Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

They are growing in sangiovese divinity, or should it be said, divino. L’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle, producers with more than a feeling, who share common ground but also something bigger, stronger, more profound. Montefioralle Divino is a September festival that unites this tiny Greve in Chianti frazione and with a purpose all its own. Theirs is a small section of Chianti Classico and one to call their own. This band is so good they named a medieval village after it.

Castello di Verrazzano’s Luigi Cappellini and the Granfondo del Chianti Classico squadra Canadesi

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Let’s orient you on Montefioralle’s location. Montefioralle is situated on the west bank of the Greve River and close to Castello di Montefioralle, essentially, ostensibly and mostly southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. As for their famous harvest festival, “Montefioralle Divino è una manifestazione organizzata e promossa dall’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle che saranno presenti alla manifestazione e offriranno i propri vini in degustazione sui banchi di assaggio per due giorni.”

Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Two days of wine tasting in Piazza Santo Stefano in the historic centre of medieval Montefioralle, presented by a group in flux, from time to time. In 2019 they were Azienda Agricola Altiero, Brogioni Maurizio, Castello di Verrazzano, Montefioralle, Podere Bucine, Podere Campriano, San Cresci, Grassi Roberto, Terre di Baccio, Terre di Melazzano, Terreno, Villa Calcinaia and Fattoria Viticcio. From year to year membership rises, wanes and changes. And so there are others who bottle within this micro-terroir of i cru di enogea; Belvedere, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto and Tenuta Monteficali.

Dinner at Terreno

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The zonazione’s terroir is mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico for Masnaghetti and the geologists to consider in the cartological advancement with an eventual conclusion in menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Tasting at Calcinaia

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following wines were tasted with Conte Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia, followed by a tasting with the producers of Montefioralle in the same location. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill. Two years earlier my group had met with eight such producers at Calcinaia. These 21 tasting notes cover the September 2019 speed dating sit-down with nine estate principals, followed by dinner at Terreno.

Wines of Montefioralle

Altiero Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Always 100 per cent sangiovese, from winemaker Paolo Baldini, from the southeast exposure off the the younger vineyard. This is the perfume of Montefioralle, inexplicable in a way, a very specific combination of flowers and herbs but there is a calm and when made this way, a purity, a clarity. A tradition from before that is forever. Slightly more unctuous and full on the palate with some wood addendum. Proper Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Altiero Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Like the Annata always 100 per cent sangiovese, this time from the older vineyard facing southwest, away on an angle from Montefioralle and looking towards Panzano, the Conca d’Oro and Le Fonti. The red fruit liqueur is quite silky, savoury in a sweet and almost amaro way, so in a word, stunning. Full and polished with some tradition fully stashed away in pocket. From Galestro and Alberese. And it shows. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($30.45)

Essential balance in Chianti Classico Annata, obviously with thanks to the ’16 vintage but even more of a many splendored thing. Concentration and intensity intertwined but truth be spoken this really climbs the hills and then descends, with grace, power and ease. A brilliant Annata from Luigi Cappellini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($49.60)

A sangiovese raised organic and a textural matter really defined by the quality and the length of time in contact with its skins. While not too long the extension was embraced and the certainty of a spot on result is certainly admired. Excellent skins, earthy, rich in tannin and also used to great structural advantage. This Riserva will travel long and go deep. Bank on it. Most rewarding work from il cicliste Cappellini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2015

This is the wine at Verrazzano first made in 1982 as a Vino de Tavola, then as Riserva and finally as Gran Selezione, first in 2013. The Sassello is the small bird that seeks out the best grapes, in this case at 450m from the highest vineyard on the estate. This just intuits and explains vintage, place and appellation, together in harmony. It’s a cool sangiovese of smooth savour, with great length and slow developing parts. Needs more time. Just does. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Lorenzi Sieni, Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is quite lush and full from 2016, no shocker to be sure and of a perfume that moves from Annata and into what grows low to the ground. Really proper appellative effort for the estate and for the frazione, richly embrued in liquified glowing embers and wet spice for days. Needs time to settle in. Very structured Riserva in which to imbibe after some time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A perfectly consistent follow-up to a ’15 that stole that vintage’s show, here with equal aromatic excellence in 2016. Now showing as a great floral expression (remarkably early it should be noted) in a full bouquet bursting from the glass. There is a level of roundness and fine acid tang with circulative layers as good as it gets. Succinct as sangiovese, Greve and hanging around the finest of Montefioralle. A true Galestro idea presented clear as a clear blue frazione day. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Two sides of the Greve River

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze di Montefiorealle 2015

Perhaps not as balanced a vintage as the follow-up 2016 will bring to this Montefioralle Riserva but ’15 can stand on its feet, no problem at all. No sway but plenty of torque indeed. Love the fruit of 2015, as much as one needs to love fruit. The fruit goes in and then back out of your mouth in equal and opposing fashion. In balance, with acids and tannins in tow. Drink 2020-2026.  Last tasted September 2019

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. It’s because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young.  Tasted February 2019

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG San Pietro di Sillani 2017

A cru at the highest altitude at 480m of sangiovese and merlot (five per cent) with some time spent in new wood. Altitude meant no frost and also less heat from the arid vintage. Eighteen months in big oak casks, this time in new and while the high up frazione perfume is indeed fully emitting its rays there too is a silky smooth note that recalls the new wood. Looks really good and seems very fine though the wood is very involved. Should be very, very interesting. It’s quite refined. Way too young to call. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Mezzuola 2015

The vigna-designate Annata is likewise a modern take on Chianti Classico label appearances notwithstanding but the smooth texture detail and lush glycerin flavours pale in comparison with the new barrique-aged Riserva. Here second and third passage tonneaux allow the marl and limestone of Montefioralle vineyards to speak a bit clearer and to breath a breath of 500m fresh air into this (85 per cent) sangiovese. The merlot (10) and cabernet sauvignon (5) smooth out all the wrinkles for a lush take on Annata. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Guardingo Di Passignano 2015

Do not be fooled by the whimsical classicism of the label into thinking this Greve Chianti Classico from the heart of Montefioralle will be old-schooled, rustic and ancient-styled sangiovese. It is in fact a facsimile of such a notion and in point of fact the opposite is true. The salt and pepper seasoning of 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon are more like spice and sauce to prove the first point. The small barriques aging for 18 months is the second, acceding into a textural Riserva at once silky smooth and then oozing with vanilla, balsamic and resiny syrup. A mouthful to be sure and in the style so well made. A fun fact to know is about the Guardingo Di Passignano, a medieval road and the only passage that connected the three main valleys of the Florentine countryside; Val d’Elsa, Val di Pesa and Val di Greve, Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Melazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cantinato 2015

“Born in the cellar,” of sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon. A true glycerin Chianti Classico for Montefioralle, with unction and spice. Sings like a blackbird. Truly Cantinato, truly. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019

Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia Mauvais Chapon Rosato Metodo Classico 2014

A tirage of VinSanto in 2015, 37 months on lees and disgorged April 2018. In reference to a siege of Florence by the French in 494, an offer was made, not accepted and the trumpets were sounded. Piero Capponi responded with a call to arms at the gates. A matter of familial propaganda and a wine that reminds of France. Linear, sharp, citric, toasty and so very fine. Really crisp, of utter clarity and streamlined like a sail on a fast vessel. Impressive to say the least. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Sebastiano Capponi

Villa Calcinaia Mammolo 2017, IGT Toscana

Varietal mammolo, fully, completely, capably in control of the wet wool character that only Sebastiano Capponi and (Monte Bernardi’s) Michael Schmelzer can effect, establish and conquer in unique red wine made in the Chianti Classico territory. This is good, righteous and proper volatility surrounding red fruit formed in a cake. Thick and unctuous from 2017 with endless character. Had been looking forward to tasting this finished wine since a first encounter out of concrete tank. Lives up to the billing and the hype. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

This limestone, that Alberese

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016 ($74.95)

A warm and unctuous La Fornace in fine form, consistent to its loam-sand origins, planted in 1975, at 250m of elevation. Faces due south and sees oak casks, 10 hL, approximately six years old. Showing secure and prevalent texture admitting everything about itself, a single-vineyard sangiovese sight that draws the sun and uses every iota of its energy. Good showing from the furnace, Surely not a shocker from ’16.  Last tasted September 2019

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano.  Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016 ($67.95)

The magical Gran Selezione from the old lady of a vineyard, dating back to 1959. A plot marked by Colombino rock, not quite limestone and not quite sandy Alberese. There is a character in Luisa that no other Gran Selezione displays, neither from Calcinaia or elsewhere. Done up in oak cask, 10 hL, approximately six years old and showing the ease meets power of 2016. Bravissima.  Last tasted September 2019

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016 ($74.95)

A component of cement egg on top of the 10 hL, approximately six years-old oak casks brings new layers and light to Bastignano and separates it from the other two sangiovese. It also clay darkens and broods, hides in shadows and remains softer, fleshier, but also sneaky in structure. There’s less pinpointed Calcinaia character and more outside in the diaspora personality. If that splits hairs so be it though it needs saying that Bastignano is a man of means.  Last tasted September 2019

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2014, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale ($54.95)

Capponi’s varietal merlot is from the 1967 planted vineyard not realized as merlot until many years later. Fermented in cement vats and then 24 months are spent in barriques. A beast really, young at five years in ways most sangiovese are not. So much verdancy, spice, grip, grit, power and need for space, not to mention time. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG Vendemmia 51 2016 ($23.95)

Only two points of merlot with the sangiovese from two picks, the first of which goes here, for increased acidity. Dark floral and fruit scents for sure and some spice. Really like the mouthfeel and the acid-fruit structure. Tannins are quite easy. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($31.95)

With small amounts of merlot and syrah, it’s quite sappy and resinous. Plenty of smooth chocolate ganache, blackberry and backbone with thanks to a Galestro and Alberese soil mix filled with stone. Big Riserva. Really big. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Feeling Panzano’s pull

During the final days of September 2019 we Canadians made our way to Toscana for a week of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico business. While a group of road hardy cicliste e ciclisti were racing their team bikes up, down and around the Granfondo del Chianti Classico winding roads of the territory and others were taking in the sights of Firenze, I was strolling through the Sunday market, visiting with friends and pre-tasting some sangiovese di Panzano. Every time I go I find myself feeling Panzano’s pull.

Godello, Cecchini, Manetti

Panzano’s central Chianti Classico location is crucial in so many ways. Its two most famous inhabitants and native sons are the Consorzio’s incumbent President and proprietor of arguably the territory’s most well-known and respected family-run, not too large, not too small sized estate. That would be Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. The second is the village’s figlio nativo and world famous butcher, Antica Macelleria Cecchini’s Dario Cecchini. Panzano is also home to the Conca d’Oro and few vineyard enclaves are as prolific, scenic and fertile as this wide swath of sangiovese heaven. The frazione within Greve commune is also invisibly set upon the Greve River flood plane, positioned with stead grace and soil exceptionality.

Within Greve it occupies a centrality bordered by commune neighbours Castellina, Barberino Tavarnelle and Radda. You might actually imagine Panzano as the exact middle inside a circle drawn clockwise from Greve in Chianti (12 o’clock), to Volpaia (three o’clock), through Castellina in Chianti (six o’clock), past San Donato (nine o’clock) and back to Greve. Heart of the matter.

Panzano above the Conca d’Oro

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Two years ago I wrote about Panzano and its pioneering association of producers, the Unione Viticoltori Panzano. Please click on the link above to get the full story on Panzano and its raison d’être. The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level.

Breathing in the glory of the Conca d’Oro

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Consider Panzano as a wild unknown country where nothing could go wrong, as a dividing line running through the centre of town, as a ridge slicing on a diagonal axis from Volpaia in Radda to Mercatale in San Casciano, direction Casanuove. All part of the same hill. The ridge’s particular geological composition is consistent and these atmosphera sottosuolo soils that run through Panzano are the epicentral factor in determining the type of physiology common to the sangiovese. Somewhere, somehow, that means something, to someone. It’s a savoury-sapid-saltiness equipped with acidity that makes Panzano’s a freshness not really like any other. This is especially true in Riserva and even in Gran Selezione examples. 

Panzano rocks are all in

These words about Panzano are part of a contiguous acceleration to investigate inward, to focus on the visceral isolations within Chianti Classico. This third such essay published since that September trip means there may be five or more to come in advance of the coming Anteprima and Chianti Classico Collection 2020 taking place in Firenze two weeks from today. Panzano’s story writes itself because the thread of sangiovese consistency has few if any cleaved rivals in the greater territory. Panzano’s wines stand apart with their attention to textured detail, in their ability to shine even in their youth and finally, their acumen to intuit a very straightforward and knowable set of structural values. These are sangiovese of great upbringing, etiquette and most importantly possessive of a great respect for their origins. Panzano is spoken for with great clarity by these producers and their wines.

The Cecchini experience ~ Grazie Dario, Panzano and Chianti Classico #chianticlassico #chianticlassicobootcamp

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following are 34 Panzano sangiovese tasted at Le Fonti, Il Molino di Grace, Fontodi and then followed by dinner at Cecchini. Many are wines I had previously tasted and some of the notes have been updated to reflect new observations. If you ever find yourself in Chianti Classico, I would imagine you’ll not be immune to feeling Panzano’s pull.

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Ca’ di Pesa is 95 per cent sangiovese, raised in second passage barriques (80 per cent) and 20 per cent grandi botti, on average. Dark and rich, black cherry ambitious and really, really modern. A high quality vintage and goes for it, no holds barred. Lots of wood. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva Barrone DOCG 2016

Riserva is 100 per cent fermented in amphora and then moved into barriques, much of it new. Again the ambition is clear. Vanilla, graphite and everything spice. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 ($37.00)

Dario Faccin’s is 100 per cent sangiovese as it will always be going forward and with an amazing acidity of 6.4 (tA). Wow is this still so youthful, even just a touch reductive, from an alcoholic fermentation at a very low temperature. Very low. Oxygen is only introduced at that very low temperature, to preserve not only colour but also aromatics. So be patient because time is its and your friend. The palate is so broad and generous but this is not a barrel tasting. This is real life. Such structure should be illegal. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2014 ($62.00)

From a vintage that was made for the intensity and manic work of Dario Faccin. You need to investigate so very deep to desalinate and to feel the layers peel away before getting to the crux of Carrobio’s Panzano Galestro and Alberese. Magnificent and large, balanced and massive ’14 oh my. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The amalgamation of ripest, richly purposed fruit and high toned meatiness brings the great divide together between levels of the appellative period. This is what you want from a well-developed and purposed Riserva, in structure, out of passion and back into reality. Most excellent and rigorous work from Gionanni Battista d’Orsi out of Panzano. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

I Canadesi and I Produttori di Panzano at Cecchini

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Don Vincenzo 2016

An equal representation of selections from vineyards east and west, harvested and fermented separately and then brought together. Once again there is ambition and heft but balance is brought on by ripe acidities and everything resisting going to the breaches of edges. Such a fine liqueur for Gran Selezione and one to age for decades. A captured snapshot of 2015 with great structure as a frame to the picture. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The first vintage, 80 sangiovese with 15 merlot and 5 cabernet sauvignon. The sangiovese was raised in 25hL botti and the inernational grapes in tonneaux. Darker and deeper than the ’16 to come. Good acidity keeps it moving through the waves of vanilla and graphite. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($44.95)

Rampola’s vineyards grace the top of the northern hillsides of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro valley beneath the village. These are some of the most storied slopes in all of Chianti Classico and the castle that bears the name is one of its most famous landmarks. The richest, most glycerin liqueur that sangiovese is capable of reaching is found in this 2016 but not without accompanying acidity and fine-grained structure. Here from one of the territory’s classic rebel child houses is a formidable Annata from a glorious vintage and the kind of bouquet meets boneset that dreams are made of to last decades. It’s really quite something. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted March 2019

Fattoria La Quercia Il Chellino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From a more northerly vineyard with later ripening and the cool savour is readily apparent. Very expressive, chalky tannic and not yet resolved. Will turn and fire into a terrific expression of Panzano albeit in a highly singular, off the noted grid sort of way. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2016 ($97.95)

Vigna del Sorbo sits in the Conca d’Oro at the southeastern end of the vineyards in clay soils dominated by Galestro and away from the Alberese of the Flaccianello sites. It’s always a refreshing meeting meaty wine but then along comes 2016. The satiating and pleasing factor is there from the start, not wanting for wondering if indeed the possibilities are there. They are in waves with bigger bones, more flesh hanging on though teasing to fall off at the slightest touch of the hand. They will not because structure keeps the meat secure even though it is so bloody tender. With acidity nearing eight on the tA scale there is every reason to believe 2016 Vigna del Sorbo will go 25 years easy, with or without the shedding on tears. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2010

Tasted from magnum at Cecchini with fruit wholly, ostensibly intact from a warm and grip-inciting vintage when these Vigna del Sorbo vines would have been in the 35-40 year-old range. Also from a transitional period in the climate change pantheon so therefore a time when climate was more unusual and not yet the new norm. A fruit bomb this sangiovese, juicy and bursting from a blue to black fruit year. Almost Cassis in orientation, cool truth spoken and acidity in the premium value category that lifts the wine with ease. Sip it with grilled beef and the picture is complete. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Standing on the shoulders of giants #flaccianello #fontodi #sangiovese

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2016, IGT Toscana Centrale ($147.95)

“For me this is a Chianti Classico. I’m waiting for others to cross the river together,” says Giovanni Manetti. It tastes of Chianti Classico, albeit with an ulterior profile to Vigna del Sorbo. There is a variegation of Galestro in the soil, along with Alberese, Calcium Carbonate and Pietraforte. The vineyards come down from Panzano and face an opposite direction. Flaccianello is strong and structured, meaty, floral, a compound composition of elements, minerals and the flesh of animale. It’s a big boned boy with acids and structure as a full throttle experience. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2017 ($24.95)

Drawn from Botti now at 18 months and the new plan is to extend that even further so 30 months after harvest will become 33-36 when the bulk of the wine goes to bottle. If anything is going to teach the world about the aging needs and worthiness of Panzano sangiovese and Chianti Classico, well the gentle suggestion and confident persuasion starts right here. Dusty and conversely soft, then grippy and elegant too. Drink 2021-2027.  Last tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2016 ($24.95)

Very little has changed in fact ’16 has moved almost nowhere in the best possible way. Sneaky structure is there, in movements of Bach tones and the usual sangiovese brilliance, especially from these multifarious soils. Galestro, Alberese, Pietraforte, calcium carbonate. All in. Last tasted September 2019

”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Tasting through @ilmolinodigrace ~ The dramatic ’16s and super surprising ’17s. One breath of Gratius and see how it has separated from the pack. These are Panzano of sneaky grip and structure.

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Incredible depth and richness in Riserva out of ’16, with layers of variegated red fruit not seen in these parts or this appellative wine in quite some time. The linger and the effect is all encompassing and timeless. There will be very little movement in the next three years and perhaps longer. This came to know the who, what and why from the genesis.  Last tasted September 2019

Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2006

Poured from magnum at Cecchini in Panzano. It had been nearly five years since last tasted and the large format has suspended time. Still a matter of all constituent parts lifted, elevated and residing where things are haughty and high. Nigh time to drink up certainly but there is a freshness and an accumulated presence of acidity that speaks of the southeast Panzano site. If land could talk it would utter these sangiovese words. If vineyards could sing these would be the notes.  Last tasted September 2019

An ’06 Chianti Classico Riserva you say, pre-aged, delivered to the Ontario market and presented here in 2014, all in for $24? You can’t fool us. We’ve been duped too many times before. This must fall into the “too good to be true” category. The answer depends on which style of Chianti Classico you prefer. This walks all the halls, plies the trades and hits the marks of the CCR ancients. Comes from a remarkable vintage, holding on but in true advanced, oxidizing and fruit diminishing character. Mushrooms and truffles abound, as does game in the early roasting stage. A note of Brett is here too, not over the top but its presence can’t be denied. Acidity speaks, as does bitter chocolate. This is not for all but all should have a go.  Tasted November 2014

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2017

No change in ’17 “but of course we made less.” Only 15,000 will come of it and don’t expect to see this hit the market for at least two more years. Don’t expect to drink it for three to five beyond that. The concentration multiplied by the concentration multiplied by the barriques makes for an eight digit factor. Yes this is very different than the others and the acidity too but its a magnificent specimen. Massive tannic attack. Just massive. Wait for the elegance to emerge in 2030. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2017, IGT Toscana

Gratius expresses the vineyard in ways the Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione appellative sangiovese do not. This 100 per cent sangiovese reeks of the vineyard; fennel. rosemary and gariga. From the part of the vineyard at the peak of the hill where San Francesco’s hulking sculpture towers and watches over the sangiovese. Grip, intensity, signs, wealth of fruit, knowledge and portents. So fine. Drink 2025-2038. Last tasted September 2019

Only sangiovese as is the plan for the entire estate. That Panzano perfume and glycerin though there is some more weight and bones than others. Reminds of the style that’s constant from Fontodi to be honest. These are some of Chianti Classico’s finest acids, sweet and refined, They compliment and support. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Pomegranates of Panzano

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Le Bambole is the place, the first selection of one piece of land, to have a Chianti Classico that expresses Il Palagio within the territory but more so within Panzano. Richer than some but balanced and sumptuous, big again but you wouldn’t really know it. Definite connection to Annata 2016 even if the vintage is different. And it needs time. No shocker there. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Particular, personal, vintage related, so Panzano. So consistent with the wines to come.  Last tasted September 2019

This services one of the more interesting aromatic entries thus far, not quite exotic but certainly different. It’s partly reduction, genesis and youth but also a certain soil plus some new barrel. Perhaps the most tannic wine tasted all day, this is way, way too young to gain any sense early of. The structural steel and petrified wood components are massive and untouchable, immovable and indestructible. There is great fruit lurking there and that soil, “under the soil, the soil, the soil, yes, deep in the soil.” So wait at least three years before supper’s ready.  Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2017

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (207795, $19.95)

A floral, bright as a clear blue sky day sangiovese, 100 per cent as such and meaningful. There can be no better compliment that a Chianti Classico can pay then this. It tells you it is happy to see the warmth in your smile and the contentment in your face. That’s because it has charmed you and helped you through. It’s really that simple. Wonderful vintage and the best in modern times for Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

The Conca d’Oro below the village of Panzano

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Aluigi 2014

A rich and luxurious ’14 from a vintage out of which austerity might be expected. Instead there is sapidity and structure, glycerin and silken textures. Really good work, surprising or not from Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($31.95)

Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyards of Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($44.95)

Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyard was hit hard by the frost and so only 24,000 bottles were produced, as opposed to the normal number at 55. There’s great freshness especially for ’17. That said the heat stress was not an issue because the right rootstock, the organics and the it factor gave away what was wanted and what was needed. Bright, effusive, even if 2017 offers just a bit less of the place than usual. It’s ultimately elegant and balanced. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Of 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. From 8.2 hectares in the Conca d’Oro. 35,000 bottles produced, maximum to 40 in the next few years. Organic since the beginning, in the 90s. Same beauty on display as noted back in February 2019.  Last tasted September 2019

One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Bought in 1970 and 11.5 hectares planted, jut over half of the estate. A warm, rich and heady sangioivese with 15 per cent merlot. Liquid chalky from French oak on the merlot and very textured. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Cecchini

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Campicaia 2015 ($44.95)

Sangiovese blended with cabernet sauvignon in a Cassis, resiny and sappy Riserva. Plenty of ripeness, richness and ambition. A modernity not always witnessed. Could be Napa cab and a good one at that. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Sangiovese with 10 per cent canaiolo, eight months élevage. A slight wet wool note though just slight and blended delightfully into the glycerin fruit and high reaching acidity. Just what Annata from Panzano needs to express, light, bright and naturally curated. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

A completely new floral approach to Annata, of flowers and herbs specific to the place though not necessarily a stretch to imagine the aromas like Balinese or Vietnamese exoticism.  Last tasted September 2019

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Rock of Panzano

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico Grand Selezione DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015

A vineyard planted in 1982 and a matter of big barrel élevage. Lovely savoury and brushy perfume again, hyperbolized and extended to extenuating GS style. Lovely texture and mouthfeel. This is the way of connectivity to the land and the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

 

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Nineteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2019

Love year-end lists? Stick around. Hate ’em? See ya. It is always a matter of great difficulty to contain the retrospective excitement in thinking about what happened over the previous 12 months with respect to Canadian wine. This while enjoying holiday down time, with December winding down. The exercise began on Godello in 2013 and this seventh instalment naturally not only includes six more than the first, it also happens to act as segue, transition and salvo to usher in a new decade.

Related – Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

Unity opinions aside this nineteen as a number is but a fraction of what could, should or would be celebrated in this coast to coast entity we call Canadian wine.  Allow a quote to be used again, in unabashed redundancy of repetition. This curated list is “biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada, to tell the insolent they are not welcome here anyway. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Fearless #ontariowineawards leaders @tony.aspler and Deborah Benoit running a tight #owa2919 ship @gbcchca ~ best quality work coming out of Ontario folks

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

In 2019 the opportunities for tasting Canadian wine upped the ante and increased the possibilities hundreds fold. This despite doubling international travel over a year further afield and abroad which made it twice as difficult to keep up the Canadian pace of assessment. That said there were more than 1000 tasted once again. The WineAlign team never wavers in the relentless pursuit, often at the WineAlign headquarters and in 2019 in convene at the June WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  Ontario wines were judged as well thanks to Tony Aspler and also with David Lawrason at The Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates.

Aldé blending session day @ravinevineyard ~ Rosé 2018 looking stellar

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

Over the past 12 months the little négoce project known as Interloper Wines with Scott Zebarth, Marty Werner and Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery continued the pursuit of Niagara Lakeshore and Niagara-on-the-Lake excellence with Aldé Rosé 2018, a 100 per cent cabernet franc. The third vintage of Interloper Cabernet Franc appeared with the 2018 release, as did the second incarnation of the As Is Field Blend 2018.

Oh hey @nicholaspearce_ thanks for making us look so good!

In 2017 there were 17 and in 2016 there were 16 noted. In 2015 that meant 15 and 14 for 2014, just as in 2013 the filtered list showed 13 as the number chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine. Last year? You would be correct if you guessed 18. Roll out the 2019 red carpet. Whence comes the sense of wonder we perceive when we encounter certain bottles of art? Here are the 19 most exciting Canadian wines of 2019.

Avondale Sky Sparkling Rosé Méthode Traditionnelle 2017, Nova Scotia ($27.82)

Leon Millet like you’ve never experienced with red currants folded into tomatillo salsa from a traditional method upbringing and a recent disgorgement. Energy, excitement and then boom, black currants and a whoosh tidal wave of Fundy exhilaration. An entirely new look at bubbles and from a Nova Scotia class where the sky is the limit. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted September 2019

NWAC19 Gold Medal Winner

The 2014 vintage, labelled as Balance Blanc de Blanc Brut, marks the Teaching Winery’s first venture into the style of Sparkling made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. It also marks the first product made 100 per cent from grapes grown on the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus vineyards. “It celebrates the balance of knowledge, passion and creativity of the winemakers, professors and students who all pursue excellence in the field of winemaking.”

Niagara College Balance Blanc De Blanc Brut 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario ($26.95)

Gingered entry for blanc de blanc of stoic beauty, marbled bust focus. Lemon and a dustiness indicative first of low yields, but then, the obviousness of do not disturb winemaking. Toasty and preserved lemon richesse, elegant and cumulative. So good. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

From a crown cap versus cork closure tasting with Flat Rock’s owner Ed Madronich and current winemaker David Sheppard. The two wines count as one for the purpose of this list.

Flat Rock Sparkling (Crown Cap Closure) 2006, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $34.95)

Wines were all under crown for 36 months, disgorged in January 2010, three quarters pinot noir plus chardonnay and then re-sealed under crown, Six cases were sealed under cork but otherwise both wines are exactly the same, same cellar conditions, same dosage, same everything. Less hue in this number two (crown), same but different, less oxidation, less caramelization and yet on par or near in terms of that ginger-miso tone. Lemon adds to the milder orange crème brûlee and the energy, spirit and lift is more pronounced. Greater vision in acidity and even some lingering reduction. Like the first it is in fact full of sensibility, reason, plenty of seasoning. Likewise and differently so much fun to behold and to drink. Certainly more heightened sensation created by mousse and carbonation that actually affect the mouthfeel and texture. Made by Marelise Beyers. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Flat Rock Sparkling (Cork Closure) 2006, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $34.95)

Wines were all under crown for 36 months, disgorged in January 2010, three quarters pinot noir plus chardonnay and then re-sealed under crown, “However,” explains Ed Madronich and the big raison d’etre for this tasting is that six cases were sealed under cork, complicit with or perhaps explicitly for Ed’s Mom. Both wines are exactly the same, same cellar conditions, same dosage, same everything. Just the seal on 72 bottles changes the nature of the game. The colour is deeper in this number one (cork), more oxidation, more caramelization and more deep ginger-miso tone. Quite orange crème brûlee as well. Acidity persists, wealthy, rising, more than intact. In fact it’s well-reasoned, seasoned and in tact. So much fun to behold and to drink. Made by Marelise Beyers. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (241182, $37.20)

Baker’s ’16 is the child of a great vintage’s phenolics and so without needing to concern oneself in wondering about ripeness or fruit quality it allows for a beeline straight to the tannic structure. That’s the crux of 2016, built upon a core that may as well be centred in the very heart of Colmar. Sugar may as well be nowhere and nothing because balance induces dreams utterly grounded in aridity. So reminded of Bernard Schoffit and The Rangen, austere yet entangled, lean, direct, sure, focused and precise. In the zone and will be for 12 blessedly slow developing years. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted October 2019

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (173377, $28.00)

Looking at this 2011 Chardonnay now and with learned imagination back through time this screams the vintage. Great Scott, cracker jack Chablis dressing up into Premier Cru status cloaked candidly in Ravine clothing. This eight year-old chardonnay shows off as one of then winemaker Shauna White’s great early moments, an achievement of planning through execution and clearly a success from a cool, austere and so very varietal vintage. Maybe even a legacy defining moment for what was and can continue to be. A purveyor of land, a youthful precociousness and all the local possibilities on offer. This is so pure and purposeful for the grape and for Ravine. Just great right now. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Le Clos Jordanne Winemaker Thomas Bachelder

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184549, $44.95)

Welcome back, to that grand vineyard place that we’ve talked about. Down on the farm near the water where chardonnay was purposed grown and put in the hands of a young Thomas Bachelder. The results were dramatic and now that unparalleled fruit is back in the monk’s world, he wiser and more experienced than ever. The transition is spooky seamless and the awe in hand providing breathtaking posits in moments more than fleeting. Behold the presence of orchards and their just ripened glow of fruit with sheen so fine. Let your glass allow the ease of the aromas and flavours to fall in and emit with conscious movement, without conscience or effort. That’s the 2017 Grand Clos. Chardonnay that is. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Closson Chase Churchside Chardonnay 2017, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario ($44.95)

Platinum hue and reserved aromatics indicate a reductive tendency so give it some air. Comes out and away clean and more expressive, with periodic mineral notes, not exactly saline but certainly from the table. Lovely fruit in the melon to orchard way and elevated by acidity plus fine grape tannin. Lovely and composed wine right here.  Last tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Truth be submitted, discussed and told the 2017 Closson Chase Vineyard is a lovely, accessible, County for all chardonnay but this, this is something other. This Churchside ’17 from a block of vines at the prettiest little chapel around delivers the fullest fruit compliment of the times, in headline, lede and body of work. It does so with a posit tug of tension and spot on, pinpointed and precise attention to balance. States a case with best butter, better toast and even greater purpose. The ’17 Churchside undulates and circles, coming to rest in the moment where it all melts down, like a ball in place on the roulette wheel, always having known what number it would be.  Drink 2019-2026. Tasted June 2019

Meyer Micro Cuvée Chardonnay Old Main Rd Vineyard 2017, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($65.00)

The Old Main Road is a Naramata Bench growing site of silt over clay loams at 350m. The northerly aspect links fruit to indirect sun for higher acid-driven chardonnay. This specialized plot-block-pick-separation of origin intensifies the citrus and the savoury strike of scintillant. It’s reductive and not redacted in that it’s protected by a shell of tannin but bursts with rumbles and shakes. This is singular and unique in ways most Okanagan chardonnay does not begin to touch. Great potential and possibility exist so expect so much from this wine now and for a half decade minimum more. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Stratus White 2015, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20)

The latest incarnation of Stratus White is a gem-like one, part reductive and part honeyed. The dual attack is duly noted and doubly paid great attention. Warmth and this remarkable phenolic multiplicity add up to the most strikingly reserved White in quite some time. It will develop more secondary personality and less fade into lean, smoky, shadowy and unfruitful feelings than many that have come before. By many stretches of imagination this is a deeply curious blend and ultimately a beautiful one. So bloody didactic and interesting. A ten years forward retrospective will regard White 2015 as a benchmark for the locomotive Ontario appellative white locution. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Congrats to Cliff and Colin @stannerswines for their The Narrow Rows Pinot Noir 2017 Gold Medal performance @judgement.of.kingston 2019. We the judges deliberated long and with great care to come to this well-deserved conclusion.

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir The Narrow Rows 2017, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario ($45.00)

A super-saturated, honed and zeroed in upon place in a vineyard ripeness with a touch foxiness. Reality from limestone bled into fruit wavering on a spectrum where berry fruit sits on one end and earthy beetroot all the way over on the other. Touches both and then properly meets in the middle. Cherries are red, herbs are green and tension stretches a wire between two poles. Tomato water and tomato leaf with fresh basil. That’s just matter of fact and a good struck balance in combination. You almost feel it’s at once too ripe and then a bit green but those moments are fleeting and so the summation in accumulation is the thing; must, seeds, stems and the work of kind, nurturing and gentle hands add up to great delicacy. It’s local and it’s so bloody good. Delicious even. Unlike any pinot noir ever made previously in Ontario. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at the Judgement of Kingston, November 2019

Hidden Bench Pinot Noir Locust Lane Vineyard 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($48.00)

Locust Lane is the one of greater tension and posit tug, holding court and keeping fruit on a short leash. The aromatics are not as sweetly floral but what you will note, if you wait for the fleshing is this glycerin texture and seamless weave of structure. This is the savoury, almost minty and surely cantilevering pinot noir, from the field and out over the length of the wine’s attention. Will linger, prosper and live long. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2019

NWAC19 Platinum Medal Winner

Howling Bluff Pinot Noir Century Block 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($35.00)

Wow. Now we’ve come into pinot of some curious, unusual and stand up to be noticed excitement. The aromatics are circling, rising, elemental, exaggerated and complex. There’s umami here that few others seem to find or are capable of seeking out. Fine if slightly tonic tannins and structure, texture, architecture and blessed complexity. This will morph into many things by way of many stages. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Thirty Bench Winemaker Emma Garner

Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($75.00)

In many respects this is the flagship of all the Thirty Bench wines, a varietal exploration like no other, of direction, microcosm and intention. It’s an extracted and concentrated cabernet franc but stays free of encumbrance, hinderance or adulteration. It’s dramatically plush and yet shows nary a note of green or gritty, nor astringency neither. It’s a showpiece to be sure and even of an ambition not typical of its maker but as for structure, well that’s as impressive as the concentration. We’ll be tasting this at an Expert’s Tasting in the mid 20s. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted August 2019

NWAC19 Platinum Medal Winner

Desert Hills Estate Winery Ursa Major Syrah Eagle’s Nest Vineyard 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($40.00)

Inky, ferric, serious, structured, regaling and ripping syrah. Full throttle, absolute ripeness, carefully extracted and utterly purposed. The acidity, tannin and overall structure seal all the deals and put this in a category of its own. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Big Head Raw Syrah 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($65.00)

Never before have we encountered syrah this way in Ontario. A wild ferment and use of concrete vats is one thing but the Brettanomyces off the charts is intonate of something wholly other. The exclamation is emotion both Andrzej and Jakub Lipiniski acknowledge and embrace. The thought and the recognition lights up their faces. It expresses itself in peppery jolts, with sultry, hematic, ferric and magical notation. It’s like liquorice on steroids, melting into a feral liqueur. “Wow that syrah is crazy,” tasters are heard to exclaim and yet you can see how much they relish the experience. As I do, without knowing why, except for the fact that in its big headedness this is a very balanced wine. Some way, somehow. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted March and April 2019

Lawrason and Gismondi

NWAC19 Gold Medal Winner

Nk’mip Cellars, 51 percent owner by the Osoyoos Indian Band Cellars, part of the Arterra Wine Group, as per Anthony Gismondi is “ably guided by winemakers Randy Picton and Justin Hall. Nk’Mip Cellars took home one platinum, two gold, three silver and five bronze medals, adding to its legacy of consistent performances at the nationals. The unique, First Nations winery is well worth a visit, as is lunch on the patio.”

Nk’mip Cellars Winemakers Talon 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($23.99)

Really juicy shiraz based blend (44 per cent with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and pinot noir) with rich, ropey, red berry and savoury tones. Big fruit and if oaked with generosity it’s a construct that seems more than capable of the handling. Big effort, personality and acidity to carry it high. Boozy to a degree and again capable of finding balance. Isn’t this what cool climate blends should strive to achieve? Forget the formulas. Look to great agriculture and a master blender to realize goals. This reaches a milestone and likely at a ridiculously affordable price. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Tawse winemaker Paul Pender

Tawse Meritage 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (581165, $67.95)

That aromatic combination of dark plummy fruit and tangy blood orange is a straight give away for many more impending complexities to come. A three-pronged Bordeaux varietal mix of merlot (45 percent), cabernet sauvignon (28) and cabernet franc (27) with so much going on you might not understand what it’s trying to say. It’s like Glossolalia, a “fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning,” a.k.a. in tongues. Never mind the distractions and the madness but instead head straight to the intersection of structure and balance because that’s what matters. The fruit is bold, the woodwork finely chiseled and precise and the end result is the work of masters; agriculturalists, oenologists and winemaking hands. This will live on through epochs of Canadian Meritage notability and infamy. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

With Phantom Creek’s Anne Vawter

Phantom Creek Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($100.00)

Some of the estate’s finest cabernet sauvignon makes its way into the flagship red, also made up of the other four Bordeaux red grapes. There is a sweetness that comes through from layering so much quality fruit in a way that neither the Becker blend nor the varietal cabernet sauvignon seem capable to manage. There’s also a deep sense of tannin and an almost dark brooding character, but also a smoky, savouriness that adds to the mystery and the dimension. So stylish and composed, amalgamated of the finest fruit bred from great attention to agricultural detail. Incredible length too. One of the most professional wines in Canada. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2019

Southbrook winemaker Ann Sperling

Southbrook Organic Vidal Icewine 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (581165, 375ml, $49.95)

The most unusually brick red-orange hue makes this vidal Icewine a one-of-a-kind wonder and the best news of all is how complex the wine is to follow suit. Yes the curiosity factor runs high but so do the gamut of aromatics and flavours. Coffee, toffee, crème brûlée, apricot, guava and strangely enough the spongey filling of a Crunchie Bar. What a childhood memory that digs up. Acids are strong, relevant and still humming so the sugars are carried along with great companionship. Benchmark vidal usage and to no surprise. Ann Sperling’s work with varietal orange wine combined with her knowledge of Icewine make for a union divine. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

1964

Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.

There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

With thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, please be encouraged and read on. Godello’s 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019.

AB Wines Opçāo Avesso “A” Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal

From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano Collio DOC 1997, Friuli, Italy

So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Goisot Gulhem Et Jean Hugues 2015, Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France ($36.00)

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2007, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa

These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019

Ornellaia Bianco 2016, IGT Toscana Bianco, Tuscany, Italy

The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne, France

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Adelsheim Pinot Noir Boulder Bluff 2015, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon

From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso DOC Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2015, Sicily, Italy

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, Italy

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOC La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy

At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Maison Roche De Bellene Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2012, AOC Bourgogne, France

Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine De La Pousse D’or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières 1964, Appellation Pommard Controlée, Bourgogne, France

Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

 

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy

At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($150.00)

Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010, Tuscany, Italy

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted February 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($177.00)

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2019

Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 1990, Barolo Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piemonte, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

1964

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario at Canada’s Great Kitchen Party

Congrats to the winners at Canada’s @greatkitchenparty in Toronto last night. Repeat for @cbriesling and couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Quality at an all time high for all the wines in the competition.

Related – Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2017

The artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates is deep into its second tour under the auspices of the new and improved moniker Canada’s Great Kitchen Party. Four weeks ago the launching port for the magical travelling culinary, wine and musical tour was Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre and 12 cities later the cross-cultural palooza will culminate at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Ottawa, January 31st and February 1st, 2020.

The plates at Canada’s @greatkitchenparty are always some of the year’s best. Three from last night.

Related – Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

On October 3rd, 2019 over 550 guests enjoyed an evening of celebration and elevation of Canadian culture in food, sport and music. The chefs came both to compete for their chance to be on the podium and to share their creative talent with the guests. Over 45 athletes from amateur, para and pro sports shared their stories and guests were on the dance floor enjoying the performance of some of Canada’s greatest musicians! It was an inspiring and impactful experience as the city united to provide Canadian youth the opportunity to be extraordinary in food, music and sport. We are proud to support Community Food Centres Canada, MusiCounts and B2ten.

Gold – Chef Keith Pears, Executive Chef at Delta by Marriott Toronto

Silver – Chef Frank Parhizgar, FK Restaurant

Bronze – Chef Renée Bellefeuille, Art Gallery on Ontario

My WineAlign colleague David Lawrason requested that I join his merry band of judges for the sixth straight year to assess, deliberate and conclude on the three podium wines of the competition. That we did are these were the results.

Here are my notes on all the wines tasted that evening.

Flat Rock Riddled Sparkling 2017, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $34.95)

Riddled ’17 is so bloody young and fresh it’s hard to let it into your life but you should and you must. Bright, startling nearly, greatly aromatic, crispy and yet perspiring with the most humidity and sunshine from a Riddled to date. Tense and nervous, can’t relax. Toasty and just plain fun. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (537076, $22.95)

Very gris, lush and fulsome, dripping with orchard fruit juices and so well integrated. A balanced and tangy mess of fruit and ease into acidity.  Last tasted October 2019

Always puts some time, effort and pleasure in reserve so the moniker continues to hold true to Mission Hill form. The pulse of energy persists and it is that tongue-tying freshness that stands still though will be moving forward soon, in time. Seemingly a bit less skin-contact but so heady in apple, pear and white peach, yet always returning to that green mango-apple bite. Better gris goes deeper and beats before, so kudos to the Hill for the work. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted April 2019

Chef Keith Pears

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (241182, $37.20)

Baker’s ’16 is the child of a great vintage’s phenolics and so without needing to concern oneself in wondering about ripeness or fruit quality it allows for a beeline straight to the tannic structure. That’s the crux of 2016, built upon a core that may as well be centred in the very heart of Colmar. Sugar may as well be nowhere and nothing because balance induces dreams utterly grounded in aridity. So reminded of Bernard Schoffit and The Rangen, austere yet entangled, lean and direct of sure, focused and precise. In the zone and will be for 12 blessedly slow developing years. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted October 2019

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (381251, $19.95)

Warmth from Nadja in 2017, not humidity mind you but certainly juiciness, citrus squeeze and real tart behaviour. Not the acidity of some vintages but enough action to counteract the flat out rocking expressiveness of the fruit. Now you can drink this early while other more tightly constructed and yet uncoiled Nadjas move through their paces.  Lasted October 2019

Nadja has taken the anomaly of an inverted vintage and founded a striking riesling with laser quick reflexes. It’s a lean, lightning flinty and lime-powered one, stark in its intensity and drier than I can ever remember it being. The levels of grape tannin and extract are amazing and it really needs time to settle in. Let’s look at it again in 2019. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Redstone Riesling Limestone Ridge South 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (381251, $19.95)

All about the lime, beneath the surface and above board. Juiced, filling up the flavours matched against the sugar. Well-balanced, tightly wound and grippy as you know what.  Last tasted October 2019

From the sizeable Limsetone Vineyard’s south portion, the 2017 does what good Bench riesling should. It delivers a gamut of citrus and orchard fruit, from apple to peach stone and yet communicates through a conduit of fine riesling acidity. This example cuts like a knife through creamy custard, in other words it drinks straightforward and with full calm at ease. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted March 2019

Honsberger Chardonnay Schuele Vineyards 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario ($35.00)

Just four months has done the trick,. No simply fruitful with an ease of oak, little to less encumbrance from spice and very much having arrived, pitched and settled in the lovely to elegant camp. No longer overtly demanding in engagement or complexity and in this case all the better for it.  Last tasted October 2019

A mix of apple terpene and green pesto marks the nose before turning leesy, creamy and corn. Quite extracted, oaked and tannic so expect a chardonnay of ambition in request for settling time. That or some heady food to stand up and count together. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Reserve Du Domaine 2017, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($34.95)

The Reserve is an impressive and bloody delicious chardonnay with all of its parts moving together and speaking straight from the Peninsula heart. Crunchy and luxe at once then the other, then synched, together. Ripe and developed but also green apple fresh, smart, in good humour and beautiful. This Queylus just has a glow about ‘er. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Tawse Estate Vineyards Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($38.15)

The toastiest and most reductive of the Tawse chardonnays, above Quarry Road and well beyond Robyn’s. It may have once been the smooth one but not any more. Expect sharp, pointed and angular juts and struts. A sharp varietal Tawse that speaks a more pointed Bench vernacular than the Peninsula labelling would say. No matter for time has done little to crack the safe.  Last tasted October 2019

The rock of the compos mentis Tawse chardonnay is the Estate, as consistently composed as any in the high end Ontario tier. The simple plan leads to something ultimately complex, first by charitable dispensation by a vintage like 2013 and then from fruit synchronically pulled off of four iconically developing vineyards; David’s Block (39 per cent), Quarry Road (35), Hillside (14) and Robyn’s Block (11). The balance of fruit, mineral and barrel is impeccable with many thanks due to Paul Pender’s recondite investigative barrel program. The Estate chardonnay owes a great deal to French forests and variegated toasts, all of which show tongue and teeth in this wine. The layering here (and really fine lees) brings creamy tropical as well as crisp Ontario fruit. This is the most soothing of Tawse’s chardonnays with a developing sense of tart candied flowers melting into caramel. In other words, delicious. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (68833, $23.95)

What you want and need from Rosé out of Ontario or anywhere you might dream light, salty, richly fruitful and generously hued pink stuff. Dry and saline with a full gamut of rootsy and ripe fruit; strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate. So good.  Last tasted October 2019

Locust Lane is certainly one of Ontario’s top cru sites for Rosé and while that may sound like a wine style misnomer to some you’d better taste this before making any statements you’ll then want to retract. Winemaker Jay J. must thank his lucky Beamsville Bench stars to have the fortune to make Rosé with this fruit. He would also know not to screw it up so behold this saline, sapid, linear, natural, balanced and just bloody delicious wine. Along with Moira just a stone’s throw over a hill away there are some that just rise above and do so with great ease, like fruit fallen into the hand just before it had been plucked from the stem. That’s when you know Rosé had been grown, run and fermented just right. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted June 2019

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Red 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (320986, $24.95)

Quite heady red here from Thirty Bench, full on dark red fruit in the raspberry merlot vein and just the right verdancy. It’s also sharp and spiced by botanicals that perk up your favourite amaro. Fun stuff from Emma Garner.  Last tasted October 2019

A plethora of mixed red fruits marks not just the entry but the entirety of the Red Blend. It’s a Bordeaux fashion in Beamsville clothing, of berries, plums and even a bit of fennel like addendum. Quite fruity, integrated and balanced, all in the name of amenability and drinkability. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted August 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (553313, $29.95)

Rich and heady to no surprise and plenty of instigating spice. Dives down and into the depths of dark fruit in the shroud of barrel where all sing along together. A bit of balsamic and the notion of impending umami. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Trius Red (The Icon) 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (303800, $24.95)

The Red Icon is everything Niagara can be in affordable red wine, magnified and hyperbolized to the nth degree. A huge icon if from a vintage in reverse and so the strawberry jam is right there, set up in the fruitiest way above the acids and the structure. Tannins won’t lie however and neither will 10 years of great drinking. Drink 2021-20230.  Tasted October 2019

Stratus Red 2015, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (131037, $48.20)

Quite high-toned from a Stratus Red, fruit elevated and lifted by 2015 acids, trying to settle but not able to let gravity do its work. Crunchy and certainly grippy, firm and far from open. Last tasted October 2019.

Harvested over a week’s time in mid to late November from a warm if unremarkable vintage that followed a polar vortex winter, the just released 2015 Red is the five-headed Bordelais made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. If indeed perception is conceived to occur through five senses then all are needed to feel the fingers and toes of this assemblage. It’s also a matter of mathematical relevance, especially if you’ve tasted a few vintages of this most consistent appellative blend. And so standard deviation is relevant in assessment. From one Stratus Red to another we are looking at two sets of five different numbers that have the same mean but different standard deviations and it can be argued (because of the methodology), the same standard deviation but different means. If only J-L Groux knows the answer to the mean and standard of each Red set we can still look at this ’15 and note how it’s quite dusty and high-toned in its youth, with a richness that will eventually bring it all down to earth. It’s a chewy Red with some dried, leathery fruit, as per the mean, equal and opposing to the fresh and friendly, as per the standard deviation. As a matter of assemblage it’s as classic and recognizable as any in the accumulative history and also reminiscent of the past, like ’07, ’10 and ’12, to name just a few. With cabernet sauvignon at the head it tells us that ripeness is the virtue and comfort the result. By the way, the varietal breakdown of 40, 24, 23, 11 and 2 equates to a mean of 20 and a standard deviation of 14.40. For what it’s worth.  Drink 2019-2026. Tasted October 2018

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Riding red blends from Canadian frontiers

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

as seen on WineAlignRed Blends, White Blends and Sauvignon Blanc – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Some producers may be riding red blends all the way to the bank while others, including many winemakers simply love making them. Hearing about or looking at the broad term “red blends” causes many of us to think about wines that are big in every respect. Broad shouldered, big-bodied, long-legged, tannic and age-worthy.  As for how these wines are made we imagine a barrel room of oak casks filled with deep, rich and dark liquids made by winemakers and their science flasks layered by endless combinations of samples in varying percentages. This is in fact how most red blends are made. Barrel and tank samples of different grape varieties are pulled and with a conditional maximum amount of each kept in mind, the constituent samples are mixed and matched until the blend just feels to come out right. Add in a bit of chemistry for scientific balance and Red’s your uncle.

Red blends is employed as that highly scientific wine-speak term used to define one of the largest, broadest and most undefined categories in wine. There are blends established in the Old World emulated and mimicked from Argentina to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and everywhere vinifera is grown. Bordeaux’s Left and Right Bank are most commonly copied but so too is the Southern Rhône. The triumvirate of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot lead the way while grenache, syrah and mourvèdre are the source of much imitation. Blending does not stop at such multi-varietal exactitude because the Australians (namely) decided that syrah/shiraz goes with everything and why not. The concept of admixture or fusion is becoming increasingly relevant and the norm for red blends made in Canada, especially in British Columbia and to a lesser extent in Ontario too.

Chef Albert Ponzo’s Gnocchi with Morels

Basically anything made with two or more grape varieties qualifies and in some cases a kitchen sink is amalgamated from literally dozens of locally planted options. To be honest the methodology categorically removes said wines from every other varietal class or division, in competition or otherwise. So the question begs. How do judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada assess, rate and ultimately dole out medals when the comparisons are all apples to oranges? How do we as a team decide which blends are most deserving in a sea of peers comprised of wholly different, antithetical and multifarious combinations?

The answer is complex but in the end not exactly rocket science. Truth be told the necessity of knowing the percentages in the blend is the mother of invention. This is because each wine is a sum of its combinative parts while success is predicated on the communal effort and seamlessness of the gathering. But more than anything and it’s certainly cliché to say, wines as blends must achieve balance and those that do will reap the most reward. News flash to corroborate that theory. Most varietal wines are blends too, made up of vineyard slash vessel percentages picked, mixed and matched by the winemaker. What really is the great difference?

Is there any wonder why Canadian winemakers love the category of Red Blends? At this year’s Nationals there are 105 medals awarded to a group of wines that in their collective make-up include just about every red (plus a white or two) grape varieties grown in Canada. Read that number again: 105! Three out of four Platinum winners are from British Columbia and 12 of 14 Silvers as well. As for Bronze, 60 are from B.C., 24 from Ontario and three are from Nova Scotia.

While it would be a joyous exercise to break down all the medal winning wines it would also be one that just might put you to sleep. So for the purposes of analytical brevity and for the fact that we have an unprecedented four Platinum winners in 2019, let’s stick to these exceptional wines. The Hatch Dynasty Red 2016 is syrah and malbec from the Hans Estate Vineyard in Osoyoos raised in all new French oak for 18 months. Yes, ALL new French oak. Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2016 from Okanagan Falls is essentially classic Left Bank Bordeaux led by merlot with cabernet sauvignon with minor amounts of cabernet franc plus malbec. Hester Creek Syrah Viognier 2017 from the Okanagan Valley is a stunner and steal for the price though truth be told could have very easily been awarded a similar accolade in the straight varietal category. Niagara’s Tawse Meritage 2015 is a three-pronged Bordeaux varietal mix of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc “with so much going on you might not understand what it’s trying to say.” It’s like Glossolalia but will surely live on through epochs of Canadian Meritage notability and infamy.

OK I lied. Some mentions and some love for the Golds as well. Out of Niagara the judges jumped for the merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon in Marynissen Heritage Collection Red 2015 and the kitchen sink blend only Stratus Red 2016 can gift; cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec, tannat and petit verdot. The hits keep on coming from B.C., especially strong in this category demarcated by grip, grit and strength. The following 12 began their journeys with a plethora of varietal combinations, spoke with great ability to reach the judges palates and all ended up Gold.

Note the seemingly infinite combinations is this diverse group. Maverick 2016 Rubeus, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Bench 1775 2016 Cabernet Franc MalbecCorcelettes 2016 Meritage Estate Vineyard, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot; Corcelettes 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Menhir Estate Vineyard; Black Hills 2017 Addendum, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; TIME Winery 2016 Meritage, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; Mission Hill 2016 Quatrain, merlot, syrah, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon; Sandhill 2016 Single Vineyard One Small Lots Program Vanessa Vineyard, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon merlot and syrah; Moon Curser 2017 Dead of Night, syrah and tannat; Sun Rock Vineyards 2016 Red Meritage, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Red Rooster 2016 Golden Egg, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache; Nk’Mip Cellars 2016 Winemakers Talon, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir.

If you don’t see a clear and obvious pattern in these Red Blends be neither confused nor discouraged because this is how things function and in turn offer up so much possibility in fresher frontiers. In today’s garden of climate change affected vineyards it is Canadian winemakers who are the beneficiaries of a wild west, anything goes environment where mates can be made across varietal lines both renewed and re-invented. Embrace the diversity and let it ride.

We finish we a special red blend tasted with Maggie Granger in Prince Edward County.

Grange Of Prince Edward Bunny Wine 2016, VQA Prince Edward County ($65.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

Bunny Wine is nothing if not playful, a field blend that tugs on conceptual heartstrings and has been doing so for 18 months. It has come into kairos, whether unexpectedly, by chance or by the intuition of the moment, it matters little. Bunny is an extension of three plus years of furry flirtations, in cuvées that have come before, of gamay and pinot noir, of passe-tout-grains. I’ve tasted barrel samples and now here we are at the real thing, “the milk of the gamay bunny, drinkers of spillage by tipsy monks. Even if you know little or care less about bunnies and monks it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen, based on memories and perception, just as a look back at that taste and this note will be. Seamless weaving here, between Bourgogne cousins, north and south, grippy and supple. Hard to tell one from the other and isn’t that the point? From the Victoria Block, four rows of pinot next to four of gamay, picked, fermented and crushed together. All thanks to fruit of exemplary patience. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted June 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Canada knows Rosé

Quality Canadian made Rosé is more diverse and complex than ever before. That’s great news for consumers

as seen on WineAlignRosé Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

The 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada were a huge success with 1,815 entries from 259 different wineries from six different provinces. The ‘Nationals’ are Canada’s largest wine awards and each year are held them in a different Canadian wine region. This year’s were hosted in Ontario’s bucolic Prince Edward County.

For we the 21 judges it was an intense week in assessment of more than 1,800 entries for wines made coast to coast, albeit surrounded by the beauty and the serenity of Prince Edward County at the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. It seems most apropos to open the results vault with the winners of the Rosé category, first because it’s one of life’s great apéritif wines, second because we tasted some lovely examples in PEC and third, quality was on full display at this year’s awards.

There were 44 medals awarded, six Gold, six Silver and 32 Bronze. British Columbian Rosé took home two thirds or 32 of those 48 medals in it’s strongest showing to date. Origins aside if a clearcut notion has emerged from out the Rosé category results at the 2019 Nationals it’s one that encourages both the asking and answering of a new question. Who needs only light, southern French styled Rosé when you can also have full fruit, plenty of colour and a healthy dose of personality. In many cases the nearly pale and vin gris examples still persist and excite but at the top of the judges’ heap are also those bled and rendered, heavily hued and teeming with fruit. Canadian made Rosé is more diverse, complex and multifarious than ever before. In terms of working for the consumer that means more choice and that’s a beautiful thing.

Judging at NWAC2019

A wonderful exercise would be to purchase and taste (as a line-up) the six Gold Medal winning Rosés from this competition. Five out of six hail from British Columbia so the playing field is as level as it’s going to get and the assessment would be a highly credible one. When you look at the six you’ll note the variance and heterogeneity of distinction, tenor and design. All of them, save for the great outlier from Quebec are raised within close geographical range and each fit to sing of their own singular merit and character. Yet they too show local variegation in representation, for the Okanagan Valley, Skaha Lake and Vancouver Island. Further proof that Rosé’s multiplicity is steeped in varietal, style and also place.

The variance of grapes employed in these top awarded wines are perhaps what stands out as the most obvious point of wide attack. One of the top wines is Sperling Vineyards Organic Pinot Noir Rosé, lithe, earthy, authentic and so varietally obvious. Another is Stag’s Hollow Syrah which uses a Rosé-dedicated block at Amalia Vineyard for a pale yet expressive, pure antithetical expectation. The combinative winemaking skills separate it from the pack, part light crushed, soaked and pressed plus part saignée method off of a syrah/viognier co-ferment. Skaha Rosé is whole cluster pressed, 100 percent, high acidity-led merlot while Blue Grouse Quill Rosé is entirely Cowichan Valley gamay, harvested over three days and fermented on its skins for 18 hours before pressing. Then along comes a terrific pinot gris example in Harper’s Trail Rosé. Gris can deliver citrus both yellow and red and a little added bit of red juice goes a long way for a current of currant and sweet red pepper. The stand apart or alone Gold Medal winner is the esteemed representative from Quebec, La Cantina Vallee D’Oka Rosé Du Calvaire. This was the sole blend in the mix of six, a chardonnay and pinot noir raised in the heart of the Basses-Laurentides which “perfectly accompanies the trout, the salmon, the bites with seafood, the sunny salads and the cheeses of Quebec.” A balanced Rosé, low in sugar, proper in high acidity and congratulations to La Cantina for the much deserved recognition.

Whether you are making yours to be a crowd pleaser with a heathy dose of residual sugar or dry as the desert, the unequivocal voice of necessary conscience will always whisper “balance in Rosé is key.” Sweetness sells, that much we know, not in the once popular White Zinfandel way but in the “hidden style,” in wines where enough acidity remains to make it feel like the overall sensation is a drier one than what is really in the bottle. There is nothing wrong with making Rosé with an equal quotient of 6.0 g/L of sugar and acidity, provided the free-run of fruit juice and the retention of optimum freshness are equally exercised to task. The six Silver Medal winners all took a page out of that balancing act book.

A low alcohol (under 12 per cent) and high acidity (above 8 g/L TA) style is typified by a producer like  Singletree out of Naramata in the Okanagan Valley while another like Trius gathers gamay noir, pinot noir, syrah and a pinch of pinot meunier for their effective and efficient Niagara Peninsula Rosé. The same might be said about Mission Hill‘s single-vineyard, Okanagan Valley blush “meritage” but where that wine shines is on behalf of merlot as the lead dancer in a talented ensemble. As noted above, British Columbia also has a way with using pinot gris in Rosé and when just a fourteenth or so of a red grape like cabernet franc is blended in you get both hue and style. Not that colour matters so much but a lovely lithe salmon pink hue can double down to match the personality of a pretty wine.

Spearhead Pinot Noir Rosé from the Okanagan Valley is a poster child for asking that new age question, who needs light, southern French Rosé when you can have this? Less so but in a similar vein and noted by David Lawrason from “the pale but bright sunset pink” is made by Tantalus with young vine pinot noir and some pinot meunier. Another Silver Medal winner is one wholly generous, fruit-equipped and settled of the finest balance, that being the CedarCreek Estate Pinot Noir Rosé.

Then there is the consideration of what can be possible out of Nova Scotia. Much in the way that province is able to make high quality Sparkling wine, so can they do yeoman’s work with Rosé. Sure the truth is such that the climate gives cold temperatures, wind, precipitation and the world’s greatest fluctuating ocean tides but it also breeds a long, phenolic ripening season from which growers are often able to extend grapes into late October and November for making wines that need much earlier picking everywhere else. Acidities are easily maintained in the Annapolis Valley and the skins of grapes imbued by many hues (white, green, orange, yellow, pink and red) can combine to Rosé it up in the most elegant and stylish ways. Luckett Vineyards joins the likes of Benjamin Bridge and Lightfoot & Wolfville to craft just such an example and to lead the way.

There too are examples made so much like red wines you might need a round table discussion to set the blending of categories straight. The fully hued pinot noir made by O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars is but one that straddles the line and breaches the twain while Leaning Post from Winona on the Niagara Peninsula shows off what can be done in a salty-strawberry vein when choosing the mixed varietal route. What we are not finding and thankful for it is the “dextrinization” of Rosé, meaning the sort of manipulations that change colour, but also aroma and flavour. Methodologies are mixed so light crush/press and saignée are both valid and fitting means to different Rosé ends, but the days of make-up and “blushing” it up seem to be fading well into the rear-view mirror. Congratulations to all the winners and the producers who are making proper, honest, quality and crushable Rosé in every corner of the country. The consumer thanks you, as do we, the judges. When it comes to purchasing choices it has never been clearer where to look. Canada knows Rosé.

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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