is a really fine vintage for a Creek Shores appellation’s unique bottling. Merlot of shining bifid complexity, despite being a product of deep clay it’s dusty but not kicking up dust. There is palpable fruit but fruit does not lead the way. More so licorice and a lush crush of vinous allotropy. Solid wall of tannin will stand for 5-7 years and then crumble effortlessly, willingly, submissively. Add another notch on the Creek Shores chart for Merlot alongside fellow obvious variety, Cabernet Franc.  89  Tasted December 2013  @13thStreetWines

MAISON ROCHE DE BELLENE CUVÉE RÉSERVE BOURGOGNE 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (299859, $17.95, WineAlign)

In light of its entry-level Bourgogne nature, this boasts a notable if unconventional, charming, candied nose. Pronounced dried cherries and currants are emphatic, categorically atypical of this Pinot Noir. More like Oregon, or even Prince Edward County, in pomegranate and earth. That said, this RDB is not overtly or overly earthy. Sharp yet piercing though only just beneath the surface. A late injection of astringency is expected and keeps this Pinot grounded. Really quite exceptional at $18 by (Canadian) winemaker Matt Chittick. Could this be an indicator of brilliance to come for the ’11s? Looks to be.  89  Tasted December 2013  @RochedeBellene

SEVEN FALLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, Wahluke Slope, Washington, U.S.A.  (360222, $18.95, WineAlign)

A friable feeling from this Chateau Ste. Michelle proposal submits to ripe plum and sourish pomegranate falling effortlessly from their trees. Affable, convenient, well-made Giling Basah, not overly extracted or justified. Mulberry kicked-up Arabica, wet-hulled, reminding of Merlot, or at least as stiff support to a Cabernet blend. Gotta be. Warming, gentle tannins, like Oz, without the jam.  88  Tasted December 2013  @SteMichelle

From left: MALIVOIRE GUILTY MEN CABERNET/MERLOT 2010, CUSUMANO NOÀ 2010, PIERRE AMADIEU LA GRANGELIÈRE VACQUEYRAS 2011, ADARO 2009, and KISTLER PINOT NOIR 2011

From left: MALIVOIRE GUILTY MEN CABERNET/MERLOT 2010, CUSUMANO NOÀ 2010, PIERRE AMADIEU LA GRANGELIÈRE VACQUEYRAS 2011, ADARO 2009, and KISTLER PINOT NOIR 2011

MALIVOIRE GUILTY MEN CABERNET/MERLOT 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (186247, $19.95, WineAlign)

A gritty, layered effort, carried forth by transcendental blues. Offers up the strange sensation of a P, B and J sandwich with kudos to (winemaker) Shiraz Mottiar for nut putting chocolate in the peanut butter. “Careful what you ask for, you don’t know ’til you try.” Roasted, semi-confected and counterintuitive in circulatory acidity and juicy madness. Might be Bordeaux blend-inspired but this leans Loire-ish because “back roads never carry you where you want ‘em to.” Speaks loud and clear with a practiced oration of place, in rocks, stones, clay and the aggregate of it all.  88  Tasted December 2013  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar

CUSUMANO NOÀ 2010, Sicily, Italy (109512, $19.95, WineAlign)

A bodacious, Jethro, flaunting display is shown by this Sicilian blend of 40 per cent Nero D’Avola, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 Merlot. Fig cake, thick as a brick, drizzled over by good quality aged balsamic. Fruit from young-ish (12 year-old) vines coached by the barrel states flatly, “I may make you feel but I can’t make you think.” Splinters the tongue, coats the insides and raises the roof. Leaves the vines behind, soothes the beast by flute and focuses on what comes later, of course. “The elastic retreat rings the close of play as the last wave uncovers the newfangled way.”  88  Tasted December 2013  @SpeckBros

PIERRE AMADIEU LA GRANGELIÈRE VACQUEYRAS 2011, AC, Rhône, France (76398, $19.95, WineAlign)

Merde, if only a whiff, just a whiff, bumps into lush, red berry fruit and is then carried away with the mistral. Really fine cherry and tangy raspberry, bit by the subterranean soil mineral I must have in my Rhône. Oak spoken in Franco-Provençal, Occitan not as profound, intrusive or demanding. Delish Vaq, with a good middle palate and solid grasp on the dry finish, not long, but there in spirit.  90  Tasted December 2013

ADARO 2009, Ribera Del Duero, Spain (345686, $29.95, WineAlign)

This 100% Tempranillo from the Real Sitio de la Ventosilla Estate has that something other. The no sé lo que of Ribera, a liqueur nose that won’t overwhelm the liquor of pressed, squeezed and juiced flowers. Compact in luxurious flavours, like Napa Cabernet Cassis or Kirsch in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For the price this is so much more interesting than the comparative mythologies of those other terroirs. Beware the wood shavings soaked to the bone. Adult red licorice.  92  Tasted December 2013  @Noble_Estates

KISTLER PINOT NOIR 2011, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (330274, $79.00, WineAlign)

Such a musical display in assemblage, this soundtrack of aptitude and wisdom, bringing together a selection of barrels that form an attitude to tell a Russian River Valley Pinot story. Though Chardonnay is Kistler’s claim to fame, this Pinot rises above so many others. It could be told “you’ll meet them all again on the long journey to the middle.” Nary a barrel intrusion, smokeless and without char, though there is a leathery component. Viscous but not jammy, sharp but not pointed, sweet but never cloying. Absolutely California with warm bands of black cherry, almost plum famous but all in balance. ”It’s all happening.”  93  Tasted December 2013  @TheVine_RobGroh

Good to go!