If I could buy only thirteen

Look at all that chicken

Look at all that chicken

Over at WineAlign we recently introduced a new feature in our already comprehensive coverage of the bi-weekly VINTAGES releases.  If I Could Buy Only One offers subscribers a first in line, get inside the minds of four Ontario critics. As part of the overall recap on each release David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato and I are asked the question: “If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?”

When it comes to tasting, assessing and scoring VINTAGES wines there is simply no equal to what WineAlign covers in Ontario. As a group we four are sure to collectively provide at least one tasting note and score for 100 or more wines per release. In most cases there are two and sometimes three or even all four. Where else in print or online can you access such a synoptic scope of sweeping current information?

We are not alone but we are at the head of the game. Our colleague Michael Vaughan is the only critic who tastes every wine on every VINTAGES release. His nearly three decades of utter dedication and encyclopedic memory is nothing short of incredible. Tony Aspler covers the releases and contributes to Vaughan’s newsletter. Tony’s decades of experience are invaluable to both his and Michael’s readership. Beppi Crosariol offers a handful of concise and epigrammatic weekly recommendations in the Globe and Mail, Carolyn Hammond in a Toronto Star nutshell and Rod Phillips meaty and marrowy in the Ottawa Sun.

The LCBO media tasting lab is frequented by many Ontario writers. Most notable is Tim Appelt. Tim sounds off extensively on the releases. Eric Vellend publishes recos in his column “Bottle Shop” for Billy, the Toronto Island Airport’s magazine. André Proulx brings his own ignited take to his website, Andre Wine Review and Michael Pinkus publishes his broad brushstroke on his Wine Review. Erin Henderson does so on The Wine Sister’s website and Dean Tudor at Gothic Epicures World Wine Watch. If you follow what comes through VINTAGES and sequester help and ideas, who do you turn to? The answer is simply WineAlign.

When asked to single out just one I chose another Chablis from the current September 17th release. Look for the stellar Simonnet Febvre & Fils Côte De Lechet Chablis 1er Cru 2013 review in my upcoming report on Chablis in Ontario. Today I’ve got 13 other solid recommendations from a wide range of places.

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Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Les Darons 2014, Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014

Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (461004, $13.95, WineAlign)

Man’s upper reaches sauvignon blanc whirls and winds around open-affable, semi-pungent fruit and churns like citrus juice through a windmill. This multi-purpose white speaks with great acidity and deep tart flavours. Just a touch of sweet peach with lime zest and a spritz keeps it spinning. Lots of bang for just a few bucks. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741785, $10.95, 375ml, WineAlign)

Tasted from a half bottle, The Zingarelli Chianti Classico 2014 is as expected, classic. Hits all the appropriate and life-affirming sangiovese notes; cherries, fresh leather, dried figs, old wood walls, bright acidity and fine-grained tannin. When commercial, protective and attention to detail get together in Chianti Classico, this is what comes out. Expectations met and dinner accompanied. Ready to drink now and should be so because of the freshness afforded. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @roccadellemacie  @chianticlassico  @ProfileWineGrp

Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (393140, $15.95, WineAlign)

Flat out juicy prieto picudo if you must know is 100 per cent employed out of Castilla Y Leon. Drinkable and gulpable don’t get much better than this, like spicy gamay but with more weight. You can put the truck in reverse and open the back doors wide for this and its sultry sway from French and American oak. The oak does not intrude mind you but it certainly adds texture and punch. Utterly delectable. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @DominiodeTares  @oenophilia1

Les Darons 2014, Ap Languedoc, France, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (448464, $17.95, WineAlign)

Fresh and dramatic Languedoc with amazing floraility, namely violets but also rose bushes in a mid-summer swelter. Vitality is ensured by the top notch acidity and the tempering here has nothing to do with chocolate. Tart just right and back bite. While some from the warm region seem “toujours le cup entre demux chaises,” this Jeff Carrel red is right where it needs to be, comfortable in its own skin. No Ogres des Barback. Simply Les Darons. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @LanguedocWines

Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Do Rias Baixas, Spain (417667, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is a fine example of Albarino bringing miles of rich, ripe fruit into a brew of ripping acidity. Very mineral motive as as well, so with so much stewing in the pot you can expect a whole lot of vigor, revelry and magic. The citrus on the back side is nothing short of scintillant-spurred from lemon and lime. Miles from balmy, this is quite electric Galicia. Witches’ Brew, Bitches Brew in a Spanish Key. May not be a revolutionary bottle but it’s as close to jazz-rock fusion Albarino as you are likely to find. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016     @RiasBaixasWines

Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California (318360, $27.95, WineAlign)

Another well-managed, keep it in the cool-climate family entry-level chardonnay from Brian Talley, keeping the faith and the successful streak alive for the idea behind Edna Valley as an important haven for chardonnay. It’s nearly unoaked, with just some neutral barrels to keep it leesy and creamy but acidity and umami are clear to lead the way. Excellent effort if on the lean and mean side. Good length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @TalleyVineyards  @TheVine_RobGroh

From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L'hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013

From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013

Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Ac Loire, France (446401, $28.95, WineAlign)

Cured, natural, direct and experiential red Sancerre. A case of hands-off winemaking if there ever was, leaving exceptional fruit to walk the road and find its own way. Red berries, currants and just a hint of natural smoke. Savoury not even on its radar. Very fresh and alive. Freedom in red Sancerre. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @LoireValleyWine

Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Doc Collio, Friuli, Italy (165027, $32.95, WineAlign)

Ripe, pungent and forthright Collio sauvignon blanc from the regional leader Schiopetto, culled from top level terroir and exercised with great intent. No Aqualung here, no “start away uneasy.” Dives into stony, flinty and mineral tangy waters then emerges to tell a tale of richness and mille-feuille layering. Top level sauvignon blanc for anywhere but from a very specific, agriculturist place. Finishes with a creamy lemon curd and a shot of adrenaline. If any sauvignon blanc could help solve the answer to the distinction between religion and God, Schiopetto’s could very well be the one. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted  September 2016  @schiopetto  @LeSommelierWine

Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (469478, $34.95, WineAlign)

I will stand to be corrected but this first such sparkler from Thirty Bench (it’s my first) and its dry riesling stoicism is a first in its singular way for Ontario. Using a small dosage from Steel Post Vineyard riesling fruit, the quality level in this non-vintage bubble (but I would think that the primary vintage fruit is 2014) is elevated with that world-class juice and yet aridity is not compromised. The subtle, rich, elongated and amalgamated orchard fruit aromatics are pure Beamsville, Thirty Bench and Emma Garner with well-rounded Niagara Peninsula Sparkling couverture. One, Garner wouldn’t waste a thimble-full of her riesling to make less than stellar sparkling wine and two, it’s really good. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted  September 2016  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA

Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, Ac Alsace, France (462556, $39.95, WineAlign)

The tense and focused aromatics lead the way in this very generous gewürztraminer, classically styled to be off-dry but the sweetness is the furthest thing from your mind. Seeping rose petals and pure lychee syrup are graced with lemon zest, fennel frond and a curious note of rooibos tea. An exemplary vintage for an elixir that never cloys but just touches on something spicy and thinks about the bitterness of nuts though never really goes there. Subtle, refined and Eguisheim cultured from Emile Beyer. So impressive and a steal to drink in its first 10 years. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016  @EmileBeyer  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Los Carneros, Sonoma County, California (184929, $39.95, WineAlign)

Experience, vintage and location will conspire to deliver profundity when the winemaker is attuned to available excellence and in tune with the vines. La Crema’s Elizabeth Grant-Douglas has a large, who’s who and what’s what portfolio to plate. She does so with broad, brushstroke ability and triads. In 2014 she has simply dialled into Los Carneros. The cool, temperature mitigated rolling hills, wind and aspect/exposure of this largest appellation straddling Napa and Sonoma does wonders for Chardonnay. Here in ’14 the third of the drought vintages is cradled with zest, vitality and pure energy. If you like nougat then have a chew of this one. If rich and unctuous Champagne with a bit of age is your thing you may just sit back and sigh. This wine was fatter previously, vegetal and just too easy. Here it sings “cause it fits in well with the chords” its playing. Right in tune. “Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.” The line that runs through Carneros with chardonnay the voice and La Crema the orchestra. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @LaCremaWines  @bwwines  @sonomavintners  @thesirengroup

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014, Ac Rhone, France (704429, $56.95, WineAlign)

This is quite closed for white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, remarkable that way and dramatically caught between the rocks and stones of its upbringing. There is nothing yet fleshy or flashy about it but considering how tightly wound it is you just have to know that revelry is up around the bend. So many stone fruits will reveal during the unravel. At this rigid dry extract and carpeted stage something microbial stands out but this too shall pass. The grip is firm and the focus leering. A structurally imposing La Nerthe with the will to live 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted September 2016    @WoodmanWS  @VINSRHONE

Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013, Burgundy, France (286450, $59.95, WineAlign)

Sweet, expertly extracted and gently pressed fruit provides the bassinet for a subtle, charming and effluent pinot noir from Pascal Marchand. This falls on the lithe and graceful side of pinot noir with well-managed oak and an inherent structure that speaks as softly as the fruit but that does not mean its not capable of stretching this into a second decade. This is really pretty stuff. Would love to see its secondary stage and later fruition next decade. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016  @pasmarchand  @Burgundy_Direct  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Varietal Spanish wine

Meat Me in the Junction http://meatmeinthejunction.com

Meat Me in the Junction
http://meatmeinthejunction.com

In which camp do you take up permanent and loyal residence? Do you listen to, build your cellar around and taste exclusively of the singer-songwriter, the solo artist, the grape that goes it alone? Who are you? Varietal or blend?

Many a quarrel has landed on the subject of pitting meritage versus the single-varietal. The purist will argue that no combination of grapes can combine to make for the greatest of wines (save for Champagne). They will insist the skilled and important winemaker is one whose favourite medium is difficulty. That only the ones who are possessive of the cabalistic code can truly unlock the inner secrets of their art. That it can only done through the secret concentration and religious attention paid solely to one partner.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay perpetuate in globally made, 100 per cent single solutions, not to mention the behemoths of Shiraz, Malbec, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. To a lesser extent there are great vats composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Gamay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.

The viticultural right of assemblage is one of the perks in modern winemaking, propped up by and standing on the shoulders of Bordeaux giants. The blending of grapes in summations to argue that the whole is the proper gross of fractions is a celebration of the 21st century avant garde.

Related – Off the beaten Italian path

Yet times evolve, change and tesselate. Old becomes new again. In November I travelled off the beaten Italian varietal path in an investigation of the B-sides, the ones that no one else knows about. I met the awakening of the Italian grape vernacular, engineered for companionless a cappella troubadours, from Albana to Ribolla Gialla, endemic (or indigenous, if the nomenclature suits you) and ancient varieties that have entered a time of new dawn. A similar renaissance is happening in Spain.

In October, at the invite of the downright honourable good Dr. Barry Brown of the Spanish Wine Society, I had the opportunity to taste through a wide selection of the wines of Navarra. The region lies between Pamplona in the north and the Ebro River plain to the south. Non-native varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced in the eighties, but it is the native Viura, Tempranillo and Garnacha that drive the Navarran machine.

The Rosado of Navarra were exceptional and the best examples were composed from 100 per cent Garnacha. The single-varietal compositions in Garnacha and Tempranillo by Bodegas Principe de Viana drove the companionless point. The exception to the rule was found in the wines of Bodegas Tandem. The small winery in Tierra Estella (Yerri Valley) is fashioning blends using Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a combination of concrete vats and French oak. The slow ripening, meticulous handling and extended aging in wines crafted by José María Fraile is nothing short of exceptional. After all, they are called grape varieties and variety is the spice of life. Why shouldn’t blends have more fun?

In November I continued my Spanish odyssey with the wines of Garnacha. It was there that the solo records, in red and white really began to play in my varietal head. Garnacha (also known as Grenache) is one of the world’s oldest and most widely planted grapes. Its ability to assimilate the double-pronged effect of a Mediterranean climate and an Atlantic suffusion make it ideal for the Iberian Peninsula.

From left to right: Bodegas Tandem Ars Nova 2011, Bodegas Principe de Viana Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013, Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2012, Lafou Els Amelers 2013, Edetària Selecció Blanc 2012, Bodegas Pirineos Garnacha 2013 and Grandes Vinos y Viñedos El Anayón Selección Garnacha 2011

From left to right: Bodegas Tandem Ars Nova 2011, Bodegas Principe de Viana Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013, Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2012, Lafou Els Amelers 2013, Edetària Selecció Blanc 2012, Bodegas Pirineos Garnacha 2013 and Grandes Vinos y Viñedos El Anayón Selección Garnacha 2011

As the most notorious grape variety with the ability to go ying or yang, Ac or Dc, red or white, Garnacha makes for a fascinating study. Three examples expressive of Blanca’s western European white vinous supremacy opened my eyes to its capabilities. Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2012 (Agent, $16.00) from Somontano made use of four months in two year-old oak barrels to help develop texture in as good a value Garnacha Blanca as could hope to find. The Lafou Els Amelers 2013 (Agent, $28.95) from Terra Alta is a gorgeous wine of salinity, calcium, white flowers, fine lines and elegance. The Edetària Selecció Blanc 2012 (Agent, $39.95) also from Terra Alta is the pure distilled embodiment of Garnacha Blanca with its own unique and distinct aroma.

The Toronto Garnacha tasting ushered by Sopexa Canada brought into focus the grape’s diverse spectrum spread liberally around Spanish wine regions. When Garnacha goes it alone the results are extremely varied, from simple syrup, inexpensive drops to seriously structured compositions. As a varietal wine it is extremely accessible and offers exploratory song lines for all walks of wine consumer life.

From Somontano there is the Bodegas Pirineos Garnacha 2013 (Agent, $17.00), a prime starter’s example all about structure, with rock, chalk and lime-like citrus accents. This is a red Garnacha for the white wine drinker. Grandes Vinos y Viñedos El Anayón Selección Garnacha 2011 (Agent, $30.00) hails from Cariñena. Reeking ethereal and attenuated in American Oak, the high toast, citrus tone, vanilla and Rhône-esque garrigue is palpable. Crazy sweet tannins will carry this big fruit Garnacha to the next decade with pleasing clarity.

So with thanks to Macabeo, Prieto Picudo, Mazuelo, Graciano, Garnacha and the people who brought them to us, the individual is freed from the collective. In a twist of Descartian philosophy, of mind and mechanism, varietal wine is handled with the treatment of oxymoronic social sciences. The result is a triumph of secular materialism, the conceit of modernity and the reduction of the world to a single, simple mechanism. Varietal atom splitting is a resource to be exploited in blind interaction with the living planet.

In the end there is only one vine, one grape, concentrating, developing, existing one at a time. Here are six full tasting notes on varietal wines, each allowed to shine without intrusion and on their own line.

From left to right: Torre Oria Reserva Brut Cava, Dominio Dostares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009, Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009, Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010 and Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2009

From left to right: Torre Oria Reserva Brut Cava, Dominio Dostares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009, Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009, Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010 and Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2009

Torre Oria Reserva Brut Cava, Método Tradicional, Do Valencia, Spain (402255, $15.95, WineAlign)

Made from 100 per cent Macabeo, this is from a winery that is the first to produce Cava from outside of the Penedes DO. Here, from Valencia, up front there is dust, must and concrete, evidence of a lees-induced oxdative lean and wish upon a star aridity. There comes a time when dry fizz does not have to be the way to go, especially when trying to please many palates in too tight a space. So up steps this formidable Cava (with 9-10 g/L RS), in quality, with a crush of gala apple, a weight and a texture like a shag rug. Sure, it may be a bit disco but it’s also so very retro hip. Like Gorillaz and Clint Eastwood with “the essence, the basics,” and its “got sunshine, in a bag.” On the oxidative side? Yes and “the future is coming on.” Drink up.  Tasted January 2015  @cavaswine  @DO_Cava

Dominio Dostares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (393140, $15.95, WineAlign)

A rare sighting of Prieto Picudo, one of the more idiosyncratic of grape varieties. This is the entry-level offering from Dominio Dostares (they make more precious best plot selection versions). Vines as ancient as 90 years old contribute briery cedar and leathery veins but this is quite modern, straightforward and aiming to please. Though a bit hot and heavy, the aridity (2 g/L RS) and the mineral streak keep it real. A harmonious if gangly red (from high acid soils), keeping warm and huddled within its hermetic, endemic environment. Short and simple, sweet and tart. Represents striking value in something other. Tasted January 2015  @oenophilia1  @_Cast_y_Leon

Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009, Do Navarra, Spain (391656, $17.95, WineAlign)

The release of relief in the activity of opportunity to taste something other, like 100 per cent Mazuelo, is just excellent. Compounded with the breath of fresh Spanish DO brought to the table by the current wave of Navarran wines, the experience is made that much more enjoyable. The wine is neither modest nor is it a mouse. Its body travels “on a road shaped like a figure eight.” It builds more than nothing out of something. The traced aromas are filled with pots of fresh flowers and the space is occupied by plenty of stuffing. No. 8 has a seamless, put together structure from the start. Silky and so very juicy with a streak of reminiscing rusticity. Great proper acidity and very stretched length. A very pretty if grounded and ode to history made wine.  Tasted January 2015  @navarrawine

Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla, DO La Mancha, Spain (392522, $17.95, WineAlign)

Not unlike Rioja, the wines of Tierra De Castilla in the heart of Spain are blessed with a Mediterranean climate augmented by an Atlantic influence. This organic winery is located beneath the Gredos Mountains in the Province of Toledo. The vineyards are protected from the northern winds by the mountain ranges. Though oft considered lower in quality, the Vino de la Tierra de Castilla designation is emerging from out of the Castilla-La Mancha shell. Tasting this 100 per cent Graciano just after a few months in oak and a bunch more in bottle before release would have shown more bright fruit and verve. Now four plus years later there is still much to admire in the high notes and brightness of the nose. Hard not to notice the strikingly and hauntingly beautiful aromatics. Also some dried fruit, like prune and turkish apricot. Akin to some Dão and some Rhône, without ever flirting with being baked or stewed flavours. Aridty juiced from rocks, acidity that follows suit and to nudge it forward in longer strides.  Tasted January 2015

Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010, Doca Rioja, Spain (397166, $21.95, WineAlign)

Such a unique and life reaffirming, giving back red Riojan. The singular, singled out Graciano comeback revolution is upon us and we are all the beneficiaries. Here there exhibits a different sort of profile. A veritable profiterole of anise, cured chorizo, dried flowers and some spices (violets and the wafting aromas of Patatas a la Riojana). Not to be left off the redolent list is a funk, one that is not merde, but rather an old school, skinned hide. At the price and best of all is that the Graciano is so very, very long, like the Camino Frances, from the Pyrenees, through Roncesvalles and to Rioja.  Tasted January 2015  @RiojaWine

Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2009, DO Somontano, Spain (Agent, $32.00)

Took a sip and “the breeze blew back my hair.” Made from 100 per cent Garnacha, the elevated liqueur on the nose is invigorating and initially, somehow disturbing.  The combined forces of macerated, steeping cherries, melting liquorice and bubbling tar is extraordinary. Enveloped by a tinging, pinging acidity, the wine is structured in chalk, grain and gravelly tannin. The barrel influence is ingrained and the wine is most certainly huge but the overall composition is fresh, red and viscid. What to do after being hit in the face with a wine such as this? “How can I measure up to anyone new, after such a love as this?” Who are you Secastilla? Be patient, let it ride for years, let it soften. The comeback tour will be fun.  Tasted November 2014  @VinasdelVero  @WoodmanWS

Good to go!

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