Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

The greatest wines are considered as the ones that talk to us, connect with that part of our being that elicits sensory and emotional responses, feelings of zeitgeist and great release. Throughout the course of a year I taste thousands in my glass, countless banal, innumerable competent, others correct and many exceptional. Then there are the rare and peerless capable of altering time and space, chosen ones that after listening we then speak directly to. The mind-blowing wines.

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

This is what I might say to such a splendid creature. “I look upon the flash of your sheen, you a wine of scientific strategies. Your aromatics sum up for me my educational studies in science and lifelong memories. Your flavours remind me of experiments in vinous physics, your textures of exercises in galactic mechanics. Your structure recalls infinite chemical reactions and architectural engineering. Your energy, though carefully controlled, threatens to ignite and destroy my laboratory and yet binds my existential life together. You blow my mind.

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

Last year’s 20 for 20 was a much different list than ever before. Only 25 days of travel and while I did finally make a return to global discovery that number was even less in 2021. Two trips to Italy and one to B.C. in October and November. Once again just 25 days in total. A yearly schedule usually adds up to 100-plus but fortune also shines on the critics of WineAlign. Through quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing we still managed to taste through thousands of wines. I recorded well and above 4,000 tasting notes in 2021 so it would appear that palate discovery is still alive and well. For the first time ever there are three dessert wines on the list because well, stickies just don’t get enough love. And never before have I included a Canadian wine because I pen a separate list for local but a Thomas Bachelder chardonnay is wholly deserving of going global. These are Godello’s 21 mind-blowing wines of 2021.

Berlucchi Riserva Familia Ziliana Franciacorta DOCG 2001, Lombardy

A blend of chardonnay and pinot nero matured on lees for 218 months and a further 31 months after disgorgement. Zero dosage, tirage in June 2002. Tasting from “the stolen bottle,” and one would swear there is some sweetness in this wine, offset by twenty year-old persistent and rising acidity. The state of grace and ability this 2001 finds itself sitting royally in is quite something to behold. Stands firm and can stride with most any 20 year-old sparkling wine. A simple fact tells us that Arturo Ziliani’s father Franco and Guido Berlucchi decided to create sparkling wines in Franciacorta. They are the pioneers. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Krug Vintage Brut Champagne 2002

The year 2002 dubbed as “ode to nature” marked the first Krug “vintage of the millennium” and was presented after Krug 2003, just as Krug 1988 left the cellars after Krug 1989. A clement year, relatively dry to make for a homogeneous harvest. The blend is 39 per cent pinot noir, (40) chardonnay and (21) pinot meunier. Disgorgement would have been in the autumn of 2015 after having spent at least 13 years in Krug’s cellars. All this tells us that the vintage is one treated to great respect with the acumen to age seemingly forever. This bottle shows some advancement but mostly in toasted and spiced notes while acting so expertly oxidative, in total control of its own and also our senses. Smells of orange skin, zesty and by citrus spray, then pickled ginger and wild fennel. Tasted blind it feels just exactly 20 years old but it’s not hard to be tricked into imagining even older. I admit to guessing 1995 with thanks to a presentation of at once wildly exotic and then exceptional bubbles. Just a matter of being hoked up with celebration. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Kabola Malvazija Amfora 2017, Istria, Croatia

Kabola’s is malvazija istarska raised in traditional clay amphorae in combination with oak barrels. Kabola is found in Buje, not far from the coast and south of Trieste. While the combination of clay and wood seem to confuse or blur the game there is something wholly credible and intriguing about this wonderful aromatic mess. You can not only smell and sense but more deeply intuit the phenolic qualities inherent in here. Skins, pips and even a bit of herbaceous stem. Peach and orange tisane, exotic spice and high, high quality lees. Great winemaking here in the context of leaving your grapes to do the work but both timing and execution are spot on. Raises the varietal bar and shows what’s possible. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted April 2021

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 1998, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia

A wine in which the switch has been flicked at least five times, at least three past the family’s preference but let’s be frank. This is a fascinating Friuli-Venezia-Giulia wine to taste. Oxidative in the most beautiful way, sapid and laden with 23 year-old tang. Very much a young adult of confidence and swagger borne out of phenolic fruit maturation. A long-hanging vintage, a note of botrytis, a late harvest sensation but truly salty, mineral and showing the biodiversity in clones and vineyards that one would expect a white blend of this ilk to display. Just a terrific example of friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco in their arena of characterful array. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Bachelder Grimsby Hillside “North Slope, Starry Skies” Chardonnay 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

New in the pantheon for Bachelder and Niagara wines as an entity is this from Grimsby Hillside, the new frontier, next level up and future for the industry. In fact the time is already upon these precocious vines and their fruit specially formulated for the most wound and cinched kind of chardonnay, so precipitously witnessed in Thomas Bachelder’s “North Slope, Starry Skies” 2019. The vineyard was planted to vitis labrusca and used for Kaddish wine through the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and just less than 20 years ago re-purposed to vinifera. Just two decades later winemakers like Thomas and Ilya Senchuk have discovered the magic of possibility and greatness of probability. Tasted this first in July with Thomas though it had just gone to bottle. Now the textural level of this GH-N triple-S has hitherto arrived at the immaculate, sweetly viscous, gleefully gelid and just right there at the apex of sensory enjoyment. Tight and delicious is a good combination. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted December 2021

Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Raats Family Wines Chenin Blanc Eden 2018, Stellenbosch, South Africa

A single vineyard chenin blanc and the first vintage to the Ontario market for a unique project celebrating the family farm called Eden. From their Stellenbosch ward of Polkadraai and high density plantings on dolomitic, granitic soils. Of a richness, an intensity of parts and a presence only a handful of South African blanc ever reach. A wine that achieves a level of status by its work underground (through root competition) and a clone called Montpellier that produces small berries and even smaller yields, not to mention the plot is just 0.6 hectares in size. Eden is the mothership and matriarch of this clone and for that variety in South Africa. All parts contribute to a wine of outrageous acidity that is never sharp, vivid or dominant. Fruit, mineral, focus, elements and precision. Wet stone is pure Polkadraai, vaporous, omnipresent, all over the wine. “The most successful winemakers (and wine projects) are ones that specialize,” says Bruwer Raats. This Eden follows the credo to a “T” and with a capital “E.” Really cerebral and also age-worthy chenin, in the upper echelon of the finest in the pantheon. If ever a chenin signified “Bringing it all Back Home,” the Raats Eden is it. “Discuss what’s real and what is not. It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted June 2021

With Sofia Ponzini and Vico

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso Vigna Vico Pre-Phylloxera 2018, DOC Etna

Just another immediately memorable Piano dei Daini Etna Rosso Vico, Sofia Ponzini’s Cru-Vigna nerello mascalese (with 10 per cent nerello cappuccio) at 700m from the northern side of Mount Etna. Grown as alberello on a volcanic, sandy matrix with some stones from 100-plus-plus pre-phylloxera vines located in the town of Passopisciaro, Contrada Santo Spirito, parcels “Belvedere,” “Seimigliaia” and “Calata degli Angeli.” A tempest of steel and a feeling that runs with waves of acidity throughout, in many parallel and horizontal lines, at all levels. Spice cupboard, rich waves of red fruit, viscous wisdom, confidential and confident elegance, finishing at precision without recall. True value, scattered patterning, significant and relevant. A vintage of force, restraint and powerful lightness of being. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2021

Domaine De Bellene Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Aux Chaignots 2019, AOC Bourgogne

The limestone soil Climat of Chaignots lies in the northern part of Nuits-Saint-Georges, up the slope and edging in location but also feeling towards that of Vosne-Romanée. The affinity is much discussed, real and therefore puts the Premier Cru at the top of what is most desired out of Nuits-Saint-Georges. A tiny (0.14 hectare) plot and simply a coup for Nicolas Potel to be able to secure this fruit. Everything about the aromatic front speaks to the Bourgogne mind and Chaignots heart. Cola but from the root, a tuber underground rubbed, that and a cocoa nut crushed between fingers. An almost diesel waft but not gaseous, instead sapid, nut-based, a liqueur toasted and intoxicating. The fineness of structure is the sort of wiry winding by winch that could cut through limbs due to tension so taut. All that you know, love, don’t know and hope to experience is in this wine. Neither I nor Nicolas Potel will be around when it blows someone’s mind in 2074. Look forward to that day young Alphonse. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted May 2021

Angela Fronti, Istine

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2019, Radda in Chianti, Tuscany

One must have to look at, walk this and stand in awe of of this vineyard, the steepness at 30-50 per cent grade with a terrace in the middle to break it up. Heavy in Alberese inclusive of massive yellow calcareous boulders and also Galestro. In fact the medium stones removed were transferred to create terraces for olive trees on the other side of the cantina (by Angela Fronti’s father no less). The vineyard faces north so the freshness is off the charts, while the ripeness is so matter of purposeful vintage fact. The label represents the position of the vines in coordinates, echoed in the machicolations of a Fronti sangiovese that drops all the Radda stones on unsuspecting palates through fruit openings between supporting acid corbels of a projecting tannic parapet. Vigna Istine is at the forefront of Chianti Classico’s battle to win over the world. Follow this example. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

“Molto parfumato,” binds an aromatic agreement between myself and Paolo de Marchi upon sniffing this ’11 found on Locanda Pietracupa’s wine list. “Cepparello needs time,” says Paolo, understatement of the obvious for the evening, year, decade and history with respect to sangiovese grown in the Chianti Classico territory. Also truth succinctly spoken, roses and violets exhaling and a 100 per cent varietal (or so it seems) profile of succulence and one to fully draw you in. Mint to conifers, multiplicity by complexity value, not to mention vigorous acidity sent straight to a mouth with a full compliment of wisdoms able to think about the situation. A linear Cepparello seeing its wide open window at the 10 year mark. And now a Paolo de Marchi story. “One side of the vine’s grapes were burnt and so I called up (Consorzio Direttore Giuseppe) Liberatore and asked are we changing the name of the appellation? Liberatore said what? To Chianti Amarone replied de Marchi, or sangiovese Port? Joking aside, a stringent selection and a five per cent inclusion of trebbiano did for this ’11 Cepparello what viognier might do for syrah. Not a Chianti Classico so perfectly kosher. A secret until now but all above board. Totally cool. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1999

The 1999 was the last (original) Riserva produced until it was again resurrected in 2011 and what’s so cool about this vintage is how it was held to some early esteem, though paling in comparison to that “vintage of the century” that was 1997. Underestimated over the last 20 years, drinking so beautifully now, with frutta di bosca, tertiary tartufo and fungi. Just doesn’t strike as a fully mature adult reminiscing about the way things used to be but more like a wine with an outlook for more promise, good times and adventures still ahead. If you are still holding onto ‘99s from this part of Toscana you will be very pleased. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2021

Filo di Seta is Filippo Chia’s intuitive “transavanguardia” sangiovese of place, over the ancient beach where he and his father Sandro once painted the Montalcino sea. Mostly early picked fruit, all in tonneaux, at first thinking “croccante” but that’s too simple a way to describe what texture and sensation is combed in this reserve wine. Bottled on the 29th of June so just arriving at the ready, to look at if not to consume. Here there is a fineness of liquid chalkiness, a “fluido” or “scorrevole” to drive the way this sangiovese plays and also sings, a Riserva to move with the wind and musical sway. Somewhat unknown, finely tannic and clearly what could and should be described as “mountain” Brunello. Coming in late is the spice, almost cinnamon and such. Hate to refer to any wine as the best from an estate but too bad. That this is, beyond the avant-garde such as it is. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted November 2021

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

The longevity of this vintage is almost not to be believed. Has been in bottle for as many years as it would have matured in casks. The next year (2022) will se the re-release of this vintage (in 2021 that vintage was 1983) and the year 1985 is the one I entered university. A Biondi-Santi of resolved tannin but remarkably youthful. A wine that saw Grandi Botti more than before, seen in the gentlest of spice notes and the back to the future return of balsamic and pomegranate. Followed a winter of major snowfall, long and cold winter, a regular spring and uneventful summer. The acidity is just incredible, also youthful and so sweet, those lengthened tannins in liquid powdery-chalky form. The connection with 2016 may seem to be an uncanny one but so help me if the chain is not there. The bottle was opened one hour and forty five minutes earlier so grazie to Federico Radi and Biondi-Sandi for perfecting the timing. We can all learn so much from this wine, to be patient, calm, well-adjusted, confident and gracious. Style and temperament to live by. Should continue this way for at least 10 more years. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979, Tuscany

A cooler vintage, especially as compared to 1978 and truly a Piedmontese style because the cellar workers closed the tanks, went on strike and returned two months later. Resulted in some carbonic maceration and surely an increased amount of vim in freshness. That mixed with true porcini, fungi and fennochiona. The extended maceration makes this act 43 years forward like an older nebbiolo, rich and once demanding tannins now long since melted away, tar and roses still showing with earthly perfume. Fabulous mouthfeel, lingering and lively. Surely the mean steak astringency would have been in control during the first 10 to 15 years but the beast relents and gives way to charm. Patience breeds gentility and the story is now unfolding. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

With Stefano Cesari, Brigaldara

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2016, Veneto

Stefano Cesari’s farm concerns itself with all things sustainable and while that may seem like a catch phrase, In Brigaldara’s case it most surely is not. The family supports its workers financially, culturally and in health. The young winemaking team is encouraged to study and stage abroad, to learn new oenological skills and languages. The other farm workers and their families are additionally supported by being given stake in the profits of the farm. How can this not reflect in the qualities of the wines, including this very special vintage 2016 Amarone. A magnificent wine and one you can easily drink beyond one glass. Not that it’s a light example but it speaks in soft tones, clearly and with a distinct, precise and honest weight, in vernacular and feeling. All things fruit lead to roads of sweet acidity and fine tannin. A rare Amarone of this ilk and one to savour. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted October 2021

Errázuriz Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2012, Aconcagua Valley, Chile

Don Maximiano 2012 is a blend of 75 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (12) carmenère, (8) petit verdot and (5) malbec. No cabernet franc back in 2012 and aside from the obvious notions ushered in by age there is a distinct lack of herbal notes as a result. This is just in a great place nearly nine years forward from vintage, now settling, acids still in charge but tannins having done most of their melting and rendering. This wine is far from done, in fact the next level notions have just begun to have their say and from a vintage as great as this there should very well be nine years nigh before true earthiness, umami and truffle set in. Pour this blind at dinners with old world counterparts and watch with awe as to the results. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Château Pétrus 1993, Pomerol, AC Bordeaux

Never easy to live in the shadow of siblings clearly designated as mom and dad’s favourites but sometimes overlooked vintages left for dead show greatness later on in life. The 1993 Pétrus is definitely a late bloomer and from a year when only 200 cases were produced, where normally 4,000-plus is the standard. Softened to an almost Burgundian sense of calm but the richness and concentration multiplied by a Spring verdant freshness and sweetly herbal pesto can only indicate one thing and that is Right Bank Bordeaux. I tasted this blind and immediately thought of Pomerol and its close proximity at the eastern border with Saint-Émilion because of the “fromage à pâte molle” feeling gained, along with vestiges of once formidable black fruit supported by a push-pull posit tug of merlot-cabernet franc acidity. A good hunch indeed and a more than surprising set of excellent parameters come to this for a 1993 Bordeaux. All in all a really satisfying and come together wine to hush the naysayers and win in the end. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle 1990, AC Hermitage, Rhône

Jaboulet’s 1990 La Chapelle is a kind of an echo of the year in history, an Hermitage of impeccable harmony, much like balance restored in relative peace and prosperity. In 1990 the Soviet Union fell, ending the decades-long Cold War. Hard to find more shiny opaque purple in a 30 year-old syrah plus a splendid floral nose of stone roses, pencil shavings and graphite. The combinative effect of heft and freshness elicit pleasantries from a bad boy able to play soft ballads to mellow a crowd. La Chapelle is a communicative, entertaining and business-like syrah, a link between the northern Rhône and the taster, an internet Hermitage that changes the way we think and feel. Things will never be the same after tasting Jaboulet’s 1990 and for good reason. Has 10 years left without worry of decline. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted November 2021

 

Reynvaan In The Hills Syrah 2017, Walla Walla Valley, Washington

Reynvaan is a family production of Rhône-style wines from two vineyard properties in the Walla Walla Valley. “In The Rocks” is their first vineyard located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon and the second vineyard is called “In the Hills.” short for “Foothills in the Sun.” It is found at the base of the Blue Mountains on the Washington/Oregon border and is planted to syrah, viognier and a gaggle of cabernet sauvignon rows. As one of the highest elevation vineyards in Washington (at 1200ft) and in this syrah co-fermented with up to 10 per cent syrah you might get a rendering of a northern Rhône-ish picture. Sure enough the perfume is floral but more than anything a smoulder of pancetta and smoked meat. Reductive as well, different as such than any syrah, anywhere else on the planet but liquid peppery and tire on asphalt nonetheless. The credibility and accountability here is profound and while the sheer concentration and beauty of In the Rocks in captivating, this In the Hills is alternatively vivid, dramatic and powerfully restrained syrah. Which one is you? Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2021

Sine Qua Non Syrah The Hated Hunter 2017, Santa Barbara County

The hated hunter is named after Austrian immigrant and Los Angeles restaurateur turned winemaker Manfred Krankl’s grandfather, depicted on the label in gear, with rifle and hound. The blend is led by 82.4 per cent syrah with (7.8) petite sirah, (5.2) mourvèdre, (2) grenache, (1.2) petit manseng and (1.4) viognier. Clocks in at 15.9 alcohol but in this regard hardly garners even one per cent of the discussion. All anyone can talk about is the infinite expanse of pretty, pretty floral capture and personally speaking it simply reeks of syrah. A game of meat juices and marbling, part smoked meat and part pancetta. The only question tasting blind is whether to imagine it as Hermitage or Central Coast California. Once the abv is disclosed the answer can only be the latter but a syrah of such reclusive exclusivity is hard to pin down. Derives from a group of prized vineyards; 32 per cent Eleven Confessions (Santa Rita Hills), (41) The Third Twin (Los Alamos), (25) Cumulus (Santa Barbara) and (2) Molly Aida (Tepusquet Canyon). Adds up to the most luxe, deluxe and ultra-fantastic instrumental of a syrah, no lyrics needed. Man, Manfred, take a bow. A hunting bow. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Fèlsina Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico DOCG 2018, Tuscany

An absolutely lovely vintage for Fèlsina’s Vin Santo and for Chianti Classico Vin Santo as a rule because extract, temperament and adaptability are all in collective balance. All that you want, need and expect from this traditional and loyal dessert wine are present and accounted for. Dried and glazed fruit, low and slow developed nuttiness and a freedom of territory spoken through airiness and layering. The upside cake of life turns over to reveal a generational wine of clear standards, perfect layering and endless conversation. Nonna and Nonno would be proud. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted June 2021

Agriturismo Hibiscus Zhabib Passito 2020, C.Da Tramontana, Sicily

From the island of Ustica in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 70 kilometres (36 nautical miles) of the coast of Sicily’s capital Palermo and the work of Margherita Longo and Vito Barbera. The vineyards for this zibibbo (moscato d’Alessandria) are grown very close to the water on volcanic soil and Hibiscus is the only winery game in town. There are other farmers that contribute grapes to this tiny production; also grillo, cataratto, inzolia to go along with the zibibbo that makes this Passito. A place where tomato, grapes and peached co-exist, in the gardens and in the wine. This carries that uncanny sweet to savoury feeling in the most specific and ethereal dessert wine both mind can conjure and emotion shall receive. Of orange, grapefruit, peach and tomato. Balanced, harmonious, silky, woollen and with a super-tonal capacity to love. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted October 2021

Taylor Fladgate Very Old Tawny Port – Kingsman Edition, Douro, Portugal

A bottle of wine is rarely tied to a film, let alone a Douro Port but Taylor’s Very Old Tawny has been blended and bottled to coincide and be product placed in the second Kingsman film, in this case a prequel to the first, this time set in the 1920s. Head Winemaker David Guimaraens chose reserve Tawnys from 70-100 years of age, wines crafted and set aside by generational predecessors past, no stretch for the master blender because we are talking about a house with extensive stocks from which to reach back into. Guimaraens was looking for harmonic balance between concentration and elegance and just a whiff will tell you he and his team have achieved a crossing between a magical vortex and a vanishing point of complexity. Two manifest matters have developed; concentration of sweetness and in this case by association, a focus of acids as well. Together they inspissate and cling comfortably to the skeletal structure. It feels like you are nosing 100 unique aromas, with just seven of them being marzipan, red velvet hazelnut cake, candied ginger rose, rau răm, roasting banana leaf, calimyrna fig and grilled pineapple express. Step six feet away from the glass and the aromatics persist just as sharp as if the glass were in hand. As for a sip of this maraviglioso Tawny, warmth, comfort, delicadeza and forever length make just an ounce last forever. Timeless. Approximately 1000 bottles were produced and in Canada 100 will be made available next September. That is when theatre goers should likely make a return to the cinema to take in the Secret Service spy thriller and Tawny Port fantasy up on the silver screen. Drink 2021-2050.  Tasted February 2021

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte vertical with Gambero Rosso’s 2022 white wine of the year

Livio Felluga Terre Alte Vertical – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

This tasting of one of Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s most knowable, respected and consistently worthy white wines is the second of three at Gambero Rosso’s three-day celebrazione weekend for the Guida Vini d’Italia 2022 top wines of Italy. The date is October 15, 2021 and the location inside the Chorus Cafè inside the Auditorium della Conciliazione. Terre Alte, literally “high lands,” obviously speaks to the hills in northeastern Italy but also to loftiness and something connected to a higher calling, as in an “atmosphere of spiritual tranquillity” which would attract an “increasing number of the faithful.” The friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco that make up Rosazzo Terre Alte are like the cells that bind an abbey together.

With Laura and Filippo Feluga

Related – Gambero Rosso’s red wine of the year leads a vertical tasting of Argiano’s Vigna del Suolo

Livio Felluga is located in Brazzano, near to the Abbazia di Rosazzo, in the Colli Orientali (eastern hills) of Friuli in an isolated area to the northeast of Manzano, around twenty kilometres from Udine and ten kilometres from the Slovenian border. The origins of the abbey are still not fully known (or at the very lest contentious), but it was built around the year 1000, in Romanesque style and is dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle. Tradition has it that the hermit Alemanno settled in the area in the year 800 to find peace of soul and construct an oratory and a cell. The number of cells increased such that the oratory became a monastery for which Canons Regular of Saint Augustine were called upon to head. In 1070 the church dedicated to Saint Peter was inaugurated. In 1090 the monastery of Rosazzo was elevated to the status of abbey and in the following year Augustinian rule was suppressed and replaced by Benedictine rule.

Laura and Filippo Felluga – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The family farms 160 hillside hectares in Collio Goriziano and Colli Orientali del Friuli. Now into the sixth generation of the family, third in the family wine business, though when it comes to the Fellugas, the word generational must be regarded in the abstract. Filippo Felluga is Laura’s uncle though they are not many years apart in age, as he was born when his father was 60. There is no actual generational shift or definitive changes of the guard in this family. No real age gaps make for a fluid situation. 

Filippo Feluga – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Laura Felluga’s grandfather and Filippo’s father Livio started from scratch after the Second World War, releasing the first vintage of his wine, bottled and labeled in 1956. He chose an ancient geological map (during Napoleonic times) as the image for the label. When asked about the adjustments needed and how Terre Alte has adapted over the years, Filippo answers by saying “the way we observe the climate change is with its unpredictability. With each passing year it’s harder to foresee what is going to happen.” In other words, the vines and the blend do so holistically, automatically, without any real human interference. Nature and a connection to place are what makes Terre Alte.

Laura Felluga – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The Livio Felluga vertical tasting includes 1996, 1998, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2014 and the White Wine of the Year Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte 2018. Once again it is Marco Sabellico of Gambero Rosso’s tasting team that leads the event. Grazie ancora for this opportunity goes out to Luigi (Gigi) Salerno (CEO/GM), Paolo Cuccia (President), Marco Sabellico and Gianni Fabrizio (Authors, Editors and Curators of Vini d’Italia guide), Tiina Eriksson (International Business & Event Manager), Lorenzo Ruggeri (Author and International Editor), Michela Ricotta, Giuseppe Carrus (Author and co-editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia guide) and Crystel Barkany. If it carries the name Felluga you can be sure the wines will age gracefully for 25 years. A great pleasure to taste this vertical. Grazie Filippo e Laura Felluga with the team at Gambero Rosso. These are the eight vintages and my tasting notes.

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 2018

A remarkable combination of salty and fresh, airy, part hillside and then winds blowing in, mainly from the northeast, through the wine. This combination of friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco carries a rare combination of light dancing upon sweeping feet and veritable oily richness. Hints at smoulder, flintiness and therefore adds up to complexity and fascination. The gentle linger is seemingly forever to tell us much about history, location and possibility. So soft spoken, not surprising considering the ease and what Filippo calls “the boredom” of the vintage. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 2014

Marl and sandstone, flesch and ponca soils, rainfall, winds and position within the Goriziano hills make for a complex weave of saltiness and flesh, here more of the former in a three-part harmonic blend of friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco. “Our area is a champion of diversity,” tells Laura Felluga, “geographically, economically and culturally.” This idea includes grape varieties, “and our mission is to nurture the stories, values and diversity.” And so a synergistic white blend that does all that, felt with sapidity and emotion. Lots of similarity with 2018, likely more than any two vintages. Incredible youth. A fountain. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Felluga round table – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 2011

An oily and textural vintage, surely fleshed out by time yet there’s more than just that. It just had to be ripe, bold and spicy from the beginning, golden sunshine filled, hued and expressive. You feel the aging here but not necessarily the flint and smoulder. Very friulano it would seem, less so pinot bianco though perhaps a little bit of faux botrytis involved, sensed by grapefruit and tropical fruit inherent. And so ultimately a sauvignon vintage in many respects. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted October 2021

Marco Sabellico – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 2010

Though only a year apart, 2010 and 2011 are night and day, just like that. The saltiness and sapidity are at the fore and though it is not without flesh, glück and Brazzano blood, the linear quality is what still drives the white blend. Thanks to or because of September rains, aromatic intensity, spiciness on the back palate and a singular style of charm draws you in, wraps around your finger and tongue, lays there for a good long time. Lively, savoury and far from done. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Livio Felluga Vertical – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 2006

While spiced to the hilt this is a blend showing its age but perhaps even more so the style of the early to mid-decade ways. Tiring now, oxidative, orange peel and anise, acidity still alive but the fruit wanes. Feels like the alcohol is elevated and as such there is some heat on the finish. Certainly a factor of August harvesting that really began starting in 2003. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 2001

It may just be the diversity of massal selection friulano that brings the plethora of character to the table and to express the complexity and culture of the area. The Felluga mantra is repeated. “We believe this is part of our duty, to nurture the diversity of the area.” A most unique vintage, clearly warm but other than spice and nuts there is no further distraction. Not by alcohol or density, nor undue viscosity neither. Shows a lemon brûlée to poached pear fruit character, mostly replaced by rendered spice and liqueur, with mild acidity and good balance. Drink 2021-2022.  Tasted October 2021

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 1998

A wine in which the switch has been flicked at least five times, at least three past the family’s preference but let’s be frank. This is a fascinating Friuli-Venezia-Giulia wine to taste. Oxidative in the most beautiful way, sapid and laden with 23 year-old tang. Very much a young adult of confidence and swagger borne out of phenolic fruit maturation. A long-hanging vintage, a note of botrytis, a late harvest sensation but truly salty, mineral and showing the biodiversity in clones and vineyards that one would expect a white blend of this ilk to display. Just a terrific example of friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco in their arena of characterful array. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 1996

Was Filippo’s first year in the cellar and at a time with very little wood, lots of bâtonnage and a wine that was kept “dirty” for an extended amount of time. An oily wine to be sure, no shock considering the age and the sauvignon character really stands out. Very citrus, lemon preserve, a touch of salt and some bitter phenolics. Leads to a special kind of character with this sort of botanical, gingered nuttiness at the finish. Freshness, smokiness and minerality at its 25 year-old finest. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted October 2021

Good to go!

godello

Livio Felluga Terre Alte Vertical – – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Collio sauvignon’s varietal independence 

Sentiero delle Vigne Alte, Cormòns

  1. An immersive week spent in the small Friuli-Venezia-Giulia outpost of Collio will change you, that much is true. With bags packed exactly two years ago this coming May two-four weekend, the projected alba of Venezia’s Marco Polo (VCE) by way of Copenhagen (and one of the finest six AM coffees in any airport anywhere) lay near the final destination. A transfer to Gradisca d’Isonzo where Hotel Franz as consummate host is played in culmination of the outward bound leg, there to settle in for a week of northeast Italian white wine heaven. My report upon return to an unconcerned June in Ontario paid verbal and pictorial visit to Enjoy Collio Experience 2019 under the title Varietal artistry of Collio Bianco DOC. The primary takeaway concerned “wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.” Fast forward two years and the time has now come to remember DOC Collio Sauvignon. 

I’m in a Rialto state of mind

Sauvignon, varietal wines of a unique and possessive Collio take, assimilation and capture of the world’s eighth most planted grape. In the white wine realm sauvignon blanc is the third most cultivated, trailing only the great and omnipresent ubiquity of chardonnay and La Mancha Brandy supplier airén. In New Zealand the grape uses up in and around 60 per cent vineyard space and worldwide occupies more than 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres). In Collio the blanc is omitted and the commitment to brevity allows for their prized and undemocratic sauvignon to co-exist in a über particular vacuum occupied by friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. These Gorizia Hills so proximate to Slovenia and the Adriatic coast make for whites of the highly aromatic ilk, “unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock.” These thoughts and claims do justice to sauvignon with both equal and in relation to the aforementioned coveted grapes, opposing justice.

Considerations about tasting sauvignon are tempered because one is always tempted to make comparisons. We probably have our own models and it is natural to pigeonhole them so in terms of Collio we need to create a new one, of a new benchmark and one for our own memories. “The biggest variable is site,” told Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild, a consideration in astute support of his earlier prelude for Collio Bianco when he said “go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes.” Somewhere in the mechanism of Collio sauvignon there is a device that simulates the gestalt of a storm. A switch, however personal, that reacts to and perhaps assimilates after tasting to find oneself stunned, as if spun in that vacuum that forms in the immediate wake of an historic turn. Or in this case, a varietal one.

Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli

Enjoy Collio Experience concerns the development of Collio through different experiences; unique, particular and special, which can be done in the territory, in the vineyard, in the cellars and with the producers. Each producer can express themselves by proposing experiences conceived and created for opinion makers (trade journalists, sommeliers, operators, buyers) presenting the uniqueness of their (history, winemaking model, etc.), cellars and of the whole territory. The development of the territory is shared through the Enjoy Collio program, enriched with initiatives and events, some in partnership with local associations and organizations. Tasting experiences happen at Livon, Pascolo, Ronco Blanchis, Caronesca & Zorutti, Gradis’Ciutta and Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore.

Related – Vertical tasting of Pinot Bianco at Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore

Gardens of the Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli

A Picnic Collio Experience at Rocca di Monte Quarin in Cormòns in the beauty of the sunset is not to be missed. Enveloped by the atmosphere of the sun that goes down over the hills, tasting the local wines and the traditional products in a unique setting. With the musical touch of Circolo Controtempo and in collaboration with the Municipality of Cormons. Dinner at at Baronesse Tacco, San Floriano del Collio in one of the most exclusive locations of the Collio, the wines of the producers and a menu created for the occasion by Michelin-starred chef Daniele Repetti in an informal, fresh and fun setting. Music by DJ Caplan’s. Then there is dinner with chef Antonia Klugmann at Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli. There are places that alone express the deep historical and human value of a territory. The Spessa Castle is one of those places and Collio is that territory. Chef Klugmann’s plates allow those present to play with the different flavours and nuances of the specialities and wines. It’s much more than a dinner.

Chef Antonia Klugmann at Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli

A walk through Sentiero delle Vigne Alte, Cormòns, to discover the territory, enjoying the value of a leisurely stroll. In the most suggestive view points of the route, the stories of Matteo Bellotto offer an authentic interpretation of the history, the nature of the Collio and its wines.

Chef Daniele Repetti’s Ravioli di Montasio, brodo d’Asparagi e perle d’ortraggi

One of the most beautiful and suggestive walks that overlook the Gulf of Trieste is surely one not to be missed, above the sea, connecting Sistiana to Duino. The path is named after the poet R.M. Rilke, a guest at the Castle of Duino at the beginning of the last century, as Dante had done before him, composed his famous “Duino Elegies” here. At the end of the walk you will reach the immediate vicinity of the Castle of Duino, a historic residence of the princes of Torre and Tasso.

Café in Piazza Unità, Triete

Coffee in Piazza Unità d’Italia, the living room of Trieste, largest square open to the sea in Europe. Here the whole city life pulsates, enclosed in a square with the most important buildings and those which made the city great: the liberty style of the Government building, the Assicurazioni Generali and Lloyd Triestino pillars of the Emporio and, built last, the Town Hall building.

In May 2019 these 33 examples of Sauvignon Collio DOC were poured with nine neighbourhoods at their collective source; Brazzano Di Cormòns, Capriva Del Friuli, Cormòns, Dolegna Del Collio, Farra d’Isonzo, Gorizia, Mossa, Oslavia and San Floriano del Collio. You see, site does matter and these notes may just reveal what each might offer, stimulate and add to to the sauvignon story.

Ascevi Luwa Sauvignon Ronco Dei Sassi 2017, San Floriano Del Collio, Collio DOC

Another great and thriving sauvignon, this here from San Floriano del Collio, spirited and alive though also rich and fleshy. Lots of citrus with peach and white flower blossom. Good acidity and sapidity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Blazic Sauvignon 2018, Cormòns, Collio DOC

Green and reductive together, like green coffee and whole lot of green pepper. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Bolzicco Sauvignon 2017, Cormòns, Collio DOC

The first example to gift some capsicum, this from Cormòns is an aromatic stunner, with fruit, vegetal and salumi skin notes. It’s quite grassy, verdant and spiced though truth be told it’s also lean and direct. Taut and terse style with personality and intensity. Improves and fleshes a bit so due credit is given. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Caccese Sauvignon 2017, Cormòns, Collio DOC

Simple, unassuming and quiet aromatics. Equally simple, fruity and low toned notes to taste. Flat without fat and kind of monotone to baritone mild ambience. A touch of wood influence makes for some creamy substance. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Ca’Ronesca Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Simultaneously herbal and salty from the northwest of Collio, with more lime than many and than the melon notes so prevalent from Dolegno. This has gelid texture and length to support that cooling feeling. A very composed white wine with no sharp edges, capsicum bites or peppery jolts. Very smooth. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Casa Delle Rose Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Quieter nose, still cool, smooth and refreshing. Herbal and tart, tangy, sapid and long. A clear, honest, clean and composed sauvignon. Simple and notable for this. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Castello Di Spessa Sauvignon Segrè 2018, Capriva Del Friuli, Collio DOC

From a warmer site facing the sea, this example is herbal, humid and yet quite clean. Quite a lot of energy and spirit to taste with lemon/lime flavours and plenty of persistence. Both lean and crunchy at the same time. Finishes with a sense of orange juice and lingers quite long. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Colmello Di Grotta Sauvignon 2017, Farra d’Isonzo, Collio DOC

More herbology here to be sure, sweet pesto, no nuts, bolts or mineral screws. Rich and fat to taste with a minor note of sapidity beneath acidity. Accomplished and straightforward. Not the one to age though who knows. I and we have all been wrong before. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baronesse Tacco, San Floriano del Collio

Colle Duga Sauvignon 2018, Cormòns, Collio DOC

The commune of Cormòns is larger and broader so there’s a more wide-ranging, unilateral softness to this varietal wine, with a touch of faux-sugary, almost exotic aromatics. Acidity is less than true and the sugary sensations repeat. Less cane s and more whiteness sprinkled and melting over humid orchard fruit, if you were to taste such a thing. Lacking sauvignon character here. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Drius Mauro Sauvignon Cormòns 2017, Collio DOC

Back to complexity with this wide ranging aromatic layering from Cormòns. All is present on the nose; herbs, melon, pear, savour and the first true hints of gariga/brushy hillside plants. Continues with true richness and texture on the palate, high level sapidity and a Sancerre-ness that while comparisons are fruitless, it does give some quality context. Lemon verbena and lime with spirit go long and true. Lovely wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Ferruccio Sgubin Sauvignon 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Rich and prominent proboscis, sapid and layered, multi-faceted and soliciting curiosity all the way through to temptation. Continues into the palate through an absorption of trace minerals, elements and intentions. You are led to believe that this site is different and special, then ultimately farmed and sauvignon made by an intuitive pair of Collio hands. True focus and precision here with the possibilities thought about in terms of aging. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Fiegl Sauvignon 2018, Oslavia, Collio DOC

Another great and thriving sauvignon, this here from Oslavia, spirited and alive. Lots going on with the aromatic profile and there is simply no let down on the palate. A vineyard effected by La Bora, the wind that can blow down the traffic lights. A ventilated place with lean, stony soils to make for a very particularly varietal wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon 2017, San Floriano Del Collio, Capriva Del Friuli, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Quite pulsing and fresh here for 2017 with what seems like some residual CO2, like older school Vinho Verde in a way. It’s herbal and lemony and commercial. Not so hard to understand. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Humar Sauvignon 2018, San Floriano Del Collio, Collio DOC

The most pungent one yet, with capsicum, tobacco and hemp all over the nose. Vivid as it gets for sauvignon from Collio. Only this one makes one think of San Antonio in Chile. From mid-slope and younger vines. Fresh and rich as it gets. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Komjanc Alessio Sauvignon 2017, San Floriano Del Collio, Collio DOC

As per the excitement of aromatics from San Floriano del Collio this too jumps from the glass though easier to assimilate and comprehend because the capsicum is set to a much lower threshold. Impressive extract and grape spirit to taste and feel the flits and spurts about the mouth. This is fun, moving and balanced sauvignon with purity and purposed intensity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Kurtin Sauvignon 2017, Cormòns, Collio DOC

Simple, salty, linear, fine undefined citrus sauvignon, thirst quenching and long. Not much herbal savour or rich melon meets vegetal flavours but it will work well on a hot day. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

La Ginestra Sauvignon 2017, Mossa, Collio DOC

Faux sugary nose in serious richness from this warm vintage Mossa sauvignon blanc. Some verdant notes but also a bit of chèvre and guava. Curious wine here though also a bit reserved spirit wise. Quite spirited palate, however, citrus and linearity. Tart, tang and direct. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

La Ponca Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Really herbal, especially for Dolegno so it would seem the site delivers less sapidity and more pesto. In some ways this is the one that does have a reference point, like Touraine, especially. Simple and effective sauvignon. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

La Rajade Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Deeper still, more extraction and what seems like maceration, even a bit of skin time. There’s a vegetal/fruit/salumi skin earthiness to the aromatics, even a touch of allium and potpourri. Quite the complex entry which solicits both curiosity and trepidation. The palate fulfills some expectations, notably the preserved lemon idea but not so much in terms of crunchy saltiness developed by sapidity. This is really close to being top notch. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Livon Sauvignon 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Cooler, savoury and salty sauvignon from the northwest corner of the territory. Lime sorbet and dissolving citrus tablet. High acidity and while simple, strikes as could only be an example of Collio. Lean and linear. There’s really no other reference point. That’s that about that. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Marco Felluga Sauvignon Villa Russiz 2017, Capriva Del Friuli, Collio DOC

The warmth is felt again from a place where ripening comes easier and so that generosity of fruit and spirit comes with a quick burst to nose. Faux sugary and rich that keeps coming in waves on the palate. Fruit sweet and nearly like as from a tin so ultimately singular in dimension. That said it’s quite ripe with apricot, namely, of note. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Riserva Sauvignon Blanc Capriva Del Friuli 2013, Collio DOC

Increased interest now with more mineral-salty-metallic pushes on the nose mixed with citrus spirit and a fineness not often noted. Taut and rich at the same time, their is focus, presence and length here, admirable and nearly exciting. Delicious sauvignon that should age quite well. Proves that it’s a wine that comes out in time. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Marco Scolaris Sauvignon 2018, Collio DOC

Herbal and verdant sauvignon without a doubt, very reminiscent of Touraine and filled with lime. There’s a bit of an earthy, nearly microbial note that distracts, followed by dissolving citrus and salts. Very salty wine. Négociant wine, not from a single estate. Quality wine while not site specific. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Muzic Sauvignon Collio DOC Valeris San Floriano Del Collio 2018, Collio DOC

Perhaps the most curious aromatics thus far, here from San Floriano del Collio and a smell that’s so much more floral than the previous 20+ examples. Rich to the point of luxurious as well, with more substance and flesh than most. Sweetness of fruit, spice and accumulation. This should find its way to age for a half decade or more. From really old vineyards (perhaps up to 80 years) and at the highest of elevations. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Pascolo Sauvignon 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Same northwest location and similar saline locution though up another notch in texture and stage presence. Greener in a fresh verdant way, very fresh in Spring, morning dew and a bit of gelée. Melon flavour and quick to the juicy point. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Pascolo Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Really herbal again, pesto with a nuttiness included so truly pesto in style. Fine salinity, acidity and sapidity with green apple, lime and melon notes. Quite amenable though would have been better six months ago, meaning fresher, but it is still drinking quite well. Just a touch of residual sugar is felt on the finish. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Primosic Sauvignon Gmajne 2017, Oslavia, Collio DOC

Oslavia in the northeastern corner of Collio is a ventilated place of wind and so there is a particular freshness in this sauvignon blanc. The energy and drive here is quite impressive, with a ripe fleshy exterior pushed forward by sapidity and salinity. Lots of pulse and layering here. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Ronco Blanchis Sauvignon 2016, Mossa, Collio DOC

From the bottom of the Collio amphitheatre in Mossa where the woods are prevalent around the vineyards. There may be a touch of botrytis here, then again there may be not. Sweet basil, herbal pesto and sweet cheese notes. Lovely citrus, melon and yellow fruit flavours but also like salt sprinkled over green mango. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Schiopetto Sauvignon 2017, Capriva Del Friuli, Collio DOC

Quite gregarious is this sauvignon, from warmth and a marine proximate site. Salty and tart, tangy and sea crunchy. Lingers long and is another example of the big fleshy wines of the place. Benchmark really. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Borgo Conventi Sauvignon 2018, Mossa And Gorizia, Collio DOC

Mossa and Gorizia sites combine for a layered sauvignon effect and in this case it’s quite the citrus tablet dissolution. Feels lean as a result, as if the layers don’t quite mesh and the lack of substance is noted. That said it’s tart and fresh so perfectly serviceable. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Villanova Sauvignon 2015, Farra d’Isonzo, Collio DOC

Age apparent with immediate oxidation and bruised apple fruit straight off the top. Not much better on the palate though there still is some good acidity. If it were five years older it may have more interest and appeal. No real lingering varietal interest per se. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Venica Sauvignon Ronco Delle Mele 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Cuts the twain with one part northwest locale savour meeting sapidity and then fleshy, melon meets avocado verdancy. Much more palate presence in terms of vivid vivacity and acidity. Best of two worlds coming together for a gathered and layered effect. Best length of the three thus far. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Zorzon Sauvignon 2018, Brazzano Di Cormòns, Collio DOC

From a specific corner of the larger commune Cormòns, there’s a lemon verbena meets lime zest nose and also the smell of tonic. Tones are low but surely interesting and the sauvignon makes the journey up and down the sides of your mouth for full effect. A bit tangy and faux sugary so perhaps just a note of botrytis though all in all it’s quite amenable stuff. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go,

Godello

Sentiero delle Vigne Alte, Cormòns

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Varietal artistry of Collio Bianco

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

If the wines of Collio are to be described and more specifically if we are to look at the white blends collectively known as Collio Bianco DOC, this is what we see. Collio Bianco are wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.

Enjoy Collio Experience 2019

I visited in late spring as days warmed and nights still played it cool. Collio sits one kilometre from the Adriatic coast and also Slovenia so it’s no wonder that its white wines are highly aromatic and unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock to give them their distinct personality. They are to be paid great attention. I for one have made new space for them.

Collio is in fact one of Europe’s most fascinating wine regions, a white wine specialist located in the Gorizia Hills of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The amphitheatre of Collio vineyards follow a line along the western border of Slovenia in the northeastern corner of Italy. It is here where centuries of a mélange of multicultural histories meet in a venn diagram of multifarious Italian, Slovenian and Austro-Hungarian mythology. For introspective, historical and prospective perspective one only needs to walk the vineyards with the area’s director of connectivity, the one, the only Matteo Bellotto.

Matteo Bellotto

My trip to Collio in the last days of May was indeed an experience of territory, vineyard, cellar and people. Though the autochthonous varietal triumvirate of ribolla gialla, friulano and malvasia are the bones of Collio’s body politic, international grape varieties like pinot bianco, sauvignon and chardonnay add much to act as representatives of the heart, head, mind, body and soul of the producers. Ultimately it is the Collio Bianco that have emerged as front runners for spokes-wines of the place. The appellative white blends unite and really tie the territorial room together.

Collio Bianco

Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild speaks to a group of foreign journalists during what is the culmination of the wettest month of May since 1973. He is THE master Collio educator.

Collio Bianco is both business card and calligram, a Field Blend that speaks to the idea of co-fermented grapes, working together, for complexity and the possibility of aging, like the music and the story of the area. “Go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes,” tells Richard Baudains. Cuvées or field blends can fall within the DOC, or not. There are a total of 1,500 ha planted, as opposed to 1,700 in Soave and 1,900 in Macon and a production of 6.5 million bottles, as opposed to 10 in Soave. This is an indication to lower yields and significantly so. In fact it represents 11 per cent of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and three per cent of total Italian production. There are 16 DOC mono-varietals and two DOC blends. More than 95 per cent are white wines, made by 350 growers, 180 bottlers and one cooperative on an average 4.0 ha of planted space. The lead is pinot grigio at 26 per cent, followed by sauvignon (19) and friulano (15). The latter endemic grape declined dramatically and was in fact at 50 per cent just a couple of decades ago. The rest include ribolla gialla (7.5), chardonnay (9), pinot bianco (4) and malvasia (2.5).

In 1966 the English author and journalist Cyril Ray remarked upon the pre-DOC “white wine made from a mixture of Tocai Friulano, German and Italian Rieslings, and a number of other varieties grown in the hills that encircle Gorizia.” The DOC was then created in 1968 with the suggestion to “drink young when it has a fresh taste and floral bouquet.” A vino contadino. In 1968 the numbers were more like ribolla gialla (45-55 per cent), malvasia istriana (20-30) and tocai friulano (25). Wines of “pale straw, neutral aroma, lightly sparkling, not for ageing, alcohol around 11 per cent.” Whereas all the mono-varietals came in at 12-13 per cent. So the concentration at the time was on indeed on mono-varietals, eventually leading to the evolution of the Bianco in the 1990s.

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore

A proposal was made by then Consorzio President Marco Felluga, the idea being that Collio Bianco shouldn’t be the second or even last wine but rather the flagship of the estate. The most representative wine, top of the quality pyramid and to condense the total number of wines made in the area. He had to liberalize the blend, by taking away all restrictions. A carte blanche stylistic. Your best grapes go into the Bianco.

Wine villages in Collio form a half-moon shape around Slovenia though with not a lot of variety in the soils. Climate is highly variable however and if a line is drawn from east to west you go from warmer to cooler. Chardonnay and sauvignon are grown to the west, ribolla gialla to the east. The overall territory encourages for a connectivity that allows for producing blends. Aromatic grapes defined; including traminer and muller thurgau, “The whole is more important than the sum of the parts,” is what Marco Felluga thought. “These are wines that will keep because they maintain their freshness and won’t oxidize. The question is this. Are they long aging whites worth keeping and will they develop interesting tertiary aromas?”

The following Collio Bianco DOC were tasted blind.

Autochthonous Blends

Livon Collio Bianco DOC Solarco 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A blend of autochthonous varieties friulano and ribolla gialla, herbal, sweetly so and also dissolving lime tablet. Noses like white wine brought up in concrete with a wet stone character though somewhat grey and dullish. Simply rendered, fresh, quiet and quick. Improves with time and develops increased and variegated citrus notes. And he shall be Livon. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Terre Del Faet Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Gathers friulano and malvasia and if at first seems just a touch musty the lingering turns to dissipating, more than enough to move forward. Also a wet concrete nose and then more expressive on the palate with white peach juicy flavour and a bit of lime. Good persistence and fresh as required. Well-shouldered, spalla as they say and certainly necessary to elevate the Bianco ideal. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Keber Collio Bianco DOC Edi 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The mix is friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla from stalwart producer Keber and a completely different stylistic. More extraction and if not a longer skin-contact time, at least a higher percentage of a grape variety that adds hue and flesh. A bit reductive with an uva-sulphury note and then again, more expressive on the palate. Perhaps a bit of wood here so a disjointed wine in youth, plus this petrol natural sensation in the oxymoronic way it just seems to want to be. I’d say the winemaker is perfectly happy with the result. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Muzic Collio Bianco DOC Stare Brajde 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Made from friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. Even just a year has aged this Bianco with some oxidative advancement, off of a warmer set of sites and one particular variety involved that moves forward quicker. Barrel certainly a catalyst, so malolactic too and all tolled acting like chardonnay, or a blend involving an endemic variety when subjected to barrel that turns out like chardonnay in that it acts this way. Terpenes in an apple motive, moving along pretty quick. Drink up. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Baroni Del Mestri Collio Bianco DOC Monte Quarin 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Lovely combinations here from the holy Collio triumvirate of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla, of white flowers and sweet herbs, advancement and next level complexities. Brings together flowers and petrol, likely an aromatic variety mixed with one that has its own fruit flesh and then something with shoulders. Broad and punchy, with good acidity though not aggressively so. White pepper and a pinch of salt so properly seasoned. Like grüner or better yet gemischten satz, revivalist, so very interesting, of grasso, ciccia and glycerine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019\

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Autochthonous plus International Blends

Gradis’ciutta Collio Bianco Riserva DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The traditional triad of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla are here in a good advancement for a blend that has aged the way and in the timing it should. Quite gaseous and preserved lemon, plus aromatics that indicate potpourri. Certainly seen some time in barrel and gone through at least a partial level of malolactic. White caramel, vanilla and more lemon though mild acidity and in then end, a touch pine resinous, mild tonic, pith and bitters. All the while an effect created by 24 months of Riserva-level aging. Essentially a lone wolf of a Collio. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Cociancig Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A mix of endemic and expatriate varieties, of friulano, pinot grigio, sauvignon and traminer. Intensely fresh and fruit punchy, florals and fruit pectin up front and nigh gregarious. The presence of something gooseberry-passion fruit unctuous is very sauvignon blanc mixed with a lemon gelée sweetness that indicates malvasia mixed with pinot grigio. Very fresh and drinkable wine. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019

Colle Duga Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Somewhat aromatically reserved or at least demurred, a touch of apple terpene and herbs in the basil world. A mix of friulano, malvasia, chardonnay and sauvignon that acts quite grigio and/or bianco by notation, ubiquitous, easy and properly dressed with grain acidity. Not overtly complicated or complex. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Raccaro Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The four-poster then and now gathering ying-yangs between friulano, sauvignon, ribolla gialla and pinot grigi. Reserved but indicative of something serious. Stone fruit on the nose with a minor addendum by mandarin though not overtly fruit sweet. A touch of petrol-alcohol but no advancement, just not fresh and spirited out of the gate. Great palate presence, fleshy and broad, unctuous and quite forward in mouthfeel clarity. Lingers and fleshes as it goes. This could get very interesting with a few years of age. A solid combination of richness and age. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Renato Keber Collio Bianco DOC Beli Grici 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

A blend of autochtonous plus international grape varieties that includes friulano, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, ribolla gialla and sauvignon. My how things have changed in this aromatic ham. Lemon in every respect, squeezed, preserved and baking with hocks. Both earthy and candle-waxy. Uncanny note of beeswax really points to extended skin contact mixed with wood-aged Riserva character. Then a gas note mixed with grasso and glück on the palate and high acidity. This might be construed as a train wreck to some and still an amazing revelation for others. A wine that separates camps and instigates prejudices. Depth to be sure though wood is just a bit intrusive with or without enough terroir to back up the ambition. In a way reminds me of some alvarinho in the Minho. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Korsic Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Combines friulano and ribolla gialla with chardonnay. Solid if certainly unassuming and zero risk taking production. Juicy and tart, fruity and ultra clean. Really travels the apple to pear to white peach spectrum on repeat and in replay. Hue, aroma, taste and bones are all cut from the same cloth. In thats sense it’s perfectly balanced, amenable and fine. Poster child and ambassador for the DOC. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Bracco Collio Bianco DOC La Mont Brach 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The local friulano amd malvasia take on sauvignon with a slightly reserved nose and that’s seemingly unusual when you consider it is 2016 and has had time to come about. Terpenes and sweet herbs do emerge, along with a scrape of orange zest and then a gaseous note. Nicely complex within reason and seasoned with just a pinch of salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Pretty wine, field blend rich and exemplary. Very Collio. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Collavini Collio Bianco DOC Broy 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Really pretty wine this modern combination of friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon, not so much aromatically floral but just enough to speak to elegance and balance. Some orchard fruit still quite fresh, with a high level of flesh, extract and unction. Almost crunchy and wealth simple in blended white wine defined. There may be a minor level of wood aging here. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Di Angoris Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Giulio Locatelli 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The blend is friulano, malvasia and sauvignon.A chewy, fleshy and broad shouldered Bianco with all the expected and necessary components present and then some. Highly focused and accomplished white blend, full of white flowers, mild seasonings, orchard and stone fruit, pectin, glycerin, grasso and acidity. It’s all here, clean, simple and straightforward. That said it’s certainly more on the perfectly understandable and less on the risk assessment, task-taking spectrum. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Russiz Superiore Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Col Disore 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The Felluga friulano, pinot bianco, sauvignon and ribolla gialla show an advancement because of the notable petrol immediacy crossed with more than obvious barrel addendum. A malolactic creaminess pervades and yet good acidity gives it drive and ambition. Vanilla and spice, sweetness and tinned fruit. A well made wine in the force a square peg into a round whole kind of way. Finishes with some resinous notes, in pine and eucalyptus. More cellar blend than field in execution. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Agnul 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Agnul from friulano, pinot bianco and sauvignon is lifted by this herbal, minty, orange scrape expressive nose. Rich, wood-influenced unctuous palate with mild acidity and definite character so rich, pork belly fatty and rendered. Good grape spirit and extract. Proper for the style, pungent and leaning to sauvignon blanc. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco DOC Studio Di Bianco 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

A different mix, of friulano, riesling and sauvignon. One of the more curious and complex aromatic profiles thus far. Perfunctory herbs and citrus rolls into perfectly sweet and and savoury profits, from chou pastry to profiterole. Gastronomic Collio blend at its best, with florals and gasses, fruit and acidity. Proper, focused, flinty, salty and fine. Will age with the best of them. Jumpy, spicy, gassy and in the riesling vein. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ronco Blanchis Collio Bianco DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Four grape varieties contribute here, friulano, malvasia, sauvignon and chardonnay. Terpenes and metals meet dried herbs and alloys. Lemon and lime but more preserved than fresh. These grapes do Collio like riesling, traminer and pinot bianco do elsewhere. Strangely reminds more of Alsace than anything else. A bit sweet to near cloying as it accumulates to the honeyed, sweet tart finish. Seems there is some botrytis here though there is no residual sugar to speak of. Drink 2019.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Venica Collio Bianco DOC Tre Vignis 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Three vines, friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon from which a little bit of age goes a long way as witnessed by this richly hued, gregariously aromatic and notably metallic Bianco. It’s all here in this ambitious and gregarious example. Plenty of orchard fruit, wood-induced texture and an overall creamy impression that suggest a whole lot of battonage. Vanilla, crème frâiche and almond paste. Rich, rich blend. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ca’Ronesca Collio Bianco DOC Marnà 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Only pinot bianco and malvasia. Metallic in the way of aromatic grapes like riesling and yet there’s also an herbal quality. Quite verdant actually, a pesto, a green goddess dressing and a blanch of legumes. Really fine acidity keeps everything lit and elevated. Quite fresh for 2015 and with impressive length. Not overtly fleshy and the extract is dry, not unctuous. Might just develop some salted honey or caramel in a year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

La Rajade Collio Bianco DOC Caprizi 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The three varieties are malvasia, friulano and chardonnay in quite a developed white blend, in every respect, hue, flesh and structure. Deeply golden, some botrytis affectation and a floral-spicy spectrum breached. Apple custard, metals and all sorts of elemental activity, from pyrazines to thiols. Almost fresh, somewhat famous. In the end freshness without acidity. Curious. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Marco Felluga Collio Bianco DOC Molamatta 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The binding pinot bianco gets in between friulano and ribolla gialla in this blend of curiously reserved aromatics, especially for a twenty fifteen. Sweetly herbal though faintly so. Composed, confident, stoic and sure of a slow evolving self. A Bianco for bianco sake, as if pinot is elevated and the international addendum is just not that important, i.e. bianco without overtly necessary barrel time. The palate tells a different story and so the richness and ambition comes out. Tart, tangy and creamy, long and metal fine. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The blend in 2015 is the ideal autochthonous plus international mix, with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay and ribolla gialla. Rich, juicy and complex, with full fruit compliment, extraction and heft. Orchards of every respect offer layers and layers of fruit substance and unction. Moment’s notices of salt and surety add to the layers of pure fruit. Nectarines are part of the mix. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2013, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Poured from magnum with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay, and ribolla gialla. A metallic aromatic blend, namely friulano like, with glycerin, paraffin and now, a honeyed back half. Quite a special accumulation and a speciality of the whole Collio experience. Great spice on the tongue here, piqued and peppery, special in so many ways. Some botrytis like notation but the wood involved is either beautifully integrated or wasn’t that substantial in the first place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2017

Go Time @GoldMedalPlates Toronto #gmp2017

It was my fourth Gold Medal Plates Toronto as wine judge, culinary taster and olympic athlete groupie. In 2014 WineAlign partner, colleague, mentor and friend David Lawrason invited me to join the festivities and help decide which three wines should be crowned Gold, Silver and Bronze. Two weeks ago a panel of Ontario wine experts tasted, assessed, debated, deliberated and ultimately decided this year’s top three. David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Michael Vaughan, Margaret Swaine and Godello. The winner ran away from the pack but two through six were separated by one point increments. It was a photo finish for Silver and Bronze.

The 2017 Toronto event featured emcee Scott Russell of the CBC’s Olympic coverage. Russell was joined by dozens of Olympic medallists and future hopefuls. Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy led the on-stage entertainment; Anne Lindsay, Danny Michel, Jeremy Fisher, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley. The inimitable and eloquent James Chatto was once again at the head and the heart of the culinary judging panel with seats occupied by an illustrious five; Sasha Chapman, Anita Stewart,  Christine Cushing, Amy Rosen and Chef John Higgins.

Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2014

For a little bit of GMP history please click on this post I penned after that 2014 gala event. The culinary winners then were Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2014 bronze, gold and silver medal winning chefs Damon Campbell, John Horne and Jason Bangerter. The top three wines were Norman Hardie‘s Niagara Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011, Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2012 and Creekside Estate‘s Iconoclast Syrah 2012. But what about 2017? My top seven in no particular order were Flat Rock Cellars Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard 2016, Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2014, Charles Baker Riesling B-Side 2016, Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Brut Rosé, Stratus White 2013, Leaning Post Chardonnay ‘The Fifty’ 2015 and Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road 2013. The actual medalists are listed below in David’s report.

National Wine Advisor David Lawrason’s Wine and Spirits Report

Nadja’s Tops a Bounty of Great Whites in Toronto

“The Gold Medal Plates campaign came to a booming 800-person conclusion at Toronto Convention Centre on November 16, and it included the largest selection of wines seen in any stop on the ten-city national tour.  We judged 26 donated wines, beers, spirits and even a lavender mead, but it was a core of great Canadian white wines that caused the most excitement, and produced the winner of the evening.

The “Best of Show” Gold Medal went, by a very clear margin, to Flat Rock Cellars 2016 Nadja’s Riesling, from a single block of maturing vines in Niagara’s Twenty Mile Bench appellation. I was personally stunned by just how delicious, well-balanced and nuanced this wine is – in my mind it is the best vintage of “Nadja’s” ever produced.  Other judges agreed – we all placed it as either our first or second choice.  This beauty also took a rare Platinum Medal at 2017 National Wine Awards.

It will go on to compete for Gold Medal Plates Wine of the Year at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna in February, and it appears there will be a riesling showdown, as it will be tasted against rieslings from Tantalus, Cave Spring and Norman Hardie, plus six other wines.

For second and third place the voting in Toronto was more varied, and only one point separated the second, third and fourth place wines.  The Silver Medal went to Mission Hill 2015 Merlot Reserve, a swarthy, plummy and ripe red from the Okanagan Valley.  And the bronze medal went to Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut Rose, a delicate refined pink sparkler with subtle berry aromas.

In very close 4th place came Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay from Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. I have become very familiar with this solid, complex Burgundian chardonnay as it was generously donated by Tawse to the Celebration in three cities this year. It was also a Platinum Award winner at the 2107 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.

Tawse was one of three Gold Level sponsors. Mission Hill was a national sponsor as well, donating a variety Reserve wines to seven city events across the country, and stepping even higher in Toronto with smaller donations of their more expensive “Legacy tier” red Compendium 2013 and Perpetua 2015 Chardonnay.

Arterra Wines, the recently re-named company with several wineries in Canada, was a gold sponsor donating to six cities.  In Toronto there was a selection of reserve whites and reds from Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, as well as a rare public showing of the new Arterra 2016 Chardonnay and Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir.

Toronto’s Silver Sponsor also donated to Ottawa. Cave Spring of Niagara donated their 2015 Cabernet Franc.  Although better known as a riesling producer, Cave Spring is doubling down on its efforts to produce fine reds from Ontario’s most widely grown grape.

Flat Rock Cellars was one two Bronze level sponsors for the Toronto event, providing Nadja’s riesling for the VIP Reception and Celebration tables. The other was Henry of Pelham, which split their donation between the 2016 Old Vines Baco Noir and yet another strong 2016 Estate Riesling.

Among other notable and high calibre wines donated to the chefs, I gave my first-place vote to Stratus 2013 White, a very complex, now maturing, barrel aged blend of several white varieties. Ravine 2014 Chardonnay Reserve, another power white, also earned top-five votes.  Leaning Post 2015 Mile 50 Chardonnay was a leaner style that paired well with Gold Medal Plates Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s winning dish.  And riesling specialist Charles Baker chose the occasion to show his new, bracing B-Side Riesling.

Interestingly, no red wines were paired with chef’s creations this year, but there were two ciders, including the fine, crisp Brickworks CiderHouse Batch 1904 and a lighter cider called Pick Up 66 from Hoity Toity Cellars. Rosewood Cellars donated their exotic, fragrant Lavellener Lavender Mead, and Zirkova Vodka set up shop during the VIP Reception to sample Zirkova One, a vodka designed to be drunk “neat” and Together a version designed for cocktails.

The Best of Show judging is held prior to each event, as way to highlight the generous donation of beverage by Canada’s wineries, brewers and distillers.  In Toronto I assembled four wine pros/sommeliers.  Three are amigos at WineAlign.com and two are judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada; including Master Sommelier John Szabo, and wordsmith extraordinaire and former chef Michael Godel.  Margaret Swaine is a veteran wine and travel writer, and the spirits columnist at WineAlign.  Michael Vaughan publishes Vintages Assessments, a detailed critique of every wine released by the LCBOs Vintages stores.”

Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s @GoldMedalPlates winning dish @georgeonqueen paired by @brieish with @leaningpostwine The Fifty Chardonnay 2015. Congratulations Chef and the entire team.

Culinary Medals

Gold

Lorenzo Loseto
George Restaurant

Pairing: Leaning Post Wines, 2015 ‘The Fifty’

Silver

David Lee
Nota Bene

Pairing: Brickworks Ciderhouse, Batch: 1904

Bronze

Jesse Vallins
Maple Leaf Tavern/PORT

Pairing: Tooth & Nail Brewing Company, AGRARIA Modern Farmhouse Ale

Nota Bene’s David Lee

Here are my tasting notes for the 20 wines entered at Gold Medal Plates 2017.

Henry Of Pelham Family Estate Winery Cuvée Catharine Brut Rosé, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (217505, $29.95, WineAlign)

A whole new base, a whole new wine, the departure point exacted by a new wisdom and understanding. But it’s somehow like looking in the mirror, reviving a good memory, going back to wine childhood. Consistency is your friend with non-vintage fizz and the Catherine(s) are the undisputed leader in the Ontario biz. Brings back the Niagara orchard of a take your pick red apple, lovely creamy texture, a mild blanch of nut and fresh baked bread. Terrific class and of its own accord. Drink 2017-2021.  Last tasted at Gold Medal Plates Toronto, November 2017

With its fine, strawberry mousse is at the head of its Ontario class. Vanilla, Ida Red apple and bitter nut combine like a smooth, creamy, Mediterranean spread to dip the warmest, fresh-baked bread.  Tasted December 2012

Henry Of Pelham Riesling Estate 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (557165, $17.95, WineAlign)

A rash of aromatics straight away and marked warmth verging to humidity. More weight, substance and depth than most vintages deal when youth is the tempo so this riesling plays the notes and the hand quick after the draw. What you nose, taste and feel is what you get, with lime, gassing up to petrol quickly and flavours already in developing mode. Five years of riesling together for the best of times, from beginning to end. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Charles Baker Riesling B-Side 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

Vinyl records sound different because they are designed with grooves carved in that mirrors the original sound’s wave form. Their analog recording delivers a sensory feeling of warmth, an aural of texture, nuance and soul. There was a time when the hits spun over and over were also pressed onto the A-Side of 45 rpm singles. The discovery of a never before heard B-Side was a revelation because is was extra material from a favourite band and it was a great song. It meant the record was already too strong for that song to make the final cut and to choose it for a B-Side meant it would elevate the quality of the album. A well-chosen B was not an afterthought. This is the accomplishment of the first Charles Baker’s B-Side, for itself and for the vineyards of Ian and Picone. Baker digs about in the Niagara Peninsula’s escarpment dirt for young vine, not ready for prime time riesling fruit. If perchance it seems like cheating on his per se Vinemount Ridge Picone and Ivan bottles so be it but one look at him and he’ll say “Hey, hey, what can I do?” His 2016 B-Side delivers a spray bottle Zeppelin expressing heady aromas, high in the stratosphere and raining down upon the earth. The notes are an all in, breath of classic Baker riesling air, blanketing from up above and with a landscape that reeks of lime and quivers with classic agitation. The fruit is wild and full, the salty grit infiltrating and gripping the bloody omniscience of this package. What is this B-Side and where will it be lead? To the top of the ridge, from earlier harvests, younger fruit and higher yields. Scratch the single vineyard elitism, just listen to the song and raise one up, to getting ‘er done before the conceptual singular side one and side two, Ivan and Picone. The Beatles? Forget it. Led’s flip side to the ‘Immigrant Song’ A is the one. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted November 2017

Flat Rock Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (578625, $24.95, WineAlign)

Nadja, like the Bréton novel begins with the question, “Who am I?” A surrealistic trigger is incited by the first taste, with excitement running in many directions but like the book, Nadja’s non-linear structure is grounded in Twenty Mile Bench riesling reality. She is an elite varietal wine in 2016, excitable girl, gregarious, punchy and so bloody juicy. I don’t recall the last Nadja with so much up front zest fervency and writhing aromatic gait, “exploding international, the scenes, the sounds, and famously the feeling that you can’t squeeze ground.” The lime flesh and cordial infusion brings the flavours into a once tropical, twice bitten realm. The vintage delivers the electric version, the new pornographer for the vineyard and the song sung loud swan song for departing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Was it all for swinging you around? Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate Sauvignon Blanc Grand Reserve 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95, WineAlign)

Arterra’s JT sauvignon blanc is youthful and even a bit reductive, with wood notable and a real sauvignon blanc pungency. Its character and a bit of risk are tied up in the aromatics though it settles for mild-mannered and middle of the road on the palate. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted November 2017

Mission Hill Family Pinot Gris Reserve 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (537076, $24.95, WineAlign)

Reserved to be sure and also still in pulse mode, with some tongue pin-pricking, not quite effervescent but moving in time. A bit of skin-contact hue and plenty of orchard fruit notes are present in both aromas and flavours. Solid gris that will improve in six months or so. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Gris Reserve 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($19.99, WineAlign)

Noticeable skin-directed hue, chalky to soapy, with a taste that reminds of Topps hockey card bubble gum. Childhood memory revisited in pinot gris. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted November 2017

Arterra Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Arterra’s chardonnay comes from a famous Peninsula source, formerly made into just as famous wines by Le Clos Jordanne The site is on the Escarpment’s Bench above Jordan Village and this is the second vintage at the hands of Jackson-Triggs winemaker Marco Piccoli. Picks up where the fine and ambitious first vintage in 2015 left off but here with some light strike and reduction. You can just feel the buttered toast and kernels behind the flinty curtain, with blanched nut and some fine elasticity. Will benefit from a few more months in bottle to gather thoughts and flavours. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Leaning Post Chardonnay ‘The Fifty’ 2015, VQA Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

This is chardonnay that had a cup of coffee in the big leagues and was then moved to the fresh confines of stainless steel tanks soon after its 15 minutes of barrel fame. It’s a unique chardonnay specimen this Fifty, barrel fermented but not aged, a wine crafted with pragmatic reverse psychology so that it may solicit great appeal. If you’ve never tasted Ilya Senchuk’s entry-level foray into Peninsula chardonnay you’ve been missing out, but by starting here in 2015 there is certainly no harm, no foul. This is the most pleasing and palatable Fifty so far, barrel creamy, suety and magically malolactic on the nose. The flavours are cooler, of an anti-Senchuk subtlety and versatile food amenability. I can think of 50 reasons to pour this by the glass, at home, on a restaurant list or on a campsite under the stars. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve is 100 per cent estate fruit that spent 18 months in (50 per cent new) barrel. As it’s both barrel fermented and aged the variegation locks the fruit in so bloody tight so even now it’s reductive, smoky and flinty. A mineral chardonnay needs balance from over the top fruit and so track record, acumen and love will have it so. Marty Werner and Ben Minaker’s is a big, summery and gold platinum expression, very expressive, the two-lb steamed in seaweed lobster chardonnay, seemingly Meursault but just as likely from California. But as Ravine’s Reserve on the St. David’s Bench it is purely Niagara Peninsula. Fruit intensity, extract and controlled oxygenation shows off the best of what these men can do. It speaks to their efforts, knowledge accumulation, trials and finally to the culmination of their stamina. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Small @RavineVineyard village looking pretty sweet at @GoldMedalPlates 2017 #gmp2017

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (111989, $35.80, WineAlign)

When I tasted Quarry Road 2013 out of four barrels three years ago the purpose was to take in the nuances and see only the trees. I for one could not help seeing the forest through the trees and imagining percentages of each combining for the final blend. Neutral Mercurey wood looked over infant three year-old vines spoken here with surprising density, tang and tropical melon in both aroma and flavour. This sits on the front palate right now. The mineral Ceres qualifies older fruit as the pretty and the gemstone, essential for Quarry Road, the most like (Meursault) in Burgundy. This fruit transferred to stainless on the lees from September to March before going into bottle now renders to make Quarry the purest expression from the best vineyard. The CLL toast delivers the taut, not yet reductive wood tightening, then and again now, mainly on the finish. Compressed citrus notes are late arriving and even if it is splitting hairs, the oak really impacts the finish. The larger CLL toast Mercurey barrel reveals a fresher, more reductive, less oaky feel. All together we now have one of Paul Pender’s most accomplished to date and all chardonnays considered, one of the finest higher end values around. I think he would agree. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Mission Hill Perpetua 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $73.03, WineAlign)

Perpetua is a different sort of chardonnay for the Okanagan, with not completely obvious fruit and leesy notes that outdo the effects of wood, plus a lactic edge that also smothers the smoulder. This is not the toastiest of chardonnays but is does deliver a saltiness so ultimately the reference point is flint and stone, a.k.a. Chablis. A bit of crème frâiche adds to the dairy mystique. Perpetual chardonnay motion leads to persistence. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2017

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2013, Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

There can be little doubt that anticipation would haver to run high for the aromatic, elongated and coolest of Niagara white wine vintages, especially for the chardonnay, but also for the iconic, four-varietal (with sauvignon blanc, sémillon and viognier) blend. The five sensory tenets are solicited and provided for; salty, sour, sweet, briny and umami. The last is exotic and punchy, so this White does it all, speaks for it all and completes it all. It is the most designed and seamless their’s can be. Last tasted May and November 2017

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Arterra Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Wow the cherry pie delivers a healthy slice oozing in reduced cherry syrup. Could only by an effect created by some appassimento on pinot noir. It’s so concentrated, full of glycerin and sweet fruit. Were it not pinot made with some drying of the grapes it would be an amazing feat of growing, picking and pressing. A panoply of cherries wells in this ripe of ripest Marco Picoli red. Wow, as I said. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September and November 2017

Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (523001, $17.95, WineAlign)

As with the other Niagara Escarpment reds in the portfolio it is the limestone that stands out, in a good way, to bring about this mineral-red citrus cutting through the rich fruit. That stone-mineral note also does everything to temper and even mute what bitter-tonic-astringent notes might try to distract because that’s what capsicum-bell pepper is wont to do in cabernet franc. This is clean and focused, light and eminently quaffable juice. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted September and November 2017

Inniskillin Merlot Reserve 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is really pressed and pushed merlot, cool and savoury, minty and spirited with lots of wood spice and equal amounts of tannin. The really tart finish dries out with grip and force. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2017

Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Meritage 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (594002, $24.95, WineAlign)

Now here is a nice little bit of diesel of dust, with more than a fair shake of dark raspberries and a mix of chicory, nettles and chalky tannin. Pretty wondrous quality and complexity here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Henry Of Pelham Baco Noir Old Vines 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (459966, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is finely rendered baco noir, rich and tangy, with bright cherries and what just feels like beeswax. The most elegant baco noir ever made in Ontario and just foxy enough to be itself. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017

Mission Hill Merlot Reserve 2015, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, $24.99, WineAlign)

This is aromatically rich and lush merlot, with a full compliment of palate richness and silky tannins. For fans of the California style with all in hedonism and a side of nettle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2017

Mission Hill Compendium 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, $86.25, WineAlign)

Compendium 2012 carries a great wealth of aromatics, very floral and rusty, with dried strawberries and so much more. A bit reserved on the palate but its elegance and seamlessness are special. Great length even while it’s just not that much of a concentrated beast. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2017

Good to go!

Godello

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