‘Twas the week before Valentine’s

First I thatched the nest and then I fed the birds

First I thatched the nest and then I fed the birds

Why did I choose this image to introduce a Valentine’s Day post on wine? What pairs perfectly with Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, long weekends and Valentine’s day? When restaurants are either swelling with humanity or closed on major holidays and I want to eat out, where do I turn? Chinese. Happy Chinese New Year this coming Monday, February 8th. Welcome to the Year of the Monkey.

This coming Saturday the VINTAGES February 6th release does not coincide with the pink as floyd February 14th holiday so while you wait for next Sunday to arrive, enjoy a mild bite of Chile Peppers. “See what’s in store. Stay all day.” This song merges beautifully into the Love of Your Life. How does YouTube know?

Quite a mixed bag defines the February grouping. The south of France makes hay but I’ve also got Greece, Spain, Barossa, Piedmont and Burgundy in the regional to country mix. Enjoy.

First the pink stuff.

Roses

The Rosés of February

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, France (373985, $16.95, WineAlign)

The occasions may be rare, but sometimes Rosé needs a half a year to simmer and to show its true colour. What once seemed to be red meets Rosé is now classic, typical, essential blush from Provence. Terrific amalgamation of the holy varietal trinity, with Cinsault the anchor, rock and catalyst to prop up Grenache and Syrah just as they need to be. From soft fruit to a grind of pepper, with aridity and salinity always on stage. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2016 @GBvins  @FwmWine  @AOCLanguedoc  @LanguedocWines

From my earlier note:

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015

Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant D’alsace, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (39016, $18.95, WineAlign)

Graceful and pink lithe, like cold smoked salmon, delightful Pinot Noir Rosé fizz. Nothing earth shattering, breath taking or barrier breaking, just well made blush bubbles. The structure and balance are really spot on. Finishes strong and with confidence. Helps to define this genre of Crémant’s creamy texture, matched in contrast by its stony, flinty and mineral style. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted November 2014 and January 2016  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace  @ProfileWineGrp

Lallier Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, Ac Champagne, France (385179, $56.95, WineAlign)

Stoic, startling and nearly, dare I say, revelatory Rosé. Righteously rustic and demandingly devilish. A craftily concocted cool-custard cupid. The talc and the drift are exceptional, wafting aromatics and waving me in, to curl up and be embraced by its charms. This has Valentine’s Champagne scripted with pitch perfect elegance. A Grand Cru effort to be sure. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @LallierAy  @azureau

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2013

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2013, Naoussa, Greece (23218, $13.95, WineAlign)

A most consistent Xinomavro untouchable at the price, with the hallmark Syrah-like pepper notes pricking and popping from base and necessary red fruit. This sample is a bit muted aromatically but the palate is alive, kicking and very sound. Think of pomegranates, fresh figs and kalamata olives, a mountain view and the warming afternoon sun. All for $14. Though many Xinos can age for seven to 10 years, this Naoussa is meant for the here, now and tomorrow afternoon. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @boutari  @KolonakiGroup  @DrinkGreekWine

Pasión De Bobal 2012

Pasión De Bobal 2012, Dop Utiel Requena, Spain (439679, $16.95, WineAlign)

Clean, direct, massaging Spanish expression of the here and now. A winemaker’s message from an outpost with an endemic grape variety known as Bobal, 100 per cent employed to speak of that place. It does so ripely with cagey dramatics and an acidity seemingly so specific to varietal. This will pave roads for a geek’s obsession and should lay tracks for a consumer’s diversion. It’s worth the detour. Like Aragonese or Catalan Garnacha. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @BSierraNorte  @DOUtielRequena  @ProfileWineGrp

Sister's Run Calvary Hill Shiraz 2013

Sister’s Run Calvary Hill Shiraz 2013, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia (222018, $16.95, WineAlign)

On this hill ripe, pure, Barossa fruit fills the glass, “handing out bread and jam just like any picnic.” Don’t be looking for a battle of acidity and tannin on the edge of a savoury, mythical Epping forest. Seek fruit, find fruit. A genesis of material for straightforward Shiraz. If you’ve $16 in your pocket and a deep, rich, red fruit Shiraz is what you’re looking to find, this is the place to stop. “Here come the Cavalry.” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016  @Gr8TanninWines

Cave De Roquebrun La Grange Des Combes Saint Chinian Roquebrun 2013, Ac Languedoc-Roussillon, France (155804, $18.95, WineAlign)

From Schistous hillsides of Roquebrun, this firm and friendly SGM is the bomb of Beziers. Meaty and wise, its heart beats out of sheer size and from beauty. The opposite of a ferric beast, the valley of the barns wields a weapon but one of glistening, polished stone. The accomplished battle ready fruit knows no limits. Tannins though fierce do nothing to hurt the cause. Syrah (50 per cent), Grenache (30) and Mourvedre (20) adds up to really good Schist. Do you trust a gorgeous wine? Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted January 2016   @AOCLanguedoc  @LanguedocWines  @Eurovintage

Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2008

Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain (384248, $21.95, WineAlign)

A 2008 Rioja that looks, smells and acts like 2008, a plus and a positive rolled into one determinate, fruit roll-up, old-school package. Dried red berries once fervently ripe, now concentrated and dehydrated performing as classic regional flavours would. The acidity persists and the tannins have a leg or two to stand on. This will not improve or go any long distance but for now and two or three years more it’s about as delicious a Rioja red as you are want to taste. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2016  @RiojaWine_ES

Pierre Sparr Schoenenbourg Riesling 2011

Pierre Sparr Schoenenbourg Riesling 2011, Ac Alsace Grand Cru, France (664995, $22.95, WineAlign)

Sparr’s little piece of the Schoenenbourg is a fine one, exemplified in this tidy, gritty and shiny happy Riesling. The tones are not tiny, perhaps tinny and certainly tropical. Mango and pineapple make heady way but the acidity and the tannin are up to the task. This is quite Germanic in my opinion, not new world Alsace. And it’s tasty as need be, with longevity on its side. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace  @ProfileWineGrp

Joel Gott

Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (444059, $35.95, WineAlign)

Molten comes to mind from this California Cabernet, as in lava and chocolate. A load of pepper marks its territory and fruit wades through the spicy mocha. Under the sheath there can be no mistaking the grape (with help from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) or the place and yet something ionic speaks, leaving me to wonder where this will go. The chemistry is procured by a hint of carbonic, whole bunch pressing and lees stirring for texture. At present they are not in synchronized rhythm. I would say that instant gratification and crowd pleasing was the intent but the opposite happened and that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. A year from now this could be a true pleasure in value to drink. I think I wanted to hate it but I can’t. It is possessive of terrific, classic character. I will love it instead. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January 2016

Bellene and Bouchard

Domaine De Bellene Les Charmes Dessus Santenay 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (435032, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the flats between hills of the lieu-dit Charmes Dessus, a calcaire pebble’s throw away from the 1er Cru Clos Rousseaux. Adolescent acting fruit comes off of young, 10 year-old vines in Santenay, the most southerly wine-producing commune of the Cote de Beaune. Tight, flinty, developing beneficial bitters of a Burgundy that needs a bit of time to accrue a touch of honey to help the medicine go down. Quite rich and reductive. Very good value. Really good value. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_

Domaine Laroche Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2012

Domaine Laroche Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

Gorgeous and wealthy Chablis of all that makes this unparalleled style of Chardonnay tick. Flinty, struck stone entry, vineyard hyperbole of mineral and the geology of ancients. Lithe, lifted, lightness of being but always brought back down by the minerality. Some flavour density by way of old vines wisdom and persistence that just won’t stop going. Superb quality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @Select_Wines  @BIVBChablis

Schistes

Secret De Schistes 2011, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (440669, $41.95, WineAlign)

IGP in which schist happens. Such a bruiser this Château de l’Ou Côtes Catalans, an example the likes this market rarely sees. These Schistes bleed hematic into fruit warmed excessively by the sun. Languedoc-Roussillon that runs with the Rhône terribilta to purpose largesse and rocking good times. This is a very demanding wine, loaded with peppery spice and rabid energy. It needs years to settle. Hopefully its secrets will then be revealed. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted January 2016  @ChateaudeLou  @AOCLanguedoc  @LanguedocWines

Colla

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (596890, $51.95, WineAlign)

The Dardi Le Rose ranks as one of the most consistent performers, mired in tradition and crafted without compromise. The 2010 is a spot on example of balance in Nebbiolo, gritty, floral, tannic and ethereal. The weight is an ambient one, the aromatics resourceful and respectful to varietal and to nature. Dried roses and fresh tar, drier cherries and strolls through verdant gardens. Not the beast of Bussia but certainly bussing its weight in age. This will go quite long. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted January 2016  @glencairnwines  @regionepiemonte

Plus one, just because it’s Valentine’s Day.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $64.00, WineAlign)

Essentially 1er Cru pearl of a vineyard in origin, on marly ground, “walking tightrope high over moral ground.” Such a pretty Chardonnay of faith and of love, subtle, slightly smoky, linear and purposed towards the divine. A lemon drop jam without sweetness and a tart edge that is miles from sour. There are no holes, stops or delays, with acidity that drives forward and length stretching to further length. Grace in gossamer layers. A marker in the Meursault sand. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted January 2016  @WoodmanWS  @BourgogneWines  @bourgognespress

Good to go!

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Searching for Somewhereness

The wines of Norman Hardie

The wines of Norman Hardie

Somewhereness is not really a word. It’s hokum. Gibberish. Nonsense. Look it up in Merriam-Webster or Oxford. Not there. Its conceived convenience is recorded in Wiktionary, Your Dictionary and other online glossaries though, because there is always an online presence ready and willing to immortalize anything and everything.

The definition of Somewhereness, according to the online “dictionaries.”

  1. The state or quality of being in, occurring in, or belonging to a specific place.
  2. The state or quality of existing in a place that is unknown or cannot be pinpointed.
  3. The unique characteristics imparted on a wine by the conditions of the place in which it was grown.

Somewhereness lies the truth?

Somewhereness is not a state of mind, of being, of knowing something is intrinsically right within the parameters or context of here, there, anywhere or everywhere. Somewhereness is not merely a function of good decision-making, of exercising the ideal to expand on terroir, to create something to talk about. Yet that third so-called definition is on the right track. Belief says terroir is what happens in the vineyard, through environment, by geology, geography and topology, from naturally occurring elements and microbes in the soil, by air and of climate. Terroir is the great one. The impossible creator of perfect storms, from out of riddle and enigma. Somewhereness, by extension, is the next one.

Somewhereness exists, albeit with just as much abstruse behaviour and paradox, inside the finished bottle. That’s all you really need to know. Terroir happens before. Somewhereness happens after. The line is drawn when wine enters its final resting place. It evolves, develops and finds its somewhereness inside the bottle. In the case of Champagne (and the wines of Emidio Pepe), the first bottling is merely a temporary shelter and somewhereness knows to wait for the final call. In those cases there are the stages of terroir, disgorgement and finally, somewhereness.

In Ontario, somewhereness has been found (as opposed to “was founded”) by Norman Hardie, Jonas Newman, Vicky Samaras, Bill Redelmeier, Ann Sperling, J-L Groux, Charles Baker, Doug Witty, J.P. Colas, Ed Madronich, Jay Johnston, Tom and Len Pennachetti, Angelo Pavan, Moray Tawse, Paul Pender, Harald Thiel, Marlize Beyers, Mary Bachelder-Delaney, Thomas Bachelder, Martin Malivoire and Shiraz Mottiar.

Somewhereness may have been born to these Ontario parents but it has and will not remain exclusive to the 12 who discovered it. Somewhereness belongs to all wine with true and truthful origins in terroir. The great wines of the world share in the expression and the mystery, even if the gold inside their bottles has never been affixed with such a label. Somewhereness is found inside a bottle of Dujac Bonnes Mares. You will taste it in an Egon Müller Scharzhofberg. It can’t be missed from out of a Margaux pour by the hands of Paul Pontallier. Wines of manic manipulation will never find it. They either do or they don’t, will or they won’t. Somewhereness just happens. Don’t ask me to explain. I’m just the messenger.

Over the past few years, much godello.ca white space has been set aside for glossing in written word and the ever-evolving rumination on the spiritual effect of somewhereness.

Konrad Ejbich holding court in front of De La Terre's breads

Konrad Ejbich holding court in front of De La Terre’s breads

Related, From February, 2013 – Somewhereness over the Canadian wine rainbow

“For a comprehensive look at our province, make sure you read A Pocket Guide to Ontario Wines, Wineries, Vineyards, & Vines by Konrad Ejbich. The discourse concerning somewhereness in Ontario is in full swing. In October of 2012 I wrote, “character and quality has never been better. Riesling continues to impress and let us not ignore the high level of ever-evolving Chardonnay vines. Reds have made great strides, especially Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. The future looks very bright for Ontario [wines].”

Related, From April, 2013 – Come together, over wine

“Abeyance be gone, these next few years have the potential to cement an industry’s power. Only a minority has even the slightest clue that liquid gold is mined out of the peninsula’s glacial clay and limestone. The time is ripe to tell the world the story of somewhereness. The embryo is about to grow in a major way. Financial reward is within reach. So how to alert the world?”

Related, From April 2014 – The group of twelve

“History may one day remember them as the group of twelve, or perhaps, “The Ontario School.” They are the 12 wineries who have banded together to ensconce a strange but beautiful word on the tongue, in the dictionary and out in the world. Somewhereness. They are purveyors of the land from which their grapes grow and ferment into wine. Facilitators of terroir, working a canvas forged by millions of years of geological and climatic evolution. Their assembly is based on both exigency and on Moira; destiny, share, fate. Like that other famous group, “collectively they agree.” Ontario’s cool-climate wine regions need to qualify and certify a distinctive winemaking style. In juxtaposition to old world, European tradition, the intensity of somewhereness needs to reflect an increasingly Ontario-centric partiality.”

Related, From April 2014 – Why taste Ontario?

“The Ontario wine industry is the best kept secret in the world. It has grown, accelerated and advanced with more success than might have been imagined as recently as five years ago. In November I wrote, “Ontario winemakers have figured it out. The “world-class” comparative humanities of aging and longevity aside, the comprehensive and widespread phenomenon of excellence, regardless of vintage, is now an Ontario reality.”

Wine Country Ontario's Magdalena Kaiser

Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser

All wonderful hyperbole, to be sure. But for years I missed the point. Somewhereness is not about agreeing, in principle, on how to make wine from a particular place so that it can collectively result in a thing. It is something other. It’s in the bottle. It has always been there but the key lies in Ontario’s industry having matured to a point where we can now taste it, again and again, inside the bottle. The work made it happen. It is well-deserved.

Thomas Bachelder and Mary Delaney-Bachelder

Thomas Bachelder and Mary Delaney-Bachelder

So with the assistance of Trisha Molokach, Dorian Anderson and the vintners who came to realize what happens when terroir is used to bottle divine pleasure, another Somewhereness (the event) happened, at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, on April 20, 2015. Food partners completed the stellar event; Best Baa Dairy, Monforte Dairy, Upper Canada Chees Company, Fat Chance Hand Sliced Cold Smoked Salmon Co., Chef Ryan Crawford & Beverly Hotchkiss of Backhouse, De La Terre Kitchen and Bakery and Schott Zwiesel. Hinterland was not present in 2015 and I skipped two tables, due to quite recent full portfolio tastings, at Bachelder and at Southbrook. Here are some other notes.

Norman Hardie Riesling 2013, VQA Ontario (Winery, $21.00, WineAlign)

With less residual sugar than in 2012 and slightly higher alcohol (the bottle says 10.1 per cent but it’s actually 9.8), the house style persists, if only as a refrain that adjusts and adheres to the vintage. A hint of oyster shell is more than significant, in working alongside Hardie’s Calcaire, effected out of lees fermentation. The minute loss of high-toned aromatics is pitched in favour of fruit, if only from one exploited tank, within the context of producing 1000 cases. The ’13 (70 Niagara/30 PEC) is like very modern Alsace, akin to Schoffit, what with its texture fitted through a tiny hole. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015

Norman Hardie Calcaire 2013, VQA Ontario (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

The field blend of Marcel Deiss is the starting point. Lees imparts texture and the proverbial minerality is rounder than the Riesling, though the acidity just as linear. The breakdown is Chardonnay (40 per cent), Riesling (40), Melon de Bourgogne (10) and Pinot Gris (10). It should be noted that the mid-palate is caressed by a silky cheese curd, sour milk atonement. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of August 2014:

If any wine growing and producing region not called Alsace has the right to label a wine Calcaire, Prince Edward County is that place. The irony squared of Norman Hardie’s choice of nomenclature is not lost. Olivier Humbrecht makes use of the term because some of his single-varietal wines can no longer (under the local AOC rules) be labeled with the name of the wine-growing village. Marcel Deiss produces ‘field blends’ composed of several varieties grown on Grand Cru soil but he can’t (under other regional rules) label them Grand Cru. Hardie takes Niagara and PEC Grand Cru grapes, fashions an Ontario white blend, not unlike J-L Groux and calls it Calcaire, in ode to the limestone underlay of the County. Are you following me here? This may be new, innovative, yet understood and an early impression, but this cuvée initiates the PEC march to white blend supremacy, much like Stratus White has done over the course of 10 vintages in Niagara. Norm’s Calcaire is a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Melon de Bourgogne mélange, co-fermented on the lees, striking, all in limestone, full out mineral consequence. There is purified pear and white melon fruit in distillation. There is a house in Wellington, “they call the Rising Sun.” That this animal succeeds so early in its tenure shows the Norm conceit and the swagger. That it will define white blends for a millennium is an arrogance of traditional song and of scripture. So be it.

Last tasted April 2015

Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.00, WineAlign)

The ’12 Niagara has swapped spontaneity for coherence, licentiousness for logic. Has entered the stage of non-reductive peel, where skin is discarded, flesh is exposed and juices run free. If you like your Chardonnay settled and yet vitally fresh, now is the time to enjoy the Hardie 2012 Niagara Chardonnay. Drink 2015-2022.

From my earlier more of May 2014:

Norm’s Niagara is such a different animal to the County 2012. The warm summer and dry fall means more humidity and even more reduction. Currently cothurnal so less like Burgundy but only because there elevates the high-tones and percipience from Niagara. Texture is key but this Hardie needs time. It’s not angular but it is steroidal, injected, like a wild thing, as if the yeast were still in control, munching away even though there is no more sugar to be had. Undomesticated ’12, at heart, in spirit, out of mind. Hard to imagine there could be this much anxiety from the even-tempered vintage, but when you pick real early and keep the oak to a bare minimum, Hardie happens. Norm picked ripe fruit between September 7 and 10, six weeks ahead as compared to some years. He said the fruit had a “golden tan, ready to go.” The use of smallish 500L barrels works wonders for texture and though 40 per cent was new wood, you would never know it. Malolactic fermentation didn’t happen until late August, nearly a full year on so no sulphuring was required until that time. This is Hardie’s freshest Niagara fruit ever, from Duarte Oliveira’s farm between Victoria and Ontario Street, the same spot as Hillebrand’s Chardonnay Reserve. Terrific Beamsville Bench Chardonnay.

Last tasted April 2015

The wines of Hidden Bench

The wines of Hidden Bench

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (183491, $23.95, WineAlign)

Hidden Bench’s ’13 Riesling is a pure, soft-spoken and balanced reflection of her maker, winemaker Marlize Beyers. Only a month or two of lees and no stirring has brought her Riesling into this current corporeal state. The citrus is all flesh, void of pith and with acidity that has already incorporated, disguised and covered the zest. If any Hidden Bench Riesling suggest tropical fruit, here it is and yet again, not. Drink 2015-2020.

From my earlier note of September 2014:

The Estate Riesling is as vigneron-defining as any wine on the Niagara Escarpment. Hidden Bench is a 100 per cent estate-fruit operation so this Riesling is spokesperson, prolocutor, mouthpiece, champion, campaigner and advocate for the concept. The estate ’13 reaches deeper for nutrient pot sweetening, into shale and in conceit of its varied, positively cultivated terroirs. Compact and jelled, this is several steps up from most other entry-level Niagara Riesling and in fact, is really anything but. The transparency here is patent. This is Riesling that simply knows what it is; pure Bench, unequivocally real and forthright. Knows what it wants to be.

Last tasted April 2015

Hidden Bench Bistro Riesling 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95)

Produced exclusively for licensee, the Bistro follows a very similar profile to the Estate Riesling, with exactitude in weight and alcohol 911 per cent). The flesh is less, the zest increased and overall you can sense more youth. The Bistro juice comes from Roman Block cuttings planted in Felseck Vineyard in 2008. The simmer here is a simpler, more straightforward pot of sustenance, entirely capable of acting as spokes-Riesling for the Hidden Bench house druthers. The vines will grow up and the juice will move on but other, newer, youthful cuttings will take up residence and the Bistro line will endure. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted April 2015

Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2012, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (278812, $40.00, WineAlign)

The (five to) six percent Sémillon speaks at present, in a waxy, bitter gourd winter melon and smoky flint tightness. In this wound moment, it is perceived that another year will be needed for the next unwind. Now vacuous, spinning and whirling as if in a processor’s bowl, an amphitheatre of expression. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier notes of September and (at Gold Medal Plates Toronto) November 2014:

Less than six weeks after my first introduction to the NB ’12 complexity shines anew. Such a delicate and elegant take on the Bordeaux white axiom. Void of all the gangly G’s; grasses, gooseberry and green vegetable. Leans to custards and curds with a savoury accent and a limestone tang. Willing to be paired with a multitude of gastronomy. Long finish. From my earlier, September 2014 note: “Taking what the vintage gives, Rosomel’s Sauvignon Blanc was king in 2012, dominating at a 95 per cent share of the Bordeaux-styled blend with Sémillon. Barrels were stirred weekly during fermentation and the creamy texture thanks that regimen, as does the tannic fullness of the round back-end. It rocks out bracing, formidable and nobly bitter, in pear and its pith, in lemon, of rind and in curd. The SB lounges in tall grasses but avoids goose feathers and blanching veg. So very savoury, in gorse tension, thistle and nettle. These notes all cut through the roundness and are finally tied together by the flinty rock of Rosomel.”

Last tasted April 2015

Hidden Bench Rosé Locust Lane Vineyard 2013, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

A meandering young blend of Pinot Noir, Malbec and Viognier that is super dry (3.2 g/L of residual sugar), “hey, hey, my, my.” The aromas suggest a succession from strawberry to green and red onion but “there’s more to the picture, than meets the eye.” The medley, interrupted by ballads and road stories is like a subtle, sweet, sour and savoury gastronomical pickle, ramps in brine, scopes in sweet alkali. Can there be a drier, more windswept crag, neal to a southern French style made anywhere on the Peninsula than from the Escarpment coliseum up on Locust Lane? Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015

Hidden Bench Bistro Rosé 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95)

While persistent in aridity as a disciple to the Locust Lane, this Bordeaux blend Rosé packs a fruitier punch. Elevated residual sugar (as compared to the Double L) mans a higher rate of variability and accessibility, not to mention more chance of Ontario patio success. This licensee bottling will work for summer, across the province. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted May 2015

Meg McGrath and and Marlize Beyers of Hidden bench

Meg McGrath and and Marlize Beyers of Hidden bench

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

Still tightly wound with the tannic grain criss-crossing at interstices of fruit (pomegranate/cranberry/strawberry) and acidity (sharp/pointed/direct). A fine, pointillist’s rendering; Locust as Seurat, nobly bitter, to the end. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier note of April 2014:

The Locust Lane Vineyard, originally planted in 1998, was Hidden Bench’s first acquisition, in 2003. It has a unique perpendicular cross-slope effect, undulating in all four directions, gathering sun hours in its own special way. The vineyard produces the richest and warmest Pinot Noir with fruit flavours more akin to ripe plum and black cherry than almost anywhere on the Beamsville Bench, certainly as any from the Hidden Bench stable. While the ’11 is not the biggest beast nor the Bordeaux bully of the Terroir Caché, it is surprisingly tannic and strong. It’s anything but hot, though it attacks with fervor. Big berry fruit, macerated strawberry, rich pie notes and spice. A great Locust vintage.

Last tasted April 2015

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (505610, $38.20, WineAlign)

There is so much floral presence in 2011, a showy perfume that parades the relative elegance of Niagara’s Bordeaux reds in the vintage. Structure is comparable to 2010, not in beast mode but rather with a delicacy derived from less burning, high-toned fruit. Still here lays a wine so young, of social encumbrance that might be passed off as a mark of impertinence. This faintly embarrassing condition can be suppressed in a dark cellar, in which the foundation can be laid for the beginning of a cure. The Terroir Caché 2011 will show its best between 2017 and 2020, then develop, slow down, suspend animation and age further, effortlessly and exceptionally. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted April 2015

Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $35.95, WineAlign)

Oh, the accessibility of Quarry Road in 2012. Still totes the emerald shine, the gemstone tannic scrape and yet the flesh is rendered rich, ripe, ratcheted and riled up. This has tonality like never before, layered and strudel buttery. At this point the vines for Quarry are 17 years of age, sophic and erudite, compounded by the organic, biodynamic and prudent pruning practices that have cemented its vigour. The clay-limestone, fresh-mineral, push-pull is a veritable careening of expression. Though its longevity may not pile towards a compressed future like that of ’09 or ’11, the earlier and often response will act both as Chardonnay charming and Quarry Road magnetizing. For the next five years it will be very hard to turn away. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2015

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130997, $34.95, WineAlign)

A year had added rich note to this ’11, furthering the inflammatory vibrations and purposefulness of Bordeaux (as opposed to Loire) red makings from the vintage. The depth of cherry merging to smoked currants is cool, collected and shaded by brushy, briny strokes. Hints at brambly, even. This is so very Cabernet Franc and even more so, Lincoln Lakeshore. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of April 2014:

A lean Laundry with as much finesse as winemaker Paul Pender has ever shown in his poignant Cabernet Franc realm. When a vintage deals you calm and scale you sit back and relax. The Lincoln Lakeshore advancing in years vines bring yet unseen front end red berry, licorice and red currant softness in 2011. There is elegance but also a refusal to yield its back end bite. A level of enveloping grain and chalk is unique to this bottle and should be seen as a very good effort with the possibility ahead

Last tasted April 2015

Cave Spring Cellars

Cave Spring Cellars

Cave Spring Extra Dry Sparkling Riesling 2010, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From the clay-limestone bench lands abutting the Escarpment, specifically one block of 11 year-old vines at the Beamsville Bench Cave Spring Vineyard. Traditional method fizz accessed of low brix (early picked, 19.3 degrees) and mortar (2.97 pH) numbers, then elevated under microscope magnified sugar (15.5 RS g/L) and acidity (8.4 g/L). So what? So this is a pure CS expression of Riesling, cured and curated in the house style, led to textile weave from 14 months on the lees and finalized just that side of Brut. Functions like a Blanc de Blancs suitably this side of acidity rage and with corresponding remarkable, if close to impossible aridity. Less fat than might be expected and with a swath of sauvage. There sweats ginger and the cuttings of foraged wild things. The extension on the finish is protracted even after the liquid has left the building. Finishes with dry stones, nuts and a rightful oxidative thrust. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015

Cave Spring Csv Riesling 2013, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

That flesh, that Kabinett flesh, fills the CSV in every crevice. In 2013 the residual sugar number lies between 15 and 16 g/L, and though the crop was bigger, it was still picked later than in 2012. The result is formidable corporeal concentration, consistency of house style and perhaps the only ’13 Niagara Riesling to imitate, perpetuate and extrapolate on the vintage that came before. This Cave Spring concentrates fruit and Escarpment into a powerful Riesling, streaming like charged particles through changing expressions. A lingering ascension hovers as it rises, until it slowly fades into the welkin, like a balloon that languidly gets lost into the blinding blue of a midday sky. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted April 2015

Cave Spring Riesling ‘The Adam’s Steps’ 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (26372, $24.95, WineAlign)

At present there are sweets, bitters and rich Adam fruit. Only the shadows of a limestone outcrop near the crest of the Niagara Escarpment know why the Adam is so juicy. A chew like no other. Drink 2015-2020.

From my earlier note of October 2014:

A classic Adam, amplified in 2013, riper and not as piercing as previously noted vintages. Still the layering is omnipresent but there is more juicy fruit and texture then ever before. This is a consumer friendly Adam, gregarious, outgoing, off-dry as never before. New slang for the bottling.

From my earlier note of July 2014:

According to Cave Spring’s website this newer Riesling from older (18 to 35 year-old plantings) is from “a single block of vines in the shadows of a limestone outcrop near the crest of the Niagara Escarpment, known as ‘The Adam Steps’. Really apropos, for this Riesling is the cantilever, the one with the outstretched arm. At 10.5 per cent alcohol and with an unmistakably stony, sweet and sour whiff the wine speaks of its off-dryness. The juiciest of all the Cave Spring Rieslings, with rounder acidity and good persistence. This is the all-around good guy, the one with an open invitation, the bridge from Estate to Dolomite to Csv. The well-adjusted one steps up its game to help win one for the team, especially out of the convivial 2013 vintage.

Last tasted April 2015

Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (391995, $19.95, WineAlign)

The 2012 Cabernet Franc needed six further months for the high-toned fruit to settle just enough for the spiced richness to shine. Though Dolomite-designated, this sheds Beamsville light purity, along with a grain variegated by (pomegranate) citrus and chalk. The cool centre is elongated and expansive though it seems to inuit the correct time for retraction. The aerial fruit stresses condense and accept the angles prepared by coriander and eucalyptus. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (681247, $16.95, WineAlign)

The Twenty Mile Bench in Jay Johnston’s hands flat out rocks. The Chardonnays “they dig a funky spiel, they’ll make some spiel.” The ’12 Estate has crossed into pretty territory, not shy to wear its thin lamina of oak make-up and not too proud to say drink me now. Drink me here, there and everywhere. Drink 2015-2017.

From my earlier note of March 2014:

Has spent some quality time and knows its way around a barrel but its attitude is young, fresh and alive. From 12 and 13 year-old estate vines and kissed by only 15 per cent new oak. “But here’s a funky fact that I know is real.” Flat Rock’s Chardonnays are red hot and this fresh-faced ’12 has “baby appeal.” Blatant, colorable value on the Twenty.

Last tasted April 2015

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula  (578625, $19.95, WineAlign)

Always expressive of such manifest certitude, the 2014 can’t be anything but Nadja though there adds a fleshy dimension that pins it to the broader spectrum of Twenty Mile Bench, in as much as what the vineyard culls from its capacious diagrammatic. That broader outlook provides understanding into Nadja’s decrease of stentorian language in the fractionally stagnant vintage. There is a variegation within the sweetness lining the tunnel of aridity. Fourteen is nothing overly special and Nadja suffers as a result. It’s still a very, very good Riesling, just not one for the ages. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (1545, $18.95, WineAlign)

The vintage acts as a launch point for Flat Rock Pinot Noir and prepares a palate for the 20 Mile Bench by coating it with utmost approachability. Violets and Nebbiolo-like roses are raised in warmth, albeit beneath the safety net of cloud cover. You’ll find no burn, rust spots and yet you will acquire comfort, in and out of sips. Drink 2015-2018.

From my earlier note of April 2014:

As with Flat Rock’s Chardonnays, here is a vintage and an evolutionary coming of age that becomes a matter of scaling back oak. The quotient here is less than 40 per cent new, leaving the wizened vines and maker’s acumen to coax maximum character, brilliant sheen and recognizable aroma. The 2012 Pinot teases black cherry but never really goes there.

From my earlier note of February 2014:

Nearly 4000 cases will be available of this nearly-unfiltered, very established and always well-thought out Pinot Noir. A consideration of the plots and barrels micro-management that determine the crasis of this Estate wine demands an extrapolation in full-on assessment. The medium-coarse Chinois filtering lends to a tannic chain of texture thick in grain and chalk. A heavier Estate because when the weather gives you heat you make a climate appropriate wine. This monkey is not a product of arctic air and it “got too deep, but how deep is too deep?” Thermal vintage melt, ritzy ripe cherry stuff in 2012. From the Ritz to the Rubble, if you like, or the Flat Rock.

Last tasted April 2015

13th Street Pinot Gris 2012, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

From two blocks on one farm in the centre of Creek Shores, one picked earlier to avoid botrytis. No malo, stainless steel tank fermentation leads to pure, crisp and clean Pinot Gris. The soil-driven funk meets faux-sulphur is typically J.P. Colas, a specificity in undertone that culminates in a dry, variegated finish. Drink 2015-2017.

From my earlier note of April 2014.

Here you have an honest, 100 per cent stainless steel treated Pinot Gris from an estate vineyard located adjacent the market on Fourth Avenue in the Creek Shores appellation. So very dry and really fine fruit, crisp, neoteric, rising and falling in waves of tempered acidity. Made in a comfortable, country-twanged, folk-rock style, like a Cowboy Junkie. Juicy, mouth watering work and very easy to fall for. An angel mine, this 13th Street, “and I know that your skin is as warm and as real as that smile in your eyes.” This effort by Jean-Pierre Colas is as good as it gets, a tally for Creek Shores and its kinship with the variety.

Last tasted April 2015

13th Street Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177824, $19.95, WineAlign)

Four months has upped the funk in for ’13, with tar and bitters still and thick as summer air. Rich and ripe, notable for its black cherry aroma and that J.P. Colas natural truncation. Unique, as always and very Gamay. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of December 2014:

Fruit was sourced from both the Sandstone and Whitty Vineyards for 13th Street’s Gamay Noir, a focused and gritty adjunct in ode to the Cru Beaujolais approach. This ’13 raises the aromatic and texture bar and just may be the most striking from a 13th Street estate mix. All the important berries are there, as are the mineral quandaries. In a Gamay moment this will lead you to gulp and giggle with #GoGamayGo delight.

Last tasted April 2015

13th Street Syrah ‘Essence’ 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177824, $44.95, WineAlign)

Fruit was sourced mainly from Wismer Vineyard (Vineland) and a smaller proportion from AJ Lepp (Niagara-on-the-Lake) for this dry as the desert Syrah of deep extract, warmth and density of fruit. All set upon a highly tannic frame, with every indication that longevity will be its best friend, as much as any red has ever been produced in Ontario. A formidable vulcanization marks the entry, a not so inappropriate entreaty to beg for time and lots of it. The current pavane of fruit is exhibitive of excruciating physical reticence though behind the wall there is more than enough indicators to stand the test of time. No new oak (though the Essence saw an extended slumber in three to four year old barrels) has allowed the tapestry of intertwined layers to set up shop and dig in for the long haul. If big-boned Syrah and Niagara are in your cellar plans, this 13th Street 2012 has to have a prominent place. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2015

Malivoire

Malivoire

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95)

A dual block blush, from two clones in the Moira Vineyard. Made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir, this second vintage is pale as can be, dry, saline and reeking of fresh peaches and strawberries. The level of purity and intensity is nothing short of amazing. This will rise quickly into the ranks of the Peninsula’s finest Rosés. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted April 2015

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

The purity and fine-lines of Pinot Gris are defined, delineated and deftly prepared by Shiraz Mottiar and team in 2014. This is a calm rendition, void of tremors, certainly not taking any risks but also not a white of unfulfilled promises. Herbs, lemon, mint and fine PG tannin draws salt from stone. A perfectly dry finish is in play, as with all malivoire whites, to cement the deal. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015.

Malivoire Stouck Meritage 2011, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

It’s hard to recall memories of so much syrup, liqueur and high tonality as coming from Stouck, from any Meritage for that matter and yet the 2011 Bordeaux varietal wines out of Niagara continue to astound. If excess or vivid character is a negative, just look away. The combination of rich extraction and explicit oak generosity dope out fruit from a dry September into wonders of dried timbre and inflection. The drupe is enriched, as is the tannin and a Beamsville buttressing that warps and wraps like never before. At this four-year juncture, the Niagara ’11 varietal compendium is officially a thing, witnessed in example through this Stouck. More than just dramatic Shiraz Mottiar foreshadowing here, but further into thoughts of what vintages co do for red wine as a Peninsula whole. The ’11 Stouck Meritage stands upright at the mirror and its reflection looks right back. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2015

Malivoire M2 Small Lot Gamay 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

The profundity of tart, keen, briny berries dilates in its own very useful layers of citrus, tannin and concentration, beyond even what was observed in 2012. The zesty, spritely argot resonates from the unfurling of floral essentia out of a Gamay in desperate need of time. The flavours and overlay are somewhat impenetrable and yet leave quite an impression. While patience might be the virtue and the reward, if #gogamaygo is the modus operandi, a swig from the bottle like gentlemen of the road is certainly not out of the question. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015

Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

From the rich limestone and sandstone beneath the clay, 1.1 acre Misek vineyard, a southerly ledge up from Highway 8 and an easterly hill down from Cherry Avenue. A very linear Ivan combs the catacombs of the Escarpment’s underpinning. A retaining wall of vintage attenuated rocks and stones, a vineyard’s low yields and the voices in Charles’ head have produced a striking Riesling. In 2014 adolescence has entered adulthood. Now before us is a grown up Ivan, mature Ivan, maybe even wise Ivan. Texture is in manifest control in this loyal, stay at home Baker, not yet running wild like free-spirited Picone. Ivan has presence, sometimes a great notion and is Baker’s longest bit of prose to date. The next great Riesling vintage will make it iconic. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2015

Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2008, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (126433, $35.20, WineAlign)

The petrol and mighty bee’s sting have taken over, with the honey again not far behind. A lemon prepares to spill its juices as it warms above a bunsen flame. At present it is almost too elemental to define. Will change course again when midnight strikes in 2016. Then it will come into its own. Drink 2016-2020.

From my earlier note of April 2014:

Tasted at Somewhereness 2014 as part of a vertical retrospective going back to 2007. The Vinemount Ridge’s now famous Picone Vineyard is set within a 10-acre estate on the Niagara Escarpment. Planted to the Weis 21 clone, the Riesling grown here digs in for complexity from sectional moieties of clay and sandy soil atop a unique base of limestone bedrock. Charles Baker began working with these grapes in 2005 and it is this 2008 where the learning curve took a turn for the Riesling stratosphere. The ’06 found luck in the stars but this vintage lays the framework and foundation for a master plan. At this stage in the ’08 evolution there is a prodigious and viscous honeyed textured. Ripening tree fruit juices run like maple sap in spring and the run off is beginning to think syrup. A cutting ridge of acidity arrests the sugaring, allowing citrus and flinty rock to recall the wine’s first, fresh steps. Baker’s Riesling time travels in circles with no real beginning and no real end. From my earlier, September 2012 note: ““Whoo-ahhh” Mojito, green apple skin scent of a Riesling. Seductive to sip, a bodacious body of influence, then back-end bite. A wolf pack in sheep’s clothing.”

Last tasted April 2015

Stratus Vineyards

Stratus Vineyards

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 2015

Stratus White 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)

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.  Tasted April 2015

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

t 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.  Tasted April 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 2015

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When experts break wine together

Wine tasting

The experts broke down 33 wines in five flights, progressing through Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Red Blends and culminating in a friendly blind tasting competition round, each table of seven for themselves.
Photo: Jeanne Provost/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

With frozen Pond Inlet at Brock University as the backdrop to the 25th anniversary of the Cuvée 2014 Expert’s Tasting, 160 industry professionals gathered to break wine together. The original congress in 1989 might have heard the whisper, “si tu id aeficas, ei venient.” Fast forward to 2014 and Dr. Linda Bramble references Phil Alden Robinson’s declaration in Field of Dreams, “if you build it they will come.” Come they have, for 25 years running.

Dr. David Bergen spoke about the history of Niagara wines meeting the world and the movement towards what would eventually become VQA. He complemented Niagara’s true sense of community as an industry. Dr. Bergen was himself a vinous pioneer, having been a part of a group of other wine geeks back in the 1980’s tagged the PDU or, the Port Dalhousie Underground.

On the après, après, après Cuvée foggy (not the weather) morning of Saturday, March 1st there was ’89esque Steel Wheels Tour electricity in the air, waiting for the band to come on stage. The feeling was palpable, on a Bodhi guide to parochial wine enlightenment, through an aggregate of palate harmony and a caucus of local knowledge. Glass (a VQA Promoters Award decanter to be specific) was even broken, as if a Semitic bride and groom had spoken their vows to signal the reception’s begin. They had come from Niagara near, they had travelled from Ontario, Quebec, New York and beyond far. All for the purpose of tasting a covey of blindly, though anything but randomly chosen flights that have helped to define and will see to advance the future of Niagara’s viticulture industry.

CCOVI Brock U Expert's Tasting 2014

PHOTO: Michael Godel
CCOVI Brock U Expert’s Tasting 2014

There were Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute luminaries, including Dr. Bramble, Dr. Janet Dorozynski , Dr. Belinda Kemp, Barbara Tatarnic and Brock’s Brian Hutchings, Vice-President, Finance and Administration. Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena KaiserSmit, Quebec’s Véronique Rivest, winemakers and winery leaders filled the room. WineAlign was well represented by David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato and Steve Thurlow. I spoke at length with Bryan Calandrelli, winemaker at Freedom Run Winery on Friday night about the Cuvée weekend. His thoughts returned again and again to Niagara’s sense of community. That and a depth of quality are what separate the region from its American brethren in Niagara, the Finger Lakes and Long Island.

The 2014 edition of the Experts Tasting was different. The room was packed. I’m not sure there was a single empty chair. This year a larger group of Toronto Sommeliers made the trip, including Will Predhomme, Christopher Sealy, Bruce Wallner, Lori O’Sullivan, Joel Wilcox, Michelle Paris, Craig MacLean, Marissa Kelly, Joshua Corea, Rebecca Meir Liebman and Emily Bibona. City chefs joined in, including Ortolan’s Daniel Usher and the Cheese Boutique’s Afrim Pristine. Forging a tasting relationship with a core of Toronto’s most passionate wine dealers is both brilliant and necessary, for all parties involved.

Riesling Flight CCOVI Brock U Expert's Tasting 2014

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Riesling Flight CCOVI Brock U Expert’s Tasting 2014

The experts broke down 33 wines in five flights, progressing through Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Red Blends and culminating in a friendly blind tasting competition round, each table of seven for themselves.

Studying wine in a setting and with a structure like the Expert’s Tasting presents a constructible universe in infinitary logics. In the bubble of a cozy room like the Pond Inlet “every set will arise in the construction process…. In infinitary logic, there are far more than only countably many formulas, and one can cook up a formula to define a specific set, by using the formulas that define its elements.” There are limitless boundaries and infinite possibilities allowed when attempting to identify, describe and define the wines at such a blind tasting. The latitude afforded, the manifest humility and the cooperation leading to revelation combines for an exhale of the most relaxed kind.

The #CCOVI event also celebrates the year’s VQA Promoters and lives that were lived. The 2014 awards were handed out to William Mancini, Lloyd Schmidt, Erik Peacock, Shawn McCormick, David Lawrason and posthumously, care of his wife Rose Lamas-Churchill, to David Churchill. Charles Baker of Stratus Vineyards had the difficult task of reminding the Niagara community of friends lost in 2013, Gerry Ginsberg & Barbara Ritchie. Baker then spoke about Churchill, the long time VINTAGES writer and LCBO lab tasting room director. It was David who granted me entrance into the lab in 2012. I will always be grateful.

Here are notes on the first two flights at the Expert’s Tasting.

FLIGHT #1 – ARE YOU EXPERIENCED

Clockwise from left: Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2012, Rosewood Estates Riesling 2011, Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling Argetsinger Vineyard 2011, The Foreign Affair Riesling 2010, Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2009, Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2006, and Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2003
Clockwise from left: Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2012, Rosewood Estates Riesling 2011, Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling Argetsinger Vineyard 2011, The Foreign Affair Riesling 2010, Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2009, Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2006, and Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2003

Presented by writer Rick VanSickle, winesinniagara.com with an ode to Jimi Hendrix and also, curiously to Taylor Swift. The absurdity of the duet mirrored the .429 (three for seven) batting average of Charles Baker Picones being passed into the flight by the CCOVI panel. That and a comedic pathos to soften the cumulative, piercing acidity of the Riesling gathering. An auspicious beginning. Not to be ignored were Rick’s improbable choice of kitsch props. Ice broken. Rick’s apocalyptic take? “I love the smell of Riesling in the morning. Riesling is the bomb.”

Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula (241182, $35, WineAlign)

Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  91  Tasted March 2014 @cbriesling

Enfant emblématique de Baker respire encore en suspens, l’émission spumeux de l’extérieur d’un millésime chaud. Alors primaire et un acte difficile à suivre. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, aride comme le désert et les agrumes, serré carbonique. Traités à l’aide des méthodes les plus froids et les plus froids frais de rechercher résultat et bilan de la grève dans un, lies-appartenu, finition piquante opulent. Un Picone qui dit que je ne vis pas aujourd’hui, il est dit, et avait prospecté, “euh, se connu, Are You Experienced?”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Rosewood Estates Riesling 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench (Winery, $16, WineAlign)

Single (21 Street) Vineyard, clone-focused, superior Twenty Mile Bench fruit steals its way into the flight. Seltzer dry, austere and asking, can you see me? Pumps up its volume with an off-dry request, in pineapple, white flowers and a bite of yellow plum. Tied together by a thumping, Noel Redding bass line. Definitive, affordable stuff. For the Bench, “you can see in the future of a thousand years.”  88  Tasted March 2014  @Rosewoodwine

Simple (21 rue) Vignoble, clone axé, supérieure Twenty Mile Bench fruit vole sa place dans le vol. Seltzer sec, austère et demander, pouvez-vous me voir? Pompes son volume avec une demande de demi-sec, de l’ananas, de fleurs blanches et un morceau de prune jaune. Attachés ensemble par un bruit sourd, Noel Redding ligne de basse. Définitive, trucs abordable. Pour la Chambre, “vous pouvez voir dans le futur de mille ans.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling Argetsinger Vineyard 2011, Finger Lakes, New York (winery, $24.95)

The Ravines ringer that dwells high above the shore of Seneca Lake is conspicuous for being of the oldest Riesling vineyards in New York’s Finger Lakes. The limestone soils on one hand apply swift, lean minerality and prickling flower aromas, on the other a drix sense of verboten. Did Argetsinger come to add love or confusion? “Would I be truthful, yeah, in, uh, in choosin’ you as the one for me?” The winemaker would ask to wait 10 years to reel in this Riesling’s wonders. In its current stark, dry as a bone (three g/L residual) state, it’s all lime and minerals. Though they tell each other “we are never getting back together again,” perhaps time will tell if the Jimi and the Taylor in this Riesling can coexist.  89  Tasted March 2014  @ravineswine

The Foreign Affair Riesling 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula (127290, $24.95, WineAlign)

Older, bolder, warmer, darker. In 2010 this retrofits 10% NP dried grapes in the Venetian appassimento method. The rubric sees to an early showing of secondary notes, pushed along by 20 g/L of residual sugar. Wholly unique Riesling with “strange beautiful grass of green, with your majestic silver seas.” The most hydrated in the flight (ironic, no?) and this in spite of a third stone from the sun vintage. Up on the Vinemount Ridge.  87  Tasted March 2014  @wineaffair

Plus ancien, plus audacieux, plus chaud, plus sombre. En 2010, ce rétrofit 10% de raisins secs NP dans la méthode de appassimento vénitien. La rubrique voit un indice précoce de notes secondaires, poussés le long de 20 g / L de sucre résiduel. Riesling tout à fait unique avec des “étrange belle herbe de vert, avec vos majestueux mers argent.” Le plus hydratée dans le vol (ironique, non?) Et ce en dépit d’une troisième pierre à partir du millésime de soleil. Sur la Vinemount Ridge.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2009, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula (241182, $35, WineAlign)

In a struck match state of mind, crazy enough to set a guitar on fire, onstage. The burning smell is infectious and dangerous but the palate heads to higher notes, in honey and at the 22nd fret of top E, string bent. Notable that this tough, economically not-viable vintage was stopped at a natural residual sugar of 21 g/L, 50 per cent higher than in 2012. In that sense this is old-school Baker, closer to mother Germany and not yet the current incarnation of the winemaker’s Vinemount Ridge oeuvre. Alright, in 2009 “I have only one burning desire” Picone, “let me stand next to your fire.”  90  Tasted March 2014

Dans un état de concordance frappé d’esprit, assez fou pour mettre une guitare sur le feu, sur scène. L’odeur de brûlé est contagieux et dangereux, mais les têtes de palais à des notes plus élevées, dans le miel et à la case 22 de haut E, chaîne pliée. À noter que ce millésime difficile, économiquement pas viable a été arrêté à un sucre résiduel naturel de 21 g / L, 50 pour cent de plus qu’en 2012. Dans ce sens, c’est la vieille école Baker, plus proche de la mère et de l’Allemagne n’est pas encore l’incarnation actuelle de Vinemount Ridge l’œuvre du vigneron. Bon, en 2009: «Je n’ai qu’un seul désir brûlant” Picone, “laissez-moi me tiens à côté de votre feu.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2006, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula (241182, $35, WineAlign)

Only Charles can follow Charles, as only Jimi could follow Jimi. Just ask Peter Townshend. The combined forces of vintage, off-dry level of residual sugar (23.9 g/L) and age have ushered this Picone into a realm of adipose, butyraceous, chewy texture. The ’06 is emblematic of its time, stunning, psychedelic, experienced. It speaks clearly and with conceit. Tasting it eight years on you can hear Baker’s 2006 voice saying “if you can just get your mind together uh-then come on across to me.” We have and continue to follow Charles, and we are paying close attention to every vintage along the ride.  93  Tasted March 2014

Seulement Charles peut suivre Charles, comme Jimi ne pourrait suivre Jimi. Il suffit de demander Peter Townshend. Les forces combinées de cru, le niveau de sucre résiduel (23,9 g / L) et l’âge-sec ont inauguré ce Picone dans un royaume de tissu adipeux, butyraceous, texture moelleuse. Le ’06 est emblématique de son temps, à l’étourdissement, psychédélique, connu. Il parle clairement et avec orgueil. Goûter huit ans, vous pouvez entendre la voix de 2006 Baker disant «si vous ne pouvez obtenir votre esprit ainsi uh-alors venir sur vers moi.” Nous avons et continuons de suivre Charles, et nous prêtons attention à chaque millésime le long de la promenade.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2003, VQA Beamsville Bench  (winery, $50, WineAlign)

Mind bending to taste a piece of recent history, a Riesling rooted in the rocks, blues and pop of the limestone, sandstone and shale Bench, but a wine also futuristic, distorted and soulful. From 25 plus year-old vines, this foxy lady has entered into true, secondary territory. She’s softened and her perfume is cast in vanilla butterscotch so much so she might mess with tasters’ minds in a flight of oaked Chardonnay. She’s “a cute little heartbreaker.”  92  Tasted March 2014  @CaveSpring

Esprit de flexion de déguster un morceau de l’histoire récente, un Riesling enracinée dans les roches, de blues et pop de la pierre calcaire, grès et schiste Banc, mais un vin aussi futuriste, déformée et soulful. De 25 plus ans vignes, cette dame rusée a conclu vrai, territoire secondaire. Elle s’adoucit et son parfum est coulé dans la vanille caramel tellement qu’elle pourrait salir avec les esprits de dégustateurs dans un vol de Chardonnay boisé. Elle est «un peu crève-coeur mignon.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

FLIGHT #2 – THE NEW ABC – APPEALING BALANCED CHARDONNAY

Clockwise from left: Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2012, Fielding Estate Chardonnay Estate 2012, G. Marquis Chardonnay The Silver Line 2011, Kittling Ridge Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2012, Cave Spring CSV Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2010, Rosewood Estates Chardonnay Reserve 2009, and Stratus Chardonnay 2010
Clockwise from left: Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2012, Fielding Estate Chardonnay Estate 2012, G. Marquis Chardonnay The Silver Line 2011, Kittling Ridge Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2012, Cave Spring CSV Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2010, Rosewood Estates Chardonnay Reserve 2009, and Stratus Chardonnay 2010

Presented by James Treadwell, Sommelier, Treadwell Farm-To-Table Cuisine. Treadwell so astutely refers to Chardonnay as the “polarizing varietal,” the one so many love to love, and love to hate. What turned out to be so striking was the newer to older, first to last ascendency of glycerin and extract. In just a few short years, Niagara Chardonnay has undergone a rapid change and increasingly speaks in a cool climate vernacular.

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (681247, $16.95, WineAlign)

Has spent some quality time and knows its way around a barrel but its attitude is young, fresh and alive. From 12 and 13 year-old estate vines and kissed by only 15 per cent new oak. “But here’s a funky fact that I know is real.” Flat Rock’s Chardonnays are red-hot and this fresh-faced ’12 has “baby appeal.” Blatant, colorable value on the Twenty.  89  Tasted March 2014  @Winemakersboots

A passé du temps de qualité et connaît son chemin autour d’un baril, mais son attitude est jeune, fraîche et vivante. De 12 et 13 ans vignes du domaine et embrassé par seulement 15 pour cent de chêne neuf. “Mais voici un fait génial que je sais, c’est vrai.” Les chardonnays de Flat Rock sont d’un rouge ardent et cette ’12 frais face a “appel de bébé.” Flagrante, valeur colorable sur la vingt.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Fielding Estate Chardonnay Estate 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench (355842, $21.95, WineAlign)

Heavy lees and a charitable, warm temperature barrel ferment have imparted greenhouse humidity into this soft, lush Chardonnay, outgoing in personality. Effortless and easy to love if not perceptibly cerebral, though a mineral streak channels equality and “a delicate balance.” To some this may just feel like spinning plates but take the time to get to know Richie Robert’s wine and music on the radio your head will find.  89  Tasted March 2014  @FieldingWinery

Lies lourdes et un organisme de bienfaisance, chaude température baril ferment ont conféré humidité de la serre en cela, Chardonnay luxuriant doux, sortant de la personnalité. Sans effort et facile d’aimer si pas sensiblement cérébrale, mais une égalité de chaînes minérale à balayage et “un équilibre délicat.” Pour certains, cela peut tout simplement envie de tourner les plaques, mais prendre le temps d’apprendre à connaître le vin et la musique de Richie Robert sur la radio de votre tête trouverez.  Dégusté Mars 2014

G. Marquis Chardonnay The Silver Line 2011, Single Vineyard Niagara Stone Road, VQA Niagara On The Lake (258681, $17.95, WineAlign)

Big, big wine in bold expression. Enveloped by well-judged oak. Might lack just a bit of cohesion, layering and synchronicity. Otherwise really fine effort from the Magnotta world. From earlier notes: “Some extra credit is awarded for a wine that knows its place, in this case the watershed of the Niagara Stone Road. Though faint, the impart of minute shells and rock fragments from an ancient sea-washed down from the escarpment has found its way into the Silver Line. The reality is that the dominant aroma is that of popcorn butter drizzled over top Niagara River stones. Opulent and tropical while at the same time like chewing on pomaded pop rocks. Works the wet and acidified vintage well with a healthy dose of the barrel.” From my previous note: “Streaks across and plays a lick on atomic 16 rails at breakneck speed, all the while jonesing for of a slice of custard pie. “It’s sweet and nice” with lead, nuts and spice. The G. might stand for grateful or great, as in value.”  88  Tasted October 2012, February and March 2014  @GMarquisWines

Grand, grand vin dans l’expression audacieuse. Enveloppé par un boisé bien jugé. Pourrait manquer un peu de cohésion, la superposition et la synchronicité. Sinon effort vraiment beau du monde Magnotta. De précédentes notes: “Certaines cartes de crédit supplémentaire est accordé pour un vin qui sait sa place, dans ce cas, le bassin versant de la Stone Road Niagara Bien que faible, l’confèrent des coquilles minute et de fragments de roche à partir d’une ancienne mer arrosés de l’escarpement a. trouvé sa place dans la ligne d’argent. La réalité est que l’arôme dominant est celui de pop-corn au beurre arrosé sur les pierres supérieures de la rivière Niagara. tout Opulent et tropical dans le même temps comme mâcher sur les rochers de la pop pommadés. Travaux du millésime humide et acidifié bien avec une bonne dose de canon “. De ma note précédente: “. Séries partout et joue un coup sur atomiques 16 rails à une vitesse vertigineuse, tout en jonesing pour d’une part de tarte à la crème” Il est doux et gentil “avec plomb, de noix et d’épices Le G. pourrait se tenir. pour reconnaissant ou grande, comme la valeur “.  Dégusté Octobre 2012, Février et Mars 2014

Kittling Ridge Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (367862, $16.95, WineAlign)

From many miles away within a single vineyard along the Merrit Road, this KRC is akin to a mini-Lenko, in high-tone toast and micro-Pender like by way of a comparison to his treatment of Daniel’s fruit in 2011. Wild, piercing ray of unbroken Beamsville laser vision hits a wall of lees within the barrel to settle quietly upon the can’s floor. Buttered niblets are the warm and comfortable conclusion.  87  Tasted March 2014

De nombreux miles de distance dans un seul vignoble le long de la route de Merrit, ce KRC s’apparente à un mini-Lenko, en haut ton pain et micro-Pender comme par le biais d’une comparaison à son traitement de fruits de Daniel en 2011. Sauvage, rayons perçant ininterrompue vision laser Beamsville frappe un mur de lies dans le canon de régler tranquillement sur le plancher de la boîte. Niblets beurre sont la conclusion chaleureux et confortable.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Cave Spring CSV Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula (529941, $29.95, WineAlign)

Citrus meet butter. From oldest (36-40 year-old), lowest-yielding vines on Cave Spring’s stony, limestone, rich clay, overlying shale and sandstone soils, this CSV sashays out in depeche mode. The oak, lees, malolactic, batonage and assemblage is nothing short of mad science meets high fashion. “Don’t take this way, don’t take that way. Straight down the middle until next Thursday. Push to the left, back to the right, twist and turn ’til you’ve got it right.” Builds up slowly, scales back in restraint and with only 60-65 per cent barrel ferment in 2010, it set out to get the balance right and succeeded. The definitive CSVC study.  91  Tasted March 2014

Citrus répondent beurre. Du plus ancien (36-40 ans), les vignes sur la pierre de Cave Spring, le calcaire, l’argile riche, recouvrant schiste et de grès sols plus bas rendement, ce CSV flâne dans depeche mode. Le chêne, lies, fermentation malolactique, bâtonnage et assemblage n’est rien de la science folle rencontre la haute couture. “Ne prenez pas de cette façon, ne prenez pas de cette façon. Droite au milieu jusqu’à jeudi prochain. Poussez vers la gauche, vers la droite, tourner et tourner jusqu’à ce que tu as raison.” S’accumule lentement, échelles de retour en retenue et avec seulement 60-65 pour cent baril ferment en 2010, il a entrepris de trouver le bon équilibre et réussi. L’étude CSVC définitif.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Rosewood Estates Chardonnay Reserve 2009, VQA Beamsville Bench (winery, $28, WineAlign)

One of then winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky’s under the radar and unsung oeuvres out of the estate’s Renaceau Vineyard. A wild ferment, full-out malolactic and French oak barrel thang, beginning to show some age, like a well-made, dirty martini for a hard living brat pack. Sappy, herbal resin leads this ’09 into anointed autumn ripeness. It was and is a 14 per cent, 4.2 g/L, small lot (125 cases) piece of Beamsville history.  88  Tasted March 2014

Un de puis vigneron Natalie Spytkowsky de sous le radar et d’œuvre méconnus de Renaceau Vignoble de la succession. Un ferment sauvage, pleine à malolactique et français fût de chêne thang, commence à montrer des signes d’usure, comme un bien-fait, dirty martini pour un paquet de gosse dur vivant. Séveux, résine à base de plantes conduit ce ’09 en oint maturité en automne. Il a été et est un 14 pour cent, 4,2 g / L, petit terrain (125 cas) morceau de l’histoire Beamsville.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Stratus Chardonnay 2010, VQA Niagara On The Lake  (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

Can’t help but think about buttered popcorn; the best that money can buy in heritage kernels. A magnanimous effort, in a state of equatorial weave with cajoling, candied aromatics. Previous note: “From natural yeast, full batch (bunch) pressing and heeded by Paul’s (Hobbs) call to full malolactic fermentation, this fruit was picked on November 15th, a day “you had to go run and pick fast.” Groux is not trying to make California or Burgundy but make the best in Niagara. Clarity and sun drenched hue, tropical fruit dominance, sweetness, malo-butterscotch obviousness. Some tart orchard fruit late but certainly warm vintage wine. Not the most arid Chardonnay but blessed with great length.”  91  Tasted March 2013 and 2014  @Stratuswines

Vous ne pouvez pas m’empêcher de penser à maïs soufflé au beurre, le meilleur que l’argent peut acheter dans les noyaux du patrimoine. Un effort magnanime, dans un état de équatoriale tisser avec cajoler, aromatiques confits. Note précédente:. “De la levure naturelle, pleine lot (groupe) en appuyant et en tiennent compte (Hobbs) l’appel de Paul à la fermentation malolactique complète, ce fruit a été sélectionné le 15 Novembre, un jour” il fallait aller courir et prendre rapidement “Groux est ne cherche pas à faire de la Californie ou de Bourgogne, mais faire le meilleur à Niagara. Clarté et baignée de soleil teinte, la dominance de fruits tropicaux, de la douceur, malo-caramel évidence. Certains tarte de fruits du verger en retard, mais millésime certainement chaud. Pas le Chardonnay plus aride mais béni avec grande longueur. ”  Dégusté Mars 2013 et Mars 2014

Good to go!

VINTAGES May 12, 2012 – Wines for Mother’s Day

May 9, 2012

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/05/09/vintages-may-12-2012-wines-for-mothers-day/

 

Chardonnay. So often velocitized by toasted oak that a rise against it became known as the ABC movement. Trust me, Chardonnay is back and like City TV (thank you JB), it’s everywhere. The C-magnet. The new Sauvignon Blanc. My top two recommendations to drink with mom this Sunday adhere to the new credo. The new C.

The Vintages May 12th release springs west to champion the obvious, a collection of celebrity aces in the hole. California. “I don’t know this sea of neon.” Look close and there suns some legends of the fall. The Sunshine State had been, until recent times, on a serious, red-hot roll. Today’s refrain “California rest in peace, simultaneous release” may word petty tom foolery but balance be thy name where are you? Sweet Cabs and Zins, you’re jammin’ me, can’t you see? “Take back your ups and downs of your life in raisin-land.” That said, I did taste some exceptional reds at April’s California Wine Fair (Signorello Padrone, Duckhorn Merlot, Flowers Pinot Noir, Heitz Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin Isoceles, Lauren Glen Cabernet Sauvignon). My favourite Californian here is white, graces the catalogue’s cover and fittingly bears a legendary name from a vineyard paying homage to one of the earliest examples of American fiction.

 

Talbott Logan Estate Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (716290, $26.95) alights on the lighter side of Chardonnay’s street. A morning’s faint buttered toast and a banana cream shake. An understatement of CVR** importance. Near decapitation by an abrupt craning of the fruit remains the only deterrant. Still, Washington Irving would dudely abide.  90

Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2010 (738393, $17.95) will be your best IVR* bet for Chardonnay day on May 26. Wild yeasts make cause for a weird resemblance, reminiscent of February’s Furmint. Delicate, expressive and unusual, the mint flint, brioche and smoked pineapple effect leads to thoughts of Blancs de Blancs. A little malo just might turn this into good bubbly!  89

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Other wines tasted:

Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (963488, 375 mL, $24.95) the fortified Aussie sticky is liquid toffee in a glass. Apricots dominate the caramelized and poached stone fruit ideology.  “It’s a floor polish. It’s a dessert topping.” A shimmering, Saturday night should end well at this lively museum.  89

Domaine Chenevières Chablis 2010 (277913, $19.95) winds Fourme dAmbert and the odd combo tang of apple pizza. Ripe mastica in need of root vegetables, or salsify pasta.  86

Domaine Jean-Pierre Sève Terrior Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 (681056, $23.95) the freshmaker emphasizes land-driven Chardonnay fruit over oak and local Solutré minerality, all wrapped up in Pouilly’s fatness. Lemon yellow, mint julep with a touch of relegated green vegetal calme.  87

Geil Bechtheimer Rosengarten Riesling Kabinett 2011 (994764, $14.95) offers a sneak peak at the hyped ’11 German vintage. Sweeter rank than expected with red apple skin rubbed by citrus acidity. For garden sipping amidst the roses.  86

Hidden Bench Terrior Caché Meritage 2008 (505610, $35.20) displays that distinct Silurian charcoal and calciferous bedded limestone of the Beamsville terrior.  Right bank Merlot driven brawn and unusual yet effective Szechuan black bean and hoisin. Give this Niagara red a JJ from Good Times, kid do-lo-mite!  88

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Red Label Zinfandel 2009 (708289, $19.95) gobs sticky, blanched blackberry and petrol-scented Italianate metal. Foot stuck squarely on the pedal.  84

Gallo Family Frei Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (555607, $38.95) sports Coonawarra-like menthol and eucalyptus, along with vanilla bean and a sweet mulberry chalkiness. Pointed, poised, surprisingly resourceful and long.  89

Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (45476, $84.95) should borrow a page from the book of Nash, move on from the point and take on a GM position. Lush fruit on the wane, grip on the ball loosening. Can still pass with the best but no longer a scorer.  88-90

Majella The Musician Cabernet/Shiraz 2010 (142018, $19.95) the good egg is fine tuned and a classic example of the Coonawarra locale. “I can’t pretend there’s any meaning here or in the things I’m saying” but I can say this CS will cris-cross the tongue like a Nicky Hopkins finger roll.  88

Les Ormes De Pez 2008 (133819, $43.00) is tough as nails. Attacks the mouth and vacuums out all moisture. St-Estephe in a seersucker suit. Formidable tannins but perhaps not as ripe as will be needed when integration happens.  87-88

Bellaria Assunto Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (206854, $36.95) the cheep and cheerful Sangiovese Grosso is light and lithe for the appellation. Opaque purple but don’t be fooled by body or colour. Underlying firm and unforgiving backbone lurks in its shadows. Big potential.  88-90

Chapillon Cuvée Rémy 2007 (271114, $18.95) gets the nod for red IVR* wine of the release. A rare feat at this price out of Spain’s Priorat. Hue of bunsen burner blue. Sanguine Kirsch aroma mitigated by citrus. Teeth teeter on a tethered, tannic rope. Mullioned window to a fabled, Iberian land of vinous greatness.  89

Château La Tour De L’évêque Rosé 2010 (319392, $18.95) initiates a Strawberry response, of course. Subtle, faint pink tinge yet viscous, I could drink this by the bucketful. At once cloudy and then see through. “You thought that I would need a crystal ball to see right through the haze.” Could spot this one from a mile away.  88

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2011 (950576, $13.95) remains the best deal in southern French pink juice. Lacks the feminine complexity of the La Tour but succeeds as a rosé cocktail all on its own. Melons and berries on the sweet finish.  86

 

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-To-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Intrigue-To-Value Ratio

 

 

Good to go!