Tasting Ontario Part Six: Pinot Noir

Gather your thoughts about pinot noir. Begin with Bourgogne and it’s really quite easy to articulate an opinion. Smells like cherries, shows earth and mineral notes of/from clay and limestone. Texture is specific to the village where it is grown. New Zealand? There’s a recognition regardless, save for a special and singular red fruit that is specific to Central Otago. What about California and Oregon? Any wine geek who knows who they think they are could surely pick them out of a blind tasting with great certainty? Now what about Canadian pinot noir? That’s a totally different story.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Pinot NoirNational Wine Awards of Canada 2018

If it were just a simple matter of Ontario versus British Columbia that would be one thing but there is Nova Scotia to consider and within the provinces so many sites of origin and stylistic variegation making it really difficult to identify the source. It may be a challenging and oft-times heartbreaking grape but in Canada it increasingly finds a way to ripen from coast to coast. Even if that were less true just five years ago the tenets of experience, acumen and passion have taken pinot noir to heights few believed it was capable of going. That winemakers can now produce so many varied examples tells us it’s here to stay.

Bourgogne uses the word Climat to define vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. Many would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. In Canada these notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation are developing so that each appellation or sub-appellation is managing to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

In Ontario there are pinot noir crus few would ague against the probability that in most vintages quality will be a guarantee. Crus like Lowrey Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench, top blocks in Prince Edward County, several vineyards up on the Beamsville Bench, Wismer-Foxcroft and many plots on the Twenty Mile Bench. In the Okanagan Valley there are many premier growing sites; East Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Lake Country, the Similkameen Valley and increasingly on Vancouver Island.

Producers in British Columbia may have more merlot planted than they can or want to have to deal with but in red grape terms, pinot noir is it. There are more single-vineyard, name-assigned, block-designate, terroir collection, (x) series and (Y) cuvées attributed to the grape than any other. Granted some passion projects are giving some love to gamay and cabernet franc but the attention doted upon pinot noir is unequaled and unprecedented. Proof is in the tabulated pudding, so to speak, with the final results at NWAC2018 showing what’s what.

There were 73 medals awarded to pinot noir, a staggering number that represents just less than half of the wines submitted and four per cent of all wines entered into the competition. Only red blends (93) and chardonnay (79) received more total medals but most impressive were the 28 Gold Medals in this category, plus 18 Silver and 27 Bronze. The naysayers who continue to doubt whether pinot noir is a viable signature grape in this country are not paying close enough attention to the signs, portents and in conclusion, results. Here are 30 tasting notes for pinot noir made in Ontario.

Vieni Estates Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (550608, $16.95, WineAlign)

Vieni’s pinot noir shows off some pretty impressive fruit, certainly veering towards the sweet and dried fruit spectrum but hanging around with some good acidity, firm grip and proper 2015 structure. It’s more than a pleasant surprise and it’s only $16.95. Good fruit meets equally good acumen in a must try Vinemount Ridge buy. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  vieniestates  @VieniEstatesInc  Vieni Estates Wine and Spirits

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

The warm sites can’t help but develop dark fruit and vintage variation seems to be in a current state of suspension. The string is alive with the ’16 pinot noir, always a matter of value for Ontario. Still just as ripe as 2015, perhaps not quite as charming but certainly generous. It holds back from cooking at a level of stovetop heat unnecessary to the execution of the dish. Gentle, resilient and restrained, far from a pressed or pressing matter and just ideal for weekdays and weekends alike. Pair this wine with everything but I recently discovered that long pasta noodles with prawns in a spicy garlic, chile and tomato sauce worked quite well, thank you very much. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

This remains one of the better values for pinot noir out of Ontario with generous thanks to some of the warmest growing sites in the province. It’s also worthy for what it does not try to do, which is too much. The Château des Charmes pinot noir is just what it needs to be from 2015; ripe, charming and generous. It shows lovely restraint and balance, finishing with some gentle spice after the reign of fruit. It’s also really easy to crush so cook up at least three courses to make it last. It will pair with just about everything. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted November 2017 and February 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53090, $19.95, WineAlign)

Two blocks, two soil types and two proximate meets apposite pieces of the Niagara Peninsula raise a pinot noir in get together fashion for a consistent estate style. The tonality is elevated like few other and the fruit on the nether side of fresh. It’s energy and vitality is a combination of acidity and dried or even scorched earth-derived savour. Tang and sapidity are not the result but smoulder and spice surely are. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  coyotes run  @coyotesrun  Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1545, $20.95, WineAlign)

In true essential Flat Rock style this 2016 pinot noir deals in rusty, ropey, ripe and flattering red fruit with its always balancing note of tension. The vintage is certainly prettier, easier and friendlier than most so the fans should pile up and add to the overall success of Flat Rock representing Ontario pinot noir on the map. This is nothing but fine and enjoyable work from a true varietal leader. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Kew Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $23.95, WineAlign)

More high tines, dialled back a touch, lithe, again some effusive character, tart, so very tart, a whack of wound tight intent, dry tannins, so much tea. Cranberry, earthy, lots of tone and structure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Edgerock Vineyard 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Edgerock is Twenty Mile Bench fruit with expected 2016 ripeness and just an edgy twitch like quick lightning strikes on that fruit. There is some chewiness to the fruit laced by acidity and some drying tannin that is a bit deferential for the vintage and for Peninsula pinot noir. Not sure that pinot noir can get much riper than this in Ontario and so the perfect storm of vineyard, vintage and execution is met. The nose is so very ripe to almost advanced, with strawberries macerating and flavours so well to far developed. Not as fleshy as some as a result but will soon begin to develop some nice secondary character. Good summer wine, for this summer and hopefully an indigenous one for the fall. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  2027cellars  @2027cellars  2027 Cellars

Meldville Wines Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s is a sweetly perfumed pinot noir, fully expressive of ripe 2016 fruit and with a tannic drying edge. It’s a bit lactic to be sure, seemingly argilo-calcareous in nature and really reminds me of some far away sangiovese or corvina grown on white limestone soils. Really unique, lithe and elegant for Barnett if also tangy, sweet and sour. Not sugar sweet but aromatically so. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Bright and effusive, eye and olfactory opening, citrus, steeped herbal tea, with fruity accents. “All around the blooming heather,” purple fruit flavours, fiddle background and thoughts of rolling thyme hills. Good bass line, baritone underneath, full of structure, real structure. Time has had an effect. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  thirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

Leaning Post Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Ilya Senchuk’s small lot (220 case) 2015 pinot noir is actually a new wine set to be released this spring. It’s a blend of fruit drawn from both McNally and Lowrey vineyards, two exceptional cru that have been the focus of previous Leaning Post single-vineyard pinot noir. The most notable difference here is how all the tension and vaporous tones melt away to create this fluid, fleecy and ductile wine. The fruit selection seems clearly developed to gain easier access with downsized structure or perhaps it just happened this way. It is here that the house style reads as a lithe Peninsula pinot noir manifesto with clarity and transparency to set up and introduce the estate’s next vintage, recently planted young vine pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Redstone Pinot Noir Limestone Vineyard 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Redstone Vineyard pinot noir comes off of the ridge that is all Redstone estate fruit expect for the 40 acres riesling block (of 60 in total). There is a ferric gaminess to this pinot with its tension and dusty, tart rusticity. Intense in its litheness, like light and bright strawberry on steroids. Really lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392738, $29.95, WineAlign)

From 2015 comes a fully ripened, full advantage press taken and fleshy warm pinot noir on the dark cherry end of the fruit spectrum. The wood is fully supportive of that wealth of fruit and tension is really nowhere to be found. The tannins are sweet and also do little to distract from the fruit. What it manages to elevate in terms of energy and vitality is this lovely elegant tang from both soil and wood, short of spicy and in gentle drift. The pleasure is all now do enjoy this before the decade strikes midnight. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Pork Tenderloin and Flat-Iron Steak marinated in black raspberry lees grilled with black raspberry sauce.

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Westcotts have to be so very pleased with the result of their 2015 estate pinot noir, a wine of great farming in loyal custodial work across an exceptional rolling terroir. This Vinemount Ridge locale is the perfect love-hate relationship builder but when sacrifices are met and zero corners are cut it will produce some very fine, albeit fortune abetting fruit. This ’15 interprets ripeness with an edge of tension by way of a gentle rusticity and mild barrel spice. A second taste weeks later also gives salumi, natural funk, cèpes, dusty balsamic earth and the angled torture or the ridge. It’s all there, wonderfully integrated and already hinting at a truffled secondary stage. Not yet mind you, but not so far away. Would it perhaps benefit from one less day or two of phenolic ripeness in exchange for half a point higher acidity? Perhaps but ultimately the vintage decides, as do the handlers who listen to the wind. A greater pinot noir vintage likely lies ahead and for this wine, further understanding. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February and March 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Really high-toned in which volatility may be in charge if checked by ballads of bright, currant-berry fruit. Cranberry, pomegranate, has got it all, but also a lovely earthy grounding. Rays of light on the mountain, “such a simple thing.” Has to be an example of a concentrated house style by a great pinot noir maker from great pinot noir terroir. Like a bench somewhere special where pinot can get through chains, “some how, some how.” Really tannic so all should be good and structure laid out cool. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Cornerstone Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

Big and verging into oxidative, a raisin and fig note, almost appassimento. Could very well be or at least made in a ripe, concentrated and mimicking style. Glycerin, strawberry, leafy savour, jammy and quick to reveal itself. Immediate gratification in a really big pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  cornerstonewine  @cornerstonevino  @cornerstonewinery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Gravity 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1560, $34.95, WineAlign)

Gravity is the focus of Flat Rock’s pinot noir exploration and with a whole bunch addendum it changes gears in 2014. This is a very important vintage for Gravity, to leave behind and move forward into a new world. That it does with more ripeness, structure and less intimidating consternation than past vintages have shown and with a freshness also not before seen or tasted. The balance between ripe black cherry, linear and focused acidity, neo-classical structure, followed by an intense drive to please delivers the whole package. Well done on the first of two Gravity swan songs from outgoing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

From Kevin Watson’s Niagara River vineyard, a place that warms quickly and leads to very early harvests, in this case September 15th. Deals a pinot noir of whole clusters that when they come in smell like blueberry and clove but take little time to move out of that realm and into one occupied by cedar, mushroom and artificial strawberry candy. It’s a complex situation that requires opening several bottles over a few year period to really gain an evolutionary understanding of regional pinot noir, this particular Niagara fruit and Closson Chase winemaking in the hands of Keith Tyers. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2018  clossonchasevineyardsClosson Chase  @ClossonChase  Closson Chase Vineyards

Tawse Pinot Noir Unfiltered Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Unfiltered elevates and lifts Quarry Road fruit up to a forthright plateau where it generously gifts at its purest and most impulsive best. This is seriously juicy, sexy, fleshy and ripe pinot noir from the Vinemount Ridge, a windswept variegated set of rolling hills that plays hosts to the larger Quarry Road set of blocks. It is this gathering of fruit from here and there that allows winemaker Paul Pender to have a better representation of the appellation and ultimately a better balance. And so this ’16 is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, appellation and vineyard. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted December 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

From County fruit, again in 2016 not so much a great quantity thing but for the median kind of vintage, not bad either. The fruit is exceptional, bright cherry effulgent and County radiant. Just a hint of meaty cure, salmagundi and analogously speaking, quite layered. Such a wine is poignant, with energy and drive, holding on to the past, but with a deeper understanding and thinking about the future. “When you talk about the past, what are we talking of?” In a family Stanners pinot noir we’re talking about moving from strength to strength and really the sky is the limit for what this wine can become. It’s a more complete and better structured song than before. If I feed Colin Stanners a War on Drugs lyric he’d sing “and I’m moving on a cast, shadows on my seam, I keep moving to changes, yeah, ooh.” His ’16 pinot noir is just a child right now and like the song, it will gain flesh in a year’s time, be timeless, then last a very long time. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Thirty Bench Pinot Noir Small Lot 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (461566, $35.20, WineAlign)

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  thirty bench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  Thirty Bench Wine Makers  Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant

Tawse Pinot Noir Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $35.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a Paul Pender raised pinot noir without the triple threat of dustiness, meatiness and tension all working in a circle of Niagara Bench lands love. In Quarry Road’s case it is a very specific Vinemount Ridge condition, from a place of wind, rolling hills and variegated clay and limestone soils that deal directly with and into these vines. They are at seven years of age by this point, just long enough to speak the truth and turn this pinot noir into a wiser and more experienced wine. The fruit is remarkably delicate when you consider the grip and purpose exercised by the tannin and yet it’s all coming together nicely. I for one am really looking forward to what eight and nine years of age will mean for 2015 and 2016. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Agent, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   Rosehall_run profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @ProfileWineGrp  Rosehall Run Vineyards  Profile Wine Group

Meritorious match alert @leaningpostwine #lowreyvineyard pinot noir with #goulash and #spaetzle

Leaning Post Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2014, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Agent, $42.00, WineAlign)

It was a very good pinot noir vintage across the peninsula board and so not necessarily one to separate with megaphone announcement the Grand-ish Cru St. David’s Bench Lowrey Vineyard from the lower flats and the upper benches. Even though many a winemaker were opting for some percentage of whole cluster fermentation the vintage combined with this block was not such an animal. What Lowrey, Leaning Post and the vintage were meant for was a module that included grapes hand-picked, hand-sorted, de-stemmed, partially crushed and soaked on skins prior to fermentation. Three days later a spontaneous fermentation in small open-top fermenters would be followed by a transfer to French oak barrels (35 percent new, 30 one-year-old and 35 older) for 15 months. The result is another exemplar of pinot noir lithe excellence in this, the final chapter ahead of Ilya Senchuk’s newly planted pinot noir story ready to unfold out of the home (Winona) vineyard. The 2014 Lowrey is a wine that elevates a goulash game (which I can attest to because of an out of mind and body experience), but it’s also magically understated and subtly complex. It’s almost unmovable, resistant to early development all the while a joy to drink. Open it, store it, age it, wait on it. It’s all good. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Tawse Pinot Noir Laidlaw Vineyard 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Juicy straight up, red cherries in their ripest state, a bit dusty and lifted. Tart, dry, herbal, savoury, so interesting. Really tannic and remains to be seen if this structure will deem that fruit to drift into some elegance. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018 tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

The Farm White Label (Mason Vineyard) Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

A high-toned, effusively bright and perhaps edging into volatile pinot noir. Flavours are rusty deep, quite orange-zest scraped and scented, like Irancy. If it’s really that simple then there may not be much tension later on, so think about pairing its coolness now. Lean and verdant with shading into crimson is a very specific beneath bench Niagara speciality, replete with firm if tender emotions. This example is for the here and now. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  thefarmwines

Tawse Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

The Tawse Cherry Avenue ’13 is hotter than July, classic soul Twenty Mile Bench pinot noir that has hit its stride because of solid winemaking, varietal-musicianship and über professional production. Five years forward is the right time to take in the firm and founded cherry fruit, aged in oak for 18 months in 40 per cent new French oak. Filled with feeling and wonder, Cherry avoids the temptations of disco and new wave to stay focused on the old world prize and can’t help but “put me in the right direction, with tender love and affection.” It’s a wine from an estate holding the Midas touch and from a time when it could be argued it was pausing at the crossroads of an illustrious career, looking in all four directions. The pinot noir exploration has fortunately continued, justified and vindicated by such a retrospective look. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Karlo Estates Pinot Noir Estate Grown Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $65.00, WineAlign)

As with the Estate chardonnay the elévage from winemaker Derek Barnett for the second Karlo home-front pinot noir is wild ferment, barrel ferment and barrel aging. Oh if this isn’t so Prince Edward County; wild, wooly, bright and engaging, reeking of red cherry and plum. It’s also quite cedar savoury but also salumi-cured, naturally and necessarily so. The accrual is complex and driven by a devoted purpose to make something small really effin’ matters. This is fine-grained pinot noir with a sense of condiment, a relish that supports the fruit to make it tangy, juicy and real. And it’s been done without any excessive intervention or wasted notes played. Terrific origins, sense of place and quality. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  karloestateswinery  @KarloEstates  Karlo Estates

Good to Go!

Godello

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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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Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Benvenuto Brunello is the highlight of many people’s calendar, for good reason, because there are few wines that can match its depth, class, character and structure. No one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste a pile of Brunello from Montalcino. And those who know understand the remarkable fact that it is indeed quite special to find such a level of consistency across a spectrum of very high end wines.

For a look at our reports published over at WineAlign where John Szabo and I offer opinions on the 2013 Brunello, please click on these links.

Coming Home With Brunello di Montalcino

Feature Report: Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Vintage and Buyer’s Guide

The travelling Brunello experience is taking place in the Consorzio’s 52nd year, now in the hands of Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. On March 5th, 2018 the 27th road show came to the Carlu in Toronto and I had the ambassadorial pleasure of presenting the wines alongside Brunello Consorzio Director Giacomo Pondini. The session was just the third international presentation of the new vintage of Brunello, the first having taken place in New York and Chicago in late January and the second just over two weeks ago in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino. That the Consorzio continues to view Canada as such an important market and partner speaks volumes about our longstanding relationship with Italia, Toscana and Montalcino.

Benvenuto Brunello

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

We all remember our first love. We may hide the memory away and rarely speak of it but it’s always there. For me, Brunello di Montalcino was my first. In the spring and summer of 1987 I was a naive young McGill University student living in Siena. Bad hair, bad clothes, not a care in the world. My professor from the University of Toronto knew quite a lot about the wines of Toscana so when we made a class pilgrimage to Montalcino he asked if anyone would like to join him for wine tasting at the Enoteca di Fortezza during the afternoon break. All of my classmates opted for a siesta in the July shade and this at a time when there were no cell phones, computers or tablets to distract us from actually learning something. I was the only one who chose to accompany Professor Wollesen to the fortress.

In retrospect, what happened over those next few hours changed my life. It might have done the same for my classmates were they to taste, guided by a man of sangiovese experience, though 30 samples of Brunello di Montalcino 1982. If only I knew then even a fraction of what I have learned since, what value that would be for me now. No matter, for I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Brunello. And here we are.

A #benvenutobrunello2018 discussion with @marcora85 on all things #montalcino means there is lots of thinking to do ~ #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino

Last month I came to Montalcino for the second straight year to assess the presentation of the current Annata and along with tasting more than a hundred of those architectural 13s I went out into the field to visit important vineyards. Because two ears are better than one mouth I also spent time listening in with other journalists and with producers to get a consensus on the vintage. In 2018 there isn’t one and in my view, that is a very good thing.

The mixed messaging coming from talk about the 2013 Brunello may seem confounding but as Mark Twain wrote, “it were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” Thinking about a year like 2013 makes for a terrifically exasperating enigma because it presents a very particular kind of challenge. To some it was a case of extreme or at least unusual and unsettling weather patterns and the many shifts made harvest and winemaking decisions crucial, but also far from universally obvious. The vintage is to me a head scratcher because of how many opinions I’ve heard expressed as to its overall quality. I like to refer to the wines as ones of structural expressionism but however you choose to qualify them, the Annata wines are perhaps the most diverse that Montalcino has produced in a very long time.

The hill that is Montalcino. The look that is Godello. The argilo of the northern vineyards #tuttoèpossibile

The 2013 vintage began with a rainy and snowy winter. The spring was cold and the rain played havoc on bud break and development. Veraison was very slow. The harvest for many took place in late September through the first week of October. A common play for journalists or anyone trying to assess a vintage like 2013 is to lay blame on and conversely congratulations to producers who choose to pick their fruit at one junction or another. In this case, either before or after the September rains. If we have learned anything from Montalcino, where your estate vineyard or vineyard holdings are located will determine when, how and why you make your decisions. Every cru, block, plot and row carries a specific picking window and in 2013 even further under the microscope. It would be fruitless to try and generalize and to say that the greatest wines were made because they were picked before or after one pinpointed day during harvest.

So, are the 2013s much better than the 2012s?  Do they exhibit more character, structure and depth? I would say better is the wrong word, especially because we are discussing sangiovese, all of which, as I’ve said many times before, are snowflakes. As for character, structure and depth? Many wines speak of all three and many more will, in time, even if many of you are not yet convinced that this will happen. I am confident that history will be kind, even apologetic, to the 2013 Brunelli and in turn, the wines and their producers will look forward to reconciling with the early naysayers. Diplomacy, kindness and patience will reward us all.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

What about the long-employed term sangiovese grosso? The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, with clonal selection so varied, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines.

As with anywhere grapes are grown, your vineyard passes must act on phenolic ripeness and when it hits, the qualities that come along for the ride in that package are the ones you must work with. The best wines are the ones that speak this truth so if your site achieves optimum ripeness with dark fruit and generous alcohol, make that wine. If its ripe centre includes transparent, lithe and verdant fruit, make and own that elegant style of sangiovese. Be true to variety and location. In Montalcino this is the greatest compliment you can pay to your vines and your fruit.

#Repost @michaelawine・・・Because I just can_t get enough of Brunello di Montalcino – and @mgodello @brunellodimontalcino #brunello #benvenutobrunello #bbcanada2018 #tuscany #tosc

To gain a keen understanding of what separates one bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from another, especially when trying to compare and contrast from a specific Annata, I would suggest you concentrate on the location of the vineyards that produce the fruit. In some cases it’s a cru or a single estate set of blocks and in others a gathering of sangiovese from several locations. The advantage of the latter is the ability of multiple fruit sources to mitigate the deficiencies of one through support by the others. It also helps to create a house or estate style.

You have to know where you are relative to the hill of Montalcino; south, north, northeast, northwest, far south and even more specifically, from which block and micro-climate you farm within that zone. You have to consider the zones; running clockwise from the centre of the region, first on the hill of Montalcino (together with La Croce and Canalicchio), next to the north we have Montosoli, then to Torrenieri in the northeast, to the east – Pianelli, the southeast – Castelnuovo dell’Abate, extreme south-southwest – Sant’Angelo in Colle, southwest – Tavernelle and Camigliano, to the west Casanuovo and finally Bosco, to the northwest. While some zones are more widely recognized than others it is important to associate each with the style of wines they are prone to produce. Our goal here is not to dwell too much on sub-zones and it often requires great generalizations to try and do so, but it is still a very useful tool to align your palate and to gain an understanding of Montalcino’s diversity through multiple places of origin.

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

In the 1970s the number of Brunello di Montalcino producers increased to 25 vintners producing approximately 70,000 cases. According to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, 120 producers made 300,000 cases of wine in 1995. Today, there are well over 200 producers in the Consorzio producing more than 500,000 cases of Brunello.

Before I get to the 83 Rosso and Brunello tasted and reviewed in Montalcino, at the Toronto seminar we poured, compared and contrasted 10 Brunello di Montalcino, eight from the current Annata, including one Cru, plus a 2011 Vigna and 2012 Riserva. Here are my tasting notes, replete with background information on those 10 wines.

Tasted through all 60, you know, for your safety #brunellodimontalcino

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

From the northern hillside vineyard of five hectares facing south next to Caparzo’s La Casa and one of the most historical vineyards in all of Montalcino. Montosoli is blessed of an ancient limestone soil and an exceptional 360 degree exposure. It combines 380m of elevation and great quality Galestro in clay, was first produced in 1975 and only in years deemed worthy of its abilities. It is traditionally aged for four years prior to release; at least two years in Slavonian oak barrels, three to four months in medium-toast Allier barriques, and four months in bottle. If the normale is rich and elegant this is fuller, bigger, uncanny of that omniscient blueberry fruit and unlike any other Brunello in all of Montalcino. Is it the clone, the rocks, the place? What is it? Is is a different grape? No, it’s the terroir. But how? The Montosoli clone, mixed with the land and farmed by the people. True-blue, more than just climat-esque in Montalcino? Yes. How else to explain it. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February and March 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Cupano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In Montalcino you can find Cupano on 34 hectares of land in Tavernelle on the stony hill of a rolling plain above the Ombrone River. Their seven hectares of vines (three of which are new) grow at an average altitude of 200 metres on terroir with good drainage and high mineral content at the far edges of the territory. Their organic and biodynamic estate is a cultural marriage between Ornella Tondini, an Italian, and her husband Lionello Cousin, a Frenchman. They credit great mentors; Henri Jayer from Bourgogne who is a firm believer that wine is made in the vineyard, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, low yields, native yeasts, malolactic on the lees and aging in French barriques over Botti. Carlo Ferrini selected the land for the vines and the vine-stocks, the growth system and the height of the vines. François Bouchet introduced the idea of biodynamics and finally, approval from the great sangiovese enologist Giulio Gambelli. From “a regular Tuscan summer which led to a good ripeness and structure,” Lionello Cousin feels “pretty confident of 2013’s potential.” If the early presence of even-tempered and richly endowed fruit showing its flesh through well-aligned teeth is any indication than longevity will be a real asset to this Brunello. Everything points forward and there is zero doubt as to the passion, attention and provenance paid to the method, the gurus and the teachers. This is sangiovese worked by the hands of agriculturalists and winemakers on the ball, present at all times. It does not speak of consulting oenology popping in and out of view. Very special and singular in kind. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cupanomontalcino  @Cupano_Brunello  @CupanoMontalcino

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (113357, $64.95, WineAlign)

In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. It is now an estate run by a team of no fewer than eight passionate women. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino, with sandy clay soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Donatella describes 2013 as “an old style vintage, a Brunello that is elegant, complex, deep and harmonious, that will last decades. The scarce vintages are nearly always the higher quality ones.” There have been exceptional wines from Donatella in the recent past but the most impressive thing she can do is make a great wine in a challenging vintage. This 2013 does what needs; it’s delicately passed fruit avoids the intensity and drying angst of others, keeping the bright faith, binding it to tannin through the coursing dialectical collection of acidities and then making a valid request for patience. All 2013 Brunello need time, some will never come into their marriages and others, like the ’13 from Casato Prime Donne are already there. It will go further than many. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February and March 2018    donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (112607, $72.00, WineAlign)

Fanti’s 10 hectares of 20-30 year old vines have been developed in the amphitheatre of the south facing hills of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, at 350-430m, a part of which are quite proximate to the Roman Basilica of Sant’Antimo. This seems to be the optimum age for vines in Montalcino and for the production of a classic, estate or house style. Also a matter of manual harvest and the use of the sorting tables. Their Brunello is a classic expression of a gathered terroir. Ageing is done in part French oak barriques and partly in medium capacity (3,000L) casks for a minimum of 24 months (usually 28). Before release the wine is bottle-aged for a minimum of four (but usually up to 12) further months. Fanti’s 2013 is a deeply swelling affair of cherry liqueur and fresh leather, rich, decisive and quite intense. The liquid gelée is fully and completely welling in fruit and earth with more tonic and fine bitters in linger than most. This is a very specific sangiovese with a composed and singular style, chalky, variegated and gregarious. It will have many fans on restaurant lists all over the greater diaspora for Brunello. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February and March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20 year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of galestro, alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world. Should Il Grappolo’s be considered as more traditional than most? Yes, but just as this 2013 tells us with utmost clarity, the vernacular is spoken through an ever evolving and forward thinking lens. No pretence and all in for the right reasons. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted March 2018  #ilgrappolo  @GrappoloFortius  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

La Colombina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (445650, $69.95, WineAlign)

La Colombina di Caselli Anna Maria is the full name, a small three hectare estate in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, bordering on both the Ciacci and Uccelliera estates. The vineyards have been in the Caselli family for generations. Though they had always chosen to sell the grapes rather than bottle their own wines it was in 1997 when they converted to specialist wine growing with the planting of the three hectares and released their first wines in 2001. The Brunello is aged in a combination of barriques and tonneaux plus Bottle aging for eight to 10 months. Castelnuovo dell’Abate is one of Montalcino’s hottest sub-zones, protected from cold easterly winds by the extinct Amiata volcano and open to briny hot Mediterranean winds on from the west. The speciality of this zone and micro-climate bring great structure to La Colombina’s sangiovese though in 2013 a concentrated effort to emit amenable and enjoyable fruit puts this in an earlier frame of mind. That said it will outlast the ’12, a wine of fine liqueur. This is surely a consistent follow-up to that wine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  #lacolombina  wineonline_ca    @wineonline_ca  WineOnline.ca

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (237263, $59.00, WineAlign)

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Only four hectares are dedicated to vineyards with vine age 30-35 years old and with a plan of converting another four also blessed with the best exposures. The organic wines are aged in Slavonian casks, French Barrique and Austrian oak barrels. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Though quite approachable for Montalcino sangiovese this ’13 is also reductive, fresh, energetic and its tones are set to high. Great food Brunello. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted March 2018  #cortepavone  

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (363028, $49.95, WineAlign)

Pierluigi Tagliabue purchased the “healthy hill” Villa Poggio Salvi in 1979, now 21 hectares of vineyards owing its name to its historical location on the south side of Montalcino, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The altitude is between 300 and 500 meters, with a rich weave of clay soils and a beneficial breeze. Pierluigi Tagliabue’s grandson Luca Belingardi is the winemaker. The Brunello spends 30 months in oak casks plus a minimum 6 months in bottle. The 2013 is an agriculturally clean, sound and precise wine meeting a viniculture on the same, extended plain for sangiovese of substance, passion and flare. This is quite tart and angular though only because the structure is meant for a launch forward, beyond the turn of the decade and forward to the next. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February and March 2018  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine      @HalpernWine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna del Fiore 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $79.95, WineAlign)

Having tasted the follow-up 2012 a year earlier in Montalcino made for more than a curious moment to look at this 2011 one year later and in Toronto. Nothing against the rock solid ’12 but this vintage is simply glorious. Waiting 12 months was not just worth it but clearly essential. The walls have come down, the sea departed, volcano stepped aside and all that is right in a Castelnuovo dell’Abate Brunello world is also righteous and beautiful. Some of Montalcino’s most famous and iconic wines have come from Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Fattoria Barbi, the oldest of which date back to 1870. There are two centuries of history with thanks to Francesca Colombini. The Vigna del Fiore “vineyard of the flower” or maybe “flower garden vineyard” is unique to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, one of the oldest (and furthest south) in Montalcino. The block is just under six hectares from an area where vines have been cultivated since the XVI century. It sits on the top of a hill that descends toward the Asso and Orcia rivers and faces Mt. Amiata. The hill is a natural corridor between Montalcino and Mt. Amiata and it connects the Crete Senesi in the Val d’Orcia and the basin of the Ombrone valley as you head to the sea. The production varies a lot; in some years it is not produced and at a maximum it reaches the 13,000 bottles range. The first vintage was 1981, chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Francesca Colombini Cinelli. Aged in small to medium size (that is 5-20 hL) oak barrels for the first months, it completes the aging in larger oak barrels for a total period of two years and then is bottled at least four months before it’s released. The oenologist is Paolo Salvi. This represents what matters in terms of Vigna-designate Brunello and what it means compared to broader expressions drawn from and combining several vineyards. So close to drinking perfectly but to tell you the truth, you don’t have to wait. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted March 2018  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $222.00, WineAlign)

Massimo Ferragamo purchased the 2,000 hectare estate in 2003. With close to 60 hectares planted at 350-450 metres to sangiovese, Castiglion del Bosco produces three wines: Brunello di Montalcino, the single-vineyard Campo del Drago and this Millicento Riserva. Located in the northwestern part of the zone, an isolated tract of wild forest surrounds the vineyards, all part of the Val d’Orcia Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park. The organically farmed vines were planted in 1998 and some new planting took place after the purchase in 2003. There are two distinct growing sections, the 20-hectare Gauggiole vineyard, just beneath the borgo and Capanna, with 40 hectares. As for soils, it was five million years ago that sea levels dropped leaving sand and clay deposits across the Val d’Orcia. The Radicofani and Amiata volcano eruptions also spread a dark magma known as trachite, resulting in a soil mixture perfect for growing sangiovese. Marl and Galestro predominate. Since the debut vintages, winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi has decreased both the predominance of barriques and the amount of new oak. Since the 2012 harvest the Millicento Riserva has only been aged in 33 hectoliter casks, but sees an additional year in bottle. This is just the third vintage of this bottling and the first to set the record straight because the vintage is a true barometer of what it is to benefit from an extra year of aging. The effect of altitude and a surround sound of forest solicits the gelid savour and cool, elemental, semimetal, crystalline coal streak that runs through the luxuriance of mahogany fruit. Brunello has the ability to layer density and weightlessness in a way that is impossible yet understood. Like here, in the Castiglion del Bosco Millicento 2012. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted March 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

The future so sub-zone we’ve got to draw maps

“Montalcino is too small for micro-zones,” explains La Mannella’s Tommaso Cortonesi. “We have to communicate about winery crus or zones, this will be beneficial for the territory, but 95 per cent of consumers have no idea where Montalcino is, so why do we need to divide it up into micro-zones? Cru, but nut sub-zones.” It’s true, each producer knows the soil, the vines, the specifics of their cru and what needs to be done to make the best wine possible from that cru.”You have to exult the main characteristic of your single-vineyard. You can talk about freshness in the north, but not in the warmer parts of the south. And you have to work in the right way to exult the freshness or conversely the big body possibility of that area. Work woith what the zone gives you.” Generally speaking, the northern side has much more vigour, on more clay and more water, where green harvest at least once or twice must be performed. On the southern side the yields are lower.

My friend and colleague Monty Waldin wrote “there’s no better way to understand this intriguing wine than to seek out the single-vineyard expressions.” Identifiable single-vineyard Brunello will more than likely be completely different from one other, “proof, if it were needed, that differences between Brunello terroirs are something that can unite rather than divide the region.” But there is also the concept of single vineyards versus single terroirs. The latter is also a good way to divide and make sense of the region.

Many have raised the question “to zone or not to zone,” a debate hotly contested for years but still with no clear answer. Is Montalcino ready for sub-zones or is it still far too early, decades early even, to be expecting this shift? Does zoning runs the risk of giving imprecise and misleading evaluations? Are many more years of experience required to figure out where (as in Bourgogne) are the locations of the best soils and cru? Is it not generally agreed already which ones these are? Remember that sangiovese is the only grape allowed in Brunello, is notoriously site-sensitive and performs differently depending on its environment. Do the producers know with certainty where it consistently works the best?

Annata 2013 #benvenutobrunello2018 highlights from a confounding vintage with some inspired upside. Wait for it. #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino #poggiodisotto #salvioni #sanpol

One way to look at Montalcino is as an inverted cone with its peak just south of the town of Montalcino (think of dividing the square into four isosceles triangles as shown on the map, with the center forming the apex of the cone). From the center, the slopes generally descend out- ward across the region. It thus becomes apparent that one of the most influential variables in the character of these wines is altitude. This wine zone enjoys a Mediterranean climate as well as high altitudes that provide a cooling effect that is beneficial to the grapes and prevents disease. The differences in altitude and exposition throughout the zone play a substantial role in the vegetal cycle of the vines. Due to high altitudes, cooling conditions from winds and evening temperature drops sustain a slower cycle in vineyards. It is important to note that all variables are not constant and generalizations can oversimplify a complex subject. Individual site soil, exposure, viticulture and vinification technique, producer style, and vintage conditions can change these characteristics.

Here are the notes on the wines tasted in Montalcino; 62 Brunello and 21 Rosso.

Brunello di Montalcino

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (994095, $63.00, WineAlign)

Lovely exotic spice on the nose of the Altesino Brunello ’13, something the ’12 did not at first and continues not to show, but this is not too dissimilar to some other 13s. This northern song of multi-vineyard, micro-climate and terroir fruit carries itself admirably, with admiration for its variegated origins and for what you do with such a complex and volatile subset of territory. The dark fruit meeting rich and warm texture quotient trips off the tongue like E Più Ti Penso in what is surely of the more beautiful classica annata 13s. “Non ha l’acqua per nuotare.” Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $126.00, WineAlign)

A year makes an incredible difference. No dissipation of the richness and deep liqueur though now the emergence of marked elegance and of course, the Montosoli blueberry. Still a calcareous pietraforte vein runs through in chalky liquidity but a year makes such a difference and now the breathing is calm, undisturbed, lovely. Last tasted February 2018.

In its present state Montosoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037. Tasted February 2017  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Emotional tasting through #altesino & @caparzowines with #elisabettagnudiangelini #brunellodimontalcino #montosoli #vignalacasa

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $126.95, WineAlign)

Let’s talk about what changes in a year, with the settling of tannin and acidity still working its magic, munching away on the wood and the fruit, combining and alone united front getting all together. Unlike Montosoli however, Altesino’s Riserva ’12 exhibits a high level of spice that is still biting, like a Riserva does. Though I prefer to drink the Vigna, usually, but especially with Motosoli, there is no doubting the layering and age forward ability of a Riserva like 2012. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (65114, $64.95, WineAlign)

More wisdom is readily apparent from Pian Delle Vigne through the art of estate blending to amalgamate, mitigate and ultimately realize the best for the vintage. Deep cherry, smoky to smoldering fruit solder but with a sense of calm beneath the warm. A swarm of red fruit and then this marly mineral streak running deep into the drupe. Absolutely defining, no matter how few or many you will taste from 2013, this is how it happened and will continue to do so for a decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (154609, $55.00, WineAlign)

With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m. In 2013 a stolen vintage warmth is readily apparent on the nose, with a fine elemental streak through thick air willing and able to carry this sangiovese through its formative years. The palate and texture are next to brilliant with the great feeling of plush, silken tapestry, woven for complexity and thinking about the future. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (928028, $49.95, WineAlign)

If there is another estate in Montalcino with more ode in pocket to tradition and history while always moving and thinking forward then I’d like to meet it. Barbi’s ’13 takes an express leap ahead, away from where it came but with notes and stories that recall its past. This fruit is serious, wise, salumi-frutta di bosco meets fragola based, chewy, ropey and exact. The tannins are drying over round and bounding acidity while the age potential never wavers. It’s a baby, like so many, but in a Brunello as here, as always, there is no speculation, only certainty. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Though not yet convinced that 2013 will be a the vintage of the century it is always a pleasure and indeed an honour to taste a house moving from strength to strength. You can feel the give and take of the grippy framework, certainly before all else but behind a textured weave of a curtain there is the fruit lying in patient wait. The whole package brings about a well-thought out design, from that calm and collected fruit through very fine acidity and into the masonry of supporting structure. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted February 2018  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This is bright, cheery, wild cherry and fresh leather sangiovese with a medium body meets semi-plush texture, medium acidity and some drying, grippy tannins. It’s extremely correct for its take on 2013 and ostensibly tells the story of the vintage. You can use a Brunello like Camigliano’s to benchmark wines in either or all directions. It offers a vantage point at the centre of a four-corner intersection with traverses in right angles and on diagonals in all directions. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  commercialecamigliano    @camiglianomontalcino

Canneta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

From a most challenging 2013 vintage, this can only be Brunello di Montalcino, with ripe, intense, dusty and edgy fruit wrapped up in grippy tannin. There is a verdant streak running through the tannin, not surprising considering the vintage and there too is the black cherry, leather and cypress savoury liqueur. The acidity is well-managed, the typicity bang on and in the end, a perfectly correct example of vintage and place. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #canneta    Società Agricola Canneta Srl

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 378513, $47.00, WineAlign)

It is here where so much collision occurs, terroir, weather, climate and agriculture are all involved, without recourse, to machinate a sangiovese of deep warmth and wealth by fruit and earth. This is the deep liqueur of Brunello di Montalcino, extreme of vintage and skilled as only this place can be. The fruit ability is equally matched by ministrative acidity, maneuvering the moving parts and delivering them into the grippiest of tannin. What a formidable mouthful this is, at present lacking a bit of charm but hopefully, in time, will all balance out. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  #capanna    @capannamontalcino

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (579094, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Caparzo Brunello 2013 is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, a celebratory anniversary wine that spent three years in botti grandi. Caparzo’s Classic sangiovese gathers fruit from several sources, including the northern vineyard where La Casa is borne. This deep inhalant and liqueur also delves into earthly sand, Galestro and clay microbes in which earth and fruit challenge the notion of complexity and to which direction it pulls the senses. The earthy funk sifted though black cherry rich and always fresh and elegant fruit assumptions tells us this is part of the vintage package. High acidity into slightly volatile air confirms and eventually carries the visa to conform. Drying tannins are not a huge surprise considering the pressing matters of this wine. The low alcohol, easy to access, fresh and fleshy sangiovese carries a feeling, final and calm. Lovely wine. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

La Casa, Montalcino

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna La Casa 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Caparzo’s home block Vigna La Casa 2013 this young may be even more difficult an assessment than looking at 2012 this time last year. But if noting what a year further in bottle did for that 2012 than some plenitude must be afforded the more confounding 2013. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, La Casa sits next to sister Montosoli (Altesino) and its pure fruit doles out high-level Montalcino elegance and in more ways than the normale Caparzo. It also behaves with more calm and collected demeanour. Though reduced with early bite and taut finings this is clearly a very refined Caparzo for the people. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna La Casa 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.95, WineAlign)

From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, quicker to amalgamate and settle than many in the region, the ’12 single-vineyard La Casa is a true ambasciatore of Caparzo terroir, rich and regaling but lithe and elegant. If you are trying to gain an understanding of the Caparzo way this is the place to start, in 2012, from a living, breathing Vigna, out of the storied vineyard. Perfume and finesse are special and this is how it’s done, without pretension and with class. So much to learn from an extra year in bottle. Drink 2019-2026.  Last tasted February 2018

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $112.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012 is from a producer with parcels all over Montalcino, even though the estate is located in the northern sector. This seems today like a very smart forward-thinking decision. The bringing together of multi-geographical and climatic fruit helps to mitigate variability and vintage variation and towards keeping away from the heat, jam and heavy concentration to raisining of the southern vineyards. This is particularly poignant in an age of climate change or more important, weather extremes, but it is Elizabetta Gnudi’s holdings all over Montalcino that put together the balanced blends that Caparzo can do. Case in point this noble Riserva from which the very idea of freshness and light wines are always the result. The ideal is furthered with a set of wines, even at Riserva level that relatively speaking are always affordable. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (956391, $54.95, WineAlign)

Warmth to nose and a deep inhalant of sangiovese liqueur are a calling card of the northwest regional house in a Brunello of proper wealth and massive appeal. Yet another wine to define vintage it is the house style that truly takes centre stage, from grippy tradition through exfoliated structure and down the deep well of varietal elixir. Castiglion del Bosco carries baggage with purpose and extends an outstretched tannic hand forward as we and they are making plans for the future. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo del Drago 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

Campo del Drago is Castiglion del Bosco’s cru from the finest vineyard in the Capanna area, a hectare and a half at 450m, marking the highest elevation. Structure, refinement and pure sangiovese expression are the intent through content and goal by execution. The dragon keeps it old-school, travelling loyal to tenets of experiences learned and known. A bigger oak presence is felt in the tannic architecture so that the wine is still in chains, but also in love. The clay-shale and gravel-pebble terroir decides what this Brunello can do. It speaks to you, “all these changes everywhere, just go ahead and take my hand…we can try to learn to make it through, cover the other side.” Density and high acidity determine the plan so looking ahead, the feeling and deeper understanding will come, in three years time. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

 

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Classic is the operative for Col D’Orcia and in this vintage, a deeper understanding of Brunello di Montalcino and how feeling determines expectation, that no matter the pain we may or may not want to feel this early, the eventuality will be a positive affair. The structure in here is nothing short of pyramids strong and so know this. You will drink this is 15 years and have nothing but positive, wistful things to say. As for right now, perhaps not so much. So grippy. Wow. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

Take a trip away from all you have noted, felt and perceived in the first 25 Brunello tasted from this 2013 vintage and begin anew. Imagine you know nothing of sangiovese nor how it translates from the Montalcino terroir. Take in this Collematini with open eyes, nose and mouth. It’s traditional, you would have to say and the most layered and variegated sangiovese imaginable. It transcends ubiquity and suggests a very personal affair. This is a religious, personal imposition from which there is no escape. The fruit is characteristic of vintage and specific to Sant Angelo in Colle but it comes replete first as a swell from the western sea and then a squall in the eastern wind. The fruit wave is massive, the stiff breeze of acidity equal to task and the tannins building, aboard ships whose masts flutter upon these seas. But it’s both a comfort and a charm, under a spell that you will not be able to avoid, not for a decade or more. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (279083, $70.95, WineAlign)

The vintage posed more than one problem but success has been won by the Montalcino producer who after the heat waited out the rain, followed by a few weeks of settling and thus allowed their grapes to complete the phenolic journey. Case in point Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2013, a modern, many steps forward taken Brunello with little to no fear of a world hard to figure. It remains calm and focused in light of the challenging vintage. The fruit is intensely driven, the acidity equally so and the finale a continuance of linger in the face of great tension and demand. A northern location and an expertly farmed estate block (as opposed to single-vineyard) is the catalyst to this ’13’s success. The composure and details of minutiae acquiesced add up to a fine effort, not presently a matter of delicasse but certainly a result that is sure and exacting. This will be one of those fortunate Brunelli built to outlast a bigger group conjoined by jammy fruit, green tannin and astringency. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

With @nicholaspearce_ the #brunellodimontalcino man himself @marcora85 poured his exceptional #sangiovese so we fed him the archetypal @barquebbq wings. And it was good #poggiarelli #lam

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 420m high, single-vineyard Brunello hails from the southeast section of Montalcino. Warmth is not the only advantage/alternative to growing conditions but also soil which is rocky and rich in marl, as opposed to the clay-sandstone earth of the northern vineyards. The expectation persists for richer, deeper and darker, at least in terms of fruit. There is in fact this aphasic maroon sensation felt at the heart of the Poggiarelli matter. The rocks are so important to the southern vines, notably Galestro because it streaks through the tenebrous dimension with a clarity of cool savour. Power is kept in tow so that notes in mind of things like svelte and grace are given due consideration. This southern slice shows Tommaso’s specific mentality, as will the other, but here it’s one of care and precision. Poggiarelli as a cru is not La Mannella, but they are inextricably tied together by their one maker. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

#Repost @nicholaspearcewines (@get_repost) ・・・ Serious Brunello talk going down #therealmontalcino #cortonesimontalcino @mgodello @marcora85 @barquebbq @brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella Riserva ’12 is composed of grapes taken from the oldest vines though by a predetermined decision communicated to the consorzio one year before release, whether it turns out to be a vintage from which a Riserva is made or not. This is an essential rule that prohibits producers from not giving a wine an identity. Riserva is a completely different wine than the Annata, as always with more mature notes though here in salumi hyperbole, long aging oak spice and fruit elongation. Cortonesi’s spent four years in large Slavonian oak barrels and at this five point five year mark it turns to wild strawberry, chocolate and cocoa. It’s both elegant and taut while just now beginning to stretch its legs. Even if you can’t quite imagine or envision what will be, there has to be some level of blind-spotting or just plain denial to not see this is as pure magic. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted March 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Vallocchio is Fanti’s single (Vigna) expression from Castelnuovo dell’Abate fruit gained off of vines up to 35 years old from what the estate refers to as their mosaic of uniquely gifted plots; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. The two hectares produce only 10,000 bottles (in many but not all vintages) in what can only be translated as “the valley of the eye,” or it is these highly perceptive vines that see the forest for the trees. Always a rather grand and impressive expression of Brunello with big bones, fruit and alcohol, Vallocchio is remarkable for how it smells and even more so tastes like limestone, with thanks to the presence of Galestro in sand. The focused and precise 2012 is aged mostly in large casks with just a few barriques, an elévage stylistic that will only continue to trend in the direction of older wood restraint as time goes by. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $139.95, WineAlign)

Two and half hectares of old vines (averaging 35 and some as old as 40 years) at 250m is Fanti’s cuore di sangiovese vineyard called Le Macchiarelle, or shall we say “the little thicket.” The soil is critical to this sangiovese, sandy with scattered Galestro rock in the marl. Like the Vallocchio the terroir is very much the same but the wine so very different. Structure rich, layered and extrapolated is the understatement but “raffinato” is exactly what this Riserva should be called. That it speaks to refinement or “sottile” is amazing considering how much its size, wildness and density attempt to obscure or blemish (macchia) the beauty of its red fruit. A broad expression it surely is but one that will stretch, extend and unwind over a decade or more of time. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (33498, $39.95, WineAlign)

It gets neither more modern nor accessible than this fruit-centric Fattoi, a sangiovese of primary charm and acidity to manage that precocious, boyish charm. Expect early returns from this succulent sangiovese but less structure for longevity. This needs to be expressed and turned into a positive because some Brunelli need to offer immediate gratification. Perhaps not too many but this is the one to take one for the team. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (245225, $92.00, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is classic Brunello, as expected, because it really celebrates its acidity more than it presses for tannin to lead it into a long future. Though the tannins could not be accused of not drying a bit and the fruit may not live for two decades it is the fine acidity that will keep it very much alive. I for one will look forward to seeing how this particular Fuligni keeps the energy alive. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018    @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.00, WineAlign)

The push-pull, ying-yang workability of density and elegance move to and frow in Gianni Brunelli’s 2013, a wine of substance and finesse. The Le Chiuse Di Sotto estate fruit from an area south of La Croce and north of Castelnuovo dell’Abate has a lovely freshness about it, fully expressed in chalky cherry liquidity and a side addendum of smoulder and wood spice. Good to very good structure will deliver a long run into the next decade and beyond. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2018  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If you wish to be quick to point out a sangiovese as acting as a classic poster child for the vintage almost before it has even lived, this from Il Palazzone could very well be the one. It’s as fresh as a 2013 can be though also compresses deep down into the syrupy Brunello well. Once again it is a vintage related affair that speaks quite clearly through the opaque lens of 2013 eyes. Young by territorial standards with the first vintage having been produced in 1990, the estate’s (just southwest in direction) close proximity to the village of Montalcino links it to the centre of the regional psyche. I would not hesitate to make use of Il Palazzone as a yardstick from which to measure the 2013 Annata in every and all directions. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  ilpalazzone  @ilpalazzone  Il Palazzone

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

This is found to be a dense, compressed and intense sangiovese and as a result the tannins are quite formidable at this youthful early stage of its evolution. Nothing says strutura like this angular and impressive Brunello but anything less than five years of patience will do little to offer an immediate or near-term reward. Plus the necessity for fruit longevity is part of the package of hope. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Vini Lazzaretti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (318352, $53.95, WineAlign)

The deeply hematic, ferric and brooding nature of Lazzretti’s 2013 demands attention and time though there is hardly that much available at this early stage. This is one of the grippiest and firm of the lot, a wine of intensity, full throttle activity and ambitious-driven functionality. Everything here is grand; fruit flesh, strong bones and heavy footprint. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Modernity for 21st century Brunello is truly forged from sweetly ripe, perfectly phenolic fruit. Just as noted in the estate’s ’12 Cilegio I once again imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards at harvest, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. Sweet spot found once again. In 2013 there is also a new found spice, so much it bites but the precision, finesse and elegance remains. The fruit is of a deep red clarity, at times downy soft but then the pique moments strike, again and again. So much fun. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Brunello di Montalcino La Màgia is aged for three years mainly in 500 litre French oak tonneaux with an eye towards grip and a construct to age, all the while staying true to the ripe and the elegant. This 2012 tasted side by side with 2013 is quite similar and the consistency is bred from great phenolics. It is admittedly firmer here in ’12 but the red berry fruit and spice are both hushed in quieter tones. Tangy tart edging mixes with grippy, chalky tannin. The two wines will age in similar fashion. Drink 2018-2029.   Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

La Màgia the name is likely from “magione” a Tuscan rendition of the French “maison.” The house produces exceptional south-central Montalcino Brunello and this Riserva from vineyards at an altitude of 400-450m is only produced in exceptional years, from the very best old vines (35-40 years) grapes. It’s aged in new (500 litre French oak) casks for a period of three and a half to four years. The profile from Annata through Riserva and into the estate’s Cilegio is consistently uncanny and with subtle variegation, also magical. The Riserva highlights and perhaps even hyperbolizes the liquid chalky and talcy feel of the others, along with an elevated tonality and acidity. It’s age proposition is boundless. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Palazzetta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Luca and Flavio Fanti’s 20 hectares of vineyards on the hill overlooking the Badia valley of Sant’Antimo, southeast from Montalcino in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. La Palazzetta’s is the rare and elusive Brunello at once full-throttle yet still elegant enough to remind that it can only be a factor of sangiovese. Even with a full-pressed compliment of fruit and acidity it’s actually quite pretty and certainly full of flesh and charm. The acidity is in fact quite striking, as are the grippy and hydration stripping tannins. Some time will be required to bring it all together. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lapalazzetta  pillitteriwines    @Pillitteriwines  La Palazzetta  Pillitteri Estates Winery

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.00, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie farms four vineyards in the central zone of Montalcino; Vigna del Lago, Vigna Fonte, Vigna Cappuccini, Vigna Vecchia but also plots in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Petroso close to the village. It is the gathering of contrastive and complimentary fruit that deals in defining an estate stylistic for the Classica Brunello. Le Ragnaie’s emits the most exotic perfume of almost any of the oft-stingy ‘13s, in fact this brings a level of fragranza that’s almost impossible for the vintage. I will admit to having waited the entire morning to come across such a floral sangiovese from a vintage that seems reluctant to give such aromatics away. The palate follows along, with smoky smoulder and spice, then turning wonderfully savoury, sapid, salty and herbal. This is the complexity we’ve come to covet from Montalcino, along with a fineness of acidity and lightness of touch. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fornace 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $171.95, WineAlign)

Tasted one year later the special selection, 2,000 bottle lot from the Castel Nuovo Vigna Loreto vineyard has come to teach us a thing or two about Montalcino patience. If only the Benvenuto could skip a year to allow vintages like 2012 to gather themselves in bottle then the unresolved angst of fruit heft, wood and structure might never be noted. Fornace is now a matter of layering, stratified by mille-feuille intersectionality of earth, acidity and dark fruit. The pieces fit snugly together and move as one, without the sort of tension that makes you hold your shoulders high. The relaxed state is such a better way to go. Imagine the weightlessness two years from now.  Last tasted March 2018

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG V.V. 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $171.95, WineAlign)

The 60-70-year-old vines (Vigne Vecchie) Brunello planted at 620m in Ragnaie’s Vigna Vecchia make it the highest altitude vineyard in Montalcino. The more you discuss with winemakers what makes for and separates great sangiovese from its peers, the more altitude comes up in such discussions. Winds from the Maremma, vineyard situation with respect to Monte Amiata, soil composition (with or without Galestro marl) are all matters of importance as well but it is the winds and temperature fluctuations at heights that producers are so keen to impress. Ragnaie’s trump card is this vineyard and that is exactly why this wine, especially from a vintage like 2012 (and 2013 won’t change this attitude all that much), why this wine needs time. I did not understand or see the clarity through the clouds when I tasted it last year. The skies have cleared, the polish and the beauty have emerged and the heat by day has turned over to a great sapidity and cool savour of the night. Traditional and old-school ideals are still the order of the day with the old vines digging deep into the dirt and keeping a compression of the faith. The window will not open for a while yet but when it does the air will be fresh, sweet, pure and honest. Last tasted March 2018

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2017  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

This is thicker, deeper and well-pressed Brunello, now typically vintage-driven, with sharp acidity and drying tannin. The fruit is generous and up front so though some time will be needed to fully realize the potential, that fruit will fade and morph into an artful, earthy, truffled and leathery mix before it travels too long. Enjoy this in the mid-term. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Mocali’s 2013 is a warm, rusty and dried fruit roll-up compressed sangiovese, with grippy tannins and a fleshed-up corporeal feel. Seems to be most typical of ’13, with some time needed to feel its way through to the amenable side. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #mocaliwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (434696, $37.00, WineAlign)

A fruit first, copacetic and highly floral sangiovese from the Villa al Cortile estate southwest from Montalcino in the Tavernelle zone. Winemaker Santo Gozzo accesses varietal purity through sincere concentration on place, altitude (350m), climate (breezes that blow in from the Maremma coast) and soil (limestone with schist and clay). Red fruit honesty and exquisite texture lubricated by wood build this Brunello home with solid intent. Villa al Cortile is a true, honest and lithe expression, using the vintage with exact and correct complication. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted at the estate February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 205724, WineAlign)

When you consider how firm and grippy the 2012 Riservas can be this Villa al Cortile is just beautiful. Winemaker Santo Gozzo comments “we don’t need café or vanilla. These things are not about the identity of the sangiovese or the place.” And so wood is not used to flavour but rather to slowly oxidize, develop flavours and exchange information with the outside world. The fruit swells forward accompanied by gentle and mild developing spice. Still just a baby and not yet morphed into its true character but the assurance for longevity is assumed by a taut structural quotient understood. It’s layered yet elastic and will be easily adjustable to and the ups and downs laid out by the adversities of time. Is it an example of a five-star Brunello vintage? “Stars are for meteorologists,” notes Santo, “not for rating vintages.” Then quips Mario Piccini “I have wine, women and music. Which one do I give up first? I give up music. Next? Depends on the vintage.” Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted at the estate February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cielo d’Ulisse 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Impressive debut for a new Ripi Brunello, from schist and limestone just northeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Quite a closed and reserved for 2013, built on promises and ideas, with a chalky vein, salty even, and a temptation for a sensuous future. Le Ripi is in no hurry to give anything away for free, choosing structure over all else though the complete absence of astringency says so much about the strength of the agriculture and the winemaking. This promises to be beautiful. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2018  podereleripi  @PodereLeRIpi   Podere Le Ripi

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Really forward, beauty before beast ’13 Brunello that speaks to the fineness of sangiovese. This strikes as coming from an estate that chose to do less is more from the dangerously confounding and mistake tempting vintage, with a celebration of fine fruit balanced by equal and supportive acidity. Would have really climbed to a next level elegance by restraint away from the modernity of sweet oak, but still there is much to learn from this early enjoyment style and approach. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Altero 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

First made in 1983, the Vigna-designate Altero spent two years in French Oak, so at the time it couldn’t be labeled Brunello. Then in 1995 the regulations were brought down from three years to two, so it left IGT and became labeled as a second Brunello. Altero is the one of the two Annata gifted greater structure, deeper notes that think of the wood and how it spices the fruit and finally, what happens down the road. The smoulder and spice are much greater, the shoulders broader and the musculature ready for bigger fights. The composure is quite something, the confidence great and the results striking. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

In terms of the structured and the formidable it is this Poggio Antico Riserva that sits in the upper reaches of such a stratified realm. If the Altero is broad shouldered (in either or both 2012 and 2013) than it is this ’12 Riserva that walks with fierce confidence. With an extra year to show for its troubles Poggio Antico’s Riserva 2012 has accumulated more body, what seems like greater acidity and certainly a wild side. Here the reminder that more is sometimes more comes out in Riserva level impression. The oak is massive and intense, fully in charge, in a how do you say, a Silver Oak Napa Valley way. This is a massive expression of top quality selected fruit and its youthfulness is only exceeded by its over the moon acidity. Just a massive construct that will take 10 more years to begin to break down. Why anyone would touch this before 2022 would fail to teach me anything. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted twice, February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2007, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

With six more years in the rear-view mirror the wood has integrated substantially and so the beauty and the charm is beginning to be revealed though the barrel will always be a part of the equation. There is this sense of savour and sapidity now that would not have been in the mix before. Even still the cask strength quality dominates and so the largesse and impressive concentration can not be denied, though the finish is all sweet digestif and demerera sugar. Big oaky Brunello, very international in style, in adherence to time and more specifically, vintage. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

A highly serious, concentrated, richly endowed and full-fruit acquiesced sangiovese with extremely fine tannins overtop just as fine acidity. The style is by now well-known and persistent though it would not be a stretch to note that it’s also something almost impossible to repeat with fruit from anywhere else. The confidence and quiet ego of this wine is owned by Poggio di Sotto and Poggio di Sotto alone. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

There is no shortage of grandiosity in Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva though it does not reach for too much hedonism or flamboyance. Fruit is a wealthy player while acidity ranges from wild to extreme. There is a feeling of tonic embrace and plumped up stone fruit bitters though fleshy and spirited is really the operative. There is this juicy orange note on the back end of the acidity with a long, stretched and syrupy finish. Really big Riserva. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Salvioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Cerbaiolo 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The utter freshness of sangiovese is the ideal and the rasion d’être in Giulio Salvioni’s most important work, with little to no encumbrance. This is a Brunello that eschews bright, clear and deeply honest work from out of the shadows cast by years of adulteration. Salvioni is the never wavering producer, continues to dream lightly and without panic, in the most calm and collected manner. The vineyards southeast of Montalcino at 420 meters are a collection of exceptionally rocky, friable marly soils and from 2013 they open the window into fruit, structure and longevity. It’s cool and soothing sangiovese for the beautiful in everything that is Montalcino. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2018

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Certainly one of the more aromatic sangiovese from 2013, with exotic scents, floral and spice, far from feral and dangerous. There is warmth to be sure but not out of a compressed or angry place. There is also a bit of brettanomyces, well beneath the threshold and serves to develop character within the fine-grained chalky network. This needs several years to integrate and ultimately come into balance. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $169.95, WineAlign)

San Polino. This is just beautiful. Though the richness of juicy, fleshy and tangy fruit is so important to the core, it is this sweet earthy compost that really brings the character and the charm. The acidity is rounder than some though its integration is seamless. How this will evolve into a wise and curative secondary sangiovese will come about because of the turning to nuts and dried fruit stone. Finally it will fade into a truffle and tea sunset. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In certain Montalcino vintages a house will craft a sangiovese that pulls no punches nor pushes the river. Scopetone’s is really big, warm and clearing of the throat speaking sangiovese, with smoulder by tobacco and deep black cherry fruit, pressed to deliver quicker access and hopefully, success. So we can get down to the real tang and the real soul. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  #scopetone    Scopetone

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Another deep and pressed 2013 with a very drying impression so there is no question about the tannic quality and age potential. The fruit too is a bit dried, with a currant-salumi-pomegranate mix that takes quick, sharp turns as if along angles of geometry. This needs time to gather its thoughts and to take fuller advantage of its greater cool abilities, of herbology and savour. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.00, WineAlign)

From Giuseppe Sesti who planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. Now in the hands of Elisa Sesti the élevage is territorially appropriate and necessary thirty-nine months in 30 hL botti. The result is quite a gregarious one this Sesti, with really bright acids circling the sangiovese wagons and tying the fruit up in ropes and casings. You can sense the alcohol though it’s not really a heavy, pulling or dragging feeling. It persists as airy and free in spite of the early heat spikes. Should float on, through the skies for a decade or more. Classic finish of deep red cherry liqueur. Drink 2020-2031. Tasted February 2018  #sesti  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $76.00, WineAlign)

Talenti’s Annata comes from vineyards in the area of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and like the Rosso but 10 times more concentrated and focused this is sangiovese of a most intense aromatic, flavourful and textured liqueur. Cherries never came swelling and macerating so succinctly pure and fascinating as they do here, taking every advantage of vintage and how it works in conjunction with place. This is what happens when vines spend long hours in an arid yet humid place to develop grapes for the purpose of variegation and structure. The layers will take two years to peel away and expose the true character, followed by five more for a classic transparency of expression. Talent’s 2013 builds like a jet engine preparing the craft for take-off. The two years will pass and you’ll then feel the angle skywards while you press back in your seat. This is the effect created by truly tactile Brunello. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian di Conte 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $120.00, WineAlign)

Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.” Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

 

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This is a most beautiful, composed and seamlessly constructed southern Brunello di Montalcino 2013, with exceptional blending of vineyard fruit for balance and pure pleasure. What is so special here is the realized Castelnuovo dell’Abate area phenolic ripeness and the way in which great Galestro marl and sandstone terroir, exceptional micro-climate and hands free viniculture conspire for such elegance. Tenuta Buon Tempo delivers the vintage warmth with grace and the deeper understanding. It is precise and focused for what needs to be accomplished, in a modern world with so much temptation but ultimately it is restraint and doing things the right way that matters most. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2018  tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

A lovely freshness in the wild berry fruit of Crocedimezzo’s ’13 brings fine definition, that and bright acids with chalky, grippy tannins. The purity and honesty in this focused sangiovese is a breath of fresh, not connected with before air. The relationship should continue for a decade, then on to subsequent anticipatory vintages. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (922054, $44.95, WineAlign)

Extreme unction and sultry personality separate Nardi’s ’13, in definition and construct away from so many peers. Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. There is no sense of drying fruit and tough tannin in this luxurious sangiovese, no, rather its bright, effulgent and outwardly sexy. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (483800, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Casisano Estate is found eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle, incidentally of population 204, as noted by a 2011 census. At 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. The Brunello developed here (like Ragnaie) turns out classic red clay and stone derived deep cherry liqueur but of a constitution and flavour unlike any other sangiovese on earth. It’s almost brambly and even a bit scorched. It’s rich, proper and righteous. Best of all, the best years still lay ahead. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (483800, $49.95, WineAlign)

From Casisano in Sant’Angelo in Colle, to the south of the village. Tomassi’s Montalcino situation is another one of altitude and therefore a great choice of location from which to develop a strong and structured Brunello ideal. This ’12 is not unlike the ’13 but perhaps with a bit more hyperbole, at times of warmth and at others, elegance. It’s not completely sure of its position, but that is both a matter of vintage and still getting to know the lay of this land. The follow-up 2013 will continue to cement the altitude influence and the understanding of these exceptional vineyards. This ’12 is a great building block for the future of what will be one of the more storied cru in Brunello di Montalcino. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colombaiolo 2011, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tommasi’s Colombaiolo Brunello is the pinnacle of their tier from grapes sourced out of the 1991 planted, hectare and a half single vineyard on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. This 2011 is Tomassi’s first vintage though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. Fermented in wood vats and then aged ion Slavonian casks. No French wood is used, as per the direction of oenologist Emiliano Falsini. The ’11 dovetails as only Riserva can so “dream, if you can, a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom.” This is an ethereal prince of Brunello di Montalcino thieves, thick as black cherry liqueur, sumptuous, chalky, coming down like purple rain. It’s the juice of a revolution, now integrated, evolved but as music that stands the test of time. It’s also hard to get in its very structured way so you may find it too demanding or that you’re yelling at each other. More time and reconciliation will bring you and it together. “This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.” The finish is just on point, between balance and perfect. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirit

 

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Ventolaio’s leads with a new age earth wealth of grippy charm and accentuated perfume right from the word smell though the rock layers are many and the well runs severely deep. This is an ambient sangiovese of seriously condensed and compressed liqueur, hematic and poignant, dense and yet somehow the eventuality of the ashra electrical meets the minimalist ethereal will be found. In the deep distance. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso di Montalcino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Certainly richer and deeper than cousin Caparzo but really just a different child for Elisabetta Gnudi and just as important in its own right. This Altesino Rosso exhibits the ’15 freshness but with a year further under wing it has settled and added some weight, albeit in liquidity, sweet, viscous liquidity. So much joy here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (467787, $31.95, WineAlign)

Pian delle Vigne is quite a perfumed affair in 2016, raspberry to plum fruity and then a courtyard of exotic flowers in early bloom. The fruit is very primary, almost fresh from the tank and so early in its evolution. This will smell and taste so completely different in six months but looking past this should act and play out as an ideal indicator for the fleshiness and grippy nature of the vintage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018    marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

With new winemaking ideals in place since 2013 Argiano is now coming into its new own, into a place and position of deep confidence and mature mastery. Though tighter and grippier than many this persists as a joyous bit of Rosso, albeit more in a young Brunello vein than many. Should live with its tart fruit and grippy acidity for five years minimum. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is a strong candidate for one of the firmest 2016 Rosso that delivers a distinct and serious impression. It too seems so recently drawn from the barrel with piqued notes that bite and sting overtop not yet developed fruit. This is a serious Rosso, ambitious, woody and wise. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  poderebrizio  @PodereBrizio  @poderebrizio

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (333575, $20.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s 2015 is a red fruit forward, ropey, rosy and wild citrus Rosso di Montalcino done up in botti grandi for one year. In replay of that aromatic intensity it follows with a vivid and bright red acidity and a flavour run in the pomegranate-currant-sweet basil vein, pretty and fresh and all in all, just a lovely rendering. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Caduta 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 857987, $34.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2013 is from fruit in La Caduta vineyard, the name the place used to have, on the west side of Montalcino, where vines take advantage of the winds from the sea. The Rosso is aged in tonneaux and then after in bottle. It’s quite a fresh and fragrant Rosso, not taking itself too seriously but certainly with more power and for certain intents and purposes, may as well be Brunello. A terrific expression that would just make grilled and roasted meets rock and sing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

The finest of fruit-acidity-tannin continuums comes through in Romitorio’s Rosso ’16, a wine of more structure than most. This is a Rosso from whose lens will really help to imagine where the Brunello will come from and to where they will go. Firm, strong, grippy and intense, not only for Rosso but Romitorio has crafted a sangiovese to stand as a beacon for the greater Montalcino good, whole and exemplary of the vintage. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.78, WineAlign)

Lovely effulgent fruit in this Cortonesi family Rosso radiates to extrapolate for a 2016 Brunello future, in many ways. First it is this Rosso that benefits from the particular handling, showing in an immediately gratifying plus available sangiovese that drinks with fast-forward Rosso promise and does so on its own terms, for the right Montalcino reasons. Second, even though the producer’s approach to Brunello is another matter in which generally speaking it deals only with older vines, it is this youthful exuberance and wealth of amenability meeting attack that bodes well for the impending grandi vini. It is here that we see the present and the future of Rosso di Montalcino and the respect it is both given and deserved. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Of the first couple of dozen Rosso tasted this is the one with some true, purposed reduction, if only as an early veil of protection, to lock in freshness and deliver this forward. Some pretty firm and fleshy fruit directs the body politic so that the first two years will seem hushed and suppressed. It will open like a flower and reveal some charm, soon after that. Another clear winner of purpose and focus from Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $44.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse di Sotto ’16 is blessed of lots of firm flesh and full fruit extraction to mark a territory of style, a wine as much in common with Brunello as any Rosso from the vintage. This runs deep, into macerating cherry and a real feeling of wet argilo filling in as mortar in the crevices of brix. Not exactly formidable but this is certainly one of the bigger and more structured wines of the Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Mocali Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (286260, $19.95 WineAlign)

Quite fresh and reeling Rosso from Mocali in 2016 brings the energy of 2015 and adds another stratified layer to the appellative compendium. If this is any indication then it would suggest more structure, grippy and drying tannin will come from the 16s. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018    #mocaliwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Piccini Villa al Cortile Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (460295, $20.00, WineAlign)

It is here that we see Rosso having been produced in the right way with honest intentions and correct handling. It just has to be fresh like this, rich but responsible, ripe and just a bit firm. This is exactly how a three to four year Rosso should and can act. Excellent work from Villa al Cortile with a deep respect for the vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Poggio Antico Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

As with all wines, Poggio Antico’s Rosso, like everything is vinified separately, along with Annata, Riserva and Altero. A sharp and fleshy Rosso from a longer fermentation after a longer ripening period, with clearly more structure than 2015 and this cool, almost minty savoury streak. It’s darker and surely carries a deeper intensity and in the end, a nice Rosso is made. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Polino’s is a beautifully earthy, funky and natural Rosso with a fleshy red fruit upside and fine, liquid chalky grains of acidity meeting tannin. There are some Rosso that really need to be considered and assessed as Brunello and it is only where such structured sangiovese fit relative to the estate’s other Brunello that need qualify it as Rosso. In today’s Montalcino one’s Rosso is another’s Brunello. It’s now more than ever a matter of location, soil and altitude. This San Polino is quite a tart affair that needs two years to soften and ultimately please. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

Riccardo Talenti’s is Rosso for Rosso addicts, a pure, unaffected, grippy cherry liqueur welling sangiovese of ultra-precise focus and deliciousness. That it manages to acquiesce the holy trinity of Rosso di Montalcino ideals of flavour, texture and structure means that it can accomplish the two most important aspects of sangioveseness. Drink and enjoy now or wait five years for it to begin breathing anew. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo offers up just a lovely aromatic profile in delivery of what 2016 should and could, with exotic florals, red citrus starlight and a sense of airy breaths. The best of 2016 acidity is brought out, alongside and of hands intertwined and interlaced with the fruit. The slightly firm finish indicates a few years of low and slow development. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018   tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

There is a nice bright freshness in this 2016 Rosso by Crocedimezzo, a sangiovese of great presence radiating in its effulgent nature. You really have to appreciate the round acidity circulating to encompass the red fruit and then the earthy quell that helps to soften the firm composure. A really correct, clean and pure Rosso. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Radiant, fresh and effulgent Rosso is a wonderful thing and although this has yet to shed its barrel fat it offers a great glimpse into its fruit-filled, long-lasting and expressive future. There is much to admire in how this puts the fruit at the forefront and then welcomes both fine acidity and some fineness that incorporates structure. Solid Rosso from a range of vineyards by winemaker Emanuele Nardi. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tommasi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pierangelo Tommasi notes that they began making Brunello but decided mid-gear to declassify and only make a Rosso instead. With best available fruit in hand Tomassi went ahead with this firm, grippy, saucy, sassy and forest-scented verdant sangiovese. It’s oh so drinkable but with more structure than many of the fresh, spirited and tart red fruit specimens that populate the Rosso spectrum. The ’14 is like Brunello but with the vintage savour and who knows how long this can go. Just might fool us all. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Val di Suga Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (455683, $24.95, WineAlign)

Val di Suga offers a lovely turn for the 2016 vintage and for the house, clearly making a statement of fruit first and all else second. There is an airy freshness about this Rosso and still the sensible firmness of backbone to carry it forward. A shot of juniper tonic marks the final stages of its youth. Should develop into next stage character with a lovely secondary impression. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #valdisuga  churchillcellars    @imbibersreport  Val di Suga  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOCG 2016, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Ventolaio tries neither too hard nor does it try to be exaggerate in the direction of either too lithe or too strong. It’s this candid and focused confidence that shows the strength of resistance to speak in a Brunello voice. The precision and clarity make this sangiovese certainly act Brunello-like but this always remains grounded in the Rosso culture. Just terrific as the previous vintage was, so consistency from Ventolaio persists in the guarantee. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Good to go!

Godello

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A river runs through Greve

Ruffoli, Greve in Chianti

Chianti Classico is not one of the more famous left versus right bank terroirs in Europe but in the case of Greve in Chianti a river does run through it. My recent September 2017 sangiovese exploration brought me to Greve and a retrospective concern shows how visits to Querciabella, Villa Calcinaia and a subset of Montefioralle wines now explain a contrast in landscape meets topography, position and soil that at the time was not fixed on my menzioni geografiche radar. What happens left or west of the river is one thing and to the right something other. Were that it were so simple I wouldn’t have to expand, but it’s not and I do.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The Greve river (fiume Greve) is a 43 kilometre slide of twists, turns, switchbacks, rises, falls and settles into floodplains. It’s origins are upon Monte Querciabella in Radda, north of Volpaia, southwest of Badaccia a Monetmuro and southeast of Lamole. Heading swiftly northwest it then crests as a flat flood plain between Panzano and Greve, known as the Piano di Montagliari. Continuing north it slices the village of Greve in Chianti and along Strada 222 past Villa Calcinaia, Verrazzano and Vicchiomaggio. It eventually spills into the Arno River at Firenze.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Querciabella’s position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the river is one of the more distinct and perhaps least understood of Greve’s areas. Ruffoli is another communal sub-zone that requires the introspective investigation for its singularities and peculiarities. It is the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees. Along with neighbours Poggio Scalette and Il Tagliato there forms a special bond for the combination of altitude, great stands of forests and the multifarious soils that have been unearthed from beneath those heavy woods. In fact Ruffoli may be the most Burgundian meets Alsatian terroir in all of Tuscany. It’s a very cool place.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Not all clones are created equal #sangiovese #ruffoli #chianticlassico #greveinchianti #querciabella

Related – Castellina in golden light

Comparatively speaking Villa Calcinaia and the hills west of Greve are more of a landscape of tumbling rocks and stones down hills into gravel and silt where the river lies below. Stand on the upper terrace of Calcinaia’s property, look up into the hills and then back across the Chiantigiana and the study in contrasts is a fascinating one. Calcinaia’s soils down by the river are clay-loam and as you climb the hill the sand and calcaire with Galestro predominating lends the name “chalk quarry” to the estate.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

South from Calcinaia and Viticcio we come upon the next great Greve sub-zone known as Montefioralle. Simply assessed Montefioralle is close to Castello di Montefioralle, southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. The zonazione is home to the Associazione Viticoltori Montefioralle of 14 producers; Altiero, Belvedere, Brogioni Maurizio, Villa Calcinaia, Podere Campriano, Podere San Cresci, Roberto Grassi, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto, Terre di Baccio, Castello Di Verrazzano and Vitticio. The growers refer to their collective soil soul as “on the left side of the river, the peculiarity of the soil and the microclimate give to the Sangiovese grapes a unique and strong identity.” The terroir in Montefioralle is indeed mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico to be considered for menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

This sixth of seven exposés on i cru di enogea, the greater and smaller territories within Chianti Classico covers the visit to Querciabella and the Montefioralle tasting with Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia. I’ve reviewed 18 wines in total.

Querciabella

Querciabella is the continuing vision of the late patriarch Giuseppe Castiglioni, a man of Milanese origins who purchased and launched the estate in 1974 in the post sharecropping, mezzadrina era. Since 1988 with his precocious and ahead of the global game decision to convert the farm to organic practices, it is the emotional and soulful braintrust of Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni that leads Querciabella forward. The estate is also biodynamic (2000) although minus the hocus-pocus, voodoo chile, astrological, new age nonsense. There are no animal-based preparations employed, no stuffing cow horns with manure, only plants, all in the name of applications rooted in ethical principles. The forests are maintained and cover crops are composed of grasses, herbs, cruciferous vegetables and legumes. 

Our visit to Querciabella coincided with harvest so we were able to watch first hand the sangiovese grapes coming in and going through the presses. Grapes destined for Chianti Classico and IGT Toscana. In 2000 Querciabella’s Camartina was proclaimed as the greatest Italian wine of the year by virtue of combining scores rated by the Italian wine guides. At the time it was a sangiovese dominant blend and in this tasting we were able to taste a vertical that showed how it has transformed into the cabernet-led blend it is today. The cru of Ruffoli was investigated through pours of Chianti Classico and Palfreno, a merlot only made in selected vintages. We also got a glimpse into the history and evolution of Bátar, a white wine of not so subtle reference to Bâtard-Montrachet. Our tasting was one of patent application for full Querciabella disclosure, led by winemaker Manfred Ing and CEO Roberto Lasorte.

Revisiting the exceptional @querciabella @chianticlassico at the source

Querciabella Mongrana 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $28.95, SAQ 11192183, $25.25, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mongrana was 2005 and the blend is now 50 per cent sangiovese plus 25 each cabernet franc and merlot. The fruit comes coastal from the Maremma, easy-going dusty and orchard red. Very red fruit, so crushable with ripe acidity and a grippy finish. Spicy and round, but pointed, in a right and delectable direction. Bloody delicious, this medieval blend of poetry, of knights and horses. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella   @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

This vintage is the third as a 100 per cent sangiovese and Manfred Ing points out how there is a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. Whatever (lack of) balance may have been in question last February is no longer debatable. This is a most exceptional 2014.  Last tasted September 2017

I am at first quite surprised by the aromatic candy and volatility on this Greve in Chianti Querciabella when considered after the extraordinarily balanced 2013 recently tasted. But this ’14 is still silly young and the sweet opening is just a portal in which to crawl through. Once inside there is this specific liquor, a pool filled with more wealth of sangiovese fruit than the basin can currently hold. So it’s spilling over the edges in its youth and it’s simply too much for the glass to hold. I think the house took this a bit too far in reaction to ’14’s weather and a bit of balance has been compromised. I’m not sure this will ever find the elegance that ’13 showed but it does match the ripeness and the necessary triumvirate opposition forces of grip, acid and tannin. Huge wine. Maybe it just needs five years to settle into its skin because of course the fruit is red bright, not dark, hematic and brooding. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This Riserva picks up right where the ’13 normale left you hanging and wishing for more. As is so often the case when it can be excellent CC but disappointing, or at least, not quite meeting high expectations from CCR. This Querciabella carries the same pure fruit but with another layer of concentration and purity. Where it really excels is in a combinative and almost but not quite too serious combative struggle between texture and structure. The acidity is red tapioca pearly fine and the tannins ridiculously fine. So appreciative of this Burgundian-style, Beaune winemaking for sangiovese. Certainly Premier Cru in quality though in the end, if only by a splitting hair, I will always choose the CC. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Querciabella Turpino 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Turpino Toscana IGT is a blend of cabernet franc (40 per cent), syrah (40) and merlot (20), with this being the second commercial vintage. For winemaker Manfred Ing it’s about “having the ability to do small, micro-vinifications,” to produce a Super Tuscan wine from the Maremma coast, but here also including some cabernet franc and merlot from Greve. It’s hematic with still a minor reductive note that persists and though its draws from grapes and sites around the region the Querciabella liqueur distinguishes and pervades. The name’s origin might come from one of a few sources. Turpino, an eighth century monk and archbishop of Reims, Turpinus or Tylpinus. Turpino from the poem written by Ludovico Ariosto, the “Orlando Furioso.” Or perhaps fictional from the medieval verse Cronaca di Turpino o Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi. The wine is grandioso in its own right, really wound tight, still of the Querciabella red fruit but quite forward and stand alone despite the oak and the age. The freshness is actually quite remarkable as it seems both agronomist and winemaker really understand their fruit. There is even a marine saltiness running through. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Camartina

Querciabella Camartina 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $100.00, WineAlign)

Camartina is Querciabella’s red of greatest reason, lineage and purpose, from Giuseppe Castiglioni through Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Manfred Ing. The first vintage was 1981 of this 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 30 sangiovese from organic (1988) and biodynamic (2000), frightfully low-yield vineyards and it is not produced when the year is not right. The varietal obviousness from the cabernet is so transparent, especially for Toscana, dusty, Cassis-led, full of black raspberry fruit and ripe verbena. The sangiovese brings the acidity and a secondary layering of tannin but there is nothing fat or brooding about the cabernet. Freshness again and elasticity that starts wise and comes back in. Very focused and length that delivers more and more waves of that fruit. Tannins are pure and their fineness only stretches and further lengthens the accord. There can be no consideration of understanding until at least four years after vintage with seven being the correct launching point. Alas. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 2005, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina in 2005 is 70 per cent cabernet and 30 sangiovese, two years forward after 2003, the point where the cabernet replaced the sangiovese as the varietal so here we are early in that ideal. An ideal that has persisted to 2011 and beyond. Warmth of vintage shows with 12-year mark secondary character but of a vintage that wasn’t (at the time) considered great (being between 2004 and 2006). Here it’s really claret-Bordeaux like, with Cassis, graphite and this open phase of life. Really quite expressive and yet the wood is more a part of the mix, albeit with a savoury edge. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 1999, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina back in 1999 was a very different wine, of 85-90 per cent sangiovese and 10-15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, all from Greve, specifically the cru of Ruffoli. Would have qualified as a Chianti Classico Riserva back then (and potentially Gran Selezione now, though not for long), both because of varietal percentage and location. So the reference point is taken, this from the last Camartina that winemaker/enologist Giacomo Tachis followed through to the end. The structure has made this one built to last with the umami factor running plateau high and the acidity persistent and lifted, but sweet and layered. The spice, savour and this mint-rosemary-lavender-sage mix is really quite striking. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Palfreno 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Palafreno is organic and biodynamic Greve farmed 100 per cent merlot from Ruffoli made in small quantities and only in the finest vintages, with 2000 being the first. Picking merlot is the most precarious preoccupation in Toscana, as explained by Manfred Ing, “it’s nearly ready, it’s ready and it’s gone.” The three-day window of merlot. Palafreno is an ancient Italian word designating a noble riding horse used by medieval knights for travel, parades or tournaments. Palafreno the merlot is an open book, quite ripe, not from a cold vintage to be sure but one of a a slow ripening gait, with some rain and then long, extended trotting through heat. Very spicy, really chalky, tart, tight and highly tannic. In other words, merlot of structure, musculature and regal status. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Batter

Querciabella Bátar 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (SAQ 12294771, $97.00, WineAlign)

Batar from the Latin battere, variant of battuere, to beat, strike repeatedly hit. Bátar, a not so subtle reference to Montrachet and at Querciabella the name used to have a D on the end, but a letter from the French changed that, to Batàr with the accent but the Milanese translation remains essentially the same. Between 1988 and 1991 the wine was called Bâtard-Pinot, which was a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Between 1992 and 1994 the name was Bâtard because Chardonnay had been added to the blend. In 1995 the name was changed to Batàr in order to avoid confusion with French AOCs of Burgundy whose name contains the word ‘Bâtard’ (Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet). Batàr is the Querciabella outlier, a long thought on project to combine pinot bianco and chardonnay and elevate its white appellative status though barrel aging and full malolactic. It may just be the most singular white wine in all of Chianti Classico, perhaps in all of Toscana. It’s like Beaune-Bourgogne and Norman Hardie rolled into one Tuscan white blend package, with a fine oxidative line running through a fresh, tannic and pure wine, with thanks to the generous use of French barrels. The length is exceptional but to be honest, not unexpected. Another galestro-elastic-saline wine, in its own special way. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Bátar 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Batàr has been the name since 1995 after the Bourgignons forced Querciabella to drop the “D” at the end. This ’98 is certainly oxidative (and unavoidably so because of style and time) but the acidity really persists. A comparison with 2014 is quite futile as this is just from another era. Texture and flesh is strong, floral, honeyed, tannic again and even carrying some notes of pineapple, beeswax and almandine. Would make for a wonderful blind pour at a pirates on a picnic dinner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Appassitoio (drying room) at Villa Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia

For a full report on Villa Calcinaia please click on this link.

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

After a September evening visit to Calcinaia we convened at Ristorante Pane E Olio in Firenze for a final meal with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Calcinaia’s Count, Sebastiano Capponi. It was here that he opened the only varietal bottle of its kind.

Villa Calcinaia Occhiorosso 2015, IGT Vino Dei Colli Della Toscana Centrale, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Occhiorosso is Endemic to Lamole, cultivated at Calcinaia and raised by Sebastiano Capponi. Only the lonely occhiorosso are the red eyes of Greve in Chianti, the war on drugs varietal feeling, in cohorts to cousin sangiovese. “Come and see, where or when there’s everything. On my ways, be better, get to my soul.” Drink 2017 -2019.  Tasted September 2017

I was under the impression this was called “Ocolos” which could very well be a shortened version of concupiscentia oculorum, “the lust of the eyes,” or in this case sarcopodium odoratum, with a sangiovese-copycat more volatile (but not screaming sour in any acetic way), just earthy, not microbilia, but soil funky. This is in fact Occhiorosso, drawn from a specific seven rows of vines, adding up to one barrique and it will go to bottle in July. Earthy, from Galestro soil located on the upper seventh and eight terrace of sangiovese, so different from the single-vineyard cousin, Gran Selezione Bastignano. The perfume is redolent of sweet scented bedstraw and exotics, like orchids just beginning to decay in water, still in control of its enticements. This is the natural sangiovese, very specific to place. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted from barrel, February 2017

Greve in Chianti – Montefioralle

The Montefioralle Divino wine festival organized and promoted by the Grape Growers Association of Montefioralle took place on September 23 and 24, just four days before we met at Villa Calcinaia to taste through the wine growers’ wines. The harvest festival is a two day event with tasting stalls and direct sale. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill west of Greve.  @ViMontefioralle  @viticoltorimontefioralle

A #greveinchianti #montefioralle @chianticlassico run through @villacalcinaia in Sebastiano’s caves

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014 by Paolo Baldini is 100 per cent Montefioralle sangiovese with a distinct reduced balsamico, soy and tar complexity. Oak stands out in a deep, dark and handsome way. It’s kind of sweet in a chcolate ooze of dessert topping sort of way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  aziendaagricolaaltiero    Azienda Agricola Altiero

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brogioni Maurizio is plain good funky Greve in Chianti Chianti Classico of its own sweet funk with a bounce in its step, a funk that does not so much blow away as carry on with the musicality of the fruit. The palate piles on with great harmonic volatility. The beat is part disco and part Funkadelic R & B all wrapped and warped into one crazy fun wine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February and September 2017  #brogionimaurizio  Maurizio Brogioni

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a challenging and low-yielding vintage that took away more than it gave. The varied renditions of Chianti Classico are all over the map so it’s a revelation to come across Sebastiano Capponi’s calm and beautiful ’14 life. His is a sangiovese that was allowed to just be itself, aromatic to savoury, immune from the pressures placed upon by vintage and expectation. Calcinaia’s is a Greve in Chianti of roses, violets, more amenability than most ‘14s and without any real bother from the barrel. Quite pure with very mature sangiovese flavours, circulating and by extension from natural acidity. The length is exceptional for annata. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Win eAlign)

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014 is Elena Lapini’s organic 100 per cent sangiovese. The label notes Greve in Chianti straight under the winery name and the sense of appellative pride is duly noted. Lapini’s ’14 is so proficiently correct, righteously tart, deeply rendered and soulful. The low-yielding, young adult (15 year-old high density vines) fruit was picked on fine acidity and carries this plummy note to counteract the launching tang and direct energy. Really stays focused and keeps it clarity through a long finish. Great example from Montefioralle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini

Podere San Cresci Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Santa Cresci Chianti Classico 2013 from David Ballini carries both five per cent of cabernet franc and merlot alongside the sangiovese in the only sample of ten from Montefioralle that comes from the little peninsula outcrop with a slightly different soil composition, “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less Alberese and more into the Macigno than the others. The unfair playing field puts this in ’13 territory, with its silky and filled in mid-palate and plenty of vintage energy. The cab franc and merlot do indeed impart a right bank Bordeaux moment, however fleeting, and the roasted meat meets dark ropey fruit is quite the excitement creator if ever there was in sangiovese. This the outlier is quite vital even if some raisin notes pop in and out of the fruit. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  ballanza12_  David Arnold Ballini

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014 from Montefioralle boldly expresses the rich brooding of sangiovese and an acquiesced savoury streak with 10 per cent cabernet franc in the mix. This final sample of 10 confirms the consistency of terroir, style and execution, readily apparent across the Montefioralle grouping. They are deep, hematic, dark and intense sangiovese. This is no exception. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  #terredibaccio  @TerrediBaccio  Agriturismo Terre di Baccio

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico from Luigi Cappellini is 95 per cent sangiovese with five per cent “other varieties.” A really ripe and filled to the brim CC for ’14, fully pressed and expressed. Oak laden in as much as Greve in Chianti can be, like a milkshake with bitter almond elements. From the north part of Montefioralle on Alberese and some Galestro with sandy soils. A solid early drinking and lush Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

Viticcio’s also hails from the north part of Montefioralle (on the western side of Greve in Chianti) and its typical Alberese, Galestro and sandy soils. A good punch of dark red and black raspberry fruit is mostly sangiovese (with two per cent merlot), spicy and bitterish with wood notes and plenty of savour. This ’14 from the vintage of great demand and attention to detail is tart and chalky, needing some time. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017   viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

From coast to coast: Top 40 wines from the 2016 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

Welcome @muller_brent to team RED! with nazlanmak captain @treve_ring #nwac16 @winealign

Welcome @muller_brent to team RED! with nazlanmak captain @treve_ring #nwac16 @winealign

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada are a complex, multifarious and many-splendored thing. The Nationals bring unity, cross-provincial comity and international variety to the Canadian wine scene. That’s more than can be said about the commerce side of things. It requires a whole lot more than good will to make this most important Canadian competition happen. It takes 1,500+ unique wines, algorithms, logistics, space, time and people.

Related – One the eve of the 2016 WineAlign Canadian Wine Awards

My fourth Nationals in the books and the apogee of perquisite function is reached. That’s how it feels, in retrospect. The overture of function and the apex of wine journalism culminates at the vertices of colleague and responsibility. To find the profound wrapped up in the membrane of gifted opportunity allows a wine writer to make a valid and justifiable contribution. It affords a conclusion written in vouchsafe doling, where medals are heaped upon the best wines produced in Canada. It’s an avail of satisfaction, a community distraction and a labour of love.

How lucky we all were to have her back in the captain's chair. Happy Canada Day @djwines #nwac16

How lucky we all were to have her back in the captain’s chair. Happy Canada Day @djwines #nwac16

Congratulations to Tawse Winery. In his WineAlign report David writes, “winery owner Moray Tawse and winemaker Paul Pender have harvested Winery of the Year honours at Canada’s largest wine competition again this year, the fourth time since 2010. Tawse Winery is on a roll, with five gold medals in this year’s showdown, plus eight silver and eight bronze medals.”

Related – Announcing WineAlign National Wine Awards Winery of the Year

The people at the forefront are the judges, women and men from across the country (representing seven provinces) as well as international guests, from the U.K. and America. Not just any America, mind you, but native America, from California (by way of Alaska). The judges rule but they are not the most integral cog in the NWAC machine. It is the wine fairies that run the engine and they need naming. Head wineaux Bryan McCaw. Logistics and administrative gurus Sarah Goddard and Carol-Ann Jessiman. Statistics bordering on actuarial science sabermetrics specialist Earl Paxton. Photographer Jason Dziver. Head judges Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason. Volunteers. Lifters, carriers, movers, pourers and judge-doting servers. These are the heroes.

The 2016 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada judges and back room rockstars photo (c) Jason Dziver and WineAlign

The 2016 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada judges
photo (c) Jason Dziver and WineAlign

In his WineAlign report, Anthony Gismondi writes “this year’s National Wine Awards was the most inclusive yet, with 230 wineries entering over 1,500 wines from across the country. The numbers only make the achievement of Lake Breeze as Canada’s 2016 Best Performing Small Winery of Year all that more impressive.”

Related – Announcing the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year

I would like to make it clear that I write all of my tasting notes for The Nationals solely based on the notes scribbled during the competition. Though I am fully aware of the wines in question when composing the final copy, the transcribing process remains 100 per cent pure and loyal to the original notes. Nothing is added. No acidification, chaptalization, fining or filtering.

Dispatch @winealign note to Canada- You are making awesome @coolchardonnay ...next stop #i4c #nwac16

Dispatch @winealign note to Canada- You are making awesome @coolchardonnay …next stop #i4c #nwac16

“There was a dazzling array of top quality Canadian wines at this year’s 16th WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada with over 1,500 entries from 230 wineries in six provinces. There were 16 coveted Platinum medals spread over 14 wineries, and seven different wine categories.”

Related – Announcing the Results of the 2016 National Wine Awards

My top 40 are not necessarily the best I tasted but rather the best of a cross-section that insists on being inclusive for as many categories across the compendium. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Riesling are disproportionately represented and for good reason, but there are thirds, fourths and fifths exceptional examples that are not celebrated on this versatile and ubiquitous list.

Treve Ring made it clear that “no matter what shade, it’s pretty obvious that more folks are thinking pink. And with fresh results from the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada held in Penticton, BC last month, Canadian winemakers are stepping up with terrific offerings.”

Related – Canada Thinks Pink, Drinks Pink

The notable exception and varietal inconsequence comes at the hands of Cabernet Franc, a grape that I’ve come to herald over the past two years, especially from out of the auspices of Niagara gatherings and master classes, along with other Canadian competitions I’ve judged at. Franc has shown well at the Ontario Wine Awards, at Gold Medal Plates and at comparative varietal get togethers. When we convened at Peller Estates in the spring of 2015 during a CAPS Best Canadian Sommelier competition, the Cabernet Franc flights were revelatory. At the 2015 and 2016 Ontario Wine Awards the varietal shone in Icewine meanderings. At NWAC 2016 its promise stagnated and receded into wooden shadows.

Why is this? The simple answer could be examined as too many quality CFs made by many good vignerons were not entered.  Another view sees a rapid return tho excess barrel aging in less than stellar vintages, namely 2013 and 2014. The last concern is a heavily weighted Okanagan participation. The sage and dry desert impart mixed with wood clouds many B.C. renditions. It’s not that they are poor wines by any stretch, but they tend to blend in as one, especially when eight or more are tasted side by side by each.

Pronto! Largest assembly of Canadian wines in one place- 1,525 @WineAlign National Wine Awards #nwac16

Pronto! Largest assembly of Canadian wines in one place- 1,525 @WineAlign National Wine Awards #nwac16

Speaking on behalf of the entire WineAlign/Chacun son Vin crew might be a slight over-reaching opinionated bit of creative license but judging these awards ranks amongst the most important things we do as wine journalists. These wines are in our hands and we pay attention to every detail, on a playing field set as level as there can be in the pantheon of wine competitions.  Nothing is taken for granted and the collective palate works towards the most just conclusions possible. These Top 40 wines are what I spent the most energy on. All deserving of their accolades.

Quebec

Les Pervenches Seyval Chardonnay 2015, Quebec (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

A two-varietal conjoin of chardonnay (80 per cent) and seyval blanc (20) opined with the sort of high level of acidity that stakes territorial claim out of what is surely the coolest climate in the competition. The sharp drift leans to shale and flint. Great glade energy and piercing phenolics are superb. Oak is not even a twinkle in its eye, nor negative reduction neither. Directly solid phenolics, tart and angling to greenery. Lemons all over and lime too. Such zing. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @LaRoutedesVins  @VinsduQuebec

Domaine Acer Charles Aimé Robert, Quebec (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Maple syrup as maple syrup, reduced, syrupy, caramelized, rich, buttery (brown) and with direct acidity. Mostly in balance. Roasted nuts and even some fig. Roasted chestnuts off the Portuguese cart. Marmite and umami. The return of the sherry semblance that speaks an Oloroso vernacular, the nutty Solera professor, dried apricot beauty. The maple is so in, so reduced and perfectly realized. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016

Desrochers D Cuvée De La Diable Vin De Miel, Quebec (Winery, 375ml, $20.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Just amazing honey wine, all beeswax but here without as much funk and so stressed in lemon citrus with savour, not balm. Like sweet sherry, envisaged in the vein of say Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez, from 100 per cent honey. Really haute-fashion acidity. Pine resin and forest floor. Quite complex and irrefragable into its long finish. Honey buttered toast, sour and so good. Really well made, balanced and ethereal. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016

New Brunswick

Happy Knight Black Mead 2015, New Brunswick (Winery, $13.29, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

From honey (87 per cent) and black currant (13) together for a wonderfully lactic, chalky, saccharine mess. There are moments of simple sour and insipid tartness but the up and downs bring about structure. And then the lifted florals. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @happyknightwine

Nova Scotia

Blomidon Estate Winery Tidal Bay 2015, Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia (Winery, $19.99, WineAlign)

Simply the simplest white blend in the flight, for good reason and measure. Languid and salty, bittersweet. Not much fruit of texture but the acidity is zesty and orange juicy. A bit funky and prickling. Leaves behind a green mango paste in the mouth made piquant by lime. Ça marche.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @BlomidonEstate

Ontario – Niagara Peninsula

Chateau Des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2015, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $14.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Much ripeness in style, juicy mango and a note of Kenyan pineapple. Palate offers balance returning back west into stone fruit and a shot of metal moonshine. It comes so easy. This is cracker soul. “Come and party with your spirit guide.” The winemaker and the vigneron walk their walk and talk their talk. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016

Chateau Des Charmes Gamay Noir “Droit” St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $17.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

An adroit poster child for the battle cry of #gogamaygo, this is deliciously and devilishly dark fruit crusted with rusticity. It is also bright, volatile within every threshold of the ideal and tart with cru proportions. Possessive of the relentless ongoingness of gamay syntax, from sour black cherry to ascendant and structurally lean. Well done. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @MBosc

Legends Chardonnay Reserve 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Plat2016_web

Beautiful variegation is noticed on the leesy, creamy and somewhat reductive nose. Certainly already into the beeswax, this is weighted but lifted chardonnay. Flinty, smoky too. All this before a taste. Good harmony into the texture where palate and tannin meet at the proverbial chardonnay crossroads. No semantic crimps, lexical distresses or syntactical trials. Big and beautiful. Full to the long finish. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @LegendsWinery

Legends Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Lizak Vineyard 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Who would fail to comply with the memo for giving it up and appreciating the mineral sauvignon blanc, down along the cove where “I spied my little bundle of joy.” Platinum pear and white peach, sprinkled with maldon, bobbing for rocks, “walking hand in hand.” Direct, white tannic, dry extracted, low pH SB, direct, with purpose and just a wee bit of harmonica. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016

Hidden Bench Roman’s Block Riesling 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (198853, $23.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Here the complete deal is limestone-mineral, old vines, relative altitude and low tonnage. Variegated layering on the palate. The Germanic one, all in, slope driven and dry with citrus compression. This is most excellent, mouth-watering riesling. “This is really, warden in my back, goose all in my gut.” A wine that stretches and turns back on itself. Under the Pressure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron

Tawse Winery Riesling Quarry Road Vineyard 2014, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (198853, $23.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Compression and a slight bend to oxidation are hallmarks of the 2014 Niagara Riesling season and yet the QRV manages to buck the trend. The oscillations of tannin, extract and off-dry flavours are all wrapped up in greater acidity than some previous vintages have seen. This is one of the more striking 2014 Niagara Rieslings with some credit surely do to the cool Vinemount Ridge site. The rest of can be credited to winemaking and good luck. The sour in this Quarry Road is of a sumptuous kind, laying August stone fruit over layers of fractured limestone. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2014, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Plat2016_web

Really effective actuality, from barrel for couverture and bite, through texture by lees and with inhalant because of the mineral play. This has it all going on. The middle palate is so beautifully filled in, the spice and smokiness just a mild, intoxicating smoulder. Lovely stuff and terrific length. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @AdamoEstateWine  @hinterlandwine

Two Sisters Eleventh Post 2012, Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Red raspberry and a posy of green quintessence filled by oak in a merlot (50 per cent) with equal addendum from two cabernets. There are moments that are somewhat downy soft and mocha-creamy but the brain gladly socializes with the cappuccino bordeaux blend. What ultimately matters is how this soft serve is the least astringent and most silky wine in the flight. Just as your guard lets down the tannins storm the castle. Intriguing blend with cellaring structure. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @2SistersVine  @apearcevino

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Tête De Cuvée 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Intensely reductive and so very fresh chardonnay with serious cool-climate excitability. A minor dishy aroma might detract for some but its the phenolics talking, not yet rendering the porcine baby fat, looking for integration, speaking in tart, chalky (liquid) tones. Like fresh pasta dough in a warm kitchen. Complex wine not yet understood. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron

Jackson Triggs Niagara Reserve Riesling Icewine 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, 375ml $59.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Love the cool feel, the apricot aspic glaze and the herbs underneath the sweet surface. Really tangy fruits and great acidity. This has balance and vitality. Actually causes a bit of mouth watering with clean, clear, crisp and precise riesling character. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @Jackson_Triggs  @CBrandsCareers

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Le Grande Reserve 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $60.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

The top-tier Pinot Noir is quite fruit intense, but also sappy and uttered in soft, indecipherable if almost resolved words. That said the length traipses to somewhere distant, to a boundary no other Queylus Pinot Noir has yet made. As it is thought on, this wine climbs to that far away peak that can’t really be imagined. The wine lingers longer than the pen and like the sword, pierces with svelte pinpoint accuracy. The flavour profile is indescribable, neither fruit nor mineral dominant and not exactly earthbound either. The abstruse profile persists but can’t be named so like language, must go on and on. Time heeds no dissipation. The wine lingers forever. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted June 2015  @QueylusVin

Ontario – Prince Edward County

Waupoos Cabernet Franc Reserve 2013, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Rich cabernet franc, extracted and with some big, but beneficial wood. Quite aromatic stuff here of black cherry with vanilla and lavender accents. Savoury and leathery palate with juicy, sumptuous elevations. Really lively stuff with nary a chocolate or a mocha moment and no bitters. None. Brilliant. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @waupooswine

Huff Estates Cuvee Peter F Huff 2011, Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Nothing can be so considered as leaning to an oxidative style until you imagine this in a flight of nine and take in its old-school on par with Method Cap Classique like charm. Or Jura. Great acidity circulates and like tribunates protects the sparkling rights from arbitrary acts of reduction. With flavours recalling mandarin, lemon and then an aromatic return to exotic, in lemongrass and galangal. Length is excellent. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @HuffEstatesWine

Ontario – Lake Erie North Shore

Pelee Island Vinedressers Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Dark, muted and tannic, of bitter chocolate, this unforgiving cabernet sauvignon is blessed with high savour and underlying brine. This is an oak monster but not creamy. It’s all bitter chocolate but not astringent. Not mean. Gotta see past the demanding attitude because it’s really quite balanced within the conceit of it’s largesse. Ultimately elegant, floral and complex. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @Peleewinery

British Columbia – Okanagan Valley

Synchromesh Riesling 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Beautifully microbial, beeswax-scenting, wild ferment riesling. Needs agitation to shed its bacterial baby fat. Quite viscous and grippy mouthfeel. Transports the fundamental factors from vine, fruit and fermentation in a suitcase of natural love. The acidity is texturally palpable, essential, extended gainfully from low pH. There is some residual but so much sink your teeth into it stuffing to carry it forward. Most excellent less than off-dry palate and with the drive to finish with impression over the next 10 years. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @SynchromeshWine

The View Ehrenfelser 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

So floral, with orange peel, white rose potpourri, a bit of funky humidity, cool and viscous. Great mouthfeel, tart, frozen-gelid acidity. Sweetness never causes any suffering. Great finish. Miles ahead of the field in off the beaten path varietal gambolling.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @TheViewWinery

Wild Goose Stoney Slope Riesling 2014, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Beautiful atmosphere with hopes and dreams to climb high into the stratosphere. The terpene that lurks is just a prop, a step-ladder for the more purposed realities to use and get up there with the airs and the stones and to thank the terpenes for their unselfish ways. Very concentrated and purposed riesling with compressed bitters. Princess in high tops. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @wildgoosewines

Finals of 24 #pinotnoir in three flights. Mountain tea for all #nwac16 @winealign National Wine Awards of Canada

Finals of 24 #pinotnoir in three flights. Mountain tea for all #nwac16 @winealign National Wine Awards of Canada

Volcanic Hills Pinot Noir 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Oranges, peaches and apricots. In pinot noir. Strawberries, cherries and raspberries. So much fruit. Turns earthy and spicy on the palate. It’s a very good characterful expression that walks straight down a line. So much character and then tannic, sharp and acerbic on the finale. The tannins hang around the fruit like a clever. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @volcanichillswi

Ciao Bella Pinot Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $20.75, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Love the early note of minor volatility to check and balance for soft and downy, simple and into pleasure. Smells like unripe pickled strawberry. Though some decent salinity and brine offer up a rosé reality there lacks a bit of ingratiating 100 per cent pinot noir charm. Improves and brings out some pinosity by good bitters, gin and tonic, orange zest and some spice. In the end it’s actually more than quite good. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @ciaobellawinery

Spierhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $21.85, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Just a moment of skin contact renders to immediate complexity. Great rust, scraped stone and wild citrus. Lots of white grapefruit on the palate and pith, but not too much. Very persistent.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @spierheadwinery

Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Really earthy 100 per cent gamay Rosé. Good mineral in here. This was made with a purpose. “Now everybody’s gonna tell you it’s not worth it. Everybody’s gotta show you their own thing.” There is balance and ballad ease. This is just so drinkable. “Is this the past or the future that is calling.” Gamay, I love the times you’ve come. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @Haywirewine  @OKCrushPad

Joie Farm Gamay 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

A gamay with global explorations that is so inimitable it founds it’s own, toute de suite, self-dissolving genre. This really sweats and wicks away the umami of gamay. It has the notion, sumptuous spice, tight, circular winds and biggest stage presence. Such a mineral palate, density and the gumption to pour with unwavering varietal swagger. Best in show. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @JoieFarm  @LiffordON

Bordertown Cabernet Franc 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Beautifully fragrant cabernet franc, unhindered and unencumbered by obnoxious, noxious barrel plenitude. Red currants, liquorice and plenty of summer savour. Pencil lead to graphite and cool climate attitude. Rustic in all the right ways, like Rioja Gran Reserva meets the Loire. So natural and charcuterie cured. Spicy all over the finish. Just a bit bitter perhaps. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @BordertownWine

Moon Curser Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Cooler and more Mediterranean savoury. Tart and direct, taut and full of miles away imaginings. There seems to be some elegance to temper the gambling and cajoling in the big chamber. Like a self-correcting shake-up, as if something were veritably being worked out. Give it some time and some love. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @mooncurser

Silken palate, structure, ambient endings #grenache @Stagshollow #okanaganvalley

Silken palate, structure, ambient endings #grenache @Stagshollow #okanaganvalley

Stag’s Hollow Grenache 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $29.99, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

An effete, in effect style of grenache, pretty, pure and elegant. She resists the trappings of overripeness, over-extraction and over-pressing. She is conceived with great purpose and with pelucid substance. Her palate is silken, with fresh berries and then the sort of grand structure that rolls into ambient endings. One of Canada’s great grenache triumphs. Drink 2016-2020.   Tasted June 2016  @Stagshollow

Sperling Natural Amber Pinot Gris 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

So much beeswax and honey wine attribution. Porcine, delicate and quite elegant for the statement. Plenty of acidity and even more relish. Why not give a little Grauburgunder love to the winemaker for giving the style a shot, and succeeding. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016.

From my earlier note of January 2016:

Ann Sperling is not merely fussing about with natural ferments, skin-contact macerations and non-sulphured, self-preservations. She is learning about winemaking, opening doors to perception and interested in doing things in different ways. Her second go ’round with a natural Amber Pinot Gris furthers the non-plussed discussion and the understanding. While pouring the inaugural 2014 from keg on tap last year at Vancouver’s Belgard Kitchen, it was Sommelier David Stansfield who so succinctly noted “this wine is a raw expression of vineyard, grape, and time.” This gets right to the heart and the crux of the Orange matter, especially within the context of a North American account. Sperling has many supporters in her corner, including husband-winemaker-consultant Peter Gamble, the folks at the Casorso-Sperling Kelowna Farm and Bill Redelmeier at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara. This 2015 is a veritable pink cloud, anti-orange, still so very musty, funky, tanky, with great Sperling acidity and pierce. There is so much exuviation to evanescence and back again flavour. There is feigned sweetness that purposes towards and with gearing second wind into length. How much pleasure is this from and for Pinot Gris? Drink 2016-2017

Sperling Vin Gris Of Pinot Noir 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Anti-Rosé Vin Gris pinot noir, light of blush and leaning to terpene. While lost in a nether land between the categories of hue, the appeal is wrought by the wine’s refusal to be unclassified. And it need not be. I think I get what the attempt was here; lithe, light, easy free-run with nearly no hue inducing skin contact and it travels the path akin a fruit wine realm; ever so slightly sweet and very tangy, like currant pureé. Prejudices and preconceptions are cast aside. Such a rare occasion affords a taster assessing blind to know so little and enjoy so much. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @SperlingVyds  @AnnSperling

Coolshanagh Chardonnay 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $36.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Really beautifully reductive, ranging to all chardonnay fronts, from expectation and into results. Terrific integration, multiplicity and circulation. Chardonnay flush with fabric and forged by framework. Enjoy it now and over five more glowing years. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @OKCrushPad

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (73098, $44.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Rich, dried fruit and a welling tension inflates and rehydrates this cabernet sauvignon with cool, savoury, bluff sage and piquant nettle garrigue notions. It has an intelligent and characteristic taste. Tending to write the cabernet sauvignon personality book, this desert play is full of varietal notion and somehow typical. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @BurrowingOwlBC  @LeSommelierWine

Moon Curser Dead Of The Night 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $54.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Serious syrah and tannat split. Deep cimmerian demi-glacé, rich and chocolatey, somewhat sweet but full of fruit and mineral. Syrah getting together with tannat of augmentation, opulence, concentration, of getting more in. Long and lingering. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @mooncurser

Meyer Pinot Noir Micro Cuvee Mclean Creek Road Vineyard 2012, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $65.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

A very amenable and mostly, fully, completely copacetic pinot noir with tonic and beneficial bitters managing the fruit. Fruit that is directly up front and neither garrigue nor barrel spice makes cause for any distraction. No mental gymnastics are required to understand this wine. Great leave it be pinot noir. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @MFVwines

British Columbia – Naramata Bench

Deep Roots Pinot Gris 2015, Naramata Bench, British Columbia (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

A bit stinky and reductive but on the precipice and so purposeful. Pear, platinum pipe and graphite. Good viscosity and slightly off-dry to the point where savour and spice take over. Better balance here. The reduction blew away with ease. Spicy finish. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @DeepRootsWine

Terravista Albarino 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Quite a dense albarino with plenty of metal in its back pocket and salinity “singing to an ocean.” Gobs of fruit play along with the sea air. I like the acidity and the zeppelin zest, the citrus led with a full twist. Tart and close to sour with some sulphur but “it’s a real fine way to start,” even if it doesn’t quite blow my mind. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @Terravistawines

La Frenz Syrah Rockyfeller Vineyard 2014, Naramata Bench, British Columbia (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Gold2016_web

Here syrah plays a floral song while doused in perfume of roses in the tar sands. Less oak driven and fresher than the compatriots in its flight. Give credit where it’s due. Syrah buoyed, lifted and blessed by five per cent viognier. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @LAFRENZWINERY

British Columbia – Similkameen Valley

Twisted Hills Paradise Pear Organic Cider 2015, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $18.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Bruised pear leads this spot on cider with a cool whiff of concrete tank and a minor pear puree, of sauce spiked by cinnamon. Quite dry and saline within terrific acidity. Umami makes the salivator glands work overtime. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @twistedhills

Eau Vivre Malbec 2013, BC VQA Similkameen Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

A rich juicy malbec of all in red fruit, tom foolery fun things and life affirming positives. Just the malbec with creamy american vanilla anglaise. “Sidewalk sundae strawberry surprise.” A bit of a malbec ice cream cone but that’s more than OK because the ice cream man, one man band will be “good to you yeah, good to you, I’ll be good to you, I’ll be good to you.” No need to hold off because malbec so inviting waits for no one. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @EauVivre

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: 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!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Taste Ontario’s polarity of personality

Ontario home cooking Photo: (www.godello.ca)

Ontario home cooking
Photo: (www.godello.ca)

Wine Country came to town last week betwixt what has seemed like the most expansive sectarian LCBO campaign in recent memory, or possibly ever. Hashed out, tagged and promoted by such catch slogans as #LCBOtastelocal, #LCBOGoLocal and #LoveLocal, Ontario’s wine superstars have been dancing on the monopoly’s main stage and in stores, since September 15th and through to October 11th. As part of the phrontifugic campaign, the LCBO has quaintly persisted in matching local wine with pie.

https://twitter.com/LCBO/status/519554566119899136

It has not just been a talking affair, this love for the wine regions of Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. VINTAGES walked the walk by welcoming 55 Ontario wineries last Thursday, October 2, 2014 to Toronto’s Bronfman Hall at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Related – Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013

Taste Ontario is a curated and correlated gathering and the sixth annual did something the first five failed to accomplish. The agglomeration left no book of wines behind on the varietal bus. This year the offering sought a cogent cross-section of everything Ontario works its vinicultural tail off at, from stalwart signatures Chardonnay and Riesling through to the global gamut of expatriate Vinifera. Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc continued their most righteous and requisite climb to prominence. The increasingly genuflected niches occupied by Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Red Meritage Blends upped the ante and their game. Finally and with much market grab ado, Sparkling, Gamay and Syrah crossed the bridge to be more than gratuitously represented.

This is what happens when Wine Country Ontario, the LCBO and the winemakers do whatever it takes to get on the same page. The miserable and disenfranchised put their gripes aside. There was no talk of private wine stores, organics, biodynamics and wishes to reformulate the VQA certification process. No, all of the important issues facing the Ontario wine industry were swept under the rug to focus on one thing. Current and recent releases.

Ontario’s expansion in diversity and prosperity has not climbed aboard the gravy train without challenges. Growing, nurturing and manufacturing (despicable term, I know) the varieties of the European shtetl is a labour of New World love. The results have polarized the region, dividing its critics into glass half full or empty rural planners, into partisans and dissidents. The wines themselves can be brutally honest takes, but also classic, arguably heroic examples of despair refusing to take itself seriously.

The critic will tell the Ontario winemaker who strays from the comfortable cool home confines for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Cabernet Franc that all else is a complete waste of viticultural time. They will insist that you can’t have doppeltes Glück, that your bread cannot be buttered on both sides. Cake is not to have and eat it too. The winemaker will respectfully disagree.

Never before, in the presence of so many Ontario wines at a single tasting, have the poles been blurred, bent and bemused. Martin Werner’s 2013 Riesling challenges the laws of typicity, even while it expands on the boundaries of what can be achieved. VQA found no fault. Francois Morissette did the same (and more) and yet his Cuvée met with the ball’s black curtain. Ravine’s Riesling barely caused a batting of the VQA lash. Gordon Robert’s Gamay 2013 has a sense of Cru with a tension that belies Beaujolais. Others found it thin and volatile, yet it breaks new ground and carries a #GoGamayGo torch. Marynissen Estates has re-invented itself (with Pinot Gris and Chardonnay in tow) and still the paradigmatic radar gun is silent, its registry empty and reading zero in the wrist slap department. Is everyone paying attention?

Taste Ontario has bore the ancient marvelous into the modern everyday. The gathering has developed as a show of VQA magic realism, a look at the mundane through a hyper-realistic lens. While there are many consumers who would still not drink these wines at a Leamington tomato auction, the number of converts increases exponentially with each passing congress. With yet another Taste Ontario in the books, the conversation has been furthered, the level of fitness elevated and the report card in. Ontario wine is worthy of cerebral ramparts. Discussion to ensue.

I tasted more than 50 wines through the course of the provincial day and with time, space and brevity as my leader, I have thus far reviewed but a lagniappe, beginning with those that spoke with the clearest voice and tender personality. Polarized or not, here are 10 new releases assessed, in a wide range of categories, tasted at Ontario’s signature event.

From left to right: Marynissen Estates Gamay Noir 2013

From left to right: Coyote’s Run Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc 2013, Rosewood Select Sémillon 2013, Di Profio Wines Limited Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2013, Marynissen Estates Gamay Noir 2013

Coyote’s Run Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc 2013, Niagara Peninsula (112144, $15.95, WineAlign)

A most pleasant symbiosis of Pinots in this rhyming wine. Juicy equal parts align and run together in fresh time. Extraction is bang on, with gentle lime pressings layered in line. Scents of orange rind and lemon thyme. Reminiscent of another land and another time, gathering up old knowledge and I me mine. “No one’s frightened of playing it, everyone’s saying it” and this white blend is “flowing more freely than wine.” Very functional, with just enough Loire meets Alsace, which is fine, working in unison to keep a welcoming consumer feel the sun shine.  Tasted October 2014  @coyotesrun

Rosewood Select Sémillon 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (winery, $18.00, WineAlign)

After tasting Rosewood’s ’12, I urged the region’s cultivation of the great white wolf variety. Then the winter of 2014 happened. Rosewood’s vines were wiped clean off the map, erased like a child of parents who never met. The ’13 Sem is the last Mohican and its 12.5 per cent alcohol (down two from ’12) is a fitting, subdued and graceful epitaph to an amazing Beamsville run. This final cut is lean, stark, raving mad. So very savoury, tannic and built to linger for longer than most. The Rosewood honey is in hiding,”far from flying high in clear blue skies,” but like all memorable vintages of this wine, it will emerge in time. This Sémillon asks, “and if I show you my dark side, will you still hold me tonight?” Yes is the answer, and not just because she is the last one. Terrific curtain call.  Tasted October 2014  @Rosewoodwine

Di Profio Wines Limited Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $18.00)

From estate fruit out of the Mia Cara Vineyard in Jordan Station. Not sure any Ontario SB has ever hit the nail on the proverbial head like Fred Di Prfio’s ’13. Subtle touches of wet hay, mowed grass, capsicum, juiced berries, goose feathers and passing through the rising steam of just about to be blanched green vegetables. Acidity brings the party to another level but it’s not an all night affair. The verve is quick, dancing on tongues, layered on the floor, spread on a raft of herbs, ready for smoking beneath the fish just out of the river. Great, late balm, like after the rain in an equatorial zone. Yes to this beauty.  Tasted October 2014  @diprofiowines

Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (172338, $22.95, WineAlign)

The immediate impression is the increased richness as compared to 2012, as if the “Richness” fruit were here in the Triomphe. What this will mean in terms of the Whimsy’s potential should be cause for anticipation. This is the most triumphant essential Southbrook Chardonnay to date and much thanks must be awarded the Saunders Vineyard for helping to bolster the mix. The gentle Beamsville Bench of old-vine Chardonnay impart is ephemeral, in mineral and lushness. The layered result atop Niagara flatland fruit in Triomphe ’13 is texture. This is the key and the king component. In that sense what you have here is a wine of social heredity. It is drinking well now and will do so for five plus years.  Tasted October 2014  @SouthbrookWine

Marynissen Estates Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Really clean Gamay, ripe but entangled nowhere in the vicinity of over extraction. Ambrosial entry, nectarous middle and sweet finish. Has a sense of Cru with a tension that belies Beaujolais. Cherries in fleshy drupe simulating veraison to black cherries, anise in legume gumming to licorice. What’s not to like? Its vapours, tranquilized and centred by meditation are the furthest thing from volatile. A new genesis of anesthetizing Gamay, like a “Freudian slumber empty of sound.” This does the #GoGamyGo train proud.  Tasted October 2014  @Marynissen

From left to right: Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

From left to right: reekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, Tawse Meritage Grower’s Blend 2011, Ravine Vineyard Riesling 2013, Creekside Estates Broken Press Syrah Queenston Road Vineyard 2011, Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The Trad ’11 has a classic toast and yeast aromatic waft and so it goes that everything that follows is embraced with curiosity and an open mind. Ginger, citrus, bronze and the sweet scents of the inside of a candy machine, its candy long gone. Creekside’s winemaker Rob Power will never be accused of dialing this sparkler in. Tasting trials help determine the necessary, final blend. The single, Queenston Road Vineyard puts 56 per cent Pinot Noir and (44) Chardonnay, aged 2 years in bottle, together for a highly effective, expansive but not explosive fizz. At 8.7 g/L of residual its dry but not quite falling off the bone. The sweetness is tempered by elevated (9.98 g/L) acidity and tension. Spent 24 months on the lees and was bottled back in February. There is balance and pleasure and a good, stretchy finish. No band-aid. Clean, precise, fizz of the day.  Tasted October 2014

Tawse Meritage Grower’s Blend 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Having tasted through single-varietal Bordeaux barrels with Paul Pender last January, I was amazed to be informed at Taste Ontario that much of that juice was declassified into this inaugural Grower’s Blend. At that time the richness and poise of the varieties seemed destined for the winemaker’s top of the heap Meritage. That loss is this blend’s gain. Composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (42 per cent), Merlot (40) and Cabernet Franc (18), the GB brings together the hallways of always high quality David’s Block Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Redstone Cabernet Franc. So very juicy, the fruit is mastered by a tannic anxiety so in its current state, the wine is haunted by its own house. This Tawse 2011 is a haunting idle, “an instrumental that serves as a breath-catcher,” If the finish of minutes riding the quark is any indication, sometime between five and 10 years from now this union will speak with wonderful clarity.  Tasted October 2014  @Tawse_Winery

Ravine Vineyard Riesling 2013, VQA St. Davids Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Martin Werner’s botrytis-affected 2013 accesses virgin territory, embraces a unique if puzzling style and challenges Niagara Riesling scholarship. Something in this St. David’s Bench yield reminds me of Rolly Gassman’s (Alsace) Pflaenzerreben but also the eccentric and magnetic Benjamin Bridge (Gaspereau Valley) Sauvignon Blanc. The winemaker lineage from Werner, through Peter Gamble to Jean-Benoit Deslauriers is cause for fellowship-fraternity thought. The methodology here makes use of 40 per cent noble rot impaired (organically and biodynamically raised) grapes that were arrested in fermentation at a residual sugar number in the 35-40 g/L range. The intent may have been Germanic (or more specifically, a Mosel one) but the vernacular spoken in yogurty tones and the abrupt dry finish confound thoughts at seeking direct comparisons. Its hydrated puffballs of bacterial fuzz give intensity and yet this is a Riesling that defies known laws of atomic weight. So interesting, so unique. Requires a re-visit in five years time.  Tasted October 2014

Creekside Estates Broken Press Syrah Queenston Road Vineyard 2011, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula (202127, $39.00, WineAlign)

Only Creekside Syrah smells like this, like bending down to smell black raspberries on the shores of a briny capsicum lake in the middle of a pine forest. The 2011 Syrah has fruit residing on the edge of impossibly ripe, factored inside a pipeline, while piping lavender and plum pastry cream float atop rare duck breasts. If Syrah were to ooze or drip without sticking to surfaces along the way, this would be it. If Syrah came forth from the maw of the beast it would speak in these demanding tones. Creekside’s BP talks the tense, nervous and twitching talk. It’s smeared with a coat of epoxy spread over fine grain in wood. It sweats an air of metallic cordiality. If given five years to come together it will vape and realize togetherness.  Tasted October 2014  @CreeksideWine

Bachelder Wines Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (361816, $44.95, WineAlign)

To those who wonder aloud about the annual love affair with this vineyard, suck it and see. This connectivity and this wine renew again. Same time, this year. Bursts of all that have come from it before, are here now and in temptation of what will be for years to come. Has “the type of kisses where teeth collide,” a Sam Cooke ages to Arctic Monkeys kind of reckless serenade. It’s also a balladeer, this scaled back Bachelder, if that can be said to be done. Here now soft, elegant, perfumed, demurred, sweet, downy, pretty, not yet fleshed, surprisingly void in tannin, anxiety and tension. Work with it for 10 minutes and it will then begin to bite back, show its teeth, pearly white as they are, grind it out. There will be 10 years of development in this Lowrey, if not less, but in ’12, that is more.  Tasted October 2014  @Bachelder_wines

Good to go!

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