May Day, Mayday. Dinner and a Beaune

Rigatoni, Ramps and Reggiano

May 1, 2012


My May Day horse parade odes not to the Gaelic Beltrane nor to the German Walpurgis.  No International Worker’s Day march, raucous celebration or Neopagan revelry.  My May Day includes a mayday call, a Burgundian venez m’aider if you will, to a blessed Beaune.

A friend of mine, here referred to as the “quote machine,” said “I don’t go beneath Volnay.” So, this tasting note’s for you QM. This Beaune spoke well alongside the aforementioned Pasta Asciuta. Second half of the bottle should be stellar alongside French Toast Hamburger Sliders.


Domaine Vincent Girardin Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravières 2009 (940825, $38.95) ventures out on a four-beated gait. Muted Cinnamon, sweet Hyssop aromas and to taste, candied sugar cane beets. Then a two-beated trot where sweet raspberry gets inside the muzzle and ambles on the buds. Canters, picks up speed and flurries into an all out elegant red fruit gallop of pure Pinot joy. A whispering, celestial horse. Currently lean in body but I can see it adding weight and flesh over ten years. Will pay regular visits at the retirement farm.  91




Good to go!


Eight Under $28 From The April 28th VINTAGES Release










April 24, 2012



Vinea Garganega 2010 (230656, $13.95) sugars great Veronese IVR* promise out of the Veneto. Hyperglycemic green-eyed lady bass line and Hammond organ finger roll plum and honey-dew in a state of barm loaf. Glycerin of Amaretto and snappy Salak. Sour apple martini with candy swizzle stick, “soothing every wave that comes.”  88








Canonica a Cerreto Chianti Classico Reserva 2007 (275867, $17.00) was surely not decanted from a straw flask into this sleek and marketable bottle. A precocious and gregarious ruffle of polish and cask modernity speak of the Cerreto’s new worldliness. Splashes of Cabernet and Merlot lean IGT and yet just enough Chianti brightness remains to keep it honest.  Scales (“never heard of him“) on the label are indicative of this balanced effort. Easy money.  88










Hogue Genesis Syrah 2009 (687822, $19.95) is a steadfast and decent wine so my exegesis begins at its central core. Black colour of a world still unformed. Heady like a stand of old growth forest; black oak, ash and walnut. B’reishit Washington Syrah where the bifurcation of quality and cost collide. Big wall of Syrah sound, perfect for headphones playing “no need to hide. Keep it dark.”  88









Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes MâconFuissé 2009 (264515, $19.95) the vibrant fresh maker, with crisp, apple taut fragrance and void of oak annoyance. Just a touch of baby fat and some mineral too. Well-balanced for under $20. Girardin’s (940825, $39) Santenay on this release is not to be missed.  88








Arnoux & Fils Vacqueyras 2009 (264663, $19.95) is as modern as it gets for the appellation, right down to “The Vac” label. Sweet Kirsch, lifted raspberry jam, soft, fleshy and forward. Has just enough funk to keep it real. Will have broad appeal and represents excellent Dogg value, if you like the plush style. Betcha Snoop drinks it.   89








Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2008 (448241, $24.95) the Kitty of Clare Valley is back in town. A loyal and trusted friend, reminiscent of the ’99. Burns no rubber and “goes runnin’ nightly, lightly through the jungle.” Less power, more strength. Less jam, more brakes. This Highway 61 should not be accused of having put its “bleachers out in the sun.”  90








Saltram of Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (48579, $24.95) may inexplicably enjoy cult status but for the money no other Barossa Cabernet can demand such respect. I would pay $25 for this over almost any $50+ peer within the appellation. Opulent, ruddy, bursting, pickled berries.  88









Isole E Olena Chainti Classico 2008 (704346, $26.95) the beguiler welcomes with cinnamon, cherry spice and award winning roses. Poised, confident, simply phenomenal CC issue. Delicious now and will be perfect in five.  Better than when tasted in November 2011.  91

TN from Nov. 29, 2011,“…a mouthful of black fruit, bourbon cask aromas, dark and stormy. The barque of a ship’s ocean misted, wooden planks and of a smoked beef rib. Hard lines but hard to resist. Bloody good CC but certainly not traditional.  89










Other Wines Tasted

Two Rivers of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (277707, $29.95) carries heavy alcohol bandwidth, tomato leaf pesto and band-aid across a frame of sweet lime concentrate. Hot for SB, over processed and heavy with silicone and collagen. Their will be superficial fans.  86

Chavet & Fils La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou-Salon Blanc 2010 (525048, $19.95) offers a rare VINTAGES sighting and would excite were it more Loire and less Marlborough. Salmagundi of pâté, gooseberry and kiwi, swathed by an alkaline grapefruit finish.  85

Torres Viña Esmerelda 2010 (113696, $13.95) zests halitious of ReaLemon and petroleum wax. Can’t help but hear the “smell of wine and cheap perfume” lyric played by a wedding band while the cast of Jersey Shore watch their drapery clad mothers put back the Esmeralda. Like Torrontoes with bad make-up. Won’t be tagging along on this Moscatel journey.  80

Colchester Ridge Crew Meritage 2007 (280990, $19.95) noses Ontario from the get go with burning campfire then wafts exotic towards Masala spice, brown derby dressing and horseradish root. Flavour of earth demi-glace, composted apple and black licorice.  84

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (38075, $23.95) the “melody softly soaring through my atmosphere” is cute, sweet, lyrical and precocious. Gallo incarnate in the AlexanderValley. A death Cab for some but what’s not to like?  87

Stag’s Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (996405, $49.95) the model of consistency vintage to vintage and head to foot. Runs black cherry in its veins with nary a cut, scrape or bruise. Napa varietal profiling in its poised, beating heart.  89

Andrew Rich Cuvée B Pinot Noir 2008 (127043, $29.95) carries currant, candied pomegranate and the rocky crush of clove studded juniper berry. Well made, on the elegant side of Pinot life, even Burgundian if that can even be articulated.  88

Mendel Malbec 2009 (108225, $24.95) typifies Mendoza replete with old vines fruit adding canorous body. Infundibular midriff slows the smouldering, swelling berry pleasure. Crucial minerals carry red grape fluid away from the viscera and out of the body.  87

Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2009 (79798, $21.95) at the outset teases TCA, then VA. Paulliac nez of tabac et peau danimaux. That and a whack of new French Oak where vanilla, chocolate and coffee lambaste and pummel the senses.  NR

Majella Shiraz 2008 (269308, $29.95) is a vitrified, mined vine of depth and power but short on finesse. Heavy extract with a touch of soap and mired in the details of oak. “The wheels are spinning but the car, neutral.”  86

Esprit de Pavie 2008 (244020, $32.95) shows good spirit as it amalgamates 2nd wine fruit from iconic Pavie, Monbousquet, Clos L’eglise and St. Columbe. Spiced coffee cake and soft yet pretty purple fruit. Obdurate push back indicates three years of cellaring will help. Would have been a CVR** steal at $20-25.  89

Brancaia Tre 2009 (164715, $22.95) the SGM speaks of identity theft and lack of spirit. Once upon a Tuscan, now a global commodity playing on MOR radio stations. This bottling recently rushed to great success but there is now “a question of your honesty, yeah your honesty.” Sure it’s delicious but what’s with “all this machinery making modern music?”  Pair not with pasta asciuta normale87

StefanoAccordini Acinatico Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2009 (85159, $19.95) is pitchy for a valpo with splendiferous up front fruit. Cimmerian red plum joined by buff vanillan cocoa and velveteen in the mouth. So far so good but ultimately flaccid and void of oomph.  86

Allende 2006 (954560, $24.95) in extant cantillates oak, oak, oak. What happened to my Rioja? Tempered Tempranillo so no fear that it may seize. Pendulous and potent, well-mannered, ready to please. Go Condado de Haza over this for sure.  87

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2011 (719062, $15.95) is warm and balanced, all strawberry, all the time. Nutty for its ilk.  86



IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio



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.

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
Current In VINTAGES Stores
Tawse Sketches of Ontario Rosé 2011 (172643, $15.95) Ontario
Louis Bouillot Perle D’ivoire Brut Blancs De Blancs (48801, $18.95) France
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

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)

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!

A Selection of Halpern’s Rhône Portfolio

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

One Restaurant at the Hazleton Hotel, 134 Yorkville Avenue

Domaine Du Pegau and Selection Laurance Féraud

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Cuvée Laurence’ 2006 ($135) “is approachable” says Laurence because she does the ageing here for us. Somehow I still foresee an extended bivouac of hibernation. Though emerging due to four years elévage (double the reservée), this is Grenache running on a treadmill of adrenaline, a bear post gym workout, sweat glands pumping out the musk.  That Pegau perfume, unmistakable, omnipresent. Consistent with the ’05.  94

Pegau CL 2006

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Cuvée Réservée’ 2009 ($85) sees higher co2 treatment to counterbalance the heat of the vintage. This is “necessary for ageing,” admits Laurence. Here a return to the Pegau of old, perhaps as far back as 1990 but for sure 1998. The perfume can’t be missed, as are notes of phrygana sprouting up through the crevices of boulders. A very traditional CdP, smokey, herbal and spiced on a berry bed of rubies.  93

Cotes du Rhône 2010 ($14) comprises grapes selected by Féraud and succeeds in ’10 because of the high percentage (80%) of Syrah. A purple slew of black cherry fruit mixed with bocage and earth. Well-made despite its negociant pedigree. The purchase of 38 hectares should result in the production of 20,000-25,000 cases of CdR under the auspices of the Pegau label for 2011.  85

Lot 2009 Selectionne Laurence Féraud Plan Pegau ($16) is non-vintage self-promotional branding, once again well-proportioned, if unexciting. It’s really de-classified, quaff material for undefined table wine. I’d drink it all year round at $5 bucks a shot.  84

Domaine de Cristia

Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 ($43) displays less funk and more finesse than most. “Oak is used not to oak,” says winemaker Baptiste Grangeon, “it is used to make the wines open.” A glass of strawberry jam in the morning. High in Grenache because “Syrah was too fat in 2009” adds Grangeon, this is benevolent, ‘resto ready’, lush stuff. Very underrated.  91

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Renaissance’ 2009  ($85) is made from 100-year old vines in sandy soils and aged in 100% new oak. Grenache (60%) and high in Mourvedre (40%) because the latter “worked so well in 2009” says the man. Found to be tight, biting and beastly, but shows signs of a meaty future with thyme on its side.   92

Cristia CdP 'Renaissance' 2009

Cotes du Rhône ‘Les Garrigues Vielles Vignes’ 2010 ($20) personifies old Grenache, as the name would suggest. High toned, ethereal, subaqueous, stygian and complex.  90

Grenache Vielles Vignes 2010 ($17) is an excellent Vin De P’ays, full of red cherries, strawberries and petiole. A well-orchestrated one-grape symphony. 88

Paul Jaboulet Aine

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Cedres’ 2007 ($52) shines purple and blue like a Van Gogh starry night over the Rhône. The colour of heuchera growing out of tanzanite, the ‘cedars’ offers the sensation of chewing on a wooden bat smothered in pine tar and sugary plum pudding. Thumbs want to go two up but the bitumin is in need of a snooze. 88

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Les Jalets’ Blanc 2010 ($29) faces antipodal to a promise of a shaped stone. Ore is subdued in favour of fun, cheery, soft fruit in a flocculent, alabaster frame. Nectarine blossom and fresh shucked peaches and cream corn give way to the finishing purity of Marsanne. 89

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Domaine de Thalabert’ 2007 ($49) with its caper and black pepper infused black cherry cordial cries kush with its powerful, purple crush. 100% Syrah and nothing but Syrah. Defines the appellation. 90

Jaboulet Thalabert CH 2007
Hermitage ‘La Petite Chapelle’ 2007 ($109) hails from six granite hillside vineyards known as ‘Hermitage Hill’ and the ‘Sunshine Slope.’ “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills” there lived a pretty baby composed of 100% Syrah. This little raccoon is warm, fuzzy and ready. Too soft for long life. 89
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grand Vin 2010 ($38) is gentle and unpretentious. Higher on botany, quieter in depth of power fruit, but still early in its evolution. A sound composition if quiet on the back beat. 88

Luberon Vin Gourmand 2010 ($13) is the sweetest thing, “blue-eyed boy meets brown eyed-girl.” You two can enjoy life as a bowl of cherries, fresh, light and lithe. 86

St. Joseph Vin Rare ($32) mismatches expressions, sits cumbersome, heavy and noses disjointedly. Dendritic forget-mineral-me-nots burst in vacillating waves and the concentration wavers erratically. 86

Vacqueyras 2009 ($25.95) is restricted, opening with benign notes, sleeping hollowly in mid stride and closing tight in the end. Pithy Kirsch wants to appear but only time will let it act. 87


Vignobles Michel Gassier and Les Halos de Jupiter

Halos de Jupiter Cotes du Rhone 2010 ($17.95) is no orphan of the storm. It strides in angelic and sweet talking. Just plain smooth, cream filled and easy to drink. This CdR gives up copious Grenache from a velvet glove, ready to perform miracles88

Halos Jupiter CdR 2010

Halos de Jupiter ‘Phillipe Cambie’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 ($67) may currently be more beast than beauty but the concentrated levels of cassis and raspberry cuddle and spoon. Six months in bottle will soften the edges and it too will be a woo monster. Shares a La Crau locale with Vieux-Telegraphe.  89

Halos de Jupiter ‘Phillipe Cambie’ Gigondas 2009 ($34) battles harder to win adoration with its sharp lines and deep cutting acidity. Cooling menthol and eucalyptus strays from its homeland to distant heights and locales. There is a permanent drip and dampness here and an odour of mossy rocks. Unconventional.  87

Halos de Jupiter ‘Phillipe Cambie’ Vacqueyras 2009 ($30) would champion this flight if only it were priced as a Vacqueyras. The first Halo to show garrigue and spice, it also flaunts ethereal hydrogen, helium, and methane gasses.  A wine of luxury living beyond its means.  88

Michel Gassier ‘Lou Coucardie’ Costieres de Nimes 2007 ($34) speaks volumes in alcohol. Here Kirsch and crunchy raspberries are on steroids. Chewing off both arms may be necessary to get away from the Couc’s bed.  89

Michel Gassier ‘Notre Pais’ Costieres de Nimes 2009 ($19) travels a spice route from Asia Minor to Indonesia. Notes of peppermint tea and Kretek cigarettes are joined by aromatic bitters and dark, nutty ale.  87





Good to go!





Here a first. An endorsement of not only two wines by the same producer, but two Mâconnais. Get past the sexual innuendo of the appellation and give papa JJ Vincent some sugar. These are Chards of explosive character; wood prominent but not dominant, richly textured, party on the buds. Secret stashers consider Pouilly-Fuissé a hidden gem. According to Steven Spurrier, Château Fuissé’s Les Combettes, Les Brulés and Le Clos “are likely to be the first vineyards in the appellation to be classified Premier Cru.” Vincent’s wines do not vacillate, speak the truth and receive attention without ever asking for it. Some non-fiction for your reading pleasure:

CHÂTEAU-FUISSÉ LES BRULÉS POUILLY-FUISSÉ 2009 (259820, $49) from the south facing ‘burnt’ slope is crème de la crème, fraîche et caramel. Consensus converges on 2013 but contemporary oak attack to me suggests cellaring for longer than what you might read. WS (92), WE (92), BH (91), CT’s (91), RJ (90) and Decanter (****, 16.5) are in the know.

Fuisee Brules 2009

CHÂTEAU-FUISSÉ VIEILLES VIGNES POUILLY-FUISSÉ 2009 (947721, $54) is the showier of the two. Extroverted, flirty, ready to dance. My note: The meritorious Mâconnais, stupid good with mounds of melon, pear and honey. A huge step up from the already impressive ’09 taxi squad teammates. Chards of diamond acidity cut through the nectarous textures and flavours. Streaks of genius.  mjg 92

Fuisse Viellies 2009

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

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

Good to Go!