Winter wine matters

Mr. Frost the melting snowman

Mr. Frost the melting snowman

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

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

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

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

Popov

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

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

Ferme du Mont

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

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

Rabl

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

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

Desmoiselles

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

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

Pouilly

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

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

Morgon

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

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

Pecina

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

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

Blue Mountain

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

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

Louis

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

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

Martin Ray

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

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

Marchand

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

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

Cotes de Nuits

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

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

Girardin

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

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

Barbi

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

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

Franus

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

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

Good to go!

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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!

The Wine Diaries: Napa Valley’s Peter Franus

Vineyard in Napa Valley, California PHOTO: FRIDAY/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Peter Franus is a man at ease, comfortable within his own grape skin. His Ontario chaperon, the still markedly too legit to quit Mark Coster of Profile Wine Group showed the California winemaker around town, stopping to taste through the vintner’s portfolio at Barque Smokehouse. Franus has quietly cemented an iconic legacy by crafting a diverse resumé of corporeal wines in Napa Valley for more than 25 years.

A native of Greenwich, CT, the affable Franus comes across as an über-gentleman. He rarely produces more than a 1000 cases of any of his wines, from Bordeaux varieties, Zinfandel, Rhônes, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and even Spanish Albariño. His wines may not be Frisky Zebra-priced or fashioned for everyman but his laid back demeanor and sentimental passion are quintessentially Californian, like that of a successful 1970′s singer-songwriter. If I had to make a comparison, I’d lean more Jackson Browne than Don Henley.

Of the 10 disparate yet maze connected wines in the Franus portfolio, the most impressive for me is likely the least talked about. I am admittedly a sucker for Rhône in the diaspora so there is no surprise what happy thoughts his SGM put in my brain. I would be remiss to not make mention of the Sauvignon Blanc, blessedly balmy and herbal, subtle and never over-assertive in blanched green vegetable, passion fruit and grassy, gooseberry notes. Three wines crested and stood out as the most compelling. Here are their tasting notes.

From left: Red Wine, Red Hills Lake Country Red 2008, Zinfandel Brandlin Vineyard 2010, and Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008

Red Wine, Red Hills Lake Country Red 2008 ($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

Zinfandel Brandlin Vineyard 2010 ($46.95) from the slopes of Mt. Veeder gets a little 2+2+2 help from friends Charbono, Mourvèdre and Carignane and rested for 21 months in Burgundian Coopers. Anything but heavy-handed, it shows no signs of balsamic or toffee scars, despite the August heat spike, shriveled berries and low yield. This Brandlin “hits you over the head with pleasure,” says Franus, from a mountain that’s “as close to heaven as your going to get.” This PF Zin is PFG, if I do say so myself.  91

Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008 ($54.95) holds out back to a time when every mancould savour this kind of wine. A Napa style made “in the warmth of the sun where sweet childhood still dances,” once again with finesse, restraint and an understanding of the place. Made in a style Franus calls “my signature of balance, harmony and elegance.” From a meticulous selection of grapes out of three vineyards, Truchard (muscle), Rancho Chimiles (acidity, florals) and Stewart (ties the room together).  Yes Peter, this is delicious.  90

Roast Chicken, Potatoes and Herbs (Photo: Michael Godel)

Good to go!