This will be the last weekend of play for most southern Ontario golf courses, or at least the ones who are smart enough to lock down and protect their precious 7,000 yards of turf from irreparable 2017 damage. For many players there are two seasons, golf and wine buying. Now that the exceptional 2016 year of 50-plus, sunshine-blessed rounds of 18 are done, the time has flipped over to loading up for the holidays and stocking the cellar.
My outward and inward nine recommendations from the VINTAGES November 12th release cover one and then the other. The front is marked by balance relative to par; wines of value, amiability, varietal purity and regional respectability. Just have a look at some of these iconic names: Delas, Catena, Trimbach, Gabbiano, Hedges and Cave Spring. The back takes swings into under and over par territory. Some are choices that polarize with buyers, critics and geeks. Are they worth the cash? Only you can be the judge. Along with some of Niagara’s greats are selections that include Chablis, Gran Selezione, Veneto and Napa Valley.
So put away the sticks and hit the stores. Here are my top 18 recommendations coming to VINTAGES this weekend.
Pretty darn textbook viognier in the broadest sense of the varietal word, aromatically waxy, tropical and medicinal. The low alcohol, high flavour and commercially managed acidity is balanced by cream and citrus. No more, no less, precise and managed with utmost professionalism. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted October 2016 #Delas @ @
Here an interesting bit of local vernacular, Cretan style, with vilana (65 per cent) and vidiano (35) dishing up a distinctly and singularly endemic mineral impression by way of subtle hints from tropical fruit. The palate is rich, broad and marzipan creamy. The acidity is round and rambling, tying the whole kit and Crete kaboodle together. A worthy side venture into the Greek Aegean hinterland. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @ @
The Young Vines is an orange to the Earth and Sky’s apple, of a change of fruit and a pace that is hot off the press. Yet it is not without some ancient wisdom. In some new world sites vines up to 15 years of age would be considered old growth adults. In a Greek vineyard like that of a Naoussan like Thymiopoulos, they are babies of the sun. The Xinomavro here is fresh, momentarily acts strikingly brazen, bracing and ultimately, blatantly beatific. With a glass of the young vines in hand to it I say, “it’s not the pale moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me. Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.” Like Norah Jones in a glass, sultry, contemporary, lightly smoky, of a jazz aesthetic and a pop sensibility. And wild berries. So fresh, so good. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted May 2015
The Coonawarra Series cabernet sauvignon is predominantly sourced from the Williams family vineyard (like that of the chardonnay) in Southern Coonawarra. There can be no separating Terra Rossa soil from what happens with (especially) cabernet sauvignon anywhere in the Coonawarra. Very cool and savoury cabernet with tart cranberry, currant and black raspberry aromas. Really crunchy, chewy and gritty wine with focus and grip. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @ @
High mountain vines bring more than altitude to Catena’s most commercially visible and successful malbec. In magnum format it accentuates the herbs and the dry, dusty qualities. In here there is sweetness but from tannin and extract. Acidity is the catalyst to make this sing a mountain hymn. Such proper winemaking brings rain. Love the format. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @ @ @
First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted June 2016 @ @chianticlassico #TreasuryWineEstates
What pray tell might you ask more than this from Alsace riesling? Could you, would you demand more immediate gratification? Might you request more purity and clarity of soil, rock and regional understanding? Is there a need to better define citrus and dry extract in any finer way? Trimbach has it down and few can pinpoint with fewer words and more direct impression. How things ought to be. A tight vintage though, so wait 18 months before embarking on chapter one. Imagine the Cuvée Frédéric Emile possibilities. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @ @ @ @
Copacetic and well-amalgamated vintage here for the Hedges CMS, a wine of deep singer-songwriter meets jazzy flavour and sensible grip. Though there are bitters and a display of fine if sweet tannic structure, this CMS hits not over the head or below the belt. Just a few jabs and a loving embrace. A blackstar Columbia Valley blend that flies past, like “seven tracks in 40 minutes and it’s musically distinct.” In this way it reminds me of Ben Greenman’s New Yorker piece, “The Beautiful Meaninglessness of David Bowie.” Or it makes me think of Bowie as so many Hedges wines do. It’s not that this wine offers no clear meaning but it dishes ambiguity in ways only it can do. Like the late glam star, it “can’t give everything. Away.” Or, as Greenman concludes, “unless, of course, that isn’t what it means at all.” Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @
The vintage brings a concentration and a compression and the most fruit imaginable for the Beamsville bench and the CSV. How this iconic riesling solicits immediate attention and fruit-juicy love is really something and hasn’t been seen in a few years. The citrus is all flesh and juice, the mineral aspect full of tang. Unction and viscosity define the texture and the palate. Drink early and enjoy the hell out of this forward CSV riesling. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted October 2016 @ @
There was this intuitive moment with Picone 2013 as if it was waiting on me. Not doting or soliciting, but waiting. I will admit to have been wondering, reeling and speculating. To peer or peek into what Mark Picone’s Vinemount Ridge vineyard would adjudge and then bestow Charles Baker’s riesling in 2013? Would it be a case of weight, hyperbole, a hang in the balance out of misjudged necessity? Nah. Picone is no longer a mature 20 year-old vineyard but now a wise old thirty year-old one. Picone 2013 is in fact a fun park mirrored image of itself, with haughty, aerified aromas and variegated, leaning to tropical fruit flavours, taut like a flock in line with the vintage. The riesling berries just seem to have imploded and the results that have followed are nothing if not intense. Imagine a Yogyakarta market and a two-wheeled, glass-cased push cart stacked with a pyramid of tart mangoes. The fruit had been picked just as the sugars had begun to run like sap and bleed sticky on the cracking skin. A mango is sliced and doused with the intensity of Java lime juice and then sprinkled with Laut Jawa salt. The flavours are searing, sweetly saline and quenching. Only this tart is this, where tart and acidity meet, intertwine and connect on an emotional level. Picone 2013. The first non-inoculated riesling at first and then touched up near the end. “The best vintage you could ask for in riesling,” notes Baker, “cloud-covered, a meeting of the minds, vibrant.” The arid, cranky one will live without fret for 15 years. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted twice, October 2016 @ @
Vaulignot was created in 1976, one of the last Premier Crus to gain such status within the association. Note that Moreau’s nomenclature is Vaulignot instead of Vau Ligneau, but the meaning is exactly the same. Really round and rich Chablis with a relative and realistic purity specific to place. This alights as a sun-drenched and lemon waxy chardonnay with enough (thank you very much 2014) tension to keep it rolling right along. What Vaulignot brings to the Chablis table is stick to your tongue, mouth and ribs persistence and vitamin water mineral enhancement. In a way it is caught in the Chablis netherland between up front gregariously fruity and strikingly mineral/acidity piercing. Great length in this vintage. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @ @ @
I would not have thought it possible but the ’12 TC Meritage is open for business. The fruit is near-perfect for what these parts of the Beamsville Bench can offer and the normal gnashing is frozen as if suspended, which it likely is. In its current state it is all berries and dusty tannins, ripe, ripe acidity and plenty of outright happiness. A wisely structured Terroir Caché from Marlize Byers as only she could coax and extend. Drink now (not) or wait five years. Points in between may be confounding. Drink 2020-2030. Tasted October 2016 @ @ @
Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296863, $39.95, WineAlign)
A tart and robust vintage for the rare pinot noir, deeply ingrained into earth, sun and savour. This is distinctly varietal to Four Mile Creek with haute sapidity and exceptional length. The rusty accents inject piercing citric life into strawberry rhubarb pie. The tannins gnash their terrible teeth and the fruit hides for dear life. I’m not sure any Rare Vintage David Sheppard-ed pinot noir has ever delivered such mean structure. The next Niagara growing season should contribute to an ever more impressive showing because the fruit will almost certainly be up to the tyrannical task. Not to mention the coincidental crossroads 30th Sheppard vintage of making wines in Ontario. Meanwhile, from the cloudy, windy 2013 vintage his pinot noir will live long and prosper. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted October 2016 @
t’s always a highly anticipated taste when a vintage dated Cuvée Catherine is on the table sidled and promoted with the bar raised to epic heights from a striking chardonnay vintage like 2011. With acidity a given as the elephant in the room the formidably elegant Blanc de Blanc glides ethereally to press upon the olfactory nerve major and then grace the palate with fine mousse, citrus and biscuits. This is a benchmark for Ontario and Canada with only Benjamin Bridge’s B de B styled Gaspereau Valley gemstone sparkler in the same elite league. Enjoy this now and for 15-20 blissful, fizz-friendly years. Drink 2016-2032. Tasted October 2016 @ @
A Chianti Classcio first borne in 1997 with the plan to create a maximum quality blend as an expression of the estate’s diverse terroir. A meticulous selection is combed from the estate’s vineyards, spread over 230 hectares of land. Though early on the fruit may have emerged out of good but not yet exceptional vineyards, nearly 20 years later the sangiovese (90 per cent) with cabernet Sauvignon and merlot (or perhaps petit verdot) adheres to grand vin excellence. The wood regimen is 18 months in tonneau followed by 18 in bottle. Perhaps you will not find a more accomplished, perfectly judged, matter of factly expressed Gran Selezione. Sangiovese in equality of spicing with fruit, acidity and tannin, perfectly integrated toast, wood impact and textural drive. Stefano Capurso admits this about the transition from Chianti Classico to Gran Selezione.”It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the large ones.” Drink 2018-2025. Tasted May 2016 @ @ @
Only and distinctly Quintarelli, of that Negrar perfume and the kind of salumi cure no other producer can seem to procure. Though an infant and a baby to more mature vineyard selection Quintarelli adult bottlings, the Primofiore is full of exotics, of clove, cardamom, liquorice and meaty char. There is a sweetness to Quintarelli fruit and a remarkable resistance to astringency. This particular 2012 IGT is smooth and soothing. It is dangerously easy to consume. Drink 2017-2027. Tasted October 2016 #quintarelli @
Stags’ Leap The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (142844, $89.95, WineAlign)
Signature cabernet sauvignon from Stag’s Leap from the first of the dry Napa vintages is dusty and high-toned to a high degree. Pure berry distillate and a savoury linger lead off and yet the closemindedness is still a youthful issue. There is a beautiful sense of florality behind the veil of aridity and big room tannin and yet the fruit is so very ethereal when it comes to tasting. Yes the dinging acidity and dastardly tannin will be a constant reminder of structure but without over compensation from the barrel the DJ Kylo driving beat will always be helpful. Gorgeous wine from Christophe Paubert. Put it in the time machine. I’ll take that leap in the dark. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted October 2016 @ @ #TreasuryWineEstates
Forman’s 2012 is a big, vibrant, robust and dusty expression, full of fruit, more fruit and nothing but fruit. Though the price is exceptional, the combined stylistic and level of honesty is formidably forman-ible. It is a rare opportunity and execution indeed when sweetness is culled from extract without the necessities of manipulated winemaking, oak usage included. The naked purity of this wine from an exceptionally dry, ripe and efficiently evolved vintage leads this cabernet sauvignon down a long, purposed and grandiloquent road. Drink 2018-2030. Tasted October 2016 @ @ #formanwines
Good to go!