Part Two: A 30 march of value reds

PHOTO: MONKEY BUSINESS/FOTOLIA.COM

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Today’s date may read April 5th, 2013 but as far as I’m concerned, it’s still March. Winter chill hovers like a suffocating raft over a simmering cauldron of consommé. We are the suds, the weather our nimbus and we can’t wait to rent our effervescent clothes, break free from the mackerel sky and walk into spring.

Related – More March wine reviews

The coming weeks worth of frosty nights and their refusal to hightail on out of here must then be quelled by belly warming, hearty meals shared in kind with big, bold red wines. Here is a 15-strong list available now and in a store near you.

From left: Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2010, Calmel + J Joseph Faugères 2009, Château Gadet Terrefort 2010, Herdade Penedo Gordo Vinho Tinto 2010, and Otazu Premium Cuvée 2007

The French

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2010 (177584, $13.95) is a remarkable price for a Vin Pays d’Oc acting as a ringer for a Mark Kent (Boekenhoutskloof) Franschhoek meets the Northern Rhône. A dish of roasted pork belly, boar musk, lacquer, black olive and sun-baked earth would work. Good follow-up to the 2009 Septaguanarian of pork perambulations. Impossible balance for a pittance.  87

Château Agnel Cuvée Phillipe Minervois 2009 (309195, $15.95) is no pretender, this disciplined study in equilibrium. Blessed with a freestyle swimmer’s ability to master strokes in one varietal medley. More Grenache than Syrah, more Yannick than Michael. Exercises a learned rusticity, acts “old enough to face the dawn.” An angel of the morning bursting forth in floral scents and reaching out with a graceful length. Languedoc red as microcosmic study in an Olympian, southern French pool.  88  @FrontierWine

Calmel + J Joseph Faugères 2009 (310193, $16.95) conjures up full-on hedonism in roasted mutton, garrigue, black raspberry jus and a shot ‘o java. Full-bodied, mochafied richesse, juicy, easy to consume if  never to be seen again. All for $17.  89  @LanguedocWines

Château Gadet Terrefort 2010 (307231, $20.95) waltzes out in empeltre olive, plum sangria and creamy chocolate. Turns roast meaty in gritty tannin, struts great intensity for Médoc, like a “black-haired flamenco dancer,” de color rojo oscuro, not unlike modern Montsant. “Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones.”  90  @ProfileWineGrp 

Château Senejac 2009 (193037, $28.85, 11350145, SAQ, $26.85) walks a rustic, oxygenated Bordeaux tightrope threatening to fray but an earth, tar tincture and Mediterranean sense of longevity keeps this Haut-Médoc wound tightly together. Olive, licorice and Sambucan spice infuse in smokey tones.  91

The Portuguese

Herdade Penedo Gordo Vinho Tinto 2010 (218339, $13.95) from Alentejo, Portugal is very modern, full of lush, dusty berry fruit and void of hard lines. Licorice tang, suet roasted meat built on local grapes (Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Trincadeira). Refines the nature of its origins.  87  @winesportugalCA

Quinta Do Penedo 2009 (313676, $18.95) of Syrah-like sheen jonesing to purple sets out muted but after a swirl opens to black cherry bubble gum. Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional work effortlessly together to fashion a Dão whose “white clouds have turned it black.”  This one can come away with me anytime.  88  

The Spanish

Otazu Premium Cuvée 2007 (313809, $16.95, SAQ 11387298, $18.70) plays an intense, gritty Navarran riff full of earthy expletives. Addictive, salty, marinated olive, black cherry plethoric red that stops you in your tracks. Makes use of Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Reminds me of the Hecula or the Manga del Brujo but is so much edgier, crazed, frantic. Wild stuff.  88  @bodegaotazu

Beronia Gran Reserva 2005 (940965, $32.95) has smoothed its cigar smoked extremities with vanilla cream. The sour cherry tang is a necessary advocate for balance and structure. This classic and classy Riojan is ready and willing to sit at the dinner table along side Chorizo, Jabali and stuffed Piquillos.  89  @WoodmanWines

The Argentines

La Puerta Reserva Bonarda 2009 (67801, $18.95) is a serious, brooding, dark and mysterious gem from  Famatina Valley in the north-west of the Province of La Rioja. Red stone fruit, vanilla bean and an Andean rock face of tannin. Once you go cool-climate, altitudinous Argentinian Bonarda, you may never go back to Malbec.  88  @LaPuertaWines

Versado Malbec 2010 (317008, $24.95) takes on Argentina by way of Southbrook (Ontario) and Sperling Family Vineyards (British Columbia) in the estimable hands of winemaker Ann Sperling. Husband and oeno-guru Peter Gamble joins forces to beeline straight for Luján de Cuyo typicity in deep cherry, pitching to black, solder spice and herbs smoldering in oak.  Cool and minting in its alveolate void. Interesting to say the least.  88  @VersadoWine

Versado Reserva Malbec 2009 (316984, $59.95) seems to travel a Hobbsian path laid out like Cobos cobblestone. At nearly two and a half times the cost of the Versado normale you might expect a revelation and you get one or two, if you allow your senses to drift out-of-body, into a lead crystal, Malbec state of consciousness. Tons of charcoal clouding the infundibular annals of the wine. Emerges as a scherzo in velvety tones, texture and structure.  90  @ArgentinaWineCA

The Californians

Langtry Guenoc Petite Sirah 2011 (19935, $17.95) is a more than commendable example out of the less than glamorous Lake County. At only 13% abv, the Langtry is modest and shy by PS standards, heavenly scented by blueberry, white chocolate and eucalyptus. California PS can be formidable stuff but here “I got a California rainbow to come give them thunder clouds a rest.”  87  @LangtryGuenoc

Highway 12 Highwayman 2010 (319186, $27.95) is a proprietary blend of Cabernet Franc (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (20%) from Sonoman Michael Sebastiani. Present but not overbearing 14.3% alcohol, decadent despite its roots but tempered by good chocolate, olives and herbs. The kind of brambly, inky blend you might swear had some Zinfandel or Syrah in the mix but straight Bordeaux it is. A whack of wine for $28 originally released down south at $42.  90  @highway12winery

The Australian

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling 2010 (311233, $19.95) is not a typo or a joke. Riesling does round out this McLaren Vale Shiraz, not Viognier. Only an Aussie would take this risk and help me Rhonda if it doesn’t work. “I can give you lots a reasons why” this works and number one is balance. The dash of white kicks the red into gear – it may be a strange sensation for which there is no prior frame of reference, but boy if it don’t put me on a beach.  88  @mrkcstr

Good to go!

Rhône like the wind

Rhône Valley, France (photograph by PHB.cz, Fotolia.com)

Rhône Valley, France (photograph by PHB.cz, Fotolia.com)

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Related – VINTAGES October 27th Release

Golden October is upon us today like an Indian Summer, but I sense a mistral ready to blow through these parts. That can only mean one thing. This is a week to drink Rhône varietals. A tiger in autumn giving way to masterly winds calls for master grapes made by Rhône rangers around the globe. Here are four wines to look for on the October 27th VINTAGES release.

The Grapes: Syrah, Grenache and Carignan

The history: Minervois is a (primarily) red wine-producing appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon/Midi region of France

The lowdown: From a négociant house in the South of France with a goal to discover the extraordinary quality and wealth of the region

The food match: Minervois Braised Beef Shanks, fresh tagliatelle, truffle oil

Hecht & Bannier Minervois 2010 (17764, $20.95) is yet another stellar selection from the appellation. Minervois produces piceous and proud Syrah-dominated juice marked by anesthetizing acidity. Van Gogh colour, black, blue and shimmering like a starry night. Mint and tarragon accent fruit surely helpful as an anti-oxidant and delectable to the artibeus obscurus88

The Grape: Shiraz

The history: What once was simply Rhône is now distinctly Australian

The lowdown: Old and bold Barossa vines make the brashest Syrah on the planet, especially these gnarly old ones

The food match: Beef Knuckle Croquettes, fig jam

Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2009 (0167189, $20.95) is streaked with deep pastels of tropical fruit. At once Aussie licorice, then Sicilian blood orange and finally holy land pomegranate, date and fig. A troubadour, Coeur de Lion traveling the globe in search of adventure. Perhaps wicked for a Shiraz, this Dandelion is deeply rooted.  88

The Grape: Viognier

The history: Signature varietal from Condrieu in the Northern Rhône

The lowdown: Remarkable effort from 1960’s TV Western actor turned Santa Barbara winemaker

The food match: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, caramelized apple, raita foam

Fess Parker Viognier 2010 (297523, $24.95) of bountiful bouquet is both aphrodisiac and sedative. Built like they used to, of  antique wood, nuts and bolts, to last and linger when the “appliances have gone berserk.” Head of its California class so pour a glass, turn up the radio and smell the Last Flowers90

The Splurge

The Grape: Syrah

The history: Pitchy varietal from the Northern Rhône, the region that expresses it most sincerely

The lowdown: Delas has discovered the secret Syrah formula to combine exceptional quality with tremendous value

The food match: Seared Lamb Saddle, fingerling potatoes, mint chutney

Delas Frères Francois De Tournon Saint-Joseph 2009 (17525, $33.00) is both militaristic and the stuff of gushing Renaissance literature. Serious Syrah and foxy, Faerie Queene.  Cardinal colour, striking and dreamy. Augustinian diplomat meets allegorical fantasy. Crushed berries, truffles caked by earth, sol de la foret. Built of elegance and power, “such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew.”  92

Good to go!

Top ten Labour Day long weekend wines

Dry-Rub Ribs. Photo Courtesy of Jill Chen at freestylefarm.ca and Barque Smokehouse

as seen on canada.com

Long weekends have a built-in preference for the obvious. Get into the water, fire up the BBQ, indulge the palate, imbibe of good drink. Relax, chill, take advantage of the last free stretch before the race begins again. When shopping these next few days, here is your list of weekend wines.

The grape: Pinot Blanc

The history: Consummate Alsatian vin de table varietal

The lowdown: Peaceful, easy, loving and charitable white wine, just like the Knights of Malta order, represented on the label

The food match: Grilled Turkey Breast rubbed with sage, thyme and olive oil

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Always and forever Argentina’s red darling

The lowdown: A three vineyard mix brings complexity to an entry level wine

The food match: Sirloin Shish Kebabs in red wine marinade

Monte Quieto Quieto 3 Malbec 2009 (275701, $14.95) is black and blue, slightly reductive and yet pretty for Mendoza. From three vineyard sources, Vista Flores, Ugarteche and Agrelo. Spice rub, orange zest and lit, wooden-scented stick. 87

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Loire white horse, here sparkling and quite dry

The lowdown: Made in the traditional Champagne method at a fraction of the cost

The food match:  Steamed Mussels with fennel, sparkling Chenin Blanc and tomato concassée

Domaine De Vaugondy Brut Vouvray (154567, $16.95) is brimming with orchard scents, of fruit, leaves and earth. A baking pear tarte tatine, with a crumble of chèvre over top. The pears replay to taste, verging into crème caramel. Top example at the price.  88

The grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara

The history: Made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or recioto

The lowdown: The best version I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: Pasta Bolognese

Silvano Piacentini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009 (289637, $16.95) combines semi-sweet chocolate with, of all things, ripe peaches. Very pretty, floral, sweet, candied Valpo with biting acidity and even some austerity. Best in a while. Needs a two year wait or a two hour decant.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: H of P has been working this Burgundian grape in so many styles, from so many vineyards

The lowdown: From another up and coming Niagara appellation, the Short Hills Bench

The food match: Grilled Halibut with olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme and lemon emulsion drizzle

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2010 (268342, $19.95) is the best one yet. Some A16 but in a breezy, over the falls, misty wash. Like Riesling in a way, especially considering the Bench minerality. Sweet, creamy palate. Good stuff.  88

The grape: Pinot Gris

The lowdown: Alsace comes to New Zealand in an off-dry suit

The lowdown: Continues a welcoming trend for PG in Marlborough on the South Island

The food match: Grilled Rainbow Trout with mild chile-lime dusting

Momo Pinot Gris 2011 (163535, $19.95) is a freshly opened can of spiced nuts. Like the unavoidable Loire itself, a river of Kiwi off-dry sensibility meets an Aussie Semillon, lemon and paraffin quality. A unique white for food.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Argentina’s red horse in fine form

The lowdown: Mendoza at its finest under $20

The food match: Rotisserie Grill Standing Beef Rib Roast

Vistalba Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2009 (279802, $19.95) shows no shortage of oak, extraction and modern ego. The most purple of Malbec and at 15% abv is remarkably not heavy or liqourfied. Very black cherry in flavour, with whiffs of spice and smoke. Gorgeous Napa-like texture and voluminous velocity.  90

The Semi-Splurge

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Where once it played last fiddle to virtually all other California varietals, it’s planting and notoriety are speedily increasing

The lowdown: A Shelton Zin from a newer AVA so priced to sell

The food match: Dry-Rub (with extra herbs) Baby Back Ribs glazed with Ancho Chile BBQ Sauce

Carol Shelton Monga Zin Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 (282525, $26.95) of a single (Lopez)  vineyard, “an only pawn in the game of life.” is intensely herbal of the wise-leaved kind. The Cucamonga Valley brings more blazing brush floor, saddle leather and less bramble to Zinfandel. The extraction is of big body and soft heart. Have a cigar. “They’re gonna love you.” 90

Other wines of note:

Château Cesseras Rouge 2008 (590570, $19.95) is a Minervois from the Midi that I return to in every vintage.  A poster child for southern French pastis and sun-kissed abaisser attitude. Chocolate, fruit and tar are all in balanced clarity. Sweet, sweet, Syrah.  89

Riserva Il Falcone 2007 (177295, $21.95) by one of Umbria’s preeminent producers, Castel del Monte is certainly a crowd pleaser. Lush and rich styling, from the region’s own Uva de Troia varietal. Ripe, black olives in every sip. Taut and plummy, unctuous and finishing with a pepper kick.  89

Good to go!

A wine tour de France

FI:AF

canada.com

The Tour de France is a 22-day, grueling test of endurance. Tasting through 22 French wines may not be the sporting equivalent, but someone’s got to do it. The Tour travels and circumnavigates a path through many of France’s storied wine regions; Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône and Languedoc. The wine tour goes deeper, making stops in lesser known regions like Savoie and Jura. Here are 11 notes with 11 days to go.

Related – more wine recommendations

French wines to look for now

Alsace

Pfaffenheim Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2010 (VINTAGES 996017, $19.95. SAQ 197228, $19.70) looks to wine a stage with its progressive and ambulatory nature like the “Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx. At once steely but also possessed of a creamy, recriminatory lycheeness. A Gewurztraminer island in a sea of mediocrity, less bitter, less off-dry. A comeuppance of residual sweetness and forward thinking expression.  88

Champagne

Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne (959643, $56.95) operates as opulent, bombastic bubbles. Conspiratorial instigator, non-traditionalist and anti-establishment. Cassius to Caesar and to Frazier. Agitated rope-a-doper laden with tropical citrus and guava to belie yeast, smoked nuts, clay and toast. The mousse is persistent if relegated to the ring’s perimeter and the cheap seats of the Colosseum.  Tasted twice.  89

Burgundy

Louis Picamelot Brut Cremant De Bourgogne (161919, $17.95) is continental breakfast at the round table where dry toast cuts a linear radius through pious citrus, namely lemon and grapefruit. A strong-armed, knightly representative for the anthology of the Burgundian bubbles culture. A polarizing character, the lance of the lot 87

Pascal Marchand Meursault 2010 (285866, $57.95) would make for an intriguing tête-à-tête comparison to the Tawse Quarry Road from Moray’s other guy, peer Paul Pender. Marchand’s Chardonnay is multi-layered, zesty and intense. Pear and hazelnut stand out but so too does oatmeal, in an elemental, periodic way. Which leads ne’er the cheerleader MV to comment, “egg salad sandwich.”  White Burgundy with regard to the atom.  90

Domaine Gille Côtes De Nuits-Villages 2009 (210864, $28.95) is cheap talk and wine, for Burgundy that is. Clean, pure Pinot fruit, black raspberry scent. On the border of simple, elegant, well-priced Villages. Will give you the best of its love.  88

Rhône

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (331900, $29.95) fully elicits hedonism from southern France with rakish Guigal typicity. Blueberries baked in an Ortolan pie with essence of Molasses. Bold, brass Bassline of tannic tenderness.   89

Jura

Jean Bourdy Cotes De Jura White 2007 (286427, $24.95) is most unusual Chardonnay. “Nothing in the world smells like this son.” Tis kind to call it an “oxidative” style but truth be in the pudding. Yerba tea, malt and peat each have their moment. Scottish as if Kilgore retired to the Hebridic isle.  86

Savoie

Domaine Edmond Jacquin Altesse Rousette Savoie 2010 (277335, $17.95) is a Big Mig, a jazzy, rarely seen release that trills citrus and spice in a breezy, casual way. Altesse, also called Roussette, seems to me a superior, physiological varietal. Federer workmanlike approach, a rider like Indurain, wins fans for athletic greatness and for acting effortlessly like itself.  88

Jean Perrier & Fils Cuvée Prestige Mondeuse Vin De Savoie 2010 (272112, $14.95) visually reminds me of Portugal’s Bastardo grape and by a nose. There is sour cherry, cranberry and refreshing citrus vitality as if Viognier were supporting Syrah. Perhaps like Pliny’s “vine of least repute” but there is an acme of elegance.  87

Bordeaux

Château Haut-Vigneau 2009 (29678, $25.95) opens the door to the ’09 Bordeaux party with a Tao, raison d’être and talisman’s affordable summoning via the Left Bank’s Pessac-Léognan. Candied coffee, black cherry and tobacco, radish red. Solid PL and worth storing three away for now and to the decade’s end.  89

Midi

Château Du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois 2009 (275578, $12.95) speaks directly of its mineral, Minervois roots. Brillat-Savarin might say this about the Donjon. “Tell me what you drink and I’ll tell you who you are.” The Châteauneuf-du-Pape aspiration of Kirsch with Daube is only deterred in the slightest by an aspersion of cherries steeped in quinine, but of a good kind. A “badger” of a red, fighting like Bernard Hinault and his two black eyes.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!