Frankenwein: The creed of silvaner and passion for pinot noir

In March of 2017 the Deutsches Weininstitut invited me to ProWein, the international wine congress in Düsseldorf, Germany. My hosts included the ProWein press department, Messe Düsseldorf and Wines of Germany. A few months ago I commented that Prowein is “of such immense proportion that words, description and explanation just fail to do it justice. If you are an agent your goals are simple; meet with your incumbent suppliers and taste with enough new ones to fill the holes in your portfolio. But what if you are a journalist like me? What do you concentrate on? Were do you start?”

“Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner”

On day one I made a beeline for the Germany pavilion, epicentre to the ProWein universe. Gravity would naturally pull you to the Mosel and yet I was in search of an alternative experience. With travels to the Ahr Valley and the Rheinhessen looming I gravitated (naturally) to Franken and more specifically to an intensive workshop with silvaner and spätburgunder. The Bavarian wine region is located east of Frankfurt (and 65 km/40 miles east of the Rhine) on south-facing slopes lining the Main River and its tributaries. The centre of Franconia is the town of Würzburg, home of the famed vineyard Stein, which gave rise to the generic term Steinwein, formerly used to denote all of the region’s wines. It would be an understatement to call Franken a cool-climate growing region. Even in a world gripped by climate change it can still be too cold for riesling. This is where silvaner thrives, in spite of cold winters, high annual rainfall and very cool autumn conditions. Müller-Thurgau is the most planted grade variety and silvaner is second.

Franken Silvaner

The most prized Franken wines were (and to some extent still are) traditionally bottled in a Bocksbeutel, a squat green or brown flagon with a round body. A loyalty to history contends that considerable recognition value is added to the region’s wines but the days of the old flattened ellipsoid, field bottle silvaner packaged in traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel are receding behind us. We are seeing a diurnal shift as they are increasingly replaced by modern, clean and pure examples that match up with the great mineral fresh whites around the planet. The silvaner slogan “Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner” led me to discover the great white history and future of this most important Franken grape.

Passion für Pinot Noir!

Passion für Pinot Noir! is the avant-garde Deutscher Qualitäswein Franken slogan for spätburgunder. The idea behind pinot noir in Bavaria is just about as outsider a concept as making wine instead of beer or habituating Protestants in a world of Catholics, but micro-climates are a wondrous thing. The avant-garde Franconia winemaking is one of the great overlooked stories in wine today and nowhere else is this evident than in the work being put in with pinot noir on the Franconian fringe of varietal possibility.

The producers have entered into an era of defining cru vineyards, like Sulzfelder Maustal with soil rich in shell limestone, Sommeracher’s Katzenkopf and Centgrafenberg, in Bürgstadt. The styles on display at Prowein duly noted in a flight of 12 were varied, sometimes mimicking other German regions, California and Burgundy. More often than not they are purely and expressly Franken, of dusty red cherry, mineral, bright energy, citrus and with oak working for bites and spice. A heed and a warning: Once you taste Franken pinot noir you may never go back.

Related – Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

Records indicate the last Ontario VINTAGES German silvaner release was on May 10, 2014. The two before that were on July 6, 2013 and February 2, 2013 . You would have to look back almost another full calendar year, to May 12, 2012, for the one previous to that. Since nothing has come through again, allowing so many years to pass without offering a single bottle of Franken silvaner to the Ontario wine consumer amounts to a crime against Frankenwein. With respect to spätburgunder I can find no history of VINTAGES releases in Ontario. In fact there are currently only two German pinot noir available here at home, one from Pfalz and the other, Baden. Franken isn’t even on the radar. There are no Franken wines anywhere to be found.

I was very impressed with the quality of both the silvaner and the spätburgunder in my two sit-downs at the Prowein Franken booth so hopefully I can shed some light on what everyone is missing. Once again it is important to recognize the people responsible for allowing me to take part in this German wine experience; Stefan Egge, Christiane Schorn, Brigitte Küppers, Michael Mandel and Carola Keller. Until ProWein 2018, here are 22 notes on Franken silvaner and spätburgunder.

“Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner”

Weingut Brennfleck Silvaner Trocken Mönchshöflein, Großes Gewächs, Sulzfelder Maustal 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A warming, humid and rich 14 per cent dry silvaner, unctuous and viscous. The aromas peel ripe yellow-fleshed peach and scrape concrete while the texture comes leesy and exceptionally tart. A very mature, adult, dry silvaner for rich fish and seafood. Scallops would adore this, but pork belly would also cut a rug with its agile stepping ability. Also carries the most subtle effervescent tingle. So very interesting and part of the developing story. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017     #Brennfleck  Weingut Brennfleck  @frankenwein   #frankenwein  Frankenwein Fränkische Weinkönigin  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Selsam + Schneider Silvaner Trocken, Escherndorfer Fürstenberg 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Silvaner of herbology and spirit, dry but with aromatic faux botrytis, white peach and white flowers. Tastes like there is some barrel ferment on the fruit because it shows that sauvignon blanc sweet note, but also some grapefruit and lime. Quite spirited though I’d wish the acidity were more demanding and that the finish would linger longer. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Rudolf May Silvaner Retzstadter Langenberg Der Schäfer 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

May’s Der Schäfer silvaner comes from the Retztadter Langenberg, a slope of muschelkalk (predominantly from the lower muschelkalk, or wellenkalk) that characterizes the soil. Looking east the location is protected by the Retzstadt deciduous forest and the warm air of the Maintales flows from the west. This specialized and extra-special silvaner is balanced in its aromatic ability meets proper and right-willing alcohol (13.5), with great quality acidity. True salinity and caper brine put my mind’s senses into concepts where this shares a kinship with assytrtiko. It’s brilliant, stony-gemstone able, savoury, no actually sapid, and exceptionally mouth salivating. Just a touch of texture driven lees builds character and great persistence. Bitters before the end are finely distilled and character building. Fresh to drink now and with more ability than most to age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017    #rudolfmay @Weingut.Rudolf.May  

Rainer Sauer Ab Ovo Silvaner Vom Ei Ursprünglich Von Anfang An 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Faux sweet leesy, of a lactic nose but dry, this is made in that Stellenbosch chenin blanc style; tart, taut and high in white citrus acidity. Really tart palate but beautifully so, nicely rendered salinity in a simple package. Not the most complex but the easy drinking silvaner. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017    #rainersauer  Daniel Sauer

Weingut Otmar Zang Silvaner J40 Alte Reben Sommerach 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

The amphora silver shines, bringing a concrete meets waxy richness, and you can smell the bees and the wet aggregate mix. Herbs and salt are generous but suppressed or at least stirred in, like lees and in a way, like a dry into wet baking mix. Thicker and unctuous on the palate with a touch of residual sweetness, this runs the gamut from savoury to just slightly confected so ultimately the goal here is the time-accumulated eventuality of honey. Tastes a bit like young figs or dates and so the interest level is high in terms of silvaner. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @WeingutOtmarZang

Baldauf Clees Silvaner Spätlese Trocken, Ramsthal, Pfarrwengert 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This is the platinum, metallurgical, alloy mineral silvaner, the inside of the pipe and the soil tart, old school expression but also pure, clean and dry. Still an air-dry silvaner, rich on the palate and very varietal obvious. This kind of tart is so specific to the history and perpetual tang of such locale-driven silvaner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @Weingut.Baldauf

Franken Riemenschneider Silvaner 1er Traube Spätlese Trocken, Asthheimer Karthäuser 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Perhaps the most old school of the lot and the acumen so confident in delivering the most convincing need for traditional style. What Spätlese is to Franken silvaner it is not to anywhere else with the late harvest style. This is saline, balsamic briny, yellow plum acidity laced and of an almond blossom sweetness that just simply melts in. Power in commitment and longevity are a given, R.E.M. melodic, even in later career composition. “If this is what you’re offering,” of great persistence, “I’ll take the rain.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  #Riemenschneider

Weingut Weigand Der Held Silvaner Trocken, Iphofen 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Done in Amphora from hold, stall and grant beginnings, there acts by hue and from aroma a bit of skin contact. Carries a lees and beeswax note, along with wet rock salt and the humidity inside of a concrete tank. Both agreeable and complex, the palate elevates this wine, never relaxes and defaults into simple viscosity, but continuously refreshes. This is the first to carry a true lemon and lime tune, the most reigned in richness and a sense of cure. Modern and serious but more about how much it knows its capabilities of taking hold of tradition and moving it forward. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  weingut_weigand_franken    @WeingutGaestehausWeigand

Weingut Horst Sauer Silvaner Sehnsucht Trocken, Escherndorfer 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Back to the faux sweet, very leesy silvaner, this is about texture and mouthfeel after the citrus and mineral sweet aromas. Again this reminds of South African chenin blanc, tart and taut, very dry and of a typicality that modern silvaner will do in a risk aversion way. A proper introduction into what modern silvaner has to be with very good length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  #weinguthorstsauer     @weinguthorstsauer  Sandra Sauer

Juliusspital Silvaner Trocken, Würzburger 2016, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Also from amphora, the mineral bronzing in hue and on the palate is again old-school, what it was and has been. Waxy on the nose and palate and this combines the old school amphora with the new way chenin style, but this has some palate sweetness mixed with a very tangy-tart taste. Quite intense though the mid-palate thins while the acidity shines and then it’s very long. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  #juliusspital  #Juliusspital  Juliusspital Weinstuben Würzburg

The world also needs more #frankenweine #spätburgunder #prowein2017 #pinotnoir

Passion für Pinot Noir!

Weingut Josef Walter Spätburgunder Hundsrück “J” Trocken 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Very pretty, perfectly evolved, all strawberry but some of it in dried and dusty garnish form. Certainly spirited, high-toned, elevating, rising still. Beautifully tart, seemingly calcareous, easy to drink, with soft but sweet tannins and most excellent. For every day though with some light heat on the finish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Divino Pinot Noir Trocken Gg, Grobes Greväches, 1m Barrique Gereift 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A very ripe, high octane (14.5 per cent alcohol) grand cru spätburgunder, still rustic and leathery, some dried fruit and though high-toned, quite evolved. The oak is very noticeable, as are the tannins and finishing bitters. Much happening and this really reminds of a warm New Zealand, ripe and extracted pinot. North Island stuff in the Franken. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017  #divinonordheim  @divino_nordheim  @divino.nordheim

Zehnthof Luckert Wein&Gut Sulzfelder Maustal Spätburgunder Gg, Vdp. Grosse Lage 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This is the completely other grand cru, go tell it to the world pinot noir, pencil and graphite laden, lead and dusty cherry. Great mouthful and brightness with vitality and energy despite its age. Pure, red-spoken citrus and spice. The oak here works for bites and crisp baking moments, not smoulder or finished cake accent. Love this energy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  zehnthof_luckert    @VDP_Estates  @zehnthofluckert  Philipp Luckert

Weingut Roth Spätburgunder Gg Trocken Biowein, Wiesenbronner Heller Berg, Vdp Erste Lage 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Organic and warming (at 14 per cent abv) but this seems to be the median norm for phenolic ripeness and with or without the oak treatment of choice. This certainly treads on the darker cherry fruit plain though that pinot noir Franken/Ahr/Baden/Alsace tonality is present, accounted for and wholly acceptable within the parameters of omniscient typicity. The only one with a reductive note so far so air and more time will help inflate and then deflate the vacuum. Very tart and a bit of Chinese five-spice, sweet and sour with chunks of pineapple worked in. This unique specimen is possessive of a savoury-sweet commingling. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  #weingutroth  @Weingut_Roth  @Weingut.Roth

Weingut Then Authentisch Spätburgunder Trocken Sommeracher Katzenkopf, Authentisch Kommt Von Then 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

The most volatile and reductive of the lot, this is funky-dirty, full of dark red fruit and so taut. Most of the aromas are dominated by the suffocation spume and then this turns so tart and sour. It has character and potential to be sure but the fruit is having trouble speaking out. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  #weingutthen  Weingut Then

Dürr Münch Then Zehner Krämer Russ Wolter Familie Gewächs Spätburgunder Trocken 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

So young and bright, beautifully fresh, wild berry and cherry pinot noir. Exactly what you want from a warm and forgiving vintage, but this has sneaky underlying structure and great natural acidity. The deliverer is nothing if not a pure, totally natural and honest example of Franken spåtburgunder. Answers both questions with yes and yes. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Höfling Spätburgunder Trocken Kalbenstein Gambach, Großes Gewächs 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This strikes as the great ambassador, middle of the road, best of both or even all worlds GG and (there is enough complexity in Franken pinot noir to make this declaration). Bright and pure, phenolically ripe and from the strawberry vintage, with the ridge crested between the fresh and the edge of drying fruit. This is like really honest, never over-wooded Chianti Classico and/or CCR Riserva from a similarly farmed vintage. It’s almost sangiovese like in its rusticity, tradition and honest to goodness cherry, leather and red citrus acidity. Seminal stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @weinguthoefling

May Spätburgunder Recis Retzbacher Benediktusberg 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

From Rudolf May, another stinky and reductive pinot noir but with a mess of bright red fruit so chalk this limestone-nosing one up to structure and be patient. There is something pure about this risk-taking one, like (Ontario reference alert) Norm Hardie of impossible litheness and in fact at 13.0 per cent this is very low and slow for the locale. Wow, this is so distant cousin to the County! I would guess this ferment was sluggish and tardy so be wary of the reduction and give it air or hopefully two more years time. It’s atypical for 2013, somewhat of a rogue and clearly destined to be a future star when pinot noir becomes this producer’s primary focus of intent. It already seems to be. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017    #rudolfmay @Weingut.Rudolf.May

Franken Riemenschneider Spätburgunder Trocken Mainstockheimer Hofstück 1er Traube 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A step up in quality and cru for 2015, from a block that most certainly has been identified for its pinot noir plant and gift ability. The premier cru for varietal Franken, of a deeper mineral push and what must be exposure and aspect with excellent solar receptive capability. It shows in the darker fruit, licking Sonoma and with its firm grip perhaps a nod to Russian River Valley. This carries exceptional fruit in its character pocket, really fine round acidity and even finer tannin. It will age without much evolution for three to five years and linger for an equal amount of time more. Not the brightest and lightest get to know me example but clearly one to seek out in the pinot noir diaspora. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017  #Riemenschneider

Weingut Richard Östreicher Spätburgunder No. 1 Sommeracher Katzenkopf 2013, Franken, Germany (WineryWineAlign)

No. 1 takes not only the estate’s best pinot noir pick but Franken spätburgunder and paradigmatic pinot noir to an entirely new level. The Katzenkopf (“cat’s head”) is Sommeracher’s best vineyard and it is Weingut Richard Östreicher that demands great respect. As I am about to pour myself a taste a ProWein Franken booth associate swoops in and slips me a Burgundy glass, so this must be different. Certainly an elegance and a refinement not seen yet. I’m thinking only on its perfume from the get go but this Franken sensibility is more important, a soil component that just acts of its own accord in the magic it brings to pinot noir. The compatibility of fruit and acidity with the finest grains of sweet and refined tannin is a revelation. The vintage is an important one to be sure and the firm but still amenably sweet finish mixed with a dash of tonic tells me about the longevity this No. 1 is capable to execute. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted March 2017  #richardöstreicher  Richard Östreicher

Fürst Spätburgunder Centgrafenberg Gg, Bürgstadt 2008, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Here is the only older pinot noir on the table and a terrific example of the age ability of Franken. Though the fruit is waning the brightness has not yet left the building. The lightness, airy and earthy enough to remind you that Burgundy feeling is the entry point and the history lesson. The lactic acid is fading but there is life yet. A bit chewy and it can be imagined how fleshy this once was. No mushroom or anything of that ilk has come through so this will fade nicely into the pinot noir sunset over the proceeding three plus years. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    Weingut Rudolf Fürst

Weingut Schenk Spätburgunder Handverlesen Trocken 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

One of the magically lithe and unassuming pinot noirs of the lot, the berries are rubbed with light sandy earth with that granite current running beneath. The shading is a bit darker considering the light personality so the lactic edge is reduced and this will evolve a bit quicker than some others. A great duck accompaniment and very Beaune in a modernist’s way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  weingutschenk  @weingutschenk

So much to say about #silvaner and #spätburgunder #pinotnoir

Good to go!

Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

Godello with Jancis Robinson

as seen on WineAlign

In March I attended Prowein in Düsseldorf, Germany, the world’s largest wine trade fair, tasting a fascinating array of wines. I also added short visits to lesser known regions, first the tiny Ahr Valley as well as Rheinhessen in Germany. Last month I published a brief synopsis report based on the following tastings:

Jancis Robinson, Alsace, Greek Assyrtiko, Chianti Classico, Franken Silvaner, The Ahr Valley and Rheinhessen…

It was one month ago that David and I attended Prowein 2017, the international wine congress in Düsseldorf, Germany of such immense proportion that words, description and explanation just fail to do it justice. If you are an agent your goals are simple; meet with your incumbent suppliers and taste with enough new ones to fill the holes in your portfolio. But what if you are a journalist like me? What do you concentrate on? Were do you start?

Canada’s two coolest wine cats present the country’s cool whites to a packed #Prowein house #Canadianwine #ontariowine #winesofbritishcolumbia #drjanetdorozynski #davidlawrason #beyondco

First things first. As a Canadian and a representative of Wine Country Ontario I hung around the Canadian pavilion, talked with our coast to coast winemakers, vintners and marketing representatives, took in the seminars on cool climate wines led by David and Dr. Janet Dorozynski and of course, tasted some wines. I’m glad I did because I might have otherwise missed out on four exceptional Canadian bottles.

It’s @jamiegoode talking up #Canadianwine at #Prowein

Pillitteri Estates Winery Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The quintessential cool climate vintage does for more than chardonnay and riesling as told by this classic tier cabernet franc. From winemaker Aleksandar Kolundzic who is rapidly developing guru status where cabernet franc is concerned, which comes as no surprise when you consider how many variations on the theme he lends his laser focus. The 16 months spent in two to three year-old oak leads to mellow melting integration and that seasoned, grace-gifting wood is used to great advantage. This is floral, expansive, chewy, firm and so very pretty. A wise old cabernet franc that will tell great stories of the years gone by well into the next decade. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @Pillitteriwines pillitteriwines  @PillitteriEstatesWinery  @WineCountryOnt  winecountryont  @mkaiserwine  @WineCountryOntario

Vineland Estates Elevation Cabernet 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (173609, $28.00, WineAlign)

The two thirds/one third cabernet franc/cabernet sauvignon stunner from Vineland Estates is pulled (and now labeled) from the 60-acre Bo-Teek Vineyard found within the designated viticultural area Niagara Escarpment (within the broader Twenty Mile Bench) sub-appellation. Estate cabernet of such acumen is predicated on the sound wisdom gathered by a viticulturist and Vineland’s Roman Prydatkewycz knows his cabernet. Winemaker Brian Schmidt takes this paradigmatic escarpment fruit, passes it through the optimal sorter, removes five to eight per cent imperfect berries and a quarter of the cabernet sauvignon fruit. What remains is hand-punched, sent to neutral barrels and is forgotten for 15 months. What emerges is a naturally sweet, vegetal-void elixir, sharp, focused, fervently nervous, tart and captured as if in a dark vacuum or void. It’s all tied inside snug, concentrated and intense. It’s too early for the burst but it will happen within another 12 months time, followed by a six to 12 year slow release of flavour, texture and descendent development of tannin. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted March 2017  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  vinelandestates  benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt  @WineCountryOnt  winecountryont  @mkaiserwine  @WineCountryOntario

Attention proweiners- Still time to discover cool @WinesofCanada in Hall 9 @CVAWine @WinesofNS #ontariowine #bcwine

Benjamin Bridge Brut Brut Rosé Sparkling 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $44.99, WineAlign)

The adjustment for vintage and evolution means that chardonnay takes more control in the Brut Rosé. Warmth and ripeness were easier to come by in 2012 and though the pinot decrease may seem antithetical and not obvious as a result, it is a brilliant stroke of adjudication. With a 43 per cent stake (plus equal parts noir and meunier) the 2012 Rosé rushes out as an open vein of fleshy aromatics, many of which you will have never nosed before. Citrus and floral exotica, like juice vesicles oozing out of fruit and herbal, of Murraya paniculata, pomelo and kumquat. The omnipresent vitality, energy, intensity and Bridge acidity is never denied and definitely not here but the vintage sets this ’12 apart and furthers the experience with travel around excellency. The liquid hits the palate, expands, vaporizes and recurs. It’s magic really, the sparkling wine tasting equivalent of vaping so cue the health benefits. Just when you thought Benjamin Bridge and winemaker Jean-Benoit Deplauriers had hit the mark they turn the mark on its head. Confirms two salient matters; the Nova Scotia sparkling wine leader is the Canadian commander and blush bubbles are what they do with constant consistency. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted March 2017  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  @WinesofNS  #winesofnovascotia  @winesofns

Blomidon Estate Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay 2011, Nova Scotia (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

The 2011 late-picked chardonnay, the “Hurricane” is a hyperbole of itself. Normally picked in later October, the frost-free weather allowed further time and development. Picked from seaside vineyards just ahead of another hurricane (in a season that included Irene), this is sparkling wine you just have to try. Though lean, taut and as intense as you are likely to taste, the developed character and complexity is visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Three years on the lees brings the texture and fills the gaps, holes and voids created by such a tightly wound cool climate chardonnay. The dry factor is exaggerated in 2011 (a one-off says winemaker Simon Rafuse) but the wine takes full advantage of the Extra-Brut intent. Did it require the anxiety of a recent and an impending cyclone? Can it be duplicated? “That’s the story of the Hurricane.” Visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @BlomidonEstate  blomidonestate  @blomidonestatewinery   Simon Rafuse  @WinesofNS  #winesofnovascotia  @winesofns

You can’t see it all, do it all or taste it all, so you pick your spots. The rest of my three-day, 12-pavilion cum airport hangar wanderings can be summed up in five ProWein experiences; Jancis Robinson, Alsace, Greece, Chianti Classico and a great exploration into Franken silvaner and spätburgunder. The grand dame of wine held a special intimate media tasting. With fewer than 18 international journalists in attendance, Jancis Robinson’s seven favourite wines at ProWein were poured, choices she noted “I think should be useful to our readers and seek out value.” Nahe and Weinviertel riesling, Chinese cabernet sauvignon, Crozes-Hermitage, Amontillado and my picks of the lot from Chile and Sicily.

Robinson’s full list of wines chosen and poured were as follows: Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Trocken Bockenaur Schiefergestein 2015, Nahe, Germany, Zillinger Grüner Veltliner Radikal 2015, Weinviertel, Austria, De Martino Cinsault Viejas Tinajas 2014, Itata, Chile, Tenuta delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito Rosso 2014, Sicily, Italy, Chateau Changyu Moser Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Ningxia, China, Maison Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2015, Rhône, France, Williams & Humbert Jalifa 30 Year Old VORS Amontillado NV, Jerez-Manzanilla, Spain.

41 years experience. 65,000 to choose from. Seven meticulous picks. @jancisrobinson @Prowein #Prowein

De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault 2014, Secano Interior/Coelemu, Maule, Chile (BCLDB, 72702 $16.99, WineAlign)

Poured by Jancis Robinson at ProWein 2017, the departure for Chile and cinsault hails from just south of Maule and well south of Santiago. Grapes come from a tiny commune called Coelemu and in fact the name Itata cannot be used for ‘un-noble’ grapes so Secano Interior is the nomenclature employed. Done up in old clay jars called “Tinajas,” the cinsault gets a sort of membrane, a cap if you will, of a layer of tannin and acidity due to the clay after 15 days of carbonic maceration plus a full year in those amphorae. The 31 year-old vines deliver the first strike, a natural cure, then bitter cherry and so the wine would service better with a further chill. Robinson notes that it’s “chock full of fruit and tradition,” an exploration wine, in a part of the world not on the bigger maps. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @DeMartinoWines  demartinowines  @DeMartinoWines  @WinesofChile  @WinesOfChile  drinkchile  @DrinkChile

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito Rosso 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $56.95, WineAlign)

Here is a regional defining Etna Rosso that comes 16 years after the pioneers began to bring these volcanic magma gems to the world, like Frank Cornilessen and Andrea Franchetti of Tuscany’s Tenuto Trinoro in the Val D’Orcia. Made by Marco de Grazie, Santo Spirito is a single vineyard Etna made on the “black lands,” composed of 98 per cent nerello mascalese, deep dark and volcanic, off of 40-100 year old vines. It’s deeply hematic and the nose is like a cross between fennel and the marriage of lava and garrigue. The wine is aged in French barriques and it shows; of vanilla, really mellow liquid bitters. It’s warm (14.5 per cent), young, oak-welling though energetic, playful, like dark modern Burgundy. The finish as so very volcanic twang, like country music, Sicilian style. Such chewy and grainy tannin drapes all over that long finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @tenutaterrenere  @WinesSiciliaDoc  @WinesOfSicily  @GroupeSoleilTO  tenutaterrenere  winesofsicily  realbenhardy  @TenutaDelleTerreNere  @WinesOfSicily

The honour and privilege to taste Alsace is always welcome and especially when the sit down happens with two exceptional humans like Christian and Valerie Beyer. Their Lieu-Dit pinot gris and noir were terrific examples but it was the Riesling that blew me away. From special limestone this is more refined than similar Alsace from granite, of a salty minerality and intensely elegant.

An @AlsaceWines reconnect with Christian & Valérie Beyer @EmileBeyer @Prowein #justlikestartingover #eguisheim #riesling #rieslinggrandcru #pfersigberg #pinotgris #lieudit #hohrain #pin

Emile Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2012, Ac Alsace, France (Winery, WineAlign)

The Pfersigberg or “hill of peach trees” consists of limestone conglomera Muschelkalk and Jurassic stone. Its south exposure on very deep soil produces early maturing wines but from the exceptional 2012 vintage Christian Beyer’s Pfersigberg will last a decade or more. His family’s domain has been farming organically since ’05, officially since ’12 and half of the producers in Egusheim are indeed organic. Christian explains that this Grand Cru is a special kind of limestone, so similar to Burgundy and it lends the salty minerality of itself. Always carries richness with lime fresh citrus, stone fruit acidity and some honey in a riesling that will turn waxy in secondary life. It’s really about mouthfeel and the crisp crunchy rock salt so I and I believe you should really concentrate on the aftertaste. This is more refined than similar Alsace from granite, here from 35-45 year old vines and 35 hL/L yields. Intensely elegant. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted March 2017  @EmileBeyer  emilebeyer1580  Emile Beyer  Valérie Beyer  @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  @vinsalsace  @AlsaceWinesOfficial

With Panayiota Kalogeropouloun and Margarita Damigou of Domaine Sigalas at ProWein

I also sat down with Panayiota Kalogeropoulou and Margarita Damigou for a ProWein date with assyrtiko and it was a revelation to taste a single-vineyard white that turns the world on its head.

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, Santorini, Greece (Agent, SAQ 11814421, $31.00, WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou  @DrinkGreekWine  winesofgreece  @newwinesofgreece

As does a natural Peloponnese Roditis, a white that ignites the light fantastic’s wire.

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2015, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, WineAlign)

Roditis 2015 is the natural one, racked from the top and finally now settled (so at this time of tasting 2016 is not yet in bottle but at this time of writing should already be as it always does in April). This is the cleanest and purest of the natural wines on the planet, low in pH, high of natural acidity and without a care in the world. With nothing to fear in regards to spoilage it can go on its own personal shopping spree, accumulate character, personality and confidence with the end result being that there is more of everything in the natural one. Its terrifically repeatable, replicable and clonal acidity makes it quite trippy, stepping on and igniting the light fantastic’s wire. You just have to take a stab in the dark with winemaker Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos’ roditis. Or ye have not yet lived. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo  @DrinkGreekWine  winesofgreece  @newwinesofgreece

A roam through the Italian pavilion afforded tastings in Puglia, Sicily and as always Tuscany with a one on one face to face with Chianti Classico’s President Sergio Zingarelli and his estate’s flagship wine.

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $122.95, WineAlign)

This is the flagship wine from the famed estate, a Gran Selezione that bears the patriarchal Sergio Zingarelli name. As expected it is a richer, deeper and depth welling GS, clearly aimed towards the crowning achievement of place, more hedonism, but of course, seeking purity and elegance. The extra year or two in bottle means integration and wood having subsided a bit. “We decided to change the vineyard in 1974 in front of Rocca to be the best vineyard with the best grapes and we will produce our best wine,” I am told by Zingarelli as we taste at ProWein. What was 90 per cent sangiovese (planted in 1999-2000) this 2012 is accented by colorino but in 2014 it will be 100 per cent sangiovese. Elegant as much as sangiovese and Gran Selezione will likely ever strive to be. It is hard not to be impressed with this wine. It bursts with the essence of plums and richest of red cherries, but it’s not without it’s requisite crunch and chew. The absence of astringency is remarkable and speaks to the quality of the fruit and the gentle touch while working with such phenolic ability. Start drinking this anytime. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie  @chianticlassico  chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassicoUSA

Cantina di Ruvo Grifo Nero di Troia Riserva Augustale 2012, DOCG Castel del  Monte, Puglia, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Grifo in Castel del Monte was established in 1960 as a cooperative, with 400 farmers and still operates as such with flagship wines based on the local nero di troia. The output is quantified at 1,200,000 bottles per year and increasing. Augustale is the top tier varietal wine from a selection of the vines and produced in small quantities. There is no mistaking what it is, with that specific yeasty bright fruit, slightly volatile to funky but ripe and generous grape scent and bursting with flavour. Spent approximately one year in oak “but the greatest liars are the winemakers,” says Riccardo Ravasio, Direttore Generale presso (General Manager), with a wink and a smile. Mainly big barrels, plus a smaller percentage of small barriques. Fresher than primitivo and with more structure. This has presence and distinction with just a hint of dried fruit, flowers and truffle towards the finish. Classic adult, mature, experienced NdT.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017    @FedericaSchir  @cantinaruvodipuglia

Miracle on #etna from @PlanetaWinery eruptive #carricante of such acidity! The lime! #eruzione #1614 #patriciatoth #prowein2017 #winesofsicily #Prowein

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014, Doc Sicily, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

“Not everyone can carry the weight of the world,” save perhaps Planeta’s Patricia Tóth, a winemaker who celebrates the past, the endemic varietal and in the present, the glaring truth. The name Eruzione is evocative of the estate’s Cru dell’Etna and in a mind’s eye transports history through the narrative of carricante (with 10 per cent riesling). It brings the legendary 1614 Mount Etna eruption to life, a longest ever recorded catastrophe that lasted ten years, halting just on the border of the vineyards of Sciaranuova. This is veritable mountain altitude wine, from high (790-890m) terraced, volcanic black soils delivering fresh conifer savour, saltiness and palpable mineral style. It is sharp and composed on the nose, with citrus distillate and elevated acidity. It does not matter whether you are wide awake or deep in R.E.M sleep. At all times it is a revelation for carricante. This is what it can be! There was no need for crop thinning, it was picked four to five weeks after the sparkling and it spent five months on the lees. The texture and the potential longevity are thankful for this. “Combien, combien, combien du temps?” At least seven years. Talk about the passion. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

No self-respecting wine journo departs #Prowein without tasting #carricante @PlanetaWinery with #patriciatoth #etna

The Germany pavilion is the epicentre of the ProWein universe. Gravity would naturally pull you to the Mosel and yet I was in search of an alternative experience. With travels to the Ahr Valley and the Rheinhessen looming I gravitated (naturally) to Franken and more specifically to an intensive workshop with silvaner and spätburgunder. The days of the old flattened ellipsoid, field bottle silvaner packaged in traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel are nearly behind us and while several modern, clean and pure examples match up with the great mineral fresh whites around the planet, one stood apart.

Franken Silvaner

Rudolf May Silvaner Retzstadter Langenberg Der Schäfer 2015, Franken, Germany (Winery, WineAlign)

May’s Der Schäfer silvaner comes from the Retztadter Langenberg, a slope of muschelkalk (predominantly from the lower muschelkalk, or wellenkalk) that characterizes the soil. Looking east the location is protected by the Retzstadt deciduous forest and the warm air of the Maintales flows from the west. This specialized and extra-special silvaner is balanced in its aromatic ability meets proper and right-willing alcohol (13.5), with great quality acidity. True salinity and caper brine put my mind’s senses into concepts where this shares a kinship with assytrtiko. It’s brilliant, stony-gemstone able, savoury, no actually sapid, and exceptionally mouth salivating. Just a touch of texture driven lees builds character and great persistence. Bitters before the end are finely distilled and character building. Fresh to drink now and with more ability than most to age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @frankenwein  #frankenwein  Frankenwein Fränkische Weinkönigin  @Weingut.Rudolf.May  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

So much to say about #silvaner and #spätburgunder #pinotnoir

Passion für Pinot Noir! is the avant-garde Deutscher Qualitäswein Franken slogan for spätburgunder. Rudolf May once again impressed with their Retzbach Benediktusberg but as I was about to pour myself a taste of the next wine, a Franken booth associate swooped in to slip me a Burgundy glass, so I knew this was going to be different. It was the next wine that taught me what Franken pinot noir can be.

Weingut Richard Östreicher Spätburgunder No. 1 Sommeracher Katzenkopf 2013, Franken, Germany (Winery, WineAlign)

No. 1 takes not only the estate’s best pinot noir pick but Franken spätburgunder and paradigmatic pinot noir to an entirely new level. The Katzenkopf (“cat’s head”) is Sommeracher’s best vineyard and it is Weingut Richard Östreicher that demands great respect. As I am about to pour myself a taste a ProWein Franken booth associate swoops in and slips me a Burgundy glass, so this must be different. Certainly an elegance and a refinement not seen yet. I’m thinking only on its perfume from the get go but this Franken sensibility is more important, a soil component that just acts of its own accord in the magic it brings to pinot noir. The compatibility of fruit and acidity with the finest grains of sweet and refined tannin is a revelation. The vintage is an important one to be sure and the firm but still amenably sweet finish mixed with a dash of tonic tells me about the longevity this No. 1 is capable to execute. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted March 2017  #richardöstreicher  Richard Östreicher  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

The desparate grade of Ahr Valley vineyards

On day three of ProWein I jumped on the großer Magie Bus with 17 international journalists and headed for the Ahr Valley, one of Germany’s (of 13) furthest northern wine regions. With an area of 150 hectares (of 100,000 total in Germany), even the Mosel is not so far north. Our first visit was to Meyer-Näkel, a young winery in its third generation. Before that there was a winery (Meyer) and Näkel (restaurant). When the grandparents married the entities merged. In 1982 winemaker Meike Näkel’s father took the winery and her uncle the restaurant.

Michael and Meike

Starting out with two, now there are 20 hectares under vines. The slopes are ridiculously steep, prized for their blue slate soils and so difficult to work. Spätburgunder steals the Ahr Valley show and while Meyer-Näkel’s lieu-dit and grand cru (Großes Gewächs) are impassioned and important works, in Ontario you can find their affordable entry-level treat. It really is what basic German spätburgunder needs and is expected to be.

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder 2015, Deutscher Qualitätswein, Ahr Valley, Germany  (427898, $26.25, WineAlign)

The entry-level pinot noir was bottled in the summer of 2016, after a hot season and dry elsewhere but in the Ahr it rained and it was cool overall. Picking was actually late and the aromatics show off the long, cool, floral temper. De-stemming and fermentation is immediately initialized but the maximum fermentation is 10 and usually six days. The pips are just a quick doo-wop to keep both green and bitter away. A focus on fruit, an absence of tannin and a pure varietal expression. Red trumps green, large wooden casks (15-20 years) also impart no tannin so the finality is simply cherry. That said, this carries some almond pit and green strawberry on the palate. It’s really what basic German spätburgunder is and expected to be. Nicely balanced and in at 13 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    @vonterrabev  Weingut Meyer – Näkel  vonterra  @MeyerNaekel  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Yet nothing could prepare me for what a former German wine queen would pour. Julia Bertram grew up in Dernau, gained experience at Meyer-Näkel and Klumpp. In 2013 she launched her own her vineyard with just half a hectare and now farms three and a half. Nothing fascinates her and the “SchlAhrVino” (association of young Ahr vintners) as much as ripe wines, especially pinot noir. Her whole bunch, wild ferment spätburgunder is nothing short of intense. The world should get ready for her alternative Ahr universe.

World get ready for #juliabertram and her alternative #ahr universe pinot noir @weininstitut #ahrvalley #spätburgunder #handwerk

Julia Bertram Spätburgunder Handwerk 2015, Ahrweiler, Germany (WineAlign)

Former German Wine Queen Julia Bertram grew up in Dernau, gained experience at Meyer-Näkel and Klumpp. In 2013 she launched her own her vineyard with just half a hectare and now farms three and a half. Nothing fascinates her and the “SchlAhrVino” (association of young Ahr vintners) as much as ripe wines, especially pinot noir. Her whole bunch, wild ferment spätburgunder is nothing short of intense. Bone dry, tart and spirited by crisp acidity, the young vines and used barrels deliver notes that are embattled in a spontaneous, natural, posit tug. The world should get ready for her alternative ahr universe pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017    #juliabertram  Julia Bertram  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

The next two were Rheinhessen days, first with five Appenheim village winemakers at Weingut Willems & Hoffman, followed by a visit to taste more deferential and singular spätburgunder at Weingut J. Neus. The single vineyard of Hudertgulden in Appenheim is one of the Rheinhessen’s finest. At Neus we got grippy with the muschelkalk soil meets spontaneous ferments from the team of Operations Manager Lewis Schmitt and agronomist/oenologist/winemaker/cellarmaster Julien Meissner’s pinot noir.

Weingut Knewitz Riesling Hundertgulden 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

From the Burgundy-like soils of this special rolling hills nook in the Rheinhessen, replete with shells and corrals, the Hundertgulden, “hundred guilders” is the most important single vineyard in all of Appenheim. The vintage trumps 2014 and nearly bone dry is still the operative in this super salty, linear, lengthy and age-worthy riesling. A true blue limestone vernacular is spoken and the stone simply slides and glides through the wine. Definitive of place, with leesy texture, elegant, balanced and seamlessly woven through. There is more lime zest and juice than the Appenheimer and more overall citrus tendency. The mirror of Appenheim. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017    weingutknewitz  @Weingut.Knewitz  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Getting grippy with #pinotnoir #jneus @weininstitut #spätburgunder #ingelheim #muschelkalk

Weingut J. Neus Spätburgunder Muschelkalk Alte Raben Trocken Ingelheim Am Rhein 2014, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

From vines 25-40 years old, depending on which barrels are chosen for the final blend, off of the estate’s singular limestone muschelkalk soils. Even some 45 year-old vine fruit can be used, ferments kept separate, just as winemaker Julien Meissner will do with the Großes Gewächs. After tasting the younger vines spätburgunder and trocken first this acts less up front fruit forward, now spirited, of a phenolic tonic, variegated, characterful, open and spontaneous. Large (600 and 1000L) 100 per cent new oak barrels add char and spice to the rampant cherry, but also structure that takes you on the ride from background to foreground. “A strict style of pinot noir,” says Meissner, a cellar master who triples as agronomist and oenologist. Reduction begs for patience and time, tannins are taut and there is this minty, Mornington Peninsula pinot effect. Fruit, tannin, chalk and the conduit of Neuss acidity. The whole package. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @JNeus1881  jneus.ingelheim  @J.Neus.Weingut.seit1881  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

We moved away from the red wine thematic and into more familiar territory when we stopped in at Weingut Thörle for a visit with Christoph Thörle. The single-vineyard Hölle and Schlossberg rieslings are as exceptional as any in Germany but the Ontario presence of the Feinherb should never be overlooked.

Some of Germany’s finest #riesling coming to @TerroirTalk May 29th #thorle #Terroir2017 #christophthorle #saulheim #rheinhessen #terroirsymposium #holle #agotoronto

Thörle Riesling Feinherb 2016, Qualitätswein Rheinhessen, Germany (420091, $18.95, WineAlign)

Off-dry riesling does not always have to be bottled as such but in the Rheinhessen and at Thörle the category of Feinherb is anything but an afterthought. This started as a side fermentation in its first years but is now an important wine in the estate’s multi-tiered processes. The cuvée is gathered from younger vines plus one barrel of premier cru Saulheim fruit. A slight skin maceration (12-18 hours) is employed which helps to temper the tartaric acid though this will be swapped for whole bunch fermentation in warmer years. Hides some of its sugar, especially on the nose which is quite floral, of white flowers and honeysuckle. Honey and wax with sweet herbs bring all into playful light to taste, with plenty of sweet lime and lik-a-maid sour touches. For every Indian Food list in the world. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  Weingut Thörle  @WeingutThoerleGabsheim  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

On our last day in the Rheinhessen we stopped in at Weingut Manz and if you ever find yourself in their tasting room, expect a multi-varietal experience. On any given day you may taste weissburgunder (pinot blanc), riesling, grauburgunder (pinot gris), sauvignon blanc, spätburgunder (pinot noir), merlot, cabernet sauvignon and finally, huxelrebe trockenbeerenauslese. On this day it was the wines spoke to the territorial low yields and late harvest work of Eric Manz.

#goodcombo #weingutmanz #rieslingauslese #herrenberg #restaurantvolker #oppenheim

Weingut Manz Riesling Spätlese Trocken Kehr, Weinolsheimer 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Kehr from Eric Manz is riesling of extremely low yields and a late harvest for what shines to be high in complexity and aging potential. Generous skin contact and even more so in lees action effect makes this quite different than the Kehr “M” but also the Herrenberg Trocken Spätlese. With the sugar here remaining in line with the Hipping (Niersteiner) it is the high acidity that drives the Kehr machine. This seems less arid than the Hipping, more energetic and more reductive than the “M.” Higher potential for aging with so much lime cordial sparkles and brings spirit that will persist into a petrol and honey future that would have to be bright. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted March 2017     Weingut Manz Weinolsheim   @weingut.manz.weinolsheim  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

I don’t always taste #roterhang Riesling but when I do it has to be in the #fockenberghütte

The week in Germany saw virtually no sun, that is until the final morning outdoors above the Rhein River under the shelter of the Fockenberghütte. Here we tasted the Nierstien wines of Weingut Domtalhof, St. Antony and Louis Guntrum with our charismatic M.C. Konstantin Guntrum. We walked the famed Roter Hang Vineyard and had the great fortune to taste Guntrum’s ethereal 1976 Neisteiner Heilgen riesling. Guntrum wears the passion for his home vineyard in his expression, on his sleeve and by the way he walks. “Roter Hang is a geological statement,” he explains. Red soils of friable sandstone, steep and breathtaking. Nierstein is the portal into which you can peer to wonder about great riesling grown above the Rhein.

Weingut Louis Guntrum Riesling Trocken Nierstein Oelberg 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Nierstein’s Oelberg is for vintner Konstantin Guntrum a changing landscape, of different light and greater fog. This dry riesling gives off the sense of intelligence and so grabs your attention and demands your concentration. It also solicits conversation. Takes its time to open up, with no petrol note but the grace of mineral is back there. Lean but slowly changing and developing in just the short time in glass, the charm envelops your sense of smell and taste, renders them keen and then you give it up for the aftertaste and the persistence. While the layers will not yet peel away they will, though may need two full years to do so. Forget the need for immediate gratification because this one is mineral skin deep. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @LouisGuntrum  #louisguntrum  Weingut Louis Guntrum  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

When you see one grand cru you’ve seen another grand cru #nierstein #rheinhessen #rhein #roterhang

The German wine experience is owed great thanks to Stefan Egge, Christiane Schorn, Brigitte Küppers, Michael Mandel and Carola Keller of ProWein press department, Messe Düsseldorf and Wines of Germany. I have been on many Press trips over the years and the organization in Germany was second to none. I will now begin looking forward to ProWein 2018. Until then.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Chablis got soil

Les Terroirs de Chablis, Domain Jean-Marc Brocard

Les Terroirs de Chablis, Domain Jean-Marc Brocard

When you look at it in the most base and simple way Chablis is one thing. Like having a surname taken from the family’s ancestral village. The name connotes the surrounding wine-growing area and the town at its epicentre. It speaks to a community as a sub-regional district of Burgundy and it lends nomenclature to the all-in, mono-varietal entity. Though divided into four sub-appellations; Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis is chardonnay and it is a place of one terroir.

Is it really? Chablis is chardonnay for varietal purposes but only that links it to other chardonnay. Chablis is more than chardonnay, not existential as chardonnay and if you ask wiser men than me, is not chardonnay. So what ties it together? What commonality beyond grape variety is shared by the quaternate appellations of Chablis? Soil.

Soil in Chablis is defined by a widely accepted generalization. “The Kimmeridgian is a geological age in the Upper Jurassic epoch, around 150 million years ago. In Chablis, one finds subsoils of gray marl which alternate with bands of limestone, sometimes very rich in fossils of Exogyra virgula, a small, comma-shaped oyster that is characteristic of the marl from the Middle and Upper Kimmeridgian.” The eminence and éclat of terroir rises through the increasingly beneficial levels of Oxfordian, Portlandian and into Kimmeridgian. Petite Chablis, Chablis, Cru/Climat.

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

There is little about Chablis that is not drawn up in contrasts. It begins with Left Bank versus Right Bank, the Serein River and the village of Chablis acting as the interface between. Petit Chablis giving way to the more important Chablis and then Premier Cru the varied and always impressive interloper separating the villages wines from the Grand Cru. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay.

Related – Paradox in Chablis

My first piece centred on the history and future of greatness in Chablis. I made this bold statement about (seventh generation Chablis winemaker) Edouard Vocoret and (Greek-German) Eleni Theodoropoulos. “I have met and tasted the future of Chablis and its name is Edouard Vocoret and Eleni Theodoropoulos.” They carry a torch lit by producers like Vincent Dauvissat. The musicality of his wines are self-conscious without being self-regarding. Their aromas, flavours and textures tend to themselves, to Chablis and to the world at large. Please welcome Edouard and Eleni to this stage.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

While in Chablis I came face to grace with the monopole ideal from one grower who glides ethereal in her freedom from appellative constraints. The rows outside the 11th-12th century monk’s wall demarcate Le Clos de Béru Vineyard. All of Athénaïs de Béru’s wines are single-vineyard Chablis save for the Terroir de Beru, a wine that gathers all the vineyards to express the all-encompassing Béru terroir. Béru. The Left Bank domaine farmed by Athénaïs de Béru, organically, biodynamically and spiritually. Chablis from the tree of life.

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Last week I wrote a Chablis piece that focused on the wines of Quebec native Patrick Piuze. It was in July of 2008 that Piuze made the decision to go solo and start his own winery. While he may not be a wine grower, he is an accomplished and respected winemaker. He may not own his vineyards but it took him little time to forge cultivated and solicitous relationships with farmers in Chablis. The twenty-five tasting notes were posted to open a window into the portal of Patrick Piuze in Chablis.

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Map of Chablis

My reviews for Premier Cru and Grand Cru will follow this post. Including the week I spent tasting in Chablis and in the six months since I have written 73 tasting notes for wines that do not fall under the auspices of the (47 Premier and Grand Cru) climats; 20 for Petit Chablis, 47 on Chablis and nine dug into more depth in Chablis Vieilles Vignes. It should be noted that many of these wines are in fact a product of specific lieu-dits, “an area of land whose name recalls a particularity that is usually topographical or historical.” While these wines are not considered to be first or second tier Chablis, they are great and specific expressions of Chablis terroir. And so it took 6,000-plus words to get these reviews finished. Please enjoy the brevity of the overall account.

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Petit #chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, Grand Cru. Right at it with 26 @BIVBChablis #ericszablowski #aucoeurduvin

Petit Chablis

Domaine Alexandre Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13135781, $21.30, WineAlign)

In warmer draw and major tones the plot of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne provides balm and herbiage and a minor more towards weight and oxidation. In spite of this unction and embrocation there remains and persists the necessary citrus and smoky flint. What this Petit Chablis from Guy et Olivier surrenders to creamy, micro-oxygenated texture it proffers and scraps in the name of complexity. Petit Chablis in a singular class. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @lesvinsdupre

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Tasting cave at Domaine Barat

Domaine Barat Petit Chablis ‘Le Padabu’ 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Angèle Barat says this about making Petit Chablis. “You don’t abuse.” From calcareous soil on the Beine plateau, the Barat Padabu is what you might call a perfect gougeres white. It is Petit Chablis as it is meant to be; pure, basic, unctuous, unadulterated juice with the slightest mineral hint. Nothing more. nothing less. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016   

Domaine Billaud-Simon Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Well of course the difference is felt immediately, in simpler terms, affordably easy, accountable, preferential to commercial success. Acidity is prepared with necessary balance in advance of letting fruit run wild. This is waxy and pleasantly sour. A bit chewy as well. Nicely done. Classic unbaked chardonnay in every correct way. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Les Plantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

He waits until we have traveled through a full tasting of Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, but then Julien Brocard is more than pleased to introduce his biodynamic range. It begins with Petit Chablis Les Plantes 2014, the stepping stone into how and why we are to understand why Julien brought this approach to the estate. “His witchcraft,” as he puts it, for healthy vines, wines and lifestyle. What it brings to Petit Chablis is a true purpose, in aridity, from mineral salinity and for affinity to wine sustaining infinity. It is too early to know how biodynamics will lead to commercial successes and here the best is not yet avowed, even in the great vintage because the maker knows not yet what it is he’s got. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Petit Chablis Pas si Petit 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Pas si Petit translates to “not so small,” as much a request to not take things so literally as it is a service of notice as to the style of Chablisienne’s Petit Chablis. It is in fact quite a rounded PC, an all-encompassing, tie in multi-soil aspects in one big cuveé. It’s not so petite, something easily attributed to five to six months aging on the lees, all in tank. The simple and highly effective entry point teaches and receives with the Pas si Petit. Petit Chablis for all and for everyone to enter the omniscient domain of Chablis. Curiosity, legwork, hooked. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016.   @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From estate vineyards and the entry point into the time-honoured Collet style, the Petit Chablis is seamless, steely, 100 per cent stainless steel raised bottled vigour. The sprite and tart are appetite whetting with balm and backbite, without strings. A chill $15 white, simple, crushable.  Drink 2016-2017  

sebastien-dampt

Sébastien Dampt

Sébastien Dampt Petit Chablis ‘Terrois de Milly’ 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $27.56, WineAlign)

Sébastien Dampt’s is in fact comunicado to the Milly terroir, a Petit Chablis of a singular matter that clearly speaks of its home connection. Comparisons escape me what with such physically held by force, dire straits, desperate compression of tang, mineral and variegation, virtually unheard of for the genre. From plots between four and five hectares in breadth, T de M holds the kind of citrus that is like a slice of dense cake yet somehow airy and filled with delight. “Communication, Communiqué, Communiqué.” A huge success for the vintage. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Sébastien Dampt, July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Dauvissat Père Et Fils Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

From a single portlandian (0.16 hectare) plot of Petit Chablis at Milly, on the plateau of the Chappelle Vaupelteigne. Chablis of the sort of portandia to enhearten and portend extreme unction, brighten and embolden as flinty as any calcaire can. In a five PC flight strike me down if he isn’t the most intense and straight up citrus example. Young Chablis of la concentration extraordinaire. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @JeanDauvissat

William Fèvre Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Fèvre’s Petit Chablis is fashioned from very old grower’s contracts, established once upon a time by William, still concurrent and contiguous into the present tense accumulation of 200,000 bottles. Classic PC, fresh, elegant, inwardly tart and specifically mineral. Be still its crunchy texture with a soft organza underlay in the guise of a bed of herbs. The farmer’s commitments have been kept specificaly for this purpose, to build the bridge and create a gateway to Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016 @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Alain Geoffroy Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (470393, $19.95,  WineAlign)

Somewhat rich and unexpectedly expressive for Petit Chablis with a juniper and tonic note at the finish. Getable as per the vintage and no surprise at that while at the same time offering up quite a bit of texture and richness for the category. Nettles at the end are hard to forget. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2017  

Domaine Hamelin Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Hamelin’s Petit Chablis hails from the clay soil plateau on the domain’s situation at Lignorelles, co-mingling in soil with distinct out-country lying kimmeridgian. Hamelin’s is quite a fuller expression with more mineral and that green glade sort of brightness. It climbs into a lime and metal feel though there is not as much acidity or at least a very different kind than some others in a large flight. Very representative of the modern oeuvre. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @oenophilia1

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Benjamin Laroche L’Atelier Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At the age of 40 Benjamin Laroche decided to got it alone. The native of Chablis and his family have farmed vineyards here since 1663 and Laroche now produces solely as a négoce, working with eight growers. 2013 for Petit Chablis and Chablis and 2012 for Premier Cru and Grand Cru were his first vintages. L’Atelier Petit Chablis is drawn from near the village of Beine, a place “tres solaire.” His rendition of the portal opening chardonnay is an aperitif of a Petit Chablis, crisp but rich and broad, able to serve one and all. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

La Manufacture Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Manufacture’s Petit Chablis is an entirely separate entity from L’atelier, as the two lines each only come from one estate. There is no blending. Here the vintage speaks in the way 2015 is simply unable to, with a salinity in and out of mineral, with and without weight and strings. Very precise, straight to the point and for Petit Chablis, quite laser dramatic. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Louis Moreau Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11035479, $22.95, WineAlign)

You can put your money down on a Moreau Petit Chablis, never taken for granted and from some of the best PC-designate spots around Chablis. Moreau’s vineyards are located in the village of Beine on the Left Bank. The fruit and acidity from fresh, juicy and rich 2015 are nicely delineated, all moving parts forwardly aromatic led with white flower essence and the texture is free and easy on the palate. Very clean and pure Petite Chablis from the most consumer-friendly vintage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

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Chablis as it was, should be and where it will go. Lucie Thieblemont and Charly Nicolle #vigneron & #negociant #fleys #chablis Attention @nicholaspearcewines just sayin’

Domaine Charly Nicolle Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Charly Nicolle from Fleys is the sister property to the Nicolle-Laroche family’s Domaine de la Mandelière. In a good year Charly produces 75,000 bottles per year. His ’15 Petit Chablis is crisp and bound of full compages, tightly wound and textured. There is certainly some lees felt swimming in the vintage-generated saporous acidity. A ripe example of sun expressive Petit Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine De Pisse Loup Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From the area of Beine comes this clean, fresh and lemon striking Petit Chablis. So very lemon specific within a broader citrus spectrum but no flint. Its freshness is of white flowers in the hawthorne to acacia field, a saline note of iodine and plenty of round acidity. So very lemon squeezed. Less multi-dimensional on account of that specific replay. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze

Patrick Piuze

Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11463182, $26.40, WineAlign)

From the “restaurant vintage,” like 2009 notes Patrick Piuze and a Petit Chablis more specific and focused than most, if perhaps all. A single-vineyard, lieu-dit PC, “Le Petit Preuses,” right banked and rubbing shoulders with the Grand Cru. Always on the plateau of Portlandia soil. Fine spark of Petit Chablis, like a lime cordial spiked by salinity and welling in concentration. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

L & C Poitout Petit Chablis Sycomore 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

La Cuvée Sycomore comes from “Sur les Clos,” a warm and windy 1.4 hectare plot on a well exposed plateau of pebble infested, lean and infertile soil. The 2014 challenges the most typical of vintages with pure driven citrus and acidity through the roof. A direct, defined, determined expression of chardonnay.  Drink 2016-2018  

le-bourgogne

Eric Gallet’s Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four hundred and twenty five years later the family produces their 2015 Petite Chablis, as with the rest of the region, as an archway into the domain and for all else to follow. It isn’t the most riveting vintage but this is made in the pure, elegant style that carries easy alcohol and essential extract in the vein of any or all mineral-driven whites. A worldwide list that includes chenin blanc, assyrtiko and trebbiano, among others. Here the fat of ’15 is staved off, with freshness and Portlandian salinity, like a syrup mixed into clay that dissolves and resolves.  Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

From trenchant vines on Portlandian soil, Tremblay’s is really rich and textured Petit Chablis reading a parable of aromatic mineral density. The providence of the salinity means that it aspires and then resides in a rare card-carrying category of weight and structure. Way more structure for PC than most others. Chablis here directs the idea of the commercial vintage, again, rich, broad and even a bit spicy. At the end of the day it will always correctly offer up broad appeal. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

chablis

Chablis

Domaine Barat Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The first Chablis of hundreds tasted in the first week of July with a perfume of acacia flowers and the honey they might invade, the generosity and gregariousness in Barat’s Chablis is really something other. Extreme ripeness from the commercially viable vintage sits with quite the spice on the phenolic ripe end of the wide-ranging spectrum. Chablis at the meridian of texture and jolie. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Beaufumé Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From the area of Lignorelles, Beaufumé’s Chablis is creamier on the nose than many counterparts and then thins with direct tart, ripe and ripping acidity. Wow acidity, tight and bracing. Though the spectrum of orchard, stone and even tropical white and yellow fleshed fruits are hinted at they collectively succumb to the nicely smoked stick, flint, kernel and nut. A broader if at times confusing expression of Chablis that is more than fun to taste. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Albert Bichot Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Matthieu Mangenot at the Long-Depaquit domain, this is Chablis raised 100 per cent in stainless steel. Gifts the immediacy of mineral and acidity, from Chichée to the south of Chablis and also the eastern areas of Beru and Viviers. Higher altitudes where snow and then frost at the end of April 2016 will mean a tiny harvest but for 2015 the acidity is top-notch, despite the fat and easy vintage, with more mineral driven into the palate (with some perceived though feigning sweetness) and a real gelid glide down the backside. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  @DionysusWines  

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Nicely crisp Chablis for the vintage, a bit lean and direct but with ripe acidity and balance struck. Straight to the Chablis point, with more lime than lemon and a minor bitter middle, ending with easy leaning angles. Commendable from dependable for 2015. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

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Abbaye de Sainte Claire #prehy @chablisbrocard

Jean Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (356634, $23.95, WineAlign)

The nearing on 1000 year-old abbey of Saint Claire rests a stone’s throw from Brocard’s front doors and blends into the vast plane of the landscape with a whisper. The Chablis in its (or his) honour also rests, but in large foudres, lending a rich edging to fruit from a knowingly fat year, but the welcome salinity is the balancer. Really high salty-mineral content perpetuates the importance of this cuveé from vintage to vintage, from organic vineyards, in the typical Brocard style, fleshy and generous. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

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Jean Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (356634, $23.95, WineAlign)

In a year for acidity and total, utter freshness the Saint Claire rushes and wells with excitement. Beautifully green apple tart and crunchy. The saline temperature is measured in an ooze running through and with the lees. Cracker vintage keeps the deep salinity intense, vital, searing and so naked to the world. Pure Chablis with length that stretches away from richness and into a lean lingering. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted twice, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard 7eme Nature Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Due to its ulterior and antithetical Chablis nature it just seems right to refer to this non-sulphured wine as chardonnay. From Julien Brocard’s recently formulated biodynamic range it is full of poise as are all of his biodynamic wines that seem to have found such confidence in their distinct natural niche. This is raised in ovoid Austrian foudres and what gains is a density of supple, sour tang, noted mostly in texture. The hyperbole is of saline meets brine for Chablis. There is certainly a Fino, green olive liqueur sensation about it, which is just dry and admittedly, quite beautiful. As a result this oxidative take on Chablis should age for an extra year or two. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Domaine De La Boissonneuse Chablis 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This is from what Julien Brocard considers an atypical vintage, ripe, but “not a Chablis style year and so you must take what the vintage gives.” Brocard does feel the biodynamic approach has presented a more balanced year for the vineyard and I note a certainly affinity with the 13’s tasted with Patrick Piuze, from which aromatics airy and atmospheric in their confused moments recall riesling and here, chenin blanc. Quite a tropical, atypical Chablis nose, with mango and apricot, but also a deep soil tang. The most mineral-tropical fruit dichotomy of all, from 2013, unique and deferential to the last decade plus of Chablis. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne Chablis La Pierrelee 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (BCLDB 359844, $27.99, WineAlign)

La Pierrelee is one of three Chablisienne Chablis cuveés, subjected to 14 months élevage and carries more than a strong sense of perceived leesy sweetness in surround of a good mineral core. It may be the house’s fullest, roundest and most well-rounded expression. The fruit is gathered from all over Chablis, off of 20 communes and so is a true assemblage. The length is preeminently good. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis La Sereine 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 565598, $22.80, WineAlign)

La Sereine is a cuvée that follows the river, finds a river, mimics the ebb and flow of the river. A cuvée “of river poet search naïveté,” as important as Les Vénérables and the one that sparks a twinkle in Vincent Bartement’s eye. Same élevage as Vénérables and Pierrelee so the aromatic sweetness repeats albeit with leaner structure. Here more classically Chablis mineral, a direct deposit tip of liquid platinum calcaire into the glass. La Sereine snaps crisp with some bite and of savoury piquancy as well. It’s the lean and mean, rapid eye movement fighting machine of local and exotic perfume, “of ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rows of hay.” In La Sereine we find a river, constant, in which “strength and courage overrides.” Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Dame Nature 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Dame Nature is drawn off organic vineyards, mostly from southerly Courgis with some fruit near Fleys. Same faux sugary aromatic vein, lees affected and yet here, so flirtatious, pretty, feminine. Soft, downy, French cream Chablis. A bit of a Brie fromage note but then lemon piercing on the palate. The palate is all Chablis mineral tart and direct. Interesting mix of style in the Dame Nature, “like I wouldn’t know it’s you. At your most beautiful. Chablis of “a way to make you smile.” Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Villages 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.85, WineAlign)

Dampt’s Chablis Villages is consistently formulated as the same blend, but this is a second bottling post 12 leesy months. Young vines 10 years of age planted by Sébastien are encouraged and mentored by some old vines (40-45 years) blended in. All the fruit hails from the commune of Milly. Here again, rich and with some wood influence, in the vein of other like-minded progressive Chablis producers (Charly Nicolle comes to mind), but still very Chablis, expressive without bâtonnage. Still the acidity and minerality but the dry extract leads to unction. This is the young, new generation changing Chablis without forgetting where it comes from. With thanks to a golden terroir. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Sébastien Dampt, July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Collet Chablis is a 15 hectare blend from Villy (coming from Romain Collet’s mother’s side of the family) located between Vaillons and Montmains, plus fruit from near Courgis and Préhy. Classically 100 per cent stainless steel styled for sharp, pointed, piquant and straight ahead Chablis. A purchase at 10 euros right off the shelves at the winery shop in Chablis is a perfect bit of thievery. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Agnès Et Didier Dauvissat Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It was 30 years ago that Agnès et Didier Dauvissat planted their vines in Beine and today they make but three cuvées; this Petit Chablis, Chablis and Premier Cru Beauroy. This telescoped sense of purpose has obviously served the two well. Here in the cracker 2014 vintage they have arguably produced one of the finest (basic) Chablis. The concentrated lemon preserve, firm structure and rapt calcaire tart collation is eye-popping and mind-opening. Prescient from exceptional length, agreeably and markedly purposed. Top, top Chablis. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @DauvissatBeine

William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (46164, $23.95, WineAlign)

The Champs Royaux is Chablis drawn from a selection of Fèvre’s better grower contracts and five to 10 per cent is aged in old oak, the rest in stainless steel. It is a generalized but oh too important expression from kimmeridgian soil, hedged and qualified from all over Chablis. Takes all the hills, valleys, les clos and slope/aspect dimensions into account. It is textbook Chablis, a guarantee of quality, especially out of the cracker 2014 vintage. The fruit is ripe and the acidity a study in Chablis exactitude. The balance may be the best this cuvée has ever shown. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

William Fèvre Chablis Estate 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094701, $29.60, WineAlign)

The Domaine (estate) Chablis are vineyards located next to the Premier and Grand Cru, organically-farmed since 2006 (though not certified) and hand-harvested. Some vines date back 50-60 years and perhaps it is this wisdom and tree-rings concentration that gives this Chablis its hidden quality, dormant gem of mineral, quietness, stoicism, and reserve. Seemingly lean but ready to burst. An elegance that is a step up from the Champs Royaux though not as fully blanketed in obvious expression as the Premier Cru. And yet the bridge is built, ready to cross over, from one bank to another. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen is located in Prehy between les Vallées des Joeges et Plantes. The terroir is one of the furthest south in Chablis (and not far from Jean-Marc Brocard). This bottle is the first to be marked by some dusty and musty notes with little citrus on the nose. Acts as the leanest, most direct expression thus far. Really lean though with acidity not as pronounced. Seems to come off of an austere, aggressive terroir. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @ChablisGueguen

Louis Jadot Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (468751, $28.95, WineAlign)

Straight ahead and 2014 focused Chablis from Jadot, tight and stony at first but then shimmies up to reveal richer fruit than some and equanimity in acidity-mineral undertones. A wide and all-encompassing no doubter of a wine that succeeds no matter the breadth of its fruit sourcing. Classy all the way. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @ljadot  @HalpernWine

laroche-pressoir

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)

An all plots combed, 60 hectare extrapolative, best choices made cuvée in ode to the generous and convivial Roman officer and the monks who took his name and brought his relics to Chablis. Structure is at the heart and soul of the Saint Martin so it is a bit of hard to get at but highly recommended for slow, meditative assessment. Great compressed tart, all in terroir, soil and climate multi-interfaced chardonnay. Few ‘Chablis’ not specific of Premier or Grand Cru terroir can match its poise and precision. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

lunch-at-manufacture

Lunch with Benjamin and Stephanie Laroche at La Manufacture

Benjamin Laroche L’atelier Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

More than the Petit Chablis, as it should, the Chablis improves on fruit, ideal and expression, but also because of the cleaving and jaunty vintage. In ’14 Chablis is really precise, of an expansive mouthfeel, a lemon concern, condensed sweet bitters and all in all, really textural. Flat out delicious and full. So full, but ready to delight and divine for two more years. Drink 2016-2019.   Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

La Manufacture Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

La Manufacture takes Chablis to a brazen level in and out of 2014 and whatever precision was shown by L’Atelier is elevated in focus with La Manufacture. The vernacular learned and utterances expressed are from precision in choice of fruit and how the vintage is left to speak with this poignant, direct attack. I actually find this a bit closed in its extended youth, perhaps a cause of nature over nurture from its combination, or accumulation of fruit. The locations of Beine, Maligny and Lignorelles are its sources. This ’14 will really shine in 2017, a high-water mark up to a wave’s peak at the point where ancient sea fossils and geological rock progression distill into settled salinity, melded into the piquant and the trenchant. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

J. Moreau & Fils Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (466144, $21.95, WineAlign)

Typically flinty and stony Chablis from Moreau of Portlandian influence and typically easy to get to know, as per the forward vintage. All good berries and the ease of ripening is here on display. Chablis never had it so good, easy and lazy. Drink up. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted August 2016

louis-moreau

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (124305, $25.95, WineAlign)

The vineyards for Moreau’s Chablis gathering are located in the village of Beine on the Left Bank and interestingly enough are older than the Premier Cru. So here the fruit is pulled from vines 35-40 years of age. As much mineral layering as you are likely to find in a Chablis-designate cuvée and so well-rounded for 2015, with grace and style. The broadest of Chablis definition, reliable to tell the whole truth, for the copacetic vintage, the hills all around and the classic flinty, borne straight out of stone chardonnay. Some citrus of course and fine acidity if not the most striking of better than good Chablis vintages. Good terroir breeds good Chablis and with a touch of flint this brings it all together. Perfect, textbook, dictionary Chablis in a ripe and forthright style. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted twice, July and September 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Domaine Louis Moreau Domaine De Biéville Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (106161, $21.95, WineAlign)

On the far opposite side of Chablis’ right bank, at the village of Viviers where it is a colder, morning sun terroir. An estate created by Louis’ father in 1965. A cooler and slightly herbal Chablis with a leaner profile. A good comparative to the Beine Chablis, where the shadows are not as long and the terroir does not make as many demands on your palate. Last tasted July 2016.

A flint foot forward and step back balm of a Chablis with a settled raft of lees knick-knack and some willy-nilly resonance. Gains stature with citrus and spice as it fleshes in glass and mouth. Perhaps a stave or two of wood is making the play. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Ancestrum 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Ancestral pays hommage to a long legacy of Chablis in the Laroche-Nicolle families, to ancient earth folds, the shells and fossils left behind by oceans. Takes up where Petit Chablis left off in the giving vintage to press on with roundness and richesse. Optimum phenolic fruit and 500L barrels deem “a combination of Charly’s will and mother nature’s season” into this ripe Chablis. In 2015, with fully realized malo this morphs into a happier, slightly magical dichotomy. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Ancestrum 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Ancestrum is an old vines (approximately 55 years) Chablis cuveé and here from a vintage driven by crisp, pure and clean acidity. An extraordinary level of dry extract conspires to elevate both the luxury and the perceived sweetness but every sip returns into territories occupied by that ’14 acidity. Ancestrum is Chablis specific to Charly Nicolle, to ploughing, tilling, hoeing, pruning and harvesting his golden grapes. It is a pure reminder of how basic and pleasurable Chablis can be. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir De Chichée 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Terroir De Chichée is tasted first in a line-up of seven lieu-dit produced by Patrick Piuze, a Right Bank limestone plateau Chablis that “always takes the wind of the vintage.” The smoothest of entries transitions seamlessly to Chablis in which acidity runs up, down, across and in diagonal streaks across the palate. Done up in natural yeasts, like all the Piuze wines because “there’s no (other) point. It’s on the grape.” Clean, dry, clear and concise. Straight to the Chichée point. Acidity, even in the context of Chablis, must be your thing for Chichée to be your friend. I’d recommend seeking out Burgundian cuisine in the hands of a Japanese chef. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir Découverte 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This second in Puize’s series of seven lieu-dits tastes at first draws more linear and then branches its lines for a broader approach to Chablis. From the cooler “des Couverts” parcel abutting the Vaulorent Premier Cru on the north-facing section of the Grand Cru hill, it is from here in a northerly locale beyond the borders of Grand Cru climats Preuses and Bougros where flint, richness and ancient shells intercede. If only because this was made in 2015, the near-Vaulorent cumulative effect is almost too easy to access. Bloody delicious and drink now Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11180334, $33.25, WineAlign)

In the pantheon of the seven lieu-dits Piuze Chablis this is likely the great terroir despite its moniker that suggests a broader, cumulative expression. Terroirs is plucked and indeed speaks a Forêts language, its fruit native to the north facing hill occupied by the steely patron of the larger Left Bank Montmains Premier Cru. The reserve and quietude of Patrick’s ’15 is quite surprising but the circumvention of palate acidity is exhilarating and nearly frightening. Lemon meets much lime, texture wraps and ramps, precision leads to density. Striking but with the knowledge that ’14 was and will be more so. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

back-to-his-chablis-roots-with-patrickpiuze-what-a-way-to-begin-a-new-career-fresh

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2008, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11180334, $33.25, WineAlign)

The twenty-fifth wine we taste and Patrick’s choice to remember 2008 is this Terroirs de Chablis, a micro-specific lieu-dit spoken of Forêts vernacular formed on the northern exposition of the Montmains Premier Cru hill. Piuze loves this vintage, noting that “any appellation passes (the ’08 test).” The freshness here astounds. Were this served blind I would certainly guess 2014. Lime is everywhere, limestone everywhere else. Acidity rings in and out of every crevice and pore. If this T de C does not look back and show what Patrick Piuze will be capable of in Chablis then you won’t find a wine that will. And you won’t need to. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Courgis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Courgis was touched by some hail in 2015 on the first of September, a day Patrick Piuze says “I will always remember.” That was the day Piuze had to gather up seven years of go it alone fortitude to make the best of a difficult situation. He had to make a wine with some reduction, more upfront acidity and a different sort of citrus. Resist the temptation to make what he wanted and listen instead to the weather and the vintage. There is major fruit in this Courgis, a Chablis “wherever he laid his hat was his home.” Sly, in the lieu-dit family, Courgis “was a rollin’ stone.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir De Fyé 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Fyé comes fourth in a horizontal set of seven lieu-dits, a terroir across the tractor road from the “cape” Chapelot at the base of the fan-like shaped Montée de Tonnerre climat. The herbology and savour in Fyé is almost certainly magnified because of ’15 but so is the texture. The mouthfeel is fuller and wonderfully critical to balance and redemption. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis La Grand Vallée 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Grand Vallée is the Piuze rendering of the lieu-dit Les Pargues, a Left Bank single-vineyard flanked by the Premier crus Butteaux and Forêts. The exposure is the same just one hill over. Affinities are shared with Terroirs de Chablis though the lemon-lime, layering and persistence run deeper. This also steps up in length, with really old barrels stretching the fruit to an elastic density in a smoky Chablis forged from precision. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis La Grand Vallée 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Tasted side-by-side with La Grand Vallée 2015, the Piuze ’14 from the lieu-dit Les Pargues “shows off the good acidity of the vintage.” With Premier crus Butteaux and Forêts acting as bookends, the Pargues enjoys a one-off hill same exposure and the citrus intensity here is palpable. It’s that lemon-lime, Terroirs de Chablis thing run deeper and in ’14, to the depths of possibility. This plays multi-fret grapefruit notes without capo, bends and holds them forever. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289371, $23.95, WineAlign)

As if handed off like a relay torch or baton from the Petit Chablis, the thread of elegance, purity and clarity continues in the Séguinot Bordet Chablis. Freshness floats in Chablis suspension, a liquid not so much viscous but one that acts as a cradling or a coddling. There is spice up on the aromatic front and it heads straight north to tease and tingle the olfactory senses. Deeper down it’s all inter-metallic compounds and alloys, a dimension that exists in a realm beyond chardonnay. Chablis. A circumambient capacity resistant to wood or nut but steals subtle aspects of both. Tasted with proprietor Jean-François Bordet in Auxerre he concludes, “my story is in memory.” Chablis by wrote. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July and September 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Testut Chablis Rive-Droit 2015, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rive Droite is pulled off of a southern slope exposure on the right bank facing from Montée de Tonnerre and the Grand Cru Blanchots. It is a fine and delicate Chablis, golden from ripeness and typically 2015 but certainly very mineral because it can’t help but be on this side of the Chablis tracks. Wisdom and what comes natural from yields at 50 hL/L off 45 year-old vines seek and find a balance struck between minerality and maturity, but this is certainly on the ripe side. “It’s not complicated,” notes Cyril Testut. He picks on berry and seed. “You must have phenolic ripeness or the grapes will immediately begin to start oxidizing after picking. If they are ripe they will not seek it out. ” May as well be Premier Cru but it needs not be. Very good length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Rive-Droit 2014, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

Right Bank Rive Droite faces south on its poignant slope en face de Montée de Tonnerre and Blanchot Grand Cru. As good as ’15 is, in ’14 there flexes and strains much more vitality and with fruit not as obviously ripe. While the lack of self-regulation might cause some suffering (at least in a commercially appealing sense) it causes no compromise to balance (at least in terms of classic Chablis personality). The complexity of place really rises because the fruit is not ahead and even lagging just behind the acidity and the intense mineral. Rive Droit is right side of town top cru, white stone blessed all the way. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Cuvée Hélène, Grand Vin De Bourgogne 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Labeled Grand Vin De Bourgogne to elevate its Chablis status from a (2000 bottle) cuvée (named for Gérard’s wife Hélène) that draws one third of its fruit from 10 Premier Cru hectares. Aged in 100 per cent barriques blended with a small portion from stainless steel. This is not so typical of Tremblay or Chablis, from primarily 40-plus year-old vines, of a luxuriance that separates it from the Premier Cru. The palate and texture are flooded by a serious creaminess from oak but the lemon is so intense and the acidity runs extremely wild. Chablis at its lavish best, in bed with Beaune. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

Domaine Le Verger Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (181289, $19.75, WineAlign)

From Beine, here a more reserved, classic, stoic, orchard fruit-led Chablis. Exceeds itself and its emollient aromatics on the palate with good fleshy spirit and then steps into grounded, almost earthy territory for Chablis. More clay than calcaire and not fully accepting of the vintage. Will please most in the short term. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted July 2016

millychablis

Chablis Vieilles Vignes 

Jean Marc Brocard Domine Sainte Claire Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11589658, $29.95, WineAlign)

The abbey and the saint’s namesake vineyard’s vines are approximately 60 years-old and reduced output is in the vicinity of 30-35 hL/L yields. As always and nurtured with expectation you immediately whiff the old vine charm, lift, ethereal density and a pesto, this kind of herbal salinity that old vines bring. A brine that younger vines do not, with roots here burrowing six plus feet down into the kimmeridgian, far past the flora up top, seeking secondary and tertiary character. It takes little mindful and acquiescent effort to concur on the notification that double the length is perceived as compared to the younger Sainte Claire. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Chablis Les Vénérables Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (215525, $24.95, WineAlign)

Les Vénérables is the old vines cuvée that sees the same 14 months élevage as the other two, La Pierrelee and La Sereine. The lees effect continues but with Vénérables the running thread of aromatic sweetness is at first accessed and then subjugated to heavy layering, structure, compression and richness. Very citrus, first curd and then zest, coupled upon and adding on top of itself and nearly piercing. Pith joins on the palate. Classic Chablis. Crunchy and tart, like a bite into an acidulated green apple. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

collet-chablis-vv

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Planted in 1932 near Villy by Romain Collet’s maternal grandfather, these (nearing 75 year-old) vines bring the baller brilliance to Chablis, not in compression or density but for Collet, just the opposite. They gift ethereally, from 40 hL/L yields, a number pretty solid for such old vines. This 2014 impresses understanding about a vineyard with real mirondage, holding up a mirror to the past and paying it forward. Small grapes of vivid concentration breathe acidity, at first and then finesse. Precise Chablis is a great thing, especially when that inclination lingers for a very long time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Hamelin Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Lignorelles old vines on Portlandia limestone are at least 70 years-old, obviously the philanthropist of rich Chablis though here with sidetracks through verdant greens and herbal fields in balmy weather. This in 2014 and surprisingly approachable. Ripeness, sapidity and savour converge. The flavours zig-zag from lime to green apple and more bitters than many are seen in bright light aspects that remind of in country kin aligoté and auxerrois. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016    @oenophilia1

La Manufacture Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Once again it is the elegance that old vines bring to Chablis that is so counterintuitive to what they do almost anywhere else in the world. In La Manufacture’s case the reflexive fineness and haute innervation that is derived from these old vines is both calming and tangible. The consciousness is latent to a slope upon which the drive of direct acidity and salinity cling, angling in the particular way of the exceptional 2014 vintage. Laroche’s Chablis VV makes peace with tension, finds harmony before the sister Chablis and yet will live a longer life. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine de La Motte Chablis Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (334490, $19.95, WineAlign)

Located in Beine, Domaine de la Motte from the Famille Michaud fashions Chablis of nerve, tension and high on the floral scale. The old vines are 40-plus in age, doling out the proverbial excess of concentration and here with malolactic fully noticed from the start, for the first time in principal Chablis. Though almost certainly (and entirely) Inox barrel fermented, the malo is rendered in buttered popcorn and lemon. Still too young for the components to come together so put it in the three to five year conversation. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @gmlechablis

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

What is it that old vines bring to Chablis? Elegance, temperament or calm? All of the above. Jean-François Bordet’s grandfather planted these vines, 78 years ago. He’s 93 and drinks Chablis every day. So wisdom seems to be the key, that and a cordial-conjugal relationship between this every day wine and a consumer. The purity is predicated on lime and predicts many a cordial connection. This delicate Vieilles Vignes is also practical for every special occasion and it is possessive of surprising strength. It’s what you need, if necessary, every day. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Testut Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vines are 50 years-old and from the same (right) bank as the (Rive Droit) so here the stylistic is replicated albeit with a deeper sense of the locale, but so much furtherer elegance and balance. The lees melding into texture replicates upon itself, recreating a cloning that interweaves minerality upon fruit in mille-feuille layers. Very mature, grown-up winemaking. Concentrated and clean. Still, very ’15. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The wines of the Tremblay family exemplify the vignoble de Chablis and with this old vines you can’t help but repeat the house mantra, “c’est ce qui donne cette…arrière goût minéral qui semble avoir été extrait des entrailles de la terre!” Extracted from the kimmeridgian, from Exogyra virgula, from 25 million years of formed marno-calcaire. “Goût minéral,” the taste of mineral, from the bowels of the earth. It matters not that this Chablis is from the forward, fruit first, commercial vintage. With a selection made from Tremblay’s 40-plus year-old vineyards the high density of dry extraction from fruit does indeed lead to more weight and body. Mineral yes, but you will all like it too. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Why you don’t know jack about B.C. wine

Culmina Family Estate Winery, Oliver, B.C.

Culmina Family Estate Winery, Oliver, B.C.

Some folks in Ontario know quite a lot about the B.C. wine industry but they are few and far between. Wine professionals with decades of experience and those who have travelled extensively to the Okanagan Valley and Vancouver Island have their fingers pointed in the right western direction. But most of us living and imbibing here in Ontario are clueless as to the breadth of B.C.’s wine culture. It’s not our fault. Our government is keeping us in the dark.

Ontario still refuses to agree that it should not be illegal to carry or ship wine for personal use across provincial borders. That issue is at the forefront of what keeps Canada’s wine regions isolated from one another. The Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) recently met for their annual AGM in Kelowna, B.C. The CVA is the industry’s governing board that deals with national regulatory issues, standards and policies. The idea of direct to consumer interprovincial shipping was again tabled and discussed with five MP’s from Ontario and B.C. in attendance. WineAlign’s David Lawrason was there.

“The politicians and CVA members were most vocal about getting Canadian wine moving freely and directly across all provincial boundaries in Canada. Alas, there was no breakthrough to announce in terms of more provinces dropping their opposition, but I was surprised by how loud, frequent and public the CVA and its members, as well as the politicians, have become – insisting that action be taken sooner rather than later. There was a mood in the room.” Still Ontario consumers continue to be ignorant about the wines of British Columbia. It remains to be seen if the recent CVA meeting will help constitute a step forward.

Related – B.C. wine: From Vancouver to your table

Back in June we took the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada on the road and hunkered down in Penticton, British Columbia to assess and pick winners from over 1,500 Canadian produced wines. And we did so much more. First we paid a visit with The Wines of British Columbia for the Judgement of B.C. The second annual cage match was hosted by the B.C. Wine Institute and took place on Tuesday, June 21, pitting 12 B.C. Wines against 12 acknowledged global benchmarks. Riesling and Pinot Noir squared off, curated by DJ Kearney and judged by a who’s who of Canadian wine writers, critics and educators, along with international WineAlign Awards judges Dr. Jamie Goode and Elaine Chukan Brown.

Showtime! #judgementBC @WineBCdotcom @djwines #BCWine @WineAlign #nwac16 #bcwineinstitute #bcvqa #bcdna

Showtime! #judgementBC @WineBCdotcom @djwines #BCWine @WineAlign #nwac16 #bcwineinstitute #bcvqa #bcdna

Max Ferd. Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2013 from the Mosel Valley, Germany placed first in the Riesling category, followed by two B.C. entries, CedarCreek Platinum Block 3 Riesling 2014 BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, B.C. and Wild Goose Stoney Slope Riesling 2013 BC VQA, Okanagan Falls, B.C. Three international Pinot Noirs medalled, Bouchard Père Premier Cru Beaune Clos de la Mousse Monopole 2012, Burgundy, France, Bachelder Oregon Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley AVA Oregon, USA and Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2014, Central Otago, New Zealand. B.C. Pinot Noir took the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and (tied for) eighth spots. “What was really interesting when I tasted through those 12 wines blind, I couldn’t pick out the BC Wines which tells me they belong in their peer group which is a ringing endorsement for BC Wine that we’re on the right track,” noted Dr. Jamie Goode.

Faultless evening @OKCrushPad above reproach and the wines beyond #nwac16

Faultless evening @OKCrushPad above reproach and the wines beyond #nwac16

As the week progressed, the WineAlign judges paid visits to Okanagan Crush Pad Winery in Summerland, Culmina Family Estate Winery in Oliver, Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna, Rustic Roots Winery with the Similkameen Wineries Association and Deep Roots Winery on the Naramata Bench. I tasted more than 100 wines over the course of the five days from the appellations of Okanagan Valley, Okanagan Falls, Oliver-Osoyoos, Golden Mile, Similkameen Valley and Naramata Bench. Whatever I thought I knew and understood about wines coming from B.C.’s diverse and variegated landscapes has been tossed out the window and diapason replaced with an entirely renewed subset of thought. It is even clearer to me now, from an Ontario perspective with limited access to B.C. wines and an even smaller vocabulary that here in this province we really don’t know shit about B.C. wines.

Exceptional eats @CulminaWinery in adroit by @Quintoquorto and @hooydonk_van

Exceptional eats @CulminaWinery in adroit by @Quintoquorto and @hooydonk_van

In talking and reflecting recently with Elaine Brown she told me how “Canada’s Provincial restrictions around wine have created what are essentially isolated sovereignties of wine. There is a lot of good wine made throughout Canada but speaking with wine lovers across the country I am impressed with how little access they have to wines from other provinces.” Brown hits the proverbial screwcap right on the head. In a country where distance makes community so difficult, the only way to seek unity is to tear down trade barriers and that is something our provincial government has outright refused to docket. As a result, the consumer in Ontario has little access to the diversity that the B.C. wine industry has to offer.

So much @WineBCdotcom amour in the @tantaluswine cellar last night #nwac16

So much @WineBCdotcom amour in the @tantaluswine cellar last night #nwac16

One of the great B.C. revelations on the June trip was all about riesling. In his recent WineAlign column, Rhys Pender wrote the following. “It feels to me that the last few years have seen a really strong focus towards quality in BC. Not that good wines weren’t made, but most of the riesling seemed to be aimed at being a low price, broad crowd pleaser. More and more wines are a little pricier but a lot more intense and quality focused. This was evident in the recent judging of the National Wine Awards of Canada. To be honest, Ontario riesling has pretty much always been superior to BC in these competitions and while there were still many great Ontario wines, this year things were different and many of the best rieslings I personally tasted in my flights were from BC. Less simple, fruity wines and more serious, intense and concentrated examples. Seven of the top ten riesling overall were from BC this year including the Gray Monk 2013 Riesling which won a Platinum medal. An impressive showing.”

Related – From coast to coast: Top 40 wines from the 2016 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

Another adumbrate scoop came outlined in out-of-the-box white varietals, with very interesting results by albariño, grüner veltliner, muscat ottonel and trebbiano. The same quality of wines made from these grape varieties can’t be found in Ontario, nor can the success of red blends from the Similkameen Valley and from single varietal reds in the Okanagan Valley as a whole. When B.C. winemakers begin to dial back the oak and take full advantage of ripe, fresh fruit, the world won’t know what hit them. In his National Wine Awards of Canada report, David Lawrason noted that “two B.C. wineries, Moon Cursor and Stag’s Hollow, are worth watching for their medal winning experiments with grapes like tempranillo, grenache and petit verdot.” Another nod to experimentation.

I liken the Okanagan to South Africa, a varietal playground where just about anything can achieve phenolic ripeness in almost any given vintage. B.C. has one distinct advantage and that is a cooler climate. It should be exploited to the fullest, in the name of balance and quality. Though I tasted many more, in the name of 5,000 words or (slightly more) brevity, here are notes on 40 wines tasted and reviewed in June.

Sincerity @CulminaWinery from Elaine & Don Triggs and a superfluity of @WineBCdotcom pours #ohwhatanight #hospitality #nwac16

Bartier Bros. Cabernet Franc Cerqueira Vineyard 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

A rich, savoury mess of red fruits comes clean if surreptitiously divided by barrel on the nose on this gently intended cabernet franc from the gentle Cerqueira slope. More than a modicum of concentration of dusty raspberry and some new leather jacket. Silky smooth mouthfeel and the condensed tangy extraction really pops up on the finish. Another crunchy, chewy, smoky, serious cabernet franc turning bitter and tough with alcohol and bramble on the finish. More freshness would be ideal so let it rest for two years instead. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @bartierbros

Semillom

Bench 1775 Semillon 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.90, WineAlign)

A virtually bone-dry, stainless steel raised semillon that is quintessentially fresh and varietally correct though even more attentive to the Okanagan Valley. There is an abundance of fruit in the green mango/citrus realm and a je ne sais quoi spirit. All in all quite amenable and no reason to seek a future dripping with honey. The sense of anti-austerity, fruit over mineral reaction means drink it young. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @bench1775

Black Hills Viognier 2014, BC VQA, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

A very impressive viognier from a mother nature conspired vintage to make it shine. This is so very viognier as much as it is B.C. which is a great thing. White floral, viscous and split between honey suckle and white pepper-edged, green apple bite. Against all odds in a way and certainly a top example for the region. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @BlackHillsWine

Nota Bene

Black Hills Nota Bene 2014, BC VQA, British Columbia (Winery, $52.09, WineAlign)

This Nota Bene can be espied as of the Okanagan Valley’s most ambitious reds filled with good notes, in winemaking conditioned real tones, as opposed to pure, simple acoustic ones. The Black Sage Bench blend of cabernet sauvignon (52 per cent), merlot (33) and cabernet franc (15) is pulled from two vineyards, Double Black and Sharp Rock. The proprietary junction is criss-crossed where rich chocolate takes up address at a certain genre of Napa ideology. Black Hills’ premium wine is big and full of brawn, backbone and guts. The three real tones played together express pronounced dissonances between many of their harmonics. Dissonance is related to (barrel developed) spice so I would think that a minimum of five years will be needed to connect and make seamless the overlapping harmonics. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted June 2016

Bordertown

Bordertown Living Desert Red 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mohan Gill’s 600 case merlot and cabernet franc blend is one of the more curious and engaging Osoyoos reds that is really worth some study. The 18 months spent in all new French wood should ring the alarms but instead it seems a combination of vaguely engaged and greatly spectatorial. Reduction and volatility strike an accord with the wood and the result is a rich, meaty, full on expression from which fruit emerges virtually unscathed. “It’s the first vintage,” shrugs Gill, “what else could I do?” More of the same Mohan. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @BordertownWine

CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Meritage 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $60.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Alexis Moore inherited the (Chianti sourced) clay amphora from former winemaker Daryl Brooker and this (second vintage) meritage is her first kick at the urn. The co-fermented, all natural, don’t even think about peeking and sneaking a taste blend is cabernet sauvignon (54 per cent), cabernet franc (35) and malbec (11). The hallmark desert notes of rich, caky and dusty are necessarily present but it is the preservation of red earth savour that gives this formidable flagon of magic juice its inimitable personality. Mature rows of fruit are to blame and thank for the just desert reward. Transferred to amphora the fruit is preserved in such a way no B.C. reds have ever really seen and the new territory is not so simple for making quick, on the spot judgements. I have thought about this wine for quite some time and the conclusion is positive for two important reasons. Spice and tannin. Together they combine for an infinite finish. Here is the crux of the vessel’s power, to preserve fruit and slowly release its charms within the structure provided. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016  @CedarCreekWine

CedarCreek

CedarCreek Platinum Series “The Last Word” 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $77.99, WineAlign)

The “Last Word” is at the pinnacle of CedarCreek’s Platinum Series, single-vineyard wines and only made in “nature conspired,” exceptional vintages. The biggest and baddest red is a “wine that leaves nothing left to say,” thus the moniker. The blend is cabernet sauvignon (34 per cent), merlot (32), cabernet franc (24) and malbec (10) in true Meritage style. Talk about big reds, talk about the passion. Plan on getting extra hours of REM sleep after a glass, after the punch, the ripest fruit, tempered chocolate, grip and after the heavy hitting acidity. Every crevice is filled in with a jangle of notes and few winemakers can find balance with such a wealth of material. There is simply no way not to make a bold, tannic statement. “Not everyone can carry the weight of the world” but CedarCreek has managed to grin and bear it. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted June 2016

Church

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Reductive, dark, stormy raging and off the charts spicy syrah but there is terrific ripe fruit and cool, cool savour. Edgy but tannic within range. After the violets come sweet purple palate fruit but it’s a feigning sweetness. Long drifts of acidity and tannin but again, like so many Okanagan peers the finish dusts with espresso and not the mocha. The spice lingers well after all else has resolved. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @ChurchStateWine

Clos du Soleil

Clos Du Soleil Estate Reserve Red 2012, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $58.90, WineAlign)

The apropos named winery, the “Vineyard of the Sun,” describes British Columbia-Okanagan-Similkameen so well. That and what can happen when Bordeaux varietals are the recipients of proper sun-worshipping phenolic journeys is the crux to understanding and enjoying such a proper and righteous red. Tasting this Michael Clark characteristic fruit handling facture with Spencer Massie sheds enlightened light on the Clos du Soleil passion project and the red ability of the Similkameen Valley. Taken from the Estate Vineyard on the Upper Bench of the Similkameen Valley, the prettiest and most inviting nose pops up here, led by cabernet sauvignon and in usage of all five Bordeaux varietals. The best red fruit, the hint of mineral and sage, the aridity of the land, the restraint from wood. It’s all correct and truth be told. Solid red blend. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @ClosduSoleil  @spencemassie

Corcelletes

Corcelettes Menhir 2014, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

It’s hard not be endeared into the red blend culture of the Similkemeen Valley and the variegation various positions occupy on the slopes of its benches. This ode in OZ style of cabernet Sauvignon (62 per cent) and syrah (38) is pulled from vines set on the rocky soils of the Corcelletes Middle Bench Vineyard. Though the herbal, savoury, currant and tobacco laced cabernet should dominate it does not with witness thanks to a more than peppery edge and black fruit ooze of the syrah. Only the Similkameen can bring such shared duality and find common ground like this in the overall B.C. genre. Like Beamsville in Ontario and with grace in wood usage, here the two varieties co-exist with copacetic simpatico. The ancient monolith believed to date back 2741-2488 BC on the Baessler family farm off the shores of Lac de Neuchatel, Switzerland gives this blend its name. This wine is no monolith, nor does it strike as ancient or antediluvian, but it does stand out as singular for the Similkameen and for B.C. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016  @corcelettes

Culmina Dilemma 2014, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.65, WineAlign)

The road taken for this chardonnay should have led to rich, buttery and fat because the approach mimics a throwback west coast style. Alcohol, pH, new barrel usage are all generous but so is acidity. So this could have emerged huge but it’s impossibly restrained. The cool-climate metal factor sings with austerity and the gemstone crunch folds with richness. The Margaret’s Bench land speaks and gives so all tolled Culmina’s signature chardonnay is a study in heutagogical learning because it teaches knowledge sharing. This is chardonnay and in many ways, this is Burgundy. Chances taken have landed reward, if a bit unexpected, but certainly appreciated. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @CulminaWinery  @CulminaSara

Culmina Merlot 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.00, WineAlign)

Red over green merlot to substantiate a vintage called better on the Golden Mile (Arise) Bench. Here is bone-dry, full malolactic, high acidity merlot, so very vacuous, inward, implosive and wild. The wood blankets with purpose in lieu of reckless abandon and because the fruit is just ripe enough to defend itself the return is an effusive one. Would love to taste this merlot in a best vintage with 20-25 per cent less new oak and a number close to this healthy 6.4 g/L of acidity. Now we’re talking, in tones red over green. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2016

Unicus

Culmina Unicus 2014, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.05, WineAlign)

B.C. is a playground for experimentation, a place not unlike South Africa where phenolic ripeness is almost always accomplished yet it has a distinct advantage. Cooler sites and the availability, if embraced, of equally ripe acidity. So grüner veltliner, along with trebbiano, muscat ottonel, auxerrois, sylvaner and others should be investigated. Culmina’s work with grüner is fought properly, in a combination of concrete amphora, egg and steel, allowing varietal to share equal ground with terroir. A sense of some white-ish rhubarb here is noted in the most complimentary vegetal sense, along with white flowers and a dash or two of white pepper. This is a gustatory and gastronomic grüner with intensity and vitality that good slope Marlborough sauvignon blanc will similarly give. The difference here is the absence of searing citrus which is a good thing, all things considered. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016

Deep Roots Syrah

Deep Roots Syrah 2014, Naramata, British Columbia (Winery, $34.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Tasted twice, first blind at #NWAC16 and then at the winery, this is syrah with a dual northern intent, more Naramata than Rhone though the bent is a soulful repent in the church of St. Joseph. Beautifully savoury and smoky, like a big meat and smoulder sandwich with great fruit and a silken texture. The peppery bite is a sure tell sign of well-made syrah. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @DeepRootsWine

Gehringer Auxerrois 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $13.29, WineAlign)

Despite the off-dry (11 g/L RS) directive because that is what auxerrois always wants to do and though the vintage brings much warmth, this persists as a delicate and fresh wine. Auxerrois as a grape variety is set in an imprecise past, shaded by myth, carried forward and planted decades ago in B.C. These old vines could tell stories but today its fruit expresses itself simply, with richness and with plenitude. I wouldn’t tie a cellophane bag around one and leave it in the cellar to revisit in 30 years. I’d rather hook some trout, pan roast it and work in some acidity. The auxerrois will compliment such a move just fine. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @GB_Wines

Haywire Chardonnay Canyonview Vineyard 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

From the Summerland vineyard, raised in concrete and emerged with a semi-unoaked feel. There is a certain sort of sweet condense as if a tank and a barrel had merged. Clearly managed in the slow, micro-oxygenated way, with notes of curd, cream and whey. A chardonnay smoothie with many beneficial enzymes running wild, the yeasts working and munching away. Still retains a cool-climate feel regardless of the vat influence with top notch acidity and tannin to lengthen the chain. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @Haywirewine  @OKCrushPad  @brixandmortar

Haywire Pinot Noir 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

From the steep limestone and granite Waters & Banks Vineyard, this is a limber, lissome and rusty pinot noir, gently pressed, caressed and left to find its own singular way. Reminds me of the salinity graced Willamette Valley, set upright and alert on the bright side of life. Their is a musky lime aroma and a lithe tartness that belies its mineral gifting. Well done. Don’t envision this losing its charm any time soon. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Trebbiano

Hester Creek Trebbiano Old Vines Block 16 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 1968 which in itself is a wild and mind-blowing proposition. Trebbiano has well-adapted to the Okanagan Valley, or at least these two acres have and only fools would not try to get their hands on one of the 1100 cases produced. No it’s not Emidio Pepe nor is it your nonno’s trebbiano but it is a singular expression for B.C. Terrific acidity layers over rich and viscous stone-orchard fruit. Something creamy evolves, not like similar styled Okanagan viognier but in another realm. It’s a derivative sensation, like the way children look like their mothers, so the connection to Abruzzo is really there. This is a special proprietary moment and good on Hester Creek for brokering the proviso. I will agree to abide. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @HesterCreek

Hillside

Hillside Muscat Ottonel 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.99, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Floral, as expected, but in contrast to the globally spoken style, this does orange blossom and mineral mining with equal and opposing ease. Acidity rings round, not overtly meaningful but nonetheless wild. From 30-plus year-old vines (circa 1982), to not find fun, joy and pleasure would be to miss every pertinent point. Hillside presents a provincial comic flick of a muscat phrase and does so with lighthearted resourcefulness and ingenuity. Drink 2016-2018.   Tasted June 2016  @hillsidewines

Fortissimo

La Stella Fortissimo 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2014 Fortissimo is mostly merlot with sangiovese playing a vital role along with a splash of cabernet sauvignon. This is found to be softer, more amenable and structured with bungalow sprawl. Bright, maximum juiced red berry fruit resemblance is anti-savoury, friendly, and ready to roll but still with some smoky spice. The 21 per cent sangiovese is significant (up seven points from 2013) so the Classico factor runs high. This is the alternative world case of Fortissimo where in some years you make Chianti Classico and in others, Gran Selezione. Though she may not consider 2014 to be her most accomplished Fortissimo, winemaker Severine Pinte will have to accept that she has procured a very elegant red blend. A Classico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @LaStellaWinery

LFNG

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2007, Naramata Bench, British Columbia (Winery, $52.95, WineAlign)

Poured from Magnum the LSV ’07 has resolved from cool vintage and micro-oxidation into cool-climate meets right bank stylistic personality. Soy, Chinese five-spice, cassia, balsamic, fig and a caramelization that lists to part vegetal and part demerara sugar. The palate is expressly vital still, carrying a torch that for a cabernet-merlot Okanagan blend is fun to reason with. Magnum is obviously a major plus for this nine-year advancement. Sweet with no noticeable heat finish. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @lfngwine

Maverick

Maverick Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Bertus Albertyn bottled a meagre 200 cases of this Golden Mile Bench sourced syrah after 18 months in three to four year-old French Oak. If you are a fan of fresh, well-spoken, confident and blessedly transparent syrah then look for the next vintage of this sold out beauty. So gauzy gossamer textured, peppery but of scant bite and driven by a northern, smoky beat. The cure and depth in its make-up nearly adds up to beefy but its form of athleticism is built upon the quiet politesse of its maker’s execution. The comparison must be made to septentrional Rhône and the lack of new oak is so appreciated. This is a wine to watch for. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @MaverickWinery

Moraine Gewürztraminer 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $17.90, WineAlign)

Classic Okanagan Valley gewürztraminer with a touch of mute reserve relative to more forward peers. The aromatics pause at traditional exoticism then veer to pear and apricot. The palate concentrates the off-dry varietal tendency with a furthered spin out of the seed orchard and into the pit. Not necessarily a gewürztraminer with extended play acidity but highly pleasurable nonetheless. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @MoraineWinery

Moraine

Moraine Riesling 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.90, WineAlign)

Slightly airy and hyper-opiated riesling up to here, of burgeoning talent, suggesting what is yet to come from Moraine with respect to the great varietal Okanagan potential. On the off-dry scale this falls somewhere in the middle, going at it with heavy Mosel fuel. Quite intense with acidity to match. Hip riesling, “addicted to approval, addicted to the air. It was see if you like it or see you up there.” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Moraine Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.95, WineAlign)

Moraine’s Okanagan Falls pinot noir is lambent with great rust and conversely vapid in desert dust. The entire red fruit spectrum is seemingly sung and stung with range and breadth; cranberry-cherry-pomegranate-strawberry-raspberry, from tart all the way to sweet. Taut, tight and bracing. This will work with pairing pride for short to mid-term enjoyment. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

The fruit hails from both Quails’ Gate Estate and Osoyoos vineyards. Tasted just three months after bottling, the sweet (whole bunch pressed) serenity of chenin blanc has already settled in with equal and opposing acidity in tact. An angle of bitters works the lush fruit (thickened by a small percentage of older wood) and weaves the two as one in this eager and enthusiastic young (albeit early sulphur persistent) white. A splash or two of sauvignon blanc helps in the ushering. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @Quails_Gate  @  @hobbsandco

Quails' Gate

Quails’ Gate Connemara 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (Winery, $64.00, WineAlign)

The inaugural vintage and first ever Quails’ Gate Bordeaux-style blend is winemaker Nikki Callaway’s ode to her stage/cellar hand/winemaking time spent in Bordeaux. The cumulative of merlot (55 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and cabernet franc (15) is formidable in its perplexing youth, taut, rigid and so very tannic. The minor’s current approach is virtually unapproachable but look for something to grab for, like perfectly ripe fruit or structure. The beatitude is easily found in these two essential components. You’ll then think “if you were another pretender, oh I’d pass you by,” but in the case of the Connemara, put in the effort and the time. The reward will come later. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted August 2016

Quails’ Gate The Boswell Syrah 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $61.05, WineAlign)

Named in ode to grandparents, The Boswell is a deep, brooding and extreme-bodied syrah that is actually quite floral. Smoky, meaty, chewy fruit mixes with tar and roses in a heightened, variegated state. Rich and piqued by peppery spice and then the chocolate warmth settles in on the finish. Sip again and note that every pass circles back to the beginning. Though it nods to the northern Rhône and wells up like Barossa, you can’t take the Okanagan out of the Boswell. It wins every time. Would prefer to see this again in three years. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted June 2016

Stoneboat

Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (429332, $29.95, WineAlign)

I tasted this blind at #NWAC16 and with Larry Martiniuk that same week and both times was struck by the electric pinosity, density and beneficial volatility. The pre-integration period is apparent so I’d hazard a guess that 18 months more are needed to assimilate the 18 months spent in (20 per cent new) French oak. To whiff it’s like peat moss mixed with a cassia-cassis cocktail. Black cherry sweetish on the palate and quite spicy. This neon pinot is quite volatile and yet closed, but it carries a downy pilosity texture. Very west coast. Though I return to thinking it out of whack, still feeling the alcohol and wondering why it has to be so loud, the texture and the complexity always bring me back. The raindrops are alive. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @stoneboat  @Noble_Estates

Synchromesh Riesling Storm Haven Vineyard 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.90, WineAlign)

If this riesling is sweet I couldn’t say. That is the first thought that comes to mind. From Alan Dickinson’s home property, this is his baby, an Okanagan Falls derived riesling that lives an entirely holistic existence. No spraying, none, nada, niente. Not ever. The wine could not get any cleaner. Purity is its cognomen. The vineyard is subject to the highest diurnal temperature swing than just about anywhere in the valley. That might explain the risk-reward probability factor. The technical specs are a triumvirate of implausibility; 46 g/L RS, 11.5 g/L TA and pH below three. What? This is the most impossible wine made in B.C. In its concentrated velocity it wheezes like something ancient. We could almost be drinking Greek debina or 20 year-old Alsatian auxerrois. Dickinson makes three passes over each of the two blocks so even if the hands are off, the meticulous picking breeds asepsis. Citrus such as found in the Storm Haven fruit does not happen very often, if rarely. It’s like citrus soma. Citrus unknowable out of determination unthinkable. Direct misunderstanding by indirect whimsy. And so the vintage offers good fun but not greatness. Imagine the possibilities. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted June 2015  @SynchromeshWine

Synchromesh

Synchromesh Riesling For Shadows Vineyard 2015, BC VQA Naramata Bench , British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

Like its brethren Storm Haven Vineyard, this Synchromesh draws blood from stone in holistic ways that few Canadian riesling seem to do. The Four Shadows is different in that it chooses wisdom over risk. A clear, clean and precise nose reveals lemon drop and a honey drip. Though the sugar is more noticeable than the SHV, the older world (Germanic) impression is filled with a sense of tradition. The vineyard is in fact of very high elevation on an extremely steep slope (think Mosel) of gravel and clay layered over fractured bedrock and granite. The sugar is also elevated (50.93 g/L) and the acidity lower (8.4 g/L) so what you get may seem to lower the impossibility factor. Don’t be fooled into thinking this a riesling of privilege and lassitude. It does not drip with sleep but rather rages with life. The stones seem to speak. And the riesling listens. Drink 2016-2022. Like its brethren Storm Haven Vineyard, this Synchromesh draws blood from stone in holistic ways that few Canadian riesling seem to do. The Four Shadows is different in that it chooses wisdom over risk. A clear, clean and precise nose reveals lemon drop and a honey drip. Though the sugar is more noticeable than the SHV, the older world (Germanic) impression is filled with a sense of tradition. The vineyard is in fact of very high elevation on an extremely steep slope (think Mosel) of gravel and clay layered over fractured bedrock and granite. The sugar is also elevated (50.93 g/L) and the acidity lower (8.4 g/L) so what you get may seem to lower the impossibility factor. Don’t be fooled into thinking this a riesling of privilege and lassitude. It does not drip with sleep but rather rages with life. The stones seem to speak. And the riesling listens. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted June 2016.Tasted June 2016

Tantalus Brut

Tantalus Blanc De Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Winemaker David Paterson “squeezes it like Champagne” and lets it rest for six months in chardonnay barrels. Two years of triage and boom! Freaking elegant Blanc de Noir. Rusty, rosy, the absolute spot on ripe vernacular spoken, the right tart exposed. It’s curious and foreshadowed thinking to know that 100 cases have been set aside for a five to seven year disgorgement. D’ya think Paterson is high on the vintage? Tasted June 2016  @tantaluswine

A single block of Clone 93 pinot noir planted in 1985 is responsible for this breath of fresh Okanagan Valley Blanc de Noir. Fashioned with the omnipresent Tantalus acidity, this rages out with aridity, salinity and palpable tension. Only pinot noir can act like this, with layers of sous bois and fraises du bois. The age of the vines, the early-picked necessity and the allowance for needful and natural expression has resulted in a wine simply stressed as terroir and boîte. Carries the acidity and the tension across and through the palate. Finishes as dry as it started. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016

Tantalus Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $29.90, WineAlign)

The vintage was not shy to gift dark, optimum-achievement in phenolic fruit and along with that ripeness comes even deeper tonal intent. Red hyperbole is elevated by striking acidity, setting this Pinot Noir up for really high expectations. The palate does not disappoint. Flavours range from black cherry to charred meat making for a highly gustatory experience. Chewy and enjoyable describes the time spent with this wine. It will offer great pleasure in the short term. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April and June 2016

Tantalus

Tantalus Riesling 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

Two months later things have changed and yet not at all. There are more tricks and inducements (as compared to 2010) but don’t be fooled because with a difficult (sweltering) vintage the wine makes you think you can get close. But you can’t. You are further away than you think mostly due to incredible citrus and wild rhythms swimming through raging riesling waters. Change of plans. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

Well with the arena of aridity, salinity and sheer marketability, here is a showy Tantalus with super searing lemon flavours emerging out of great atmosphere and aromatic intensity. Some Riesling taketh away and some are mouth watering, like this. The stone fruit goodness attacks and sticks to the tongue like sap, then glides effortlessly down. Tantalus might make me think of things that are out of reach, “standing in water, but dying of thirst, this is my thanks and this is my curse.” Yet this early to market 2015 Riesling offers an antithetical view, ready, willing and able to please. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Tantalus Riesling 2010, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

I’m thinking that no other B.C. riesling tries, trips and tricks with intense tribulation like the Tantalus, especially with a look back at this 2010 ripper. Though just now emerging from out of its saline crusted shell, the liquid stone injection will always render this a tantalizing wine so while it seems to open a door a part of it will always remain just out of reach. This 2010 can retrospectively be looked at as a genre defining riesling at the hands of an engaging young winemaker to be.  Tasted June 2016

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2bench Red 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $29.99, WineAlign)

Naturally south Okanagan crunchy, chewy, spicy and taut red blend. From two benches, the Golden Mile (Tinhorn Creek Vineyard) and the Black Sage Bench (Diamondback Vineyard). This is quite a ripper in that magical $30 middle ground with power to impress as much as many peers two times the price. That said it certainly retains its tangy, two-step, red fruit freshness, with cool savour, like two mints in one. Kind of reminds me of Coonawarra, especially the Penfolds Bin 169, so perhaps when brought together there is a Bench similarity with the Terra Rosso soil. Or perhaps just a stab at clouds. Either way this 2012 takes over from the vital 2011 and runs with the baton. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016  @TinhornCreek @Andrew_Tinhorn  @SandraOldfield

Zweigelt

Upper Bench Zweigelt 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

I’ve not had the opportunity to taste the go between 2013 but progression and evolution are found in the bright red fruit of this 2014 zweigelt from Upper Bench. The aromatics travel east and west, as if coast to coast and on a global trek. I get the foraged berries, baking scents and the felled evergreen mixed with fresh cocoa. I also sense garrigue, as well as jasmine in the early evening. Though the sugar is elevated (an insignificant 0.6 g/L up to 2.9) the wine was picked at lower brix (23.5 as opposed to 24.2) and so the acidity is given the chance to feign higher. The alcohol is hefty (14.4 per cent) but the overall balance is improved. Dialled back a bit but another notch or two would really do justice to the grape. Early consumption is still the order and fresher remains the promise. We’ll see what the warm 2015 vintage will bring. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @upperbench

Wild Goose

Wild Goose Pinot Blanc Mystic River 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

A few clicks north of Oliver comes this maximum juice master of a pinot blanc, like a tart gooseberry cake with a warm, yeasty crust. It’s like autolytic sparkling wine without the bubble, foiled by a sauvignon blanc faux botrytis thing going on. The acidity is well suited to match the exuberant fruit. Roland Kruger points a finger to the vineyard (right along the south Okanagan River) to explain the aromatics. The addendum of 20 per cent barrel fermentation is the key that turns the textural screws. As far as pinot blanc goes, “it’s open mike, punk rock, (it’s natural), red, white and blue.” This Wild Goose. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @wildgoosewines

Wild Goose Gewürztraminer Mystic River 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

Wild Goose is proving to be a gewürztraminer leader in the Okanagan Valley not just for its adherence to rose petal and lychee varietal correctness but also for aromatic elegance. Terrific texture marks the ’15’s territory (a trademark of Wild Goose whites) and here you get drying wax still pliable and malleable. The aura is distinct and the wine so very amenable. Really well made Mystic River output. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Good night and many thanks @tantaluswine #kelowna #nwac16

Good night and many thanks @tantaluswine #kelowna #nwac16

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Chase food pairings with Stratus

The Chase Restaurant's Pom-pom Mushrooms, braised bacon and peppery greens

The Chase Restaurant’s Pom-Pom Mushrooms, braised bacon and peppery greens

Master of assemblage and varietal maître J-L Groux sits at the head of the underground table while a busy lunch crowd fills in overhead at The Chase Restaurant in Toronto. Highly apropos not just because the Stratus winemaker is over-qualified to preside over the Niagara winery’s 10th anniversary tasting and dissertation on his wines. No, it’s because the posit perfectly illustrates the writer’s yet unspoken epiphany. Groux’s work under the Stratus Vineyards and its offshoot labels have made for some of Ontario’s great food matching wines.

Stratus 10-year anniversary tasting

Stratus 10-year anniversary tasting

Related – The Stratus-Momofuku continuum

It may not be obvious to most but Godello is not much of a food and wine pairing guy. Chef is a fan of great wine and food compatibility but not when generalities need define the directive and the prose. When it comes to the wines of Stratus, a pattern is emerging with incredible clarity. Momofuku, Select Bistro, The Chase. Three Toronto food destinations with high quotients of quality and progressive gastronomy. Three connections with Stratus. Three hits.

Stratus winemaker J-L Groux and WineAlign's David Lawrason

Stratus winemaker J-L Groux and WineAlign’s David Lawrason

Related – Select tasting through years of the Stratus Red and White

The wines are repeatedly discussed and assessed with assemblage and varietal tendency in mind. I have worked through the portfolio or a representative cross-section no fewer than six times in the past three years and yet for the first time the sound was one of a culinary vernacular, a voice heard out of ingredient and mise en place, a dawning of purpose.

The Chase Octopus, harissa, spiced merguez sausage, sauteed red onions

The Chase Octopus, harissa, spiced merguez sausage, sautéed red onions

Related – Stratus and Momofuku: Modernity incarnate

The Chase tasting was presented by the Stratus team of Groux, Charles Baker, Suzanne Janke and Nadia Skorupski. The exceptional lunch was prepared at the hands of Nigel Finley. Here are the notes on 18 wines poured.

Stratus assemblage and varietals

Stratus assemblage and varietals

Stratus White 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)

In magnified aromatic persistence, on and over top of even two months earlier, in such a hyper-grapey way with terrific dry extract chained to tannin and humid minerality. The many months of leave in gentle oak is stating its technically procured, quote unquote de-classified case.

From my earlier note of April 2015:

In 2012 the blend is Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Viognier was left out because according to winemaker J-L Groux “it did not work in blending trials.” The vintage has laid the foundation for the most density, and unctuous fruit for the Stratus White in what must be, ever. At the high aromatic end there is peppery beeswax, reverberating and echoing in scales and arpeggios. Like an open string singing warmly, the vintage, extraction and residuum combine for texture in mottled unction. Sapid lemon, more beeswax and lanolin mark the palate and then the White drifts into spaces occupied by smoky, back beats and bites. This has great pitch with a knowledge of the path to pleasure. Drink 2017-2025

Last tasted June 2015

Stratus White 2005, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)

The blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Sémillon with a not necessarily before announced whisper of Viognier was culled from vines “getting older, staying true to our technique,” recalls J-L Groux. The grapes were growing at the bottom of the vines which “made for a challenging wine.” The Gewurz acts in upwards accent to the others, its far-easter flavours speaking with scrunch. Concentration is in compression without density to soft spoken. The most unusual bunch location certainly had something to do with my aforementioned “whiff of terroir that blew away” and according to Groux “the year was very nice.” The Stratus White 2005, tasted again, as well.

From my earlier note of September 2013:

‘Twas a deadly vintage (worst frost in Niagara on the Lake) and the only one with smacking aromas from the vineyard floor. “A zoo growing season,” notes Groux, “with grapes hanging high and low.” Chardonnay leads the troops in ’05, in elevated acidity and earthiness from grapes picked “in a different type of environment, near to the earth.” Highly textured and mature, leggy fruit. Though its best years are behind (because the fruit will no longer support the oak), the Groux seven-year ageing goal has easily been reached. The whiff of terroir does blow away and the honey liniment and rose emerges. So much consistency, so rapidly developed. Amazing. Witness here the winemaking acumen out of an atypical vintage and confounding result.

Last tasted June 2015

Stratus Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

As per the house promulgation, in Chardonnay, “still an assemblage process,” insists Groux, “no matter what we do.” Some grapes grown for Sparkling were added back in, for acidity, complexity and ultimately balance. That and though notably barrel burdened (a good, hard burden to bare) leading to a bargain, “the best I ever had.” Major key of whose who of Niagara fruit, power acoustic chords and 12-string harmonics. Drink 2015-2022.

From my earlier note of May 2014:

A change in direction is duly noted with J-L Groux’s 2012 Chardonnay, from fruit picked six weeks earlier than in 2010. The program is scaled back and the wine is more “typical” of the region, in weight, in barrel effect and in alcohol. Still quite defined by natural yeasts that “sometimes go a bit wild, but I’m getting better at it,” concedes the clinician of vinous letters. Those feisty microbes are difficult to work with, like dealing with a wine that lacks natural clarity. “You have to shut down the bacteria, teach the yeast to stop stealing the lees. In 2013 I really got it.” The ’12’s altered course is welcome and encouraged and the world should wait with bated breath for what ’13 will bring. Here the complexity of aromatics is matched only by the intensity of tropical fruit. Has balance and a soft, round feel. Again, more texture and aromatics than natural acidity. Classic J-L style. “It’s not about trying to imitate anyone. It’s about making the most interesting and most complex Chardonnay in Niagara.”

Las tasted June 2015

Stratus Chardonnay Reserve 2002, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

Even now its wick seems lit, a febrile wicker thatch of reed, bamboo and rattan, a little wicked even. Versatile like vin jaune, of oxidative rushwork, a product of a time when the regimen was all new oak. Preserved lemon and wax, late bitters within reason and with thanks, surprising freshness. Though the oak was overdone at the time, the slow food preservation has rendered the fat and left behind sharpness, even at 13 years of age.  Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Viognier 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $48.00)

The most tropical unction of seemingly all Viognier known to human kind, Stratus issue or not, at the hands of J-L Groux or any other aromatic junkie in the winemaking world. Hung like an ancient painting on a modernist gallery’s bright white walls. A pepper-laced, creamy white paste cuts through the similarly positioned texture. A quench of peach, apricot and nectarine sits on the palate, like an August fruit cup from Ontario trees, with a cut of nut pith. And lemon too. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Red 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (131037, $44.20, WineAlign)

The Stratus Red 2012 resides both in a virtuoso’s hollow and in a pantheon inhabited by some of Niagara’s great reds. The fact that such ripe phenology can anticipate and foretell to balance and freedom in the byplace of the blending process is nothing short of amazing. Sinuous and exact, of berries so indefatigable, layering raspberry over blackberry atop strawberry. Cedar and red citrus compound, without jamming the fluidity, but certainly accentuating the Fragaria vesca. Confident and fluid in movement, the ’12 neither shakes nor stirs and its acidity is flat out terrific. At this early point in its evolution it is showing as well as could be expected, or hoped for. Its core of fraises du bois will always be there. Time will be kind, gentle and patient. Drink 2015-2024.   Tasted April and June 2015

Stratus Red 2002, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (131037, $44.20, WineAlign)

Tasted from two bottles. The blend was Cabernet Franc (40 per cent), Merlot (37), Cabernet Sauvignon (16) and Gamay (5)…roughly. Gremlins from a closet in a funky way, in causation by time though for every thought of flaw there are 10 in depth and layering. The second pour is brighter and popping but if a master of time, partially, arguably so is considered, then the years have had their say. Both palates are alive, tense, terse and resonant in deep horns, where fog meets contrabass. The specs are interesting to note; 7.2 total acidity, pH at 3.19 and sugar (brix), 22.3. Says J-L Groux “we would never pick at that number today.” High acidity keeps it alive, this mix of fruit that is oxidized, nearing the suggestion of maderized and whiffing like 55-day, dry-aged beef. Only the second bottle offers up true savour and cooler instincts. Fascinating. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

A Cabernet Franc of settled, harmonious tones, of oak that sets sights and heights to heah, now integrated at such an early age. The grape succeeds and bleeds an exemplary, stalwart varietal suspension within the Stratus pantheon, a sanctuary where fiddles are yet played by other outfits across the region. Cabernet Franc will increase in the Stratus Red, for good measure and reason. This ’12 is simply smothered in an embarrasment of red fruit, smoky from raspy reds to plugged in currants. It is of a favour in flavour that reminds of Swedish berries, in modulated hög, though not in sweetness. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Cabernet Franc 2005, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

Of a bygone era, an older style. Thicket or copse, but of a green, verdant, newby character. Like a shell, membrane or rim of shellac on an expressly full-bodied corpse. Smells like a grandfather’s old pipe, comforting and parched. Flavours have left piquant behind, settling with senectitude into orange and clove. Alive if well-aged and evolved. A push-pull of warmth and cool elasticity, humidity and savour. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

Few varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in Niagara stand out, firm and yet back from the pack. The Stratus is anything but “six and one, half dozen the other.” This prochaine exit strategy to the NSOR 2010 is an admirable follow, of dusty fill and grind of pepper, a touch of brine and “a cup of rhyme.” Structurally it is like a swan, elongated, muscular and elastic. It is elegant within a markedly rigid frame. It also flies freely, like a hummingbird. “You can crop it higher and it’s going to make good quality,” notes J-L. Hurrah. Another varietal success for Life’s Rich Paegent. Let it catch some R.E.M. to settle its tannins. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Petit Verdot 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (142638), $30.75, WineAlign)

Picked at nearly the same time as the ’12 Gamay and with prudent acidity preserving fashion – early. A variety that travels with happy expedience into sugar (26 brix) and maintains that aforesaid acidity without intrusion. A tightly spun PV, in need of five years easy to unwind and hopefully recoil. The wall of rigidity is woven in chalk and grain, the lift round, all-in, immediate and lingering. Then it comes back around again, ever-increasing the high tones of the wine. So very metagrobilizing genera, this ’12 Petit Verdot. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Gamay 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.00, WineAlign)

“We try to treat Gamay as a noble variety,” says J-L Groux. This is the child of a short (three weeks) Stratus maceration. Today the nose indicates concentrated strawberry compote. Gamay of the most hue, tone and texture. “We don’t want to go back to the light years of Gamay.” This futuristic vintage (of two years in oak and high, high brix) sees to that concern. Subsequent vintages will scale back but won’t be “light, easy and breezy,” though they will shed the weight of raisin and fig.

From my earlier note of May 2015:

Esteem elevated by structure, matched in poise and presence mottled in smears of darker, richer black cherry. If a slight absence of brightness is sensed due to the syrupy compression, like New World, west coast Pinot Noir, the gleaning from acidity and tannin times perfectly the effluent escape.

From my earlier note of April 2015:

It may not be the most idiosyncratic Gamay in Niagara but the Stratus 2012 is without a doubt the most advanced and complex. Gamay fusion is on display, at once a bottle of Niagara’s finest pulchritudinous veneer and then a charcuterie board laid ample with cured bovine parts and sun-dried grapes. Maximum ripeness and then even later picking, to no one’s surprise, have led to this. Two years of ageing in neutral oak barrels has brought about a humid roundness and yet the centre is controlled by Oz-like mint and eucalyptus notes. The jam is gelid, as opposed to temperate. Rarely does Gamay go to such depths, of blackberry, chalk and grain, with an overlord of tannin. Quite serious stuff. Drink 2017-2020.

Last tasted April 2015

Stratus Sangiovese 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $42.00, WineAlign)

With no true recognition of, for or in cohort conscious decision to align with a clone, of Montalcino, Montepulciano or Chianti, this Stratus take on Sangiovese must go it alone. That said, so much modernity links it to some Tuscan brethren. “We have Italian winters that tell us our Sangiovese is not a crazy one,” explains J-L Groux. Nothing in this ’12 speaks of lightness, beets or simple, red fruit. Two years in French oak, blah, blah, blah leads to a Riserva style. This is not about making CC, simulating CCR, mimicking Gentile or copying Grosso. It’s about leaving a wine for two years to develop aromatic complexity and structure. “It’s a curiosity,” adds Suzanne Janke. Nail’s head, hit. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Tempranillo 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $42.00, WineAlign)

In 2012 the J-L Groux take on the expatriate Spaniard is warm, rich, cake-driven and yet balanced in ways the 2010 was unable to exhort. This vintage appeases Groux’s ends of the earth search for aromatics, picking on them, executing vinification to encourage them and barrel-aging for the purpose of cementing them. The 2012 is an aromatic success. It exudes red fruit, flowers, baker’s kitchens and wet Niagara on the Lake earth. This is a clean and jerk Tempranillo, a bouquet to success. The palate, mouthfeel and mellow finish return the favour of 2010 when it was noted that the variety in this place is a stretch, overweening perhaps, certainly self-effacing if admittedly short of contumelious behaviour. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Tannat 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $42.00, WineAlign)

“To me this is one of the most successful new varieties we are planting,” exclaims J-L Groux. In similar ways with Stratus varietal cousin Petit Verdot, acidity rules the roost. Smells like a just sliced open bag of organic earth, freshly neutral, funkless and emptying into a (first use) terra cotta pot. A rich, looking straight ahead expression. What it hides in fruit is lost to the brilliance of balance though plum is the operative hidden flesh and it will make a clearer impression when it steps clear of the tar and the tannin. This is pitchy sagacity, with poise and length. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Syrah 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

Once again, the tone climbs and hangs in the upper reaches, where structure lurks, preceded with intent by four plus weeks of maceration, followed by (sic) two years in oak. Some new, some old, to be technical and precise. Will be some time before this is able to shed the bathetic, syrupy aromatics and meaty, eat that soup with a fork texture. The concentration it treated and tempered with a pantomime shred of elegance. Not as Rhoneish as some other vintages (contemporarily not a bad thing) but this combines worlds in copacetic ways. Tomato and herbs crisped in good olive oil make for good gastronomy in this consumer-friendly, balanced Syrah. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted June 2015.

Stratus Malbec 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $42.00, WineAlign)

Unexpectedly floral, perhaps more than any other Stratus varietal red. That aroma bite strikes me as cool. Just a hint of fennel and coriander seed offer up an herbal hand of complexity. The texture advances to integrated, coming about with a softer red in tow, with less severe acidity than the others. More bitters on the finish as well. Less attitude, more fat, though decidedly rich. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted June 2015

Stratus Wildass Rosé 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (71712, $17.95, WineAlign)

A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with some Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling added for lift and what J-L Groux admits is rendered “for the consumer.” This essentially marks the twain between sweet and dry, if not quite halfway then pretty darn close. Plenty of herbs and citrus nail the aromas on the proverbial head with more than a grapefruit or two on the half circle. A highly approachable, end-user friendly blush. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted April and June 2015

Stratus Botrytis Affected Semillon 2012 at The Chase

Stratus Botrytis Affected Semillon 2012 at The Chase

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Path straying wines

Risotto

Risotto

The idea that something veers away from or afield of the norm is almost always intriguing. Fascinations with antidisestablishmentarianism, marching to the beats of different drummers and walking lonely roads is as essential as breathing. For the curious, the hungry and the alive.

Though the concept is a sound one, it need not always be about searching for wisdom and enterprise off the beaten path. There are times when the abstruse may be lying directly underfoot. Wine is a commensurate animal, altricial such as it is, acaudal, acersous, agnostic, aculeate and allocryptic such as it is not. Wine that is not so much off the beaten path as actually growing on one.

Two of the six wines recommended here jive with the idea, a Sicilian varietal wine made from the local Nerollo Mascalese and a Venetian dessert beauty crafted from who knows which and exactly how many chthonic varieties. No wine-producing nation knows about the concept of varietal celebration and keeping a historical watch on the relationship between path and vine more than Italy. No other agglomeration crafts from indigenous or endemic varieties with as much diversity.

This summed it up. “Finally, I find the irony in the idea that for a winemaker or vine grower to step off the quotidian they need to plant, cultivate and make wine from grapes once considered the norm and the go to in their region. You can’t help but notice that modern winemakers with a wistful eye are casting reflexively into the past with a hunger for vinous resurrection. By grafting their pre-Phylloxera ancient vines onto healthy root-stock they have turned the varietal compass on its head. As they have moved through their days with an open-mind to the panoply of grape interactions, they have beget the endemic revival.”

Related – Off the beaten Italian path

You see, winemakers don’t always have to champion the obscure, the endangered and the forgotten. There are times when place and plot are good enough to create an aura of obscurity and adventure. The wines in this column’s conspiracy are in cahoots to drive the point.

Related – Why hate wine?

A white Port; who drinks white Port? Sometimes you just need to walk along roads you never seem to take, take in the backstreets or sip along with something that’s always there but you just never bother. Port can be nondescript and it can also be like the Cálem Lágrima.

How about a Barossan, a Shiraz no less, but here because it is a wine from Neolithic soils, consumed and procreated on and upon itself. Then there is a South African white blend of such natural indeterminate plodding it has caused a break in critical ranks; is it sound or at fault to the point of no return? Last but certainly not musical least, a Napa Valley vintner with an infatuation for pairing wine to song. Sound familiar?

Related – WineAlign guide to VINTAGES April 4th and Easter recipes

In anticipation of the first April list to hit Ontario shelves, Sara d’Amato and I have compiled what you need to know and why. Click on this link to WineAlign to see the full report.

Off the Beaten Path, from East to West and a Battle of the Corkscrews

Here are my six path straying wines from the VINTAGES April 4th release.

From left to right: Cálem Lágrima White Port, Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart Of The Barossa Shiraz 2012, Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2011, Calcagno Feudo Di Mezzo Nerello Mascalese 2011, Monte Faustino Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 and World's End If Six Was Nine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

From left to right: Cálem Lágrima White Port, Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart Of The Barossa Shiraz 2012, Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2011, Calcagno Feudo Di Mezzo Nerello Mascalese 2011, Monte Faustino Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 and World’s End If Six Was Nine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Cálem Lágrima White Port, Dop Douro, Portugal (912568, $15.95, WineAlign)

Viscous and semlessly crafted White Port. There is very frank aridity in nuts and peels on the nose, along with tempering agave and citrus. The positable tug between sweet, sour and salty harks to older times and the munificent wafts of the warm nut cart. The agave drips thick on the palate, the spiced nuts are expertly roasted. Cool mint and eucalyptus fill the middle and fine acidity comes ’round the back. Terrific value. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted March 2015  @PortoClem  @WoodmanWS

Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart Of The Barossa Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, South Australia  (167189, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted from the 750 mL, this old vine Barossa vineyard bottle is reminiscent of the wise and precocious 2009. Nothing can be taken for granted here, this Shiraz from ancient, gnarled vines, many over a hundred years of age. A wine from neolithic soils, consumed and procreated on and upon itself. This is brash and once opened, the aromas are “orbiting your living room.” Makes me think of fig jam on venison wurst and a sauce made from licorice, clementine and dates as big as sausage flies. Tart, tight, racy and religious. Has a fisting Reggae beat, like The Clash doing Tosh and Dub. It may not transmit the only Barossan pirate radio Shiraz but it may just be one of the better values. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted March 2015  @DandelionWines  @Wine_Australia

Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2011, Wo Swartland, South Africa (225458, $21.95, WineAlign)

Talk about the passion. Fruit and reduction. Fruit and oxidation. Contradictions and oxymorons. This reeks of upside down passion fruit, apricot, honey and almond cake. Dripping syrup, parrafin and citrus. Waxy, like Sémillon and that’s where the advance comes in. The Roulette Blanc is meant to flesh, not wane in texture. The question is “combien, combine, combien de temps” does it take for a wine such as this to travel from wild and fresh to used and confused? The 2011 exhibits all the signs of great, complex fruit and corresponding accents. It has it all going on but a current stale, R.E.M. sleepy state clouds its future. “Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.” A really interesting wine with a long, bitter and tangy finish. How much longer will it age? Long enough. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted March 2015  @Lammershoek  @WOSACanada

Calcagno Feudo Di Mezzo Nerello Mascalese 2011, Igt Siciliy, Italy (408187, $34.95, WineAlign)

The Sicilian was treated to extended maceration under strict temperature control and the bleed is evident, modern, pitchy and black as a cloudless night. Then 12 months later “an improvement” is fashioned by the classic French oak “barriques” addition, followed by a minimum further four months in bottle. The result is a warm, alcohol elevated (14.5 per cent) state of the art Nerello Mascalese with a wonderful earthy grounding. Tenderly volcanic, the fruit comes from Passopisciaro between the Etna park and the Alcantara river park. Ancient lava flows leave an indelible mark on a wine without creases. Yet this is a direct, in your face expression that shares thoughts and feelings with deep clay and stray island sand. An extremely well-made wine even if it wanders away from the wonders of time. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2015  @oenophilia1  @VisitSicilyOP

Monte Faustino Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2008, Docg, Veneto, Italy (403857, 500ml, $45.95, WineAlign)

Once in a while there comes a Recioto in reserve of its own preciousness. A Recioto comfortable in its own skin, does not have to try too hard, posits only what it is safely made of. This elegant example whiffs dried fruit, strawberry, rhubarb and lovely aromatic, natural fruit tea. Licorice and fresh fennochio. A citrus poke. Good underscored, understated and under the radar personality. Great length. A real success. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2015

World’s End Cabernet Sauvignon If Six Was Nine 2010, Napa Valley, California (396127, $72.95, WineAlign)

What if “six turned out to be nine?” What if 14.9 per cent alcohol was just 14.6 instead of what really must be 15.9? What if the song in your head was sung by the tender emotional voice of Todd Rungren instead of the fuzz in Jimi’s clouded world? This Cabernet Sauvignon is so much more Hendrix, a full-throttle, heavy-layered, all-in barrel and total extract package. The fruit is hulking and the tannin equally so. Look ahead eight to ten years then fire up the black top. Heave on some marbled elephantine chops and all will be fine in the centre of the dizzying universe. “Wave on, wave on. Fall mountains, just don’t fall on me.” Maybe listen to a verse or two of Todd as well. “Hello, it’s me.” Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2015  @ProfileWineGrp  @NapaVintners

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Why it matters to taste wines again

Dumplings

Dumplings

It would be foolish to think that a single taste or a brief assessment can ascertain everything that a wine will bring to the table. So many factors play into that moment in time; how that bottle came to arrive at this place, how long it had been open, its current temperature and certainly the temperament and mood of the taster.

The only true and valid important bits of information that we can cull from a fleeting meeting with a bottle of wine is whether or not it is marred by a fault, or faults. Is the wine tainted with TCA (trichloroanisole)? Does it contain high levels of Brettanomyces? Is it raging with volatile acidity? It is oxidized or reductive? Has lady bug taint found its way into the bottle? And so on and so forth. Quality can be guessed at with high probability but time is so essential to knowledge. This is why tasting for a second and third time matters.

Wines should always be afforded the opportunity to be reconsidered, especially after some bottle settling time. The fascination with seeing evolution from organic ferments is real. Wine changes, often for the better, that much we know. Wines deserve second chances, re-dos and re-tastes.

Writing updated notes is the essential by-product of re-tasting and the catalyst that acts as the chaperone to get to know a particular bottle and by extension, a winemaker’s portfolio. Here are seven new releases, coming into VINTAGES on March 7th. They are actually re-releases, having been previously made public by the winery or through the LCBO. I tried them all once again and can say with confidence, by way of the tasting note, that all seven have confirmed their quality and improved with time. These are the seven new notes for seven March 7th VINTAGES re-releases.

From left to right: Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2013, Keint He Voyageur Pinot Noir 2012, Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2013, 13th Street Gamay Noir 2012, Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Bachelder Wismer Vineyard-Wingfield Block Chardonnay 2011 and Bachelder Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru Creux De La Net 2011

From left to right: Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2013, Keint He Voyageur Pinot Noir 2012, Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2013, 13th Street Gamay Noir 2012, Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Bachelder Wismer Vineyard-Wingfield Block Chardonnay 2011 and Bachelder Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru Creux De La Net 2011

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89029, $17.95, WineAlign)

Juicy, spirited and eminently approachable. Citrus and peach fruit beg to be gulped by the key keg load.

From my earlier, June 2014 note: “The gateway of the Tawse Riesling portfolio and first to be released is an omnipresent beacon for what is to come from the single-vineyard sistren. Built fruit forward from an orange zest, stone rose and lemon glade guide, this is the Sketches most juicy sensation yet. Incredible vacuum of citrus acidity waterfalling into a great white hole. Though surrounded by so many a Riesling with site specific personality, “she’ll carry on through it all.” Intensity in dry Riesling.”

Last tasted March 2015  @Tawse_Winery

Keint He Voyageur Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (373407, $18.00, WineAlign)

Carries the weight of the Peninsula within the bright frame of clarity that is the PEC oeuvre. In ’12 the warmth and the weight can’t help but break down to burrow into earth. Fine, grainy tannins and an increased structure will give this three more years of development but do not hesitate to enjoy it now.

From my earlier April 2014 note: “Tasted a second time, the floral lift is clearer than before, as is the understated earthiness. Also showing more body and verve so it appears the Voyageur is starting to come into its own. From my earlier February 2014 note: “Fruit here comes from two Niagara vineyards, Queenston and Malivoire. An earthy Pinot that positions itself in isolation away from its suave and handsome Portage and Benway brethren with a waft of merde. Taste brightens as a sweet cranberry, chalky, root beer float. Kudos deserved as it’s clearly recognizable as Pinot with a medium finish and a pinch of horseradish salt on a lithe 12.5 per cent frame.”

Last tasted March 2015  @KeintheWinery

Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (118638, $19.95, WineAlign)

Brilliant hue, like a ceiling fresco of gold-scrolled tiers. Has that feel of lemon peel shrivelling to scent. Was a Category Champion at the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada.

From my earlier September 2014 note: “Pinot Gris with pears and more pears. A no hold barred, straight up, bring it with orchard fruit example. A spoonful of sweet lemon curd indicates a just post ripe picking and now oxidation, if not necessarily the intention. Off-dry with acidity that joins but does not round the shining fruit into absolute form.”

Last Tasted March 2015  @GrayMonkWinery

13th Street Gamay Noir 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177824, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is spot on, both as 13th Street and as Niagara Peninsula Gamay. Very ripe, to the edge of extracted distraction and less funky than previous vintages. Really defines the genre, acts the act, walks the walk, executes the execution. Drives the point, carves the cliché, go Gamay go.

From my earlier note when tasted at Gold Medal Plates Toronto, November 2014: “Spice and rich fruit head straight to Gamay welkin derived direct from the soil’s core, of Sandstone, Schwenker and the winery’s home vineyard at Fourth Avenue. Swirl away the gathered must and moss to reveal more Cru fruit than you can shake a stirring rod at. Such verve, said grit, such persistence. The thing about Gamay is, “if you want inside of her, well boy you better make her a raspberry swirl.” 13th Street has certainly made the raspberry sing in the ’12 Gamay so “raspberry swirl, mmm let’s go.”

Last tasted March 2015  @13thStreetWines

Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Napa Valley, California (396150, $29.95, WineAlign)

There are so many reasons not to find a thrill in this regional blend of Pinot Noir fruit but none of them stick. Sweetness, simple syrup silky fruit, brown sugar, every red and purple berry in all varieties of fields (plus ripe plums) and warm to temperate alcohol (14.5 per cent declared) all combine for full California sunshine effect. All this and I just can’t turn away. With all the excess fruit, texture and multiplicity in good times, how can I? I ask this Pinot, “how come you, how come you dance so good?” The answer lies in the feel and the ability to turn a Noir trick or two. Not to mention a rolling of barrels and Napa Valley stones through its very core. Well done.  Tasted January 2015  @sterlingwines  @Diageo_News

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard-Wingfield Block Chardonnay 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (345819, $44.95, WineAlign)

A new release, mindful of micro-plot. From out of a Bachelder barrel, the great mystery of wood is not that it smoulders, but that it rests on water, or in this case, on grape juice. To label this Wismer as Wingfield is to give this Chardonnay a scientific specificity, a concentration of fruit so capable of inducing the ethereal, to hover as if in suspension. This is Wismer-Wingfield. The Chardonnay that floats, like hope.

From my earlier July 2014 note: ‘Has Wismer found a cruising altitude? Has this Grand Cru vineyard from a most perplexing 2011 vintage entered the telephone booth in civilian clothes, only to soon emerge as a super hero? Will it sing, “I am, I am Superman and I can do anything?” Wismer has rounded out a bit, at present in a grounded form, but we know it will fly to greater heights and at faster speeds. From my earlier, February 2014 note: “Got game tonight, in auxiliary moxie, magisterial atmosphere and long strides up and down the ice.” Earlier notes: “Increased richesse and oomph and though I continue to hesitate to admit it, Saunders is the (Jackson Browne) elegant bottling in ’11. Wismer the (Warren Zevon) gregarious, mineral character werewolf of Niagara, what with it’s touch of anxiety, fuller texture and “bite down…draw blood!” From my earlier November 2013 note: “From the Wingfield Block within the 20 Mile Bench grand cru vineyard, ’11 Wismer is greener, in apple and sapid behaviour. The tension is palpable, quarryful, querulous, more calciferous. Fruit here is picked at an altitude as high as the lowest part of Flat Rock’s vineyard. Can a spot be pinpointed, anywhere on the peninsula that produces more piercing Chardonnay in 2011 as this Wismer micro-block?”

Last Tasted March 2015  @Bachelder_wines

Bachelder Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru ‘La Creux De La Net’ 2011, Burgundy, France (LCBO 403485, $47.95, SAQ 12089524, $38.50, WineAlign)

Purity abounds, florals leap and the heart fills with an arrow of red fruit. So linear, so direct. Wears the crux of Bachelder integrity on its sleeve. The pinpoint accuracy of plot, the ubiquity of gypsy soul, the bandwidth of frequency. Yet another Bachelder “ere the bonnie boat was won, as we sailed into the mystic.” Acidity rears and rails right through. Tannin trails like a burning star. Ten more years will see this to a moondance of quietude.

From my earlier February 2014 note: A metallurgical slant this time around and iodine, though sweet, like a geologist’s preferred cocktail. The palette is Rothko maroon and in cohorts with what is ascertained by the palate, scheme fruits and hearts both red and black.

From my earlier note of November 2013: Has the sense to be subtle, effortless and akin to Chambolle. Not so much openly ripe fruit but more the flowers that come before. Cherries dabbed by a citrus fragrance, or the spritz of squeezed zest and an unusually smoky musk. Insinuates new world (think Oregon) though it tells a rubble tale of its limestone slope climat.

Last tasted March 2015

Good to go!

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