Tasting Ontario Part Two: Chardonnay

Chardonnay, Wismer Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench

Just over two months from now the world will reconvene in Niagara for the eighth i4c summit and that’s got me thinking again. Thinking about chardonnay. Contemplating the axiom of chardonnay continuing to make its own new set of rules, putting its best foot forward, not being influenced by fools. After the seventh installation of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration I wrote “there is no secret that Ontario winemakers have worked tirelessly to develop the ability and the acumen to make world-class white wines. There may be no better example of this then what was again on display at i4c.” Always reinventing itself and potential fulfilled, chardonnay, the slow train coming.

I’ve asked many questions and posed, ego notwithstanding by waxing some pretty bold transcribed statements on behalf of our beloved chardonnay. The phrasing has included Chardonnay is cool‘I4C’ a future filled with ChardonnayCan chardonnay get any cooler? and You’ve gotta be cool to be kind. It’s all purposed to give a glimpse into the portal of how far Ontario has come and to where it may be heading. As we continue to taste, assess and take note of wines poured out of the 2015, 2016 and now 2017 vintages we feel the progression dovetailing towards the cool and the ethereal. The deeper understanding walks among us.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part One: Riesling

The winter of 2018 brought us from Tastes Untamed in Toronto to Cuvée in Niagara Falls and back to Taste the (Prince Edward) County downtown. Spring dovetailing moved across the Terroir Symposium, the Wine Council of Ontario’s first annual Ontario Craft Wine Conference and most recently Somewhereness continued to show examples of Ontario chardonnay. The saturated and intensive start to 2018 is a pronouncement of the Ontario wine industry’s unwavering commitment to march forward, with swagger, collective identity and unabashed promotion. In just 67 days we’ll take in viticultural and winemaking sessions at the School of Cool, Kick the Dirt with local growers and taste through flights of chardonnay.

Meanwhile, later this week Ontario vintners and winemakers will be pouring at Canada House in London, England at the Trade and Media Table Top Tasting hosted by The High Commission of Canada to the UK in London and Janet Dorozynski, Trade Commissioner, Wine, Beer, Spirits and Tourism, Global Affairs Canada. The May 17th, 2018 Taste Canada UK event is an opportunity for Canadian producers to meet with trade, educators, and media contacts. The high-level London show will build on the success of the previous tastings in London including most recently the Taste Canada UK 2017. All interested producers from across Canada are invited to participate.

Related – How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

I’ve said it before. In Ontario, raising chardonnay is “about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted…few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced.” These were my words after the seventh i4c, Niagara’s International Cool Chardonnay Celebration. I’ll be back in July for number eight. Will you?

Chardonnay is the second exposée, following on the heels of riesling and ahead of sparkling wines, other white varieties and appellative blends, gamay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, plus other reds and red blends. This 21 chardonnay salute covers what I’ve recently tasted, plus a select few from 2017 I have not opened up godello.ca white space to fill. Today I give you Ontario chardonnay.

VQA Ontario wine selections at Farmhouse Tavern

Fielding Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (164491, $14.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s unplugged 2016 is a richer affair than before, with fruit fully vintage realized and into the humid zone. The balm is a lemon herbal one and the fruit an apple in the Cortland variety. There is an underlying salty aromatic note and a sweet chardnonnay-ness that speaks to really ripe phenolics and some mid-palate texture. A reluctant spokesperson for what is definitely an unoaked vintage for Ontario. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017 and February 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery 

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (81653, $14.95, WineAlign)

When I wrote about the Château des Charmes ’15 I was amazed at the high-toned aromatics and sheer warmth of that wine. What strikes so very real is how reserved this follow up ’16 seems to be. It marks a subtle, focused return, less of a reintroduction than a reimmersion into CdC’s chardonnay Niagara. Much of the wine is tenuous, either faintly whispered or located just beyond our grasp but it puts us in mind into thinking about a place. It’s ambient, fuzzed out and mild. The nine months in older barrel with the vintage fruit brings about a sense of calm, mild vanilla and no overpowering of that fruit. All chardonnay aged in oak can cross the line. “There’s a darkness over there, but we ain’t going.” This ’16 stays right there. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 and February 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Rosewood Estates Locked & Loaded White 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (552570, $16.95, WineAlign)

Locked and Loaded the curious moniker is labled “white” though it is in fact 100 per cent chardonnay. It’s mild, creamy and just slightly affected by a splinter or two of wood. It’s a curious thing to tease appellative blend but fill a bottle with only chardonnay but all that stands to reason is drinkability and balance, two tenets of matter that this “white” surely has. Almost too easy in fact. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  rosewoodwine  @Rosewoodwine  @rosewoodwine

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay Unplugged 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (68015, $17.95, WineAlign)

The Rock’s Twenty Mile Bench unoaked chardonnay is surprisingly aromatic, fleshy and creamy in 2016. It punches the proverbial with texture above its weight class and though just a click to the right on the oxidative line it offers up great context and chardonnay clarity at this exact stage of life. Don’t wait for any energy to wane and drink this happily for the rest of 2018. Drink 2018.  Tasted May 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

The Tragically Hip Chardonnay Ahead By A Century 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (483875, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Hip chardonnay takes 2016 to heart in this very drinkable hit with a hint of smoky complexity. It does what it should and is needed for the sake of balance and finishes with a gin and tonic bitterness, a sigh and a sense of having been refreshed. Then it fades to side two. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted April 2018  stoneyridgewinery  epic_wines_spirits  @stoneyridgewine  @EpicW_S  Stoney Ridge Estate Winery  Epic Wines & Spirits

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (286278, $19.95, WineAlign)

A Flat Rock chardonnay is more Mâconnais than Chablis in its Villages stylistic but truth be told it’s a vintage in and vintage out child of the single-corkscrew twist of this part of the Twenty Mile Bench. Here the sumptuous, creamy and generous Bench is provided by the winemakers who’s boots walk the vineyard and talk the talk. It’s dreamy to a degree and once again, as always on point. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted April 2018   flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Meldville Wines Chardonnay 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

The 2016 chardonnay is quite reductive in its impossible youth, a flint struck, barrel-taut, implosive chardonnay that shows great potential while it teases with less than obvious fruit. This is so very Derek Barnett, resembling many Lailey-bred chardonnay that have come before but here with Lincoln Lakeshore fruit the probabilities are multifarious and complex. A thrown Beaune of texture confirms the suspicion of ambition and time must pass before any of you, us or them can really say what will be. Guesses as good as anyone’s should plan for balance and impression. The fruit will be revealed. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Erik Peacock’s Smoked Wild Boar Tourtière with parsnip purée, The Restaurant at Bench Brewery

13th Street Chardonnay June’s Vineyard 2016, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (236745, $21.95, WineAlign)

From 2016 this June is quite tight, lean, green apple bitten and so transparent as a cool-climate chardonnay. Perhaps the youthful reduction casts a curtain over the fruit and the charm so I’d suggest waiting a year for the true June character to emerge. It may not be the most affected or regaling June but it’s salty-gritty extract and tannin truly run the show. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.75, WineAlign)

Fruit for Ann Sperling’s Triomphe is a Saunders (Beamsville Bench) and Laundry (Lincoln Lakeshore) joint, dealt a wild ferment and usually large format neutral oak. This is more reductive than previously noted in 2015, i.e. it has maintained its extreme freshness and youthful gaze. It’s also effusive and built with more flesh and caramel barrel addendum so it would seem that bigger and riper fruit meant the necessity of extra sheathing. Keep in mind that every Niagara vintage is ostensibly a chardonnay vintage so it’s not easy to separate, knock or elevate one above the others. It’s really early to decide how this driven chardonnay will turn, into purity like snow or pungent as the earth. I’d say a bit of both, in the name of complexity and variegation. After all, why should any two be exactly the same. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted January 2018  southbrookvineyards  @SouthbrookWine  Southbrook Vineyards

Lighthall Vineyards Chardonnay Ramirez Family Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The Ramirez Family fruit is from Hillier and for it Glenn Symons chose a concrete ferment followed by barrel aging, separating it from others and it shows. This is one of the more nutty and halavah nougat creamy chardonnays in the County. It’s ripe and generous, squeezing out cool climate sparks and doling out length. A departure from previous Lighthall chardonnays and so smart for the sideshow. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted April 2018  lighthallvineyards  @lighthallvyard  Lighthall Vineyards

Pingue Prosciutto

Redstone Chardonnay Select Vineyard 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (511428, $25.70, WineAlign)

With an extra year or so of time in bottle the Redstone chardonnay has entered the zone. With its snappy orchard fruit and sizzling acidity working in cohorts it doles out a feeling of real compression. The layering is stratifying in alternating fruit and stone embedded into a clay impression. This is most pleasing and instructive chardonnay with lake effect attitude and acts the part of Mr. sheer and brilliant stroke of luck by way of effort. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

The Foreign Affair Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (149211, $26.95, WineAlign)

Partial appassimento and oak barrel aging does to chardonnay what nothing else in the world can or will so expect an acquired taste in this Foreign Affair dream. Unique and alternative don’t begin to explain but the level of caramel, butterscotch and poppycock notations are nothing short of hedonistic. Forget that you get all these drawn butter, coconut and candy store flavours because they are what they are and it is texture that should be the focus. The texture is lovely. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  foreignaffairwine  @wineaffair  The Foreign Affair Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Estate 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (68817, $29.95, WineAlign)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of a moment alone with a Hidden Bench chardonnay it is here where you’ve come to the right place, vintage and bottle for which to begin the relationship. As full, flavourful and generous of cool-climate chardonnay spirit as it has ever shown, the 2016 Estate work is pure, unbridled and effortless genius. What it exudes in energy is only eclipsed by a hidden grace and it serves as the exacting launch point for more specific and eccentric Hidden Bench offerings. The triangle composed of points defined by creamy fruit, fine acidity and finer-spun texture are drawn as if on a circle. Spend $10 more on Bench chardonnay like this and you’ll be drinking properly every time out. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Late July chardonnay, Wismer Vineyard

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

There is something about this land, hard to really put a finger on it but the wines made by Shiraz from his namesake vineyard stand out, even in a line-up of Malivoire chardonnay. Here the balance and connection is forged with a couple of settling years accumulated to elasticize the once reductive composition. All has come together; cool-vintage, once cloudy and now clarified fruit. Generosity of wood, now eased and withdrawn. Acidity tempered, stretched and supportive. It’s like perfectly in season and expertly poached lobster in drawn with deft ability, clarified butter. Or just drink it with such a thing. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Henry Of Pelham Chardonnay Speck Family Reserve 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario (616466, $29.95, WineAlign)

First I’m immediately struck by the open arms of this barrel hugging chardonnay and second, by the textured quality of the fruit. You can never discard the notion or forget the ideal of cool climate but the anti-reductive, clear and focused composition from 2016 is markedly fresh, inviting and creamy. This is an H of P SFR to enjoy earlier than most and quite frankly, the price announces the same. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Cave Spring Chardonnay CSV 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (529941, $29.95, WineAlign)

There is little surprise that CSV and its 42 year-old vine baggage show off this early in life, in part thanks to a gregarious and generous vintage but also because few Ontario terroir cru can gift such a combination of ripeness and mineral virtue. What lays beneath the calcareous clay and what is drawn by mature, dug down deep roots comes into this orchard juice with layers of heaven and tang. Escarpment earth is a beautiful thing, even in chardonnay of such texture and feel. The acidity is a step down in 2016 but don’t let that detract from the pleasure this brings. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Karlo Estates Chardonnay Estate Grown Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

The block planted in 2010 was destined to see its first in bottle fruition last year but because 2015 was the crop that never was, here is the debut of the wild ferment, estate grown chardonnay. Under the auspices of a Derek Barnett varietal creed the home vineyard fruit shows the mantic signs of what will come when these vines mature into Prince Edward County adults. Barrel fermented and aged for 10 months was a conservative and frugal approach to coax just enough precocious success from the awkward child of naive and excitable fruit. That and the coolest of fermentative temperatures in house to balance some heat from a season’s outdoor months. What really drives this tenderfoot chardonnay is the lovely combinative movements in funky and leesy aromatics and texture. Convivial beginnings often lead to later gregarious gatherings, something I can see this County chardonnay getting into just a couple of vintages looking forward. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  karloestateswinery  @KarloEstates  Karlo Estates

Leaning Post Chardonnay Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

It takes little motivation these days to find your groove in the mûrir of battened and cultivated chardonnay vines growing with confidence in Wismer’s cru vineyard. Leaning Post’s Ilya Senchuk continues to dig deep for mineral extraction provided by the maturity of the Foxcroft Block and if you’ve ever stood in one spot, turned 360 degrees and felt the connectivity of slant, angle, relief, position and exposure, then you’d understand. These lines in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation in Vineland are some of the most architectural in all of Niagara. You can imagine the intricate workings beneath the soil and then extrapolate what that means for the chardonnay grown above. Senchuk grabbed a late September pick at the apex of an autumn heat wave to maximize fruit speaking the language of three orchards; apple, peach and lime. His winemaking process stretches, elongates and elasticizes the savvy ’15 fruit, by multi-purposed fermentations both primary and malolactic, followed by a no-stir, three-tiered barrel cantilever. The stones put a reductive flint back in the word mineral and the non-lazy reliance on stirring up texture means the balance supplied through mouthfeel is by a naturally occurring accumulate whipped up in support by high acidity centrifuge. In the end it’s just great juice, to sip, sit back, sigh and smile. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Southbrook Chardonnay Estate Grown Small Lot Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

The organic and biodynamic small lot “Wild Ferment” chardonnay is unique to itself and seems to have garnered a great deal of Ann Speling’s 2016 chardonnay attention. Find more beautifully scented Four Mile Creek fruit than this and I’ll ask you to make the finest chardonnay ever produced down on the flats of the peninsula. A wee bit of sémillon blended in has done wonders for this wine, like the Niagara white appellative version of Côte-Rôtie. It is here where sémillon transforms texture and this amazing thematically-charged chemical reaction so that grape tannin and extract rise to an exceptional occasion. There is so much on the aromatic front and the prescribed “baby fat” is expressed by a delicious flinty note. Chewy is part of the palate opera and tart Niagara orchard fruit is juiced into the piqued and ambrosial flavours. Can you tell this wine excites? That will only increase as the fat renders into the salsa. Imagine the Poetica possibilities. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted January 2018  southbrookvineyards  @SouthbrookWine  Southbrook Vineyards

Closson Chase Chardonnay South Clos 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

South Clos from the archetypal estate vineyard block with vines up to 18 years-old on the south side of the Closson Road is one of Ontario’s premium chardonnays. Barrel fermented and aged for 16 months in French oak, 20 per cent new, “Le Clos” ’16 is perhaps the richest, creamiest and most mouth filling of all, from the hottest of seasons. It’s in a state of youthful bliss, finding a soft spot now, though a closed moment is coming, before it speaks of a true South Clos personality. Baking apples, preserved lemon and a whispered feeling of honey that is not quite there. I’d suggest enjoying one before the summer and then waiting on the rest to see what will be. Will be released during the Closson Chase 20th-anniversary party June 23rd. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted April 2018  clossonchasevineyards  @ClossonChase  @ClossonChase

Bachelder Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard #2 “Foxcroft Block” 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (547299, $44.95, WineAlign)

Wismer-Foxcroft delivers a simpatico and workable growing season for Thomas Bachelder to craft a sensible, unpresumptuous, repeatable and perfectly balanced chardonnay in 2015. The togetherness of another classic Bachelder fresh glade and generous barrel note front is equally centred but I don’t envision much movement or morphisms any time soon. The palate is all about the liquefaction of the kept solids having settled into textural precipitate so that pleasure is derived more by sips than smells. That’s a fine thing from chardonnay, especially from one as much Beauned as it is Niagarafied. The happenstance of fine spicy bytes mark the last moments with the ad hoc and scrupulous WFN2. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted April 2018  bachelder_wines  @Bachelder_wines  Bachelder Wines

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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March of the Canadians

Shrimp, mussel, kale, salsa verde #jacksonpollock risotto

Shrimp, mussel, kale, salsa verde #jacksonpollock risotto

If you’ve yet to see the CBC video discussing the success of Canadian wine in the UK, do it now.

Brits love our wine

The British, reports Aaron Saltzman, are developing a taste for fine Canadian vintages, and not just Icewine. “It’s a niche market, but it’s being received quite well.” Even though Icewine still accounts for 75 per cent of sales in England (1.2 out of a total 1.59 million Canadian dollars), in 2015, Canada sold $168,500 worth of table wine to the U.K. That number was five times lower in 2013, at $34,889.

In Decanter Magazine’s April 2016 issue they discuss “The best Pinot Noirs in the world (outside Burgundy).” Five from Canada are nominated out of more than 80 total. Ian d’Agata included the Bachelder 2013 Lowrey Vineyard, along with two others from Ontario, Flat Rock Cellars Gravity 2012, Twenty Mile Bench and Norman Hardie Winery, Cuvée L 2012, Prince Edward County. The two recognized from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia are Meyer Family Vineyards 2013, McLean Creek Road Vineyard and  Tantalus Vineyards 2012.

The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

Dr. Jamie Goode has had a profound effect on alerting fellow Brits to the Canadian thing and that ambassadorship has filtered through to the wine shop owners and trickled down to the consumer. Much of the education is attributed to Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Global Practice Lead for Canadian Wine, Beer and Spirits, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa. Dr. Dorozynski has brought the wines and their makers to England and pried open the doors to perception.

Last week I tasted through a hundred or more Ontario wines at Taste Ontario and at Cuvée 2016 in Niagara. Those notes are coming soon. For now let’s concentrate on the VINTAGES March 19th release. Here are some of the Canadian wines up for grabs.

Tawse Sketches Riesling 2014

Tawse Sketches Riesling 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89029, $17.95, WineAlign)

Really striking Sketches Riesling here in 2014, aromatically wild and full of complex flavours. So representative, lemony beyond lemon and full of juicy acidity. Almost too much of a good thing but it should settle a bit and replace some of that stark contrasting acidity with copacetic sweetness. Great fruit in 2014. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse

Culmina Decora Riesling 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (444836, $24.95, WineAlign)

Judging from the ripeness, strength, density and effective grape tannin this may as well be noted as pulchra, decor, charissima, that is, powerful, beautiful, charming. All three are apropos in this really forward and mineral tangy Riesling. Could this come from anywhere but the Okanagan Valley? Should develop with intellect into a honeyed, elastic expression. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted November 2015 and March 2016  @CulminaWinery  @winebcdotcom

Riesling squared- Culmina Decora 2013 and Charles Baker Picone 2012

Riesling squared- Culmina Decora 2013 and Charles Baker Picone 2012

Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (395855, $24.95, WineAlign)

Exceeds elegant expectations with poise and presence, a Bordeaux blend so refined it pleases. Effectively restrained and remedies with tonic. Circulating acidity ranges while chocolate whips, but wholly within reason. Spice accents assist in the celebration (why not?) to effectuate this red’s firm grip and grasp of Claret reality. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015 and March 2016  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Foreign Affair The Dream 2012

Foreign Affair The Dream 2012

Foreign Affair The Dream 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (364380, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Dream is a ripping, layered and well executed appassimento from Barclay Robinson. Much oak influence but with that fencing there is more than the spice is right. Sweetness is valued in the context of ripeness, acidity and burgeoning tannin. Here we find a big wine and well within the parameters of the sensibility. Tasting and thinking on the dried and rehydrated grape approach can leave you “lost in the dream, or just the silence of a moment, it’s always hard to tell.” With the ’12 Abbraccio, “Il Sogno” shares the passion for the planning and shows that “love’s the key to the things that we see.” And a little bit of unknown appassimento magic. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @wineaffair  @BarclayRobinson  @EpicW_S

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.00, WineAlign)

A vintage that begged to be protected in the vineyard, meaning no leaf plucking and no thinning. A most excellent goal of (0.691895068 kg / m2), or 2.8 tons an acre was realized, as opposed to one in 2010. Heavy vigor slowed down the ripening (leaving that kind of tonnage on the vine), to an elongated balance. Comes from terroir Baker nods to as “a barren tundra,” which you don’t get down the hill. In 2012 there was no waste, no rot, no problems. Its residual climbs to 15 g/L but you’d never know it. There is a confit of citrus, a mellifluous sensation of preserved lemon. Total count is 600 cases. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  Last tasted March 2016  @cbriesling  @StratusWines

Good to go!

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Got August, go cottage, get wine

Fiore di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

Fiore di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

Let’s just cut to the chase. It has been more than three weeks since I’ve posted to Godello, thanks to a trip to Greece, Cool Chardonnay and my #eastcoastswing15. Let’s face it, I’ve left you hanging, waiting, wondering and perchance, livid at not having received a recommendation for summer wines since, well, since July 15th. As my Achaian friend Dimos is like to say, on repeat, “sorry about that.”

VINTAGES rolls out the smallest (by quantity) release of the calendar but I’ve got to say that per wine offer capita, the quality level is set to high. There is much to choose, from refreshing whites to grill worthy reds. Got, go, get.

From left to right: Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Rosewood Süssreserve Riesling 2014, Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013, Lone Birch Syrah 2013 and The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013

From left to right: Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Rosewood Süssreserve Riesling 2014, Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013, Lone Birch Syrah 2013 and The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013

Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Do Empordà, Spain (422469, $14.95, WineAlign)

Such a formidable and concentrated liqueur dominates the nose on this heavily-textured Garnacha from maritime-influenced vines grown on decomposed granitic soils. Minor yet judicious oak works minor magic on the fruit for a feeling that is organza in sentiment if like fruit-roll up in reality. The couverture is quite natural and free-flowing, like waves lapping up a windless shore. Though flavours like liquorice, pomegranate and morello cherry are thought intrusive, the actuality here is simply Garnacha in pure, unadulterated form. This should be a late summer, early fall go to for BBQ, barbecue and grilling by all means possible. Gritty, grippy finish. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @CellerEspelt  @DOEmporda  @EmpordaWine  @ChartonHobbs

Rosewood Süssreserve Riesling 2014, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (258806, $14.95, WineAlign)

If you have never sussed out the Rosewood adaptation on the deutsches sweetness enhancement technique for Riesling, it’s honey time you did. The vintage brings out the best in and of all worlds; texture, high-rising graceful aromatics, burgeoning acidity and wait for it…honey. Mellifluous honey. This vintage seems to throw a gallon of juice at the charge in ways previous vintages did not seem to do. This is very easy and yet direct on the palate. Look at this Riesling and note there is nothing to hide. “She is good to me and there’s nothing she doesn’t see,” so in ’14, “honey, I want you.” Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Rosewoodwine

Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (179838, $24.95, WineAlign)

Combines Grenache Blanc with Vermentino for an identity crisis of Italo-French proportions and in the end it reminds so much of a southern French take on Viognier. Aromatically precious, from white flowers and tropical fruit. Has a cool metal stir to keep it alive, punchy, vibrant and then acidity up the back side, flip-flopping about and turning “cartwheels ‘cross the floor.” A harum of flavours follows suit, as per the modern protocol. Though it’s merely a whiter shade of pale there is more than ample personality and whip to work up a frenzy, to mingle and to sit down with dinner. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @DomaineLafage  @LaRegionLR

Lone Birch Syrah 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420695, $19.95, WineAlign)

A good, inexpensive, once upon a time in the west Syrah is hard to locate so when one like the Lone Birch comes along, it’s time to saddle up. The spice, pure fruit and smoky meat aromas are of an outdoor intoxicant kind, joined by notions of mesquite, lavender, creosote and thyme. The verbiage here is not so much green but more like the purple flowers that emerge late in the season. The chalky edge to the bright acidity makes for a fun texture to finish interplay. This is a great change in Syrah gears with horsepower and grace. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @LoneBirchWines  @WINESofWA  @HHDImports_Wine

The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (389767, $19.95, WineAlign)

Appassimento-style Sauvignon Blanc is both curious and an open target for accusations of vivid excesses. The detractor will look for swift “walls of insincerity,” the complimenter will say “I was enchanted to meet you.” Foreign Affair’s take has been injected with a cocktail of intensity; steroidal, hormonal and from concentrate. All the juicy orchard fruits are there; plum, apple, pear, nectarine, lemon, lime and grapefruit. This passes the appassimento SB test, if only and commodiously because it spreads fruit like confiture on warm toast.  Tasted October 2014  @wineaffair

From left to right: L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Rieflé Pinot Gris Steinert Grand Cru 2010, Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Easton Zinfandel 2012 and Domaine Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune Aux Grains 1er Cru 2012

From left to right: L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Rieflé Pinot Gris Steinert Grand Cru 2010, Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Easton Zinfandel 2012 and Domaine Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune Aux Grains 1er Cru 2012

L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington (982157, $24.95, WineAlign)

Sauvignon Blanc (13 per cent) adds buoyancy to the main attraction in this vanguard and reputable Columbia Valley pioneer. Quite toasty and marked by early nose-hair splitting and splintering barrel notes. Dare say reductive but not in a rubber sap run way. More like Sémillon-dominated Bordeaux, of big bones, cut through soluble rock, created a sinkhole that swallows up flavours, only to release them in geyser like fashion in later years. So with patience and age-time in mind, this Sem will have better years ahead, when the heavy (14.5 per cent) alcohol integrates and the lemon drop-butterscotch flavours mellow. Generous pH (3.2) and high Brix (24.2) were the product of a very warm vintage. Rounded by concentric circles of acidity and bitter pith tannin, this is very tropical, like Gewürztraminer, but more in mango than lychee. Needs five years minimum because the oak is overdone. Tasted March 2015  @lecole41  @WINESofWA  @TrialtoON

Rieflé Pinot Gris Steinert Grand Cru 2010, Ac Alsace, France (408229, $24.95, WineAlign)

Annick, Jean-Claude, Paul et Thomas Rieflé make their highly affordable Grand Cru Pinot Gris near Pfaffenheim in the southern stretch of the Vosges Mountains, on soils composed in limestone of marine origin intercalated with marls. This is rich, layered and spicy Pinot Gris, full on calculated with ripe, sunshine-laced fruit, orchards upon orchards of variegation and some, though not excessive tropical intentions. Has that distinct calcaire inflection that reminds of struck rocks, petrol and gardens giving off pretty smells at dusk. The finish is really long here so look for this to work well into the next decade. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted August 2015  @RiefleLandmann  @TandemSelection     @AlsaceWines

Easton Zinfandel 2012, Amador County, California (328377, $27.95, WineAlign)

A ripe, buoyant and near flashy example of Zinfandel without any necessity for speed, heat or mountain jam. Fruit is steamy but you can touch it. Aromas can cut through what Zinfandel often hides, which is freshness. There is spice on the nose for sure but it’s an accent, not a deterrent for disguise. The palate is racy and alive and while there is some cure and dried fruit in the mix it stops well short of confiture. The tailing trail of minor exhaust propels, not halts the length. Really good vintage for the Amador Zinfandel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @rhonist  @TheZinfandelOrg  @bwwines

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (285510, $27.95, WineAlign)

In terms of the modern Vino Nobile vernacular and even grander to a wider Tuscan vicissitude, Dei takes the reigns and offers zero apology for the way in which the wines talk their turkey. Clean, pure and plenty are the words to describe this Prugnolo Gentile, but also graceful and slender. Spoons out copious quantities of fruit and is yet chewy enough you might think of eating it with a fork. Has aromas that recall concepts both fresh and dry. Vino Nobile to gimme fiction, history and tradition. “Comes when you pirouette,” dances light and treading across the tongue, never hot and heavy, but stylish and pliantly balletic. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @consorzionobile  @Strada_Nobile

Domaine Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune Aux Gravains 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (206136, $53.95, WineAlign)

Even in Burgundy there is a scarcity and rarity with which a particular bottle can please, impress and instruct, vintage after vintage. Pavelot’s Aux Gravains is pure Beaune, even if it is on the showy side of Pinot Noir. This is just plain and simple perfectly ripe and at the same time grippy with the grandest ‘G” that can be drawn. The cherry, earth and roots are smouldering and yet not remotely smoky. It smells like a cigar as it’s being rolled, with nary a green moment. The palate is chewy, cranky, pure again and racked by veraciously munching acidity. Naturally cured as well. Such a Pinot Noir is to be lauded. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted August 2015  Vinifera Wine Services @DanielBeiles

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Niagara delivers everbearing quality in November releases

Ontario Everbearing Strawberries

Ontario Everbearing Strawberries

Like the strawberry, yet on countless further levels, Ontario wines have elevated in quality with exponential consistency in recent times. I can remember rushing out to Simcoe County to pick strawberries in late June at Visser and Barrie Hill farms, only to see the season end as abruptly as it began, after just a few weeks of plump, flame-red, succulence. Times have changed. Like the plant belonging to the family of Fragaria genus, Ontario wines, across the board, have evolved. The Everbearing Strawberry can be picked well into the Fall. Was it not so long ago the consumer chose Ontario wines with sporadic indifference? To Japan, exports of Canadian wine have doubled in the last five years. This is no small feat and with thanks to an all Canadian wine store owned by Jamie Paquin called Heavenly Vines. Domestically speaking, purchases of local wine are as strong in October as they are in July. Times has changed.

Ontario winemakers have figured it out. The “world-class” comparative humanities of aging and longevity aside, the comprehensive and widespread phenomenon of excellence, regardless of vintage, is now an Ontario reality. I would not make the call that 2013 was a vintage of the decade but very good wines were made. There are no bad vintages in Ontario. That concept is mired in the pessimistic rhetoric of the past. The winemaking camaraderie excogitates to mature as one big happy guild in pursuit of the common good. Vintners are focused and intense; on terroir, micro-climate, canopy management, picking times, pure and clean fruit, élevage and on honest wine.

The industry is currently fixated on making great product. Whatever beefs critics and consumers have with varietal choices, marketing failures or suffocating consumer systems, what is happening in bottle is nothing short of brilliance. Morale is at an all-time high. How else to explain the ability to weather the storm of a brutal winter in 2014? Enzo Barresi of Colio Estates told me yesterday that he does not bemoan the loss of vines. Less Merlot? So what? The ability to make polished wines from other grape varieties replaces fear, dread and loathing. The same goes for Rosewood Estates. No more Sémillon? “What can you do.”  says Krystina Roman. Concentrate on excellence elsewhere. Soldier on.

The November 8th VINTAGES release coming up this weekend is a prime example of the strawberry in the room that is Niagara wine. I count no fewer than eight examples of an eminence front in output. From Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay and from Pinot Noir to a Bordeaux-styled blend, these eight wines are elephantine examples of what Ontario does best.

From left to right: Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2012

From left to right: Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2013, The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013, Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling Wine 2012, Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2012

Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (80234, $16.95, WineAlign)

The vintage delves into older school territory, elemental and elevated skywards, to atmosphere the Sheep has not recently climbed to. This airy void allows the Vineland rocks beneath to grind their way into all aspects of this Riesling. “Three bags full.” The lime rind and overall citrus circumvention brings the typical back to earth. This is a lean but fine Featherstone. Exemplary of the vintage, with plenty of wool.  Tasted October 2014  @featherstonewne

The Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc Enchanted 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (389767, $19.95, WineAlign)

Appassimento-style Sauvignon Blanc is both curious and an open target for accusations of vivid excesses. The detractor will look for swift “walls of insincerity,” the complimenter will say “I was enchanted to meet you.” Foreign Affair’s take has been injected with a cocktail of intensity; steroidal, hormonal and from concentrate. All the juicy orchard fruits are there; plum, apple, pear, nectarine, lemon, lime and grapefruit. This passes the appassimento SB test, if only and commodiously because it spreads fruit like confiture on warm toast.  Tasted October 2014  @wineaffair

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling Wine 2012, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (370361, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Spark’s fermented in the bottle, cheesy, leesy warm ’12 turn, like melted Fontina on Formica, does dissipate following a moment or two and a bubble-bursting swirl. To taste there is much to delight in this inaugural release. Like the days leading up to ripe picked pears and a squeeze of striking, tart lemon. Good persistence is crackling, misty and even mysterious. Sparks squeezed from frenetic rhythm.  Tasted October 2014  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (68817, $28.95, WineAlign)

Shows its finesse from the start. Though today I sense a slightly candied nose it’s wrapped in a warm and fuzzy coat, gifted by the vintage but without heat. This may be the prettiest of Marlize’s (Estate) Chardonnay; enchanting, honeyed, floral. Yet there is a pulsating note, portending the time needed to bring this to an intended fruition. Stretches for conscious movement length. From my earlier, July 2014 note: “Yet rigid in its youth, the wood is not yet settled. Bottled in September of 2012, the ’12 will need every day of its first year to be ready, willing and able to please upon release. From my earlier, May 2014 note: “Always aromatically embossed and texturally creamy, the Estate Chardonnay finds a way to elevate its game with each passing vintage. The uplifting elegance factor acquiesces the poise needed to battle the effects of ultra-ripe fruit out of a warm vintage. In ’12 the middle ground exchanges more pleasantries though the finale speaks in terse, toasted nut and piquant daikon terms. Not harshly or witchy, mind you, but effectively and within reason of the season. When you look in the window at Harald (proprietor Thiel) and Marlize’s (winemaker Beyers) Chardonnay, “you’ve got to pick up every stitch.”   Last tasted October 2014  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron

From left to right: Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2010, Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2011

From left to right: Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2010, Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2011

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

Seven months have softened and mothered Gravity’s adolescence in ways to now see it as the most feminine, certainly of the last four vintages. Pretty dabs, perfumes of natural conditioning, warm days and warm nights in the bottle. More accessible than previous takes and of a new modernity perceived. Sweet dreams and sweet fragrances, roses and cinnamon, nothing fancy here mind you, with no bite and no gathering moss. Cherries and vanilla, lavender and simple pleasures. Straight up Gravity, no pull down, no drag and no excess weight. At $30 and from the best barrels, this trumps $40-50 most locales not called Lowery, La Petite Vineyard, Central Otago, Hengst or Pfinstberg. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  Last tasted October 2014  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (33894, $30.00, WineAlign)

A refined ’11 Pinot Noir, of combined vineyard fruit or not, this shows attention to clean, precise winemaking detail. Punches suffered during fermentation mean a fully healed wine in bottle. Good structure and grain in tannin with just a minor fleeting paint is only a fleeting reminder of previous VR’s. Sweet plum fruit, just ripe, skin cracking, flesh oozing and dripping of pure juice. From my earlier, February 2014 note: “Something’s missing, or rather something is happening here. The LCJ omnipresent warm Pinot coat of harm is conspicuous in its absence, or has it been reigned in? This 2011 is so much more friendly, more soft-spoken, expertly judged and picked ripe fruit richer than before. Plenty of tang and tannin but the pronouncement is in a savoury basil/chervil kind of way. Not just another high made by just another crazy guy. A most excellent, bright, roxy Village Reserve, full of atmosphere and ambient music.”  Last tasted October 2014  @LeClosJordanne

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (505610, $38.00, WineAlign)

Has shifted ever so slightly, as if injected by a bolus to effectively level off the intensity in concentration. With another summer beneath its brooding belt, the aromatics are now in full flight. From my earlier, June 2014 note: “The richest Terroir Caché to date, making use of its barrel in judicious but never obnoxious ways. Huge Bench wine, needs 10 years for sure. From my earlier, April 2014 note: “No other Niagara red and for sure no alternative Peninsula Bordeaux blend exists in such a vacuum of dichotomous behaviour. Act one is an out-and-out boastful, opulent show of Rococo. Act two a gnawing and gnashing by beasts. The pitch and pull of the Terroir Caché 2010 optates and culls the extraordinary through the practice of extended délestage, what Hidden Bench notes as “a traditional method of gently draining the wine and returning it to tank with its skins during fermentation.” The ’10 is about as huge as it gets, highly ferric and tannic. Still chemically reactive, you can almost imagine its once small molecules fitfully growing into long chains. Berries of the darkest night and he who should not be named black fruit are confounded by minerals forcing the juice into a cold sweat. Will require a minimum of 10 years to soften its all-powerful grip. From my earlier March 2013 note: “Has rich, voluptuous Napa Valley written all over it. Sister Merlot dominant, Beamsville Bench sledge monster. Plumbago, mineral, blackberry and coffee in a wine that will be the ringer in a blind tasting 10 years on. Harald may be saying “this is our family jewel.” Mr. Thiel, you make good wine.”  Last tasted October 2014

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (34561, $65.00, WineAlign)

Certainly plays the most hard to get of the ’11 Chardonnays of fruit so fine and pure. Layered like Phyllo or Puff pastry, gathered and set back upon itself. Gains traction and intensity through developed flavours and overlays of texture, both solid like shale and lacy like organza. From my earlier, July 2014 note: “From sandy loam and limestone soils, here is a Chardonnay that winemaker Sébastien Jacquey is looking to fashion with low PH and elevated tannin. A most commendable effort in the enigmatic ’11 vintage, clean, anything but lean and un-gassed by a jet engine’s aerified stream. Chardonnay running instead on the vineyard’s biofuel, a chalky lees and lime texture that turns green in a savoury way towards the back end. Full, rich, gaining in stature as it breathes, thinks and feels. Atop the green there is an ambrosial aroma and a honeyed sense of flesh. A wine of great respect and biodynamic energy.”  Last tasted October 2014

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When experts break wine together

Wine tasting

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

as seen on canada.com

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

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

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

CCOVI Brock U Expert's Tasting 2014

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

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

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

Riesling Flight CCOVI Brock U Expert's Tasting 2014

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

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

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

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

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

FLIGHT #1 – ARE YOU EXPERIENCED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FLIGHT #2 – THE NEW ABC – APPEALING BALANCED CHARDONNAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

You can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine

Pink lipstick

Here are five wines that say “you can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine.”
Photo: VILevi/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Friday is Valentine’s Day, again. May as well be Groundhog Day, only the movies aren’t as good. You do know that songs about Valentine’s Day rarely look at the bright side of life. Case in point David Bowie, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson and even JewelLast year I played the cruel card against a worthy Valentine’s adversary, the wine in the pink pajamas, Rosé. Like it or not, I’m sticking to the 2013 pronouncement, “just say no to pink wine for Valentine’s.”

I can and will pick wines for any and every occasion, from the Ice Storm to the Super Bowl, from Halloween to sipping along with Rock and Roll. Valentine’s Day receives no exemption but there can be no sugar coating cupid’s get in the mood juice by way of the pink stuff. Blush and bride do not connect as the greatest Valentine’s Day pairing.  A real man will drink Rosé any day of the year, just not tomorrow. February 14th is so hyper-candied that ingredients like salinity, minerality, positive bitterness, animale and tannin are essential in the name of balance. Just don’t pair your dry red wine with chocolate.

The wines I’ve picked out for her, for him and for each other all exhibit at least a few complex characteristics. They also hail from nooks in the world a patron saint of lovers might find a respite away from the demands on his match-making time. Here are five wines that say “you can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine.”

From left: Terres Blanches Muscat Sec 2012, Boutari Santorini 2012, Domaine Lambrusques Esprit Sauvage 2011, The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012, and Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

From left: Terres Blanches Muscat Sec 2012, Boutari Santorini 2012, Domaine Lambrusques Esprit Sauvage 2011, The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012, and Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

White for her

Terres Blanches Muscat Sec 2012, Pays D’oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (Midi), France (653188, $13.95 WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Dry Muscat can be dull as paint drying and though this entry-level rarity (for Canada) is a bit aromatically quiet for the species, the palate really shines. This must be the place to explore the dry example of the variety. A naïve melody with “feet on the ground, head in the sky.” Will appeal to fans of Unoaked Chardonnay and white Rhône blend rangers. Tasty bits of clementine, nougat and anise. The good bitters of a cocktail coming up to room temperature. Good tangy finish that goes on for quite some time. We’re talking head of the class.  88  Tasted February 2014

White for him

Boutari Santorini 2012, Santorini, Greece  (47985, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

The soda, stones and salinity of Assyrtiko from Santorini can be a trifecta of allegorical wonderment. This one has all that but it is the lemon drop nose that leads so in that sense it’s more basic than others. That said it is a perfect pale-bronzing entry into Thira’s Cycladic, Aegean world. At this price there is more pith and bitter nut oils but the wine remains lively. Add to that the savoury garrigue of the island’s low-bush vineyards and a slow-flowing note of warm lava. Not surprising given the above average temperatures of 2012, leading to a reductive note. Still, Assyrtiko always thrills.  89  Tasted February 2014  @Boutari  @DrinkGreekWine

Red for her

Domaine Lambrusques Esprit Sauvage 2011, Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc-Roussillon (Midi), France (354142, $17.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

This Languedoc-Roussillon red blend wheels out a quirky beat but is so generous of flavour it will have great appeal, if not to the masses. Unmasked by wood or cane, it almost seems to apologize for being so tasty. Pic St. Loup may not be a household name and though it “started off with nothing,” this village might tell the Esprit Sauvage  “you’re proud that you’re a self-made man.” Confident in bracing tannin and acidity though they steal away like a Xeroxed, three-minute George Harrison pop song. At the end of the day I’m happy to be stuck in Midi with a Pic St. Loup.  89  Tasted February 2014

Red for him

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (149237, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Quickly reminiscent of its 2011 predecessor but also different, in a basking, vintage-related warmth and reductive currency. This could not have been an easy wine to temper in 2012 considering the ripasso methodology. Just softened plum is painted all over its sheen with the poaching aromas steaming away. Grilled, melting licorice, caramelizing and disapparating before your eyes. Not to mention a French vanilla creamy garagiste waft, like nuts and bolts ice cream. But I will admit the tang, acidity and tenacity increases with each sip and swirl. Such a unique bottling to Ontario. Is there anything else like it not from Lake Erie North Shore?  89  @wineaffair  Tasted February 2014

Red for each other

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (165126, $39.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

A conundrum here. On one hand this Verbena is ready to take up residence in the modern world. On the other, there are hallmark ancient Sangiovese Grosso varietal and Montalcino cellar smells. Leather, game, seeping, weeping cherries, dried flowers, cave must and animale. The game really stands out and though it’s neither mutton nor bretty funk, it’s got musk. Angular yet sweet tannins envelop flavours of roasted plum and licorice. Copiously endowed with intense, dense, chewy fruit so expect this to last for 10-15 years. Makes for great value in Brunello out of a trying but thankfully not flamboyant vintage.  92  Tasted February 2014  @ConsBrunello

Good to Go!

Twelve days of wine for Christmas

Wine for Christmas

Now is the time to begin shopping, that is unless you are a glutton for line-up punishment in the last 12 days leading up to Christmas.
Photo: jillchen/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Christmas is but three weeks away and so the countdown begins. Wine shops from coast to coast are officially at maximum inventory, knowing full well that if you stock it, they will come.

In Ontario, VINTAGES sections at the LCBO have more to offer than at any other time of the year. The same can be said for the SAQ in Quebec. Alberta’s private wine shops are loaded up with selections, as are the VQA stores in British Columbia and every other provincial liquor board store.

Now is the time to begin shopping, that is unless you are a glutton for line-up punishment in the last 12 days leading up to Christmas. Starting tomorrow you have exactly one week left to search and acquire any of these twelve terrific wines. Come on people, get out there!

From left: QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS DUQUE DE VISEU RED 2009, CHÂTEAU BERTINERIE MERLOT/CABERNET 2009, DE WETSHOF LESCA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012, LORNANO LE BANDITE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009, DOMAINE DU PETIT MÉTRIS CLOS DE LA MARCHE SAVENNIÈRES 2009, and RIOJA BORDÓN GRAN RESERVA 2004

From left: QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS DUQUE DE VISEU RED 2009, CHÂTEAU BERTINERIE MERLOT/CABERNET 2009, DE WETSHOF LESCA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012, LORNANO LE BANDITE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009, DOMAINE DU PETIT MÉTRIS CLOS DE LA MARCHE SAVENNIÈRES 2009, and RIOJA BORDÓN GRAN RESERVA 2004

QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS DUQUE DE VISEU RED 2009, Doc Dão, Portugal  (546309, $13.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straight cut, hedonistic Dão pleasure from winemaker Manuel Vieira and the Sogrape Vinhos’ empire. Nothing wrong with that except that at $14 it feels like stealing. An evincive blend of 50 per cent Touriga Nacional, 20 Tinta Roriz and 30 Jaen. Red and black fruit, mineral tension, somewhat gritty but lush in plum, licorice feel and flavour. Really good stuff.  89  Tasted November 2013  @winePortugalCA

CHÂTEAU BERTINERIE MERLOT/CABERNET 2009, Ac Côtes De Bordeaux, Blaye (244640, $18.95, WineAlign)

Intrigue and nary a sign of Brett or funk. Warm, java fruit ninja subsidized by the tension that possesses it. A bit overripe perhaps, also rocky and hematic, unstaunched and with good length. Satisfyingly good, deep, dark wine. At $19 this has December stews written all over its Blays face.  90  Tasted November 2013  @Bertinerie

DE WETSHOF LESCA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012, Wo Robertson, South Africa (355438, $18.95, WineAlign)

This is exactly what I come to expect and hope for in calcareous, gravel and clay Cape Chardonnay. Robertson study in balance, fortitude and anxiety. Palpable proof of De Westhof’s self-professed attitude towards “site-specific vineyard management and wine-making.” Really pretty white flowers, citrus in C minor and piercing acidity. Proficiently ripe, toasted without tempting caramel and really well-judged. All in for $19. No ifs and or buts.  91  Tasted November 2013

LORNANO LE BANDITE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy  (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

Goes out Brett funky straight away and without trepidation. Le Bandite indeed, rough, rural, musky, manly, stealing fruit from the well dressed, the hygienic and the entitled. Robin Hood CCR, prince of fresh fruit thief, or perhaps the man in tights, as in iron, Italianate, searing, sanguine attitude. Throwing rocks, stones, rioting, looting and shooting arrows through my Chianti heart. Could you tell I liked it?  90  Tasted November 2013  @FrontierWine

DOMAINE DU PETIT MÉTRIS CLOS DE LA MARCHE SAVENNIÈRES 2009, Ac Loire, France (250571, $23.95, WineAlign)

A bottle full of apple, lemon and flinty rock. At first, a Chenin Blanc study for The Dance. The aromatics seem just a bit closed today and the texture a touch more downy than from memory, but it is far from oxidized. Arid, tight and then a slow emergence. The stones begin to traipse on the tongue in a Matissean La Danse clarity of light, form and simplicity, tingle to the core, circle round and round. Textbook Savennières.  91  Tasted November 2013  @LoireValleyWine

RIOJA BORDÓN GRAN RESERVA 2004, Doca Rioja, Spain (114454, $24.95, SAQ 11383561, $22.45, Alta. $34.99, WineAlign)

A Rioja that wears its alcohol and emotions on its sleeve. Robust attack, cranky acidity and lashing tannin. A cup of sweet and sour cherries in jubilation and rigmarole. Quite the boisterous, reactive Rioja animal. Hard to figure on but quite something. Classic actually.  90  Tasted November 2013  @RiojaBordon

From left: DE MARTINO LIMÁVIDA OLD BUSH VINES 2010, THE FOREIGN AFFAIR THE TEMPTRESS ‘ABBRACCIO’ 2009, BONNY DOON LE CIGARE VOLANT 2008, DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, PAHLMEYER CHARDONNAY 2010, and CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010

From left: DE MARTINO LIMÁVIDA OLD BUSH VINES 2010, THE FOREIGN AFFAIR THE TEMPTRESS ‘ABBRACCIO’ 2009, BONNY DOON LE CIGARE VOLANT 2008, DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, PAHLMEYER CHARDONNAY 2010, and CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010

DE MARTINO LIMÁVIDA OLD BUSH VINES 2010, Maule Valley, Chile  (360131, $35.95, WineAlign)

If a seriously heaving berry, dark as night Chilean red can add a bit of euphoria into your life, this SV might just be the one. Wet earth drenched in a sudoric blanket of wood soaked in fine liqueur. Limited production blend of Malbec, Carmenère, Carignan and Tannat from “terroir más excepcionales de Chile.” Noticeable porcine note from a wine seemingly old and wise but beneath the hard shell it’s actually berry-chocolate fruity and tangy. Has tension and nerve but the parts don’t always equate to the whole. Terrific attempt at a serious Maule Valley red of singular expression.  90  Tasted November 2013  @DeMartinoWines  @Halpernwine

THE FOREIGN AFFAIR THE TEMPTRESS ‘ABBRACCIO’ 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (127340, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the estate’s Crispino Vineyard, the blend of 65 per cent Merlot, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon and five Petit Verdot is chosen from the best barrels. Activates Ilya Senchuk’s take on the appassimento style, in structure and in spades. This is the vintage where 14 became 15, but that alcohol has to be forgiven, considering the outright bravado embrace of the rehydrated fruit. Plum deep, syrup drippy, espresso and dark chocolate bitterness. Works against the grain, but again, must be forgiven considering the overall achievement. Gotta check this one out between 2019-2022.  91  Tasted November 2013  @wineaffair

BONNY DOON LE CIGARE VOLANT 2008, Central Coast, California (975847, $48.95, SAQ 10253386, $49.00, WineAlign)

“Well I’ve always had a deep respect,” for the boisterous wines of Randall Grahm “and I mean that most sincere.” Less rope and more felicity etch this ’08 into a Rhône book of yesteryear. This Volant has its cigar and smokes it too, having entered peak toasted spice form, with sweet Grenache, peppery Syrah and the strengthening, fortifying assistance from Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignane. Raspberry youthful, mineral tough, juicy and gorgeous, full-bodied, ripe, essential ranger. Bites down hard on the blistered finish. This is really, really nice Central Coast California juice. Right up there with CDP’s in a similar tax bracket.  91  Tasted November 2013  @BonnyDoonVineyd  @RandallGrahm

DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, Monopole, Ac, Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

From Mathieu Mangenot’s ”Grand Cru” plots, the Monopole holdings in the steep amphitheatre slope of Vaudésir and the gentle rise of Les Preuses. The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine. He spoons piles of flint and chunks of rock. He explains the tin pan elevation of Chablis and Chardonnay squeezed from the bedrock, capturing every last drop of geology, refuse of stars and fossils of the ancient animals. Stoic, metazoic, super Chablis, with tremendous length. How can this Chablis have so much fruit but no apple, no lemon, no pith. “You think things are straight but they’re not what they seem.” Candy for the soul. Novacaine in liquid form. Amazing.  94  Tasted November 2013.

PAHLMEYER CHARDONNAY 2010, Sonoma Coast, California (222117, $99.95, SAQ 11936111, $97.00, Alta. 737672, $104.76, WineAlign)

The offspring of two famous vineyards, Wayfarer and Ritchie. Two plots that bring strength and style, Captain and Tenille. The sumptuous cajoling of this dense Sonoman could never be accused of lying low or lacking confidence. When “some sweet talking guy comes along singing his song,” like this Pahlmeyer, the trickery is palpable and that burst into song, “love will keep us together,” is unavoidable. It’s the unabashed, high density fruit, the layers of enveloping wood and the crustaceans dripping butter. It’s the thick and chewy texture, unlike almost any other, but it’s also the woody, resinous, strikingly ripe, brix combative turned alcohol heavy feeling and the creamed cornucopia of whipped polenta, lemon and burnt sugary crème brûlée. Huge style.  91  Tasted November 2013  @Pahlmeyer

CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (344887, $101.95, Quebec $85.00, WineAlign)

A mild sylvan reductive stink is neither abstruse nor in fruit obstruction. What we have here is a brass tax in Chardonnay histrionics. Yellow and green tree fruit, wicked wild yeast game and just about as much ruminating, mineral tang as one might desire. Something wicked this way woos my wistful longing for quality white Burgundy. I could imagine drinking this well into my pension days.  95  Tasted November 2013

Good to Go!