Alternative and unexpected California

Pop goes @california.wines unexpected whites with phenomenal insight by @hawk_wakawaka ~ Thank you Elaine, Paula @CalifWines_CA

Elaine Chukan Brown came to town and if you’ve never heard her speak on the subject of California wines then you have yet lived. The California Wine Fair has been rolling through Canada for coming upon forty years running and this past April she and the show stopped in Toronto. It has continued to exist as the largest Canadian gathering of that state’s wines under one roof you are ever going to find. The American specialist at JancisRobinson.com, contributing writer with Wine & Spirits Magazine and eloquent meets erudite penner of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews was the keynote speaker at the trade luncheon but it was her morning presentation of California’s unexpected white varietals that got me thinking. Thinking about California wine.

Elaine Chukan Brown

Unexpected might also mean alternative though when talking about grape varieties grown in a place where nothing is truly endemic and everything is expatriate, is there truly such an animal? I could digress into commentary about immigration policies but I’ll stay the course and stick to wine. Brown’s seminar was appropriately referenced with more than one headline because it wasn’t just about varietals. The lecture indeed touched upon malvasia bianca, vermentino and chenin blanc but it also spoke of sparkling, Rosé and iconic blends made by archetypal producers. Not a singular notion by any means of conferral and so ultimately necessary to be expressed in diversified terms. Alternative and unexpected but not without a hit of developed orthodoxy and a whack of doctrinal emigration.

The cross-Canada celebration of California’s wine community began as a single-city event in Ottawa in 1980 and is now the largest annual wine tour across Canada. The California Wine Fair is is the hands of Praxis PR’s Paula Oreskovich and I would be shocked if there is a more successful regional tour, especially at this scale. The 2018 edition was no exception and adding Elaine Chukan Brown to the bill was both a coup and a stroke of brilliant thinking.

There were 10 wines involved in the determinate and evaluative discourse. I could kudize the selections and the seamless flow from reception wine Rosé through epiphanic Brut and across a swath of right proper showing white wines. I could but I’d rather concentrate on Brown’s photographic mind and ability to convey California wine growing region geography, topography and climatic influences. To present these things to a Toronto wine body politic eager for information. This presentation was science incarnate, pure and motivating. It dispatched the essence of the California dialectic and if you understand varietals, growing conditions and economics, what you soak in may actually allow you to write down what will happen in the future, much like you might write down the history of the past. A California history that speaks of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir. A California future that is alternative, unexpected and wide open.

Folded Hills Lilly Rosé 2017, Santa Inez Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From the Bush family, Rhône varietals are the impetus with this second fruit from a Rosé vineyard set situated in proximation of Ballard Canyon, where things ripen quite formidably. It’s a top location for pinot noir but here an even better place for grenache and syrah. The wine spent 24 hours on skins, was fermented and aged in neutral oak. Crisp acidity speaks to the area’s growing conditions and in its way acts as grenache vin gris, of tart pink to red currants in a glass. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  folded hills  @foldedhills  Folded Hills

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (Winery, WineAlign)

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée 2010 is a pinot noir speciality transferred to sparkling for flinty, smoky, salty and briny sea fresh character from out of a cold Alaskan bred Pacific current. Top, absolute upper end of Brut with 12 g/L sugar and high natural acidity, which is essential. Four years on lees, but that burgeoning acidity works more magic than the yeasts do for texture. As tart as sparkling wine gets and it’s from California. A journey that began in 2010 for only 96 cases made. Price is $52 at the winery. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018  caracciolicellars  @caraccioliwines  Caraccioli Cellars

Palmina Malvasia Bianca 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, California (Agent, WineAlign)

East of centre in the valley, just crossing into Ballard Canyon, from sand over chalk. These are soils that warm up fast, ripening a variety that wants to be bitterly phenolic but finds a way to make use of fog from coastal influences in a nook where the mountains run west to east. The limestone in turn acts as the conduit in delivery of great acidity. From green apple to south asian tropical fruit but I can’t say I’ve ever tasted anything like it before. Yes, the acidity is grand and yes, there is a bitter phenolic note though it’s like great gin. A wildly aromatic wine. There are 62 cases made. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  palminawines  barrelselect  @palminawines  @BarrelSelect  Palmina Winery  @barrelselect

Ryme Cellars Hers Vermentino 2016, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From just over on the Sonoma side of Carneros, the last vineyard before you hit marshlands in San Pablo Bay. Alto, musky and floral notes on the nose, a deep sax, A Love Supreme. What’s curious and high level is the texture, which speaks to place, soil and I suppose, winemaking. It’s part malolactic from neutral oak to further explain, with a mix of stainless steel to keep it Trane chord change airy, elevated, ante-flat earth society vermentino. Approximately $25-29 US. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  ryme_cellars  @RymeCellars  Ryme Cellars

Matthiasson White Blend 2015, Napa Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

Ostensibly an example of a ribolla gialla led, Friuli styled blend by Steve Matthiasson. It’s a grouping of sauvignon blanc, sémillon, ribolla gialia and tokai friuli (friulano) as the components, turning the Friuli a bit on its head but its more about fruit than pyrazine with a ribolla lick off the ground. There is a nutty note, namely almond from tokai and a flinty strike by sémillon. Unilaterally fermented in neutral barrels and then eventually transferred back in. Great balance, complex and long as the coastal range. Come back to it and it has a wonderful savoury, candied childhood memory feeling. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  matthiasson_wine  @matthiassonwine  Matthiasson Wines

J Vineyards And Winery Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley, California (Agent, WineAlign)

Introduced by Elaine Brown as “a testament to the notion that pinot gris is a noble grape, that expresses its place and adaptation from place to place.” A wine as child of western Sonoma County daily fog incursion, absorbed by the clay, a gift of natural refrigeration, non-pushed sugar development, working for gris, not just noir. Semi-mouth watering freshness, unctuousness and notable sweetness.”Round and hovering,” full and tart, mid-range in the mouth. Minor barrel fermented plus 15 per cent new, as kisses for a nutty depth and orange marmalade flavour. Quite delicious, full of texture and flavour. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  #jvineyardsandwinery  gallocareers  @JWinery  @gallocareers  J Vineyards & Winery  Gallo Family Vineyards  E. & J. Gallo Winery

Birichino Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Old Vines 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From a site protected from wind, a diurnal temperature shift with more of a breeze effect, above the fog line at a high (1100 ft.) elevation. All this to say that you’ll end up with increased aromatics, from own-rooted vines planted in the 70s on sandy soils. Chèvre funky, tangy on the acid notes, with layers of ripeness, but with no developed botrytis and then some fruit picked in December mixed right in. It’s green, white, pink and yellow. It’s all in, not overly punchy but very expressive. From apple to brine and back again. This may be the vintage that has it all. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  birichino_official    Birichino

Chateau Montelena Riesling Potter Valley 2016, Mendocino, California (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The first wine Montelena ever released was in fact riesling, a Bo Barrett obsession, slightly inland in the far north on Mendocino. It’s a high elevation at 900 ft., on highly oxygenated, well-draining, gravelly-loam soils with a touch of clay. Made in a combination of stainless steel and neutral oak. The lullaby phenolic and dreamy glycerin fruit content is high, with help from minor (4 g/L) of RS and what is essentially an arrested acidity. A very underdeveloped riesling, youthful and rich, just bloody delicious. Lime, snappy green apple and gravel stone bleed. Riesling as good as it gets in California, from Mendocino all the way down. Perfect for this desert life. “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts. You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast…Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me.” Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  chmontelena  rogersandcompanywines  @ChMontelena  @rogcowines  Chateau Montelena Winery  Rogers & Company

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc To Kalon Reserve 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

The Reserve is the top level for fumé blanc (aside from the I-Block) and a wine made since 1966. There must be more sémillon in 2014 because it’s as smoky and flinty as it ever has been. A portion of the 1945 I-Block vines generously add sauvignon blanc in this wine. This is the original, the history of California wine, the alternate varietal spoken ahead of all the others. Reduced vigour vines from volcanic, well-draining soils for purity and decades long honesty. Always absurdly fresh, integrated, with an ability to age low and slow. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted April 2018  robertmondavi  #constellationbrands  @RobertMondavi  @cbrands  Robert Mondavi Winery  Constellation Brands

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit De Tablas Blanc 2015, Paso Robles, California (Agent, 735506, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the far western side’s folded, undulated hills on the western range that bring in cold air through its streams. A place of cold night and even some persistent cool air during the day. It’s roussanne based, but this ulterior vintage means an elongated ripening so the roussanne was low in acidity, therefore more picpoul was employed for acid. It’s fleshy, creamy toffee, candied floral and candied citrus plus orchard fruit and mango. Should turn waxy and seem more mineral as the alloys emerge and the fruit dissolves. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  tablascreek  @TablasCreek  @ChartonHobbs  Tablas Creek Vineyard  CHARTON-HOBBS QUEBEC

Pop goes @california.wines unexpected whites with phenomenal insight by @hawk_wakawaka ~ Thank you Elaine, Paula @CalifWines_CA

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The heart and the hearth of Podere La Cappella

La Cappella S. Maria a Cerbaia circa 11th century

Two weeks ago I stepped back into Chianti Classico time for an all in, taste as many sangiovese as is humanly possible two-day inculcation at Anteprima 2017. The uninitiated will wonder and ask how this is accomplished. How do taste so many wines of the same ilk and differentiate from one to the next? The answer is really quite simple and straightforward. The sangiovese of Chianti Classico are like children. They are all different. They are snowflakes.

You will have noted my penchant for lengthy tasting notes and excessive use of adjectives. You’re likely privy to a certain infatuation with obscure and insignificant pop culture references and music lyrics. Have you paid attention to my running obsession with geology, climat and terroir? In Chianti Classico there is this ridge, an escarpment really that works its way from Tavernelle and across to San Donato in Poggio. The intendment of this geology and geography and its unique aspects play a vital role in determining some of the most complex sangiovese. The significance is not lost on my mission.

To a world who considers all sangiovese to be cut from the same cloth, from a fichu always woven of volatile acidity, fresh cherry and old leather, there are some things worth knowing. Like for instance did you know that both the Ricasoli and Carobbio estates are variegated with five unique and distinct soil types? Did you know that in Chianti Classico marl and limestone come in many variations, three of which are called Galèstro, Albarese and Colombino? Soil matters for what differentiates hundreds of contrastive sangiovese.

Which brings me to this very special visit I made to see Bruno and Natascia Rossini at Podere La Cappella. You do your best to breathe in and with eyes wide open examine to commit to memory the simple and extraordinary truths that you see around a property such as this. You see it as beatific, elysian, baronial and devout, as a small piece of paradise in a sea of paradisical estates in Chianti Classico, but here unequivocal to San Donato in Poggio.

Bruno and Natascia Rossini with Godello

The estate has been in the possession of the Rossini family since 1979, when Mr. Rossini, a native of Veneto, integrated the growing of vines and olives with the cultivation of apple and pear trees. In the early days Rossini sold off his grapes but in the subsequent years he was drawn to the temptation of self-guided expression and became a producer of Chianti Classico. A re-planting (and re-grafting) scheme took place between 1981 and 1985 and again in the 1990’s. Some varieties were removed and others moved in to take their place. Sangiovese was elevated to top-tier status and merlot was planted, grafted to chardonnay and vermentino rootstock.

Beginning with the 1995 vintage Podere la Cappella started producing its own wines, of Chianti Classico and Corbezzolo, a sangiovese IGT Toscana. Then in 1996 the company released their first merlot called Cantico and it was at this time that Bruno’s daughter Natascia joined in the family’s organically farmed and produced vinous endeavours.

Just across from the house and adjacent the winery in the park of the estate you can visit the small church of S. Maria a Cerbaia, mentioned for the first time in 1043. The church hosts some very precious artistic works, like a painting of a Madonna with the infant Jesus on her lap, which experts date back to the end of the 13th century. Also inside the tiny chapel you will note high relief works representing the stations of the cross.

Bruno and Natascia Rossini are what you might refer to as the most gracious of hosts. From the extraordinary hearth in the kitchen to their sublime and highly personal wines, my visit with them and the Consorzio del Chianti Classico’s Christine Lechner was not so much memorable as it was like going home. At Podere La Cappella, home is where the hearth and the heart can be found. The Rossini’s poured 12 wines for me to taste, before and with a Tuscan lunch for the ages. Here are the notes.

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, Winery, WineAlign)

There were very early plantings of vermentino on the property but a decision was made to graft those vines and re-plant them between 2010 and 2012. Oriana is the modern day estate’s 100 per cent varietal white, named after Bruno Rossini’s wife. The grapes are harvested when their colour turns to a mature gold, then left to sit in the cold cellar for 20 days so the perfume concentrates straight to the core. A very mineral vermentino, telescoped, structured, with spice but there is no oak. Non-filtered, precise, unctuous and incomparable. Needs time, but there is no frame of reference here, not for Tuscany, not for the verdant hills of Chianti Classico. Doesn’t make it unusual but makes it extraordinary. The specific galestro marl and columbino here is influenced by the sea, more than in Panzano and that mineral runs through, with the fantasy of fossilized shells, like Chablis. There was a sea here at one time after all. What else should it be compared to? Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Vermentino Tancredi di Rossini 1998, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineryWineAlign)

Bruno Rossini’s vermentino 1998 is still very much alive, with some must on the nose, running along a parallel line to TCA but it’s really just a matter of age and the cellar. Acidity is very much intact, the aromas are notable in lemon purée and gelée, some orange peel and to the palate with great viscosity. Really quite amazing when you think about it, 19 year-old Tuscan vermentino, of salinity and shells. Bring on the oysters. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Every Chianti Classico tasting should begin with a 2015 and Podere La Cappella’s is the ideal portal. Breaks it consistently down with 90 sangiovese and 10 merlot because, as we are informed by Natascia Rossini, “if you want to make Chianti Classico and drink it (relatively) young, you need to blend in a little bit of merlot or cabernet.” This is the wise sangiovese, from vines seven to 10 years old and still the mineral gives, even from young vines. Important in that it is raised with no new oak and in which richness is balanced by the sort of acidity that tries to remain out of focus, out of the spotlight. The fruit is dark and broods in youth, so a comparison to ’14 will be smart. The contrast reminds us of a more getable, dare it be said commercial vintage in this two sides of the moon sangiovese. Robust, consolidated, sober and gorgeous. Still, a year will make a difference. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

As with the coming unrestricted vintage, the 2014 get together is 90 per cent sangiovese and (10) merlot but such a different animal. The acidity needed to be stronger for deferential (but classic) fruit squeezed from minuscule yields after so much rain. It all called for the requiem of very strict selection and there is this rusticity in ’14 along with so much more herbology and perfume. Roses and fennel, less fruit, more perfume. There is structure in 2014 and it is a wine that will develop secondary character because of the umami that is necessary without as much fruit due to sun deprivation. Frutti di bosco sharing equal aromatic time with frutti di conifere. Walks a more traditional, taut, direct and unconsolidated sedimentary line for Chianti Classico, with time travel ability to a future blooming with Angiosperms. It’s simple really. The sangiovese usually reserved for Corbezzolo went to Riserva and for Riserva relegated to Chianti Classico. Structure is not compromised. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The most recent release of Podere La Cappella’s “small oak tree” is a vintage success, as always a sangiovese (90 per cent) and merlot configuration and no other Riserva will ever give such defined perfume and richesse. In this smaller than small crop of a vintage the under-rock current is the galestro and the savoury, here with some spice from increased barrel, though of course no new oak. There is some fine chocolate and there is this sweet defined acidity and tannin. When you taste this side by side by each with the 2012 and the 2013 you begin to note these recurrent themes. The smell of orange skin (and in 2013 it was persimmon) is specific to Querciolo. In the pantheon of CCR this is very refined. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The 100 per cent, “small oak tree” sangiovese is showing some reductive funk in ’13 though purely and surely reasoned of a sangiovese seasoning, melted into liquid, like fennel simple syrup. From what is generally considered a high quality vintage, confirmed by Bruno and Natascia, warm, balanced, not too hot, with some rain in the middle of harvest. Picking and selection required greater focus than 2012 though not as serious as 2014 so there is so much more terroir (than ’12) in here and tannic structure similar, though a step down from 2014. Not quite ready, actually, not even close, but gains potential complexity because it is youthful and spirited. Then a different note makes an appearance, one that is hard to define, a red or orange citrus. Wait for it…persimmon! What a finish this stretches towards, forever and intense to Riserva. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Querciolo is 100 sangiovese (as always for the Riserva),”the small oak tree.” Time is of course the catalyst but who would deny for whatever reasons chosen that it is the most beautiful of the (2012-2014) vertical’s three, the only one with the first stages of its developmental life already complete. Come away with its pure fruit aromas and still the structure dominates the mathematical mind, demanding attention. What makes the difference I ask Natascha Rossini? “The extra year,” she shrugs and adds, philosophically, “for my father each wine is a son, or a daughter.” There is a liqueur in here that reminds of what happens with structured sangiovese, regardless of clone and irregardless to place, be it Brunello, Gran Selezione or Riserva. What defines this ’12 is inherent to the specifics of galestro marl from the hallowed grounds of San Donato in Poggio. Drink 2017-2029. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

Corbezzolo in 2012 comes by way of 22 year-old vines and it carries a similar quality in deep, exotic and mysterious fruit. The rich get richer in such a very tannic vintage, taking this top-tier, 100 per cent sangiovese to a place up on a pedestal where it can be really heard. There is a chew to this 2012 and a meaty grip but always ushered along by the spirit guide of sangiovese. There seems to be this relationship between Querciolo and Corbezzolo whereby the current vintage of the former shares a kinship with the subsequent vintage of the former. Though Natascia Rossini will remind me that one extra year in bottle for her sangiovese will both trick and explain, I’m still convinced there is something to the counterintuitive duality. Only retrospective tastings like can reveal the truth. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

The Corbezzolo in 2011 is another matter altogether as compared to what comes after, beginning with the 2012 vintage. The fruit is from 1981-1984 planted vineyards and if 2012 in (Querciolo) Riserva showed the most terroir it is the 2011 that does so for Corbezzolo. The older vines do just the opposite of what the 90’s planted vines do for Corbezzolo going forward. Here there is less exoticism and more mineral meets local terroir and with some time there emits this great ulterior perfume. But it’s a sangiovese perfume you can recognize, a fennel-liquorice aroma noted in other parts of Chianti Classico. What separates this ’11 from the rest is that Cappella acidity that is second to none. It’s also chewy, then crunchy with just a side note of chocolate, something that clearly dissipates with time. The structure in 2011 is also remarkable, but singular and with such fine pearls and grains of acidity, leading to the conclusion this will be so long lived. Drink 2018-2034.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2009, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $123.95, WineAlign)

Cantico is hard to define, laying decanted tracks somewhere between a poem and a song, as in the form created by Dante. This is 100 per cent merlot from the oldest vineyard planted between 1981-1985 and grafted on the old vermentino and chardonnay rootstock. Rich in pure fruit and exoticism, steeped, of black cherry, graphite and more cherries, vivid and wild. This is very grown-up, mature IGT but still that Cappella acidity keeps it round and alive. The intensity and wisdom in this merlot is of its own accord but if you want to make comparisons to the likes of Galatrona, Masseto or Ricasoli’s Casalferro, be my guest. You won’t have much to say after you’re done. There is some still nearly hidden, secondary activity here that hints to truffle, porcini and balsamic but these are mere aromatic accents in a centrifuge of veal demi-glacé that has been simmering for days. Remarkable merlot. Wait two more years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $123.95, WineAlign)

“The canto is a principal form of division in a long poem,” and yet this 1998 has yet to sub-divide. The nearly 20 year-old Cantico is not as hard to figure as a precocious 2009 but a dante refrain is still the reference, at least with respect to nomenclature. The vines for Podere La Cappella’s 100 per cent merlot were but a mere but established 18-22 years old at the time and I truly believe the old vermentino and chardonnay rootstock had more effect on this particular wine. You can feel it in the Cappella acidity and this is what has kept it sailing along virtually unchanged and certainly unfazed. Few Toscana IGT tasted in 2017 could possibly show such youthful aromatics, barley perceivable yet replete with must be said are loyal and allegiant secondary mineral notes. Seek the mushroom and the truffle and they are not yet there. Wonder aloud that you feel a deep sense of the marl and you will still just be convincing yourself because you happen to know what lays under foot and under vine. The gioventù of the 1998 Canto is extraordinary and tells us so much about what to expect from not only 2009 but the Cantos to come. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Soulful family wines of territory from #poderelacappella @chianticlassico #sandonatoinpoggio #chianticlassico #querciolo #chianticlassicoriserva #corbezzolo #cantico #brunorossini #natas

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Got August, go cottage, get wine

Fiore di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

Fiore di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

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The wine diaries: Italian masters

Photograph by bartuchna, Fotolia.com

Importers Robert Tomé and Tony Macchione are serious about wine, especially of the Italian variety. Who wouldn’t be bound and determined to taste through a portfolio that includes Siro Pacenti, Valdicava, Collemattoni, Argiolas, Masciarelli and their most recent addition, Gaja.

as seen on canada.com

On Monday, October 1st I joined the throng of thrill seekers at the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, to engage in some grape stem cell therapy. Here are my notes on 20 wines from seven noble Italian producers at the Stem Wine Group 7th Annual Family of Wines Gala Tasting 2012.

Azienda Agricola Masciarelli, Abruzzo

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2011 ($14.99) resounds fruit forward and redolent as grape must, more treble than bass, a chiave di violino. The ‘G’ clef is music to my sense of smell, straightforward and honest to taste. A snapshot to winemaker Marina Cvetic on a Sunday afternoon, relaxed, on the terrace, with a view of the sea to the east.  87

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2011 ($14.99, $14.80 in Quebec) of aromatics pointing to volcanic ash, smoke, tar and lead feels like ancient wine yet goes vanilla cool and silky down the hatch. Made in the shadow of the Apennines, “even when mountains crumble to the sea,” there would still be Marina and me. Thank you Abruzzo.  88

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ‘Marina Cvetic’ 2007 ($28.99, $27.35 in Quebec) shows more evolution since my previous tasting note, “long, harmonious expression of a much maligned grape. Jumping aromas as if an opened jar of raspberry jam on a winter’s morning. Great value from this winemaker mother of three’s (22, 13 and 3) namesake bottling.” Now in peak form, some splinters, nearing the plank.  90

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ‘Villa Gemma’ 2005 ($74.99) of grace and flawless visage is, as I mentioned previously built of “major league fruit and ferocious grip but in danger of creeping over the edge. Time may be the factor but why wait. The MC is $40 cheaper and offers everything you could ask for in an MD’A.  91

Argiolas, Sardegna

Vermentino ‘Costamolino’ 2011 ($16.99, $21.99 in British Columbia) lives by the sea which makes Sardegna a bit like  “a land called Honah Lee.” There is tangy, tropical fruit and a puff of mineral salts, unquestionably typical of the Argiolas style. Pure Mediterranean white magic.  88

Cannonau “Is Solinas” 2009 ($24.95) from vines on the beach is still so young so “those seagulls are still out of reach.” The crystal salinity of the sea clings to the grape leaves, says Export Manager Beppe Pinna, imparting a minerality to the grapes unlike anywhere else. Made from 95% tough Carignano, the hipster Solinas needs time before it’s ready to face the crowd.  Should be a star.  89

Boroli, Alba, Piedmont

Barbera D’Alba 2008 ($15.99) is, as Mr. C. notes, so underrated, especially at this entry-level. A ripe bowl of cherries dusted with dry, ground cherry powder. Delivers the dry and dusty goods.  88

Barolo 2006 ($49.99) advances with rancorous grit and coarse determination. Tart red fruits prickle with feeling and analeptic assistance from their perch high up on a mountain of tannin. Expect nothing less than time from this gutsy effort.  88

Barolo ‘Cerequio’ 2004 ($87.99) from the prestigious Grand Cru single vineyard seems wise beyond its years. Dried cherries, flowers, orange peel and licorice salmagundi with a weedy dill overtone. The herbaceousness is not off-putting, as can be the case in some austere Nebbiolo or Brunello. Stately effort and not shy.  92

Collemattoni, Montalcino, Tuscany

Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 ($24.99) the teenage princess dai capelli scuri of shoulder length and silky red fruit is irresistible. Full on ripeness and glowing with genetically imprinted joy.  88

Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($52.99) is likewise approachable and sets forth to perfume the room with Pelargonium Zonale. But the ‘Mattoni is also bent on perpetuating a dogged determination befitting the dogmatic Sangiovese Grosso. A queen to the Rosso’s princess, confident of red fruit, built of solid brick befitting the house of its ancestry.  90

Siro Pacenti, Montalcino, Tuscany

Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($89.99, $87.25 in Quebec) is a closed wall of doom, aroma wise, save for a malinger of merda. Nothing a good swirl can’t aerate. A tactical deployment and early blending of north and south Montalcino grapes will help to harmonize this Brunello within a reasonable amount of time. While difficult to assess so young, speculation as to its future is not so obtuse a concept. Ripe cherries and plums are just a few years away from crawling out of the hoi polloi of leather and game. The wine will shine in 2015.   93

Valdicava, Montalcino, Tuscany

Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 ($33.99, $44.99 in British Columbia) extolls the winery’s virtue that cleanliness is next to godliness, echoing Tony’s story about WErproprietor Vincenzo Abbruzzese’s obsession with a clean cellar. Despite Valdicava’s omnipresent perfume of sheep off the vineyard floor, this Rosso is clean, pure and indicative of great Brunello.  90

Brunello Di Montalcino 2004 ($119.99) is the most benevolent and democratic of Valdicava’s Brunelli. Balanced design of smoky, red fruit, earth, spice, licorice and that unmistakable Valdicava perfume. Expertly crafted, impossible not to like. Like I wrote before, “softer, loaded with licorice, pureed sweet peppers and ruby minerality. Seductive, sensuous and really put together. “If she asks me, do i look alright? I say yes, you look wonderful tonight.”  93

Brunello Di Montalcino 2005 ($104.99) obliges the vineyard’s tenet with great intention and of a congenial nature. The red fruit, spice, panna and terra cotta notes are all in check but the vigor is buried in invisible circumstance. Basic for Valdicava but only because the other vintages are so extraordinary.  88

Brunello di Montalcino 2006 ($104.99, $137 in British Columbia), again, from an earlier note. “Initially softer in the mouth begins rolling furiously then is found going down hard stone lines. Finishes with gritty, chalky tannins. Crack one in ten years and it’s “gonna open up the throttle…bust another bottle.”  94

Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($139.99) is a romance of cheese and animale with its dueling scents of Pecorino di Pienza and pecora nera. Damp earth, wool and unwashed rind combine for the most unique set of Sangiovese smells. Sniff on past and note tobacco, licorice, black cherry and the mineral core beneath the hills.  Complexity of complexities.  95

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Madonna Del Piano 2005 ($134.99) is intensely concentrated, a dreamy and creamy correlated affair between fruit and oak. The sheep’s redolence returns and combines with the meracious, subterranean earth. The ubiquitous Valdicava perfume can only be brined to this level from the historic single vineyard set in the valley north of Montalcino.  Score is consistent with last year’s note. “Monstrous, hunts down the taste buds and renders them comfortably numb. Feeling down? This Madonna will, years from now, “ease your pain, get you on your feet again.”  95

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Madonna Del Piano 2006 ($169.99) is sacred Sangiovese, an inviolable reliquary of immaculacy deep beneath Montalcino’s altar. A vamp of essential Tuscan fruit. If you were to stand on a hill in Montalcino in winter time and listen carefully, you would hear a low sipping sound. That is the sound of the entire town drinking of the Madonna Del Piano.  97

Gaja, Barbaresco, Piedmont

Barbaresco 2008 ($218.95, $199 in British Columbia, $199 in Quebec) has not yet unfurled from earthly slumber. Subtle yet discernible greatness as previously noted. “Whiffs smoked beef tongue from the great merchant delicatessen in the sky. A maze of flavours complex like a Venetian neighborhood with interlocking canals and bridges set to and fro. Not your queen’s Barbaresco, nor Bardolino neither. More Shylock than Antonio. Currently a villain with its tongue lashing tannin. Fast forward 15 years to to act four when the integration of fruit causes the wine to become a victim of happy imbibers.”  94

Good to go!

April Wine: Top VINTAGES Values to Buy Right Now

April 12, 2012

How many times have you found yourself standing in the LCBO dumbfounded and lost in ambient wine distraction? Do you feel knocked upside the Medulla Oblongata by a monopoly’s shelves bedecked by every race, creed and colour of wine known to Ontario kind? Don’t get caught on The Bad Side of The Moon. Have no fear. Head straight to the VINTAGES section and choose one of these great IVR* and CVR** top picks.

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/12/april-wine-top-vintages-values-to-buy-right-now/

 
REDS
 
Current In VINTAGES Stores
Pietro Marini Malbec 2008 (268045, $13.95) Argentina
Petra Zingari Toscana Igt 2008 (244228, $13.95) Italy
Michele Chiarlo ‘Le Orme’ Barbera D’asti Superiore 2009 (265413, $14.95) Italy
Bodega del Abad Dom Bueno Crianza 2001 (244699, $14.95) Spain
Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino 2008 (177527, $14.95) Italy
Domaine De La Janasse Côtes Du Rhône 2009 (705228, $15.95) France
 
VINTAGES April 14th Release
Jorio Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2009 (134577, $13.95) Italy
Fabre Montmayou Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (261891, $14.95) Argentina
 
VINTAGES April 28th Release
Sister’s Run Epiphany Shiraz 2008 (269464, $15.95) Australia
Cannonica e Ceretto Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (275867, $17.00) Italy
 
 
ROSÉ
 
Current In VINTAGES Stores
Tawse Sketches of Ontario Rosé 2011 (172643, $15.95) Ontario
 
 
SPARKLING
 
Current in VINTAGES STORES
Louis Bouillot Perle D’ivoire Brut Blancs De Blancs (48801, $18.95) France
 
 
WHITES
 
Current In VINTAGES Stores
Fielding Estate Chardonnay Unoaked 2008 (164491, $13.95) Ontario
Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2011 (080234, $16.95) Ontario
Studert-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2007 (114777, $17.95) Germany
Marimar Estate La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 (270090, $19.95) California
 
VINTAGES April 14th Release
Michael Delhommeau Cuvee Harmonie Muscadet De Sevre-et-Maine 2010 (164624, $12.95) France
L’Uvaggio Di Giacomo Vermentino 2009 (279281, $15.95) California
Tyrell’s Brookdale Semillon 2011 (269316, $19.95) Australia
 
VINTAGES April 28th Release
Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes Mâcon-Fuissé 2009 (264515, $19.95) France
 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

 

 

Live Wine Chat on canada.com

April 12, 2012

Join in Today at 2:00 pm ET as I chat online about wine. I will be joined by Ruth Dunley (PostMedia), Rod Phillips (Ottawa Citizen), James Nevison (HALFAGLASS) and Gurvinder Bhatia (Vinomania)

http://www.canada.com/news/Live+Chat+wine+experts/6427822/story.html

We will be discussing wine media. Do you read wine reviews or make purchases based on what wine critics write … should you? 

 

 

 

Good to go!