Tales of the Bardolino, Custoza and Lugana

Pizza, Pane, Passione – Saporé Downtown, Verona

A year goes by so fast. In October of 2017 there was this inquisitive week of immersion probing around much of Lago di Garda’s perimeter. The tour involved disinterred soils, precocious vines and the promising vendibility out of several important northern Italian DOCs. The grand excursion was advertised to centre around the avant-garde collection of Rosé wines assembled under the auspices of Chiaretto. For the most part it was and in a report published not too long ago I wrote about the extolled virtues of Bardolino and Valtènesi Rosato.

Related – Garda’s Chiaretto success

There was much more to that 2017 trip than mere pale pink deliciousness. There was the beauty, purity and honesty of Corvina-based Bardolino DOC reds; Classico and Superiore. There was more. There were morainic and argilleux whites; Custoza and Lugana, with clonal variants and an array of varietals carrying and sharing the load. The trebbiano of varying biotype degrees; di lugana, di toscana, castelli romani and the homegrown turbiana. Then there are considerations involving garganega (marco bona), fernanda (cortese di gavi), and trebbianello (tokay friulano). Here are 64 tasting notes of Bardolino, Custoza and Lugana based wines tasted one year ago save for two stumbled happily upon at Vino al Vino in Firenze. Some of these wines were produced in adherence to the local DOCs and others well, not exactly so.

Hostaria Wine Festival, Verona

Bardolino

Bardolino’s collinare morenico, limestone and marine fossil soils were carved out more than 100 million years ago on the eastern shore of Lago di Garda. The 80 kilometre long Veneto wine route of the Bardolino production zone sits in a morainic area on argiloso (clay) soils around the eastern and southern shores of Garda, on flats and up to the hills and plateaus above the lake. From Bardolino to the hills of Costermano the corvina path descends to Garda and Torri del Benaco. Back in Bardolino it climbs to Cavaion Veronese, Affi, Caprino Veronese and Rivoli Veronese, from where it leads to Monte Baldo. The wine route follows to Pastrengo, Castelnuovo del Garda and Lazise in the south, leading to Peschiera del Garda and Valeggio sul Mincio and ending in the villages of Sommacampagna, Sona and Bussolengo.

A typical Bardolino blend is corvina (70 per cent), with addendum by rondinella and molinara. Bardolino is now approved to hold a maximum 95 per cent corvina, increased from 80. Supporting rondinella must be included at a minimum five per cent and up to a maximum of 40, up from 15. Other varieties allowed to be cultivated in the area can be used for a maximum of 20 per cent and with a 10 per cent limit for each variety, except for molinara, allowed up to a maximum of 15 per cent.

The Bard of Bardolino Angelo Perreti

Simply put it is the crisp acidity and fine, light tannins of corvina that lend Bardolino its imminently drinkable amiability. The vines benefit from a Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and mild to cool winters. Lake Garda lowers the diurnal temperature range of the area while the Dolomite mountains protect from winter freezes and provide cold winds during the warm summer months. There are 2700 hectares under vine, 100 producers and 17 million annual bottles produced.

The DOC was created in 1968 and now that Chiaretto has been separated with its own distinction, next up is to recognize the frazioni, sub-zones that dig deeper, into the micro-climates of La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna. La Rocca represents the ancient Bardolino district. Thanks to its biodiversity Montebaldo stands for the foothill area known as the botanic garden of Europe. Sommacampagna accounts for the southern Bardolino hills. Look for these menzioni geografiche on labels of Bardolino coming soon.

Albino Piona Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (528646, $16.95, WineAlign)

Albino Piona’s corvina based Bardolino comes from a wild ferment and the lowest of fermentation temperatures. It’s all spice, sage and garriga with the classic red fruits beneath, subtle in a pinot nero way, not your typical Bardolino but a deserving winner of awards. This takes the presence to a whole new level. Reeks of fresh spring flowers, lilac and then roses. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, October 2017 and March 2018

Albino Piona Bardolino DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (528646, $16.95, WineAlign)

The 2013 is perhaps a child of the very atypical vintage, with certainly a note of botrytis because saffron is once again a part of the mix. This is not just reserved for white wines and it’s a clean botrytis, remarkable, spicing up quince paste swirled with a light white fig. Once again so cool. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Bardolino Superiore DOC “SP” 2013, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The morainic area south of Lake Garda is where Piona’s corvina and rondinella finds it top expression. This special cuvée is so very cherry, with white fig again, not so much the saffron but yes into the mushroom and even a developing truffle. Lovely. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Bardolino Superiore DOC “SP” 2011, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Bardolino SP 2011 is a wow red blend, coming in firm, intense, tart and with more clay (argileux) influence for sure. Takes the cherry and the porcine feel and turns it up to eleven. Serious structure this time around. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Tortelli di Zucca alla moda del Gonzaga at Borsa Vallegio

Bergamini Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bardolino from Lasize, of 70 per cent corvina and 20 per cent molinara, fruity and firm. Quite aromatic, first potpourri dominated by dried roses, tart and all dark cherry flavours. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017  bergaminiaziendaagricola  Bergamini Azienda Agricola

Bergamini Bardolino Superiore DOC Colline Di Colà 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bardolino Superiore Colline di Colà is a construct from vines 50-plus years old, in 500L oak barrels for one year. The site is found in a small village near Lasize upon the hill of Colà. This is a form extricated, extracted and exercised with structure and takes Bardolino to a completely different place. Needs to settle in awhile. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2017

Bergamini Corvina Veronese Vigneto Monte Casa 2011, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Vigneto Monte Casa is only produced in the best vintages and its a corvina blessed of perfume and spice. Half of the juice not used for Chiaretto is further fermented without sulphites, with seeds and stems, then led through malo and put into big barrels. Remarkable wine. So cool. Exactly how to take the vines of Bardolino to another level. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Bigagnoli Alias Rosato Veronese IGT 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Alias Rosato didn’t pass the panel so not labeled Chiaretto because the panel said it smelled like onion skin. I don’t really get it. It may not be the most typical Chiaretto but really? Tangy and intense. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Bigagnoli Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Alessio Bignanoli’s one man band Bardolino is true blue, black and red cherry fruity, deep and intense, bottled under a screwcap with a pillow membrane, to allow a micro-oxygenation, to simulate cork. This is quite typical in blend only, of 75 per cent corvina plus rondinella and molinara. A bit reductive without surprise and with plenty of peppery spice. Again, not shocking. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Bigagnoli Bardolino DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bardolino 2015 has cherry cola, ribena and black currant while the early reductiveness has melted away. The florals have emerged and the time in bottle under screwcap has released the fun. It’s dancing now. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Bigagnoli Scrum 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Scrum 2015 is a blend of new teams, corvina (80 per cent) and roseleta. Cool savoury syrup which mixes the black cherry into the ribena, harvested in November, the grapes dried directly on the plants. Even in 2017 despite the heat Alessio will harvest late November because of a technique known as “Sciaccia” a pinching technique that allows desiccation without further development of sugar and ripeness. One of the more umami-singular wines in the region, to be very, very sure. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Cantina Castelnuovo Del Garda Bardolino Classico DOC Ca’ Vegar 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

“Ca’ Vegar” is a blend of corvina (80 per cent), rondinella (15) and molinara (5) for a lactic, sour, “for local people to combine with fat fish from the lake,” Bardolino. With a chill. So composed, contrived and uninteresting. Chaptalized and acidified. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017   cantinacastelnuovo  @BoscodelGalCantina Castelnuovo del Garda

Cantina Di Custoza Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bardolino 2016 is full-bodied and fruity, juicy, pushed by 6 g/L RS. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Cantina Di Negrar Bardolino Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The traditional blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara sees seven days of maceration transforming into a colour still stuck in the past, mired in recent antiquity, as is the sugar. There are 900,000 bottles made in this reductive, vinous to the nth degree, currants on steroids style. Needs a great chill, acids are acids, like acid verité. A Black cherry corvina, tart and angular. Massive vat of Bardolino corrected into correctness. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017   cantina_valpolicella_negrar  noble_estates  @CantinaNegrar@Noble_Estates@CantinaValpolicellaNegrar@NobleEstates

Cantine Tinazzi Bardolino DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The blend is 70 per cent corvina, (15) molinara, (10) rondinella and (5) rosara (a clone of rondinella). Vinous again, there is no separation here from a certain style of Valpolicella, of sour (dark black) cherry, balsamic and it really reeks of fennel and spice from more than generous wood. Green, herbal and minty and a bit sweetly syrupy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  cantine.tinazzi  @CantineTinazziCantine Tinazzi

Casaretti Corvina Rosato 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Corvina Rosato is apposite to Chiaretto, a smaller production, from only corvina a vineyard, added by 10 months in tonneaux with battonage and bottled in September. Weighty at 14 per cent alcohol, again reductive but not overly so, creamy from lees stirring, round, fruity and full on texture. Almost unusual but it works somehow, like deconstructed cherry pie. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017   stefano_rossi  Azienda Agricola Casaretti

Lago di Garda wildlife

Casaretti La Nogara 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Nogara is the name of the pergola trained vineyard of 15 year-old vines raised to corvina, rondinella, molinara and sangiovese with some garganega co-planted in. Low-yields even more so in this vintage in a place of low humidity and the oh-so necessary diurnal fluctuations for acid-fruit relationships. Again as per the house style so bloody reductive, tart, of rusty-red cherries, charcuterie and lots of furthered red fruit. Needs air and/or time. Really good acidity. Needs another year for the tonic to settle in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Casaretti La Nogara 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Nogara 2015 is the first vintage without Bardolino on the front label, equipped with more red fruit freshness, elegance and for the first time, no reduction. Tangy without being acetic or sour, this is a beautifully rendered wine from a very warm, vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Casaretti La Nogara 2014, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Nogara 2014 is the most curative tonic and spinning red fruit blend of the three in the mini-vertical. It has some reserved (15-20) per cent juice from 2013 mixed in. In this region there is simply no one else who does this and perhaps this is why in 2015 he moves away (or in a sense loses) the Bardolino designation. Nor does he care. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Casaretti Bardolino Classico Olte Longhe 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Olte Longhe spent one year in 20 hL oak barrel and is now also a year in bottle. Lots of fruit on the palate, cherry pie all over accented by the Bardolino spice of life. It’s a wine of joie de vivre and really concentrated. This is just lovely, like Chianti Classico Riserva but from an alternate limestone universe. Here the house follows local law at an 80/20 mix but will in the future be 100 per cent corvina. Just the name of the vineyard “Olte Longhe … or perhaps Alte Langhe? Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted October 2017

Gentili Bardolino Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The blend is 80 per cent corvina with 10 each sangiovese and rondinella, picked later, for body and for structure. Spent 12 days maceration on skins, “this is an Italian red wine” so more than one year of aging in the winery. Steel tank housed but in 2017 they will be blended with some wood aged fruit. Darker fruit but very Bardolino. There is nothing shocking here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2017   Azienda agricola Gentili

Il Pignetto Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bardolino with no molinara and up to 10 per cent sangiovese. Again a wine of major fruit with a bit more dark berry and no barrel thatwill develop some spice in place of the fruit. This is a bit oxidative so it will also gain a concrete feel with time. A very soft expression. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017    ilpignetto  Cantina Il Pignetto

Le Fraghe Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

In Matilde Poggi’s Bardolino the wild strawberries leap, hop, bound and shout. It’s uncanny, this Fraghe character. Here, out of light, bright and breathe easy corvina with (20 per cent rondinella) but a grip, not firm, but just a 10 day maceration for a minor, stainless steel fresh introduction with only a few microbes of tannin. Wild strawberry in a glass. Simply so effective and so honest. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Le Fraghe Bardolino DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Again, of course, the wild strawberry but there is a curative, lovely dusty and now also into raspberry reserve, like CCR or Rioja but cleaner, no wood, perfectly developed. Riper and the cherry to chocolate note that has developed is corvina, riper 2015 and Le Fraghe. How could you not want to drink a shed full of this juice. Two years exact past vintage is simply perfect for Matilde’s wines. They are so precocious in their wisdom. Can’t wait for 2017. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Le Fraghe Bardolino Classico DOC Bol Grande 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

Brol as in “clos,” a wall with stones, from a vineyard re-planted in 2000. Matilde Poggi began this process of separating the fruit beginning in 2011, of 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella, a stainless steel ferment, followed by one year in 42 hL botti. Less stones, still in the Classico area, at the base of the mountain (Moscal). You won’t see this on her label (from a soon to be appellation made with Ripasso and Appassimento method wines), close to the lake. The thread does not stray from the base and necessary Le Fraghe concept, from freshness and the wild strawberry into the cherry, now plus a hint of chocolate extract. There is an extra layer of soil-given tart, curative and even a minor grilled meaty flesh note and herbs. Certainly more tannin, structure and dare I say it for Matilde, seriousness and complexity. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Le Fraghe Bardolino Classico DOC Bol Grande 2012, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

Brol Grande 2012 is so similar to 2015 and while warmer, there is even more firmness and structure. Still the comparisons are there, in wild strawberry, cherry and the ubiquitous chocolate. Has softened and found its ideal secondary stage. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Le Fraghe Rondinella Veneto IGT Chelidon 2015, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Rondinella, the varietal red and the bird chelidon, from the ancient Greek, a swallow. First made in 2010, because there was extra, and a star was born, but only in the better years. Stainless steel fermentation but one year in large oak barrels. Not as fragrant as corvina, later harvested, not always the ripest varietal but ’15 is not a problem this way. Yet this does not strike as openly free and wild. It is fresh however and she (Matilde Poggi) is perhaps the only varietal producer of rondinella. It is as she says “esile,” not exactly elegant but more like “delicate.” The handsome varietal red, but yes, the delicate one. Not the most complex red in the book but so readable. A bit of cherry-chocolate-coffee, but not shaken or mocha. You can drink it three to four years on, with mineral emerging, but don’t get too serious about it. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Le Ginestre Bardolino Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Macro Ruffato here is Bardolino Classico composed by corvina, corvinone and rondinella, in the classic, endemic, indigenous, autochthonous way. Dusty, rusty, sour cherry, very much in the zesty, honest way that proper Chianti Classico and Langhe will be. Really note the red bled vein of white limestone. Really honest Bardolino. Very solid. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017   leginestrewine    Marco Ruffato

Le Morette Bardolino Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Can’t recall any Bardolino nosing so much like bell pepper as this, perhaps with the lowest number from corvina, only 65 per cent. Gets to black cherry so it’s still residing on the riper hung side and with some ious firmness. Finishes in syrup of full on tang. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Poggio Delle Grazie Bardolino DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Castelnuovo del Garda, Poggio alla Grazie is the child of Stefano and Massimo Brutti. Bardolino 2016 is composed of 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella, filtered for no sediment and so similar in (the winery’s Chiaretto) vein, leaving off from strawberry and into sour red cherry, tart and spirited. This is the unadulterated sapid and bloody delicious Bardolino, as if in a world before these great endemic grapes were messed with. This is how it should be made. This is what Bardolino is supposed to be. It’s like plasma for the red wine drinking soul. There are 10,000 bottles made. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018  poggiodellegrazie  winerypoggodellegrazie  Poggio delle Grazie – ufficial page  Elisabetta Panetto  Massimo Brutti

Sorsei Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante DOC, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante is a quieter, reserved, less ostentatious sparkling, of increased berry fruit flavours, more like Chiaretto in expectation and with some character and nuance. Nicely composed. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cristiana.bettili  @cristianacollection

Tenuta La Presa Bardolino DOC Baldovino 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Corvina makes up 70 per cent with rondinella (20) and molinara plus sangiovese (10). From the Caprino Veronese and Località La Presa. Just another textbook, clinical, stainless steel, red fruit, orange skin and basic fruity Bardolino. It’s perfect in every way; ripe, juicy, risk-free, clean and tangy. Dictionary entry. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  tenutalapresa    Tenuta La Presa

Valetti Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante DOC, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Chiaretto Spumante is charmat method, no dosage, grape juice added of the same must from the same wine in tank to create the second fermentation. There are 6,000 bottles made and it’s actually quite a textured Spumante. I think it seems sweeter than it really is because of the layers of juiciness, created by the added juice, not sugar, so it’s quite naturally composed as a result. A bit of a pink lemonade and tonic, if you will. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  valetticantina  @CantinaValettiAzienda vinicola Valetti Luigi srl

Valetti Bardolino Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Echoing the thoughts of patriarch and grandfather Angelo, the new generation tells us that “wine has to be destroyed. How else could we make more wine? Agriculture is the only system where you have to destroy something in order to preserve tradition.” And so their Bardolino Classico 2016 made from 60 per cent corvina, (30) rondinella and (10) sangiovese gets neither more basic nor more technically sound than this. It messes neither with tradition nor risk. It is the everyman Bardolino. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Valetti Bardolino Classico Superiore DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Bardolino Classico Superiore 2015 repeats the same mix, of 60 corvina, 30 rondinella and 10 sangiovese, aged for one year in any vessel of choosing (according to rule), in this case 6-8 months of that time in half new/half new barriques. The same wine though with spice, vanilla and an exaggeration of vinous fruit flavours. It’s not a departure and will offend no one, said everyone. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Villa Cordevigo

Villabella Villa Cordevigo Bardolino Classico DOC Biologico 2015, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The organic Bardolino blend is 70 per cent corvina, (20) rondinella and (10) corvinone in skin contact for 10 days, no oak and all stainless steel. Once again there is a stylistic adjustment, away from marmalade wines by Bardolino and into preserved freshness, parallel to the Chiaretto model but more so in going back to (more than 100 years ago) to roots. The ideal shares an affinity with pinot noir, or Beaujolais, so let’s say, “Bardolino Villages.” You can sense it, smell it and taste it, with some vinous flavours, from vineyards just in from of the villa. The nose is indeed red fruits with spices. What is special is the length, long and consistently true. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017   vignetivillabella  villacordevigo  stemwinegroup  @VillaCordevigo  @StemWineGroup  @VignetiVillabella  @stemwine 

Lunch at Villa Cordevigo

Villabella Bardolino Classico DOC Vigna Morlongo Anniversario Trentanni 2013, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The concept means more complexity and less fruit (with age apparent evolution) and also more spice. You also note plenty of boxwood, fennel and liquorice. Really mild tannins, some dried fruit and chocolate shavings dusted with black pepper and black olive. A very Mediterranean wine, with a true sense of garriga tempered by a just slightly sour (or lime-soil) edge. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Villa Calicantus Bardolino Superiore DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From Daniele Delaini’s biodymamic farm on the moranic hill above Bardolino and Lazise, higher up than Cavaion, in Calmasino. His Bardolino Superiore emits more citrus than the “alleged” Rosé and still there is this impossibility of fun funky, oxidative and earthy attitude. It’s corvina with sangiovese and again is a purely, expressly and unmitigated take on what the land insists on giving. There are many who would argue the opposite but like the listening and attentive author who allows the stories to come, Delaini is the winemaker equivalent. The last 100 years of winemaking have stolen away the voice of the earth and here it reclaims its territory. For better or for worse. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  villacalicantus  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  @VillaCalicantus  The Living Vine inc.

Villa Calicantus Bardolino Superiore Avresir DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Avresir means Riserva and Daniele Delaini makes his from 20 year old vines. “All my thinking is about this wine. I don’t sleep with this wine.” It’s his come back to the old way of making Bardolino, bot just the wine but the way of being. This is corvina, when there was more thinking about the vineyard and less about the wine.” It begins with lower yields and so 1600 plants produce 1700 bottles. Fermentation is with stems but not pressed with skins but again it begins in the filed where vines are grown with balance. This is fucking beautiful red wine and as the man himself explains, “you are the interpreter of the vines.” Such structure and tannin is understood to be exacting and righteous. This is that comparison we like to say is Burgundian, or at least its the reference point. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted October 2017

Villa Calicantus Bardolino Superiore Avresir DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Bardolino Superiore Avresir 2014 again shows the difference of vintage as the rains fell in great abundance with plenty of warmth but certainly not a matter of heat. The reduced quantity is one thing and while there is more perfume and liqueur there is certainly a softening os structure. It’s terrific corvina once again and while it may be splitting hairs when comparing this to 2013, the leanness is noticeable. Still a lovely wine to speak on behalf of Bardolino lands. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Custoza

The Custoza DOC covers the municipalities of Sommacampagna, Sona, Valeggio sul Mincio, Villafranca di Verona and Bussolengo. Custoza is unique because it is not characterized by a prevailing vine variety, but it is based on other than the local varieties in addition to a traditional blend of grapes including garganega, trebbianello and bianca fernanda. The area is historically famous for having been the site of the First Battle of Custoza fought on July 24 and 25, 1848 during the First Italian War of Independence between the armies of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia.

Albino Piona Bianco Di Custoza DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (SAQ 12469383, $19.50, WineAlign)

Garganega leads at 40 per cent, with two local clones, fernanda (cortese di gavi) and trebbianello (tokay friulano). Just a minor amount of chardonnay and two others minor grapes join the fray. This is the image and feel of the local white from Custoza, a wine that really brings the glycerin on top of the increased aromatics, young and fresh. The texture is elevated and this is what mostly gives the pleasure. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  sil_pio  lesvinsdupre    @lesvinsdupre@AlbinoPionaMonica Piona@lesvinsdupre

Albino Piona Bianco Di Custoza DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (SAQ 12469383, $18.90, WineAlign)

The 2015 white blend carries even more glycerin but with a different, almost porcine aromatic waft, plus some vegetal preserve and a squeeze of persevered lemon. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Bianco Di Custoza DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (SAQ 12469383, $18.90, WineAlign)

This Custoza blend has entered stage two with great sapid-saline-mineral-salty notes, smoky, flinty and with great acidity. Of all the vintages in this recent vertical it is the one that brings apricot, pith, lemon, pear and riesling character. Still a bit of CO2 residual here as well. Just bloody delicious. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Bianco Di Custoza DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (SAQ 12469383, $19.50, WineAlign)

A year described by winemaker Silvio Piona as a stranieri, with botrytis, certainly different, funky and with the glück of an alternate universe vintage. Chamomile tea and something inexplicable. “I told you when I came I was a stranger” insists this varietal mix. The stranger song. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Custoza Superiore DOC “SP” 2013, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

SP is the experiment Custoza, more aromatic even than the “normale” but again in a difficult way to explain,. It’s vegetal, nosing weird lemon, so much saffron (zafferano) that it’s uncanny really and is what graces the umami with an increased sapidity. Grassy too, but in the end its risotto milanese, with linear, lean and tart acidity, then herbs (basil and tarragon), from a cool, heavy clay site. Preserved lime in the end. Not so standard but very clean. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Custoza Superiore DOC “SP” 2011, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The SP 2011 is like a repeat of the 2013, noted by even more hyperbole from the botrytis-affected sweet viscosity and the saffron. Here in Custoza Bianco texture meets umami, glycerin abides but it’s also somehow lean and direct. Such a weird and beautiful dichotomy, then turning herbal and with lime. A bit oxidative at this point but so very clean. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Custoza Superiore DOC Campo del Selese 2013, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Campo del Selese delivers even more saffron, exaggerated still and those balmy herbs are joined now with a minor note of funghi. Would like to think of freshness but it’s differences set it away from these thoughts. More of a glacial till site changes the physiology and again, there is the definite presence of botrytis. What does it smell like in a dry white? Well, like this of course. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Custoza Superiore DOC Campo del Selese 2012, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Campo del Selese 2012 is yet another matter of that omnipresent Custoza saffron again but much less this time around, with more flinty, smoky and tight, taut, tart, riesling lines. This really wraps around the tongue like a twist-tie and I am really impressed by the ageing of this particular vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Custoza DOC Campo del Selese 1999, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

It’s one of the Veneto’s unknown, this wonderment about Custoza and its ability to age. Well if Campo del Selese 1999 is any indication, the possibilities are boundless. Yes it’s alive, from a time before the Superiore designation, fading but quite spirited somehow, but it has lost the saffron (assuming it was once there). Now in a green day, with preserved lemon, bitter pith and tonic but what it has preserved is really mushroom melding into umami protein. Tré cool, like the drummer. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Albino Piona Gran Cuvée Metodo Classico 2009, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Gran Cuvée Metodo Classico 2009 is corvina (70 per cent) plus (30) garganega e trebbiano (toscana). It’s a dry, no dosage brut zero with so much spice, crazy ginger, dry as the desert, a bit of concrete, very intense. Not so much citrus though despite the intensity, a bit porcine as well and chewy in a way. It grows on you. Spent 66 months on the lees and is now just a wave of toast with the spices so much more in control. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted October 2017

Cantina Di Custoza Custoza DOC Vino Biologico Terre In Fiore 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Custoza must include the three mandatory grapes; garganega, cortese and trebbiano di lugana (tokay), found here along with trebbiano di toscana, plus manzini and chardonnay, you know, for aromatics. Quite metallic, green, balmy, lean but with a sweet edge. Quite commercial. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  @cantina.custoza

Cantina Di Custoza Custoza DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Custoza DOC 2016 is of a similar profile but further into texture and mouthfeel, less lean and green and also less apparently buoyed by sugar. Rounder and better sign, sealed and zipped seals. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017

Cantina Di Custoza Custoza DOC Le Noce 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Custoza Le Noce arrives with more of a cortese/manzoni injection, which shows up not in florals but on the palate as a creamy salve, leesy but the acidity is greater. Better wine but still much of the same. Variations on one consistent theme. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Il Pignetto Custoza DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Pignetto’s Custoza is garganega (40 cent), trrebiano di toscana, cortese and tokay. Here is your Veneto aperitif, easy drinking white blend, defining as an appellative blend of Custoza. An example to make great use of were the category really defined in the hands of some marketing caché. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Il Pignetto Custoza ‘218’ 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This late harvest Custoza is not made in botrytis affected years, shows off good gassy petrol and complex interest. Not so much residual sugar, down the middle at 13 per cent alcohol, very dry and hissing with mineral, tang. A unique white from which there was no need to arrest fermentation. It is surprisingly a great and impossible wine. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Le Fraghe Garganega Camporengo Veneto IGT 2016, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camporengo is name of the vineyard, poured from magnum, of 100 per cent garganega. In Bardolino it used to be co-planted with the red grapes and is the latest to pick, mashed very cold to prevent oxidation. Raised only and all in stainless, whole bunch pressed, from morainic, mixed glacial stony soil between Lago di Garda and the Adige Valley, at 150m. The corporeal textured garganega, like crushed stones, salty and tannic, molto sale. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017   #lefraghe  thevineagency  #matildepoggi    @TheVine_RobGroh   Le Fraghe  Matilde Poggi  @thevineto

Le Fraghe Garganega Camporengo Veneto IGT 2015, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camporengo is the vineyard planted in 1992 and with just a year in bottle something in garganega multiplicity has emerged. It’s sesame reductive, with flinty sapidity, sulphur in minor yes but more the thing that happens with sémillon, as can happen with garganega. At crunchy too, so nearing a petrol moment. These would be ideal at three to four years of age, though not likely 7-10. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017

Le Fraghe Garganega Camporengo Veneto IGT 2007, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camporengo Garganega 2007 is from what was at the time 15 year-old fruit. A big role played by the screwcap closure, keeping it remarkably fresh, whereas cork bottles would be totally oxidized. So sémillon, gas and spirit, petrol, flint and truly struck from the stone. Just a touch of honey. So tasty and this was the first screwcap vintage. Doesn’t even need acidity, also thankful to the residual CO2 still there. Prepared for cork and bottled under screw. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Lugana

Even if the production regulations allow for the presence of up to 10 per cent of complementary white varieties (as long as they are non-aromatic), nowadays the zone’s producers tend to make their Luganas exclusively from turbiana. Five different styles are permitted: standard Lugana (accounting for 90 per cent of the DOC’s wines), Superiore, Riserva, Vendemmia Tardiva (Late Harvest) and Spumante (Sparkling).

Una composizone unica di agrille che dona un’impronta inconfondibile al vino is the way in which the Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC describes the wines produced with the uniqueness of turbiana at its core. The clay-based soils on a narrow spit at the southern end of lake Garda are what gives these fresh and aromatic whites their distinct flavour profile.

Bigagnoli I Bianco Veronese 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

I Bianco is composed of trebbiano di lugana and marco bona (garganega) grown only in the hills of Bardolino, Only three vineyards have this garganega clone and Alessio also blends in tokay (trebbianello), tokay friulano and very little castelli romani (a clone of trebbaino toscana). Lemon scented with exceptional acidity and waxy, perfect for fatty fish. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  bigagnoliwines  @bigagnoliwinesAlessio Bigagnoli

Cascina Maddalena Lugana DOC Capotesta 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Capotesta is the head and the heartbeat for this soft, friable dust in the wind Lugana soil. Grape tannic, linear, direct, certainly lean and so very crisp. A clean, pure, no bells and whistles white involved and in it for all the right reasons. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018   cascinamaddalena  @CascinaMaddalena

Cascina Maddalena Lugana DOC Clay 2014, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Extending the turbiana from Capotesta here we climb through much more texture, more expressive of this Lugana argilo and full Garda lake effect. The trace elements drawn up from this soil feel persistently apparent for inspirational infiltration. Yes it’s similar or even in closest kinship with the Capotesta as it should be because their is honesty, transparency and delicacy running through in soulful refrain. A textured chorus of plush extension opens up to allow a moment’s solo of a soprano’s dynamite intensity. So particular, finessed and Lugana instructive. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018

Le Morette Lugana DOC Mandolara 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This white is made from a distinctly separate variety, not a biotype of turbiana, not actually trebbiano di lugana but a grape special to the house. From high clay sites on the narrow strip of land on the southern shore of Lago di Garda. Makes for a round and plush white, with fresh herbs and lime in combination that brings terroir and varietal together. Shows good concentration from this grape whose uniqueness owes thanks to the estate’s clonal research and is simply classic for this place. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  lemorettelugana  @@lemorette.lugana

Le Morette Benedictus 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Benedictus is Le Morette’s cru, 45 year-old vineyard turbiana, picked and stirred for one night in the maceration room. It’s a full-textured, clean and creamy white like perfectly clarified mellifluous honey finished in second passage French tonneaux. A flinty note celebrates a preserved reductive freshness and confirms the lovely feel. It’s almost a sémillon like character but there is so much body and really quite a lot of fruit. It’s ripe, juicy, a fruit cup mildly tinned and just great to drink. Will gain interest with a bit of age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Le Morette Lugana Riserva DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Le Morette’s Riserva is a story in typology of Lugana that began only a few years ago. A unique wine that by regulation can be released to market only two years after vintage. This is a winery selection, not one of vineyard. A wine that is used to express “the potential of the vineyard.” Here it is contiguous from Benedictus in flint and juicy spirit but with further concentration and also intensity. Not as delicate as Benedictus and perhaps a bit adorned but very much a causation for transformation into a more serious realm. If this is the necessity it must own it. And it does. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted October 2017

Pizza, Pane, Passione – Saporé Downtown, Verona

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

this-may-or-may-not-have-happened-raveneau-memory-monteedetonnerre

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

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

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

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

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

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lunch-champagnelallier-azureau

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

ca-la-bionda

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

Related – March of the Canadians

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

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

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

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

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grahams_port-insanity-via-abnermallity-onceinalifetime-piratesonapicnic-piratesv4point0-sharingiscaring-1948-finestreserve

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

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

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

weinbach

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

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

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

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

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

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

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

remelluri

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

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

dominus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

schram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Seven snow day whites for VINTAGES February 20th

Scallop and Shrimp, avocado, grapefruit, tomato, cilantro, lime, lemon, garlic, olive oil

Scallop and Shrimp, avocado, grapefruit, tomato, cilantro, lime, lemon, garlic, olive oil

A confession. Herein these pages there might seem to be the appearance of astonishing disorder. With music as a muse and a foil to wine, I prefer to look at it as an enjambment, or, as James Woods might explain it, as “the desire to get more in, to challenge metrical closure.” No form, structure or cohesion you think, you mutter, you say? Oh, well.

Over at WineAlign I share my February 20th VINTAGES release picks in the Buyer’s Guide, along with colleagues John Szabo, Sara d’Amato and a travelling David Lawrason. Here at Godello the list expands. First here, with seven whites for snow days and well, just snow. Look for the reds on Saturday.

The white wines of VINTAGES February 20th, 2016

The white wines of VINTAGES February 20th, 2016

Hugel Gentil 2014, Ac Alsace, France (367284, $16.95, WineAlign)

A bottle blend soft and inviting, teasing tropical fruit but grounded in the continental orchard. Warmth on the nose and cool effervescence on the tongue add up to a waxy, airy finish. This opens up, rises and elevates on the back end. Terrific aperitif out of 2014 with some legs to last through the night. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @FamilleHugel  @HalpernWine  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign)

Like a gypsy boy, the idea of Riesling, winemaker Rob Power and Creekside Estates do not occupy overtly obvious territory so here, “come over to the window, my little darling. I’d like to try to read your palm.” In it the perfected Cohen lines of classic Bench Riesling, of stalwarts Thirty and Hidden Bench. Same stoic, non-gentrified possibilities unfollowed and new concepts surreptitiously proposed. Terrifically tart, dangerously darting and tasked for mouth watering righteousness. Such succinct lemon-lime continuous balance. Winemaker Rob Power may not have a storied history with Riesling but now that he has gone Marianne Hill he can’t go back. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted February 2016  @CreeksideWine  @hobbsandco

Ilocki Podrumi Premium Grasevina 2013, Hrvatsko Podunavlje, Croatia (369421, $21.95, WineAlign)

Such potential from Croatia found, packaged and articulated in this bottle. Classic Furmint in Grasevina clothing, right along the wire where Pinot Gris looks over towards Chenin Blanc and says “let’s spend the night together.” Honeyed, unctuous, spicy and floral to the stones and back. For days when “I’m going red and my tongue’s gettin’ tied,” turning to white never tasted so good. You gotta try this. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @WinesofCroatia  @RolandRussell

Greywacke (Kevin Judd) Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand (164228, $23.95, WineAlign)

From the town of bedrock, Kevin Judd’s Greywacke is a modern, stone-age Sauvignon Blanc. Grown out of vineyards in the Central Wairau and Southern Valleys in Marlborough, Judd’s exploratory to trailblazing SB announces its aromatic arrival like a pick struck on granite. Tannic from the get go and forged with precise angles and friezes, always tied by an indenture with texture. The vintage is a fruit first forward, neighbourly one and it takes a winemaker to keep things etched in stone. This one strikes me as one that could have got away but the reigning was accomplished in lope, guiding the fruit through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. The success lies in the canter of acidity to extend the effect towards a turning and returning, again and again. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016  @greywacker  @Greywacke  @oenophilia1

Trimbach Réserve Pinot Gris 2012, Ac Alsace, France (971762, $29.95, WineAlign)

Immediately reminds of 2008 and will go down a similar, slowly turning and evolving path. So purposed and direct though there is a slight elevation in residual sugar as compared to the four four beat four years ago. Pinot Gris of pears and operas, with some spice on the finish. This will aria into something lovely at the age of seven and beyond. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2016  @trimbach  @WoodmanWS  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

Béjot Les Bouchots Montagny 1er Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (438002, $27.95, WineAlign)

Tidy, tide and vine Chardonnay the way with oak it needs to be. Unobtrusive and just a sheet between fruit and acidity, enough for warmth and not too much to bring on the sweats. Snug, spruced, agitated, resplendent even. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016  @HannaNealWines  @BeauneTourisme  @BourgogneWines

Josef Chromy Sparkling 2010, Tasmania, Australia (393629, $29.95, WineAlign)

If 2008 has just recently settled into its low heat unit skin then the consideration here can’t yet touch the thought. So much lees and so much time, so little evolution and so little mind. Jeremy Dineen must be grinning from ear to ear with the thought of where this fizz will go, carrying so much wisdom in its autolysis and Tazzy vernacular in its mousse. Great citrus benchmark OZ outpost where the bubbles work hard for their money and offer up nothing but charm. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted February 2016  @JosefChromy  @bwwines  @Wine_Australia

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Paul Pender’s Tawse and effect

Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2010

From left and clockwise: Riesling Limestone Ridge 2012, Pinot Noir Growers Blend 2010, Riesling Carly’s Block 2012, Pinot Noir Quarry Road Estate 2010, Chardonnay Quarry Road 2011, Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2010, Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2010, Chardonnay Robyn’s Block 2008, Pinot Noir Lauritzen 2010, Chardonnay Lenko Vineyard 2011, Pinot Noir Laidlaw 2010

Tawse winery is growing and gaining weight but just like its vineyards, the pursuit is wagered in natural and holistic ways. The Tawse effect distills a biodynamic appropinquation, in the acquisition of new vineyards, in the gathering of tonnage from Niagara and Prince Edward County growers, in the farming and production of estate grapes. I have been making regular visits to the Vineland, Ontario winery for the past three years. The natural, self-sustaining processes remain open, obvious, front and centre.

Related – Every barrel tells a story

Chardonnay fruit might travel across the 401 and down the QEW from South Bay at Huff Estates. It may skip across King Street and skirt up Cherry Avenue from Daniel Lenko. It may come to early fruition from young Tintern Vineyard Pinot Noir vines out of the Vinemount Ridge. Whatever the source, the approach is simple. Let winemaker Paul Pender get his mind and his mitts on that fruit. Then let him work his magic. Seek biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition, and chemical-free pest, weed and disease control. Fight the good fight against the harshest of winters with vines of deeper roots and stronger canes.

Paul Pender and Tawse Robyn's Block Chardonnay 2008

Paul Pender and Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2008

The Tawse portfolio may now seem hyper-varied and even massive. Nothing and everything has changed. The lots remain small to manageable, the choice of varieties consistent and the wines, ever increasingly impressive. Whatever faults, idiosyncrasies or misunderstood characteristics there may have been in some older wines, they are no more. There are now purer and more vibrant aromas and flavours. Wait until you get a load of 2012 and 2013. Paul Pender’s acumen and winemaking professionalism has reached a whole new level of Rock ‘N Roll.

Paul Pender is a big picture guy. He is the Niagara renaissance man; songwriter, vocalist, lead guitar, producer and engineer. He’s Cuddy, Cripps and Chris Shreenan-Dyck rolled into one. Pender’s handling of growing, picking, fermenting, aging and bottling is nothing short of impossible and yet he does it with a conceit of ease. At last count I noted three Sparklings, three Rosé, two Dessert Wines, six Chardonnay, five Riesling, two Gewurztraminer, one Pinot Gris, one Sauvignon Blanc, six Pinot Noir, three Cabernet Franc, one Cabernet Sauvignon, one Merlot, one Cabernet-Merlot, one Meritage and one Gamay. Thirty-seven wines. One goal. Getting better all the time.

Tawse winemakers Rene Van Ede and Paul Pender

Tawse winemakers Rene Van Ede and Paul Pender

The winter and early spring of 2014 has found me cozying up to the wines of Tawse. On a frigid January evening on my way to Ice Wine Fest I spent time with winemaker Pender in the cellars, speed investigating my way through the barrels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Not to mention Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and even Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve tasted Tawse with Daniel Lafleur at Somewhereness, with Vinifera’s Daniel Beiles at Barque Smokehouse and at the winery’s portfolio tasting at The Spoke Club.

Tawse Spark Blend 2011 and Quarry Road Chardonnay 2008

Tawse Spark Blend 2011 and Quarry Road Chardonnay 2008

Here are notes on 14 Tawse wines tasted from bottle in April and May 2014.

Riesling Limestone Ridge 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

From the newest estate vineyard, the single-vineyard Limestone Ridge exteriorizes its name in a rubric of pressed rock, struck flint and chalky density. Paul Pender has coaxed a multiplicity of linear character, with major notes of lime zest and juice, persistent from start to finish. A mid-pause of oozing, residual sinensis is the determinant towards the wine’s matrix of longevity. A longer, leaner, meaner and mightier Riesling charged by a different sort of power. Kinetic, frenetic and electric. Tasted twice, April and May 2014

Spark Blend 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $24.95)

This introductory release is a blend of 65 per cent Chardonnay, 22 Pinot Noir and 13 Pinot Gris. A linear, straight shooting star, a sparkler that is so “surprising it goes so fast.” Bright, flashy, attention grabbing and fleeting. These are bubbles with a plan, anything but bad company and quite remarkable for the price. Lemon, lime and ginger strum in wound tension and the wine gets on top very quickly, then disappears into the starry night. Exhilarating while it lasts.  Tasted April 2014

Chardonnay Grower’s Blend 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95)

From fruit (east of Beamsville) next to Puddicombe, which is essentially Winona on the eastern edge of the Niagara Escarpment appellation. Some parcels of disparate Niagara fruit joins this inaugural effort, a rich, viscous and warming Chardonnay. Layered and expertly balanced, it carries the best of both the Quarry (mineral) and Robyn (approachable) worlds. The spicy accent gives the blend its singular personality.  Tasted May 2014

Pinot Noir Growers Blend 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (284570, $26.95, WineAlign)

Though it’s a blend of several sites, this Tawse Pinot stands alone and of itself as a grower; it grows on you after multiple tastings. The first go ’round seems simple, vintage warm and tight. Taste again and the sappy wood seeps mineral, the phenolic red cherry ripeness turns black and the tempering is led by a sweet earth kind. Earth that smoulders in a rising Zeppelin kept afloat by tobacco and the swirling spores of pungent mushroom. Pinot Noir truth and value from a Niagara house of the holy kind. “You know-whoa, that’s right.” Tasted twice, April and May 2014

Riesling Carly’s Block 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Boasts classic flint and citrus Twenty Mile Bench aromatics. In 2012 it’s also lush, rich and so very pear and longan fruity. Whorls like a wind turbine blowing the polar aspects against each other’s walls. Forms a bridge and meets the twain, from atomic to tropic. High tang and flavour. Big yet classic Riesling.  Tasted May 2014

Pinot Noir Quarry Road Estate 2010, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

This is the second Pinot Noir made from the Vinemount Ridge vineyard, a place where the rock can’t help but tyrannize the fruit. The 2010 Quarry Road gains positive proportion in that it is painted and coated by the ripeness of the vintage. Of a tougher mind and shell than the other Tawse Pinots, a bird on the wire just trying to be free. Not as easy to approach or love, it might plead “if I, if I have been unkind, I hope that you can just let it go by.” Sings in a wise, raspy and rusty way, despite the youthfulness of the vineyard, but it shines. So in the end “hey, why not ask for more?” Tasted May 2014

Chardonnay Quarry Road 2008, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (111989, $34.95, WineAlign)

At this stage the 2008 Quarry Road is fully resolved, integrated and as soft as full malolactic Chardonnay can be. The unmistakable note of creamed corn lingers longer, as does the look on the winemaker’s face, but air brings it around. Returns to a fresh beginning, “from a year that might not have turned into anything,” admits Paul Pender. Now standing firm, the wine benefits six years on from clean, rotless fruit and pure, angular acidity, holding steady to the admirable finish. Tasted April 2014

Chardonnay Quarry Road 2011, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (111989, $34.95, WineAlign)

The pinpoint accuracy and gemstone capture of the Quarry is exaggerated in ’11, amplified and fully plugged in. From my earlier, October 2013 note: “Carries that classic Paul Pender perfume; rocks and stones, flaxen, refulgent toast and the verdure Vinemount terroir. A free flying, linear, atmospheric smear of thermal fortitude and backbone. A polemic Bowie Chardonnay to make you believe “the strangest things, loving the alien.” From my earlier March 2012 (barrel tasting) note: “Resides on the mineral, slate and lime side of the tracks. The calcareous quality imparted by its eponymous SV terroir makes it the antithesis of David. Creamy, 24-karat fruit.” Last tasted May 2014

Pinot Noir Laidlaw 2010, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the Vinemount Ridge sub-Appellation of the Niagara Peninsula, the Tawse Laidlaw Pinot 2010 is the least gregarious, the quiet sibling, the most feminine, the sleeper. Laidlaw may play hardest to get and is the least obvious when considering perfume but her palate is the sweetest of the line-up. Strawberry macerates sous-bois for an authentic Burgundian experience. Patient, focused and structured. Tasted May 2014

Chardonnay Lenko Vineyard 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

The speed and the steel have slowed to yellow caution and the now honey-toned flesh has added more weight. There’s just something about Daniel Lenko at this juncture. From my earlier (tasted three times) July 2013 note: “From wiser men who’ve been through it all” is the kind of one-off we should all wish to re-visit in 10 years time. The study: Daniel Lenko’s fruit in the hands of winemaker Paul Pender out of a most confounding vintage. That 2011 in terms of Ontario Chardonnay strikes and speaks to me in tongues is no secret, so the Tawse treatment fascinates in ways to make me giddy. Tension and elasticity are present here in super-hyper Beamsville Bench concentration. Apples pile upon apples, in magnetic purée and layered maceration. A full-on body attack and phenolic structure will see this Lenko to a future (five to seven years) in grace and gorgeous line. A Chardonnay to “scheme the schemes, face the face.” Last tasted April 2014

Pinot Noir Lauritzen 2010, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

A year in bottle has elevated the perfume, concentrated the cherry flavour and placed a crown on its regal head. The sweet tannic quotient resonates from its very core. Showing great at this time. From my earlier April 2013 note: “From the Vinemount Ridge is dry and cut with spice, a favourite for winemaker Paul Pender. The sour acidity from fruit such as cranberry and pomegranate are here in deep, concentrated and naturally sweet tones. Niagara limestone casts a Burgundy mineral shadow and the wine is iron tough yet silky due to the warmth of the vintage.” Last tasted April and May 2014

Chardonnay Robyn’s Block 2008, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (662841, $45.95, WineAlign)

The 2008 Robyn’s Block neither matches the roundness nor the tempering acidity of the Quarry but what it lacks in those areas it makes up for in critical mass and balance. The creamed corn effect is here, as are apples in ciderish activity, from a wine that “was on a starved diet,” says Paul Pender. Though currently a bit reductive and funky, it’s not gun-flinty reduction, like the “smell of a battlefield on the morning after a civil war fight.” Swirling brings out cane sugar to replace the creamy silage and the rest is history. Calm, quiet and approachable inactivity. Tasted April 2014

Cabernet Franc Van Bers Vineyard 2009, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (355867, $49.95, WineAlign)

What a wonderful vintage for Creek Shores Cabernet Franc and what a difference a year makes. Ripeness, development, rich layering, absence of chalk. Extreme elegance and void of an overbearing currant and bell pepper greening. Tannins are toned and fit. From my earlier, April 2013 note: “From the Creek Shores Appellation is proof that a well-rounded grape has no point. The Van Bers is winemaker Paul Pender’s purlieu, edgy, outlying, unconcerned with the norm or the banal. Makes full use of a cool vintage with heart-stopping acidity and eye-popping verve but not without delivering Soul, in the form of flowers and a fruit basket to your doorstep. “It’s like thunder and lightning.” Capers, camphor and a knock on wood add R & B complexity.” Last tasted May 2014

Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (winery, $57.95, WineAlign)

From two acres of Pinot Noir planted in 2005 known as David’s Block within the Cherry Road Vineyard. A clash of hot and dry weather encouraged the young fruit to find ripeness, in flesh and in tannin. There is an elegance about this Cherry, in part no doubt to wine technique in acumen. The Paul Pender perfume, a combative interplay between cherries and earth, is here. “The in crowd say it’s cool” but it has yet to Rock the Casbah. Cherry 2010 is only offering a glimpse of greatness, so hold out for what will surely develop when the vines reach their next level of maturity. Tasted April 2014

Good to go!

 

https://twitter.com/mgodello

 

Winter white out wine, beer and food conditions

White wine in the snow

The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.
Photo: Sergio Di Giovanni/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The winter that never ends. White out conditions, snow squalls, wind advisory and chill warnings. Everything just feels heavy. The OPP’s request? Just stay home, Ontario. Prepare for the worst, hunker down and warm the belly with full-bodied wines, strong mocker, beer and hearty winter meals. The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.

Here are six strength fortifying libations to ride the final wave of winter’s brutal conditions.

Clockwise from left: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, 13th Street White Palette 2011, Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, and Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Clockwise from left: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, 13th Street White Palette 2011, Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, and Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, Scotland, United Kingdom (279349, $3.25)

Stout matured over American Oak Heartwood and infused with Irish Whiskey. A Cimmerian entry in hue and hunger peels back to a curious lightness of being. The wood tends to an Arabian mocha aroma, the whiskey to molasses and gingerbread baking spice. The 7.4 per cent alcohol is integrated though an incendiary smoky magic weighs in to toast biscuits and braise a beefy pot au feu. “The Smoky Life is practiced everywhere,” in the I & G. A beer of good charm, smooth, silky, singing in melodic grace and with confidence.  90  Tasted March 2014  @InnisandGun

The grapes: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay Musqué

The history: Niagara winery founded in 1998. Chablis native Jean-Pierre Colas joined 13th Street as winemaker in 2009. Co-owners of the winery, the Whitty family has been farming fruit in Niagara for well over 100 years

The lowdown: Much of the fruit comes from the estate’s Creek Shores appellation vineyards, sedimentary, well-drained lighter soils on a landscape highly dissected by its many streams.

The food match: Fish Tacos

13th Street White Palette 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (207340, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

JP’s who’s who bottle of white grapes, a mad scientist’s blend, the flask filled with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay Musque. A re-release and much improved with a year’s extra weight, its “got your body right now.” Fortified by a carapace of grape spirits and purposeful in a white meritage sense of community, plus citrus, pith and a far-reaching, right correct absinthian length. You better you bet.  88  Tasted October 2013  @13thStreetWines

Fish Tacos Photo: Michael Godel

Fish Tacos
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Marlborough on the western side of the Waihopai Valley. The name is both the indigenous Maori word for “pathway” and Latin for “altar”

The lowdown: “With rugged mountains on either side and two icy rivers cutting through, it’s a pretty extreme place. The very definition of raw, cool climate conditions.”

The food match: Potato Frittata with Feta and Green Onions

Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (361279, $23.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Immediate impressions are of a user-friendly Pinot Noir in conceit of black cherry, chocolate and blueberry spice. These are surface notes quickly displaced by an adventurous senses of living on the edge. The wine dips into a brine and lithic earth saturated by glacial melt. This is a different sort of Marlborough Pinot that speaks a modern english, if too young to be understood. “I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the time.” Will try the Ara again in a year or two and likely say I melt with you.  89  Tasted February 2014  @AraWine_UK

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Planeta first made this wine 20 years ago in 1994. It has become “the image illustrating the changes taking place in Sicilian wines.”

The lowdown: From Ulmo (calcareous with sections of deep vegetable matter) and Maroccoli (medium clay soil rich in limestone) vineyards in the area of Sambuca di Sicilia. Powerful Chardonnay.

The food match: Taco Night

Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Sicily, Italy (109652, $38.95, SAQ 00855114, $39.15, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 release

Wantonly lavish, heavy and tropically delicious. If ever there were a red wine substitute this is the one for the wishful thinker. Tasting this Sicilian is like liquid breathing sweet and salty, drawn butter. It’s a glass of dessert Chardonnay, dichotomous and oxymoronic in congealed warmth like cold-stabilized, oxygen-rich, perfluorocarbon. The tropical warmth is a combination of honey and lemon-glade, like Savennières with an unexpected aged Jura, oxidized, herbal angle. There can be no arguing the complexity of this Sicilian dream. Extreme humidity, with a bitter middle streak and ground nut flavours.  90  Tasted March 2014  @Noble_Estates  @PlanetaWinery 

Taco Night Photo: Michael Godel

Taco Night
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Thomas Bachelder, flying winemaker, architect of the Bachelder Project, of trois terroirs, in Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy

The lowdown: “Burgundy is my favourite place to make wine,” admits Thomas Bachelder. “The large négociant control all (44) 1er cru vineyards so there are not a lot of small growers working with Beaune fruit.” Enter terroirman.

The food match: Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard

Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, Burgundy, France (357228, $49.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Is so floral, mineral, intense and hypnotic it might be dubbed the Serpent Charmer. Iron and wine indeed, the iron of Nuits, the perfume of Beaune. This provocative bottling represents the third year of production, is conspicuous in Anis de Flavigny and an underlying gate. If montagnes is the harming one, this is the charming one. These are all from the same barrels, so what really affects the wines the most? Land and hand.  93  Tasted November 2013  @Bachelder_wines

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard Photo: Michael Godel

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: The family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners in 1385. The Antinori estate is responsible for some of Tuscany’s most famous wines; Solaia, Tignanello and Guado al Tasso.

The lowdown: As stalwart a Brunello as any, Pian Delle Vigne is not immune to critical conjecture. Applying kudos to any big house in this polarizing vintage will raise an eyebrow or two. Why not Antinori?

The food match: Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (651141, $59.95, Nova Scotia 1006431, $64.80, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Goes at it older, bolder, tried and truer than had recently been the case, especially in 2007. Leather, cherries, seeping tea and peppery, earthy, funky dates. Purity of fruit, obviousness in Sangiovese Grosso aromatics and it is only when you taste that you are dealt with the full effect of its power and girth. Quite viscous on the palate, tough, gritty chain of tannin and qualified, felicitous bitters on a very long finish.  Best Pian delle Vigne in some time, at least back to 2001.  93  Tasted November 2013  @AntinoriFamily

Good to go!