Fifteen ahead of VINTAGES April 15th

Yes we did. Who shucks’em cleaner anywhere close to the headwaters? #nobody @TideandVine

The VINTAGES April 15th release is all about value. I tasted through close to 100 over these past few weeks and wines under $20 are what stood out from the pack. My recommendations include four under $15 and six more under $18. Everything needed to get you through five months of impending warm weather is right here, right now. Enjoy.

Animus 2014, Doc Douro, Portugal (385302, $12.95, WineAlign)

@VFvinhos  @ProfileWineGrp  @winesportugalCA

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2014, Pdo Naoussa, Greece (23218, $13.95, WineAlign)

@boutari  @KolonakiGroup  @DrinkGreekWine

Casal De Ventozela Espadeiro Rosé 2016, Vinho Verde, Portugal (450841, $13.95, WineAlign)

  @vinhosverdes  @winesportugalCA  @LeSommelierWine

Chateau D’aigueville Côte Du Rhône Villages 2015, Ac Rhône, France (479683, $14.95, WineAlign)

  @Eurovintage  @VINSRHONE

Lorca Selección Monastrell 2008, Do Bullas, Spain (380238, $15.95, WineAlign)

@BodegasRosario  @TheCaseForWine  @DOP_Bullas

Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Langhorne Creek, South Australia, Australia (429241, $16.95, WineAlign)

From Langhorne Creek and reeking of exoticsim, the aptly-named Spice Trader is a glass of full-bodied shiraz-cabernet sauvignon savour. The seasonings are zesty, spirited, piquant and then finally, settled into a mulled warmth. Red peppercorn, cardamom and allspice bring a Malabar-Zanzibar, dhow-drift sail through the red fleshy fruit. No kernel is left uncracked and the spiked liquere leaves a lingering lift. More Langhorne than cabernet or shiraz but full of flavour. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted January 2017  @heartlandwines  @TheVine_RobGroh

La Griffe Bernard Chéreau Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2015, Sur Lie, Ap Loire, France (948182, $16.95, WineAlign)

@HHDImports_Wine  @LoireValleyWine

Alkoomi White Label Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Frankland River, Western Australia, Australia (428383, $16.95, WineAlign)

@Alkoomi  @TFBrands

Château La Verrière 2014, Ac Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France (349274, $17.95, WineAlign)

@MajesticWineInc  @BordeauxWines

Jaspi Negre 2013, Montsant, Spain (481085, $17.95, WineAlign)

@cocaifito  Grape Brands Fine Wine & Spirits

Tornatore Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio 2014, Doc Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy (487090, $21.95, WineAlign)

Domaine De Riaux Pouilly Fumé 2015, Ac Loire, France (200063, $25.95, WineAlign)

@LoireValleyWine  Old Cellar Collection

Closson Chase Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (145888, $29.95, WineAlign)

@ClossonChase

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

    @rogcowines

Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2009, Doca Rioja, Spain (743310, $57.95, WineAlign)

@bodegasmuga  @Vinexxpert  @RiojaWine  @Wines_fromSpain

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Super Bowl XLVIII wine odds

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
Photo: AP Photo

as seen on canada.com

As a Super Bowl libation of choice do you consider wine a foray into the arena of the absurd? If so, you may be right, but you may be wrong. The Super Bowl is absurd. So, what are the odds that wine figures into your Super Bowl gathering? You might just be surprised.

I have participated in the same season-long NFL pool for the past 27 years. It was a “fax” pool in the 90′s and persists as an early days of the internet, send your picks in by e-mail endeavour. I’m still waiting for our administrator to make use of a free internet betting site but then again, there is a certain kind of comfort in the naiveté of low stakes, old-school pool participation. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t watch a single snap without something riding on the games. With apologies to my Peyton Manning-worshipping son, the NFL is just not that interesting and it’s a brutal sport.

Think about it. The game itself is a barbaric testosterone display of gladiator proportions, a war waged by freak of nature behemoths intent on killing one another between the blow of every whistle. Watch an NFL game and you’ll see that a player remains down and hurting after almost every play from scrimmage. When an elite athlete stays down, trust me, he’s hurt. Something has pulled, torn or broken nearly every time you see it.

Then there are the costs; production, hosting, advertising and tickets. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, “At $4M for Super Bowl ad, it’s ‘almost impossible’ to see return on investment.” The cost to Jersey City for hosting “is a tax on our resources to some degree,” said Mayor Steve Fulop. According to NewJersey.com, “the police presence alone will cost city taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.” The market for ticket prices opened at $4,000 but now they are just giving them away, with $3,088 being the current average price as of Tuesday afternoon, this according to the Bleacher Report. If you think the prices are too high, you have no business going to the Super Bowl. In 2013 Beyoncé was not paid for performing at the halftime show, though she was awarded $600,000 for “production costs.”

Is this shaping up to be the saddest Super Bowl ever? Joshua M. Brown sure thinks so. “This Sunday, Super Bowl XLVIII (48) will be played in an open-air stadium, built atop a New Jersey swamp, in 2 degree weather, while pretending it’s actually taking place in New York.” So, now does it seem like such a far-fetched idea to drink wine while watching the Super Bowl? Sure, 99 per cent of the American Football hypnotized viewers will have a beer or 12 on Sunday. Hopefully a few thousand will be creative enough to get up from the couch and source something local and craft-related. I will be bringing fine-ish wine to the grid iron festivities. There are well thought out, dedicated and purposed reasons for my choices.

The original elite athletes on this planet were from ancient Greece. Though they may not have tossed around or beat each other silly over an oblong-shaped ball covered in pigskin, they personify the term ‘forbearer’ for real sport. Besides, real men drink Greek red wine.

Wine produced in a region defined by its volcano is also a must. Nowhere does the vinous world bequeath an emphatic lava flow of energy and verve like Etna. Football is a mob mentality game of raw and pure emotion, much like the terroir-driven Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from Sicily.

Zinfandel is a natural for the Super Bowl. Bold, deep, dark, rich and striking. The brambly flavours scream rough and tough. Zinfandel always lives on the edge. It will also stand up to and support the fatty, greasy and cheesy gamut of flavours on the SB coffee table.

A classic Cabernet-Merlot blend is a must for all the red meat that will be consumed on Sunday. Don’t bother with the modernity or overpricing of soft, voluptuous and velvety Bordeaux or Napa.  This game and your aged beef require some grit. If you live in Canada, go local, as in Okanagan Valley or Niagara Peninsula.

For the sensitive and cerebral man, the Peyton Manning armchair quarterback if you will, look for a well-aged and thoughtful white wine. Hunter Valley Semillon comes to mind. The last time the Seattle Seahawks played in the Super Bowl was 2006. That strikes me as a good vintage to help settle the score.

Here are my five wine picks for Super Bowl 2014 and some music to match.

From left: NICOSIA FONDO FILARA ETNA ROSSO 2010, THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS YN KAI OUPAVÓS XINOMAVRO 2010, MCWILLIAM'S MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON 2006, RAVENSWOOD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010, and MALIVOIRE 'STOUCK' CABERNET/MERLOT 2010

From left: NICOSIA FONDO FILARA ETNA ROSSO 2010, THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS YN KAI OUPAVÓS XINOMAVRO 2010, MCWILLIAM’S MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON 2006, RAVENSWOOD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010, and MALIVOIRE ‘STOUCK’ CABERNET/MERLOT 2010

NICOSIA FONDO FILARA ETNA ROSSO 2010, Sicily, Italy (362129, $19.95, WineAlign)

Wines from Sicily’s Mt. Etna region and the indigenous variety known as Nerello Cappuccio may seem like a space oddity to many but those who have opened their hearts and minds to the volcanic wonders float “in a most peculiar way.” This Rosso carves a bowie-knife line of lava mineral and Mediterranean salinity right through with bang on acidity and vitality of red fruit. A minor detractor in that it’s a bit saturated, muddled and earthy for Etna, but it brings the mountain down to the tasting room. Licorice, cirasu, plum and the dried grape feeling of zibbibbu. Contagious in spirit.  90  Tasted January 2014

THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS YN KAI OUPAVÓS XINOMAVRO 2010, Unfiltered, Naoussa, Greece (360750, $19.95, WineAlign)

Magnificent Macedonian, built upon the unheralded yet stalwart variety Xinomavro. Pure, sweet-smelling gardenia and the refuse of ancient rolling stones express every bit of sun and wind-swept, low bush vines goodness. Purposefully and thankfully unfiltered, so that all the delicious sweet and sour cherry and great biting but sweet tannin are left in. Purity, good sugar/alcohol heights without oak corruption. Earth possessive of mythic undercurrent, sage, wealth of  knowledge, sweet anise and hyssop. Scents of game on the grill. Amazing complexity and length. While tasting this Xinomavro it made me “feel so hypnotized, can’t describe the scene.” Get your rocks off to the Greek 91  Tasted January 2014  @thymiopoulosvin

MCWILLIAM’S MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON 2006, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia  (724492, $19.95, WineAlign)

Such a rare occasion to peer into the portal of aged Hunter Valley Semillon so expectations run high along the lines of gain the ridge and peer out over the great expanse. Emerging classic secondary notes, in tropical low-bush, caramelizing tangy fruit meets sweet hive sticky fashion but, and I take care to be sure, the fruit suffers under a yoke of petrol and a scraping of rocks. The lemon is faint, the fruit disappointingly fading. Listen closely to her voice, “I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin.” Sure, acidity steals the show but at what cost? Still, a study in Semillon is always a positive so the cellar aging and delayed release must be appreciated. Oh, well89  Tasted January 2014   @McWilliamsWines

RAVENSWOOD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010, Sonoma County, California, U.S.A. (673798, $21.95, WineAlign)

Consistency thy name is Ravenswood in the key of Zinfandel. From typically gnarly old vines scattered around Sonoma County and so young at heart. As solid as a wine can be when blending from so many sites. Vanilla is its calling card, flavouring the pool of berry syrup along with a tobacco-like smokey accent. Good tartness balances the rich fruit. At only 5g/L of residual sugar, this Zinfandel reaches sugar mountain with natural sweetness so, “ain’t it funny how you feel when you’re finding out it’s real.” Bring on the big game chili and beef stew.  89  Tasted January 2014

MALIVOIRE ’STOUCK’ CABERNET/MERLOT 2010, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (321836, was $29.95, now $24.25, WineAlign)

This Niagara Bordeaux-inspired blend comes from a legendary vineyard in the making. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot all ripen and develop phenolic pitch with Findhorn-like, remarkable quality. How and why it ended up on the VINTAGES Bin-End list is beyond explanation. It was a must buy before, now it’s a steal. From A long and ‘wine-ding’ tasting road:  ”From down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a pitchy rendition with a pronounced roasted espresso note. Seems to me the motherly, Cabernet Franc’s genes have imparted their wisdom into this (63%) Cabernet Sauvignon dominant beauty with big Cassis fruit. Chic, juicy, with a filled in mid-palate and stiff structure. Grab a glass, “leave your cares behind, these are the good times.”  91  Tasted March 2013  @MalivoireWine

Good to go!

2013: It was the best of wines

Red wines

15 wine releases $30 and over
Photo: Steve Cukrov/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The long and wine-ding road of 2013 began with a personal plea for it to be the year of drinking better wine. I wrote about iconic wines at affordable prices and a personal hermeneutic public service announcement, a wine prescription for cold and flu. January rounded out with good reds, twenty-somethings, Robbie Burns, weekday wines and a wine analogy Super Bowl prediction gone bad.

I played pond hockey, chatted about wine and said no to ambient, rich pinks because you gotta be cruel to be wine for Valentine’s.  Real wines, more hockey, Oscars, French grapes and a Somewhereness sea of grape-driven humanity occupied my winter thoughts, along with California, The Beamsville Bench, Cuvée 2013 and the zeitgeist of my virgin expert’s tasting with music as its guide. Cool grapes marched on with wines for the Ides, St. Patrick, Passover, Momofuku in Toronto and New York City.

Spring brought 100-km wine, value reds, sunshine, Masters’ colours, a Stanley Cup for house league hockey, Ontario wine events, Peter Franus, wild leeks and Mother’s Day. There was a ‘London Calling’ for Canadian wine, Go Gamay Go, an averted LCBO strike and the Elsie Awards. I delved into the schadenfreude matters of tasting notes, the humanity in real value wine and the Venn Diagrams in a paradox of accents.

The weather warmed, I cooked for 1,300 Ultimate Frisbee players, contemplated the Rolling Stones and struck Semillon in a showcase showdown. Father’s Day, Riesling and the Canada Day long weekend preceded excursions to Fenway Park and the eleemosynary earth in the North Fork of Long Island. This followed by a search for the wine pulse of the Finger Lakes and the indelible stamp of British Columbia‘s Okanagan Valley.

The International Cool Climate Chardonnay conference took Niagara by storm (literally), leading into the August long weekend. I wrote on Sauvignon Blanc, chill red wine, The Great Canadian Wine Challenge, Free My Grapes and the plea for wine to flow across Canadian provinces.

September came, as did Low alcohol wine for the High Holidays. Ontario wines shone on, especially those from Stratus, along with Spanish and Italian reds. I touted the vinous acumen of Canadian wines for Thanksgiving, the wines of Chile, the best from Ontario and presided as guest judge at the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013. October ended with Champagne and reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween.

Napa Valley came to town, there were private tastings with Ontario winemakers and I made notes on Canadian made apolitical wines. There were gems, Friday bites, Beaujolais Nouveau and more from Italy. At the end of November I wondered if the wine sign of the apocalypse was upon us. Sparkling wines and the unavoidable Christmas picks have brought us to here.

Edward Steinberg once asked Angelo Gaja, “how do you make the best wine?” to which Gaja replied, “with the best grapes.” In tasting notes I extrapolate from that base and simple notion, with an intent to convey the salient facts of the grape’s life, to give life to the agriculture, even if the first two syllables are removed in the process.

Tasting notes can be clerihews, pithy poems that begin with a winemaker’s name, become the reviewer’s purport and more often than not, are penned in four lines. Word play leading the mind to consider wine as anagram, palindrome and lipogram. Writing a tasting note not as a vinous jape, but rather an artfully woven acrostic.

Reviews align like Burma Shave signs on North American highways, spaced one hundred feet apart, connected by their language. Phrases are turned on their heads, causing the notes to be peculiarly unsuccessful in making any decided impact upon the consumer college. So be it.

The musical and other (sometimes) obscure references bring about metaphasis to the tasting notes, an habitual transposition of sounds, connecting smell, flavour and structure to groove, pitch and aesthetic. The best wines produce the greatest emotion and excess of language. Here is a look back at the top 15-$30 and over releases tasted in 2013 and the tasting notes that brought them to light.

15 wine releases $30 and over

From left: RAINOLDI CRESPINO VALTELLINA SUPERIORE 2006, TAWSE CABERNET FRANC LAUNDRY VINEYARD 2010, CHARLES BAKER WINES RIESLING 'PICONE VINEYARD' 2011, PETER FRANUS RED WINE 2008, and FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2007

From left: RAINOLDI CRESPINO VALTELLINA SUPERIORE 2006, TAWSE CABERNET FRANC LAUNDRY VINEYARD 2010, CHARLES BAKER WINES RIESLING ‘PICONE VINEYARD’ 2011, PETER FRANUS RED WINE 2008, and FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2007

RAINOLDI CRESPINO VALTELLINA SUPERIORE 2006, Lombardy, Italy (316331, $31.95, WineAlign)

Composed of 100 per cent Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo) from Lombardy. Grace, flowing ruby robe, striking. Lit by cherries bathing in a silica and gravel mineral bath, tightly wound in a swirling pensieve of real vinous thought. Elevated by cool, altitudinous breezes and gothic, statuesque like a Mantegazza. Northern, alpine and proud.  93  Tasted April 2013  @VinumValtellina  From: Top ten wines for May Day

TAWSE CABERNET FRANC LAUNDRY VINEYARD 2010, Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130997, $31.95, WineAlign)

Assures us of several things. First, 2010 was a gift for making idiot-proof Cab Franc in Niagara, Second, the Lincoln Lakeshore is one of three obvious and essential CF locales in Niagara. Third and most important, properly adjudicated new oak can elevate CF to the upper reaches of the cool-climate troposphere. While not as masculine or bovine like brother Van Bers, Laundry’s got black cherry, tar, coal, herbs and a peaceful, grilling feeling. Essential CF from winemaker Paul Pender.  92  Tasted July 2013  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender  From: Alternative wines for the August long weekend

CHARLES BAKER WINES RIESLING ‘PICONE VINEYARD’ 2011, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

Does not so much pick up where cracking ’09 left off (with no offence meant to the soothing and tuneful ’10) but rather re-writes the Baker book. From the almost famous windswept vineyard atop the Vinemount Ridge, this Picone, from older Riesling plantings is crazy lively. That ’10 is now imbued with rich, oily glück. The ’11 will realize such a future, but much further along and in combination with its inborn tension. Right up there with Baker’s “perfect vintage” 2006.  93  Tasted October 2013  @cbriesling  From: Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013

PETER FRANUS RED WINE 2008, Red Hills Lake County Red, California ($39.95)

Composed of Syrah (85 per cent), Grenache (10) and Mourvèdre (5) comes from Fore Family Vineyards fruit on the top of 3000 foot Cobb Mountain. A fiery paradox of climate met by altitude works a strange magic on the grapes. It’s no mistral but rather some sort of wine weather occult. This SGM is highly influenced by a very tempest of dramatic temperature changes, from solar radiation to cool, tempering Pacific breezes and at great heights. Exhibits the hills’ red earth, in colour, in fragrance and in rich berry flavour. I’m grateful for this SGM blend, cool and hot at the same time, “almost ablaze still you don’t feel the heat.”  93  Tasted April 2013  @ProfileWineGrp  From: The Wine Diaries: Peter Franus

FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2007, Campania, Italy ($39.95)

Lush and gorgeous. The most immediately gratifying young Aglianico yet such an infant. Earthbound red berries, perfectly ripe plums, biting tannin and off the charts acidity. Epochal verve of Middle Pleistocene volcanic rocksSouthern Italian equivalent to Southern Rhône reds, offering tremendous value under $50 where Bordeaux and Tuscany pedantically fall short. Should join the ranks of recent great vintages, ’01 and ’04.  93  Tasted January 2013  @FeudiDSGregorio  @StemWineGroup  From: Iconic wines, affordable prices

From left: CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010, BACHELDER CHARDONNAY WISMER VINEYARD 2010, CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, GIROLAMO RUSSO SAN LORENZO 2008, and PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008

From left: CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010, BACHELDER CHARDONNAY WISMER VINEYARD 2010, CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, GIROLAMO RUSSO SAN LORENZO 2008, and PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010, St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (319525, $40, SAQ,  11156334, $41.25, WineAlign)

From the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard is a classically styled blend of 50 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 per cent Cabernet Franc and 25 per cent Merlot, only made in exceptional years. Apropos choice from 25-year old vines (in 2010) from the warmer St. David’s Bench for Cuvée’s 25th show.  Poised, balanced and regal yet this mare is temporarily a head-shy, sensitive equine red. Will trot out furlongs of tobacco and meaty aromas from now and through maturity in five plus years. A saddle of round, red fruit will age gracefully.  92  Tasted March 2013  @MBosc  From: Top juice flows at Cuvée 25th anniversary

BACHELDER CHARDONNAY WISMER VINEYARD 2010, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (345819, $44.95, WineAlign)

So sumptuous, presumptuous and precocious. Ahead of the curve, effortless and full of 20 mile mineral length. The ripe green apple never quits. My earlier note from Top juice flows at Cuvée 25th anniversary from the Twenty Mile (Vineland) Bench is the most righteous, understated charred butterscotch remoulade sauce of dreams. Richly textured and built upon a sneaky, slow and stretched breath of wild yeasts. A creeper, gatherer and traveler of both knowledge and persistence. The journey with Thomas Bachelder as related by partner Mary Delaney, from out of Quebec, by way of Ponzi and Lemelson in Oregon and to Niagara is the stuff of dreams. Tasted twice same night and hypnotized both times.  94  Tasted July 2013  @Bachelder_wines  From: Hot weekend wines and cool Chardonnay

CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, Priorat, Spain (156398, $49.95, WineAlign)

Stupid gorgeous Priorat and though inaccessible to most of us mere mortals, if you were to shell out $50 in November for one wine, this has to be considered. A blend of 65 per cent Cariñena, 22 per cent Garnacha, with a smattering of Syrah and Merlot. Pure purple pitch, an early summer Catalonian garden in bloom, air warm, breeze light. Wow. Blows high priced Napa and over the top Châteauneuf-du-Pape out of the water. The oak is so beautifully integrated.  94  Tasted October 2013  From: Nine big November best buy wines

GIROLAMO RUSSO SAN LORENZO 2008, Sicily, Italy ($59.95)

From agronomist and oenologist Giuseppe Russo lives a Sicilian dream. Composed of Etna’s indigenous Nerello Mascalese with a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio, this red is a veritable lava flow of molten magma, volcanic igneous solder and opulent Scoria. Pure, unchained fruit, no disguise, striking.  94  Tasted February 2013  @Oenophilia1  From: Real wines, whisky and boys night out

PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008, Piedmont, Italy (280412, $68.00, WineAlign)

This just has the look, the look of love. “A look that time can’t erase.” Nebbiolo you can see right through, this impossible light, this impossible life. Tea, tar and roses. A mineral spring, iron-earth field, where the game runs wild. You can relate to this Barolo, love it, relish it now but it will give pleasure for years. Not necessarily 25 but certainly 10-15. “Well, it takes my breath away.” Great vineyard.  94  Tasted October 2013  From: Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

From left: M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, and MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006

From left: M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, and MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006

M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, Ac Northern Rhône, France (280420, $82.95, WineAlign)

Strictly beautiful Syrah. The offspring of the Côte Rôtie’s two necessary points of view. First, the schist, silt and shingle of the Brune. Second, the silica and limestone of the Blonde. In combination they produce an iron-rust wine of a ferruginous nature, in colour and in aroma. Seeping, exotic Rooibos tea, Provençal tapenade and smouldering flowers send smoke signals clear as day. Smells so rich though it’s full of grace and bathed in ultra-elegance.  94  Tasted October 25, 2013  From: Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, Ac Champagne, France (69773, $83.95, WineAlign)

May not be the esteemed house and vintage of the century’s love-child but I can’t think of a single reason not to spend a pittance more on a vintage-dated Champagne like this Moët in lieu of a sea of NV alternatives. Granted it’s wound maddeningly tight, spewing still young venom, crazed by pear and citrus concentrate but…trust must be placed in its charms. This Moët is quite refined. Apples tempered in acidity, beloved for its building blocks, it’s really good Champagne.  94  Tasted November 2013  @MoetUSA  From: Ten sparkling wines to life

DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, Monopole, Ac, Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

From Mathieu Mangenot’s ”Grand Cru” plots, the Monopole holdings in the steep amphitheatre slope of Vaudésir and the gentle rise of Les Preuses. The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine. He spoons piles of flint and chunks of rock. He explains the tin pan elevation of Chablis and Chardonnay squeezed from the bedrock, capturing every last drop of geology, refuse of stars and fossils of the ancient animals. Stoic, metazoic, super Chablis, with tremendous length. How can this Chablis have so much fruit but no apple, no lemon, no pith. “You think things are straight but they’re not what they seem.” Candy for the soul. Novacaine in liquid form. Amazing.  94  Tasted November 2013  From: Twelve days of wine for Christmas

CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (344887, $101.95, Quebec $85.00, WineAlign)

A mild sylvan reductive stink is neither abstruse nor in fruit obstruction. What we have here is a brass tax in Chardonnay histrionics. Yellow and green tree fruit, wicked wild yeast game and just about as much ruminating, mineral tang as one might desire. Something wicked this way woos my wistful longing for quality white Burgundy. I could imagine drinking this well into my pension days.  95  Tasted November 2013  From: Twelve days of wine for Christmas

MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, Doc, Veneto, Italy (215764, $99.95, WineAlign)

If a wine clocking in at 16 per cent alcohol by volume can be considered elegant and restrained and if that’s even possible, the Mazzano is the one. Though there is nothing outright prune, dried raisin or fig paste about it, this single-vineyard Amarone is enormously tannic. Any attempt at cracking its hard shell inside of 15-20 years should be thought of as counter-productive. Smells like the aforementioned fruit just picked at maximum ripeness so there is nothing cooked, roasted or overdone here. You simply have to wait for tertiary complexity to see what it will become. I sense great. Near-perfect vintage.  96  Tasted October 2013  From: Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

Good to go!

Real wines, whisky and Boys’ Night Out

(Photo: Kevin Hewitt/kevinhewitt.ca and Jill Chen/freestylefarm.ca)

as seen on canada.com

This has been a most excellent week for tasting real wines and high-spirited whisky.

Real wine is made in the vineyard. That refrain plays truer than ever in 2013. Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni have left the Wine Advocate. The pendulum is swinging in the right direction, back to balanced wines that work for food. The winemaker to follow today is a farmer at heart, a commissioner of the soil and a student of geology. Their wines speak of geography defined, connect to specific plots and preach on behalf of precise parcels. They do not winnow away the chaff, nor do they manipulate by adding and subtracting that which is unnatural. They may ferment and blend as a scientist might experiment but when all is said and done, they are the land’s faithful and loyal messenger.

Whisky is another matter altogether. Can any other distilled spirit rise so guilelessly at the hands of the master blender? Manipulation and pedagogue are essential and necessary to the production of great malts. Like wine, Whisky certainly talks terroir but not without tough love intervention. On Wednesday night I hosted a boys’ night out at Barque Smokehouse, poured three Single Malt Scotch Whiskies and one of a Canadian Single Barrel. The next afternoon I tasted the most unique and delicious red to date in 2013, thanks to the generosity of Gerardo Diaz. That was followed up with a cross-section of the Tawse Winery portfolio, poured by the one and only Daniel Beiles. As we head into the Family Day Weekend, here are seven wine and whisky tasting notes.

Girolamo Russo San Lorenzo 2008  from agronomist and oenologist Giuseppe Russo lives a Sicilian dream. Composed of Etna’s indigenous Nerello Mascalese with a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio, this red is a veritable lava flow of molten magma, volcanic igneous solder and opulent Scoria. Pure, unchained fruit, no disguise, striking.  94

Tawse Gamay Noir 2011 (322545, $18.95) indicates Cru vineyard quality in its mineral character, fresh plum fruit and serious structure. Modern Burgundy meets unlikely Niagara. Akin to Moulin à Vent if you will, though this Paul Pender inaugural bottling is all Niagara Peninsula.  Coming to VINTAGES March 2, 2013.  88  @Tawse_Winery

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road 2010 (111989, $34.95) continues to belay the warmth of the vintage, having emerged from a green apple shell and into a citrus revolution. Minor oak dawn is gone but not the thrill. Vinemount Ridge appellation limestone living large here with a colour to lead the imagination free to see the patina of its future. From minimum barrel char to maximum VR, as in very racy. So good, so right. You never come back from Quarry Road.  92  @Paul_Pender

Boys’ Night Out

Barque Smokehouse

Smoked Maple Glazed Peameal and Slaw Sliders
Duck Tacos with Pickled Radish, Carrots and A-Hoy-Sin Sauce

The Benriach Matured in Sherry Wood 12 Years Old Single Malt (303123, $66.95) from the Gaelic meaning “speckled or gray mountain” hails from Speyside. The Ben-ree-uck is aged in Spanish Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez casks resulting in a rich, caramel colour. Fig, date and Tawny Port like aromas. Sweet anise and faint chocolate. From a house once in disrepute, this SMS is now in full re-peat.   90  @TheBenRiach

Wemyss Malts Caol Ila Islay 1996 Single Malt (273896, $122.95) went to cask in 1996 and was bottled as a 15 year-old in 2011. Incredibly troggish Islay, of sea salts, aesculapian iodine and mephitic peat. Monstrous in odor yet subtle in colour and nectarous in flavour. An exercise in triumvirate Scotch mastery. Wild thing, “you make my heart sing.”  94  @WemyssMalts

Smoked Dry Rub Chicken Wings
Smoked Competition Chicken Thighs
Polenta and Parmigiano-Reggiano Fries

Barque Chicken Wings
(Photo: Kevin Hewitt/kevinhewitt.ca and Jill Chen/freestylefarm.ca)

Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky (205906, $84.95) from the Sazerac Spirit Company in Louisiana is Canadian Whisky bottled in Kentucky.  You might think this butterscotch and woodpile in a bottle would suffer from identity crisis but it is actually quite-well adjusted. Smooth and creamy going in, harsh and demanding going down. A rye-raging SB, wholly unique and unlike any other, including its brothers and sisters of the same barrel.  88  @sazeracrye

The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Years Old (620229, $134.95) is a twist on a very familiar favourite friend. From three barrels, American Bourbon, American Sherry and Spanish Sherry Cask. Creamy malted milk, musky barley and turbinado sugar with the faintest whiff of smoke on a Speyside peat frame. Dried orange peel and chocolate, lithe and airy, delicate but sure.  Class in a bottle.  92  @The_Macallan

Barque Sampler Platter
(Photo: Kevin Hewitt/kevinhewitt.ca and Jill Chen/freestylefarm.ca)

Smoked Brisket
Barque Rack O’bama aka an Alabama Style Rib aka Make Sticky Ribs
Roasted Vegetables
Chocolate Cheesecake

Good to go!

A wine’s a wine for Robbie Burns

A glass of Scotch whisky is pictured on a portrait of Robbie Burns.
PHOTO: PAT MCGRATH/POSTMEDIA NEWS

as seen on canada.com

“Go fetch to me a pint o wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie.”

He was lionized as the Ploughman’s Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire, writer, lyricist and favourite son of Scotland. Robert “Rabbie” Burns, Robden of Solway Firth, is the most famous Scot ever, no matter how many times Braveheart replays on TV. William Wallace got nothin’ on Robbie, who penned “Scots Wha Hae” and “Auld Lang Syne.” And yes, the bard liked his wine.

Robbie Burns day falls on Friday, January 25th, commemorating the writer’s birth date in 1759. Revelers will listen to pipers, sip wee drams of Scotch and scarf down balloons of Haggis. The Irish will join the party, if only for a day, donning the plaid and pouring a stout or two. This is the Scottish beer I plan to crack open on Friday.

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish (224881, $3.35) offers the thought of dried apricots, soaked and swelling, drizzled with agave and then stewed with black licorice and carob. Bold Scot this Innis, “well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.” Holy malted milk Batman! Just slightly chilled, this Edinburgh elixir hints at sweet and stout. Happiness is a warm Gunn.  90

If it must be Scotch for you on Friday, look to Margaret Swaine for advice. The Robert Burns World Federation noted that Rabbie “would be astonished at his fame today,” and I would add that he might be rolling about in his proverbial grave at the thought of pairing fine wine with his countrymen’s modern-day celebrations. Let’s be honest here. Scotch and beer don’t speak to every Scot on the planet and certainly not to the rest of us who want to partake in the festivities. So, out on another limb I go. Failing the sudden import of Campbells Bobbie Burns Shiraz, here are four wines to raise a glass to the poet on January 25th.

Raise a glass to Robbie Burns

The grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco and Sangiovese

The history: Mostly indigenous varietal blend from Calabria at the toe of the Italian peninsula

The lowdown: Exotic and unusual, a red wine unlike anything you will have ever tried

The food match: Traditional Haggis

Odoardi Savuto 2006 (303057, $13.95) is something I have never nosed before. Truffles, mushroom, soy sauce, balsamic, caramelized onion and an Arran-esque sherry cask note to boot. Juicy toffee candy apple, coffee, earth, tobacco and fruit leather. So unusual and absolutely worth the $14 flyer.  87

The grape: Moscato Bianco

The history: A versatile varietal that produces a number of wine styles and sweetness levels. In Piedmont it is light, sparkling and sweet

The lowdown: Weighs in at a mere 5.5% abv, like beer, perfect for a Burnsian night

The food match: Champit Tatties

Ricossa Antica Casa Moscato D’Asti 2011 (72272, $15.95) effervesces ever so slightly and whiffs white flowers. Sweet and honeyed, nearing a golden amber reminiscent of a Highland Whisky. Marmalade, waxy lemon and candied ginger are present and the wine is never cloying. Studious prototype.  89  @SelectWines_BC

The grape: Merlot

The history: Kitschy label originated in St. Helena, California. Often donated to charity auctions

The lowdown: A wine you might want to hate but it’s astonishingly beautiful and complex

The food match: Lamb, Barley, Wilted Greens and Roast Roots

Marilyn 25 Anniversary Merlot 2009 (306738, $39.95, B.C. 491357, $41.99)  may be to some a “wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie” but it’s really more man than a mouse. Firm and taut yet rounded and full-bodied, this is voluptuous and irresistible stuff. Hang out with Marilyn and you might get to meet the kind of people Maf met. Some do like it hot and with a noticeable smokey peat, alcohol note, hot is what you get. A bombshell.  90  @MarilynWines

The grape: Riesling

The history: From John Howard on the Niagara Peninsula

The lowdown: Deeper than many of its peers, probably because “we kept them outdoors for a few days longer”

The food match: Cranachan

Megalomaniac Coldhearted Riesling Icewine 2008 (243519, 200 mL, $29.95) is a wonderful rendition of winter harvest Ontario Riesling. Candied peach, succulent orange marmalade and vanilla conjoin with Speyside-like lavender and a red, red rose. Grape as barley, wine as deep elixir. A fascinating conundrum. Icewine possessed of a Riesling riddle, wrapped in a brave mystery, inside a coldhearted enigma, “that’s sweetly played in tune.”  92  @megalomaniacwns @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!