Winter wine matters

Mr. Frost the melting snowman

Mr. Frost the melting snowman

Tell me you’re not looking for a January cure. A cure for what ails, a respite from depressing news, a way to get through winter’s second and third trimesters. I know you are upset at losing some of your favourite rocks stars or wholly annoyed with those who are. Regardless of which camp you’re in, look me in the eye and tell me a good, honest, proper and satisfying bottle of wine won’t help.

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

With a little help from a farmer and a winemaker wine can become something very special. Choosing which examples pass the test is less than automatic and takes many years of trial and error, but eventually the equation reaches a tipping point. This is where probability begins to win over doubtfulness.

VINTAGES spins the wheel again this coming weekend with a list one hundred strong. I have chosen fifteen to win the hearts of the cold, the depressed, the sad, the first responder, the liberal, the conservative, the left, right and all points in between, the cultural injustice fighter, the social media troll and the curmudgeon. Whoever you are or imagine yourself to be, one of these wines may just make you feel a whole lot better. It’s alcohol, after all.

Popov

Popov Versnik Merlot 2011, Tikves, Macedonia (429746, $13.95, WineAlign)

Morality for the masses from parts unknown. Macedonian Merlot plush in carpeted ease. A touch of vinicultural funk bleeds into the drupe for good constancy. Wood is a factor but only for texture. Roast pork would work. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @bozvenimports  @WineofMacedonia

Ferme du Mont

La Ferme Du Mont Première Côte Côtes Du Rhône 2013, Ap Rhône, France (251645, $15.95, WineAlign)

The berries are the lead, the middle act and the finish. Extreme in fruit, fully ripened and punching well into classes. Acidity walks along with what heals and together the impression is regionally spot on. No need to look elsewhere for CdR style. Fashioned to induce consumer approaches that occur early, often and with heavy repetition. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted January 2016      @RhoneWine

Rabl

Rabl Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2013, Kamptal, Austria (377457, $16.95, WineAlign)

A rouser this Rabl, highly aromatic and filled with creamy green dressing. Langenlois mineral by quatenary rocky red outcrop chip and scrape through the herbs and the citrus. Though a touch lean at present this has the legs and the foresight to age, like Semillon, like Riesling, like good Grüner Veltliner. Really persistent wine. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted January 2016    @austria_in_ca  @AustrianWine

Desmoiselles

Château Des Demoiselles 2010, Ac Castillon Côtes De Bordeaux, France (348755, $17.95, WineAlign)

A bit of a brooder this Castillon, dusty and all in with Merlot speaking as it should. Typically ripe, not wood shy and instantly gratifying as per the vintage so considering the cost this offers good reason to drink, but not cellar Bordeaux. The flavours add in dark chocolate with tangy angles opening windows and doors. Two to three years of simple pleasure. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted January 2016  @BordeauxWines  @HalpernWine

Pouilly

Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L’abbaye Pouilly Fumé 2014, Ac Loire, France (958801, $19.95, WineAlign)

Slight hyperbole of Sauvignon Blanc with epitomizing smoky flint and vegetation healthy to overgrowing. Fresh and spicy, thematic and screaming out loud. The abbeys always make the most authentic wines. This one is no exception. Classic serial killer. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @WoodmanWS  @LoireValleyWine

Morgon

Laurent Gauthier Grand Cras Vieilles Vignes Morgon 2013, Ac Beaujolais, France (279059, $19.95, WineAlign)

Lovely floral entry and good close encounter with the Morgon kind. Certainly on the ripe black cherry trellis but not over, no, by no means over. Firm, charred tight and charcoal lit with the acidity to propel and excite. Gamay as it should be with a red lactic finale. Well done. Cras, cras, not cray, cray. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted January 2016  @DiscoverBojo

Pecina

Señorío De P. Peciña Crianza 2011, Doca Rioja, Spain (313726, $22.95, WineAlign)

Old school alert. Fruiting body notes of telomorph yeast and room temperature evaporations. High tones and waves of liqueurs. Big old wood barriques and a slow evolutions over decades, with knowledge ingrained and methodology followed with religious zeal. Cherries and cedar, leathers and all sorts of gamy hides. Attack one and put two away and see the past in the distant future. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted January 2016  @BodegasPecina01  @LeSommelierWine  @RiojaWine_ES

Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (350108, $23.95, WineAlign)

The confident, well-delineated structure of a Blue Mountain wine furthered here, with Chardonnay you are simply and unequivocally happy to drink. Mild, mild wood. Minor, minor but present reduction. Flavours overtop flavours, like green apple dipped in mellifluous agave. Salinity, a touch of flint and just general copacetic effectualizing behaviour. Another winner. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @BlueMtnWinery  @winebcdotcom

Louis

Eric Louis Sancerre Rouge 2013, Ap Loire, France (66613, $24.95, WineAlign)

Red Sancerre plumb, plum too and cerise. Iron strength and a cumbersome ratification to be certain, for longevity and plenty that comes before. From flavour favour savour to acidity tannin in continuum. Rolls through the numbers and the highlights. Alcohol subtlety is a friend at 12.5 per cent and playing bigger than others twice the size. You can use this terrific example from Eric Louis for just about anything your experience desires. Sip, grill fish, finish post meal. Anything really. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted January 2016  @EricLouisWinery  @LoireValleyWine

Martin Ray

Martin Ray Chardonnay 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (57067, $28.95, WineAlign)

A really nice, relatively inexpensive example from the RRV. The aromatics are balanced with notes ranging from melted duck fat on golden roasted potatoes to a garden with vegetables ripening under a warm morning sun. The attitude towards the barrel is well adjusted and integrated, the flavours built of viscosity and generosity. Quite impressive and persistent with a spice accent on the finish. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @martinraywinery  @rogcowines  @sonomavintners

Marchand

Marchand Tawse Saint Romain 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (440206, $31.95, WineAlign)

The genesis of reduction is the man, even four plus years into its time in bottle, here on earth. What to make of this showing at this juncture? From Saint Roman, The Melodist, “Pindar of rhythmic poetry” and very restrained in wood. Who would dare to make Chardonnay this way from this place, to wait for so long. “And all this time has passed me by? It doesn’t seem to matter now.” The fixed expression, the weight gain, the lean, flinty, bony structure in change. Not yet, not yet a musical box of flesh but it will be. Patience for another year. Great acidity. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @Burgundy_Direct

Cotes de Nuits

Marchand Tawse Côtes De Nuits Villages 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (440263, $31.95, WineAlign)

Conspicuously and distinctly Pascal Marchand perfumed village Burgundy to showcase regional distinction in the vicinity of affordability. Smells like roses and the aromal water imparted by fresh petals. Tastes like ropey strawberries, a squeeze of cranberry and a crush of pomegranate. Transports to walks up and down slopes in the morning mist. Will wait for fairer weather to come and a harvest table set al fresco. Pinot Noir off grace to invite friends and co-workers to the table. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @Burgundy_Direct

Girardin

Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes Santenay 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (435552, $37.95, WineAlign)

An old vines Santenay from Girardin that demarcates a line back to the way things used to be. Modernity cast aside this is a firmer and cooler Santenay and it is very young. Not yet shed its carbon fat, stemmy tannin and barrel weight. This will need three years to settle, find its strokes and to allow the fruit to be extracted from its tannic and wooden house. “Oh the heart beats in its cage.” Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted January 2016

Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (928028, $49.95, WineAlign)

Quite approachable for the normally firm and hands off in its youth Barbi. Always with a foot firmly rooted in the past and yet the house seems to be slowly waltzing into the modernity of the future. This has hallmark roses and cherries under leathery hides but also a beautifully bright and dynamic luminescence. It also carries a silky texture that should have it pause less than the habitual five years to fully shine. So, a newer and earlier gifting Sangiovese and that’s quite alright. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted January 2016  @FattoriaBarbi  @ConsBrunello  @Noble_Estates

Franus

Peter Franus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (907477, $66.95, WineAlign)

The floral aspects of this mountain Cabernet are a delight to behold. The ripeness and concentration are optimum to be sure and are mitigated by a cool, altitude-salubrious repairing factor. Cassis and a hint of what smells like juniper are noted. It’s quite botanical actually, in distillate, not fresh or dried. The Franus angles are direct and retractable. Traces steps up and down, in switch backs and with a creamy, acidity backed rise, fall and repeat. Peter elicits notes heightened “in the firmament above and in the deep.” This 2012 is a sustainer, a Parvadigar, a prayer set to music. Very musical Cabernet, scaling, of arpeggios et al. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!

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WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Working wines for the Canada Day weekend

Barque Breakfast, eggs, pulled pork, potato pancakes, guacamole
Barque Breakfast, eggs, pulled pork, potato pancakes, guacamole
PHOTO: JILL CHEN/FREESTYLEFARM.CA

June has been long, wet, arduous and full of promise. Exhausting too. It began with a cooking ordure show for 1,300 Ultimate athletes. There have been food and wine tastings all over Ontario. The palate may never experience this level of fatigue as it does at the end of June. Think about how the Wine Align team feels!

Last week I attended the Stop Night Market, an unforgettable food and beverage extravaganza that rivals any outdoor gastro-experience you are likely to find, anywhere. The unparalleled $50 all you eat and drink ticket from the best of Toronto’s best aside, the SNM helped to solidify the STOP’s position as a leader in community food programs.  The next night I attended Sip and Savour Ontario in the Fermenting Cellar located within the historic Distillery District. Wine and food pursuers lapped up Ontario wines in every incantation matched by seriously excellent small edibles. Sip & Savour Ontario is dedicated to bringing education, support and accessibility of Ontario’s local wine, culinary and agricultural industries to the public, all in support of Houselink.

This coming Friday, June 28th has been declared #CanadianWineDay (or #CdnWineDay) so get out there and sample whatever you can find out of our wine regions, from coast to coast. Make sure to tweet what you tasted.

Time for a brief respite. Canada’s wine and food industry peeps and tweeps have been working overtime, taking care of business, working for the weekend.  What we all need is an extended rest, out in the air, down by the bay, surrounded by family and friends, with a good glass of wine. Here are 10 current releases, ready and willing to work for your long weekend.

Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012, Villa Tonino Grillo 2010, Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2012, Rosewood Estates Sémillon 2011, Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Pinot Gris 2008, Caves D’esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012, Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2011, Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon 2011, Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010, and Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010

Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012, Villa Tonino Grillo 2010, Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2012, Rosewood Estates Sémillon 2011, Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Pinot Gris 2008, Caves D’esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012, Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2011, Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon 2011, Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010, and Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010

The Sparkling

The grapes: Muscat, Perle of Csaba

The history: Traditional Champagne style bubbles from a Nova Scotia pioneer out of the Gaspereau Valley

The lowdown: Think Moscato D’asti from Piedmont mixed with the Hungarian Vinifera derived grape. The remarkably low 6.5 percent alcohol aims to please and refresh every palate on a warm Canada Day weekend

The food match: Barque Breakfast, eggs, pulled pork, potato pancakes, guacamole

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012 (256289, $25.95, Nova Scotia $24.99) while nowhere near Champagne in proximity nor character holds a perfume immediate in marmalade, candied orange peel, lit wick and melting paraffin. To taste it sweetens up a sun-setting, waning day with a convexity of creamy rhubarb, orange sherbet, strawberry and pink grapefruit. Like a song in 6/4 compound, musical meter. With so much going on this is certainly a bridge to somewhere and it’s “gettin’ there fast.” 90  @Benjamin_Bridge

The Whites

The grape: Grillo

The history: Native and classic Sicilian varietal, dating back to B.C.E times though it now only comprises 3 per cent of the white grapes planted in Sicily

The lowdown: Boundless personality of a white wine from the thick-skinned and bold grape built for the blazing Sicilian sun and arid Mediterranean climate

The food match: Chickpea, Parmesan & Fennel Salad

Villa Tonino Grillo 2010 (289579, $14.95) owns a melon’s ripe musk melding to fermenting aroma, matched by a warm, juicy and mouth-watering texture. Blanched nut, coconut and lime zest party on the beach with steaming decapod crustaceans. Grillo, grilling and the sur beating up the sea wall would do just fine.  89  @RegazziWines

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Family owned & operated winery, located in the Yakima Valley of Washington State

The lowdown: Just a bit more than 4,000 cases produced and has only been in bottle for three months

The food match: Pacific Rim Chowder

Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2012 (324905, $15.95) gives away a whole lotta’ love for 16 bones. Rich, ropy mandarin and orange melon acidulated with a shot of white pepper coolant. LB, “you’ve been cooling and baby I’ve been drooling.” Dizzying on the tongue, gone bananas and twiddling on every bud.  90 @WINESofWA

The grape: Sémillon

The history: Beamsville’s Rosewood Estate has been pouring their heart, soul and honey (not literally) into this  varietal’s future

The lowdown: Most often employed in combination with Sauvignon Blanc to forge the dry white wines of Bordeaux and more famously, the dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Rosewood is leading the North American charge. #StandSémillonStand

The food match: The Spoke Club‘s Crab Salad + Braised Pork Belly with spring onion and sea buckthorn

Rosewood Estates Sémillon 2011 (177758, $17.95) is the leader of the pack. The honey is uncanny. From an earlier note: “is frighteningly honeyed and its blatant acidity brings out all the right zest notes in the seafood. Major (three times) cropping from a “disease control vintage” by Orwinski who “knows the vineyard. It really is his home.” He’s still chanting “drop the crop!” in his sleep. The citrus and soda are glaring, exciting and invigorating in ’11, as is the aforementioned honey, the trump card keeping the Sémillon from being confused for Riesling.  Fascinating study.”  91  @RosewoodWine

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Alsace family estate winery dates back to 2010.

The lowdown: Grand Cru Pinot Gris. Kessler has been sold under its own name since 1830

The food match: Citrus Smoked Salmon Salad, goat cheese mousse, pickled strawberry, baby frisée

Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Pinot Gris 2008 (249623, $25.95) wants to tell you she’s late harvest but you know better. “You might say you can only fool yourself.” Golden gorgeous, silken pear custard and southern hemisphere, capsicum spiked fruit. Walks on little feat but ultra-marathon runs a sweet to dry crescendoing gamut.  92  @drinkAlsace

The Rosé

The grapes: Grenache, Rolle, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvedre

The history: From the Côtes de Provence, the brainchild of Bordeaux royalty Sacha Lichine (Chateau Prieure Lichine) and Patrick Leon (Baron Phillipe de Rothschild)

The lowdown: As classic a southern French Rosé as you are likely to find, gaze upon or taste, anywhere

The food match: Buttermilk Pancakes, bacon

Caves D’esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012 (325076, $19.95) of calm, pale arctic char hue and creamy alabaster porcelain skin is a most statuesque and regal RoséWild herbs and country spice walk along a dry road in this most excellent pink drink.  89  @WhisperingAngeI 

The Reds

The grape: Pinot Meunier

The history: This is the third vintage for Vinleand Estates and the rare planted (approximately 1.5 acres) cousin of Pinot Noir

The lowdown: Winemaker Brian Schmidt is exploring the “potential of this unique varietal within the dynamic frame of Niagara. More reliable and consistent that it’s often “psycho” mirror image, Pinot Noir.”

The food match: Steak & Frites, Marinated Skirt Steak, Smoked Pepper Relish

Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2011 (225508, $17.95) offers a simple twist of fate from the vinous research control centre in Niagara. Has now gone well beyond experimentation, this 2011 tingles to the bone with pronounced floral waves and a sweet, tangy, concentrated cherry core. Solid focus and structured to please.  Piques a familiar rich scent of leather. Drank it “as the evening sky grew dark.”  88  @benchwineguy

The grape: Gamay

The history: Cru Gamay from Morgon. After Brouilly, Morgon is the largest winemaking area in Beaujolais. From the Georges Duboeuf stable

The lowdown: Straddles a serious and commercial line but the consistency of this Gamay is not to be disputed

The food match: Fried Green Tomatoes, corn salsa, feta

Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon 2011 (946186, $17.95, SAQ 856898, $19.30, B.C. 866673 $21.99) is simply rich and decadent in raspberry, a bit cakey and jammy for the appellation yet structured and stylish. Barbera-like with tar, roses, fennel and balancing tannin.  89  @Dandurandwines

The grape: Merlot

The history: From master and mad scientist J.L Groux, winemaker at marketing and class organization extraordinaire Stratus Vineyards

The lowdown: When Stratus rolled out the Tollgate line I was skeptical. Where the Wildass group might hit you upside the head (in a good way, of course) the Tollgates earn their stripes with finesse and elegance. Created primarily for the restaurant industry. An ode to agricultural activity of Upper Canada

The food match: Panko-Custed, Pulled Slow-Cooked Beef Chuck, horseradish aioli, charred brussel sprouts

Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010 (344101, $24.95) is a picture of modernity, warm and a touch oxy. Raspberry jam, dusty mulberry. Indicative of how special 2010 was for Merlot in Niagara. Really well made, built of a confident structure, mindful of an incandescence in finesse. Linear experience, with no breaks or pauses. Solid red.  88  @Stratuswines

The Splurge

The grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault

The history: From the Rhône Valley in Southern France, Château La Nerthe was born in the 12th Century around the time vines were first planted in the stone-strewn soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (literally the “Pope’s new castle”)

The lowdown: While the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are anything but cheap, they more often than not offer the best high-end wine values in the world. This is one of the best.

The food match: Braised Duck Leg, duck fat potatoes, ontario cherries

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (735407, $43.95) exudes a bigger, bolder cherry and Kirsch liqueur than from memory, indicating both a flamboyance of the vintage and a torrent to a long future. A swirl of black cassock cooling the candied, cherry blossom centre is met by a wall of harsh tannin with a lash of tang pushing back the fruit. Will be stellar in five, or more likely ten years on. Love this house.  92 

Good to go!

Go Gamay Go

Beaujolais at Acadia Restaurant Photos: (DANIEL YAM/WWW.DANIELYAMPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

Beaujolais at Acadia Restaurant
Photos: (DANIEL YAM/WWW.DANIELYAMPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

as seen on canada.com

It’s the current war cry by the voices of those who know. A plea and a calling to Canadian growers and winemakers to plant and bottle more Gamay Noir. A proclamation in favour of a great grape and one that forges signature wines out of Canadian soils. I am an ardent supporter of and a willing rider on the Gamay bandwagon, in the name of connaitre and savoirkennen and wissen, recognition and understanding.

They are ostensibly all climatically cool, the wine regions of Canada. The Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County of Ontario, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and Monteregie of Québec. But, it’s not just about the weather anymore. Existentially speaking, Canadian wine is cool.

Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais in east-central France and the principal variety of that immediate geographical neighbour to the south of the world’s most influential and serious of all wine regions, Burgundy. Thin-skinned, low in tannin and often in acidity too, Gamay has for centuries played last fiddle and ugly cousin to Pinot Noir. With the rise of the Beaujolais Cru, that is, red wines made from recognized and identified plots within appellations like Moulin à Vent, Brouilly and Morgon, Gamay has left the orchestra pit and is rapidly gaining solo notoriety. Beaujolais is no longer nouveau. It’s old hat.

While I wait for the #GoGamayGo network to convince our councils, marketing boards and vintners to establish a Canadian Cru system, or at least a comprehensive tasting of Canadian Gamay, I’ll turn my attention to our French forefathers.

Anthony Collet discussing Beaujolais Photos: Daniel Yam/www.danielyamphotography.com)

Anthony Collet discussing Beaujolais

On Wednesday, May 15th, The Beaujolais Wine Council, led by Anthony Collet of Inter Beaujolais and with the assistance of the Siren Group, hosted a wine tasting at Acadia Restaurant. Five ineluctable courses ushered in 12 diverse Beaujolais. The patio luncheon featured Indian, Korean, New Orleans and Portuguese barbecue created by chef Patrick Kriss. Chef’s plates are like holorimes, simple yet complex, parts seemingly unrelated yet bound together by rhyming flavours and techniques. Food crucially matched to Gamay ready to be reckoned with. The least of which made for simple, pleasurable drinking, the best as sang-froid, cellar worthy candidates. Here are the notes.

Beaujolais Wines

Beaujolais Wines

Château Des Jacques Beaujolais Grand Clos de Loyse 2010 (11094399, $19.75) from Louis Jadot holdings in Romanèche is shameless Chardonnay, forwardly fruity and straight on the rocks. From a stainless steel ferment, the Loyse gives off a vinous, tart, pressed gas and Hercynian sedimentary note. Soft white, lithe and airy.  88  @liffordwine

CREOLE SHRIMP, anson mills grits

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Fun 2009 (228155, $10.95, SAQ, 11459482, $14.75) talks turkey, offers a pretenseless picnic of pure Gamay fruit and remains remarkably fresh for a 2009. Puts the FU back into fun against many a challenger. I may be alone in defence of this simple quaff but inveigle against my wine soul if this ‘aint a good deal.  87  @dandurandwines

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages Combe Aux Jacques 2011 (365924, $17.95, SAQ, 365924, $16.70) seems a simple distillation hosting a floating purée of raspberry and cranberry. A sniff of smoldering tree bark keeps it interesting. Nothing to hide from, nor to rush to.  86  @ljadot

Related – A terrific write-up of the event from The Wine Sisters

Acadia Restaurant's Piri Piri Chicken

Acadia Restaurant’s Piri Piri Chicken

 

PIRI PIRI CHICKEN LEG, yogurt

Bouchard Aîné & Fils Beaujolais Superieur 2011 (9431, $11.95) the fresh fruit maker shows some mid-life separation in peppery kick though it’s really quite round. Leads my table mates and I to believe it should be semi-chilled in good ones and over-chilled in less than good vintages.  86

Jacques Dépagneux Morgon Côte Du Puy 2011 (299925, $18.95) is possessed of the appellation’s basic lexical features, that is morphemic, mannish, “spell mmm, aaa child, nnn” linguistics, in smoke, spice and acidity. Goes deeper than non-Cru Beaujolais, if it’s just a bit leaner than when I first tasted it last November. This Gamay speaks in muddy water, beefcake tones now but may not be talking as proud as time goes by. Very good but not quite great example.  89

Domaine Joseph Burrier Saint-Amour Côte de Besset 2009 (11154419, $25.85) confounds by holding out a yes or no answer as to its possible ringer status. Inscrutable Gamay, puckering in dried raisin and cherry, but also sun-dried tomato. Baked, nearly tawny, sullied even. Clearly a child of the searing vintage, hefty and despite the cooked character, it matched quite well with the piquant chicken.  87

Acadia Restaurant's Grilled Eggplant

Acadia Restaurant’s Grilled Eggplant

 

GRILLED EGGPLANT, peanut, coconut & curry condiment

Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2011 (5496, $18.95, SAQ, 10754421, $20.15) is wondrous Gamay, clearly defined by aromas of juicy berries and all things forest. I could enjoy a boatload of this floral Brouilly without ever taking a sip. Further to that it starts out soft, vanilla relaxed, glides in confident refinement then spikes in smoke, tar and heat on the back palate. Could use a chill.  88

Villa Ponciago Fleurie La Réserve 2011 (299917, $21.95) from Champagne house Henriot is the most feminine thus far, expressive of a queen’s terroir, delicate, poignant, pretty. Deserving of a Roy Orbison croon, “ma fleur de lis, je t’aime beaujolais.” Reminds me of blueberry pie, or plum pudding, this PYT, full of aplomb and plume.  89  @WoodmanWines

George DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2010 (122077, $12.95) is a blast from the past, a parson’s project that wants to be juice but really it’s just pink turning red drink. Pink, red, sugar, water…drink. Certainly the most “nouveau” of the lot, this “catch twenty-two” bottle represents everything the region is trying to avoid and diversify away from. I will admit there is a touch of earthy complexity, just enough so to give it a lifeline and value.  85

Acadia Restaurant's Korean Short Rib

Acadia Restaurant’s Korean Short Rib

 

KOREAN SHORT RIB, crispy rice, sesame & chili

Domaine Manoir Du Carra Juliénas 2010 (290981, $19.95) the pearl finally puts some funk into “an otherwise empty room.” Dandy, candied peony, cracking good, cinnamon scented and jammy in Rhôneish behaviour. More structure than most.  Beaujolais’ daughter.  91

Domaine du Vissoux Moulin-à-Vent Les Trois Roches 2010 (11154427, $24.75) from star winemaker Pierres Dorées is the tasting’s prince, handsome, chivalrous, a lady’s man. Black cherry, duck reductive, sweet and musky. Searches for game, digs for truffles, wants to be seen with slow-cooked meat.  88

Domaine Piron-Lameloise Chénas Quartz 2009 (240481, $22.50) the flamboyant and flirtatious one is like a (clears throat) mini Brunello. Cherry, rose, tea, cedar and sandalwood seem so Sangiovese in a Grosso way. Who knew ’09 Beaujolais could seem so Tuscan.  90

DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE, chantilly cream, caramel popcorn

Good to go!

Eight big time value wines

PHOTO: SHOCK, FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Anyone who has dared to venture into wine stores within a week of Christmas knows that the pickings accelerate quickly from slim to none.

Related – VINTAGES, December 8th, 2012 release

Sure, January will bring new releases, but a paucity of good value wine at any time, let alone late December is tantamount to scandal. Staring forlornly into barren cubicles and languishing in long cash-out lines is no way to go through the holiday season. There will be no excuse for getting caught having to serve sickly-sweet, mass-produced plonk to hopeful party guests. As my friend Bob repeatedly reminds me, “it’s not an option.”

The plenitude on wine shelves over the next four days will make the other 361 pale by comparison. Get out there and stock up on the year’s last wine offer. Here are eight big time values to seek out from the final December release of 2012.

Eight big time value wines

The grape: Viognier

The history: Hails from the Northern Rhône in the wines of Condrieu

The lowdown: Alamos is the high-altitude, value offspring line from Argentina’s Laura (@MalbecLife) Catena

The food match: Mahi-Mahi with Blood Orange, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa

Alamos Viognier 2011 (507830, $13.95) is pretty fly for a white guy. I get Acacia blossom, nectarine and sweet cream. A Viognier to fool as to its origin and sure it sets out to “do that brand new thing” but this is no wannabe. Huge value from winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt and brand manager Jimena Turner.  Pleased to tout the value for both its phrenic and copacetic manner.  87

The grape: Grüner Veltliner

The history: White Austrian varietal known for its crisp, bright character

The lowdown: One of the most magnetic white wine producers anywhere

The food match: Potato Rösti, horseradish cream

Domaene Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2011 (965368, $13.95) is bar none, the best value in its class. Buffet of exotics; mandarin orange, longan, rambutan. Simmering acidity, no bitter nut, pith or endgame. Not necessarily long, yet satisfying .  88

The grapes: Xarello and Riesling

The history: Traditional varietal from Catalonia, often used in the production of  Cava

The lowdown: Blended with 15% Riesling, the Xarello comes alive

The food match: Seared and Slow Roasted Salmon, crumbled chorizo, salsa verde drizzle

Terraprima White 2011 (303552, $17.95) shows off a pastel but vivid colour, sidled by scents of spring almond tree blossom and autumn arbequina olive. Riesling injection adds more verve in the mouth, indicated by lemon and lime concentrate. Will work all seasons for a Penedes siesta chill.  88

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: From dry to sweet, the Loire’s expression of Chenin seems limitless

The lowdown: This one leans far left, sapless, not socialist

The food match: Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup, caramelized apple, spiced pumpkin seeds

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2010 (685362, $19.95) perches high atop a parched, molecular hilltop. Bread starter nip promises stuffed pastry filled with friable, early harvest apples. Wonderful, classic and dehumidified Vouvray.  91

The grapes: Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera

The history: Salice Salentino tends sun-dried, caramelized and sometimes even burnt, but in a good way

The lowdown: Puglia has turned Salice Salentino into an international sensation

The food match: Smoked and Braised Beef Short Rib, dried fruit, carrots, thyme

Leone De Castris Maiana Salice Salentino 2009 (717959, $13.95) is full-bodied like its brethren and definitive of the dark-skinned Negroamaro. Appasimento-like raisin, Amarone quality, peppered by anise and finishing near oxy by sun-ripened tomato, black plums and stewed prunes. If long and slow braised beef convinces it to relax, it will work just fine.  87

The grape: Gamay

The history: From the vineyard of Les Vins Aujoux in the Côte Du Py

The lowdown: Cru Beaujolais, especially from Morgon, can be exhilarating stuff

The food match: Gamay Risotto, candy beets, white truffle oil

Jacques Depagneux Côte De Py Morgon 2011 (299925, $18.95) parlays Gamay in the prettiest purple package. Violaceous, like young and approachable Nebbiolo, or even Montsant. Hawkish and snappy in its play calling with a volcanic, mineral feel that elevates its game. “I’m glad I know you” Beaujolais, from it’s a wonderful life of Py.  89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Unheralded (until now) winemaker Paul Battilana does his best Beaune impression

The history: Burgundy emerges as a limestone-influenced, light-bodied red in Prince Edward County

The food match: Turkey and Cranberry Pie with Sweet Potato Crust

Casa-Dea Pinot Noir 2009 (296210, $19.95) has won me over two years in a row as a top value Pinot Noir, not just in PEC, but in Ontario. Plush ruby robe, expertly extracted though it is so light on its feet. Less earth and clay than cousin Rosehall but this smells exactly as Pinot should. There is a minor note of fromagerie so consider pairing it so.  89

The Splurge

The grape: Petite Sirah

The history: Not to be confused with Syrah, this is the French varietal Durif

The lowdown: There is nothing remotely petite about this grape or this wine. Durif=énorme

The food match: Grilled Venison Loin, blackberry compote

Trentadue La Storia Petite Sirah 2010 (291047, $23.95) is massively concentrated out of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, as if it were packed with five centuries of the Italian American experience. Manages 14.9% alcohol with George Bailey-esque, heady grace. Tasted blind I commented, “if this is under $30 it’s an outrageous deal.” “Well whaddya know about that!!!. ” 92

Good to go!

Dude’s wine night

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Wine writers are rarely accused of being overworked. Tasting through 100 wines at a sitting requires effort and focus but it’s still got nothing on Mike Rowe. There is work and then there is play, like accepting an invitation to dinner prepared by a passionate and skilled cook, with a bottle of wine the price of admission. Talk about a no-brainer.

On Friday night I dug deep into the cellar for a ’97 Tuscan and joined five fellow geeks, “The Wine Dudes,” for an adventure ride through 10 wines from 4 countries. A line up to leave oneself in bewilderment and utter presence. Wines of yeast, lees, late harvest and élevage en cuve. Wines made by celebrities, of iconic status, from historic locales, in times of peace and in times of war. What a trip.

Jacquesson Cuvée No. 734 Champagne is a blend of all Premier or Grand Cru fruit; Chardonnay (54%), Pinot Meunier (26%) and Pinot Noir (20%), based upon the 2006 vintage (73%). Essentially vintage authentic, it’s a balanced affair of toast, honey and grapefruit.  90

LOBSTER BISQUE, fresh tarragon

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon 2005 by way of a note from JM is “really impressive with the bisque. Balanced richness and spiciness echoed the lobster, refreshing orchard fruit and dry honeyed finish, with lots of minerality to match the crushed shells.” Also from BE, “a honey pear start,  nice acid on the finish. Beeswaxy Sav nose.  Surprisingly harmonious match with the bisque. Rich enough to go toe to toe, but sharp enough on back end to cleanse palate.” Seems to me it “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.”

Podere Castorani Jarno Bianco Colline Pescaresi IGT 2006 (111690, $59.95) released back in June 0f 2009 is now a bronzed, verging on patina Madeira cocktail. The oxidation is philosophical, post-secondary and welcome, like finding a ’75 Chablis from the depths of dad’s cellar, opening, tasting and reveling in its ability to survive. One of a kind formula blend of Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 70%, Malvasia 20% and Cococciola 10% from Italian race car driver Jarno Trulli. Piques intrigue and opens a new dossier to white wine investigation.  89

BEEF CHUCK AND HEART HAMBURGERS, american cheese, fresh romano beans, panzanella salad, fennel

Georges Duboeuf Morgon 2010 (946186, $18.95) is Gamay defined, chipper and jocund. The simpleton whose heart is revealed after stripping away its body. A cold pull of pressed plum, gateway and seamless segway to bigger reds.  87

I Giusti & Zanza Belcore Toscana IGT 2009 (652990, $23.95) uses (20%) Merlot as travel partner for (80%) Sangiovese to learn another language abroad. Studies the fruity fresh undergrad Gamay, moves quickly forward to post-graduate, earthy Right Bank, satellite Saint-Emilion and returns home to write a doctorate on sonorous and thermal IGT.  88

Château Fonroque St. Emilion Grand Cru 2000 unseats Talbot as the non pareil Bordeaux coalescence of value and longevity from that vintage. Resolute to immaculate balance, black fruit steadfast against crumbling tannins and yet I can see this pushing on for 10 or more. “You like drinking ghosts,” says JM. Yes I do, yes I do.  93

Bosquets Des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 is deep into tertiary life, displaying prune and dried, Amarone-like fruit. Hangs on with nary a sign of further development or decline for hours so good on the Papes for its frisson of retribution.  90

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 1997 is bloody in so many ways; good, hell, yeah. “Like killing a stag and eating it” or ” like peeling a scab and eating it” is over heard. The elixir is pure silk, the fruit dark and divine. To be honest, this ’97 (nice coincidence) Brunello has entered a La Vita è bella window. All I can say to the now bite-less and bella Banfi is “Buono giorno Principessa!”  93

Château Musar 2002 (109413, $54.95) from the Bekaa Valley, a place more famous for air strikes than grapevines. The Bordeaux blend is here exceptional, prodigiously candied like Sonoma Pinot a la Merry Edwards, but with an added depth of ash and earth. A sponge of lush red fruit, “gargle material,” notes chef. Spends seven years in their cellars. In a peaceful world it would be called a shmita. Lebanon’s vinous muse.  91

FIRE POACHED FIGS, roasted chestnuts, ice cream

Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spätlese 2007 shows remarkable poise and lack of cloy. A cooperative of residual sweetness and acidity, still freshly ensconced in its primary stage of Riesling maturation. More perennial than petrol, more pear than paraffin.  92

Good to go!

Fiddleheads, Morels, Ramps, Rhubarb and Gamay

 

May 22, 2012

Fiddleheads already as adult ferns. Leeks unswelled, Morels hiding underground. Have I ever noted the forest so dusty, so dry? No rain. No moisture in the ground. This on the heels of the previously alluded to heterodoxical winter of no white stuff. Peer beneath the surface and a modest harvest is discovered.

Ramps of Modest Swell

At this point in the Spring Wild Leeks tend to burrow deeper underground but the lack of moisture finds them much closer to the surface. The unearthing is done with ease.

The boys dig in

The ferns are tall as a tree, wide as a house. The bracken sweeps across the forest floor. Healthy and climbing rhubarb is on the verge of going to seed.

Giant Ferns

  

Rhubarb

Dominique Piron Les Pierres Morgon 2009 (231969, $22.95) loads up on black cherries seeped in a floral bath of Brunnera, Heuchera and unfurled Matteuccie fougère-à-L’Autriche. Schist, granite and iron minerality imbue the wine with dynamic volume. The relationship between the Gamay and earthy vegetables are “all the more a pair of underwater pearls, than the oak tree and the resurrection fern.”  89

Piron Morgon 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fort continues to take shape…

Forest for The Fort

 

 

 

 

Good to go!