Feb. 21 wine and song salute

Godello's Tamales

Godello’s Tamales

Fear not good reader, this is only a list of seven, a set lucky wines and songs to play as you sip. On February 21st VINTAGES will roll a mid-winter classic release and though my recommendations will think globally next week, here the choices come out of Ontario, from parts Niagara and Lake Erie North Shore.

My picks are varied and the wines of a coagulated character best described as sui generis. Grapes come from old vines, are dried in kilns, fashioned in the Venetian Ripasso method and left on the vine to be stricken by the noble rot known as botrytis.

The brilliant leap of modern winemaking science allows the ancient to be realized in the present. Wines that pour themselves. Just as the earth has invisibly predisposed the vines, from cataclysms and through its evolution, so history is the unhurried intent. Winemakers are the messenger.

All this from Wine Country Ontario. Get to know it.

Speaking of WCO, if you happen to be heading to Ottawa for Winterlude this coming weekend, the VQA Wine Truck will be there, in Confederation Park.

Meanwhile back in Toronto, my seven wine and song salute begins here.

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012, Ridgepoint Merlot 2010, Bricklayer's Reward Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2012, Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012, Ridgepoint Merlot 2010, Bricklayer’s Reward Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2012, Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013

Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (277228, $16.95, WineAlign)

Showy and yet so balanced and pristine. The cleanest fruit representing classic Niagara Peninsula Riesling from the ’12 vintage yet with an open mind to be walking far from home. Though void of agitation, there is plenty of verve and life. It comes by way of a mineral meets saline intensity, of iron and life, in wine. Like “sour building high as heaven,” and the components all kiss each other clean. Full of fine pastry layering, glycerine textured but not oily fruit, full and yet somehow so lacy. A really special Riesling from down by the lake.  Tasted January 2015  @MBosc

Ridgepoint Merlot 2010, Ripasso Style, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (270488, $19.95, WineAlign)

Ridgepoint’s Ripasso style Merlot takes the varietal, stands it on its head and shakes the rust from out of its bones. It wears “a coat of feelings and they are loud,” with drying and painted flavours over top porcine, cocoa, wild and tight aromas. Merlot in a purple bottle, an animal collective, peppery, interesting, very Niagara, very Ripasso. Good length.  Tasted January 2015  @Ridgepointwines

Bricklayer’s Reward Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (406124, $19.95, WineAlign)

In Colio’s Cabernet Sauvignon there is dark chocolate everywhere, at every turn, in every crevice. Black pepper, fleur de del, currants and tobacco accent that chocolate ubiquity, with warmth and oak spice. Cherries seeped in astringent tannin offer a silky sweet sadness and “under this skin, there lies a heart of stone.” Counting for value, the Bricklayer’s reward is mercy, by way of character, texture and that wholesome chocolate. It may not be everyone’s cup of cocoa but it will age as long as the crow flies, into the next decade.  Tasted January 2015  @ColioWinery

Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, VQA Ontario (367144, $24.95, WineAlign)

Burning Kiln’s latest rendition of Vin de Curé, the “Parish Priest’s,” and the Jura’s Vin de Paille (Straw Wine) is that much more exceptional than what came before. The peaceful, heavy yet easy feeling continues, in alcohol weight and aromatic lift, ’cause it’s “already standin’ on the ground.” Like an eagle soaring, the Savagnin is a wild creature and yet solid, of a gamey, textural density. Imagine dried grasses and fruits, baked bricks, steamed crabs and honey. A wine so unique, mouth filling, viscous and tangy, from a wine region (province) with a maximum 10 planted acres. A white elixir in search of roast pork, braised belly and cured bacon. Not to be missed.  Tasted January 2015  @BurningKilnWine

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (203703, $30.00, WineAlign)

Thirty Bench’s vintage-affected Chardonnay is rounded, full of warm, ripe fruit and noticeable oak. No darts are tossed, neither by woodsmoke nor spice and it ventures quite outward bound. This adventurous, appealing wine takes some chances, looks beyond its borders, reaching for notes both gravelly and scented; like cumin, coriander and a beautifully bittersweet Tom Collins. The rocks are certainly in, as are the sticks and stones, though they do not break bones. The price is another matter, affordable to some, prohibitive to “the little boys who never comb their hair.” For a Chardonnay such as this, of layers and riches, “they’re lined up all around the block, on the nickel over there.” It time waits for this, value will increase and it will become a wine for tomorrow.  Tasted January 2015  @ThirtyBench

Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (405043, $30.20, WineAlign)

Here Sauvignon Blanc is wild and free, bares then sells its soul and is runnin’ with the devil. The expression is a free dance of varietal character, flinty and extremely juicy in simultaneous movements. Though the SO2 level is high (it cleans the passages), the compote is peachy, at times canned and soaking in syrup, but the accents are laden with capsicum, lactic white plums and wet grasses. Slightly bruised and/or oxidative, the mineral tang is pushy and formative. This is serious Niagara-on-the-Lake SB, crazy and compressed stuff. It lives its “life like there’s no tomorrow, finding “the simple life ain’t so simple.” Like vintage Van Halen.  Tasted January 2015  @PellerVQA

Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula (375ml), Ontario (405027, $39.95, WineAlign)

Inscribed into the Inniskillin ‘Discovery Series” for good reason, the BA Viognier is a product of luck and circumstance, a small parcel of grapes blessed with the not oft success of climate leading to ripening and noble rot. Grapes left to hang into late harvest (as opposed to freezing on the vine for the production of Icewine) is not a common Viognier practice. While the frank and masculine aromatic presence may be compromised here (the nose is quite reserved), the overall ubiquity is omnipresent and enveloping. Such a clean and young botrytis offers soft chords and a lifting voice. You can smell the fruits east and west; green and yellow plantain, peaches and plums. Flavours of lemon curd and pineapple arrive at a point where the tannin finds a way to “fuse it in the sun.” It can be imagined this Vendanges Tardives simulation will go long so “dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup, with the promise of a man.”  Tasted January 2015  @InniskillinWine

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

http://www.winealign.com/profile/2058-mjg

Select tasting through years of the Stratus Red and White

Stratus Winery and Vineyard, Niagara on the Lake
PHOTO: STRATUS WINERY

as seen on canada.com

Imagine this scene. It’s the year 2000 and all of the Stratus single varietal wines have been bottled.  J-L (Jean-Laurent) Groux and partner in wine at the time Peter Gamble are discussing the vintage and the merits of the individual varieties. “Something’s missing,” is the thought. “We can do better.” They decide to pour them out and reconstruct by blending whites into riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas. They did what? They poured out Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, to reform the varieties by fractional assemblage? Crazy but true. History was made.

J-L Groux
Photo: Stratus Winery

J-L Groux is the winemaker at Stratus Vineyards, steward and maître d‘ to Niagara assemblage, the “art of combining several varieties to create a single wine.” The Stratus Red and White wines define that noble practice for Ontario. Groux’s M.O. is to select the best grapes from a single growing season, age them in oak barrels and then combine the SV’s for the purpose of achieving exceptional aromatics, a long aftertaste, vintage consistency and ageability. If any doubt has been cast over the idea of or the success of Groux’s methodology, upon his insistence that “there is no recipe for assemblage, only a goal,” the back-vintage vertical tasting at Le Sélect Bistro answered the multi-variety bell.

Cabernet Franc, Stratus Vineyard
Photo: Stratus Winery

So what has changed in the past 13 years? Most notable is the wisdom, experience and maturity of the vines and the winemaker. The wines and their maker have developed a symbiotic relationship with their environments. The oak barrels are crucial to the refinement of the Stratus signature wines. Cooperage time, though perpetually in oscillation, has generally increased over the years but levels of new oak have decreased. Groux’s declaration that it takes time to get the pyrazine (green character) out of the red grapes (especially Cabernet Sauvignon) indicates that oak must support but never lead. The Stratus Red vintage eversion is testament to a barrel program that is just getting better and better.

Rigorous vineyard management, including adjustments in fruit-thinning and maintaining fundamental, biological order have been key. “The vineyard is way more balanced due to all the hard work we have done,” boasts Groux. In 2010 they discovered it was no longer necessary to over-thin, but to concentrate on maintaining the organic matter needed. “We used to thin by two-thirds. 2010 was the hitching point.” Grape quality has never been better. “All these varieties are now making concentrated wine,” concludes Groux.

Re-thinking specific variety usage has seen a constant progression. Reds that used to rely on a categorical Bordeaux model (the three main grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) have seen additions of Gamay, Syrah and Tannat over the years. In 2010, the archetype is again Bordeaux, with Petit Verdot in the mix. Malbec can’t be too far behind. My personal preference would be to see the beacon Gamay in grounding support. The grape really ties the room together. Whites once lead by Chardonnay have also angled Bordeaux.  “We discovered in 2008 that Semillon can make great wine in Ontario.” This was a pivotal turning point in the Stratus white evolution.

Gewürztraminer was also eliminated around this time, to ‘thin’ away a level of terpenes and to adjust the flavour profile towards more balance. “People would begin to say I smell Gewürz. Dammit!”  J.L. would say, “that’s not what I want them to smell. I want them to notice complexity. We want when people put their nose in this they say, this is serious.” Going forward, more Chardonnay will join the assemblage, moving towards more complexity, a less dry style.

The Select-Stratus tasting and lunch was hosted by J-L Groux and team: Charles Baker, Ben Nicks, Suzanne Janke and Sarah Walker. Chef Ponzo’s stoic, elegant plates prove that simplicity leads to good design as they ratify the sine qua non of Bistro cuisine.

Stratus Select Line-Up
Photo: Michael Godel

Stratus Red and White Vertical

Tuesday September 24, 2013

Le Sélect Bistro, 432 Wellington Street West  (416) 596-6405

Chef Albert Ponzo, @AlbertPonzo

Stratus White

2010 sends me immediately towards Bordeaux, in neo-marmalade, but also buoyed in perfume and body by 25 percent Viognier. “This variety worked so well in the vineyard in 2010,” notes Groux. Niagara honey and near-botrytis via Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc void of grass, full of vigor. A sharp note, neither metallic nor mineral, but a combination of the two is present in this so very concentrated ’10. Of a warm vintage (self-explanatory) fully picked by October 23. Though loaded with early Spring maple sap, foie gras and appley terpines, its sharp and framed by “tannic” tang and protracted length.  92

2009 is a vintage you will notice a great similitude in that the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon number is consistent with ’10. This was a not preconceived plan insists J-L. Here the acidity level is so much higher, not as terpenic and veering citrus. Late picked UV’s on the berries are to thank but still the apples are there along with some pith. The Gewürztraminer glycerin, nutty aftertaste used to be there but now seems to have dissipated. This ’09 comes from a very small crop so the price “makes very little business sense, but you can’t win them all.” With time in the glass it dilates and modulates, becomes tropical, in pineapple and melon. This from 25 brix Sauvignon Blanc and to a lesser extent 23 brix Semillon. More stony and stark than the ’10.  89

2008 is formatively led by Chardonnay and certainly leans Chablis in a cool year. The highly aromatic grapes, at first mute, begin to emerge as the wine warms. This is the prettiest of the three thus far, with more citrus, fine balance and a wine that corroborates  J.L ‘s concept; consistency, long aftertaste and ageability. Achieves all three.  Keep swirling and the tropical notes make a play. Again consistency. This is effortless.  92

2007 has taken seven years to slow down the Gewürztraminer because the tiger army was so prominent back then, even at only 11 per cent of the mix. A “prisoner of the past and my heart’s dark desire,” with extreme efflorescent, ambrosial white flower and medicinal honey scents. The aromas are likely a residual effect of the Gewürztraminer, like jasmine or dried roses, or the floral aroma of some honey.  Even at six years old the Riesling is a distraction. This wine is very, very interesting, but also the hardest to assess. “Dried flowers pressed in pages of faded romance died.”  90

2006 was a “great recovery year,” after the winter damage of ’03, ’04 and ’05. A cool vintage, which required careful picking. The Sauvignon Blanc driven ’06 has the highest melon component, not to mention Boxwood. Yet that rose/floral/honey medicinal note is even stronger. Not over the hill at all and developing a graceful white wine character. Very French with late acidity and verve. Remarkable. Love this one. “This is a style of aged wine where I want to go,” says J-L. Nutty finish.  93

2005 was a deadly vintage (worst frost in Niagara on the Lake) and the only one with smacking aromas from the vineyard floor. “A zoo growing season,” notes Groux, “with grapes hanging high and low.” Chardonnay leads the troops in ’05, in elevated acidity and earthiness from grapes picked “in a different type of environment, near to the earth.” Highly textured and mature, leggy fruit. Though its best years are behind (because the fruit will no longer support the oak), the Groux seven-year ageing goal has easily been reached. The whiff of terroir does blow away and the honey liniment and rose emerges. So much consistency, so rapidly developed.  Amazing. Witness here the winemaking acumen out of an atypical vintage and confounding result.  90

Stratus Red

2010 is a study in restrained, gilt-edged use of only 15 per cent new oak during assemblage, especially with Cabernet Sauvignon in the lead and so prudent considering the extreme warmth of the vintage. Cabernet Franc imparts simple but intense spice.  Red talented, fresh finesse, the oak in support as a James Dean, cherry stained leather jacket. De facto fresh, with just enough trenchant acidity.  92

2009 is a very different and strange Cabernet animal, driven by Franc, its aromatics in spectacular form. Certainly ringing the bell pepper tocsin in a briny, cool climate and licorice carillon. Quite masculine for cool climate, cool vintage assemblage, assisted in kind that way by Tannat and Petit Verdot. “O Ominous Spiritus!” 88

2008 gives J-L reason to quip, “a cool year so therefore Cab Franc is king.” A smear of tarry black fruit is grounded by the dusty character that cool-climate reds so often display. Pepper, currant and more minerals meet metal aromatics. The ’08 Stratus SV’s collectively charm in special ways so there’s little reason not to be taken in by this assemblage. There’s just something about the vintage.  90

2007 puts a twinkle in Groux’s eye. “Still very enjoyable, agreeable and ageable,” he smiles and I note it’s not candied like it may have once been perceived.  A healthy and high 88 per cent dose of new oak but it’s not the encumbrance you might expect. Still quite tight, eking strawberry and plum, and indubitably a unique amalgamation. Will offer up five more years of pleasure.  91

2006 has reached a mellow stage in life, a middle age comfort zone, with no more edgy tannins. J-L is reserved and resolved to say it “has evolved to a nicely aged red wine.” Some sour funk continues to shine in bright acidity, seemingly fresh, though not as mature or concentrated as the others. Some grape leaf here, in a savoury way, like herb and starch stuffed tomato or ground meat in sweet peppers. Complex but not overly chichi.  89

2005 is a wine, according to J-L “you want to keep for a long run.” Laser focus, eagle-eyed cherry bears aloft by lingering acidity and rusticity. The warm vintage and oak aging has elongated the tannin chain. “Its passport for aging,” says Groux. “Can go the distance, we’ll find out in the long run.” That omnipresent dusty mulberry Merlot influence persists, along with black tea, carob, rhubarb and bokser. Herbal, savoury and highly complex.  93

Terrine de Tête et Queue, head to tail, ‘meaty’ pork terrine

Tartare de Saumon, with lemon pearls, caperberries & frisée lettuce

Stratus White 2002
Photo: Michael Godel

Stratus White 2002 performs a demi-sec act which is not such a stretch, considering the late harvest actualities of the Gewürztraminer and the Riesling within.  Could pass for dessert-like, cool-climate French (Jura) though after the chimerical declension it’s still nothing but a Chardonnay-galvanized meritage. Like warm honeycomb buttering steamed crustaceous matter. That Stratus White medicine, in rose potpourri and honey completes the classic scene within the portal.  93

Confit de Canard, duck leg confit with crispy skin, served with vegs from the garden, potatoes au gratin

Joue De Boeuf Bourguignonne, beef cheek braised in red wine, with pork lardons and button mushrooms and a green pea purée

Le Sélect Bistro Duck Confit
Photo: Michael Godel

Stratus Red 2001 from two Cabs, Merlot and Gamay is a juicy, funky and earthy glass of vinous compost. Purple verdigris, verging to black and after all these years. Broods on despite memories of a hot “lady-bug” vintage. The NOL equivalent and coalescence between the French garrigue and the Italian animale. There should be nothing declassified about this black beauty.  91

Mousse au Chocolat, made with French dark chocolate

Assiete de Fromage, a selection of Artisan cheeses from Québec; Riopelle, Le Douanier and Bleu Benedictin

Stratus Special Select Late Harvest Cabernet Franc 2012

Good to go!

Good time wine and a beer for Father’s Day

Barque Smokehouse Beef Brisket PHOTO: JILL CHEN/FREESTYLEFARM.CA

as seen on canada.com

But we’ll get together then, dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

Father’s Day demands an obvious directive to reconnect but what does dad really want on Sunday? Maybe he wants to watch the U.S. Open down the stretch or just sit in a chair in the garden. Dad might want company while he works on an old car or maybe he’d just like to take a nap: “Some daddies like to camp out with you and the dog.”

The connection between fathers and their kids is immune to the pressures of a marketing-driven day. Dads have it easy. A good father can do no wrong in the eyes of his children. Unconditional love is a beautiful and immaculate thing.

How about this Twitter challenge from @Stratuswines:

So here goes:

Dad 1933 is a fountain of youth at 80-years-old. Kind, gentle and soft-spoken. Never has been heard a disparaging word by anyone who has known or come into contact with him. Structured, balanced, has aged gracefully and still has the legs to offer pleasure for many years to come.  100  @mgodello

Wine is easy, wine is fun. Picking up a special bottle can offer a kid in the candy store experience. Go for two and the opportunity presents to share one and leave the other in dad’s cellar. Here are seven can’t miss choices, to bury a bone for later enjoyment and to raise a glass to dad.

Clockwise from top left: Melville’s Ginger Beer, Donatien Bahuaud Vouvray Les Grands Mortiers 2012, Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Sori’ Paitin Barbaresco 2008, Paolo Conterno Barolo ‘Riva Del Bric’ 2008, and Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay 2011

Melville’s Ginger Beer (334797, 4×275 mL, $9.95) from the Innis & Gunn Brewing Company is just what dad ordered, especially if he’s Scottish, played 18 in the morning and is now watching a good Scot like Martin Laird win the US Open. Or anyone else who fancies a Shandy for that matter. Light in alcohol (4.1 per cent) yet full-bodied and ginger-tinged in a provocative and pungent way. Gingered yet fruit-driven, full of pep, pop and hopping flavour. Late afternoon revivalist beer.  90  @MelvillesLager

Donatien Bahuaud Vouvray Les Grands Mortiers 2012 (140889, $15.95) from the VINTAGES June 8, 2013 release tasted May 3, 2013. Brings on good, clean soda fun. Dry entry, off-dry continuum and great sweet finish. The blind pilot has got classic Loire smells of “paint or pollen, brick in your mortar.” Verve, acidity, tight lemon swath and spirited length.  90  @ProfileWineGrp

Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (186171, $29.95) from the VINTAGES June 8, 2013 release tasted May 3, 2013. Travels that MOR station road, in an Eagles Hotel or John Mayer Queen kind of way, but for uncomplicated dad, that’s OK. Cool, California, “dark desert highway” night scents, like colitas and creosote. A warm, Sonoma Cabernet that will have you “looking for the sun that Neil Young hung.” Vanilla, fresh berries, lit herbs, balancing acidity and moderate (13.9 per cent) alcohol conjoin for extended play.  90  @duckhornwine

Sori’ Paitin Barbaresco 2008 (106591, $32.95) from the VINTAGES June 8, 2013 release tasted May 3, 2013. Always offer great value, even if its modernity pressures an approachability bordering on femme fatale. Classic attributes by way of tar, roses, tannin and musky animal funk meet a fruit embarrassment of riches. Big for Sori, Shirley, surely. Ready and willing to pair with slow-smoked brisket.  91  @MarkJJacoby

Paolo Conterno Barolo ‘Riva Del Bric’ 2008 (172783, $38.95) from the VINTAGES March 16, 2013 release tasted twice, February 8th and April 30th, 2013. From young vines, is rousing and lofty for under $40. Seamless woven tapestry of pheromone and punch. Esculent sweet cinnamon cherry, pipe smoke, orange blossom and rose floral. Succulent, long and leggy.  Piedmont for a psalm.  91  @liffordwine

Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay 2011 ($59.95, Charton Hobbs, 2010, 709717, $57.95) tasted with Dennis Cakebread at Stock Restaurant, Trump Hotel, June 3, 2013. Night harvested, whole cluster pressed and aged in 1,2 and 3 year-old barrels. “We’re not working for big and buttery,” notes Cakebread and it shows. A medium-plus toast that is void of resin and sinew allows for a mineral, acidity and orchard fruit driven Chardonnay, augmented by a far easter, a gust of green mango, lime and capsicum.  Near-kindred spirit to Paul Pender’s Robyn’s Block 2010. Shaken, not stirred on its lees, well-refined and certainly in balance. Will age gracefully.  92  @CakebreadWines

Marchand-Tawse Volnay 1er Cru 2011 ($65, Vinifera) tasted May 6th at Modus Restaurant blends fruit harvested out of a tempestuous growing season from parcels at the lower end of the Villages. “Lots of substance,” notes Marchand and unmistakably Volnay, in brut strength and firm backbone. Just bottled two weeks ago, the Pinot is not so much in shock but more like in hysteria. Wild and unruly, this will abandon the rock and hard place when it settles into its viking skin.  92  @pasmarchand

Good to go!

A global Bordeaux six-pack over/under $20

Bordeaux bottles are pictured in a shop in Saint Emilion outside of Bordeaux (photograph by Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images).

Bordeaux bottles are pictured in a shop in Saint Emilion outside of Bordeaux (photograph by Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images).

as seen on canada.com

Bordeaux defines wine. To paraphrase the man with the million-dollar palate, “the first duty of wine is to be a Claret, the second is to be a Burgundy.” Bordeaux is the most recognizable ferment on the planet and has become a place of reference for the word château. It’s omnipresence is without parallel in the wine diaspora.

Related – VINTAGES October 27th, 2012 Release

There was a time when a Bordeaux varietal emigration was considered to be a tautological impossibility. The wine world as we know it began to change 40 years ago when inward grapes began to emerge without, having gone mobile, global, in through the out door. In the New World, Bordeaux varietals have been subject to a pop revolution, having been joined by synthesizers, stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs.

Over the past 40 years the grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenère, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc have migrated to all reaches of the earth. Claret, especially, is everywhere.

Here are six Bordeaux-inspired wines to look for this coming weekend.

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: Though its greatest French success is in the Loire, SB is a workhorse for the dry whites of Bordeaux

The lowdown: Injuries have reduced the Masters champ to a shell of his former golfing self but if his name can pump out under $15 gems like this, success will continue to follow the great lefty

The food match: Crab and Shrimp Cakes, citrus aioli

Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (686972, $14.95) swings from the left side like its brethren on that side of the Gironde. A game built on concentrated gooseberry juice, tangy green fruit and a streak of chippy acidity. Sneaky long and straight down the fairway.  88

The Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc

The history: From the Cotes (Saint Genes) de Castillon on the Right Bank of Bordeaux

The lowdown: Price has remained fixed, despite the hype of the vintage

The food match: Olivada Crostini, fior di latte, roasted peppers

Château De L’Estang 2009 (191551, $18.85) ventures into more expensive Libournais territory with a level of sophistication rarely seen under $20. Crisp, tart berries, licorice without sweetness, pencil and charred meat go to good lengths. Hard to find better value in Bordeaux.  88

The Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: From the Médoc on the Left Bank of the Gironde River

The lowdown: Merlot less often dominates the Left Bank blends. This wine will open a window into the second wines of the top château where Merlot percentages often increase

The food match: Corn Meal Tartlettes, fig, caramelized onion, benedictin

Château Lestruelle 2009 (295840, $18.95) may show the slightest level of reduction but it’s a beautiful wine. Tar, pencil, tobacco, earth and smoke rally in balance. Ready for the pop and pour anytime.  90

The grape: Merlot

The history: Right Bank Bordeaux principle most famous in Pomerol and St. Emilion

The lowdown: Winemaker Derek Barnett looks to Bordeaux ahead of California for inspiration

The food match: BBQ Beef Brisket Skewers, honey, garlic, bourbon glaze

Lailey Merlot 2010 (591396, $25.00) is focused and linear, with fruit, acid and tannin set up like dominos.  Blackberries come off a touch jammy and the concentration of the vintage shows in colour too. Green and varnish notes are largely diminished in 2010. I’m clapping loudly because Lailey, “you’ve got me on my knees.”  89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: The immortal Claret, cornerstone for all Left Bank Bordeaux reds

The lowdown: One of the top Okanagan Cabs at this price point from a vineyard that gets it

The food match: Delmonico Sirloin Skewers, Cabernet reduction glaze

Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (303735, $26.95) is no Hotel California milkshake, nor Bordeaux neither, but there is big earth and “colitas rising up through the air.” The style is actually more Italianate, “there’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar.” More akin to IGT Cabernet with sanguine and iron notes. Eagle-eyed with a vision for excellence and Johnny-come-lately tannins. Please welcome this new kid in town90

The grape: Carmenère

The history: Reserved in Bordeaux for blending, it has found a single varietal home in Chile

The lowdown: This Peumo Carm is the best in its class (under $50) and even above that mark in most cases

The food match: Crispy Parmesan Cups, flank steak, basil, cilantro

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Block 27 Vineyard Selection Carmenère 2009 (562892, $29.95) is fit for a king, regal, rich and refined. The crown jewel of CYT’s line as far as I am concerned, I would choose this bottling over the (Cabernet dominated) Don Melchor any day of the week. Smokey, high on warm graphite with a conscious, languorous progression to excellence.  91

Good to go!

A wine tour de France

FI:AF

canada.com

The Tour de France is a 22-day, grueling test of endurance. Tasting through 22 French wines may not be the sporting equivalent, but someone’s got to do it. The Tour travels and circumnavigates a path through many of France’s storied wine regions; Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône and Languedoc. The wine tour goes deeper, making stops in lesser known regions like Savoie and Jura. Here are 11 notes with 11 days to go.

Related – more wine recommendations

French wines to look for now

Alsace

Pfaffenheim Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2010 (VINTAGES 996017, $19.95. SAQ 197228, $19.70) looks to wine a stage with its progressive and ambulatory nature like the “Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx. At once steely but also possessed of a creamy, recriminatory lycheeness. A Gewurztraminer island in a sea of mediocrity, less bitter, less off-dry. A comeuppance of residual sweetness and forward thinking expression.  88

Champagne

Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne (959643, $56.95) operates as opulent, bombastic bubbles. Conspiratorial instigator, non-traditionalist and anti-establishment. Cassius to Caesar and to Frazier. Agitated rope-a-doper laden with tropical citrus and guava to belie yeast, smoked nuts, clay and toast. The mousse is persistent if relegated to the ring’s perimeter and the cheap seats of the Colosseum.  Tasted twice.  89

Burgundy

Louis Picamelot Brut Cremant De Bourgogne (161919, $17.95) is continental breakfast at the round table where dry toast cuts a linear radius through pious citrus, namely lemon and grapefruit. A strong-armed, knightly representative for the anthology of the Burgundian bubbles culture. A polarizing character, the lance of the lot 87

Pascal Marchand Meursault 2010 (285866, $57.95) would make for an intriguing tête-à-tête comparison to the Tawse Quarry Road from Moray’s other guy, peer Paul Pender. Marchand’s Chardonnay is multi-layered, zesty and intense. Pear and hazelnut stand out but so too does oatmeal, in an elemental, periodic way. Which leads ne’er the cheerleader MV to comment, “egg salad sandwich.”  White Burgundy with regard to the atom.  90

Domaine Gille Côtes De Nuits-Villages 2009 (210864, $28.95) is cheap talk and wine, for Burgundy that is. Clean, pure Pinot fruit, black raspberry scent. On the border of simple, elegant, well-priced Villages. Will give you the best of its love.  88

Rhône

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (331900, $29.95) fully elicits hedonism from southern France with rakish Guigal typicity. Blueberries baked in an Ortolan pie with essence of Molasses. Bold, brass Bassline of tannic tenderness.   89

Jura

Jean Bourdy Cotes De Jura White 2007 (286427, $24.95) is most unusual Chardonnay. “Nothing in the world smells like this son.” Tis kind to call it an “oxidative” style but truth be in the pudding. Yerba tea, malt and peat each have their moment. Scottish as if Kilgore retired to the Hebridic isle.  86

Savoie

Domaine Edmond Jacquin Altesse Rousette Savoie 2010 (277335, $17.95) is a Big Mig, a jazzy, rarely seen release that trills citrus and spice in a breezy, casual way. Altesse, also called Roussette, seems to me a superior, physiological varietal. Federer workmanlike approach, a rider like Indurain, wins fans for athletic greatness and for acting effortlessly like itself.  88

Jean Perrier & Fils Cuvée Prestige Mondeuse Vin De Savoie 2010 (272112, $14.95) visually reminds me of Portugal’s Bastardo grape and by a nose. There is sour cherry, cranberry and refreshing citrus vitality as if Viognier were supporting Syrah. Perhaps like Pliny’s “vine of least repute” but there is an acme of elegance.  87

Bordeaux

Château Haut-Vigneau 2009 (29678, $25.95) opens the door to the ’09 Bordeaux party with a Tao, raison d’être and talisman’s affordable summoning via the Left Bank’s Pessac-Léognan. Candied coffee, black cherry and tobacco, radish red. Solid PL and worth storing three away for now and to the decade’s end.  89

Midi

Château Du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois 2009 (275578, $12.95) speaks directly of its mineral, Minervois roots. Brillat-Savarin might say this about the Donjon. “Tell me what you drink and I’ll tell you who you are.” The Châteauneuf-du-Pape aspiration of Kirsch with Daube is only deterred in the slightest by an aspersion of cherries steeped in quinine, but of a good kind. A “badger” of a red, fighting like Bernard Hinault and his two black eyes.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!