A common weal of September VINTAGES best buys

Innisfiil Sunflowers

Innisfiil Sunflowers

September has its share of excellence being revealed, particularly this coming weekend with the VINTAGES September 13, 2014 release. This is a perfect time to investigate the wares from this province. The weekend also marks the launch of the  initiative, in conjunction with Wine Country Ontario. Then on October 2nd, Wine Country is coming to the Royal Ontario Museum. There will be 255 wines poured by 55 producers at Taste Ontario.

Related – The LCBO and WineAlign go local

For years now the fine wine and premium spirits division of the LCBO, known benevolently to Wineontarians as VINTAGES, has been rolling out releases every two weeks. There are always somewhere between five and ten wines on each listing that, were I independently wealthy and helplessly wine obsessed in reckless abandon, would always buy. There are also upwards of 100 or more that I would not. Were I presented a glass half full, to most of them I would offer my thanks and sip away. There are also five to ten not worth the price of admission. As a member of the wine writer’s commonwealth of Ontario it is my trusted duty to help make sense of the bi-weekly barrage and to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Wine critics can be fussy people, tough mudders with palates sheathed by caparison. They can go from saying things like “not as good as the last shipment” to “I’m tired of tasting shit.” Even the most curmudgeonly of critics must play his part to promote the happiness, health, and wine safety of all of the people of a community. It is an honour to be trusted with a duty to taste, consider and then discard what is simply not right. The expectation and the responsibility is to find the most natural and honest wines made available, however fleeting and rare the opportunities may be.

Here are four from across the pond and 10 Ontario wines being unpacked onto LCBO shelves as we speak. Get out there and #LCBOGoLocal.

From left to right: Flat Rock Riesling 2013, Château Saint Estève Corbières 2011, Palazzo Maffei Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2011, Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012, Thirty Bench Red 2012                                      Photos: Jason Dziver

From left to right: Flat Rock Riesling 2013, Château Saint Estève Corbières 2011, Palazzo Maffei Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2011, Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012, Thirty Bench Red 2012 Photos: Jason Dziver, Photographer (http://www.jasondziver.com/)

Flat Rock Riesling 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (43281, $16.95, WineAlign)

The FR Riesling cover girl gets a swift kick in the backside by gas blanketed, dehydrated pear and a sprinkle of rock sugar. Citrus peel, candied again, with medicinal silt. Rocky Riesling spread liberally across a horizontal canvas. From my earlier April 2014 note: “Just bottled a few weeks ago so the note to self is to expect a subtraction of preoccupation. Anything but. Though not as frantic as the Nadja’s sampled from tank back in February, the preview to the ’13 Estate is in show of so much zest, premature acidity and an overly enthusiastic outpouring of juicy emotion. The scraped zest is present in every respect, along with green mango, Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lime. There is attitude and altitude from this precocious Riesling and there’s no doubt it and the ’13 Nadja will be better than anticipated out of tank. Forget the infancy, wow is it showing well.”  Last tasted August 2014  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd

Château Saint Estève Corbières 2011, Ap, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (377218, $17.95, WineAlign)

Corbieres excellence. Nothing funky going on here. A minor amount sees the inside of the fûts but how great it is to find such a clean, fruit forward, straight from the tank example. Made from (40 per cent) Grenache, (30) Syrah, (20) Carignan and (10) Mourvèdre. Certainly showing modern fruit but the low yield (35hl/ha) altruism and cleanliness is next to Midi-ness. A touch of chalk and milky chocolate with some vanilla and lavender too. Simple, effective (if a touch soapy) French red.  Tasted August 2014

Palazzo Maffei Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Doc (338913, $17.95, WineAlign)

This is a massive Valpolicella, fully enriched by chocolate in countless ways, on many levels and in dry ice dreams. It’s a baby Amarone incarnate and if you are going that route, try this on instead for a mere pittance at $18. Huge wine, with exaggerated mannerisms in oak and high alcohol, though not volatile, even if the structure is value-driven pedestrian. Will work for a welcoming, big-hair crowd.  Tasted August 2014  @HHDImports_Wine

Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2011, VQA Prince Edward County (132928, $21.95, WineAlign)

Today Dan Sullivan’s Chardonnay concentrates on its excellence while compressing in reduction. Beyond the encapsulating abstraction there are the rocks beneath the earth and by extension, the vines of hard-working fruit. Fruit surrounded by the spice of barrel. Tasted extensively over a 24 hour period I found this walks the line, takes on all comers, hovers over and has the guts to merely sigh at the distractions. Give this Chardonnay years, more than most, perhaps even 10 plus. In 2011, Chablis trumps barrel.  Tasted August 2014  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine

Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (598078, $21.95, WineAlign)

A touch of reduction but the thought goes straight to serious wine and attentive winemaking. The barrel is not king, the fruit big and boisterous. It’s a bit hyper-fruity, steroidal even but it is anything but thin and certainly not encumbered by process or wood. A hint of soap is a detractor admittedly, but the acumen and level of higher learning is evident and commendable. This will be a wine to look at for years to come.  Tasted August 2014  @PellerVQA

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (275958, $21.95, WineAlign)

The 2012 Triomphe Cabernet Franc receives a meld of mellow, blending support from 12.4 per cent Merlot and the marriage is quietly non-contentious. That blending decision by winemaker Ann Sperling, along with the praiseworthy choice to forego obtrusive oak is as good as a golpe on the Niagara Cab Franc oeuvre. The use of large format (80 hectolitre), no splinters allowed oak vats over wood spice and milkshake imparting barrels is an easy swallow for sore palates. The ’12 Triomphe is an elongated and elastic Cab Franc, with nary a foray into the tobacco, bell pepper and cloying currant currency of so many predecessors. The co-fermenting of disparate, north and south, estate blocks in those vats has done wonders on the preservation of a warm vintage’s, judiciously picked (21.8 per cent brix at harvest) fresh fruit. Terrific decisions all in for a highly accessible, brand and varietal ambassador for Niagara.  Tasted August 2014  @SouthbrookWine

Thirty Bench Red 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (320986, $24.00, WineAlign)

Big red machine, really ahead of the class, especially in this price range, with this much stuffing. A full complement of fruit, bushy and falling just as it’s picked from the trees, not to mention quality, quality, sweet earth. This is jazzy, boozy and sparked, from ‘round midnight, smoky, exotic and global. Has the discipline of a monk to groove low and low, the stuffing and Thelonious tannin to boot. Wait for it, let the band play then give way. The solo will be fantastic.  Tasted August 2014  @ThirtyBench

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula

From left to right: Tawse Pinot Noir Growers Blend 2010, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Le Volte Dell’ornellaia 2012, Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2009, Château Des Charmes Merlot St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2012, Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2011, Charles Baker Wines Riesling ‘Picone Vineyard’ 2011, Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2011 Photos: Jason Dziver, Photographer (http://www.jasondziver.com/)

Tawse Pinot Noir Growers Blend 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (284570, $26.95, WineAlign)

Where at one time the GB Pinot Noir fought among its moving parts it now sits in permanent cease-fire mode. A position that realizes warm fruit, settled wood spice and linear acidity. Needs no more scaling or ropy ascension. It has reached the planing platform and going forward will glide effortlessly back down to ground. Where it began. From my earlier October 2013, April and May 2014 notes. “Though it’s a blend of several sites, this Tawse Pinot stands alone and of itself as a grower; it grows on you after multiple tastings. The first go ’round seems simple, vintage warm and tight. Taste again and the sappy wood seeps mineral, the phenolic red cherry ripeness turns black and the tempering is led by a sweet earth kind. Earth that smoulders in a rising Zeppelin kept afloat by tobacco and the swirling spores of pungent mushroom. Pinot Noir truth and value from a Niagara house of the holy kind. “You know-whoa, that’s right.” The univocal Pender perfume permeates the Tawse stable of Pinot Noir and seems only magnified in the multiple site Grower‘s Blend. Vintage related warmth and inferable incrassation of fruit. Delves into a deep connection to disparate lands possessive of a common goal.  As if making wine is “your taste combined with all the years of wasting time.” Graceful Pinot Noir with moments touched by hot rocks, toasted red rice, a gentle smoulder and delicate grains of sand.”  Last Tasted August 2014  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Le Volte Dell’ornellaia 2012, Igt Toscana (964221, $26.95,WineAlign)

What can you say about Le Volte? Is she the most immediately rewarding, fruit forward and accessible Super Tuscan ever put on offer? Does this cuvée  of Merlot (50 per cent), Sangiovese (30) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20) offer a portal through which to peer into the future of the Ornellaia grande? From a warm but not excessively hot season, the fruit teases, like a kiss that leaves a lipstick stain on the cheek, a taste that makes you crazy and dreaming of more. Time spent in barrels once used by the matron first wine equates to a morning of chocolate, Nutella and cappuccino in the piazza. Full on, with much more texture than ever before. She is beautiful, but is her beauty fleeting? Drink over the next two to four years.  Tasted August 2014  @Ornellaia  @AuthenticWineON

Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2009, Bierzo, Spain (379891, $26.95, WineAlign)

Fruit for this Bierzo is from old vines and is aged in a combination of French and American oak. An industrious rolling stone and two steps up example above and beyond for what usually passes as basic and simple Mencia. The Dominio de Tares is exactly the reason to ante up. Bierzo as a region produces exceptional quality wines at this price point but suffers a stenosis in the lower ranges. Here the intoxicating and delicious fumes are resonant of just caramelizing brown sugared fruits, formidable though sweet tannins and an enveloping that’s “all right now, in fact, it’s a gas” Displays and prances about with an incredible amount of energy and jumping jack flash. “It’s a gas, gas, gas.”  Tasted August 2014  @oenophilia1

Château Des Charmes Merlot St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2012, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (453431, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vintage does Merlot a wondrous gifting and coupled with what strikes as an unusual salinity, this is a most unique take on the Merlot perspective. In the middle vacuum what is expected takes a turn; shaken, crushed berries with chocolate shavings and brushstrokes made by a weighty utensil but in the end it returns to the vintage specific layering. Well made with caveat to and from Merlot.  Tasted August 2014  @MBosc

Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392738, $29.95, WineAlign)

The passion from the Thomas Bachelder Niagara project has shifted into Domaine Queylus. With no disrespect to Thomas’ eponymous bottling from vineyards so nearby, the quality time has now been granted the Tradition. Here lies Mountainview and Le Petite Colline earth, here crushes Niagara cherries in hand, juice running down a clay caked forearm. Fresh and bright yet streaked by chalk and enveloping brush stroke. Sour? For a flash but in neither malic nor astringent form. This is a must buy. From my earlier June 2014 note: “Reverberates with the unmistakable calling card character of the storied Neudorf family La Petite vineyard with equal and opposite amounts of attraction and new life breathed in by the Lincoln Lakeshore fruit. Ethereally sifted earth of old meets cherries of new. Enriching Pinot Noir, a bit gangling like a primitive young giraffe but near to finding its legs. Hard working red, insistent, confident and having already paid some dirty fingernail dues. Excellent length.”  Last tasted August 2014  @QueylusVin

Charles Baker Wines Riesling ‘Picone Vineyard’ 2011, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

You can take Riesling from out of the Vinemount Ridge but you can’t take Vinemount Ridge out from a Charles Baker Picone. The layers of tectonic shale and the slowly espressed fruit that swim within the waves of those layers make for the total oscillating package. Has moved nowhere, not sideways even, since last tasted, though today, from this bottle, there’s an awkward, shy adolescence. From my earlier May 2014 note: “Some sweetness now, but not in a flirting way. This will be a September VINTAGES release (with pink on the label as part of an LCBO/Princess Margaret fundraiser). Has not so much evolved but rather “come groovin’ up slowly,” since last tasted. Still got “joo joo eyeballs,” still tough in tension. Years left before it will come together, yeah.” From my earlier, October 2013 note: “does not so much pick up where cracking ’09 left off (with no offence meant to the soothing and tuneful ’10) but rather re-writes the Baker book. From the almost famous windswept vineyard atop the Vinemount Ridge, this Picone, from older Riesling plantings is crazy lively. That ’10 is now imbued with rich, oily glück. The ’11 will realize such a future, but much further along and in combination with its inborn tension. Right up there with Baker’s “perfect vintage” 2006.  Last tasted August 2014  @cbriesling  @StratusWines

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (125310, $39.00, WineAlign)

This County ’12 by Norman Hardie needs fresh air, County air and time. Leave the wine alone in bottle counted out in five years time. There is pure intensity in aerified flight. Shows length, persistence, purity, phenolic ripeness and in time will show its ability to wade across raging rivers. From my earlier April 2014 note: “Hardie’s 2012 County Pinot Noir is a beacon, a flashing light on the shore, an invitation to copycats because this is what making red wine from limestone foundations is all about. To taste this ’12 is to experience Hardie’s purest berry maceration and distillation to date. It’s as if there was no alcohol present and in fact, at 11.5 per cent it is a modest and transparent pronouncement. Longevity may not bless the ’12 as in other vintages but this is certainly the most groomed and coiffed County Pinot Noir.” From my earlier October 2013 note: “Cuts a rug with immense, stepping out juicy behaviour. It’s both turntable old-school, astatic in smooth groove rotation, but also digitally forward thinking towards a perdurable future. The nose is Norm’s most intense floral burst to date, with incredible brightness and sparkling acidity in the key of fresh plum. This brings to mind indelible Burgundy, enveloped in PEC’s warm ’12 blanket. Hardie’s measure of consistency abides in a Pinot of parity and undemanding polish.”  Last tasted August 2014  @normhardie

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Top ten Labour Day long weekend wines

Dry-Rub Ribs. Photo Courtesy of Jill Chen at freestylefarm.ca and Barque Smokehouse

as seen on canada.com

Long weekends have a built-in preference for the obvious. Get into the water, fire up the BBQ, indulge the palate, imbibe of good drink. Relax, chill, take advantage of the last free stretch before the race begins again. When shopping these next few days, here is your list of weekend wines.

The grape: Pinot Blanc

The history: Consummate Alsatian vin de table varietal

The lowdown: Peaceful, easy, loving and charitable white wine, just like the Knights of Malta order, represented on the label

The food match: Grilled Turkey Breast rubbed with sage, thyme and olive oil

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Always and forever Argentina’s red darling

The lowdown: A three vineyard mix brings complexity to an entry level wine

The food match: Sirloin Shish Kebabs in red wine marinade

Monte Quieto Quieto 3 Malbec 2009 (275701, $14.95) is black and blue, slightly reductive and yet pretty for Mendoza. From three vineyard sources, Vista Flores, Ugarteche and Agrelo. Spice rub, orange zest and lit, wooden-scented stick. 87

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Loire white horse, here sparkling and quite dry

The lowdown: Made in the traditional Champagne method at a fraction of the cost

The food match:  Steamed Mussels with fennel, sparkling Chenin Blanc and tomato concassée

Domaine De Vaugondy Brut Vouvray (154567, $16.95) is brimming with orchard scents, of fruit, leaves and earth. A baking pear tarte tatine, with a crumble of chèvre over top. The pears replay to taste, verging into crème caramel. Top example at the price.  88

The grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara

The history: Made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or recioto

The lowdown: The best version I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: Pasta Bolognese

Silvano Piacentini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009 (289637, $16.95) combines semi-sweet chocolate with, of all things, ripe peaches. Very pretty, floral, sweet, candied Valpo with biting acidity and even some austerity. Best in a while. Needs a two year wait or a two hour decant.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: H of P has been working this Burgundian grape in so many styles, from so many vineyards

The lowdown: From another up and coming Niagara appellation, the Short Hills Bench

The food match: Grilled Halibut with olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme and lemon emulsion drizzle

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2010 (268342, $19.95) is the best one yet. Some A16 but in a breezy, over the falls, misty wash. Like Riesling in a way, especially considering the Bench minerality. Sweet, creamy palate. Good stuff.  88

The grape: Pinot Gris

The lowdown: Alsace comes to New Zealand in an off-dry suit

The lowdown: Continues a welcoming trend for PG in Marlborough on the South Island

The food match: Grilled Rainbow Trout with mild chile-lime dusting

Momo Pinot Gris 2011 (163535, $19.95) is a freshly opened can of spiced nuts. Like the unavoidable Loire itself, a river of Kiwi off-dry sensibility meets an Aussie Semillon, lemon and paraffin quality. A unique white for food.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Argentina’s red horse in fine form

The lowdown: Mendoza at its finest under $20

The food match: Rotisserie Grill Standing Beef Rib Roast

Vistalba Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2009 (279802, $19.95) shows no shortage of oak, extraction and modern ego. The most purple of Malbec and at 15% abv is remarkably not heavy or liqourfied. Very black cherry in flavour, with whiffs of spice and smoke. Gorgeous Napa-like texture and voluminous velocity.  90

The Semi-Splurge

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Where once it played last fiddle to virtually all other California varietals, it’s planting and notoriety are speedily increasing

The lowdown: A Shelton Zin from a newer AVA so priced to sell

The food match: Dry-Rub (with extra herbs) Baby Back Ribs glazed with Ancho Chile BBQ Sauce

Carol Shelton Monga Zin Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 (282525, $26.95) of a single (Lopez)  vineyard, “an only pawn in the game of life.” is intensely herbal of the wise-leaved kind. The Cucamonga Valley brings more blazing brush floor, saddle leather and less bramble to Zinfandel. The extraction is of big body and soft heart. Have a cigar. “They’re gonna love you.” 90

Other wines of note:

Château Cesseras Rouge 2008 (590570, $19.95) is a Minervois from the Midi that I return to in every vintage.  A poster child for southern French pastis and sun-kissed abaisser attitude. Chocolate, fruit and tar are all in balanced clarity. Sweet, sweet, Syrah.  89

Riserva Il Falcone 2007 (177295, $21.95) by one of Umbria’s preeminent producers, Castel del Monte is certainly a crowd pleaser. Lush and rich styling, from the region’s own Uva de Troia varietal. Ripe, black olives in every sip. Taut and plummy, unctuous and finishing with a pepper kick.  89

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: old world reds

Mario Laporta, AFP/Getty Images

Tasting through many wines in a short time requires focus. While it would not be considered stressful or difficult, the test is something I would wish for all my friends to try. Steadfast loyalty in regard of wine everywhere is my impetus behind these  ‘Old World’ tasting notes, that is, from Europe.

Related – More notes from the VINTAGES June 23, 2012 release

With each passing vintage, the line blurs between old and new world as modern techniques are employed by the most traditional of producers. Still we see the vintners from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany continuing to share a common sentiment. Great wine is made in the vineyard.

France

Domaine De Champ De Cour Moulin-à-Vent 2010 (430876, $17.95) plays more like a champ than the national footballers. Mommesin’s Beaujolais is dabbed with pretty smells, especially ripe cherries. Soft tosses junk but gets them dancing and swinging. What pure Gamay the varietal is all about.  88

Château Des Capucins 2009 (279992, $19.95) of Bordeaux’s Right Bank in Lalande de Pomerol is rigged with heavy Brettanomyces and wet, leathery sails. Strong, sturdy and inky like Syrah from the Languedoc. Jury is out on this one.  NR

Château Tronquoy-Lalande 2004 (279984, $29.95) offers a reasonable look at Left Bank St-Estephe nearly ten years on. Similar nosing characteristic like the Capucins at first but here it’s just a regular kind of funk. A boondoggle of fresh energy abounds, with earth and spice. Bordeaux forest for the leaves.  Lovely CVR** potential.  89

Château De Lancyre Coste D’aleyrac 2010 (74765, $19.95) opens distinctively Syrah in both violaceous aura and hue. Considered to be of the Languedoc, the tone and redolent cherry-red Grenache also speaks directly of Pic Saint Loup, the true, though not yet defined appellation. Could drink this all the time.  90

Château De Nages JT Costières de Nîmes 2009 (736876, $21.95) is mostly Syrah with a small percentage of Mourvèdre. A hillock covered in blueberries entices a mellow ascent but the nightshade is pulled over the palate by a capsicum stinger. Quality Southern Rhône that needs two years minimum to settle in.  89

Le Gravillas Sablet 2010 (78790, $14.95) does simple Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages for the masses. Crystalized berries in every way. Dialed in.  86

Château Vincens Cuvée Prestige 2009 (272427, $14.95) from Malbec’s home of Cahors remains true to the region’s ‘black’ wine effect. Then a blueberry molasses modern take plays havoc on extraction’s oldest trick in the book. A huge thwack of tannin grips from behind. A suspendable offence by such an inexpensive Malbec.  85

Germany

Schloss Reinhartshausen Dry Pinot Noir 2007 (40543, $15.95) always intrigues and only Rheingau Pinot noses like this. Mild mushroom meets blanched almond. Surprising verve in balance and length.  87

Italy

Umberto Cesari Sangiovese Di Romagna Riserva 2008 (33399, $18.95) from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy is meaty, musty and frankly smells like “un pezzo di merda.” Like Oeste’s Pêra Rocha dropped from the tree and ready for baby sauce.  Or the near disastrous effort of Sunday’s national Football team.  84

Fontalpino Chianti Classico 2009 (275859, $22.95) barks more black dog and caws less crow in opposition to the mascot on the appellation’s logo. Heavy metal packaging and tenebrous complexion, “with eyes that shine burnin’ red.” A Zeppelin of heavy lead on the edge of Sangiovese’s limits. More IGT than Chianti really and sensory overload of deliciousness if you like the modern style.  89

Lamole Di Lamole Vignetto Campolungo Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (231241, $36.95) blows past the 27 month ageing requirement for CC Riserva and thankfully so. The massive fruit and tannin interchange needs the oak. This CCR ventures up around the bend and all over the map. “You can ponder perpetual motion” like this Campolungo, moving backwards and forwards. Bold and beautiful, the Lamole is complex and bloody coagulating Sangiovese.  90

Le Sughere Di Frassinello 2009 (25700, $29.95) the modish Sangioveto dominated blend from Tuscany’s coastal Maremma is an encrusted, purgative Etruscan. Saucy, sugary pomegranate, crushed tomato concentrate and acidic ossein.  90

Lionello Marchesi Coldisole Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 (281238, $41.95) seems muffled, not unlike this house’s very good ’97 seemed in 2003. Currently medium in body with an oil slick of resinous fruit working towards a bright future.  89

Mastrojanni San Pio 2008 (944603, $30.95) is a not so common Cabernet-based Montalcino blend with 20% local Brunello grapes to keep it real. There is a citrus drive and berry spice but really nothing specifically Tuscan about it. The taxi is speeding through the piazza but the wheels are in neutral.  87

Le Ragose Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007 (991984, $18.95) quite convincingly sticks Veneto at the centre of a bulls-eye. Nuts and chocolate Ragusa nougat, ox suet and potpurri polish.  87

Monte Zovo Sa’Solin Ripasso Valpoliccella 2009 (650713, $17.95) begins with Brett, airs out and then simplifies for red sauce pasta. Misses the mineral boat of Le Ragose.  85

Lebanon

Cave Kouroum Petit Noir 2007 (260141, $14.95) from the Bekaa Valley intimates Pinot Noir in a Kiwi sort of way. Soft, easy going, “mafi mushkilato be charmed by its flavours.  86

Musar Jeune 2009 (178079, $17.95) from the esteemed producer and their entry-level juice. Unfortunately a corked bottle.  NR

Portugal

Quinta Do Quetzal Reserva 2007 (277376, $27.95) out of Alentejo will, I’m hoping, take it on the cheek or chin when “faced with a dodo’s conundrum.” That I might consider this blind to be an Australian Shiraz/Cabernet blend or South African Pinotage means the fake Chinese rubber plant quotient in uncommonly high. Botox treated plastica of the head and from knee to ankle.  86

Sogrape Reserva Douro 2008 (335208, $17.95) works Portugal’s most famous locale with clean, crisp, modern drive. The vanilla oak is obvious along with cedar mulch and savoury, floral scents. Medium heft, solid, continental and conventional.  87

Spain

Barón de Magaña 2007 (280552, $17.95) was corked.

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Añon Gran Reserva 2004 (190827, $24.95) made of 80% Tempranillo with smatterings of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. Regnant for today’s Rioja movement. An ampelographer might be required to place the Millerized Olarra but no matter. This Gran Reserva is to Rioja what resolved, mellifluent Chianti Classico Reserva is to Tuscany. Easy on the eyes, nose, mouth and throat.  88

Langa Tradicion Centenaria Garnacha 2008 (194795, $13.95) is a repeat performance. Like the 2007 from Calatayud, the two Garnachas act out a simple, sugary and leavened oak fruit play to a standing “O.”  86

Ramón Bilbao Reserva 2005 (281097, $17.00)  does Rioja with IVR* spirit. Hewn, leathery texture and a perfume river of aromatics leading to a petal strewn pagoda’s steps. Musk of melon and ox lingers on the lawn. Subtle and captivating.  88

Torres Gran Segre De Toro Reserva 2008 (315648, $15.95) of Catalunya is a hircine of horse’s hooves. Mocha java oaks its way into the stable of Garnacha, Carignan and Syrah.  86

Tossals Junior 2006 (278135, $18.95) emblematizes the new Montsant. One third Carinena is grippy and laborious to chew through at present. A second third lavender and raspberry Garnacha are more welcoming but it’s the last third that does the real wooing. Cabernet Sauvignon on loan from Bordeaux joins near-sectarian Tempranillo to win over fans. Soporific and yet the blend is a tough nut to crack.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

Good to go!

Academy Awards Wines

 

Oscar Night

February 26, 2012

 

The Oscars. Ritual television rivaled only by the Super Bowl. The AA’s speak to a wine crowd while the SB leans Wings and Beer fest. Here some recent tastings from VINTAGES to help transition from cliché opening number through three hours of pomp and pride.

 

 

ALOIS LAGEDER BENEFIZIUM PORER PINOT GRIGIO 2008 (231274, $16.75) dumbs down in a most descendant,  positive way and explains why one wine is an open book and another a deep well. PG so often a Limp Biscuit, insipid, pale, lifeless. This more of an every day Sexsmith crooning Costello, writing the book. From Alto Adige and punched up, acting more like Gris, or even Kabinett from a closer neighbour across the Alps. Watercolour of pomade and propellant. Wheat grassy, honey nut, marzipan cheery. Some evolution on it, as if almost oxidized Chardonnay but fresh still. On the card at Barque  88

ALOIS LAGEDER BENEFIZIUM PORER PINOT GRIGIO 2008
  

TOMASSI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2009 (9014304, $19.95) is Tony Calabria’s tipple of choice for Oscar night. Sibilated sweet, reductive treacle and red licorice Lola in a bottle. Kinky, tangy and tasty like cherry cola, “C.O.L.A. Cola.” Will flatter the best available Pizza on Award’s night, like the one at Mama’s at Yorkdale, circa 1978. “This is this.”  87

TOMASSI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2009

NOTTOLA VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2006 (184960, $15.95) seeps searing Sangiovese, Earl Grey Tea at the seams so drink up. A whiff of Brett huffs and puffs but the artist‘s house is all Siena brick and no straw. A sophisticated palate tears the roof of the sucker so this VNM Gives Up The Funk. Calcium Carbonate, cherry, licorice and umbrella pine dominate the wafts from this actualized, mellow member of the noble Tuscan wine parliament89

 NOTTOLA VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2006

 

 

 

Good to go!