Sottimano a Sottimano

It was back in April when Bernard asked John and I to meet for a quick tasting because Elena Sottimano was in town. Several decades ago her father Rino Sottimano began his nebbiolo journey with just a few hectares but those precious blocks were in the Cottá Cru. It suffices to say that it was more than luck but also the Piemontese version of land meeting human intervention that have brought these wines to the pinnacle they are found to be at today.

Sottimano is the 18 hectare, Neive in Barbaresco project of Rino Sottimano, his wife Anna and children, Andrea and Elena. These are some of the most human, understood, necessary, gratifying and satisfying Piemontese wines you are ever going to taste. They make you think, smile, wink, cry and sigh. They speak of the vineyard and how properly they are treated. The nebbioli get under your skin, teach you what you need to know and tell you that everything is alright. They are good friends, therapists and if need be, they can be festaioli.

Elena led us through delightful dolcetto, ante-brooding barbera, worth twice the price Langhe and then six Barbaresco from four outstanding Cru; Pajoré, Fausoni, Cottà and Currá. Thanks to Le Sommelier, Sottimano’s Ontario agent and Taverna Mercatto, for hosting. Here are my notes on the nine wines.

John Szabo M.S., Godello and Elena Sottimano

Sottimano Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Bric Del Salto 2016, Piemonte, Italy (330738, $22.95, WineAlign)

From a vintage certified as classical for a modern and grounded dolcetto style in the vein of 2004 and 2010. This from the first vineyard planted by Elena’s father in 1975 and 41 years later turns out a purity of fruit for one of the most important modern vintages in Piemonte. Warm days, cold nights, easy and simple work in the winery, so overall just perfect conditions. Simply put this is found to be rich, salty, fresh and bright. Bric del Salto is a fantasy name, the “jump or peak of the hill,” made up for this combing of three vineyards. It’s curative, made ideal with hard crumbly cheese and a bowl of red sauce pasta plus a slice of pizza. And this bottle. Rendered only in stainless steel, fresh and perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  az.agr.sottimano ElenaSottimano  @AzAgrSottimano  @LeSommelierWine  @AziendaAgricolaSottimano  Elena Sottimano  @LeSommelierWine</

Sottimano Barbera d’Alba DOC Superiore Pairolero 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

Barbera’s is a similar vinification, 25 days like Barbareso, a long maceration, bringing the magical, natural cure and understated barbera skin affection. Sees a small (10) per cent of new French wood plus second, third and fourth passage barrels, eight to 10 months sur lie and natural malolactic. There is nothing so wound, tart, tang and gently sour like this, in fact it’s perfect for barbera. Red fruit perfect, no darkness and no brooding. Vines are in San Cristoforo and Basarin, on sandy clay soil, keeping it mineral, salty, long and ultimately classic. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (454017, $32.95, WineAlign)

Langhe Nebbiolo is from the Basarin Vineyard, not used for single-vineyard Barbaresco because the vines are only 15-20 years old, planted in 2000. It is aged for one year in oak, eight to 10 months sur lie. Elena Sottimano admits that perhaps their fruit will be committed to Basarin as they age, but for now they are separated or if you will, de-classified. There is a cool, mentholated streak running through, with a particular spice and though it used to be 25 per cent new barrel, starting in 2015, it’s a mere 10 per cent new. The lees is so apparent, in texture but also in the way the wine knows itself from birth and doesn’t need time to announce who and what it is. Chalky and tannic in a greater ionic way, prosodic of two short followed by two long syllables, architectural in the way nebbiolo must be. At this price and labeled Langhe this from Sottimano slings more pleasure and as much structure as at least half af all Barbaresco twice its cost. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018

John Szabo M.S. and Elena Sottimano at Tavrena Mercatto

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajoré DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

Pajoré materializes off pure limestone soil at a hovering 380m of altitude. It’s really just a name this Cru, dialectical, as is its nebbiolo. Sees two years in 220L barrels made by François Frères, La Tonnellerie who receive a sample of your wines before deciding what barrels to send, if any. Time on lees is 20 months and there is no racking. This is pure nebbiolo in requiem of zero to next to no sulphur. It gets neither more natural nor more understated and exacting as this. The wine knows itself like a great human perfectly comfortable in its own skin and it might live to 2040 without experiencing one single moment of stress. It is truly a remarkable condition of the human meeting vine equating to wine spirit. Pajoré is a Cru worthy of a word to describe what you would get by combining ambiente with intervento umano. As in Climat, but Italian. Tannins are as formidable and elegant as there can dialectically be. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Fausoni DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

Fausoni is a small one point five hectare plot of sand and clay only six kilometres away from Pajoré. The vines range in age from 50 to 70 years old and there is certainly more depth and richness though contrastively speaking, more freshness and open aromatic perfume. There is also a verdant note and then this taut fixture of body and architecture in structure through the overall feeling. Deeper and more pressing, an antithetical nebbiolo, intense and perhaps not what you would expect. Likely a matter of sub-strata, of mystery and enigma. Pajoré just seems to intuit its character while Fausoni will need to feel, shift and oscillate its way through life. As with Pajoré the wood is retrofitted by La Tonnellerie François Frères, surfeiting Fausoni for a life more passionate and hard-lived if not quite as calm and relaxing as the one enjoyed by Pajoré. Top quality nebbiolo irregardless of style or fashion. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted April 2018

Cottá Azienda Agricola Sottimano cru spoiled by Elena Sottimano and Le Sommelier, Wine Agency ~ going vertical with Barbaresco and John Szabo — at Taverna Mercatto.

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

From the two point eight hectare vineyard with 45 year-old vines, Cottà receives the same élévage as Pajoré and Fausoni, on skins for 25 days and in Tonnellerie François Frères for 24 months. Fifteen per cent are new and the remainder of the barrels have been used up to four times. It’s like a combination of the other Cru, their best of both worlds in symbiosis, deep and exacting, comfortable and with a structure that never quits or breaks down. It’s unrelenting, with aromatic exoticism, power, precision, more fragrance and balance. The tannic building blocks are exceptional, verging into unparalleled. Drink 2022-2045.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2013, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $178.95, WineAlign)

A confounding vintage for thinking about drinking in 2018 because it is simply too young but there can be no discounting the acumen of restraint and the wisdom imparted. This from a Cru that knows full well what it will give. The 1970s planted vines add up to a shade under three hectares, southwest facing, in delivery of energetic red fruit, sweet herbs and that always present Sottimano cure. Cottà is the estate’s great constant, with the most layers needing to be husked for its kernels of wisdom and pearls of pulchritude to be revealed. Patience will be your virtue if you can just wait for the reward. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2010, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $234.95, WineAlign)

While tasting through Pajoré, Fausoni, Currá and a mini-vertical of Cottá with Elena Sottimano it is here for the first time that some development appears in a wine. This glimpse into what might happen with their Barbaresco may only be a minor crack in the oasis but it begins to fall away from the curative, tannic intensity into something stretching its limbs towards the ethereal. I can ruminate with this nebbiolo swirling around in my mouth while I wonder how far along we are or have come. But it comes with knowing that no matter how much distance we walk there is still a marathon to run. There is this perfect wonderwall of wild cherry spinning like vinyl liqueur over the cheeks, tongue and gums, refreshing and working its magical fruit dance up to the edges of my nerves. “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me. And after all,” you’re Sottimano. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Currá DOC 2013, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $178.95, WineAlign)

Only 200 bottles produced from this single hectare Cru of vines edging beyond 55 years-old. The vinification process mimics that of Pajoré, Fausoni and Cottà but Currá remains in bottle for an additional six months because it is special and asks for this. There is humour in that minor extension because opening this Cru from such a recent vintage any earlier than seven or eight years into its life will deprive you of its magic and potential charms. The smell of the sea is in Currá, fossil shells briny and salty, certainly mineral. It’s measurable, quantifiable and verifiable. It’s there in the taste. The reaction is more than one of epiphany, it’s a revelation. No, in fact it’s more than that. If for a moment it is explainable it then moves on and flees, remaining out of grasp. Damn you Currá. Drink 2021-2045.  Tasted April 2018

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Around the Cape in 50 wines

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Take Godello to a place that’s far away and it will fill him with words. With memories still thick as Bredasdorp pea soup, it is hard to believe it has already been four months since travelling to South Africa in September for Cape Wine 2015. I think it wise for the reader to be offered fair warning. The following wayfaring log is not brief and while it may be broken up with images of food, bottle shots and scenery, there are five thousand plus words to wade through. Feel free to skim at your wine tasting note leisure.

For a comprehensive look at South Africa’s Capelands, read my report at WineAlign.

Related – Welcome to South Africa’s Capelands

Table Mountain behind the clouds, Cape Town

Table Mountain behind the clouds, Cape Town

It has been four months since Cape Wine 2015 and many wines remain to be mentioned. My initial ramblings covered the three-day wine fair, varietal awakenings, Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA), the Swartland Independents and the Zoo Biscuits.

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

Lemon butter poached crayfish tail, kale, parsnip puree and bisque, Open Door, Constantia

Lemon butter poached crayfish tail, kale, parsnip puree and bisque, Open Door, Constantia

I tasted hundreds over three days at the bi-annual Cape Town event, along with dozens more in restaurants and at wineries in Stellenbosch, Swartland, Franschhoek and Constantia. One of the more memorable culinary experiences happened at Open Door Restaurant located at Uitsig Wine Estate in Constantia. The wine selection opened doors to new Cape perceptions and forward-thinking measures.

Springbok loin, orange sweet potato, lentils, pickled cucumber, cranberry jus, Open Door, Constantia - @OpenDoorSA

Springbok loin, orange sweet potato, lentils, pickled cucumber, cranberry jus, Open Door, Constantia

Related – Wines of South Africa: Go Cars Go

A visit to the Franschhoek Motor Museum at the Anthonij Rupert Wyne Estate rolled into a tasting of wines with Gareth Robertson, Sales and Marketing Manager at Anthonij Rupert Wines. Verticals were poured; Cape of Good Hope, Leopard’s Leap, La Motte and Optima L’Ormarins. Then the varietals of Anthonij Rupert Estate

Hitching a ride on the Anthonij Rupert Estate

Hitching a ride on the Anthonij Rupert Estate

A full on Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA) experience at the Car Wine Boot was nothing short of a wine-soaked, large object flinging hoedown throw down.

Related – Wines of South Africa: It’s the fling itself

Wine Car Boot, Journey's End Vineyards

Wine Car Boot, Journey’s End Vineyards

The act of intense immersion into any important wine-producing nation and its diverse regional expressions can only leave a lasting impression if the follow-up takes a long, cool sip of its meaning. Though just the beginning of what I hope to be a life-lasting fascination with South African wine, these 50 reviews prepare and pave the way.

Beaumont

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2013, Bot River-Walker Bay, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Named after winemaker Sebastian Beaumont’s grandmother, Hope Marguerite Beaumont. Thirty-five (400L) barrels of Chenin Blanc from 1975 and 1978 plantings anointed by natural fermentation and maturation. Reductive, malo-avoidant and lees stirred for 10 months to dess effect. Acidity swallows and trumps sugar while bitters, well, these bitters don’t even realize they are bitters. Possessive of that torched orange peel, lime skin and hinting at something faintly tropical. Many shades of Chenin Blanc within one tight-knit bottle. A benchmark of species. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @Beauwine

Paul Cluver Riesling Dry Encounter 2013, Elgin, South Africa (Winery, $23.99, WineAlign)

Riesling from South Africa’s largest and nascent varietal growers, one of three Cluver bears and wholly antithetical to the “Close Encounter’ simply and primarily because of its omnipresent aridity in the face of 9.0 g/L of residual sugar. Based on fruit from a variegated 27 year-old block of ferricrete (surficial sand and gravel masses) layered over decomposed Bokkeveld Shale and/or light clay. From a basin, a true amphitheatre between the mountains. The dry one shows off the cooler climate charity, offering up the opportunity to make Riesling the way it needs to be. Floats boats of blossoms piled in apples, honey and native fynbos. Elevated in nervousness, tension and anxiety through the conduit of acidity. This guy is the tip of the spear that pierces the palate. Though dry to that pointed end it is the primitive passion of grape tannin that churns the combine.  Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @paulcluverwines  @PIWOSA  @paulcluver

Paul Cluver Gewürztraminer 2015, Elgin, South Africa (Winery)

If Riesling is a South African anomaly, the nine hectares planted to Gewürztraminer on the Cluver estate is at least preternatural if not verging on antediluvian. The throwback approach to varietal expression takes on the do anything in South Africa mandate and runs with it. A tightly wound white, like Riesling driven by acidity, inconsequential in sugar (10.2 g/L) and rushing with rivers of grape tannin. Lime is again the thing in a world where sweetness finds it hard to live. Anything but soapy, less than sticky and so very clean. Purity out of Elgin in Gewürztraminer. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015

Riebeeksrivier

Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier White 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

From the stable of Anthonij Rupert Wines, a blend based on Chenin Blanc (65 per cent) with Rhône assistance from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Similar in a way to the old vines Chenin in its purest form in a clean amalgamation of weighty varietal relations. Naturally driven acidity and an increase in creamy texture is accompanied by lactic notes and a greener, sharp apple bite. A wow reversal of impression with an anise under current and a toasty, nutty omnipresence. Quite fine. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @AnthonijRupert

Rall Wines Red Coastal Region 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Superior Syrah spine (85 per cent) with a 2014 Grenache (15 per cent) addendum. Healthy and happy in alcohol (14 per cent) from Swartland schist to cure what troubles and saps. Liquorice, easy tannin and illimitable fruit (for a two to five-year run) from the gifts of a terrific vintage. Open-knit, expressly serviceable with a not overly piquant, peppery finish. Tobacco moment is just a pinch between the cheek and gums. Easy on the extraction and 50 per cent stainless housing for nothing but Swartland fruit with some added stems for the perception os sheer freshness. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @SwartlandRev

David and Nadia Paardebosch Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

A blend of 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s, mainly dry-farmed bush vine Chenin Blanc vineyards throughout the Swartland. Sweet textured Chenin with endemic herbiage and territorial tang. Varietal identity is never an issue for South Africa’s signature white but how does definition out of disparate plots come together? For the Sadies “the meaning always lies somewhere that’s right between the lines.” Connotation and significance in what’s left behind. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @DavidandNadia  

David and Nadia Aristagos 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

David and Nadia Sadie

David and Nadia Wines

A bush vines dominant, 12 vineyard, five-varietal interface of Chenin Blanc (35 per cent), Roussanne (25), Clairette Blanche (20), Viognier (15) and Sémillon (5). The latter (not inconsequential) addition is from a 1950’s planted vineyard. Round and round aromatics integrate Swartland harmonies in transition to palate promptitude of spry lemon and lime. Emits that fleshing four to five-year pursuit to honeyed possibility, in which the Sémillon is not lost on that ideal. We should all be willing to wait that long though not be greedy for anything more. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2015

David and Nadia Grenache 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

A riveting (85 per cent) Grenache honed from two vineyards planted in granite mountain soils, mixed and matched with (15 per cent) fruit off of organic vines grown in deep iron rich soils. A scintillant of reductive freshness gets busy with chalk ou of ferric soil in romantic and heavy breathing passion. Though nearly carbonic, atomic and more exhalant than inhalant, the freshness is always halted by a weight in denouement. The obdurate cessation is helped along by 10 to 11 months in oak. Very thoughtful, engaging and consummated Grenache from the Sadies. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2015

Godello and Billy Hughes at Cape Wine 2015

Godello and Billy Hughes at Cape Wine 2015

Hughes Family Wines Nativo White 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Certified organic from the Kasteelsig Vineyards on the Hughes Family farm in Malmesbury.  The blend is high in Viognier with Chenin Blanc, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Picked at three separate intervals, the bifurcate prongs of sugar, acidity and alcohol are remarkably streamlined towards an upwards push skyward. A very base and elemental white wine that hovers in the lower reaches of the stratosphere, wanting to rise but held secure by the heartstrings of older oak filaments. This is fresh and yet filled out by a density defined in Swartland ways. An appellative white blend with my thoughts of Cape Town’s Chef’s Warehouse crudo in mind. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @NativoWines

Crudo and Kimchi #tuna #kingclip #chefswarehouse #capetown

Crudo and Kimchi #tuna #kingclip #chefswarehouse #cape town

Hughes Family Wines Nativo Red 2009, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Certified organic from natural, dry-farmed estate Kasteelsig Vineyards on the Hughes Family farm in Malmesbury.  The blend is Shiraz (56 per cent), Grenache (16), Merlot (13), Mourvedre (9) and Pinotage (6). Swartland’s local master of assemblage Billy Hughes (the J-L Groux of South Africa if you like) counselled separate and all natural fermentations, barrel malolactic, eight months in 225L barriques (none new) plus four more post blending. The core aroma to palate thematic is ingratiated by a grape in raisin initiation stage, habituating the right side of ripe. This is a soft-styled Swartland red having fully realized its progressive road to enrichment. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015

Hughes Family Wines Nativo

Hughes Family Wines Nativo Red 2010, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

As in 2009, certified organic from natural, dry-farmed estate Kasteelsig Vineyards on the Hughes Family farm in Malmesbury.  The blend is Syrah (52 per cent), Mourvedre (22), Grenache (13) and Pinotage (13). Fresher, lighter even than 2009, floral, feathery, feminine. Through the pretty dab of perfume there is the presence of clay, iron and a feeling of warm Cassis. The red fruit while anything but dark has a presence, an attitude, an unfailing condition. Will live longer than the previous vintage. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015

Wildenhurst Velo White 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Juicy Colombard, Chenin Blanc and Viognier in cohorts simply, basically and ostensibly about town for texture. Beautiful freshness, grace and grape tannin. The juice and nothing but the juice. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @WildehurstW  @ShereeNothnagel  @SwartlandRev

Wildenhurst Velo Rosé 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

A multi-cultivar and double-hued blush by way of Grenache, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Colombard and Chenin Blanc. Really widens the fresh fruit spectrum, in manifold customary shades of red. From a hot vintage where sugars ran higher than 2013 yet still just about as dry as a skeleton way past tissue. Despite all attempts, the brine and herbiage outplay the salinity and aridity. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015

Wildenhurst Chenin Blanc 2012, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

The only straight up cultivar in Sheree Nothnagel’s portfolio from 30 year-old bush vines. Arranged low, natural and slow across a two month fermentation period in 3rd fill (225L) barrels towards a dry end. Matured on the lees for a further five months. Handy, prosaic and unostentatious Chenin Blanc of texture and mouthfeel. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015

Silwervis Cinsault 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

First introduced at the inaugural Swartland Revolution, winemaker Ryan Mostert is a key player in the South African Cinsault revival. His naturally exhibited (with only added sulphur) old-vine Swartland Cinsault was matured in one Nomblot concrete egg. His is the Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Deerhunter rolled into one varietal ode “to the malleability and uniqueness of Swartland.”

One of hundreds of wines tasted over an eight-day period in requiem to exclaim, “I am saved, I am saved. And oh, would you believe it?” So fresh, salty, ultra-carbonic, russet roseate raspberry and orange peel. It really feels real, unlike anywhere else. The varietal and the reformation. “We’re in a revolution. Don’t you know we’re right. People can you feel it? Love is everywhere.” Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @Silwervis  @SwartlandRev  @PascalSchildt

Terra Cura

Terra Cura 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Silwervis winemaker Ryan Mostert is behind the new Terra Cura label with Samantha Suddons. From just outside of Malmesbury in the Western Cape. This cracker of a bottle is one hundred per cent Syrah from rolling hills rocking down to the sea. Ferric, burrowing into depths, rooted and heavy. Structured, chunky savoury, of wild sauvage, from a fierce and filthy athletic vintage. Reeks of potpourri, ambition and is yet remarkably ready to drink. A messenger to herald a land of opportunity, a revolution, the future. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @Terra_Cura

Johan Simons, Dragonridge Wines

Johan Simons, Dragonridge Wines

Dragonridge Wines Supernova Ancestral 2014, Paardeberg, South Africa (Winery)

Chenin Blanc works with Sangiovese and with Pinotage to lead this ancestral method sparkling blend. From Joubertskloof’s Fynbos Estate, this fizz is really nothing like Méthode Cap Classique in that it adds nothing to the fermentation in the bottle, relying only on its own sugars and wild yeasts. When it does not explode it goes this way, so, so natural, all in. Winemaker Johan Simons happily sees it persist through the problem. “We do it because we can, and we want to.” From two blocks planted in 1964 and 1990 with a section going back to 1920. Picked on the 19th of January and from a ferment that finished two months early. These very old, unirrigated bush vines offer up lemon funky, low pH fruit. Goes straight to the roof of the mouth with rising, unassertive flavours. The question begs, is this an oasis of South African fizz or a desert where ancient longings go to die. The answer lies “caught beneath the landslide in a champagne supernova.” We’ll see about that. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @FynbosEstate

Dragonridge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Paardeberg, South Africa (Winery)

No wood. From five barrels of naturally thick, free-run only juiced, patchy, basket pressed elixir. This is simply brilliant, drink the hell out of it until it’s gone Cabernet Sauvignon. Forget the barrel. Bring it on. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted September 2015

Elementis Skin Contact Chenin Blanc 2014

Elementis Skin Contact Chenin Blanc 2014

Intellego Wines Chenin Blanc ‘Elementis’ 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

A private label by Lammershoek’s Jürgen Gouws, from two 40 year-old bush vines parcels. A direct, right at you, citrus and dry-farmed tang Chenin simultaneously pretty and bitter. Three weeks of skin contact detour to grapefruit and guava with a level of great elegance in its laundry soaking up dirty water. Cloudy and slightly dangerous, Basque cider like and built by the bare necessities of salinity and trim, briny orange elements. As snake-driven a purposed accumulation as found anywhere in South Africa. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @jurgengouws

Intellego Wines Syrah Kolbroek 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Same natural fermentation as the Chenin in this single-vineyard, 100 per cent Syrah. Comes up firing after time spent on its skins, soaking up and in its own tannic juices. Fresh if tight for elegance in Syrah. Refined bitters adhere to the supreme purpose which is an expression of spritely, red energy. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015

Black Oystercatcher Triton 2013

Black Oystercatcher Triton 2013

Black Oystercatcher Triton 2013, Elim, South Africa (Winery)

From owner & winemaker Dirk Human at Cape Agulhas, this is highly modern and refined Shiraz major (86 per cent) with minor Cabernet Sauvignon (12) and Cabernet Franc (2). Stylish without a whack of new oak, with independent varietal fermentation, maturation and ageing for 12 months. In a multiple choice Shiraz world of spicy, piquant, snappy and sharp the fill is all of the above. The present day South African cliché encompassing fresh, tight and elegant reds comes ’round again though here you can add cool-climate (southernmost tip of Africa) feel to the mix. What comes from the wood is in the finish, over charcoal and brushed by tar. Should show best in 2018. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @BOC_Wines

Francois Haasbroek, Blackwater Wines

Francois Haasbroek, Blackwater Wines

Blackwater Wines Underdog Chenin Blanc (MMXIV) 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery)

A mere 5500 bottles from winemaker Francois Haasbroek, a balanced tannin, alcohol (13.3 per cent), acidity (5.8 TA) and sugar Chenin, culled from high slope, (46 year) old bush vineyards of Bottelary Hills. Concrete tank housed ferments and aged on the fine lees for six months. Texture drives the green apple machine, fuelled by salinity and faux candy bursts. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @Blackwaterwine  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Blackwater Wines Blanc (MMXIV) 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery)

Chenin Blanc 80 (per cent), Sémillon (15) and Bourboulenc from vineyards in Durbanville and Ashton. The Chenin was skin fermented for 7 days and then blended with 2013 Sémillon (equipped with 12 months of texture gained on the lees) and what Haasbroek quips was a “smidge” of Bourboulenc. The 1200 bottle blend saw further time (16 months) in old (225L) barrels. Possessive of apples glazed in lemon polish, terrific, granitic grain in tannin and Deiss-esque Pinot d’Alsace surrealism. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2015

Blackwater Wines Cultellus Syrah (MMXII) 2012, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Schist Syrah in its entirety, mineral warm and tempered, moderately spiked by its alcohol (13.7 per cent) and five-plus year controlled acidity (5.6 TA). Blackwater’s steep block of Riebeek Kasteel vineyards offers up fruit begging to left alone. Haasbroek consented to four weeks of contact on the skins, followed by nothing more indulgent then a drain & whole-bunch press into eight to ten year-old (600L) barrels. Twenty-six months later, sans filter, nary a fining and voila. Syrah in fancy-free finesse, smoky elegance, Swartland schist, sour cherry and more schisty ferric earth. Dynamic though never in danger of inflammation, inflammatory or flaming behaviour. In the end, the sweetness is impossible. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2015

Blackwater Wines Noir (MMXII) 2012, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

The largest output in the Blackwater portfolio with a whopping 6000 bottles. A multi-site Swartland Syrah (92 per cent), 10-15 per cent whole bunch fermented and then blended with Carignan and Grenache after a year of ageing. This follwed by an additional 12-14 months in old 500-600L barrels. Deep and meaty, but like modern Nebbiolo, of finesse in the clarity of its recesses. Marked by gnashing tannin and grippy structure. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2015

Omerta

Blackwater Wines Omerta (MMXIV) 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

It begins with a shush, this “code of silence,” although it has nothing to do with “criminal activity” and yet its aromatic sweetness should be illegal. Caring proposed in 100 per cent terms, off of 28 year-old Swartland bush vines, fully entrenched in the revolution and the revival, while in “refusal to give evidence to authorities.” The single vineyard, predominantly granite soils are the source of amazing purity and acidity as if by wrote. Healthy (30 per cent) whole bunch fermentation and a 25 day linger on the skins imparts more tannic by-product nectar. The older 500L barrels for 16 months   makes for a dusty, carefully curated cure. When it comes to thinking about drinking this Omerta, “Old black water, keep on rollin’…I ain’t got no worries, ’cause I ain’t in no hurry at all.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2015

Savage Wines White 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery)

In which Sauvignon Blanc (70 per cent) and Sémillon (30) keep good vibes, smile and celebrate a pure purée of progressive white tannin. This is the last of the straightforward Bordeaux Savage Mohicans with subsequent vintages adding more varietal diversification. Duncan Savage sees the future replete with appellative blends as per a Western Cape necessity, free from the posit tug of French heartstrings. This last kick at the Left Bank can is bright, pure and composed to reflect sunshine and stone.  Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Savage Wines Red 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Essentially Western Cape fruit with a dab of Darling in a blend that emits polished Syrah (67 per cent) with naturally supportive Cinsault (12), Grenache (9) and Touriga Nacional (9). Duncan Savage procured 3500 bottles to market of this ranger, a red thinking cool Rhône thoughts and rooted firmly on the median line between his single-vineyard Syrah and the precocious Follow the Line. Will increase in complexity when Syrah gives away some floor time to the other grapes. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015

Savage Wines Syrah 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery)

Perhaps the most personal of Duncan Savage’s wines, even more than the Farmhouse draw in his red blend Follow the Line.  This SV Syrah is the home block, the place where he lives. His blends are a pure blur while this Syrah offers up a not too distant future filled with early life appreciation, graceful necessities and gifting niceties. It just hints at this now and subsequent wines will sing. Let this one and what’s left of the other 599 bottles produced sit for a year, to smooth out harsh bits and to integrate the Cape funk and Syrah cure. Oh, it’s like an animal farm, but you’ll come to no harm in the country.” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2015

Momento Wines Chenin Blanc-Verdelho 2014, Bot River, South Africa (Winery)

The Chenin Blanc (85 per cent) grows in old vineyards from Bot River and Darling and together with 11 year-old Bot River Verdelho (15) they reside in Bokkeveld shale, with portions of sand and clay. Five (400L old) French barrels carried natural Chenin ferments with some fine lees. Stainless tanks and older oak housed the riper Verdelho which joined the Chenin just before bottling. Winemaker Marelise Niemann was able to produce a healthy yet manageable quantity (200 cases) of a blend directed to deferential texture. This from a cloudy ferment once clarified turned to secondary, mineral flavours. The early pick and moderate (12.5 per cent) alcohol gained on bacteria and made for pure white fusion. The orchards are spoken for, from pit, through seed and back to pit. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @momentowines  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Momento Wines Grenache 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

From porous, sandy soil, Grenache loving dryland (10 year-old) bush vines, for the time being at least, until the Bot River vines mature. A smaller (one half) production than the white raised in open fermenters, one-third punched down and only old barrels used. So opposite in feel to the Bokkeveld shale, regardless of the grape hue, bringing a foxy, natural cure to Grenache. Direct, tight and autotelic fresh, crunchy and popping. Unalloyed red fruit, hidden citrus and a racy finish. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015

Botanica Wines Chenin Blanc and Chenin Blanc Untitled #1 2014

Botanica Wines Chenin Blanc and Chenin Blanc Untitled #1 2014

Botanica Wines Chenin Blanc 2014, Citrusdal Mountain, South Africa (Winery)

Winemaker Ginny Povall draws fruit made on the Stellenbosch farm from 55 year-old vines set in a 1600m high dry-farmed vineyard. The location is the rugged Skurfberg slopes in the mountains of Clanwilliam, 40 kilometres from the sea. These vines are low yielding, producing a scant 2.5 tons per hectare and picked early. Half of the just on the lee side of ripe fruit is barrel fermented and matured in 400L French oak and spends nine months on the gross lees. Juicy, bright, full on citrus, striking and crackling Chenin. Wood adds some weight and oh, the Rooibos. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @ginnypovall

Botanica Wines Chenin Blanc Untitled #1 2014, Citrusdal Mountain, South Africa (Winery)

The approach is small batch, from lower Skurfberg altitude, chosen out of a specifically identified parcel and intentionally managed with 100 per cent (20 new) oak intervention. Lower alcohol, higher reduction and an ulterior, gemstone mineral manifestation. On one hand the Chardonnay like approach causes a perplexing feeling and on the other, a sense of wonder. The tropical abutment and real-time citrus symbiosis carries the weight and then the Rooibos, again. Occupies high ranks in the wooded Chenin outpost territory. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015

The Tea Leaf Chenin Blanc 2014

The Tea Leaf Chenin Blanc 2014, Piekenierskloof, South Africa (Winery)

Made by Donovan Rall for Boutinot in the anti-Western Cape unicorn region Piekenierskloof, from where Chenin Blanc seems to have risen to sudden and darling prominence. The 70 year-old vineyards are at 750m, which is not nothing and the fruit is cropped from 40 year-old vines. All natural fermentation is the modus in this fuller, deeper, mineral completed Chenin that runs the gamut from creamy to bitters. And unfermented redbush, Aspalathus linearis. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @BoutinotWines

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2024

Boekenhoutskloof Sémillon 2004, Franschhoek, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

If anything, Marc Kent’s decade and a year Sémillon has travelled down a long road to a very quiet place. That retirement home is filled with honey and dates, all gathered up nicely in tangy, gift wrapping acidity. The orchard fruits are gone and the truth no longer lies in the second half of the bottle. It speaks with early clarity. Time to drink up, sipping slowly, with the “sun going down, blood orange, behind the Simonsberg.” Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted September 2015  @UNIVINS

Steenberg Nebbiolo 2013

Steenberg Nebbiolo 2013, Constantia, South Africa (Winery)

Another achievement in what can be cultivated, nurtured and brought to fruition with great success in South Africa. A ringer for Serralunga from Nebbiolo treated to 60 per cent second and 40 per cent third fill 225L French oak barrels for 14 months. Roses meet tar, tea, red citrus and bright, vital flavours. The life affirming and balanced qualities of Nebbiolo in the cooler, temperate and Mediterranean-mimicked Constantia climate will bring longevity to this wine. Should flesh out, settle and sing in three to five years.  Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2015  @SteenbergWines  @ConstantiaWines

Allesverloren Tinto Barocca 2013

Allesverloren Tinto Barocca 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Dating back to 1704, Allesverloren is situated on the south-eastern slopes of the Kasteelberg near Riebeek West, is the oldest estate in the Swartland Wine of Origin district. “The Naked Winemaker” Danie Malan farms dryland, trellised vineyards, situated 140m above sea level and facing south-east, were planted between 1958 and 1996. Here exemplary bread basket viticulture with a perfectly habituated expatriate Portuguese grape, rich in warmth, tannin and texture after having been aged in second and third French oak for eight months. The hematic push is elevated, as per the Swartland soil give, so the brooding capitulation is both deep and vaulted. High pH mixed with upwards and capped acidity ensures brightness, to speak the correct dialect and fanciful expression. Finishes with style. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @AllesverlorenSA

Innemend teenage Cabernet @Uitkykwines

Innemend teenage Cabernet @Uitkykwines

Uitkyk Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery)

From north-west facing vines planted in 1989 to 1993 in soils rich in decomposed granite at 300 meters above sea level. Aging was completed for 18 months in 300L French oak barrels of which 53 per cent were new, (35) second and (12) third fill. I begin with “Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home?” The answer is very much yes. At 15 years of age the Uitkyk is a treat in the latter stages of a comfortably numb dream. Deep pink, raspberry dusty, funky of triturated earth and ground stone. Still much aridity and acidity hanging on for dear life. Seems to drone on with mostly rising breaths and strings in oscillation. A remarkable older drop. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted September 2015  @uitkykwinemaker

Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1995, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery)

Quite the treat to see this pouring at the older wines, help yourself tasting session at Cape Wine 2015. It was from what is widely considered Stellenbosch’s vintage of that decade and 20 years is not nothing for Paulliac let alone Stellenbosch. Grangehurst has made this wine in every vintage save for one, since 1992. What a remarkable old drop from winemaker Jeremy Walker, alive and kicking, as if by any means necessary. This from a guy who was quoted as saying “the more you surf during the harvest season, the better the wines.” His 1995 is replete with notes of cedar, thyme, coercing currants and really grand minerality. Has survived with acidity and tannin intact, stretching, yet persistent and working with what had to have been a harvest of such perfect fruit. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @grangehurst

Tamboerskloof Viognier 2015 and Shiraz Rosé Katharien 2015

Tamboerskloof Viognier 2015 and Shiraz Rosé Katharien 2015

Kleinood Farm Tamboerskloof Viognier 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

From Tukulu and Kroonstad, augmented with nine or 10 percent Roussanne. Some barrel aging (nothing new, mostly 4th fill French 300L) plus a final 30-60 days in concrete eggs. Beautifully restrained, classically styled and tempered Viognier. The respectable alcohol (12.9 per cent), piqueing acid (6.0 g/l), low pH (3.22) and necessary residual sugar (4.4 g/l) are the specs of attentive and pinpoint winemaking. The result is remarkable freshness and purity with a bit of stuffing. Picked on the model of “flavour faith,” the softness “just dropped in to see what condition” the grip’s “condition was in. It was with cool fleshy fruit against a backdrop of warm, tropical flowers. Chic, first edition Viognier. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @Tamboerskloof

Kleinood Farm Tamboerskloof Shiraz 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

The blocks are Tukulu/Kroonstad/Klapmuts/Witfontein and vines at 12 years of age. Five per cent Mourvèdre and a couple of points Viognier clean and lift the Shiraz while 10-12 days of skin contact roll out the red carpet of elixir vitae. Imagine the possibilities if Gunter Shultz had opted for 24-30. The engineering in l’élevage pays heed to 18-20 months in 300 and 500L French oak barrels, 15 per cent new, (20) second, (25) third, (20) fourth (20) fifth fill. A further 18 months in bottle delayed the patient and philosophic release. Shiraz rarely gains a compatibility like this. Big to elegant, brawn to finesse. The purity is only overshadowed by the youth. Five years are needed to reverse the ratios of cosanguinity. The Tamboersklook is a prime Stellenbosch example of thoughtful winemaking taking full advantage of technology and techniques firmly entrenched in the progressive and the forward thinking. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2015

Big wines. Bigger, balanced finesse @Tamboerskloof @CapeWine2015 @WOSA_ZA #upperblaauwklippenvintners

Big wines. Bigger, balanced finesse @Tamboerskloof @CapeWine2015 @WOSA_ZA #upperblaauwklippenvintners

Kleinood Farm Tamboerskloof Shiraz 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

It’s quite amazing to see a wine made in virtually the exact same way as the forbearing 2011 turn out to be so different. The only noticeable adjustment is the few points increase in Shiraz but the approachability and accessibility factor is manifest tenfold. Lush fruit, plush texture and tannins sweeter yet still firmly structured lead this down a much friendlier road. For winemaker Gunter Shultz this could be the result of exceptional planning or just dumb luck. Does it matter? The fact that this can be enjoyed in just two years time while the 2011 broods and sulks means that four years on you could switch back and forth for maximum mini-horizontal enjoyment. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2015

Kleinhood Farm Tamboerskloof Shiraz Rosé Katharien 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineryAgent WineAlign)

Fundamentally bone-dry Rosé first picked at 20 brix and then at 24, so very lightly pressed and then finished at 13 per cent alcohol. Mostly stainless steel in ferment with some time in “odds and ends” of French oak barrels. A dry and dusty blush with Shiraz that goes straight to strawberry and candied fruits. The simple pleasures found. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015

Kleinood Farm Tamboerskloof Shiraz John Spicer 2010, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Single-vineyard (Tukulu block), 100 per cent Shiraz from 20 months in 300L French oak, split between 25 per cent first, (20) second and the remainder third fill. As a comparison with the ’11 and ’12 (less than 100 per cent) Shiraz this is the one with the “devil’s grip, the iron fist.” Follow up to the maiden voyage, the motorhead 2010 broods under a moonless sky, a dark night and a wine with which you “walk in circle lose your track, can’t go on but you can’t go back.” Like the song, this is one of those wines you can actually lose weight while sipping. So hard to tame this ferric, oozing beast but the far eastern, temperate, somewhat fertile savour, from mint, eucalyptus and clove is nothing if not intriguing. Built from north facing, Clone SH470 Shiraz vines of cool acceptance, there also invades a Mediterranean brush of garrigue and délicasse. Enough finesse in its largesse causes pause for thought, that like any contemporary sound, smell or taste it often just takes getting used to. With time the immensity and reverberation settles and immunity sets in. A newer, larger expression will take centre stage and the old bark won’t seem so loud. John Spicer 2010 will seem like a ballad some day. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2015

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Cinsault 2015, Darling, South Africa (Winery)

Coined the Boetie Van Reenan Darling Cinsualt from dry-farmed fruit in a tertiary-carbonic, whole bunch stomped, gassed and left t0 reach one-third of the total ferment state. A short stay in old, left for naught oak barrels. The result is a wine the world knows not from or how. The resolution is where South Africa is heading, into fine, pure, fresh berry tonic territory. The clarity of the language is downright biblical. The elements are base and instructional, of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, sulphur and a few other unnamed elements. Their accrued spirit is not one of sophistication but they succinctly prepare us for a path to civil and ceremonial wine consuming law. This my friends is a Monday to Friday breakfast wine. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @ChrisAlheit  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Maps & Legends, from Cartology to Flotsam & Jetsam @ChrisAlheit @ZooBiscuitsWine #alheitvineyards #hermanus #capewine2015

Maps & Legends, from Cartology to Flotsam & Jetsam @ChrisAlheit @ZooBiscuitsWine #alheitvineyards #hermanus #capewine2015

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Chenin Blanc-Sémillon 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

An exploratory cuvée of recherché to examine the diversity of mature dryland bushvines out of vineyards dotting the Western Cape. Eighty year-old Sémillon from Franschhoek is the catalyst to complement and ramble with heritage (30-40 year old) Chenin Blanc grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. A natural fermentation is performed to imitate a cold night in the vineyard. The wine is a map with the compass to lead you back to the vineyards, to taste the grapes in their naked states. The South African version of atticism and rhythm in Cartology is utterly Western Cape and nothing else tastes just like this. It bleeds lime and stone with subterranean salinity trailing all the way. Criterion Chenin Blanc and paradigmatic Sémillon. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015

The wines of Diemersdal

The wines of Diemersdal

Diemersdal Grüner Veltliner 2015, Durbanville, South Africa (Winery)

From a vineyard planted in 2009 of Scali and Hutton soil and South-West facing slopes. This third vintage of 12,000 bottles was 50 per cent fermented with “X5,”  a Sauvignon Blanc-Riesling yeast and the balance with a traditional varietal strain from Austria, Oenoferm Veltliner.  Six months post fermentation lees are `stirred up to once a week. Classic mineral and fruit 50/50 GV style though equally and tangibly in poesy to regional Sauvignon Blanc; crisp with a touch of herbal spine. Vibrant, tightly wound acidity and a peppery bite on the back-end. The SB bent is written and exploited in the best possible way. Will be a great wine when the vineyard grows up just a bit. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @diemersdalwines

Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc Eight Rows 2015, Durbanville Hills, South Africa (Winery)

When sixth generation winemaker Thys Louw wanted to make a block specific Sauvignon Blanc his father Tienie’s offer fell short. “Why get out of bed for three rows?” Eight it was. From soils of decomposed granite with high clay content off of vines nearly 30 years of age. The locale, pinpoint picking from carefully chosen contours and the attention to detail have come to a cleaner, finessed and wisely distinct Sauvignon Blanc expression. The ride is calmer than the reserve and the finish still replete with freshness. The citrus preserves, locks in and bottles acidity. The obvious grape variety avoids cliché and the obscurity of “stand by me…nobody knows the way it’s gonna be.” Instead the eight rows oasis produces a Sauvignon Blanc that understands where it comes from and knows what it wants to be. Knows where it’s going. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2014, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa (Winery)

From Meerlust’s cellar master, Chris Williams, in partnership with his Kumala brand manager, the Scot James Reid. Fruit sourced from growers across the Cape. The wines are produced at Meerlust in Stellenbosch. The Grenache Blanc comes from the Malmesbury shale and decomposed granite soils of the Voor-Paardeberg. A mineral streak runs through and this bears little resemblance to the Rhône, nor does it reminisce about Catalonia. This is futuristic Grenache Blanc, the kind only found in dreams because of its high level of sumptuousness despite the elevated stone count. Tack on scents of lead and/or graphite and the revelry ascends. Perhaps it should be looked at as a block of chilled rock as holding vessel for selling fruit. Longevity from 100 per cent Grenache Blanc is a rare, cool and beautiful thing. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @ChrisTheFoundry

The Blacksmith Vin Noir

The Blacksmith Vin Noir 2014, W.O. Coastal Region, South Africa (Winery)

A personal project of 600 bottles for Tremayne Smith, assistant winemaker at Mullineux & Leeu. A blend of 59 per cent Cinsault from Paarl and (41) Carignan from the Swartland. Neither Irish Planxty nor traditional folk Steeleye Span, the Vin Noir’s power chords and mineral metal imagines “uncrushable shields, power belts and magic rings.” A Falconer in Cinsault-Carignan clothing, smoky sweet, savoury emulsified, vaporous, beautifully murky. The Carignan is devilishly Rhône, built with spice, liquorice and dried sassafras. A slow release of red citrus Cinsault and a final, flinty feign of sweetness. A far cry from the old days of drinking South African tassies. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @tvsmith85

J H Meyer Cradock Peak Pinot Noir 2014, Outeniqua, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

From the Cape outpost of Outeniqua, of all deity forsaken places, in the mountains above George and named for the highest (1578m) peak. The montane fynbos terrain makes for Pinot Noir of wild depth, tannic breadth and a natural, unfined, unfiltered bush vine pressed sensation. Though so unknown, this southeast facing slope drives a point not just new but also important to the South Africa Pinot Noir discussion. This Cradock Peak is a pushy Pinot, plush and demanding. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @Nicholaspearce_  @PublikWine

J H Meyer Cradock Peak Pinot Noir 2014, photo (c) Nicholas Pearce

J H Meyer Cradock Peak Pinot Noir 2014, photo (c) Nicholas Pearce

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

Facebook

Coming wine from the cold

Boutari Naoussa 2010, Monasterio De Las Viñas Reserva 2006, Keint He Voyageur Chardonnay 2012, Quercecchio Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008, Vina Real Crianza 2010, Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2004, Driftwood The Collection Cabernet Merlot 2012

Boutari Naoussa 2010, Monasterio De Las Viñas Reserva 2006, Keint He Voyageur Chardonnay 2012, Quercecchio Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008, Vina Real Crianza 2010, Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2004, Driftwood The Collection Cabernet Merlot 2012

Is there another time of year that creeps under the skin like the coldest depths of winter? Does the craving to travel, the urge to visit distant places, the longing to slip silently and unnoticed away take over with such grip more so than when it so freakin’ cold outside? Is wanderlust tugging at your layers of sleeves? Is the fernweh calling, off in the distance, far away from home, urging you to escape from your everyday life?

Easier said then done and so turn instead to wine. Wine of a different sort of ilk. Wine that causes controversy, or at the least, differences of opinion. Wine to one disappointed taster that is seemingly, annoyingly tainted. To another it is full of wizened life. Wine that polarizes individuals, asks of others to choose sides and yet always remains content and confident within its weathered skin. Wine with age.

It strikes me as remarkable that the same wine opened to two tasters will elicit profoundly divergent opinions. Imagine if two wines popped and tasted side by side could be in dialogue with one another. Like paintings that hang adjacent or opposite one another in a gallery, if the critics had left the room, would they continue the conversation? If they did, what would they say to one another?

They might say have a go at me and transport yourself away, in the moment, to somewhere else. That longing can be satiated with wine but not just any old bottle will do. It’s going to take something that indicates ancient thoughts, bottles that intimate the expression of far away lands, wines that speak a different language. In some cases it may simply involve grapes with a wanderlust of their own, voyageurs born in one place and raised in another. Or a varietal bonding that emulates indigenous assemblage.

This coming Saturday will mark the first VINTAGES release of 2015. I tasted through the offer back in December and it was mostly the Old World that stood apart, speaking in simple vernaculars, tracing steps back to the European continent. These eight wines, all under $20, spoke loudest and with much clarity. Here are their notes.

Boutari Naoussa 2010, Pdo Naoussa, Greece (23218, $13.95, WineAlign)

Always the bebop beat and bomb of Greece for a song. Great earth, solid fruit, a monk’s tale in Naoussa pure adrenaline fidelity. What composure this $14 red speaks with and acts in silent, loyal, religious accord. Minerals in, acidity flies out. Excellence in simple thought and Xinomavro prayer. A Monk’s dream, with body and soul, sweet and lovely.  Tasted December 2014  @boutari    

Monasterio De Las Viñas Reserva 2006, Do Cariñena, Spain (166579, $14.95, WineAlign)

Heavy thoughts and weight are stratified in this very affordable Reserva. Showing zero effects of eight years age so again, the DNA (as being 100 per cent forthright in vintage juice) gives pause for thought. Should the impossibility be questionable? Yes, but the elevated levels of funk and circumstance make a case for utmost integrity, not to mention the old-school thought and grit. This is beautifully funky juice, scented with purple flowers and pumped up by pomp.  Tasted December 2014  @Noble_Estates  @DoCarinena

Keint He Voyageur Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (389544, $16.00, WineAlign)

Keint He hit the Niagara mark with the ’12. All the right moves are struck; ripe fruit, mild toast, full yet unobtrusive malo, texture without excessively seeking success. Really well made in finding balance. Ten months to another point. From my earlier, February 2014 note: “Grapes for this Prince Edward County bottling made the long trip (thus the moniker) and were blended from three Niagara vineyards; Queenston, Malivoire and Foxcroft. This 13 per cent abv peninsula gathering saw 12 months in oak and leans leesy Chablis in temperament. Doughy Jenekek smothered in honey butter and washed down by a sprinkle of cream of tartar in soda. Mildly tropical but not bathed in sunshine. Elegant wine, especially at the price, so in that sense it’s very good value.  Last tasted December 2014  @KeintHeWinery

Quercecchio Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Doc Tuscany, Italy (394973, $16.95, WineAlign)

There is s deep perfume to this Rosso, a concentrated mess of flowers, dried citrus and a forest of evergreen. Good value. Not so tight, though the acidity has an advantage. Not so drying as some, as this has brightness and red cherry fruit. Nothing dank. Good value I say but certainly on the simple side of the Sangiovese Grosso tracks.  Tasted December 2014

Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008, Umbria, Italy (357079, $16.95, WineAlign)

Musty and yet so very expressive. Showing signs of wisdom in age and yet still bright and full of funky sunshine. Wood spice notes and lines stretched and moving. Definitely, maybe a touch of back beat funk. The drying tannins and dried fruit flavours might be interpreted as flaws so “they’re gonna throw it back to you,” but you have heard it all before, you much maligned Umbrian oasis blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Merlot and Cabernet. “By now you should’ve somehow realized what you gotta do.” Be yourself. Embrace your modern take on ancient, wonderwall ideas. You have power and prowess. You are inexpensive as can be imagined and aged well, like a many days-in marbled steak.  Well done.  Tasted December 2014  @DionysusWines

Vina Real Crianza 2010, Doca Rioja, Spain (657411, $19.95, WineAlign)

Another fine value here from the Riojan stable of Cvne. At first a modern mercury rise but with classical lines and structures, sharp and so very real. A Crianza whose message is old, yeah this message is true.” Queen Tempranillo that speaks of the old life, drawing character from vine and earth. Struck with tight acidity, yet verbose, melodic and artesian. As if the wine rises under pressure from a permeable stratum overlaid by impermeable rock. Is it perhaps an acquired attraction? Does it matter when it offers so much value for so little?  Tasted December 2014  @Cvne  @vonterrabev

Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2004, Doca Rioja, Spain (384248, $19.95, WineAlign)

Not just funky, this is an ’04 Gran Reserva that couldn’t be anything but. Oxidized, paralysed, stupefied. Wow. Old school, highly evolved, has passed every ritualistic benchmark and here presents life in Rioja as it may have once been, albeit 100 years ago. Toffee, caramel, the old barrel, sinew, roasted game, you name it – here it is. Would venture to even say this has even evolved prematurely, quicker than it perhaps even should have. But it’s so very, archaically pretty in a myriad of dirty ways. Hanging on for dear Tempranillo life so try it now, with a great braise, a perfect pork chop, or Sichuan-style red braised beef ribs.  Tasted December 2014

Driftwood The Collection Cabernet Merlot 2012, Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia (399857, $19.95, WineAlign)

Margaret River Bordeaux done with a heavy hand and lifted richesse. High toned, big-boned, going it alone. Sumptuous and jammy, savoury and savvy. Clearly Bordeaux-styled with utmost modernity. Tannic too. Need to want both Oz and Bordeaux to get into this bruiser. Will age gorgeously and provide great value appeal 10 years down the road.  Tasted December 2014  @Grapexpctations  @margaretrivers

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Free my Canadian grapes and other love songs

People are not just talking about wine law, they’re joining the band.
PHOTO: JARP/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

The discussion is no longer reserved for wine geeks and industry professionals. People are not just talking about wine law, they’re joining the band. The waves of interest may oscillate in the chatter of the public sector and the media, but the time gaps between are narrowing. Talk is no longer cheap. Canadians are speaking up. Restaurant owners are crying out. Farmers are the lead vocalists. Politicians are listening. The cause and the demand is agreed upon. The song remains the same. Free my grapes.

To the uninitiated, the ignorant and the critic, the love-in happening for Canadian wine right now seems slightly counter-culture. The songs may sound a bit Kumbaya-ish or like covers of Lennon and Harrison chants. Make no mistake about it, this is about the business of selling wine and Canadian wineries want a fair deal.

Grape growers and vintners in Canada have a really good thing going save for one small obstacle. Most provinces won’t allow wine lovers to have out of province wine shipped to them. Ontario is not only the largest producer and consumer of wine in Canada, their government is also the most powerful roadblock to free grapes. Will this ever change? I’ve touched on the subject before.

Related – Wine begins to flow across Canadian provinces and Free grapes of colour

The short answer is yes, if the current level of lobbying is any indication. Last night’s Ontario and B.C. Wine chats, the weekly Twitter/Internet discussion boards created and mediated by Shawn McCormick (Ont.) and Sandra Oldfield (B.C.) took the discourse to an entirely new level. There were many new voices on board. The debates centred on Bill 98, the movement of Free My Grapes and liquor review policy, from one government to the next. Bill 98 is a Private Members (MPP Rob Milligan) Bill that could this make it legal for Ontarians to order and have shipped out of province wines. The opposition members bill has PC support and the promising potential for the NDP to follow suit. Bill 98 entitled “An Act Respecting the Importation of Wine, Beer and Spirits from other Provinces” amends the Liquor Control Act to add a provision that permits individuals of legal age to import wine into Ontario from another province as long as it is for personal consumption only.” The bill has passed second reading, following on the heels of MP Dan Albas’ gains in British Columbia.

Last month Sandra Oldfield posted this essential list on her blog. Top 10 reasons to free my grapes. From a local perspective, allowing grapes to flow across the country increases support for farmers, promotes a Canadian wine culture and increases local tourism. Looking at it globally, changing liquor laws and knocking down pre-prohibition provincial walls would drag Canada out of the laughing-stock category in the world of wine-producing countries. There’s the rub. Critics agree that the deregulation of provincial monopolies and the addition of private liquor stores will not cause tax loss suffering. Oldfield goes so far as to suggest the idea of a flat tax should be investigated. She’s not wrong.

What is the truth of the matter? Does the Ontario government lack the courage to effect change over the LCBO? Is tax collection and the billions of dollars annually endowed from the LCBO to the Ontario government coffers the real issue? Are inflated, algorithmic wine and spirits mark-ups at the heart of the matter?

Regardless of the answer, ears are burning, e-mail is buzzing, letters to MPP’s are increasing and petitions are being signed. Kathleen Wynne is at the centre of the storm and her party can no longer avoid the rising tide of change. It’s simply time to get this done and move on to the matter of making and selling great wine. It’s time to focus on terroir, on soil, on somewhereness.

Just yesterday Ontario wine folks tasted through single vineyard blocks of Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir and celebrated the 25th anniversary of winemaking at Henry of Pelham. Why must Canadians continue to waste their time pleading for Canada’s provincial governments to free the grapes?

So, while everyone waits for the inevitable here at home, wine remains a global concern. The greatest redeeming quality of the all-powerful LCBO is in the VINTAGES releases. The coming weekend features some other love songs, six terrific buys highlighted here. There is one lonely, singular offer from British Columbia, the terrific Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2011. Try it and spread the word. Free my grapes.

From left: Fielding Estate Winery Riesling 2012, Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011, Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010, Caves Saint Desirat Saint Joseph 2010, Journey’s End Shiraz 2007, and Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula SV Pinot Noir 2010

Fielding Estate Winery Riesling 2012 (251439, $18.95) as per the warm vintage humidifies in increased tropical soupçon. There is a feeling of creamy pineapple and mangosteen, nearly sherbet like, with an expedient and harmonizing lemon/granite boost.  Frothy too and coconut feathery. Finishes pithy but not overly so. Complex Beamsville Riesling.  89  @FieldingWines  @RichieWine

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011 (13150, $19.95) is a carnival of red fruit, sans mask. Raspberry, plum and strawberry, pressed, flattened and rolled.  Blueberry too – it’s a freakin’ berry party. Plum and red licorice sneak in for good measure. That said, why wouldn’t you want your Niagara Peninsula Merlot to smell like this? Very approachable, friendly, with tart acidity to wrap it up in a winning package.  Do not look for anything serious here.  88  @featherstonewne

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010 (395855, $24.95) is dug in deep, in pedigree, track record and potential. Mysterious, haunting, cave dwelling fruit. Burrows even deeper, with obvious espresso timber assistance. Balanced, structured and long. A classic H of P CM in the making, throwing muses like the ’98, that will show well to 2022. It’s true, it told me. “It tastes like water, but I’m drunk.”  90  @HenryofPelham

Caves Saint Desirat Saint Joseph 2010 (342980, $23.95) in her elegance and grace from the Northern Rhône is the Syrah to quench even the most desperate anadispic thirst. So lithe, so pretty strawberry, so effortless, so drinkable, so food-friendly. Nothing dramatic or overly exceptional here save for a singer-songwriter, Adamsian, heartfelt angst, but this Syrah is crushed with old school desire without being rustic or misunderstood. “With no secrets, no obsession.” Metal felt but not metallic. Just sit back and enjoy.  90

Journey’s End Shiraz 2007 (337642, $19.95) initiates serious sanguine Stellenbosch intimacy with dusty black cherry and black pepper. Hard to break, like the Northern Rhône, or even Syrah-heavy Châteauneuf-du-Pape but swirl and she will open up. Meaty, gamey, anise, metal-mineral fruit. Hedonistic and certainly clothed in heavy coat but there is an underlying velvet dignity here, though it has not yet shed its bacon baby fat. I would follow this highly complex and intriguing South African for five to 10 years. Already a few years in and not nearly at its peak.  Has ancient experience in its blood.  92  @JourneysEndWine

Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula SV Pinot Noir 2010 (262402, $49.95) is imbued with alluring candied morning glory and ginger aromas. Tight, upright and above sweet suspicion. A front-runner for the genre, faintly painted in dawn pastels and flavoured by a puncheon of strawberry and rhubarb. “Tomorrow never knows what it doesn’t know too soon.” Statis Pinot Noir that is the oasis from the peninsula.  93  @YabbyLake

Good to go!

Looking for love from Labour Day long weekend wines

Klaus Eppele/Fotolia.com PHOTO: KLAUS EPPELE/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

As the final long weekend of the summer approaches, Canadians are stocking up. The fervent feeding frenzy that takes place leading up to Christmas and even more so, New Year’s, is certainly the high selling point for the country’s provincial monopoly liquor stores. Not to be outdone, the Labour Day weekend is close behind when it comes to frantic shopping for beer, wines and spirits.

A bellying-up to the wine trough is in kinetic ambulation, as foodies, excessive imbibers and oenophiles prepare for the last of their warm weather bashes. It’s a good thing the cupboards are not bare: wonderful wines are there for the taking. From the LCBO, to the SAQNSLCNLC,MLMBCLS and beyond, here are 12 current releases to take you through the 2013 Labour Day long weekend.

From left: Varnier Fannière Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne and Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne

The Bubbles

Varnier Fannière Grand Cru Brut Champagne (340158, $56.95, SAQ, 11528089, $57.00) is that under the radar, not yet discovered and eye-opening kind of bubbles you have been seeking. Made in tiny quantities from Grand Cru vines (4 hectares), attention to fine line and detail is obvious and jolting at the same time. Prominent yeast and biscuit aromas, citrus, ginger and  tropical pineapple combine for a creamy texture. Structured and consistent to the end.  92  @TrialtoON

Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne (814723, $62.95, SAQ, 10968752, $62.50, BCLS,457713, $64.99, NLC, 13580, $67.38) is so good it blows my mind. Auricomous fizz whisperer procured in as fine a house style as any, laden with spice but not spicy, yeast but not yeasty, citrus but not citrusy. Sea breeze salinity bellowing by blow horn, beckoning oysters to come to the table.  92  @TaittingerUSA

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne (724559, $91.95, SAQ, 10812942, $93.50, Alberta,8002, $114.99) is expensive, granted, but not to be missed, especially if you are celebrating something special with a better half this weekend. Shiny, happy, strawberry snow-white speaking in a pith lime and ginger pithy foreign tongue. Savour it on the dock, at sunset and toast “to stir your drinks, and sittin’ still.” A pink of exceptional purity and quality, full of “gold and silver shine.”  91  @_Billecart

From left: Calamus Riesling Vinemount Ridge 2011, Creekside Estate Laura’s White 2011, Lailey Chardonnay 2011, Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2009, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling 2010

The Whites

Calamus Riesling Vinemount Ridge 2011 (158642, $16.95, Manitoba, 14571,$19.99) is spartan and citrus tight so you’ve got to get to know her to unearth her frailties, fears, and subtleties.  Her Riesling character builds after quality time spent ante-spitting or swallowing. Like grape spirits, moving silently through the Vinemount Ridge. Following in the footsteps of Picone, Falls and Quarry Road, this Calamus adds credence to the notion that few Niagara acts are more salutary than making wine from grapes grown on the Vinemount Ridge.  88  @calamuswinery

Creekside Estate Laura’s White 2011 (121764, $18.95) leaves behind the moniker “one of Niagara’s stylish white-blends” and in this vintage powers to great white heights. A crush of blonde berries meets savoury, roasted goose, verging to raspberry, creamier even, like mangosteen. The most tropical Laura to date, yet in a high acid vintage it elevates to expertly balanced sweet and sour confection territory. No public enemy here, Laura will work for many palates and many plates. “Get it, let’s get this party started right.”  88  @CreeksideWine

Lailey Chardonnay 2011 (193482, $19.95, Alberta, 739220, $35.67) is right on brother Derek. This not only joins the right excellent Chardonnay club; it’s the incumbent President. Lifted honeysuckle, honey and bright lemon aromas, the deftest kiss of oak and just a punch of spice. Tingles and lingers.  If ’10 was “almost great,” ’11 is. Mikey likes this very much.  90  @laileywinemakr

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2009 (566026, $29.95, NLC, 13510, $29.29) makes its VINTAGES jam debut and at just the right time. Has changed gears and though young to do so, off he goes. Beneficial vitriolic petrol pearl, vital energy flowing but with terrific restraint, “like he’s ridin’ on a motorbike in the strongest winds.” Juicy, boosted and charged by a semi, hemi-powered engine. Brooding for Riesling, adult, empowered.  90  From an earlier note, ”comes from the oldest, lowest-yielding vines at the estate grown on the limestone, Beamsville Bench terrace. A three-month rest on its lees imparts honey on the nose though the palate is dryer than off-dry. Mineral, pop-driven even. A hoovering, wizened Riesling, puckering, turning inward, yet to hydrate. Unique for Escarpment ’09 and will realize a quenching later than most. I for one will put this aside and revisit at the end of the decade, when “golden slumbers fill your eyes.” 89  @CaveSpring

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling 2010 (31039, $27.95, SAQ, 1083654, $30.25, Alberta, 9175, $55.99, ) may be viscous oily and fuming A16 but it’s also tangy and sacchariferous in an orange fruit quorum of peach, nectarine and tangerine. What’s the mineral? Limestone? Granite? Black Mica? Quite serious but more approachable Alsatian than you might think. Don’t hold for too long.  90  @olivier_dzh

From left: 13th Street Red Palette 2011, Tenuta Di Trecciano Terra Rosa Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva 2009, Settesoli Cartagho Mandrarossa Sicilia 2009 and Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2010

The Reds

13th Street Red Palette 2011 (249458, $15.95) while always funky, is always game, ready for anything. Many personalities share the bottle and are by no means remarkably complimentary and integrated without regards to master blender Jean Pierre Colas. Tart and bursting in fresh berry/plum/cherry fruit like Chianti, fresh and bouncy like Barbera, coal mining like Xinomavro.  87 @13thStreetWines

Tenuta Di Trecciano Terra Rosa Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva 2009 (344127, $20.95) from south-west of Siena is nearly moving on but charms with wisdom, prune warmth and love. Sangiovese from the mold of an old trattoria cellar, rubbed by leather and roasted game, Tuscananimale and licorice. Cheap and great gracious Chianti for the here and now because the fruit is marching on.  88  @ColliSenesi

Settesoli Cartagho Mandrarossa Sicilia 2009 (346593, $19.95) is certainly modern Nero D’avola though it shows breeding and class at the hands of a winemaker with deep, state-of-the-art equipped pockets.  Resonant warm clime aromas; orange grove, clove, cinnamon, carob, bokser and like 21st century Sicilian Syrah, it’s brooding and tannic too. Serious Nero, if a bit sun-drenched.  89  @CantineSettesol

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2010 (977629, $24.95, SAQ, 856484, $25.70) from the timeless oasis of Castellina brings game from the grab of the punt. Modern but wizened, with black cherry, obvious new oak (small French barrels) and gripped by tight tannin. Will be a study in CC for years to come. A wine that rolls with the times from the Elsa River Valley and deserving of a definite place in the cellar. “You ought to be who you be If you’re coming with me.”  90  @chianticlassico

Good to go!

Wine, wine and sunshine

PHOTO: KWEST/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

The unequaled quotient of sun multiplied by wine makes California the leading authority to transition from Winter to Spring. The California Wine Fair signals that seasonal change across Canada, at least when it comes to the fermented grape industry.

California Wines offers Canadians a chance to stem the tide while we wait for the budding of vines to produce new fruit in the regions of Niagara, Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore, Okanagan, Naramata Bench, Similkameen, Gaspereau, Montérégie and so many more. Now in its 33rd year, the travelling wine rodeo has and will continue to journey to five Canadian cities between April 2nd and May 2nd, including Québec City, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Halifax.

As the largest advocacy group for the state, California Wines brought 106 participating wineries on Monday, April 8th to the Canada Room at the Fairmount Royal York Hotel. A sea of swilling humanity converged to pack the space in a heat-missile, wine-seeking show of force. The wave of people needed to be negotiated like the surfing of a coastal swell, but with hundreds of merchants and agents on hand, the cups did runneth over.

To a bottle, there is so much sunshine locked inside that at times it can be very difficult to discern one Chardonnay from the next, one Cabernet Sauvignon from another. Pinot Noir in particular suffers from a current, monochromatic lack of somewhereness, trapped inside a shell. The lack of Rhône-inspired wines making it to the Canadian market causes me the strongest disconcerting feelings of discontent. Thankfully, due to the diversity of wine regions across California, there exists a light to help define and delineate the lines. It was only a year ago that it felt as if Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were caught in stagnated mochafication but this 2013 tasting has shed new light. Here are the five wines that for me, stood out above the masses.

From left: Grgich Hills Cellar Estate Chardonnay 2010, Justin Isosceles 2010, Jonata ‘Fenix’ 2007, Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Trailside Vineyard’ 2007, and Signorello Vineyards ‘Padrone’ 2010.

Grgich Hills Cellar Estate Chardonnay 2010 ($55.95, Consignment) glides in so much variety balance I can imagine showering with wine. You will not pigeon-hole this-worldly and structured white because its finesse reaches out across the great mineral vs tropical divide debate. Sure, there is timbered-driven, golden-fleshed apple, green melon and buttered, toasted bread, but there too is a sting of acidity. Stellar year for Napa Chardonnay. Great glass of sunshine93  @GrgichHills

Justin Isosceles 2010 ($85.95, Consignment) is sensual and transcendent Cabernet Sauvignon in a cooler vintage out of the even cooler Cali climate of Paso Robles. Cab Franc and Merlot play a small part in this immaculately crafted Cab Sauv.-dominant Bordeaux-styled red. Big raspberry and pitchblende where colour meets aroma, flavour and texture. Smooths to a crystal finish of eucalyptus and the twang of sunshine.  92  @JUSTINWine  @TheVine_RobGroh

Jonata ‘Fenix’ 2007 (253237, $95) is the inaugural Merlot vintage from this Santa Inez Valley property. Blessed with the longest and coolest growing season in California, when “so much depends on the weather,” the cool, moderate and dry 2007 vintage makes for what may be the most plush and balanced Merlot I have ever tasted from the state. Smells like a fresh-baked bun filled with the exotic perfume of red bean and raspberry paste. Add to that a temple of stone and mineral deposits along with dessert flowers. Winemaker Matt Dees is the master pilot.  94  @WoodmanWines

Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Trailside Vineyard’ 2007 ($135, Consignment) is a stunning, 100% single-varietal, certified organic bombshell. The Heitz perfume is a phenomenal thing and only a select few (including Ridge and Dunn) Californians have such a distinct bravado redolence inherent to and across their red portfolio. This vineyard is “bordered on one side by the Silverado Trail and nudged on the other by the Conn Creek” and it produces crazy, hedonistic and chewy, cherry fruit that makes for such forward, modern yet finely tannic wines. A bottle filled with sun that will trot effortlessly off into the crepuscular light over the next 30 years.  94  @liffordwine

Signorello Vineyards ‘Padrone’ 2010 ($199.95, Consignment) is made from unfiltered, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the oasis of  “two extremely rocky parts of the estate vineyard.” Winemaker Ray Signorello Jr. notes that depending on the vintage, the grapes are chosen from different, but specific spots. A cool growing season made for small yields and an intense Cabernet, with teeth and flesh that will make you “see the sun burst.” Roasted thyme on a glowing set of coals, where tar, licorice and blackberry fruit share time. The char goes on and on – patience will be needed but pass me down the 2010 Padrone wine anytime. 92  @SigVin  @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!

Affordable August Long Weekend Wines

Napeague Walking Dunes

as seen on canada.com

From the exploration of the Walking Dunes on Long Island to a look ahead at the August civic holiday long weekend, wine persists as the imperative of investigation. Vines are like the barren landscape’s phantom forest of forever shifting powder, speaking of a specific idea, a philosophy, a métier. A forest of pitch pine and oak is buried over by wind driven, walking sands. Truth be told, the pursuit of wine is made possible by ever evolving vines, each unique to its local sense of place.

I go wining like the Montauketts and Bonackers who once worked these fruitful waters. I rake the releases and wine stores to unearth gems like the crabs and clams crawling in Montauk’s living waters.

The dry summer is creating a challenge to crops but the teeming ocean swells alive. Lobster, Fluke, Blue Fish, Scallops and especially crabs are abundant and well-priced. Look for these under $20 values to enliven your long weekend meals.

Soft Shell Crab, Fluke and Delmonico Sirloin

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Alsatian at heart, PG is laying down roots all over the New World

The lowdown: Arguably the finest Kiwi version I’ve found, especially at this price

The food match: Steamed Mussels in white wine, shallot, fennel and tarragon

Spinyback Pinot Gris 2010 (214569, $16.95) of sexy flesh and bone has got a lot going on for the IVR*. River walks through Maori gardens of “ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rose of hay.” Biting chalky, mineral and pear, finding the river and swimming with Notacanthus sexspinis.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Lack of oak in Chablis makes for mineral-driven wines

The lowdown: Quality is rarely high at the under $20 (non-Cru) level. This could be your Wonderwall

The food match: Steamed and Grilled Soft-Shell Crab with lime aioli

Domaine Des Malandes Chablis 2010 (111658, $18.95) is a crisp, fresh, floral and tropical oasis of quality in a sea of mediocrity. The citron pressé, “back beat, the word was on the street” Malandes is endowed of high complexity and complement.  88

The grape: Fiano

The history: Ancient varietal from southern Italy

The lowdown: The unheralded whites of the Campania are one of the wine world’s undiscovered treasures

The food match: Grilled Calamari with garlic, olive oil, lemon, capers and parsley

Terre Dora Fiano di Avellino 2010 (120048, $18.95) is always good company and accompanies warm water seafood with pairing ease. Juicy, bursting citrus and tropical, tree-fruit flavours. This Fiano of one of Terre Dora’s three terrific, single-varietal whites (along with the Greco and Falanghina). This Fiano can knock on my door anytime.  89

The grape: Syrah

The history: Noble, dark as night varietal from the Northern Rhône

The lowdown: Languedoc Syrah tends to need support from Grenache and Mourvedre but this one emulates the northern style, in a top vintage and for a song

The food match: Crispy Pork Belly and parsnip pureé

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2009 (177584, $13.95) is certainly more north than south with its smokey, cured beef and pork perambulations. Depth to raise thoughts of Septaguanarian Hermitage vines of twist and gnarl. A touch of burnt rubber and varnish but all in all a heap of Syrah for under $14.  87

The grape: Garnacha

The history: Big, juicy red of French and Iberian fame

The lowdown: Under $15 Calatayud Garnacha has become a consistent go to value

The food match: Ground Sirloin Burgers with Mahon Cheese

Filón Garnacha 2010 (280602, $14.95) is actually a bit of a misprision because of its black fruit character. Re-enacts Tuscan IGT and the most modern of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tar, asphalt, bitter chocolate and sanguine Kirsch and very, very ripe fruit. Grand oak and tons of wine at $15.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Primate-like cousin to Primitivo from Italy and before that, Yugoslavia

The lowdown: Dry Creek Valley does this varietal like no other; sweet and dry.

The food match: Dry Rub, St. Louis Style Side Ribs

Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel 2009 (463026, $22.95) is so toothsome and bruising you may want to eat it with a fork. A sickly sweet moment is rescued by the DCV terroir. This 15.2% abv elixir of crushed and blended berries is a single-vineyard beauty that begs a question. Why pay $50 for top-tier Zinfandel when you can go Pedroncelli?  89

The Splurge

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Storied producer of more than 200 years located near the famous Dentelles de Montmirail

The lowdown: The best Grapillon since 2001

The food match: Grilled Delmonico Sirloin Steak with cherry tomato, avocado and black beans salsa

Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2010 (981787, $28.95) of inky, jet black pitch is bombastic and confidently announces itself of full extraction. Blueberry compote, macerated cherries, roasted and bleeding elk all come to the visceral mind. Sweet, viscous liquor with acidity and viscous tannin. Needs 10 years or several oxygenated hours to settle in.  91