‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’ (but I like wine)

The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, centre, Keith Richards, right, Charlie Watts, back, and Ronnie Wood perform during a concert in Toronto as part of the band’s “50 & Counting Tour” on May 25, 2013. PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRESS/FRANK GUNN

as seen on canada.com

It’s all about the rocks and stones, in music and wine. Witness songs of raw power, laid wide open, where the squeaks of chord changes, the twang of a plucked bass and the bee bop of a snare hang out exposed and naked. Seek relief in the soothing sound of a soulful ballad but nothing eases pain like a raunchy tune that “invites us to dance in the face of its own despair.” Rolling Stone Magazine rock critic Jon Landau‘s 1974 review of the Rolling Stones quintessential “we’re a rock ‘n roll band” album It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll hit the proverbial nail on the head, then and now. Like the title track, “it resonates like the sound of a shotgun.”

There was no It’s Only Rock and Roll Carrie Underwood duet with Mick Jagger last night at the The Rolling Stones 2nd ’50 and Counting’ tour Air Canada Centre show. I did not go. I had my fill of totemic super group, epic rock concerts in the 80′s and 90′s; Stones, Who, Kinks, Grateful Dead, Dire Straits, Genesis, Supertramp, Allman Brothers, Crazy Horse, E Street Band. Now give me shelter in the sounds of Spoon or Divine Fits. The best concerts then were the rock royalty derivative or solo shows; David Byrne, Peter Townshend, Mark Knopfler, Peter Gabriel and Keith Richards with arguably the greatest grape-related band name ever, the Expensive Winos.

The wine analogy qualifies as yet another hermeneutic. Minerals walk the walk and talk the talk. If the wines qualify as natural all the better, especially when the ferment is unafraid to expose its flaws and idiosyncrasies to be ogled and gazed upon. To smell rocks and stones in a swirled glass fulfills a base and necessary need. The fascination for geology can be quenched by so many international varieties and soils. Chenin Blanc in the Silex of the Loire, Nerello Mascalese atop volcanic Etna, Grenache amid the boulders of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Sangiovese from the ultramafic of Tuscany and Chardonnay out of the Kimmeridgian soil of Chablis. To each animates an ownership of terroir. The world’s quarries have accustomed wine geeks with centuries of fine drink but never has an obsession possessed a community with such pleasures ere unknown. Enter the studios of the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County. Electric Lady, Motown and Muscle Shoals all rolled into one.

The collective geological consciousness embraced by the Ontario wine engineer is only rock and roll but everyone is digging it. If Let it Bleed signaled the Rolling Stones’ entry into an affair and infatuation with all things Americana, especially for vocals and guitar with a country music accent and twang, then It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll is the high swagger point. As a record it represents the culmination of a period where the room is eventually tied together by the rug of Some Girls. Ontario winemakers have entered the ‘open G’ tuning period in their careers, now with a few passionate, penetrating records under their belt. A ten year road lays ahead, destined to me mapped out by their greatest works, lithospheric wines to define their legacies, in toto as the supergroup history will remember them by.

Rocks and stones have for millenniums been used to construct homes, pathways, fences and places of worship. They have also been used to build wine. Here are ten current releases, forged from diverse mineral terrains and available now.

Clockwise from top left: Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2010, Valdeorras Tempestad Godello 2011, The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011, Coyote’s Run Red Paw Chardonnay 2011, Malivoire Pinot Noir 2010, Laurent Miquel Bardou St.-Chinian 2007, Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Grgich Hills Chardonnay Estate Napa Valley 2010

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2010 (318303, $16.95 and at the winery) is the unoaked result of aromatic Clone 809 combed from the heavier clay-based soils from the St. David’s Bench Vineyard and the silty, mineral rich soils from Seven and Seven Vineyard. Tropical, strutting stunner with “a thousand lips I would love to taste.” Tell Ms. Musqué if you can’t rock me, nothing can.  90  @MBosc

Valdeorras Tempestad Godello 2011 (276071, $17.95) from Bodegas Abanico in Valdeorras whiffs the mineral temptation of a weathered, wet copper penny, secondary Riesling-like petrol, ripe peach and jamón wrapped around white date.  Delicious juicy fruit, nutty and just a touch of lees. Late seafood aftertaste, a crab drink to enjoy with a tempest of Spanish tapas. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg for this one.  89  @bodegasabanico

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011 (149237, $19.95), kissed, re-passed over and threatening to push boundaries as if it were singing “if I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on stage.” This Ilya Senchuk beauty may only be ripasso but I like it. Eases my pain and my brain. Excellent verve and honed of a rock star’s capacity to be loved, with tart, red and black fruit in waves, tar and charcoal. Svelte balance in fruit, alcohol, sweet and sour. This is THE vintage for this wine. Ten plus years lay ahead for a long affair and it will be rewarded with praise in future tastings.  92  @wineaffair

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Chardonnay 2011 (336115, $19.95) reminds of the lyric “and I don’t need no fancy food and I don’t need no fancy wine.” Many may not know it but David Sheppard’s Red Paw Chardonnay at $20 is fancy and serious. There is more toast than from memory and four miles of apple butter in the glass. Red Trafalgar clay loam and Queenston shale bedrock give it strength. Warm Chard for a cool climate with green herbs and a late mineral tinge. Apples in replay. Sadly, sister vineyard Black Paw was pulled due to a virus so we’ll savour this Red Paw Till The Next Goodbye.  88  @coyotesrun

Malivoire Pinot Noir 2010 (996777, $24.95) shows great warmth in rusty, bricking hue. High toned glossy fruit not to be mistaken for anything but Pinot. Tons of fruit character,  some tannin getting warmer in the glass. Time Waits For No One, least of all this very solid Pinot, verging on stunning. “Drink in your summer, gather your corn” for the Malivoire ’10′s time is now.  91 @MalivoireWine

Laurent Miquel Bardou St.-Chinian 2007 (328583, $24.95) the Syrah funk monster is heavy on mineral, chewy with currant flavours and a citrus hint. Like sucking on an iron lollipop that lasts and lasts. Luxury Languedoc.  90  @LanguedocWines

Raoul Gautherin Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2010 (159236, $28.95) has the rocks and stones, rolling in orchards, fields and dreams. Dancing Little Sister, bang on mineral, blessed length, wonderful. Full-on nervy and relevant Chablis. With her “we bacchanal, there ain’t no dawn.”   91  @purechablis

Domaine De L’aigle A Deux Tetes Cotes Du Jura Les Clou 2010 (323618, $39.00) is uncanny in apple cider character from ’08 planted Savagnin grapes and only 50 cases produced. Intense honey with just a touch of fromage, piercing mineral. The apples and honey are everywhere. A little Rosh Hashanah for you with tang, verve and length. “Give me the look of love,” says this Jura, If You Really Want To Be My Friend.  92  @JuraWine

Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (89284, $52.95) makes you gotta love the anti-napa concept, attitude and execution. The ’09′s nose is high in tone, accent and richesse but there is no syrup or gratuitous chocolate barrel aging or excessive berry extraction. Great finesse, balance and a sense of crushed rocks is a throwback to better times. Alcohol at a manageable 13.8 per cent so within reason, built on meter in metronome precision. Will be invited to dinner every night of the year. No Short And Curlies problem here.  94  @RidgeVineyards

Grgich Hills Chardonnay Estate Napa Valley 2010 (346304, $54.95) tasted previously continues to thrill in mineral char and length. From the Fingerprint File, my previous note, “glides in so much variety balance I can imagine showering with wine. You will not pigeon-hole this-worldly and structured white because its finesse reaches out across the great mineral vs tropical divide debate. Sure, there is timbered-driven, golden-fleshed apple, green melon and buttered, toasted bread, but there too is a sting of acidity. Stellar year for Napa Chardonnay. Great glass of sunshine93  @GrgichHills

Good to go!

The wine diaries: Labour Day long weekend edition

Kempenfeldt Sunset. Photo by Kiowaman

As seen on canada.com

As the sun sets over one of the most glorious summers in recent memory, there’s a resolute call to reflect on food and wine. The last vestiges of summer freedom fades in the rear-view mirror, the corn morphs to starch and the kids are back to school. Props to the season’s reds, whites, rosés and sparklers, to their makers and to the cooks who feed us. Our attention now focuses in anticipation of Ontario’s promising 2012 vintage.

Grilled Lamb, racks and chops, secret marinade. Photo by Kiowaman

Wine with Dinner

Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel 2009 (463026, $22.95) first tasted one month ago is a model of Zinsistency. A page right out of the Dry Creek Valley book and plants a seed for an iconic future. Brambles on through “the darkest depths of Mordor” with nary a cloying moment. No fruit bomb.  89

Foley Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills 2003 ($35) shines like Hindu dessert gold and shimmers of a Sauternes-like translucency. Begs proof is in the Meyer lemon curd pudding for nearly 10 years on Santa Barbara Chardonnay. Admittedly on the cusp of redox, the Foley is a brilliant canary yellow diamond low rider in the SRH rough. Low beam lit this late in life, on cruise control and “drives a little slower.” Why can’t we be friends?  90

Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala Bramito del Cervo Chardonnay 2010 (176792, $21.95) plays significant other sibling to Piero’s Umbrian Grand Cru vino bianco, the exceptional Cevaro della Sala. In times like these a wise trade up of two Cevaro for five Bramito means the little one can repeatedly ring my bell with fresh, lively citrus zest and stone fruit tang. Sip while preferably grilling wild Halibut but settling for modest Tilapia and find “the night is young and full of possibilities.”  88

BBQ Dinner. Photo by Kiowaman

Wine with Dessert

Kourtaki Muscat of Samos (938407, $14.95) has officially challenged me to find a better IVR* dessert wine under $15. Honey and apricots in waves. Candied somewhere between hard-ball and soft-crack. Caramelized yet short of praline or brittle. Would love to match with All-Day Cake.  88

Jane’s All-Day Cake. Photo by Kiowaman

More September 1st Tasting Notes

Jean Perrier & Fils Abymes Cuvée Prestige 2010 (271981, $12.95) is built of Jacquère, a mountain varietal that mimics Chardonnay with soft soap, Savoie delicacy. Porcine jambons et saucissons along with Abondance both in mucilage and in its cry for companionship. Wild mountain Artemisia, Génépi and citrus notes in line with Altesse, Savoie’s queen of white grapes.  87

Gérard Bertrand St. Chinian Syrah/Mourvedre 2009 (281832, $16.95) espouses oak’s bittersweet chocolate and smouldering dry heat to the south of France’s schist limestone, lavender and garrigue. Alluring, facile French purity in this all-purpose Languedoc red.  88

Château Clément St-Jean 2009 (199208, $17.95) spoons calm, cool, collected as a Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois with fruit, acidity and tannin all in balance. Beauty grows vicariously out of the hebetic and muliebrous 2009 vintage by way of an immediate transference to the Medoc’s middle class. This château shines, “thinking clean clean thoughts” and demonstrates there is an ecclesiastical time for everything.  88

Hamburgers and Hot Dogs. Photo by Kiowaman

Quinta Do Portal Reserva 2008 (280578, $19.95) flashes a new Douro smile with teeth stained as if by Jacaranda Mimosifolia. Sybaritic blend of three typical Portuguese grapes, a Tinta and two Tourigas. Super berry, dynamic Douro but not overdone.  89

Castello Di Bossi C. Berardenga Chianti Classico 2009 (994608, $22.95) of distilled potpourri proboscis wastes no time amnestying itself from the barbed Sangiovese wire and lights up with life. A boon for modern Tuscany, the Bossi agglutinates to the glass, better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Backs up the red plum truck and shows off improbable clarity for such a young CC.  90

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 (928028, $41.95) abides as spokesperson for old school Sangiovese Grosso. A throwback to the classes of ’75, ’85 and ’95. Teasingly soft at the outset, the cherry, leathery grit and determination is found at its core and tastefully follows through to a hard-edged finish. I wouldn’t wait 20 years, but certainly five to 10.  91

IVR* – Vintage Direct intrigue-to-value ratio

Good to go!