How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

Every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one man band, but #i4c Sunday @ravinevineyard is always #homewardbound

It’s #i4c, the coolest of chardonnay celebrations. It’s a pilgrimage to a local mecca attracting thousands, arriving to praise chardonnay in all its glory. It’s chanted with incantatory connotation by patrons cantilevered like alluvial fans across the Niagara Peninsula. It teaches us about more than chardonnay because the rapidity of climate change is real and the desire for fresh is yet unquenched. This transcends chardonnay. It’s about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted. Recently scoffed at. It concerns farming higher, further and edgier. This conference and this grape together let us know that we must change.

Few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced. That is why each summer for the past seven Niagara has attracted a world-class global presence for its most important annual congress. The seventh installation of the International Cool Chardonnay Celebration made an ironic and apropos choice in California’s Karen MacNeil to act as keynote speaker at The School of Cool. Ironic for obvious reasons because MacNeil spends most of her time talking about and educating on matters pertaining to growing areas generously gifting maximum sunshine to its grapes. Apropos because like any top quality orator she chose to speak about a rapidly changing world and a paradigm shift for wine growing, producing and ultimately consuming being led down an extreme, on the fringe and ultra cool path.

@KMacwine on @coolchardonnay Refrigerated sunlight, conscious marginality, sophisticated choreography. #i4c17

Cool, as in temperature and slowly developed phenolic ripeness. Cool, as in places like Champagne, Nova Scotia, Austria, Uruguay, northern Chile and Ontario. But MacNeil was quick to point out that the greatest terroirs may yet to be known, despite the proverbial Canadian wine cognoscenti already in the possession of harnessed and usable power through information, knowledge that tells us that five of the 15 (also known as one-third) coldest wine regions growing quality grapes, are found in Canada. “Elegance is directly connected to coolness, the slow dance, refrigerated sunlight,” waxes the poetic and rhapsodic MacNeil, “from couch potato chardonnay to lift, spirit and class.” She admits to pitting the world versus “us,” as a challenge against “them,” the overwrought, overblown and over-produced. She asks the question, “why are they not over it already, these cream puff of chardonnays?” and then “oak is like a tattoo, it doesn’t always look good with age.”

If all these warmed by the hot, hotter and hottest sun and fashioned to express this in hyperbole wines all taste so similar, is this really something reassuring and knowable? Apparently it still is, this persistent overloaded ice cream sundae style of chardonnay that will just not go away. But wake up and smell the altitude and the stone-based, craggy outlooks of  “marginal” vineyard locations. “All of the world’s greatest grapes are only great if they exist on the edge,” said the great Willamette Valley Oregonian David Lett. “Complexity is only achieved, paramount to success, by a slow dance or heartbeat. A great wine revels itself sequentially, over time,” insists KMac, as opposed to mindless and soulless. With acidity at the crux of cool climate wines she talks of “conscious marginality” and “sophisticated choreography.” This is how we should see the future, not only in chardonnay, but in all wines subjected and connected to global climate change.

Says @johnszabo apparently winemakers matter too. #i4c17 @coolchardonnay I do it my way #schoolofcool

Related – A link to the School of Cool presentation download

In the first of three Friday School of Cool sessions at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa it is MC Master Sommelier and WineAlign Partner/Critic John Szabo who introduces the “soil smackdown.” The question “is there a best soil type for chardonnay” is meant to instigate a healthy discourse but like every #i4c that came before it quickly turns to a dissing of the “m” word. Paul Anamosa of Vineyard Soil Technologies, the main man down in California, is the first to speak. He rambles on about trace minerals, nematicides, oils and clay minerals – kaolinite is the smallest and yet still a very big molecule. “I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems,” is interjected. “Minerality is a metaphor, not a simile (like what it shown on the aroma wheel). It does not get up and impart flavour into the wine. It’s a romantic notion. Limestone doesn’t give up its water readily or easily.” Here we go again.

Anamosa will give up the idea that poor soil structure allows for a low and slow hydration transfer, with no spikes up or down and this uptake certainly affects vine growth, nutrient transfer and ultimately flavour, but its the elements found in the water that effect these impressions. Not “minerality.” Must be hard to go through life with such a scientifically nihilist approach. It sounds exhausting.

I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems. Paul Anamosa @coolchardonnay #soilsmackdown #i4c17

Three winemakers go pro on the mineral ideal. Paul Berger of Berger-Rive has been making his wine since he was four-years old and unsulphured Rosé no less. He talks of clay over limestone, places where “the ground is in love.”  Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Shiraz Mottiar notes that calcareous soils that start wet and sticky eventually turn to concrete. “They don’t crumble, there is no soil tilt, they are angular, evolving and difficult, self-compacting and that hard-pan deals with high mineral content. So we use cover crops for developing soil tilt and friable structure.” There points for the mineral team. Szabo concludes with “anyone getting the sense that this is pure crap? We’re going to continue with the program anyway. Monkeys in a parallel universe are doing this and doing it better.”

In the second session, “Chardonnay, I do it my way,” Szabo told several hundred #i4c junkies “apparently winemakers matter too.” I thought Invivo Wines’ Mark Boardman said it best. “Rob (winemaker “Crusher” Cameron) is not trying to make a $100 Burgundy here folks,” but rather chardonnay can be so happy in so many places, in so many ways. Here it’s from one of the warmest parts of New Zealand, with high rainfall, on Pacific coast of the South Island. It’s about pleasing the customers, being approachable and “nice” on the palate. “Respect, not patronize the consumer.”

François Morissette, vigneron of Pearl Morissette talked technique. “Whatever we press, we oxidize. We do not oxidize wine, we oxidize must.” There’s a big difference. The stabilization of these wines are attributed to this idea of getting rid of all oxidizable compounds before they enter into the next stages of the winemaking process. Pleasing aromas, flavours, textures and ultimately the sum of the above elevates the cool chardonnay game and speaks to the future. Ravine Vineyard’s Marty Werner remarked on the high degree of heat units but also the cool nights in 2014 so his chardonnay received no cooling, some sulphur for a night, straight to barrel and left a bit empty. Why? “Because it’s different in Niagara, you need to get some oxygen in there, so that we develop some more fruit characteristic.”

Dr. Jamie Goode

Heidi Noble, Owner & Winemaker of B.C.’s Joie Farm coined the term “juiceidity.” She told the crowd, “when (cellarmaster) Karl speaks it’s incredibly important and poignant,” he knows the truth about location, from the most northerly tip of the Sonoran desert but in a zone of what Karen MacNeil called “conscious marginality,” a micro climate of cool within a hot zone.

And finally, le grand ami himself Norman Hardie. “Solids matter to me,” he explains. “We pump out the separated clear juice until the point where I feel like we are getting to the danger zone.” They make use of horizontal tanks, “so the ratio of solids to juice is much higher.” Solids are critical to expressing terroir but too many solids and it’s too reductive. “I’ve gotten braver and braver as time’s gone on.” Mackenzie Brisbois talked about the 2015 vintage, her first full one at Trail Estate. Her methods include hyper-oxidized, cold-settled, natural ferments in stainless steel, put to barrel towards the end, 4o per cent new, 60 neutral, full malo, 10 more months, sulphured, racked out of barrel and a coarse filtration so it’s called unfiltered. “Hopefully my lack of filtration helps you to hear the music in my wine.”

The third School of Cool session looked at dosage in bubbles. “The Sugar Trials,” or as moderator John Szabo M.S. told us “sparkling wines are wines of process and one of the most important events happens right at the end of the trail and that’s called dosage.” Essentially, the crux of what it is, the sugar trials define how much, if any, should be added.

A Sunday #i4c @coolchardonnay morning at the P & P and Josh Ritter covering Modest Mouse. Johnny Cash next.

Dr. Belinda Kemp led the panel discussion and her research at Brock University’s CCOVI lies at the heart of the Ontario wine industry’s investigations. Tawse winemaker Paul Pender had this to say. “Balance is something I strive for but rarely achieve.” He noted that it’s about pleasure, hedonism sometimes, ultimately something that makes you smile, and tastes good. It’s always a moving target, so many things effect how it tastes and more so your perception of sugar and acidity, even what you had for breakfast this morning. “Sugar kind of takes away terroir.” Dr. Jamie Goode added, “it turns out we all live in different taste worlds. Because we model touch, taste, smell and all the sensory perceptions into an unconscionable, alt-reality which bears no real resemblance to how a wine actually tastes. It’s highly personal.”

The i4c weekend takes winemakers, journalists and consumers from White Oaks’ School of Cool and over to Niagara Airport’s hangar for a grand, cool affair. It shuttles past lunch tastings scattered across and throughout the Niagara Peninsula and Escarpment locations and lands at Ridley College for the worlds most grand chardonnay event. It culminates on Sunday at Ravine and Redstone wineries for brunch and if you’ve not had your fill, more chardonnay. Most of all it brings people together but not without an army of volunteers to make it happen. It functions seamlessly because of people like the Cellar Sisters, Angie Jewell and MJ Macdonald, Paul Dearborn and Kari-and Macknight Dearborn. The Cool Chardonnay weekend delivers year after year with thanks to VQA Wines of Ontario, Dorian Anderson and Trisha Molokach and the chefs of Niagara. The media are treated (better than we deserve) because of Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser, Joanna Muratori and Ryan Zanette.

I was not able to taste and review every chardonnay on hand at #i4c17 but I did get to a better percentage than I actually thought I had at the time. Many of these wines are available in small quantities through the VINTAGES Online platform through August 3rd so you have exactly three more days to act. Here are 69 reviews. If you are thinking about injecting some cool chardonnay into the rest of your summer plans then read on and make your picks. I hope I’ve been of some assistance.

Are you ready for an #i4c17 @coolchardonnay Saturday night?

Invivo Chardonnay 2016, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand (499855, Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A nicely green and cool Gisborne composed chardonnay is just the ticket for warm nights, frâche-inflected appetizers and a good chill. This is quite fleshy, creamy and tangy, just stopping short of citrus-sour piercing and intense. It’s that creamy sherbet and tangy gelato character that balances it out. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June and July 2017  invivowines  nicholaspearcewines  @InvivoWines   @Nicholaspearce_  @InvivoWines  Nicholas Pearce

Maycas del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, Chile (143768, $18.95, WineAlign)

Lovely vintage and cool-climate conditioning with A-plus exemplary effort from the Limarí specialist. The ripe and bright fruit is buoyed by classically rendered acidity that never relents. I really like the elegance and the way the wood is just a spice accent, not a cream churning machine. Not to be missed. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May and July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Cheesecake Bar by Chef Frand Dodd, Trius Winery and Restaurant

Trius Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (346064, Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty and mineral smoky, even for Trius and Niagara chardonnay so it would seem that winemaker Craig McDonald prepared this larger batch with a friendly reductive environment. The aim, goal and result adds up to locked in freshness and a decoding of oak to relegate the label as secondary to the post-modern future of this bottling. It’s crisp, crunchy, spoken of and for place with edging cut with spice. The creamy centre is present and delivers texture, not weight. Really fine effort. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Chardonnay Leithaberg DAC 2015, Burgenland, Austria (511386, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tangibly full and rich style of chardonnay with a flinty, smoky limestone foundation edge, a pierce running through the barrel spiced mid-palate and quite generous length. Really fleshy, lemon-citrus sparked, clean, precise and stony good. Of markedly fine compression, layers woven of tart and stone. A highly composed and forged composition, in action and temperament, so kudos to the great work out of a warm vintage. It’s a complete wine all the way through, perhaps restrained at first but structure is the key to its success. An Austro-pure, appellative finessed chardonnay if ever there was from a place where the grape thrives unencumbered and blessedly expressive. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted twice, with Stefan Tscheppe, July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pierre Sparr Le Clos Sainte Odile Brut Crémant D’alsace, Traditional Method, Ac, Alsace, France (457788, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sparr’s site specific Crémant would seem counterintuitive to the free and easy-going genre which prides itself on the purpose of wide-ranging food matching but the divergence here in minimal. Le Clos Sainte Odile is equally proportioned though it carries a marked increase in lees and texture. Smells more like Champagne and acts this way too, so in that sense the quality improves and food will benefit several fold. The length is exceptional. Still creamy Crémant but with more layers and fine complex stills. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June and July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Pierre Sparr Crémant D’alsace Chardonnay Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (416040, Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

In Sparr’s eponymous Crémant bottling the dosage is evident in every facet of fizz being to balance out the sour acidity and formidable tension. The most Champagne like of the flight is contextual, textural, elevated and serious. It is a bit on the sweet side (at 8 g/L of RS) as compared to (3.7 TA and pH of 3.29) with 18 months minimum on the lees and aging in oak casks. There is no shortage of fruit and that acidity is surprisingly lively. Tasted with Bernard Sparr who says quite simply, it’s “easy to drink.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Marcel Cabelier Crémant De Jura Organic 2014, Jura, France (738641, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

A most engrossing and provocative Crémant, at first aromatically onion skin sweaty and sweetly caramelized. No citrus to really speak of and then lemon sweetness to taste. Sapid to be sure, leaner, crisp, on the path to a searing style. Fascinating when you consider the dosage number is upwards to 12.3 RS while the actual acidity is 5.26 TA. An elevated 3.37 pH and a ripeness from the warm vintage really helps to hide its sugar, incredibly so. Texture never hurts as well as this spent 24 months on the lees. Will age nicely into secondary waxy territory. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted with winemaker Nicolas Haeffelin at i4c, July 2017  #marcelcabelier  #andrewpellerimportagency  #jurawine  #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine   #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine

Cremaschi Furlotti Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2015, Do Loncomillo, Maule Valley, Chile (511097, Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

DO Loncomilla lies at the heart of the Maule Valley, a place of serious Chilean history. The Battle of Loncomilla was the decisive campaign of the 1851 Chilean Revolution between conservative government and liberal rebel forces. It’s also apparently a terrific place to grow chardonnay. Winemaker Gonzalo Perez’ 2015 is a fuller expression, with green apple piquancy to nose, a wealth of fruit, tart done so right and a true barrel-blessed chardonnay bite. It reeks of stone, acts restrained enough to seem (at times) unsure but in its quietude there is a mineral sway to say this must be the way. It solicits a follow me down the stone road, up to a very orchard palate with gregarious flavours and compressed acidity. Serious, almost brooding chardonnay but very new world. Chewy and very long. The soils are volcanic and alluvial, aiding and assisting to gather into this highly complex, 100 per cent malolactic, reductive, tart and biting chardonnay. The most surprising and intriguing find at #14c17. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  cremaschi_furlotti  @winecremaschi  @cremaschifurlotti

Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Côte 2015, Quebec, Canada (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

From La Famille Robert and the latest, newest, impressionable cool climate frontier in Rougemont Quebec, climate change delivers another stellar chardonnay attack, here with something quite supple, almost creamy, acid-driven but surprisingly far from scathing and eminently drinkable. These vines are planted on sun-drawing south facing slopes with more than ample pebble and schist in the soil, enough no less to streak a wire of balance through the softened, downy fruit. Well done. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  coteaurougemont  #CoteauRougement  @VinsduQuebec  Vignoble Coteau Rougemont

Creekside Chardonnay Queenston Road Vineyard 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Comes barreling out replete with the highest of chard tones mixed with plenty of richness lifting and layering oak. Quite ambitious, full malo felt, of waves more than dollops of vanilla. The acidity comes later because nothing can get in the way of the creamy texture and voluptuousness. Cool but secondary to these flavours and mouthfeel are incendiary savoury tendencies. Adding things up all being equal the Queenston Road, St. David’s Bench vineyard, with its clay-loam and the eventuality of full-malo effect well, it’s really a thing of richesse. “I wouldn’t say this wine is a whole lot about minerality,” says winemaker Yvonne Irvine, “but it’s there in the bite on the finish.” Fair enough. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  creeksidewine  @CreeksideWine  @CreeksideWine

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (586347Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

If you have had the opportunity to taste the Montague Vineyard chardonnay from Niagara’s Four-Mile Creek sub-appellation in at least four consecutive vintages you will know that its style is only exceeded by its consistency. Little has changed; the same warm, barrel-kissed style comforts generously pressed and extracted fruit. It’s not that I don’t deduce soft, downy and buttery fruit from Montague. I do, but this vineyard always offers a counter-point with some firmness and compression, as it does with pinot noir. This 2014 is smoky and faintly smouldering, even a touch flinty. Even if it is a bit baked, spiced or toasted it is also a more mineral vintage for chardonnay. On one hand it offers or gives up too much of itself (and too early), with creamy vanilla, ripe melon and sappy, stone-fruit. On the other it finds balance amongst the dense layering of bigger, harder and more productive moving parts. You are going to want to match this with some protein and a good reduction sauce. I’d look to pulled pork, zesty kohlrabi slaw and a tangy BBQ sauce, duck confit with a savoury-spiked demi-glacé or coq au vin, just to name a few. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January 2017  inniskillinwines  cbrandscareers  @InniskillinWine  @CBrandsCareers  Inniskillin Vineyards  

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia (416511, $24.95,  WineAlign)

Same price and highly credible follow-up is what we can all hope to taste and make comment to the great winemakers of this world so kudos to Virginia Willcocks of Vasse Felix for doling out another eminently drinkable Filius. Still holds the Australian cool-climate chardonnay candle from the Margaret River though it’s a touch fleshier, riper and creamier in 2016. The combination of salt and stony-mineral adds up to grip and the tightness means some air is needed. A mess of grilled langoustines would also work. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted June and July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (511345, Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here is fine example of a winery showing off their rockstar barrel program in a starman of a chardonnay. The dreaminess on the nose and the early 1970’s ambient and textured guitar unction on the palate just get you stoned. “Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low…Some cat was layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll, ‘lotta soul.” Tart, lots of wood, bite, so much structure. Is it too much? Not when it’s the kind of chardonnay and music that can stand the test of time. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $25.25, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016 and 2017  laroche_wines  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  @SelectWinesCanada

Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172338, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for Ann Sperling’s chardonnay Triomphe ’15 is sourced primarily from Saunders (Beamsville Bench) with auxiliary support out of Heather Laundry’s old vine Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard. There are older, non-clonal blocks with perhaps some Musqué mixed in so the aromatics fly, with no restraint applied by the wild ferment and (mostly 300L) neutral oak. This Triomphe is anything but reductive, a no stress chardonnay from such a far from sluggish, clean ferment. The simplicity and complicity explain how beauty is curated, from a vintage where reduction did not happen or beg to happen so why try to force it. The copacetic re-quiescence bears witness to classic Ann Sperling in such a vintage. Chardonnay of mellow smoulder, of old barrel spice and one to define a certain kind on a line of disparate and unique, cool climate, i4c selections. There are 800 cases made. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted January and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Bachelder Chardonnay Niagara 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (302083, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Thomas Bachelder’s ’15 chardonnay is a story of what happens ’round here, a chardonnay counting the years of peninsula life. It’s so representative, a comfortable stroll through the echelons and stages of a man’s history, in and out of Niagara eponymy and how it relates to a monk’s personal journey. It also traces the stages of vineyard life and for the winemaker, of fruit “slipping through my hands.” Out of 2015 chardonnay can be forgotten, with weather nothing to remember and on the heels of two most excellent seasons. It could easily pass “into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.” Here is the time, place and harvest for Thomas Bachelder to interject and explain, to send a grape into a recognizable future, as far as the crow flies. He uses the barrel to pique the fruit into life, to inject French cream with the very intent in demand of its intention. Flavours are therefore sapid, piquant and variegated. In the end, you can drink this in August and into complexity, everything after. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511261Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Terpenes up front, orchard fruit and high acidity in ways that mimic riesling but the broad apple juice swirl and bite on the palate is all chardonnay. Shows sugar tempered by acidity in what is ostensibly fresh and simple, unoaked Okanagan juice. This is made in the vineyard, picked three times, from straightforward winemaking, making use of lots of solids,”lots of liquid aromatics,” as Heidi Noble notes. Champagne yeasts are employed to celebrate place. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Willamette dammit! @bachelder_wines @coolchardonnay #i4c17

Bachelder Chardonnay Willamette 2014, Oregon (273334, Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

The richest Bachelder Oregon to date for reasons explained by the indubitable and unwavering Thomas is no doubt in leading part a result of one of the earliest vintages on record for Oregon Pinot Noir. His Willamette is a veritable intertwine of mineral, fruit and energy like there is no tomorrow. Also welcome to the lengthy one. The barrel is a caramel pillow, a downy wooden bench, a soft French cream dream. Drinkable is the understatement, pleasure the song. Willamette Dammit. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (427484, Winery, $25.95, WineAlign)

This is one of the first near-premium chardonnays to hit the market from 2016 and so a decision needs to be quickly made if the style is more vintage or house in origin. There really isn’t any estate precedence for this superabundance of fruit on the “normale,” like Christmas coming early or Niagara peaches appearing in June. The ripeness goes beyond freestone fruit and into the tropical realms occupied by mango and pineapple. There is no denying the nectarous and appetizing nature so I’d like to think it’s really a seasonal somewhereness that drives the druthers. Drink this young and with some poached seafood. It will satisfy the pairing. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Domaine Berger Rive Manoir De Mercey Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune Clos Des Dames 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

A restrained, faux-sugary, hautes Bourgogne, spirited near but so far from a Reuilly-like nose. You think it’s thin but know it’s not while the fruit struggles to steal the spotlight from the rocks. Very cool chardonnay with crazy natural sweetness and sneaky length. The warm vintage plus the limestone calcareous soil grows on you for sure and so that length shows off the best of its world and the talents of winemaker Paul Berger. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  @FWMCan  #BergerRive  fwmcan  @FWMCan

Traversa Viña Salort Chardonnay Reserve 2016, Canelones, Uruguay (511550, Agent, $29.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay from Canelones needs to discovered and Traversa’s Reserve is a fine high-end place top start. The name is derived from a species of cinnamon called “canelón, growing along the banks of the homonymous river. This new fringe frontier for chardonnay is found here 50 kms or so north of Uruguay’s capital Montevideo. A specific sort of freshness is locked in tight, reductive in a gassing up the truck sort of way, subduing fruit and inviting mineral meanderings. It’s on the palate where things get very interesting, upon which the spice, buttered toast and brûlee of pears lay. There is a few percentage points too much wood on this next South terroir-Americanific frontier chardonnay but the substantial mid-palate fruit can handle the accents. A fine example in many respects. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted July 2017  familiatraversa  @TraversaUSA

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is classic Mottiar chardonnay, lean, sharp, quivering and yet somehow so knowable and comfortable. As time goes by this generates the confidence to represent the Beamsville Bench as its prodigal son, the handsome one, of pulchritude and with the promise of great memories ahead. If it’s a bit reductive, taut and aerified chardonnay, so be it, but it’s also so very Niagara, essential, the essence of what happens on dolomitic limestone. The low (3.15) pH factor at go time caused a force picked at high acidity to maintain the lean style and a partial (not much) malo assists in effecting this high-level bench factor. Shiraz Mottiar’s eponymous chardonnay is the shit, for Beamsville and for what he does best. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine  

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (465724, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first appearance of the Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast bottling is an auspicious one, announced with ripe and delicious clarity. Though the nose is a bit reserved there is no reductive quality and the orchard is but a mere stone’s throw away from really standing out. The wood shows up on the vanilla, caramel tangy and further, deeper into the apple tree’s palate. The finish brings a pie from out of the warm oven. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  rsvineyards  markanthonyon  california.wines  @rsvineyards  @ImportWineMAFWM  @CalifWines_CA  @Rodney.Strong.Vineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine  @CaliforniaWinesCanada

13th Street Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

No surprise the vintage is a major plus for the Sandstone and the natural funk it owns. And I mean owns. Only Sandstone has such geological drive, not unlike chardonnay from South Africa’s Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. In 2013 there is a sweetness to the fruit mixed with a misty humidity and finally that falling over backwards with feet stuck in the clay and the calcaire. Wildness from J. P. Colas here and with attentiveness to place and time. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted at #i4c16, July 2016 and #14c17, July 2017  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  @13thStreetWines

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (68817, $29.95, WineAlign)

Exemplary follow up to a terrific 2013 with more emerald gemstone, green apple bite and fine textured lees running through. Tart and yet not at the same time, seemingly sweet but only in the way that flavourful salts with added umami can collect, pool and co-exist. Just great focus, precision, fineness and balance. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The nose on this chardonnay is pretty, alive, vibrant and pure. The palate is exceptional, fleshy and full. There is intensity and precision, class and seamless integration of fruit, acidity and texture. Really longDrink 2018-2024. Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  thirty bench  @ThirtyBench  @ThirtyBench

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Ravine’s is one of those chardonnay blessed with uncanny ability to amalgamate the sumptuousness of fruit warmed by sun and kissed repeatedly by barrel. The equation renders delicacy and texture, so obviously and vehemently spoken in the 2015 Peninsula language. It really is all about texture with a plus-minus spice note codicil and cool unction drawn like butter in suspended animation, a pool into which all parts have melted. Needs a year to finalize the deal and sweeten the pot. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2014, Monterey, California (220343, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay sans wood doesn’t get more premium than this (save for some Chablis) so the use of unlined concrete tanks (a third to a half) allows the sort of micro-oxegynation that elevates the complexity game. Despite the hard-goings of working this way, the delivery is a crisp, crunchy and slightly edgy (and eggy) ’14 with addendum by the confluence of fog, sun and sea. Mer Soleil. More pear than green apple, the character speaks a Monterey note. The packaging has left ceramic behind in favour of electrostatic painted (second-purposed) glass, made to look like (and celebrate) concrete. This is surprisingly creamy so the solids get their say and the conclusion is of a chardonnay made this way that rarely achieves such a level of texture and piquancy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

House of Chards #i4c Lunch at Trius

Artesa Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (657585, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

The differing and contrastive style in Artesa’s ordinario is literally chardonnay night in comparison to the estate’s reserve day. Absent is the mineral alloy streak, the temper and the level of fruit quality and density so that here the buttery and creamy oak is felt on top and down below. Acidity, tension and posit tugs of intensity are relegated and softened to the mild mannered and middle palate personality. This is 70 per cent estate fruit, simple, rich, soft and mildly spicy chardonnay, antithetical for completion recognition of the basic to reserve paradigm. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @Artesa

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Willms’ Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

This is the second vintage of the Willms, a rich and viscous chardonnay with green apple bite. More barrel (15 months, 30 per cent new) on this than others in an #i4c School of Cool flight and also Beaune-styled, ambitious otherwise but certainly the structured and gregarious one. Chardonnay as many would recognize, could be nothing other, some terpenic moments but the cool, sharp and spirited are mixed into the clay. Last tasted July 2017.

Adamo sources from the same vineyard that provides fruit for 13th Street’s Sandstone Reserve in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. In its early stages the fruit acted and reacted as a lean, taut and tension fuelled chardonnay with party a sign of letting up. Eight months later the juicy flesh of orchard fruit pushes past the vintage’s grip and lets tis wine breath a sigh of relief. Chalk one up to yet another cool-climate, calcareous clay stuck moment in time. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at #i4c16, July 2016 and Taste Ontario, March 2017  adamoestatewinery  @AdamoEstateWine  @adamoestatewinery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016 and July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Westcott Vineyards Chardonnay Lenko Old Vine 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

The iconic vineyard, the wise old vines, the chance to make some magic; these are all a part of the mystery and the mystique of Lenko placed in the hands of one winemaker at a time, fruit put to bottle in his or her own special way. It’s simple isn’t it? “Go far enough and you will reach, a place where the sea runs underneath,” take up the grapes and do what they need. In terms of chardonnay the vineyard is ground zero, the genesis, the oldest Chardonnay planting in Canada. In Arthur Harder’s hands the fruit reaches you with apposite if ambient sparks while its chords are strummed with 12 strings so that it never loses touch with its structure. A very expressive chardonnay from a benevolent vintage, Westcott’s breaks free from traditional Niagara with this tart and that tart. There is wind, wuthering and it has the uncanny ability “of turning the world so it’s facing the way that I’m going.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Chateau Des Charmes Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Méthode Traditionelle 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (511352, $32.95, WineAlign)

A different sort this one, with lots of barrel spice, liquid splinter creaminess, a heavier dosage to be sure, creamy lemon and almond skin, but also pith. Complex if commercially sweeter, rich and fatter, something School of Cool 2017 Sugar Trials panelist Rhys Pender MW agrees with. Making sparkling wine from the warmish Niagara-on-the-Lake regional-appellation (which includes the warm St. David’s Bench) has its pros and cons, the positives mostly tending to richness and the negatives the compromise to energy and verve. Winemaker Amélie Boury manages the dosage of 10 g/L RS with natural acidity (5.5 g/L TA), a forthcoming low pH of 3.16 and a late September pick. “For richer fruit” she notes and then a coupling texture by fermenting in barrels. Look for it on the ambit of tertiary personality after a few years of age. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Malantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (511063, $33.95, WineAlign)

From a new family (relatively speaking) to Chablis, the estate belongs to Marie-Noëlle & Laurent Ternynck. The old vines Chablis saw 12 months in foudres, on the lees, with fruit gathered from vineyards in Fleys. The cool spot comes with a higher altitude, on a windswept plateau and so harvest is generally five to six days later. And so their Chablis is cool, direct, taut and sapid stuff, as Chablis will go, from such a climat and handled so. Acidity runs rampant and travels quickly up and down and into parts of the mouth that stand up to take notice. Sharp and focused Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Mer Soleil Chardonnay “SLH” 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (958975, Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The sun always shines upon Mer Soleil’s “SLH,” a chardonnay equipped with exceptional fruit purity that welcomes but could go it so much more confidently alone without the mask-caking make-up. It needs a fraction of the wood it receives. A tour de force of ocean and sun (tied together by fog) delivers acidity, sapidity and the fruit is raised to keep things moving swimmingly along. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

Good man this man. Great winemaker this winemaker #i4c @coolchardonnay

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (111989, $35.80, WineAlign)

When I tasted Quarry Road 2013 out of four barrels three years ago the purpose was to take in the nuances and see only the trees. I for one could not help seeing the forest through the trees and imagining percentages of each combining for the final blend. Neutral Mercurey wood looked over infant three year-old vines spoken here with surprising density, tang and tropical melon in both aroma and flavour. This sits on the front palate right now. The mineral Ceres qualifies older fruit as the pretty and the gemstone, essential for Quarry Road, the most like (Meursault) in Burgundy. This fruit transferred to stainless on the lees from September to March before going into bottle now renders to make Quarry the purest expression from the best vineyard. The CLL toast delivers the taut, not yet reductive wood tightening, then and again now, mainly on the finish. Compressed citrus notes are late arriving and even if it is splitting hairs, the oak really impacts the finish. The larger CLL toast Mercurey barrel reveals a fresher, more reductive, less oaky feel. All together we now have one of Paul Pender’s most accomplished to date and all chardonnays considered, one of the finest higher end values around. I think he would agree. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Maycas del Limarí Chardonnay Quebrada Seca 2013, Limarí Valley, Chile (331520, $36.00, WineAlign)

Maycas de Limarí’s Quebrada Seca or “dry-cracked” makes reference to the fragmented soils, a place of low-fertility and chardonnay loving terroir. This spent 14 months in (30 per cent new) but it’s not just the extended barrel time that separates it from the estate’s Reserva. Vintage plays a significant role in conjunction with the soil and it teaches so much about the virtues of patience and time. No malo but high sapidity, lots of bite and the verdant, healthy life are borne out of poor fertility. This is life affirming chardonnay from harsh climes. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Joie Farm Chardonnay “En Famille” 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511113Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

The developed layers of fruit are well integrated and interwoven into the mildness of both barrel and tannin. The sweetness of that sun-kissed fruit leaves a lasting impression from what has been brought into being by a warm and impressionable vintage. Exemplary three or four year Okanagan chardonnay that shows off its charming sucrosity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Sneak peak in the @TriusWines Meunier with Craig McDonald and a true Niagara Grand Cru @coolchardonnay site #lincolnlakeshore #oliveiravineyards #vqa #wildferment

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

When you consider the level of quality provided by the Wild Ferment 2014 it would be hard to imagine raising the bar any further but this is what winemaker Craig McDonald has managed with his exceptional 2015. The accomplishment is purely based on one year older, wiser and complexities developed Oliveira Farm vineyard fruit, the holy chardonnay grail, Lincoln Lakeshore playground. The site sits along the QEW below the escarpment’s Twenty Mile and Beamsville benches, a recipient of glacial till and rocks left behind by an ancient river running from a lake. It’s a chardonnay wonderland. Intensity of fruit purity, fleshy and real, remarkably juicy and notably crunchy has increased, upping the pleasure game and turning the impression knob up to 11. The windmill generates more power while always maintaining a classic Trius level of finesse. Then you think on the wood integration, equally impressionable because acidity is sweet and refined. Dry extract is also impressive, not to mention a fineness of grape tannin. The site’s unofficial designation as a Niagara Grand Cru should be upgraded with status. There is no better time than the present and the Wild Ferment’s 2015 ability is proof enough. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Exquisite dish by Frank Dodd @TriusWines #houseofchards #i4c lunch . . . Lake Huron Whitefish, lobster and scallop sausage, crab croquettes, asparagus, sweet peas, celeriac slaw, seabuck

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2014, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

With fruit from the Niagara chardonnay mecca Oliveira Vineyard and the addendum of yet another stellar varietal vintage it is this Craig McDonald speciality that helps to steal the show. Striking out with near-raging acidity (pushing and possibly exceeding the 8 g/L mark) the Wild Ferment is one of the most formidable expressions of 2014, if not ever. All the moving parts work fervently and impressively as if the motor is running and the machine careening around the speedway. To keep composure it is texture that brings about grounding, balance and cadence, from obvious lees perfection and 30 per cent new wood plus the rest forged by two to five year old barrels. This is creamy, energetic and tannic chardonnay, all conspiring to express itself with both weight and poise. From a maker who’s been around the block a few times, the ’14 WF will go the distance. And you can start now. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017 an #i4c July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Il Magnifico Blanc de Blancs Brut 2013, Burgenland, Austria (511378, Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Esterházy was a Hungarian noble family with origins in the Middle Ages, generally bilingual, in Hungarian (as a result of their ethnicity) and German (as they were aristocrats of the Austrian Empire). The family was intrinsically tied to the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (master to Beethoven) and the estate today shares the same desire; to epitomize the aims and achievements of the Classical era, Hadyn for music and today, Esterházy for contemporary Austrian wine. General Manager Stefan Tscheppe spins a tale of Nikolaus II, the wealthy late 18th and early 19th century prince who lived a charmed life, nicknamed by his sisters as “Il Magnifico.” The namesake sparkler is done in a Brut Nature style, 18 months on the lees and is possessive of a distinctive grapefruit liqueur. The vines grown on limestone-based soil and this is clearly picked on acidity, in the first to second week of September. Il Maginifico may not carry the weight or tone of Hadyn’s The Creation but it is a most excellent Blanc de Blancs composition. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvée Dix Neuvième 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (303602Winery, $38.20, WineAlign)

It’s never easy to follow up greatness, even for this top quality Niagara chardonnay and yet I am almost ready to believe that this Dix-Neuvième delivers more richness of fruit than its predecessor. The stoicism lost from 2013 is woven texture gained, here in a tapestry of pure chardonnay fruit, beeswaxy, faint honey and an almost imperceptible reductive environment. Francois Morissette and Brent Rowland clearly had texture earmarked as the raison d’être for this ’14, almost to a fault but the result is bloody delicious. No Pearl Morissette wine ever gave of itself so young, so fast. Immediate gratification be darned there will be five blessed textured years ahead. And then the honey will set in. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  @lassvet  Pearl Morissette

Domaine Laroche Les Vaudevey Chablis Premier Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (416057, Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

A compressed chardonnay that strikes as a passion play between herbs and limestone and no surprise that the spoils go to the latter. The citrus is gassy, rising, bathed in atmosphere. The structure is predicated on stone, rock and struck flint. Chablis of metal and essential minerality, discovered and defined. This slow-ripened chardonnay will evolve one year for every month contributed by its growing cycle. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted June 2016 and July 2017  #domainelaroche  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  Domaine Laroche, Chablis 

Mackenzie Brisbois, Trail Estate Winery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Auspicious beginnings transcend the customary for Trail’s winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois, case in point exhibit A with her first fledged County chardonnay, a whole cluster pressed, native yeasts and full malolactic beauty. Only a single barrel was made of this really tight, taut and youthfully vituperative one but it will mature, self-reflect and turn into a respectful and generous wine. There is a toasty note that currently smoulders in the glass but that too will gently peel away. The terrific render of acidity couples at present and will melt with the rest of the intensities. This is the estate’s first kick at this County cru, “things are going great, and they’re only getting better.” The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (276261, $39.20, WineAlign)

Unction and creaminess, lost in a chardonnay dream because to nose it’s a sweet, floral, demure thing. Lees apparent so you can smell the work in progress and feel the texture. But it’s wound loosely tight with just enough give to make it so readily available. Beautiful little wine though I can’t help but imagine there’s more single-focus structure than a blind taste wants to give. Hope to come across this hard to get beauty again someday soon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.20, WineAlign)

Norman Hardie’s 2015 Niagara is a reductive yellow goddess dressed chardonnay, connected to the fullest of its fruit, (slowly developed) creamy malolactic, touchstone acidity and grape tannic ability. There is this understated feeling in the throes of richness that the winemaker and the place always seem to agree upon. The display window celebrates and proudly promotes the somewhereness of this ’15 chardonnay. It is never a matter of Niagara versus County, there is little substance to be found, nor is it a necessary point of discussion worth investigating. It’s just highway that separates the two. Both are children of the Norm, both deserving of estate credibility and here, with this next excellent Niagara, taking the Hardie progression one step further. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  normhardie  Norman Hardie  @NormanHardieWinery

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (511071, $39.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Stéphane Saillet’s is a highly compressed, pure and precise Montmains. No wood was used because of the vintage, a season from which the ripe and developed fruit could clearly defend and take care of itself. Carries the essential tenets of texture and chew. Stéphane notes that the challenged ’16 will have some barrel (foudres) because “in the beginning there was nothing,” an important omen with which to help reflect on the fantasy and fantastic effort found in his 2015. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Moira delves much further into the spice with a wood feel into texture, piquancy, savour, sapidity and on repeat in all of the above. The length stretches further as a deeper, more intense expression of Beamsville Bench terroir. It will need to settle and integrate with another year in bottle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine 

Lightfoot And Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The name Ancienne and the proximate irony appraised is not lost for its translation as endemic or indigenous for wines made from Burgundian grape varieties raised on Nova Scotia soil. The sophomore chardonnay speaks in a vernacular a year to the wiser but at the expense of excitement, which is actually a good thing. A step back taken will result in two going forward, as I shall explain. The same regime exercised mimics the ’13, of 20 per cent new, 18 months in barrel, but a slight course altered with some reductive play in ’14, as an experiment but also as a plan. There seems to be more lees richness and spice notes that flit like direct darts on the palate. Different clones are harvested at different times, so now the vinifications are staggered and layered, which really shows on the stratified and almost germinating palate. Another year older allows these vines to bring diversified variegation, more Nova Scotia and as a consequence, less winemaking. The growth here is fascinating and enlightening. In the interim it may compromise the flavour profile and the wow factor but in the long run it is structure, longevity and impressibility that will give the green light to estate grown, Minas Basin success. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017   lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard #2 “Foxcroft Block” Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (512178, Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Deeper and deeper into the micro terroir we go, with thanks to the monk himself so strike me down as a cool climate instigator if you must but Thomas Bachelder takes on the challenge, fresh and new as ever. This Wismer Block dubbed #2 is purely and expressly Foxcroft, a divided up for purchase and worked by many vineyard. Few do it justice like the unstressed symbiotic relationship between Bachelder and grower Craig Wismer. From the ideal session of 2013 we have creamy and cracked, fragmented mineral intensity in opposite attitude to Wismer-Parke but more on the fleshy and structured side. The wood is bigger and more integrated, the flesh ripping and of the sort of musculature that shows no aggression nor needs any explanation. It’s just big and beautiful, not to mention an ambassador for cool. Hello world. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted June and July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Blanc De Blanc ‘Carte Blanche’ 2012, Short Hills Bench, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Reserved for Ontario sparkling but indicative of a bench-steppe foothills style because it just has that spark. Very much a ball of tart and compressed energy and so intense. A middle of the norm dosage at 8 g/L RS is managed in perfect oscillate with equal and opposing acidity at 7.3 TA. Such precision, ease and high quality serviceability is the equanimity quotient delivered by the estimable work ethic of winemaker Sandrine Bourcier. It boils down to recognition. The benchmark for Niagara Peninsula year-dated sparkling wine juices ripeness out of this warm vintage to perpetuate Cuvée Catharine’s unparalleled fizz consistency. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham @SpeckBros  Henry Pelham

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June and July 2017  lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Chardonnay Johnson Vineyard 2013, Yamhill Carlton District, Oregon (416644, Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The best of the barrels, always remember the soil, the soil Johnson Vineyard chardonnay will send you spiralling deep into thought, like it or not. It’s origins in Jory, sedimentary soils draw energy from a source unseen, dug down into where the ancients dwell. Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Bachelder speaks of a wisdom once revered, now questioned and he’s fine with needing to work for a living. The Johnson chardonnay is beautifully tart, rich and complex, biting, full of energy, so cool, taut, structured and even still a bit reductive. But it really is pressed, juiced and spirited with lime, for success and to linger, for a decade post harvest, perhaps for even longer a quality length of time. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Sans Soufre 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Says Norm with matter of factness, as he always does, “it’s the regular Niagara chardonnay, but without sulphur.” So you ask the question up front? Is the unsulphured so different than the other? To the naked senses, no. The charm, power and generosity are all there. It took a full year to pass malolactic inspection. So why do it? Because it reminds of 2012, same slow malo, same deferential and determined kind of wine and the answer comes from something Norm says. “I didn’t have the guts in those days.” But he has them now and yet the decisions imparted this Sans Soufre will be different, with more guts and glory, say in 2022. Perhaps there is a softness about this naked one, something cotton candy about its aromatics and its texture. It’s fine-spun, ethereal and dissipating. It does not argue but you sense it’s possessive of an organized, controlled tension. But don’t be thinking this isn’t a planned piece of parenthood. Did I mention the tannic presence on the palate? How about the wind-up, into tart and the stiff breeze that blows through as if it’s already turning to fall. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted Twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $45.95, WineAlign)

The temptation and the desire to compare Robyn’s Block and the other Tawse chardonnays is unavoidable but in 2013 it’s a fruitless exercise. Neither warmth, tropical fruit, cold, rain, terpenes or high acidity are hallmark traits of Robyn’s Block 2013. So what is? When I tasted through Robyn’s barrels with winemaker Paul Pender back in April of 2014, the Mercurey (one year-old, CLL toast) from the oldest (32 years) vines off of the richest site worked wonders in tandem with new oak. Very primary, fermenting notes foretold of a reigned in, restrained Robyn. The Mercurey (new) barrel gifted tang and girth into which the barrel disappears, with sappy toast on the back end. It too was quite young in its evolution but was rich, thick and dense. The Céres (Mineral) barrel brought exclamatory fruit and was ready to drink. All together and three years later these barrels have conspired for all of the above but if I had to sum it up in five words or less I’d say Robyn is “full of energy, texture and beans.” She will turn out creamy notes as the decade turns but always maintain her sense of restraint, running sap and fleshy tone. The wine is nothing if not a fascinating introspection into the history and the future of this block.  Drink 2017-2023. Tasted April and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Sperling Vineyards Blanc De Blancs Brut Nature 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511329, Agent, $47.00, WineAlign)

There is no dosage in this directly motivational Blanc de Blancs and plenty of potential palate weight with thanks to 30 months spent on the lees. There is something top single-vineyard cru Alsatian about the savoury and searing coolness in this style, as if it were more than just the sum of chardonnay parts, like some hypothetical pinot blanc and perhaps auxerrois. There is some reductiveness, a lovely washed rind cheese, lemon scrape melted into curd and fine bitters. The flavours are really quite lemony tart. Striking really. School of Cool moderator Karen MacNeil described this like “a nun in catholic school, severe and a bit starched. I’d like to try it a bit sweeter, to mollify the tension.” Though the consensus is one that sees it under-dosed, you have to admire Ann Sperling’s “decision based on lees contact time.” To make it longer. The sharp, angular edges are a by-product of its aggressive nature but like sémillon in its lean and gaunt youth this B de B will develop some faux honey and petrol with age. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted twice, July 2017  @SperlingVyds  @AnnSperling  @CRUOntario  sperlingvineyards  cruwine  Sperling Vineyards  Ann Sperling

Stratus Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario (307645, Agent, $48.20, WineAlign)

The Stratus 2014 is more reductive than usual, in its case more of a vintage-related affair than others. The “Burgundy method” is employed, but in a “Niagara style” notes winemaker J-L Groux,  that is with native yeasts and a pick that can’t be too early. The wine saw nine months in (25-50 per cent new) oak. This ’14 is Groux’s last of the chardonnay mohicans because in 2015 it will be bottled with lees. This ’14 is nothing if not bloody delicious, ripe orchard fruit swelling, of mild acidity and seamless texture. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May and July 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (366500, Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Always Ontario’s outlier, eccentric and non-conformist chardonnay and I say this with complimentary, best of intention flattery. The 2013 vintage is simply chivalrous to chardonnay and in Poetica’s corner, a perfect calm case of preux meets elegante. Here is a chardonnay of inherent oxidative wisdom, from cloud cover, cool, long breaths of Niagara air well into the elongated autumn and the address for what I refer to as “the age apparent one.” The iconoclast Poetica ideal conforms because it is matched with equal breadth by richness of fruit and confirms the way Ann Sperling makes her signature wine. Tasted blind my first guess would put this at five years old because of the exuding warmth so 2010 might just be the order. A 2012 Bench chardonnay might have also been the answer. But with Poetica the promise is like Meursault with uptown fruit, honey, vanilla, caramel, a Niagara vapour and ethanol. Such a telling display that only Poetica can play. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Viñas Ventisquero Tara Chardonnay 2014, Atacamas, Casablanca Valley, Chile (511337, Agent, $53.00, WineAlign)

Chile’s Atacama Valley frontier is one of the world’s great terroir expansions, a limestone soil-based flat, even further north than the Limari valley. Ventisquero’s winemaker Felipe Tosso has said that Atacama “breaks all the paradigms of what has been produced in the central-southern valleys of Chile.” The salinity in the land translates to notes in chardonnay of almost no precedence, like salty cotton candy and a fineness of acidity singular in chemical design and how it feels in the mouth. It’s like sucking on a stone lozenge that never dissolves. It’s relentless in its pursuit of fruit. Flavours coagulate liquid almond joy and transparent bitters but there is also a sweetness without definition, a simple limestone syrup that melts into the saltiness of the wine. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  vventisquero  univinscanada  wines_of_chile_canada  @vventisquero  @UNIVINS  @WinesofChile  @VentisqueroWines  @UnivinsCanada  @WinesOfChile

Charline Drappier

Champagne Drappier Blanc De Blancs NV, Champagne, France (599860, Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Made with five per cent pinot blanc this faintly oxidatively-styled Blanc de Blancs is gingery-leathery and felt as if by extended skin contact. It’s both tannic and orange pith spritzy, also mixed in with grapefruit and lemon. Twenty-four lees-affected months bring body that is fleshy, corporeal and with acidity in charge on the palate. Quite a full fizz with some preserved fruit attentiveness. The dosage is healthy but simply flavour gifting at 7.1 RS because the sugar is a combination of beet and cane aged in oak for 10-15 years. It’s a special Drappier liquor dosage developed at the winery. What it brings is not just sweetness but a complex sweetener that has evolved and developed over time while it has aged. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice with Charline Drappier at #14c, July 2017 #ChampagneDrappier  @FWMCan  champagne_drappier  champagnedrappier  fwmcan  Champagne Drappier  Charline Dppr  @FWMCan

Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve is 100 per cent estate fruit that spent 18 months in (50 per cent new) barrel. As it’s both barrel fermented and aged the variegation locks the fruit in so bloody tight so even now it’s reductive, smoky and flinty. A mineral chardonnay needs balance from over the top fruit and so track record, acumen and love will have it so. Marty Werner and Ben Minaker’s is a big, summery and gold platinum expression, very expressive, the two-lb steamed in seaweed lobster chardonnay, seemingly Meursault but just as likely from California. But as Ravine’s Reserve on the St. David’s Bench it is purely Niagara Peninsula. Fruit intensity, extract and controlled oxygenation shows off the best of what these men can do. It speaks to their efforts, knowledge accumulation, trials and finally to the culmination of their stamina. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Adam Mariani, Scribe Winery

Scribe Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, California (511139, Agent, $55.00, WineAlign)

Adam Mariani raised his 2014 in concrete and though we are distracted and of course fully willing to think about the fruit (especially in contrast to his Skin Contact chardonnay) it is the texture that grabs most attention. That this solicits older world comparisons is hard to avoid, but it’s not a Burgundian thematic. Like the garnatxa by Ramon Roqueta Segalés of Domaine Lafou, Scribe’s is a wine that has succeeded in mastering the oxidation process and the scents are of ripe peach, fresh, without overdeveloped sugars but instead a sprinkling of ocean salt. Finishes with a savoury mix of lime, tonic and the liquor of distilled flowers. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Familia Torres Chardonnay Milmanda 2014, Catalunya, Spain (332171, Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Miguel Torres Jr. tells us his wine comes from a great white wine vintage; cool and rainy, though not great for reds. “I don’t believe in miracles from the vineyard. You have to do some things in the winery,” he adds, like the use of bigger (300L) barrels and a 50 per cent malolactic goal. His chardonnay is a juicy, terpenic, honorary cool climate Canadian. That’s not to say it isn’t barrel rich, but it too speaks a language of the lively, crisp, crunchy and bloody delicious. This is full, satisfying, spicy and buttery teasing chardonnay out of Catalunya and few gallop along with such equine gait and grace, at least not from Spain, without either softening like butter or hardening like stone. Here the twain is met. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  torreswines  @FWMCan  @TorresWines  fwmcan  @bodegastorres  @FWMCan

Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Carneros, California (511147, Agent, $63.00, WineAlign)

Scribe Winery’s Adam Mariani introduces his antithetical Californian from the Sonoma side of cooler Carneros up on Arrowhead Mountain in the northern part of the region, planted in 2007 abutting the Mayacamas range on volcanic soils. The grapes are skin-fermented cold (in the farenheit 50’s) with native yeasts for five to six weeks until mid-December but over the past several vintages they (the winemaking team) have slowly gained the confidence to get them above 100 days. One bottle (served too warm) is amiss and oxidative and this really accentuates the skin-settling tannins on the palate. A second is beautifully lively, tannins a bit tamed, acidity in tact and fruit concerned and even obsessed with all things lemon. The aging is done in concrete egg and with a correct bottle this is not oxidized, nor is it an orange wine but it most certainly is a Carneros expression of great interest. It should be dealt with young. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (457143, Agent, $67.00, WineAlign)

Artesa or artisan, from the Catalan, an affirmation of style gifted in name from the Barcelona family Raventos. This chardonnay from the base of Mt. Veeder is 100 per cent estate fruit, adjacent Hyde Vineyards, all hillside sits of elevation, sun and under cover of omniscent fog blowing in from San Pablo Bay. The character is unmistakable French (50 per cent new) cream barrel warm and buttered, yet young and still a bit closed for business. The 16 months in wood requires double that to integrate but a fine mineral streak cuts through the caramel. Nothing shocking mind you, grace meets weight and toasted chestnut melds into sweet marzipan. The quality of fruit is unquestionably high and the seamlessness a given. The style can be yours. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  @Artesa

Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay Chamise 2014, Edna Valley, California (511212, Agent, $86.00, WineAlign)

The aromatics are slow to reveal but if at first they are mildly mired in solder there is this sweet basil-herbal and lemon-balmy calmness on the entry. Takes some moments and then opens to a creamy, barrel-sweetened, tart and layered chardonnay. Looked at blind I’d certainly peg this as warmer climate, New Zealand perhaps but more likely and gracefully California. Indeed the Chamisal-Chamise of Edna Valley origins completes the picture. The first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973 near the Pacific and a long temperate growing season adds up to low and slow phenolic developed chardonnay. The warm vintage plus calcareous, clay-rich soil develops further flavour. Shy no more, the namesake flowering plant Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise or greasewood) native to California bounds away with complex flavours. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  chamisalvyd  #andrewpellerimportagency  @ChamisalVyd  @APImportAgency  @Chamisal.Vineyards  @APImportAgency

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia (674648, $91.00,  WineAlign)

Heytesbury is Virginia Willcock’s top chardonnay and while it is one of Australia’s most iconic wines, it may never be made the same way twice. In 2015 the élèvage is in French oak for nine months (57 per cent new and 43, one to two years old) but no malolactic was encouraged. That’s a non-committal way of saying (and Virginia did in fact say) there was no malo in 2015 simply because it was not a vintage in which the acidity needed to be tamed. So with fruit so pure, strong and expressive, what else is there to say? Simply that you would be an idiot to tire of a fresh herb garden, blue slate shoes, ripe pomelo, a wedge of smoked cheddar, fresh scones and a crunch of mellifluous honeycomb. Heytesbury will gift all of this and more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia, (Winery$119.50, WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle disgorged in May 2017, there alights a plugged-in, three-pronged, dazed, charged and enchanted energy about the Bridge’s ’13 Blanc de Blancs. The history of go it alone pure chardonnay is a relatively short one for the estate so this quickly makes up for lost time or rather with haste sets the timer and heads out at first light. “Like sittin’ on pins and needles, things fall apart, it’s scientific.” Wild, of talking heads temper and yeasts, done up in demi-muids, with a wilder secondary fermentative push riding on the coattails of the primary fermentation. Everything in this wine is a productive child of the vineyard, of no third party sugars or consultations. “How do you do that without making a Pétillant Naturel,” I wonder aloud. It’s a second ferment, non-contiguous is the reason, even if the former is both influencer and mentor to the latter. It certainly falls under the category of “micro-cuvée. Like its cousin and predecessor (Blanc de Noirs 2011), this ’13 BdeB is mired intensely inward within its own specificity and is not so much a sparkling wine with competitive soul. It is a pure representative of chardonnay grown in Nova Scotia for one purpose. So let’s talk about true stories and wild, wild life. “You get on board anytime you like.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones   winesofn  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @WinesofNS  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @winesofns

Cuvée des Amis in grand format from le grand ami @normhardie at an #i4c @coolchardonnay grand tasting dances and trips the light fantastic with unconscionable concentration.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée Des Amis 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $150.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

As exceptional as chardonnay may have seemed from out of the 2013 Ontario vintage you haven’t lived or loved until you get a taste of (only in magnum format) Norm Hardie’s 2014 Cuvées des Amis. This chardonnay attacks and ascends, recalibrating the inner workings of the brain and how it develops conceptualization. It is a state of the art and all-knowing elixir to remind that ’13 was a vintage with profitable yields and a generously stretched canvas on which to practice on, for when things begin to get real. The CdeA spent 18 months in barrel, the first 12 (in 35 per cent new), the next six in neutral and the last six in stainless steel on the fine lees. The spin class in the mouth manages agility, dextrous, furtive movement and completes many pirouettes. The dance is pure joy but the intensity is equally to disturbingly intrusive, suggesting more settling time is necessary. The flavour pearls are delicate and come straight from the oyster so they carry salinity, power and brine. Pure lemon essence is received by intravenous injection. Sumptuous is translated from Hardie-speak as a four-letter, Prince Edward County word. It doesn’t get more real than right here, with the best fruit, the tripping of the light fantastic, previously unheard and unseen unconscionable concentration. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Took all night but it was so worth it. Welcome to #i4c17 @coolchardonnay #ilivechardonnay

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The future is now for Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards

In the throes of judging 1,700 plus Canadian wines at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada I slipped away to reconnect with Mike Lightfoot at his property in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The last time I paid the family a visit, Mike, Jocelyn, Rachel and winemaker Josh Horton were planning, scheming and on the cusp of breaking new ground, figuratively and literally speaking. The new Lightfoot & Wolfville winery facility was beginning to take cerebral, engineered, augurate and anticipatory shape. It’s now well into the building phase, in fact, at some point this summer L & W’s unprecedented facility will open to the public. When it does it will change the wine landscapes that include more than just Wolfville, the Gaspereau, Annapolis Valleys and Nova Scotia. It will reset the needle, compass and artfully strategized standard for Canadian wineries everywhere.

Related – Consider the Gaspereau Valley

Mike and Jocelyn have taken a once thriving apple farm and turned its rolling hills into Nova Scotia’s most progressive organic and biodynamic winery while also perpetuating the raising of animals in the heritage meets modern agriculturist way. In 2014 I made the following ambitious statement. “Lightfoot & Wolfville will take everything anyone has ever thought about the Nova Scotia wine industry and turn it on its head. Hybrids and local varieties will continue to be a part of the stratagem. In the unpredictable climate of Nova Scotia’s wine growing regions that is a necessity but it’s what chardonnay and pinot noir will do that will put the province on the map and the world’s stage.” Mean it.

Cellar dining space at Lightfoot & Wolfville

Related – Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Nova Scotia?

The external vineyard planted near Avonport called “Oak Island” is perched on a hill with a view of the Minas Basin at the head of the Gaspereau Valley. “Le Corton,” as it is known, or as I like to call it,  “Oak Isle Knoll” is where consulting oenologist Peter Gamble has placed 100 per cent certainty in the future success of Vinifera grapes. Vigorous vines will increase the possibilities for chardonnay, sparkling plus a host of expected and eclectic varieties, like riesling, sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer, chenin blanc, chasselas and scheurebe.

Mike and winemaker Josh Horton ushered me through a tour of the new facility. A state of the art retail shop, quick production kitchen, al fresco pizza oven and a subterranean cellar, private dining facility and commercial kitchen to make iron chefs drool. The mammoth-sized, reemployed beams alone are pieces of reclaimed and refashioned wood to send one into a state of awe. It felt as though I were walking through the massive hull and underbelly of a great romantic period ship.

Al Fresco Pizza Oven

Mike Lightfoot has spent the past 15 years watching Nova Scotia’s wine industry transform from an unknown cottage entity to a destination that attracts thousands of visitors, heavily weighted to the summer months. He is drawing on experience but also careful to avoid repeating the mistakes some of his peers have made in trying to build and develop wine tourism at their nearby facilities. He is also grateful for what they have accomplished and how they have opened the door for the possibility of L & W’s imminent operation. Mike points out how in July and August the trail of cars moving along the Evangeline Trail is endless, cars that travel right past his property. Truly a case of “if you build it they will come.”

I sat down with Mike and Josh to taste 10 wines, some new and some revisits, for perspective and to expound on some personal theories of L & W relativity. Josh Horton is coming into his own as a winemaker and just in the nick of time. The nigh fact of this property’s history and ineluctable expansion will weigh on the ancienne ideology but Horton’s de facto ability and unaffected personality equip him with the tools to face the challenge head on. The future is now for Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards.

Sparkling wine you need to know @lwwines Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut 2013, from the shores of the #minasbasin #annapolisvalley #novascotia

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

Pinot Noir Ancienne is a product of a wild ferment and here in 2014 is possessive of a larger percentage of estate fruit, but still with a significant portion skimmed from (Al) McIntyre’s Blomidon vineyard. The typical Nova Scotia growing season means this was harvested during the last week of October and at approximately 20.5-21.5 brix, but of a lower crop level. Like the inaugural 2013 this still carries the elegant, highly cool climate provincial stamp, not skinny or lean by any means but certainly lithe and helped calmly and curatively along by 3rd and 4th fill neutral oak. The ’15 will be bottled in July, which will be 100 per cent estate fruit. Here is the second image of Nova Scotia pinot, built upon a well-designed foundation and an architectural struggle in search of structure. Ancienne is old-school, traditional, hand-made, artisanal. It is a wine that others will not yet know what to do with but the launching point is precise, progressive, poignant and teeming with wonder meets possibility. The fruit purity and transparency speaks to the honesty delivered. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

Retrospection, reflection and what we know now places this so obviously in the exact spot where it began. So now we establish a minimum five years going forward to reach the sweetest of sweet spots. This now gives perspective and a reference point for where ’14 is and will be going forward. This 2013 is less immediate, a wonder of first time luck, pomp and circumstance. It is nothing short of remarkable. Last tasted June 2017.

If de novo for Pinot Noir is to be found in Nova Scotia then count me in because the inaugural release from Lightfoot & Wolfville is the trailblazer for and from the extrinsic frontier. Tasting the painstakingly measured yet barely handled 2013 for the first time (from bottle) is like falling into a glass of Nova Scotia cherries. Somehow there is this simultaneous and virtual voyage abroad to imagine a comparison with Nuits-Saint-Georges, in its earth crusted, sanguine, welled up tension that begs questions and belies answers. A year yonder the taste from barrel and what can be said? Pinot Noir adjudicated, into a cortex of recognizable consciousness and thus into the natural Nova Scotia mystic. Ignore and forgive the dope of first returns, for no one could have imagined such ripeness and immediate gratification. Future releases will dial back in the name of structure. That said, in 2013 there is a red citrus, ferric debate that will send this to an exordium seven years down the road. Impossible inaugural release. Approximately 50 cases made. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Experiments are for more than sharing #perspective #teachingmoment #progress @lwwines #unfiltered

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

The name Ancienne and the proximate irony appraised is not lost for its translation as endemic or indigenous for wines made from Burgundian grape varieties raised on Nova Scotia soil. The sophomore chardonnay speaks in a vernacular a year to the wiser but at the expense of excitement, which is actually a good thing. A step back taken will result in two going forward, as I shall explain. The same regime exercised mimics the ’13, of 20 per cent new, 18 months in barrel, but a slight course altered with some reductive play in ’14, as an experiment but also as a plan. There seems to be more lees richness and spice notes that flit like direct darts on the palate. Different clones are harvested at different times, so now the vinifications are staggered and layered, which really shows on the stratified and almost germinating palate. Another year older allows these vines to bring diversified variegation, more Nova Scotia and as a consequence, less winemaking. The growth here is fascinating and enlightening. In the interim it may compromise the flavour profile and the wow factor but in the long run it is structure, longevity and impressibility that will give the green light to estate grown, Minas Basin success. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

The ’13 seems to at first have really softened but that’s only relative to tasting it side by side with the 2014. It’s also leaner when considered side by each though still carries weight and creaminess on the palate. Winemaker Josh Horton also pours an unfiltered experimental bottle. It is so clean, almost indiscernible to the filtered ’13, except perhaps with more bite on the palate and yet less creaminess than the ’14.  Lasted Tasted June 2017.

Welcome to the new Chardonnay ethos, an east coast compages for la belle nouvelle écosse, the new borderland for Canadian vinifera. The respite found in Lightfoot & Wolfville’s first release is like breathing for the first time. As I noted a year ago while tasting through (mostly older) barrel trials, I have unearthed a Canadian winery animated in the architectural rendering of Premier Cru Chablis. Full textured, creamy aromatics, layers of lace and luxe, popping acidity and with length stretched to service now and later. Approximately 135 cases made. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne Reserve 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($56.00, WineAlign)

The Chardonnay was planted in 2009 in a block that sits on the crest of the hill on the Wolfville vineyard site and the Ancienne Reserve is a barrel selection more than anything. It sees an additional six (to 24) months and because one of the barrels was new, it’s therefore 50 per cent new. Now tasting this for the second time a year later (the first time being at i4c 2016), the wood is melting and dissolving so all is coming together, but the unmistakeable L & W acidity meets Nova Scotia vines spice and bite is all over the palate. There is length here to last a decade. Never ending. Nothing if not a coup for new world/cold climate/NS chardonnay. You will not understand unless you taste it. Consulting oenologist Peter Gamble and his protégés Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot have allowed the fruit to speak without encumbrance. This chardonnay is neither stark nor beyond ripe and oak has been used with terrific restraint. I am not sure how Gamble could have known it would work but to a veteran of decades of Canadian harvests, it must be an absolute revelation. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Tidal Bay 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada ($22.00, WineAlign)

The blend is l’acadie, geisenheim, chardonnay and riesling plus a smidgen of vidal. Just a great year, the l’acadie coming from rocky soil and the difference maker in the use of riesling. There is some residual sulphur, still activated citrus tablet and its aromas are propitiously fresh, from lean to piercing. The palate carries terrific texture and flesh, great citrus and a bit of unction. It even suggests fleshy citrus and stone fruit, with just that minor note of peach to make this so drinkable. The vinifera provides the structure while l’acadie is the back bone and this has plenty of it. The reams of citrus are simply striking. The better to best yet, a no doubter and without argument. For Tidal Bay it’s almost perfect. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at L & W and blind at NWAC17, June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Schuerebe 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (WineAlign)

The schuerebe comes from up on the Oak Isle in Avonport, now just past the stage of baby vines, this the introduction as far as a style is concerned. That style combines elevated sugar and acidity. It’s highly floral and of incredible acidity, from vines that ripen later than riesling, though the plants are young of just a few years. Schuerebe is a wine that can beat its own sibling chardonnay in a wine competition, with some fat and flamboyance, alcohol near 9.5 per cent and those sugars (whose actual number is pointless) will track across some complex notions and age three to six years with ease. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Rosé 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada ($28.00, WineAlign)

The Rosé from pinot noir is 100 per cent estate varietal fruit destined for this purpose and not from a bleed, or as one. At $28 it doesn’t hit the same $20 Rosé crowd, here dry, saline, south of France ringing and as a ringer. The notes are distinctly lime and grapefruit, floral but not quite meunier floral. “When pinot noir can give you structure you keep making it this way,” notes winemaker Josh Horton. Good plan. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Nova Scotia, Canada ($28.00, WineAlign)

L & W’s will surely appear, perform and consummate as the lightest of all Rosés in any Canadian flight and as pinot noir it suffices to say all that needs in terms of rusty, rustic and taut. There is good salinity, perhaps one or two elevated blowsy notes of sulphur but all is forgiven in consideration of fine precision, presence and lightness of being. The minor leesy and lactic fromage melts into acidity and tasted blind it could be the closest of Moira cousins, à la Malivoire. Lemon and lime finish and very long. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Catch, taste and release Collection Bellenum by Nicolas Potel

To better days & retro négoce #burgundy with @RochedeBellene via @Nicholaspearce_ #nicholaspotel #bourgogne #meursault #santenay #monthelie #pommard #volnay #chambollemusigny #gevreychambertin #closdelaroche

Some tasting notes are easier than others to compose and others just need time. You can write some on the spot and you can sit on others until such time when their clarity is revealed. I’ve said it a hundred times. Great wines write their own reviews. We are merely the conduit to bring the notes to light.

Nicholas Pearce has a terrific relationship with Nicolas Potel. Agent and Burgundy producer, négoce, man of leisure. Diplomat and ambassador extraordinaire for the wines of Burgundy; Villages, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. Pearce held a tasting back in February for Potel’s Collection Bellenum. If there is anyone in Burgundy that Nicolas does not know I can’t say but in addition to running his own Domaine de Bellene and négoce Maison Roche de Bellene, Potel has drawn on his secret resources to deliver older parcels of Burgundy from producers who somehow hid these top vineyard gems from the world.

This tasting was simply ridiculous and I can’t help wonder how the universe aligns to bring such things to fruition. Some of the wines are priced beyond recognition while others are almost too good to be true. The LCBO is now purchasing four wines; Roche De Bellene Santenay 1er Cru Beaurepaire 1998, Roche de Bellene Monthelie Villages 2005, Roche De Bellene Chambolle-Musigny Villages 2001 and Roche De Bellene Gevrey-Chambertin Villages 2001. I tasted and reviewed 13 wines that day. Here are the notes.

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire 1998, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

It’s always a gift to taste older Burgundy and righteously so from 1998. From the “Collection Bellenum” by Nicolas Potel and a nearly 20-year old bold and intact Santenay from what began as a surly vintage. Remnants of certainly once firm, gritty, rustic red fruit now cured like pinot noir gravlax meets bresaola. Carries through with a musty tone and still the acidity rages and circles the fruit wagon. Still some tannin (say, four years left) and a wisdom Santenay would not always have been able to foreshadow. Great gamey finish with Burgundian voice and vice grip tension. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Monthelie 2005, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $101.95, WineAlign)

Monthelie 2005 is the most acetic and volatile but that’s only by way of a side by side by each comparison to ’02 and 04. In many ways this shines the brightest and as the youngest it does so with the highest degree of freshness, though that is certainly not what was expected. One must realize that growing up is not yet done and this wine has simply not crossed the threshold into its older Burgundy self. It could be considered 2011 the way it speaks of red fruit and cool, elevated tones, as if no time has passed. Tannins are chalkier and offer up more limestone, red liquid ruby sensation. This Monthelie is the conundrum. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Monthelie 2004, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $101.95, WineAlign)

Monthelie 2004 is the brooding brother of the three Monthelie samples (along with ’02 and ’05), deep, rich, hematic, ferric and funky. Volatility is a major part of its character but the fruit still stands to tell an ’04 tale. Not the most ethereal of vintages as seen here but certainly full of energy and longevity. This lingers in a grippy way the others do not, so it has that going for it, which is nice. It will drink this way for five years more, at a very basic minimum. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Monthelie 2002, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $101.95, WineAlign)

Since this Monthelie is assessed in a ’02-’04-’05 mini flight, it can’t be helped but to discuss one in relation to the other two. It is noted that 2002 and 2005 share a heat-spiked affinity but it is this ’02 that carries it effortlessly and with more slow-hung and expertly seasoned cure than volatility. Burgundy as it is seen through Monthelie eyes is accomplished with utter purity, clarity and wisdom. This has ancient character in its DNA and 15 years of potential energy still coursing through its veins. So bright and at the same time indelibly dense and compressed. Beauty is in the eye of one who relishes but does not get hung up by dwelling in the past. Tremendous wine. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Volnay Premier Cru Clos Des Chenes 2005, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $190.95, WineAlign)

Clos des Chenes in the capable hands of Nicolas Potel ties a nice little ribbon around an oak old tree because it’s a very pretty Volnay, so floral as per the exercise and those subtle notes that make you think about fennel, graphite and the Burgundy bush equivalent of garrigue. This is extracted, rich and full of red berries (namely raspberry). It’s firm as much as the fruit requests it to be and the acidity is beautifully round. The grip in the tannin indicates many years ahead. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Volnay 1er Cru Clos Des Chenes 2002, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $183.95, WineAlign)

From 2002 it is Potel’s Clos des Chenes that acts the age apparent one but the threshold is far from breached or really at this 15 year stage, even reached. Nor is the fruit to tannin inversion in danger of a transgression. The floral Volnay component is reduced, layered and dipped into cherry-ripened liqueur. The tannin in this vintage runs across that impressing line from sweet to aggressive. I would have my pleasure with this Volnay over the next two or three juicy and grippy years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Pommard Premier Cru Les Pézerolles 2005, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $209.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard Les Pézerolles is widely considered the finest in Pommard and the vintage 2005 one of the decade’s best (along with 2002 and 2009). Potel’s work here is with a pinot noir still youthful but not as young as the Monthelie. This Pommard is firm and separates itself as it needs to be, with subtle hints of sanguine and bitters. This could also be assessed as quinine and savour but also of a richness that reveals some kind of chocolate menthol aroma. Not a gritty but certainly a rigid Pommard. It’s quite chewy and promising for long life to come from such a promiscuous and preferable mouthful to enjoy. Will open for full business by the end of the calendar year. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Gevrey Chambertin Villages 1999, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $96.95, WineAlign)

The vintage has been my go to, fan favourite and highest probability for cellar pulling success since purchasing some Girardin Premier Cru more than 15 years ago and exacting success each time one is opened. Nicolas Potel is both lucky and highly intelligent in his negotiating some 1999 from Gevrey-Chambertin. This here now is quite funky in its own right and that perfect example of older Burgundy walking the fine line of earth-fruit-volatility exactitude. This is a beautifully rich and red liqueur red though I can see how some would see it as showing some microbes to change the conversation. No matter though because tannin following structure is securely intact. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Petit Chapelle 2001, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $113.00, WineAlign)

Potel finds gold in Gevrey-Chambertin with this extraordinary Petit Chapelle Premier Cru barrel. There is a level of ripeness and extraction that exceeds most of the rest in this magnificent négoce line-up and an aromatic sweetness sans apareil. Really fine and grainy tannins, more sweetness feigned and ropey fruit reigned in and fully completely surrounded. The tough partners have yet to relent. That and the whole distinction is nothing short of amazing. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 2004, Ac, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $307.95, WineAlign)

The 2004 Monthelie actually helped in preparation to taste this ’04 Clos de la Roche and that speaks volumes about the vintage as a whole. Homogenous would be one way to say it but clarity and transparency is a good thing. The earthy twang, terroir-funk and rich liquor will collectively never be confused with 2001 and certainly not 1998. This has some serious rigid, kick-ass, dark fruit ripped by acidity and wrangled by mean and aggressive tannin. If you are a fan of powerful Grand Cru than this is yours. You’ll have to be patient though. What lady bug year? Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 2001, Ac, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $307.95, WineAlign)

A greater than the sum of its original parts vintage now in clear retrospection is the Clos de La Roche 2001, now having travelled to another realm, an ulterior Bungundian dimension, It is from out of the walled in Grand Cru La Roche that the purity cries, laughs and then cries again. Charity from Burgundy in utmost clarity and a minor important edge of merde. It’s simply pure, terroir-infiltrating gout de Roche squeezed from the earth and emancipated into the greater wine as a whole. The effort to acknowledge the ethereal is no effort at all. The ease of breath is touching and thankful. So pretty, firm, but really, just easy living. Like perfect parents who have raised a confident child with perfect social skills. It’s a medieval poem. You can actually drink this now. Drink 2017-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 1998, Ac, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $364.95, WineAlign)

Clos de La Roche 1998 may be 19 years old but you have to swirl the britches out of this Grand Cru because reduction persists in its make-up. Once you work your way over the wall a field of wildflowers and a roses bouquet lays out as far as the nose can mind’s eye. This is pure candy in its most arid, blessed and gout de terroir way. It is as charming as Burgundy can be and yet so fine of tannin, tight and duplicitously-grained in clone upon itself. One of those wines so difficult to put to words because it teaches and you can do nothing but listen. I’d still want to wait two more years, maybe more, before knowing I’ve waited long enough. Close de la Roche speaks to me but to answer with any real credibility and respect I will need to think some more. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Meursault Premier Cru Charmes 2002, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $214.95, WineAlign)

From Nicolas Potel in Meursault and a highly prized, charged and anticipated Charmes Premier Cru from 2002 no less, immediately distinctive for the smoky, flinty, direct and taut inflection. It would be hard not to appreciate how the barrel has integrated to the point of absence and in effect, walked out the door. Still the fruit persists and it is the years of melting lees that act as the buoy for that fruit to shine like the gem it obviously was, and is. Citrus yes but not definable as such and acidity also melted and dripping with paraffin in advance of honey. That alternative sweetness is still a few years away. The slow evolution and more to come is one of those great impossibilites to make you smile. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Get back to Greece

Black Corinthian Raisin in early stages of veraison #manyshadesofachaia #prettyinpeloponnese

Over the past few weeks I have been getting reacquainted with some close friends. The wines of Greece. Greek wine and Godello have spent some quality time together, both at home and abroad. While in Paris last November I paid a visit to Gare au Gorille, a bistro in the Batignolles district of the 17th Arrondissement in Paris. A small but quintessential tasting was taking place; Thymiopoulos, Hatzidakis, Tetramythos and Sklavos. The tasting was a traveling extension from Oenos, a collaboration between winemakers Apostolos Thymiopoulos, Haridimos Hatzidakis, Evriviadis Sklavos and the wine trader Georgios Ioanndis.

#volcanic in Paris with #hatzidakis @DrinkGreekWine @3050imports Try it November 22nd in Toronto with @johnszaboms #aidani #assyrtiko #haridimoshatzidakis #mylos #santorini

Related – Getting into Greece

Gare au Gorille is a fine French paradoxical pun (“be careful of the gorilla) and also the title of a 1952 song by French musician Georges Brassens.  At the Paris tasting I rubbed shoulders with Greek gods, got salty with volcanic Santorini and travelled vicariously to Lixouri through endemic varietals and whimsical blends.

I highly recommend re-habituating with the new wines of Greece (which are actually the old ones) on a regular basis. The practice will take you from assyrtiko to retsina, debina to moschofilero and agiorgitiko to xinomavro. It will also transport you to places; Amyndeon to Zitsa, Nemea to Thessaloniki, Naoussa to Santorini. I’ve said it before. Greek wine is paradoxically diverse, mythically complex and critical to experiential wine blessedness.

The Greek paradox of producing great wines without anyone really knowing anything about them brings me to Zeno’s paradox of place. It was Eudemus and Alexander of Aphrodisias who bore witness and affirmation for the reconstruction of Zeno’s philosophical premise. The infinite regression goes like this: “Everything is somewhere: so places are in a place, which is in turn in a place, etc. The limitless exercise never allows you to get grounded so you end up nowhere. It was Aristotle who provided the solution. You always have to be somewhere. After all, being deprived of the possibility of saying where something is just leads to emptiness.

Red, white, rock and @DrinkGreekWine roll. Getting into old #winesofgreece with new regard.

Related – Till I reach Achaia ground

Greek wines offer a sense of being somewhere, all of them, but the challenge facing the Greek wine industry is securely fastened “in a place somewhere between the relic glow of early period brilliance and the cusp of legacy defining, career opus penning compositions. Making wine from endemic or indigenous grapes is a calling to a higher love, in spite of harsh conditions, geographical difficulties and the relative channels of global obscurity.”

The Greek dichotomy paradox leads me to the joke. A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer are asked to give an answer to the following question. One Greek vineyard is planted to endemic varietals and another to international ones. The grapes from one are brought to blend with those of the other. At which point will the ferments from the two vineyards strike a balance? The mathematician said they would never actually meet because the series is infinite. The physicist said they would meet when time equals infinity. The engineer said that within one more harvest they would be close enough for all practical purposes. The same might be said for Greek wines brought to a Toronto tasting and the locals coming to taste them.

Related – A new Greek morning

We tasted those wines at the WineAlign office, at the Royal Ontario Museum and at The LCBO’s Summerhill location with Christopher Sealy and Victory Wines and Spirits. Recurring themes and new finds were acquiesced. The wine-producing regions of Santorini (Aegean), Thessaloniki/Naoussa (Macedonia) and Nemea (Peloponnese) continue their inroads on the global scene. I noted that Achaia and Patras in the northern Peloponnese are on the verge of breaking out. The same is and will soon be said for Halkidiki, Mantinia, Zitsa, Evia, Kitherona, Imathia, Leprini, Attica, Crete, and Arkadia.

@DrinkGreekWine NOW! With @johnszabo in the RBC Glass Room #winesofgreece #EDOAO

We know by instinct that wines cast the shadow of their own destruction before them and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins. Could this be more appropriate than when discussing the ancient and the new brought together in the wines of Greece? Unlike anywhere else Greek wines just seem to carry in their DNA a rusticity, a wisdom and a sense of age just as they are born, but they also last, linger and age longer than most anyone expects. They are to a generalization, the most especial set of regional wines in the world. To read his report that asks to drop the aristocratic pretence, please travel over to WineAlign.

Related – Wines of the People, Wines of the Place, by John Szabo, MS.

These following 53 tasting notes are all from May, a month that may as well have been dedicated to the wines of Greece. With thanks as always to Sofia Perpera, Twitter: @DrinkGreekWine, Instagram: winesofgreece and Facebook: @newwinesofgreece. I’ve four words for you babes. Get back to Greece.

2017 #winesofgreece @ROMToronto tasting highlights @DrinkGreekWine

Sparkling

Zoinos Zitsa Semi Sparkling 2016, PDO Zitsa (WineAlign)

Sparkling debina or halfway thereof is not exactly household in name for Ontario but the mountainous, high elevation locale of Epirus is a place for which, where and why sparkling wine makes sense. Grapes of high acidity come from out of a cool, windy, snow, sleet and rain kind of place. From a cooperative with maximum 11 per cent alcohol and a short time on lees, this is loaded with terpenes and dried (very gardenia) flowers The medicinal tonic is complimented by a pinch of sugar (that makes it go down) and go down with elegant ease. The lime finish is something to which you are welcome to attach a “like” emoji. Greek discovery number one. Approximately $20. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @zoinoswinery  #ZoinosWinery  @zoinoswinerysa

Kir Yianni Akakies Xinomavro Sparkling Rosé 2015, Ac Macedonia, Greece (482646, $18.95, WineAlign)

The most interesting triad of xinomavro, Amyndeon and sparkling comes through in this toasty, flinty and rusty sweet Akakies. Rosé of strawberry, raspberry, currants and mountain tea. Chill it really well and pour it at a summer reception in the sun. With Dolmades! Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted April 2017  @kiryianni  @KolonakiGroup  kiryianni  @KirYianni  @KolonakiGroup

Rosé

Lykos Winery Rosé Grenache Rouge 2016, Pgi Evia, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

The Lykos Rosé is a grenache rouge play with some merlot and is dealt the wisdom afforded by 40 year-old vines on the south part of the island. Clay soil sits overtop limestone and the aromatics borrow this straight away, at first saline and then into Rosé richness. Texture comes with a sweet and sour palate. These vines gift low yields at four tonnes per hectare and its wine follows a similar to malagousia citrus line. Quite distinct. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017  @LYKOSWINERY  lykounanalykoswineryevia  @LykosWinery

Troupis TOMH Rosé 2016, IGP Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

I tasted this magical, single-vineyard moschofilero blush on two consecutive days and each time it gave me epiphany shivers. There are few Ontario market specimens of Rosé made from a white wine grape with only minor skin contact, let’s say six to 10 hours and 24 hours maceration, which is remarkable since it is usually red wine that turns water into Rosé. But moschofilero carries pigmentation and is light-skinned so it’s best of both worlds suitable, like a perfect cross between pinot gris and for the sake of argument, pinot noir. First thought says it’s akin to a vin gris style and better off for it, celebrating a mountain terroir and allowing natural acidity to dictate the ideal. This TOMH (which may as well be an acronym for Troupis owed Moschofilero hero) helps to coax out the mineral and smells like the salinity and stone in a cave. I don’t find it overly fruity in terms of aromatics, even stoic and of high level acidity. There is faint cranberry, pomegranate and currant notes mixed with mountain tea and again, such salinity. Some residual sugar comes apparent on the palate but it’s essentially dry. Damn if moschcofilero isn’t ideally suited to Rosé and this TOMH will age a bit. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted May 2017  @TroupisWinery    @VictoryWine  troupiswinery  victorywineandspiritsinc  @troupis.winery  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  

Thymiopoulos Rosé de Xinomavro 2014, PGI Macedonia, Greece (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Thymipoloupos fashions a wholly different sort of Rosé, using the thicker skinned and more direct xinomavro as the man, so a masculine blush this is, full of tang and at first, a medium-dry meets cordial intensity. So much strawberry comes across the tongue but with dusty savour and then the salinity kicks in to bite the sweetness. This is very long and not so many make Rosé like this. Even just a touch in the oxidative way. At the present time varietal, climate, geography and vintage directs the style but adjustments will be made along the way. The formula will refine and in turn reveal some singular Greek Rosé. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @thymiopoulosvin  @VictoryWine  @winesofnaoussa  apostolosthymiopoulos  eletsi  victorywineandspiritsinc  Eleftheria Tsitsipa  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  @WinesofNaoussa

Whites

Assyrtiko

Lykos Winery Assyrtiko 2016, Pgi Kitherona, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

Assyrtiko thrives beyond Santorini, here in the diaspora locale of Kitherona, at 450m on the slopes near Thebes. The terroir is stony shale with good drainage and the usual mineral strike is fattened up a touch but also quite reductive and far from shedding the barrel. The 15 years old vines are now just coming into play and owning the grapes. After nine months it went into medium toast French (300L) oak barrels for four months, to broaden horizons in a whole new way of looking at assyrtiko. Such smoulder and leesy texture reminds of Melgaço’s Anselmo Mendes and his barrel-aged alvarinho. Plenty of lemon juices over the finish. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @LYKOSWINERY  lykounanalykoswineryevia  @LykosWinery

Lyrarakis Vóila Assyrtiko 2016, Crete, Greece (Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

Certainly Cretan but no cretan this assryrtiko from relatively high altitude (580m) at the eastern part of Crete is a light and slightly resinous white with plenty of herbs and nice varietal spice. The citrus dominates the palate but the finish retains to mountain tea and fish complimenting leaves. Nicely done, clean, modern and a good take on the grape. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @lyrarakis  @MajesticWineInc  @winesofcrete  lyrarakiswines  majesticwinesinc  winesofcrete  @LyrarakisWines  @majesticwinecellars

Santo Wines Assrytiko Organic 2016, PDO Santorini, Greece (Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

Assyrtiko as only it can be, from a place reborn of a massive volcanic thrush in phases, covering the island in a 60-70m layer of stony, rocky pumice. One of the fuller and more concentrated assyrtiko with fruit juicing in and out of the bleeding lava stone. Still a water starved expression as it has to be from its harsh growing climate, a thick-skinned, drought resistant and managed, naturally selected grape. All this portends to make this expression all that much more incredible, of salty, palpable extract, linear and yet magically delicious. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2017  @santo_wines  @Santoriniwines  @KolonakiGroup  santo_wines  winesfromsantorini  kolonakigroup  @SantoWines  @WinefromSantorini

Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2016, PDO Santorini, Greece (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

At Sigalas the eponymous estate σοδειά (annata, vintage, etc.) is assyrtiko, solo assyrtiko, in stainless steel, four months on lees and from 2016, a rich vintage. It’s actually a big vintage, a huge vintage for quantity and quality replete with a fineness from those lees which really compound the mineral butter of this assyrtiko. Like 2011 and more. While the specialized village-specific assyrtiko from Sigalas are each their own sort of exceptional snowflakes, it is this broad yet precise swath of volcanic Santorini that defines the producer and the place. There is no excuse for not drinking a bottle of this wine at least three times a year. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou

Argyros Assyrtiko Estate 2015, PDO Santorini, Greece (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

It must first be noted that the fruit in this Argyros bottle comes from 150-plus year-old ungrafted vines in Episkopi on (and it can’t be overstated) volcanic and sandy soil. It’s 100 per cent assyrtiko raised in 80 per cent stainless steel and 20 French oak for six months. The tenacity of assyrtiko vines built up from lava soil and the steadfast grip mixed with some barrel cream puts this in a singular category for white wine. It never forgets from whence and where it came but it takes grippy, piercing and citrus-stone character to another next level. Not to knock previous vintages but in here there is great structure and the stainless to wood compendium puts it in an ionic to corinthian entablature. Low yields, assyrtiko, a volcano, architecture and impeccable balance bring this all together. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2017    @Santoriniwines  @KolonakiGroup  #argyrosestate  winesfromsantorini  kolonakigroup  @ArgyrosEstate  @WinefromSantorini  @KolonakiGroup

Gaia Wines Thalassitis Santorini 2016, PDO Santorini, Greece (315010, $32.95, WineAlign)

Thalassitis is Gaia’s original wine, first produced in 1994 and the onomatopoeia in the nomenclature is in ode to Homer. The poet referred to Gaia’s Nemea (in the Peloponnese) as Ampeloessa, meaning “full of vines.” The searing and intense endemic to Santorini assyrtiko also carries some impressive weight (on a 13 per cent alcohol frame) with repeated shots of lime and formidable black pumice grit. See ’tis the sound of thalassitis and assyrtiko which mimics its searing and volcanic calescent character. The words sound like the sea to repeat the rhetorical effect. Definitive assyrtiko so easy to swallow. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2017  @GaiaWines  @Smallwinemakers  @Santoriniwines  gaiawines  #smallwinemakerscollection  winesfromsantorini   @GaiaWinesGR  @smallwinemakerscollection  @WinefromSantorini

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, PDO Santorini, Greece (Agent, SAQ 11814421, $31.00, WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou

Santo Wines Grande Reserve 2014, PDO Santorini, Greece (Agent, $40.95, WineAlign)

Santo’s Grand Reserve is a special assyrtiko in its own class. It shares an affinity with other volcanic whites of Santorini in that it comes from selected vines, many 100 years of age or more and it is that mineral-gifting, salty giving soil that speaks of place. But in the case of Santo’s GR we are talking about assyrtiko that spent 12 months in French barrels so the texture and flavour compounds are directed into crème frâiche, island garrigue and tea. The classic Santorini rock and stone is never abandoned or oppressed but the lactic-milky notes are quite present. The citrus too seems less electric, more compressed and the level of tang, whether from lava or by wood spice, is very prevalent. This reminds me of what happens when a winemaker like Anselmo Mendes adds a year of barrel aging to Alvarinho, though in this case the volcano always offers the balance to keep things honest and real. This will age for a long time. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2017  @santo_wines  @Santoriniwines  @KolonakiGroup  santo_wines  winesfromsantorini  kolonakigroup  @SantoWines  @WinefromSantorini

Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Single Village Collection Pyrgos 2016, PDO Santorini, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

This particular locale from the “7” collection is from Pyrgos Village, an assyrtiko on the lees for one year in stainless. The collection are drawn from the villages (all seven of them represented), 1000 bottles per village and only sold by the case. The first vintage of this seven strong is a direct into the micro-place investigation, into what separates one from the next, with a range of altitudes and harvest dates and brace yourself for the news. August 20th is the last one! This Pyrgos is rich and intensely mineral, of wow factor intensity, deeply round and rolling, swelling in waves of Aegean acidity. Fine-spun citrus, of lemon without description, like the sea, its creatures and their freshness, with a zest and a pierce of that lemon. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou

Fascinations with @troupiswinery & @thymiopoulosvin and some Greek geology @DrinkGreekWine

Malagousia

Domaine Porto Carras Malagousia 2016, PGI Halkidiki, Greece (WineAlign)

From Greece’s largest organic vineyard on the western coasts of Sithonia their malagousia is emblematic of a varietal story, of a lost grape, revived in the 70s and 80s. It is here that easier ripening happens and the wines can reach 13.5-14.0 per cent alcohol but with a rich forest acting as a barrier to the sea, trapping cool air and protecting the vineyards from summer heat. Highly aromatic, anti-oxidative and dynamic, like peach potage in syrup, of orchard fruit, an oily palate and a portage of melted alloy sensation. It is both mineral and fat at the same time. Even a bit chewy. Needs a big chill. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted May 2017  @PortoCarrasWine  Domaine Porto Carras  @DomainePortoCarras

Lykos Winery Malagousia 2016, Pgi Evia, Greece (WineAlign)

Lykos Winery was started in 1989, twenty years after Apostolos Lykos’ grandfather had already been using athiri and savatiano for his restaurant, which at the time had 17 seats but has since grown to 1000. Here malagousia explodes with aromatica, it’s rich and viscous with thanks to the island’s southern portion at Halkida. From a climate affected by two seas, so it’s both herbal and fuelled by lemon preserve, so Greek yes but so specific to this place. The acidity has terrific temper, tang and the wet, soft metal is felt. Vineyards at 200m are a mere 12 years-old. Just wait. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted March 2017  @LYKOSWINERY   lykounanalykoswineryevia  @LykosWinery

Y’all should think about pouring this @DrinkGreekWine #malagousia #bytheglass #megaspileo #cavino #achaia #peloponnese #Prowein #prowein2017

Domain Mega Spileo Malagousia 2016, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, WineAlign)

The domain with the awe-inspiring, breathtaking vineyards set in a bowl below the medieval monastery has fashioned a malagousia worthy of Achaia and no restaurant list should discount how much pleasure it can bring. White wine rarely gives away so freely of salty, sweet and tart fruit juice, as if this Mega Spileo was juiced straight from the peach, plum, lemon and lime trees. There are no frivolous bells and whistles here, only natural free run juice within the context of how the varietal is expressed in Achaia. Northern Peloponnese cool altitude character right here. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    @apostolosGW  #MegaSpileo  Apostolos Gerakinis

Domaine Tetramythos Malagousia 2016, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece (SAQ 12910335, $17.95, WineAlign)

Malagousia from Achaia brings the goods and again magnified by the vintage a level of this specific juicy richness. This was fermented in higher temperatures to avoid 2015’s problematic alcoholic fermentation. As a result the impressed and increased humidity translates to the faux-botrytis, peachy sauvignon blanc thing and then the acidity and citrus just take over,. The palate is pure classic malagousia, possessive of great low pH and high natural acidity. This 2016 is crispy but more aromatic than usual. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo

Taverna Toxotis, Düsseldorf

Moschofilero

Semeli Feast Moschofilero 2014, Peloponnese, Greece (477562, $12.95, WineAlign)

The hang time and extraction seem for one, delayed and two, pressed for success. There is a decidedly ripe yet slightly oxidative note on this moschofilero from the Peloponnese, a hint of banana and another one that m makes one think of guava. The palate brings a coiffed citrus and plenty of sour tang. Served warm this will not thrill but with obvert chill and grilled fish it will do just fine. Drink 2017.  Tasted May 2017  @SemeliWines     #semeliwines  #artisanalwineimports  @SemeliWines  @artisanalwineimports

Boutari Moschofilero 2016, Mantinia, Greece (172387, $13.25, WineAlign)

If heights have anything to do with adding some favour and complexity into the success of moschofilero than the 650m of clay soils for Boutari’s bottling launch from a good place. Altitude does in fact bring some extra added texture and it is the palate that wins big. Classic yellow stone fruit, citrus and glade are part of the aromatic profile. The mouthfeel is nicely delicate and then you get the wooly, fuzzy and mouth coating feel. Finishes quick but for the price, as expected. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @boutari  @KolonakiGroup  boutariwines  kolonakigroup  @boutariwines  @KolonakiGroup

Tasting day @winealign

Skouras Moschofilero 2016, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (442178, $15.25, WineAlign)

The Skouras Moschofilero is grown at 700-750m up on the cool locale of the Mantinia Plateau. The depth in colour of the skins can turn out a hue not unlike pinot gris or gewürztraminer and the skins’ texture makes contact so very doable. A hint of though well short of the idea is the approach here, highly aromatic but also lactic. Rosewater and rose petal on the terpenic nose are joined by seminal acidity. The palate adds lemon, lime and grapefruit though stays south of the bitter pith agency. Quite clean, reductive even, of a stainless stylistic and cool. Finishes with lemon polish, certainly a lighter version of dry gewürztraminer but also connected to riesling and the aforementioned pinot gris. A chameleon and very versatile. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017 @DOMAINESKOURAS  @KolonakiGroup  skourasdomaine  @KolonakiGroup  @domaineskouras

Troupis Fteri Moschofilero 2016, IGP Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece (392936, $16.95, WineAlign)

Fteri from Yiannis Troupis is more than just a matter of the rich extract bringing the classic faux sugary aromatics, of sugar pears and moschcofilero’s wild scent. It’s also a spring feeling, of unfurling fiddleheads and their herbal-vegetal, early spring freshness before turning into a pungent fern (Fteri). Such a refreshing white with a two month quick dance in the barrel. Terrific quality from altitude that pushes some salivating acidity thanks to the elevation and all in all over delivers quality at the next step up from entry level. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017  @TroupisWinery  @VictoryWine  troupiswinery  victorywineandspiritsinc  @troupis.winery  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  

Troupis Moschofilero 2016, PDO Mantinia, Greece (463422, $18.95, WineAlign)

Fteri from Yiannis Troupis is more than just a matter of the rich extract bringing the classic faux sugary aromatics, of sugar pears and moschcofilero’s wild scent. It’s also a spring feeling, of unfurling fiddleheads and their herbal-vegetal, early spring freshness before turning into a pungent fern (Fteri). Such a refreshing white with a two month quick dance in the barrel. Terrific quality from altitude that pushes some salivating acidity thanks to the elevation and all in all over delivers quality at the next step up from entry level. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017  @TroupisWinery  @VictoryWine  troupiswinery  victorywineandspiritsinc  @troupis.winery  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  

Muscat

Domaine Tetramythos Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2016, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

If you want to learn anything about breaking through boundaries, magical realism and the pragmatic confidence of a winemaker like Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos than this is the wine for you. Muscat de (extreme) petit grains’ higher level of protein gives it the ability to stabilize earlier, yet don’t think this is a wine without risk or complexity, which is why so many others should use it and make it this way. Great natural acidity again, as always with this producer, pure essence of lemon and what lemon will bring. Like 2014 that acidity and the dry extract are in this vacuum, so this just sucks the moisture from the mouth. Please be patient and wait for the great tart lemon of this Muscat dpg which means “something great” to speak to you. Oh would I like to see this grape and this style done in Ontario. Dry extract and tannin at its white wine finest. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo

The inimitable @tetramythos @DrinkGreekWine of Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos @Prowein #naturalacidity #roditis #retsina #muscat #blancnature #malagousia #Prowein #prowein2017

Roditis

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2016, PDO Patras, Greece (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

The roditis 2016 is a product of a sluggish fermentation, of almost 100 days, plus malolactic that began half way through. As a result it mixes lemon blossom with mineral and goes more unctuous than some other vintages. The complexity and structure are high on the Tetramythos scale. This is the organic bottling, as opposed to the PGI Peloponnese natural. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2015, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Roditis 2015 is the natural one, racked from the top and finally now settled (so at this time of tasting 2016 is not yet in bottle but at this time of writing should already be as it always does in April). This is the cleanest and purest of the natural wines on the planet, low in pH, high of natural acidity and without a care in the world. With nothing to fear in regards to spoilage it can go on its own personal shopping spree, accumulate character, personality and confidence with the end result being that there is more of everything in the natural one. It’s terrifically repeatable, replicable and clonal acidity makes it quite trippy, stepping on and igniting the light fantastic’s wire. You just have to take a stab in the dark with winemaker Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos’ roditis. Or ye have not yet lived. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo

Domaine Tetramythos Retsina 2016, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

The Tetramythos Retsina is made from roditis but can’t be labeled as such, why, because of perfectionist interests and bureaucracy. This is most certainly not the roditis you know, or think you know. This emerges unscathed and in a happy place from out of a natural fermentation and then amphora raised. The cognitive absence of resin and evergreen over-attention is replaced by a conifer funk and a thyme-rosemary herbal meld, but it’s all so faint and subtle. Lots of lemon and even some orange notes are part of the aromatic mix. The texture transfer is seamless and all is calm, a reflection of the maker and the gracious proprietors. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo

Savatiano

Papagiannakos Savatiano Vieilles Vignes 2016, Attica, Greece (Agent, $17.65, WineAlign)

From Attica the old vines do elevate savatiano to a fine level, above and beyond the pale and the ecru. Bottled exactly a year ago I am glad this has had time for the deep citrus and acidity to mellow a touch, leaving this in a perfect drinking window right now. This is more aromatic than you might think, of lime juice, fresh thai basil and the inside of a beeswax-lined concrete tank. I find this quite complex in those terms and then fine if light on the palate. Must be from a tight and cloudy ferment, locked in and wrapped with great protection in its environment, like in a womb, with some semillon-esque, waxy character, gassy and aerified I can see this developing some honey post green figs and lime though it is broader on the palate with some honey dew adding to the green fig. Really needs grilled fish and a good chill. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017  @vpapagiannakos  @MajesticWineInc  papagiannakos  majesticwinesinc  Papagiannakos Wines  @majesticwinecellars

Vidiano

Karavitakis Winery Klima Vidiano 2015, Crete, Greece (Agent, $23.00, WineAlign)

Klima, Greek for climate but also grapevine. Vidiano, indigenous to Crete, Chania to be specific, the Venetian Harbour, on the north coast. What the varietal brings (as opposed to let’s say to assyrtiko) is a tropical aroma profile and a fruitiness that the mineral one does not normally do. The peach-apricot-nectarine thing is almost like pinot gris but this is Greece so don’t be fooled. Rocks, stones and ancient script can’t help but define the line and the architecture of the wine. There is firm grip on the palate and because it grabs hold and holds on, this lingers for quite some time. I really like that length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017  @karavitakiswine  @VictoryWine  #karavitakiswinery  victorywineandspiritsinc Nikos Karavitakis  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.

Pop goes the world. Tasting #popart #evia with Dimitrios @LykosWinery #prowein2017

White Blends

Lykos Winery Pop Art White 2016, Pgi Evia, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

Pop Art White combines the round and ripe ideals of athiri with aromatic malagousia and at 12 per cent alcohol is light, bright and yet has some weight to it. As much lime as lemon (so it must be the athiri that gives the lime), so easy and consumable (though I am actually quite partial it the sister red) but this represents terrific value for straight up grilled fish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @LYKOSWINERY  lykounanalykoswineryevia  @LykosWinery

Seméli Oreinos Helios White 2016, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (477554, $16.95, WineAlign)

The increasingly complimentary bedfellows of moschofilero and sauvignon blanc get together in this Seméli white for aromatic genius, faux botrytis heaven and dry extract success. Though this dries out with its unusually formidable grape tannin there is a linger of citrus and peach juicy elastic plasticity that is just great. Wonderful and playful Peloponnese value. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017  @SemeliWines     #semeliwines  #artisanalwineimports  @SemeliWines  @artisanalwineimports

 

Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Athiri 2016, Santorini, Greece (Agent, $19.90, WineAlign)

The double A is an assyrtiko (75 per cent) and athiri blend, the latter helping to gift access for earlier drinking. Never wavers from its aromatic roots and necessity. Citrus bitters are prevalent but in the lithest way and only really in design to draw it all together. So drinkable but does not forget that its primary responsibility is tethered to an assyrtiko injunction. For people who don’t quite understand the mineral way or the highway. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou

Wine Art Techni Alipias White 2016, Drama, Greece (Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

Techni Alipias is primarily sauvignon blanc (80 per cent) mixed with assyrtiko and the nomenclature tells us this wine speaks to the art of “helping people forget their sorrows.” The vines are found near Mt. Pangeon, a Dionysian cult locale now in the land of Drama. The drama in this blend is subtle, the aromas all about citrus and the texture quite a mouthful to contend with. A highly distracting wine so if you are having a bad day this will do the trick with its tragicomedy mix of tart fruit and round acidity. Drink it with fried little fishes and calamari. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @wineartestate  @KolonakiGroup  wine_art_estate  kolonakigroup  @wine.artestate  @KolonakiGroup

Reds

Agiorgitiko

Domaine Vassiliou Agiorgitiko 2008, PDO Nemea, Greece (WineAlign)

Vassilou’s Nemea agiorgitiko delves even deeper into the fig, raisin and old wood, comparable to an old school reserva tempranillo stylistic. It’s certainly got a musty note in a cool, sheltered from the storm, inside a cave stalactite and stalagmite way. Burnt orange is the dominant flavour in what is ostensibly and seriously rustic stuff. The fruit dries out with leafy compost yet structure and therefore age ability is king. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017  @VassiliouNemeio  #domainevassiliou  Domaine Vassiliou – Nemeion Estate / Κτήμα Βασιλείου – Κτήμα Νέμειον

Lykos Winery Kratistos 2013, Pdo Nemea, Greece (Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

Kratistos PDO Nemea 2013 is 100 per cent agiorgitiko and one of the first wines produced by Apostolos and Athena (Nana) Lykou. As per the marriage of varietal and place it takes a statist approach, with rusty and developed fruit, of strawberry, raspberry and red currant that takes a savoury turn. And then it silkens on the palate, as expected. This really helps to define and perpetuate the Greek red religion, drinkable and ageable, agreeable and to prudence by stashing some away. This is the Lykos high end agiorgitiko, one year in barrel with six types of barrels employed, all with varying toasts. Great length and the wood is merely a conduit of spice, texture and length. Really well done and shows that this winemaker has a way with reds. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @LYKOSWINERY  lykounanalykoswineryevia  @LykosWinery

Troupis Fteri Agiorgitiko 2015, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

Fteri from Yiannis Troupis is bright and ripe for the oft dusty and cured St. George, here in clean, pure, crisp form. Seemingly void of dried fruit, out of tank and no barrel, this is the fresh maker, ready for the here and now. It’s just bloody delicious, of plums and cherries, refreshing and miles from rustic. At $16 back up the truck because this could be the gamay or sangiovese of your summer dreams, or a marriage of the two. remarkable. Luminous, naturally fortified by dry extract and sweet tannin favour. The final cut is the chew, like a bite into a rare steak with no game. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @TroupisWinery  @VictoryWine  troupiswinery  victorywineandspiritsinc  @troupis.winery  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc. 

Skouras Saint George Agiorgitiko 2013, AOP Nemea, Greece (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Both Saint George and Aghiorhitiko grace the label (not agiorgitiko) in this juicy and rambling red, full of tangy red fruit and bright, if quite vivid acidity. There is a good amount of chew and then some baking spice bite on the quick finish. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  @DOMAINESKOURAS  @KolonakiGroup  skourasdomaine  @KolonakiGroup  @domaineskouras

Gaia Agiorgitiko Nemea 2015, Greece (Agent, $21.30, WineAlign)

From Koutsi in Nemea, Gaia’s 100 per cent agiorgitiko is wonderfully dusty, ripe and modern, like clean and pure merlot in a way, with mulberry and raspberry fruit notes followed by bushy mountain savour. There is this perfectly tidy sour tang on the palate that mingles nicely with the early dusty and leathery notes, creating a kind of agiorgitiko liqueur that only it can exude. It’s like Rosso di Montalcino or more like Tuscan IGT (with merlot adding to sangiovese). A chewy and crunchy mouthful to be sure and blessed with a shot of bitters and very good length. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2017  @GaiaWines  @Smallwinemakers  gaiawines  @GaiaWinesGR  @smallwinemakerscollection

Ktima Papaioannou Single Vineyard Old Vines Agiorgitiko 2010, Nemea, Greece (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

The oldest vines from the endemic Nemea grape are chosen for this 17,000 bottle lot, an agiorgitiko of native charm and relevant substance. Substantial in fruit and beautifully rustic, dried fruit and potpourri aromas, the texture is complacently integrated now ten years after bottling. The happy blues of its notes are sung with painless refrain, with cedar, leather, resin and fine-spun acidity all rolled in, some baking spice and the tonic abilities of aperitifs. The vegetal component is not green but it is an oxidative style, pretty, woody and wild. A spoonful or a cupful, whichever your pleasure, will do just fine. “Could fill spoons full of coffee, could fill spoons full of tea. Just a little spoon of your precious love; Is that enough for me?” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017    @KolonakiGroup  @KolonakiGroup

Cabernet Sauvignon

Domain Mega Spileo Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Such varietal accuracy is an exceptionality of Stelios Tsiris’ “Megali Ambelos,” great vineyard gifted cabernet sauvignon. The plateau narrative spoken at 800m along the Diakofto-Kalavrita Road above Vouraikos canyon is not unlike the endemic vernacular but with a firm handshake and bold tannin. The palate is silky and pleasantly savoury, then tart but intensely so. The alcohol measures 15 per cent but is handled with refined power. Like Stelios there is a gentle, polite and powerful confidence with length to scamper up and down the Vouraikos slopes, up to the monastery and back. We’re also dealing with 15-20 years of possibility. Mega Spileo’s is one of the top Greek cabernet sauvignon. Two are better than one. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted March 2017    @apostolosGW  #MegaSpileo  Apostolos Gerakinis

Limniona

Tsililis Limniona 2013, PGI Meteora, Greece (WineAlign)

Limniona is the newest of discoveries, a highly aromatic red, with dried fruit like agiorgitiko, but here from Theopetra Estate in Thessaly, Northern (Central) Greece. There is a minty peach and pomegranate aromatic and texture in a real stretched, elastic and bounce back way, with structure like nebbiolo but with more intense poly-phenolic character. I don’t find this bretty or funky at all but rather as a wild floral and fruit display like a rustic Langhe, with dust and diesel. It’s also savoury like cabernet franc and of something nutty (like Nutella), which is really the barrel talking in smooth ganache chocolate lingo. You’ve got to try this. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017    #theopetraestate

Tetramythos Winery

Mavro Kalavryta

Domaine Tetramythos Kalavryta 2016, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece (SAQ 11885457, $17.05, WineAlign)

This mavro kalavryta repeats the same alcohol and acidity as 2014 and the tune sees no change. Once again we are graced with a back up the track, gamay-nerello mascalese-cabernet franc-fresh tempranillo vein, still so fresh and even minor reductive and chewy. So freakin’ delicious. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo

A sneak peek of @thymiopoulosvin ’15’s was reason enough to fly all the way to #paris #gareaugorille #rapsani #xinomavro #terreetciel #earthandsky #apostolosthymiopoulos

Xinomavro

Boutari Grande Reserve Naoussa 2010, Naoussa, Greece (140111, $17.95, WineAlign)

Naoussa Xinomavro with six years of age is just a baby, seemingly evolved but in so many ways, anything but. The fruit aromas are dried, from raisin to fig and the accents are all kalamata olive and date. This has real drying tannins and a savoury, dusty, musty feel. In 2010 it’s still very good, cementing more legacy defining consistency, but it’s not the best ever. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016 and May 2017  @boutari  @KolonakiGroup  @DrinkGreekWine  @winesofnaoussa

Thymiopoulos Xinomavro 2014, PDO Naoussa, Greece (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

There is certainly more earth than sky this time around, probably because you couldn’t see it through all the rain. In a tough (and nearly disastrous) vintage that will test a winemaker’s mettle, it’s a good thing to have some history in pocket to draw upon and help pull you through. “My family has always been growing grapes,” tells Apostolos Thymiopoulos. They sold off their crop to other wineries but that changed in 2003 when Apostolos returned from having finished his oenology studies. His father was a long time practitioner of organics and Apostolos didn’t know why but today he knows and is thankful for it. Healthy vineyards, low yields and a father’s acumen now help to plough through adversity. The declassified fruit (with no Earth and Sky produced) sees the volatility and acidity down in ’14, but there is no compromise to the purity from a pure terroir. Texture and complex flavours are also compromised but again, purity can never be denied. Drink this honest, direct, ruby, deep rosey and ropey xinomavro for the next two years while both the haughty ’13 and ’15 bottles of Earth and Sky rest, evolve and eventually settle into their skins. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2016 and May 2017  @thymiopoulosvin  @VictoryWine  @winesofnaoussa  apostolosthymiopoulos  eletsi  victorywineandspiritsinc  Eleftheria Tsitsipa  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  @WinesofNaoussa

Thymiopoulos Young Vines Xinomavro 2015, PDO Naoussa, Greece (Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

Here is the Naoussa little angel xinomavro affiche sans barrel, just pure, unadulterated, elastic and playful fruit in a glass. The xinomavro that everyone should know and love, enjoy with reckless, gulpable abandon and put seriousness aside. From 2015, a “3000 per cent better vintage than ’14” says Apostolos Thymiopoulos with a smile of relief and bounce back determination. There was some rain but not too hard so this Young Vines is able and enterprising to dance the passionate Thymiopoulos two-step, from the earth and with a momentary gaze up to the sky. The last thing you need to know is how lithe and ethereal this is, like pinot noir, in Naoussa, with xinomavro. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017  @thymiopoulosvin  @VictoryWine  @winesofnaoussa  apostolosthymiopoulos  eletsi  victorywineandspiritsinc  Eleftheria Tsitsipa  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  @WinesofNaoussa

Thymiopoulos Terre Et Ciel Xinomavro Unfiltered 2015, PDO Naoussa, Greece (Agent, $35.23, WineAlign)

The Thymiopoulos estate vineyards are located in two villages, Trilofos and Fytia. The blend of the two is this flagship xinomavro, Yn Kai Oupavós. Known to us mere western mortals as Earth and Sky, the organic one from Apostolos Thymiopoulos and Eleftheria Tsitsipas picks up where the cherry chewy and very elongated 2013 left off (because 2014 was a difficult and therefore declassified vintage). The house habit of natural fermentation allows xinomavro to do the natural habitat, naturalist’s way, to look into the grape’s mirror and see its reflection naked, pure and clear. This is my second tasting of the ’15 Earth and Sky and though it continues to show some volatility (in the most beneficial way) it has settled (since November) and is now developing its second skin. The leathery hide was quite tough to begin and now gives off a sheen and sweet perfume that only this wine can gift. It also delivers a shot of honeyed, microbial goodness (in the context of its seamless package) with dance party energy. You will taste few wines like this and have not lived until you do. There is genius in this developing story, still in its infancy and on the road to legendary. Mythical even. One for and with the vine. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted November 2016 and May 2017  @thymiopoulosvin  @VictoryWine  @winesofnaoussa  apostolosthymiopoulos  eletsi  victorywineandspiritsinc  Eleftheria Tsitsipa  Victory Wine & Spirits Inc.  @WinesofNaoussa

Red Blends

Domain Mega Spileo III Cuvée 2014, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

The three varietal blend breaks down as mavrodafne and cabernet sauvignon (40 per cent each) plus agiorgitiko. The liquid chalk shapes into classic Achaia red wine though the mavrodaphne really stands apart. The notes of orange, pomegranate, currant and cranberry develop their combined keen sense of locale tartness. This carries sensory development and a right meets proper sheen, where old and new school meet at the twain. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017    @apostolosGW  #MegaSpileo  Apostolos Gerakinis

Domaine Mercouri Red 2014, Vin De Pays Des Letrinon, Greece (213388, $18.70, WineAlign)

A blend of refosco and mavrodaphne, the IGP Leprini from Mercouri is oaky western Peloponnese rusticity at its finest. The nose is wild red berry simple syrup mixed with high-tonal volatility and new leather. The palate follows the thread, like rustic garnacha from Aragon and then a shot of adrenaline mixed with absinthe bitters. For fans of the deep smoky and oaky Greek style. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017

Spiropoulos Porfyros 2013, Peloponnese, Greece (252147, $19.85, WineAlign)

The expatriate Bordeaux grapes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot join with organic agiorgitioko for a dark, hematic, ferric and rustic red, of more barrel than fruit. It’s hard to get past the wood, in fact the high-toned and wild-eyed hopeful fruit is suffocated under that milkshake sheathing. The attempt here is more west coast California than anything else but the result is savoury-syrupy and overly sour acidic in the end. If you like it earthy, robust and glossy then by all means. A deep braise of lamb shanks would help the cause. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Askitikos Red 2013, Thessalia, Greece (485938, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is a highly modern blend of agiorgitiko, syrah and cabernet sauvignon from Thessalia with plenty of ripeness, dark fruit notes and ample wood spice. It carries quite the moderate temper and nice balance between fruit and acidity with easy on the palate tannin. Nothing shocking or out of the ordinary and could be from just about anywhere in Greece. Drink 2017-20219.  Tasted April 2017    #askitikos

Gaia Wines “S” 2014, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (AgentWineAlign)

From the Koutsi hillside, the sensory blend is agiorgitiko (70 per cent) and syrah, a stunning, speculative, modern Greek paradoxical study. Youthful, tannic and structured, here comes the sun from Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, with eyes, mouth and mind wide open. Antinori’s Tignanello may be the inspiration but this Super Nemea is all Greece. Black fruit and silky texrure as expected but once again, the place is the dynamic and the answer to the illimitable mystery. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted May 2017  @GaiaWines  @Smallwinemakers  gaiawines  #smallwinemakerscollection  @GaiaWinesGR  @smallwinemakerscollection  

Mega Spileo Monastery

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2010, Peloponnese, Greece (466110, $29.95, WineAlign)

From one of the great vineyards in the Peloponnese, or all of Europe for that matter, Mega Spileo (Grand Cave) is set within a dramatically oriented steppe of an amphitheatre, in a bowl beneath the shadow of a 940m rock that houses the great Greek Orthodox monastery of Mega Spileo. Nowhere else in the Chelmos mountains does monk viticulture resonate as it does here. Perched above the Vouraikos Canyon at 800m of height, the vineyard sits like a slowly lowered field, dropped down past the granite walls to settle in its place. Winemaker Stelios Tsiris makes this ambitious Greek red, with generous old oak fashion and despite its dried fruit and old, dry tar personality, its spirit is lifted with great Greek acidity. It’s rustic, deferential and so interesting to behold. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January 2017

Kir Yianni Two Olives 2013, PGI Imathia, Greece (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

“Dyo Elies,” or two olives is a blend of syrah, merlot and xinomavro from Naoussa, ripe, sheathed in beneficial oak and ripping with sweet and sour acidity. This is a decidedly firm and grippy blend, quite tannic and with length for days. The moniker is quite apropos because this solicits thoughts of those typical Mediterranean notes, of black olive and garrigue. I’m not sure the olives is so approachable yet, even at four years from harvest and would suggest waiting a further two (or even four) to dig in. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2017  @kiryianni  @KolonakiGroup  kiryianni  kolonakigroup  @KirYianni  @KolonakiGroup

Black Corinthian Raisin in early stages of veraison #manyshadesofachaia #prettyinpeloponnese

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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En route to Mondavi

Godello at Mondavi, February 2016 @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers

I’m feeling a Mondavi shiver and a To Kalon shimmer coming on. Another anticipatory Mondavi experience is looming, a next week return venture to the iconic and archetypal Napa Valley winery. This will be my third deep delve into the wines of Robert Mondavi spread out over the past 15 months, after a February 2016 California visit and a June VINTAGES 50th Anniversary structured tasting and dinner. I thought it might be me that was the one getting around but clearly it’s the other way around.

THIS VINEYARD STOOD HEAD AND

SHOULDERS ABOVE THOSE AROUND IT

“The extraordinary quality of this wine originates in Napa Valley’s generous terroir. When I taste this, I’m reminded why Cabernet Sauvignon is the varietal on which Robert Mondavi built his reputation.” These are the comments of Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking. I’d hedge my bets that Fumé Blanc should also fall under the auspicious umbrella of such a statement. Mondavi turned the ideal into copyright and it should be argued that Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc would not be where it is today without the farming, research and development put in by generations of the Mondavi team.

Mondavi @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers — at Robert Mondavi Vineyard.

No matter the varietal, the To Kalon Vineyard is where it all stems from, the rib from which the eponymous winery was born and the subsequent 50 years of wines that have comes from those storied vines. In 1966 Mondavi chose To Kalon as the epicentre of what would turn out to be a great big winemaking universe. “It was a vineyard with a distinguished history and a magical nature, ” he wrote. “Ideal soils, sunlight and rain – to my eye, the vineyard was a treasure.” Five decades of Fumé Blanc have sprung, along with more than a hundred renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon.

During that February 2016 visit we tasted through Napa, Oakville and Reserve Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carneros Pinot Noir and To Kalon Vineyard bottles were poured in the Margarit Mondavi Vineyard Room at dinner prepared by Chef Jeff Mosher, including the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Lorenzo Loseto predeliction @georgeonqueen Lobster, asparagus, quinoa, brioche #umami

Last June Mark De Vere MW led a masterclass in celebration of Mondavi’s 50th anniversary. The line up was outstanding bordering on ridiculous. Vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon starting at 2012 and going back through 2007, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1980 and 1975. The VINTAGES sponsored event and dinner at George Restaurant was prepared by the predilection of Executive Chef Lorenzo Loreto.

With 50 years of To Kalon and a specialized certification program up next, there is no better time than the present to publish these notes on 16 Mondavi wines tasted during these recent events and a few others that have found their way through the VINTAGES release program. Here they are.

Feeling a #mondavi shiver and a #tokalon shimmer #50thanniversary @RobertMondavi #markdevere

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 221887 $22.95, WineAlign)

The landmark 2015 is the culmination of five Mondavi decades spent elevating and differentiating sauvignon blanc, now in the its 50th vintage. The name fumé blanc and Mondavi are synonymous with one another in unequivocal signature, identical twin, trademark, signature fashion. Not just for Oakville, Napa Valley and California but anywhere and everywhere. You can throw in benchmark, Fodor’s or Lonely Planet guide, dictionary entry or whatever moniker you like. Mondavi’s is all this and in 2015 at its richest and adroitly balanced best. The nose is all ripe orchard fruit from seed to stone and the palate full of texture, acidity and length. The flavours repeat the apple-pear-peach-plum fodder with great tang and near-essential aridity. Great vineyards produce great sauvignon blanc and the rest is history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Oakville 2013, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 13119254 $32.00, WineAlign)

The Oakville fumé blanc is a To Kalon gathering, the vineyard that surrounds the Robert Mondavi Winery. With so many “highest beauty” offerings it’s hard to keep track but this qualifies for the distinction with as much respect as any in the ever moving squall of the portfolio. Here from the geographic mean of the valley, a benchmark Bordeaux blend in bench abutment, composed of 89 per cent sauvignon blanc and (11) sémillon. This is only the third vintage and once in cohorts you note the elevated toast, struck flint and smoke. More citrus involves the senses, something almost rare for Napa Valley, in this way. With time (and please be encouraged to hang out for a while) the butterscotch joins the fumé party. The increased tense intention translates to excellent length. The sémillon makes a statement into the nicely bitter finish, with weight, stoicism and certainly the great potential for age. By way of comparison to the Napa Valley bottle there are 5,000 cases of this Oakville. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Fumé Blanc To Kalon Vineyard 2012, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 225599 $44.75, WineAlign)

The To Kalon Vineyard Reserve produces 2500 cases (in a big year) and 2012 topped out at 1700. The vintage delivers more green apple and elastic elegance so good luck in your search for reduction, flint, toast and smoke. You should look to 2013 for such a deferential stylistic and make plans to embosom the two side by side 10 years onward. This is mostly sourced from the 1959 planted Robert’s Block within the larger vineyard, primarily gravelly and well-draining with some alluvial soil edged against the Mayacamas Mountains. The spice here is exceptional, with some anomalic Napa Valley mineral tang afforded by the sémillon blended into the sauvignon blanc. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (492124, $44.95, WineAlign)

There is a richness defined in a Mondavi chardonnay that goes beyond the simple fact that the fruit is Carneros in origin. It’s a luxe composition because of that terroir and also because winemaker Genevieve Janssens is painfully shy to let the fruit speak on its own behalf. The crux and the key lies and turns right there because this is a Mondavi wine. Just as it is always noted with fumé blanc, chardonnay too develops this obeisant disposition, full of emotive ability and perhaps not exactly what you are want to expect, varietally speaking. This is singular for Carneros chardonnay and it’s all Mondavi. It’s both country kitchen in weekend baking mode and a walk in the ripening orchard. It’s a starred Michelin kitchen in baking fury, with a multiplicity of sugars caramelizing overtop a myriad of ramekins welling with tropical fruit. Finally, it’s a Mondavi acidity, elevated and integrated. It’s good chardonnay. Drink 2017-2022.   Tasted April 2017

Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 2013, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 10219840, $60.50, WineAlign)

Some wise old conditioned and character building vines go into Mondavi’s pinot noir, “purchased from people who have better fruit than we do.” The Hyde Vineyard (40 plus year-old vines) and Rancho Carneros (which includes vines planted in 1979) bring the southernmost windswept part of Napa Valley into the pinot mix. This is optimum extraction in hyperbole, of fruit that runs the gamut from red to deeply dark. It is nothing if not a rich, concentrated and intensely flavourful pinot noir. There is a measure of stuffing to see it drink this way for at least five years from release. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016

50th anniversary @RobertMondavi @LCBO #VINTAGES tasting @GeorgeTO #constellationbrands #cabernetsauvignon

Robert Mondavi 50th Anniversary Maestro Red 2013, Napa Valley, California (459933, $60.00, WineAlign)

Maestro the proprietary blend endows another legacy building notch onto the Robert Mondavi name. This is accomplished through the tenets of wisdom in winemaking as an extension from historic estate vineyards. To Kalon is always the rock and in order to make this 50th Anniversary blend there were sources drawn from throughout Napa Valley though mostly from the Stags Leap District. Merlot (59 per cent) is the pillar with cabernet franc (25), cabernet sauvignon (7), petit verdot (6) and malbec. It’s a true five varietal Bordeaux-styled affair with classic Mondavi elevated pH and acidity. The concept is taken from the image of Robert Mondavi as the maestro of the orchestra and of greater Napa Valley. The liquor of merlot provides the base wine, joined dusty and injected with power by jolts of espresso. It’s an interesting 50th anniversary choice of voice, antithetical to the dominant cabernet sauvignon reds that Mondavi is so famous for and the varietal he staked his reputation on. But rich and velvety helps the cause and the result. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California (255513, $37.95, WineAlign)

The aridity of 2013 has now translated into some lovely development in bottle that trials and tribulates with its wealthy pool of rich, ripe and silky chocolate texture. Such a typically reasoned Napa Valley explanation with 47 years under its increscent belt. Serious tannins need five years to seek settlement and to carry structure for to build a home for the ripe fruit. At 14.8 per cent alcohol there is much to fuel and keep the abode bathed in warmth, along with American oak in pancetta ooze, augmented by smoke and spice. Chewy and huge. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted twice, February and June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Napa Valley, California (459883, $73.00, WineAlign)

This 1996 is the 30th anniversary bottling at 20 years-old showing with impossible structure and beautiful possibilities still lay ahead. Though expecting it to push through to its 30th birthday is overly ambitious it will drink just like this, with freshness, bright red fruit and pitch perfect acidity for at least three more years. The pleasure it currently brings suggests this is what was meant to be, by design, of great fortune or just plain luck, so get it while it rests in this ethereal state. Those who paid nothing for it early on were the wisest of the wise and also lucky. This Mondavi ’96 would be a Left Bank killer in a Bordeaux blind tasting, teasing as it does with whiffs of Cassis and tobacco, plus a fortune in subtle perfume. The finish brings a note of baked bricks, almost like nebbiolo but the structure is all cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, Napa Valley, California (459867, $73.00, WineAlign)

From a cool, oft times wet vintage with an elongated ripening season the under appreciated, under-valued and underestimated cabernet sauvignons of Napa Valley continue to get their say. This Mondavi ’94 will not be denied its voice, showing harmonious parts in symphony, of power, grip and elegance from To Kalon Vineyard fruit, amazing acidity and more than impressive longevity. Here now some notes of balsam wood, mushroom and soy have taken hold with more than just two years of extra time as compared to the silly fresh ’96, but the jig is not yet up. The combination of brown sugar and lingering mixed berry fruit is nothing but lovely. Drink up soon. Drink 2016-2017.   Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012, Napa Valley, California (670463, $150.00, WineAlign)

Much of the fruit is brought to the Napa Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard and it is rounded out with complimentary Napa and 16 months in 100 per cent new French oak. From a post 2011 hardship deliverance, more than welcome, hallelujah even vintage. Now a Mondavi return to floral posture above and beyond the Napa and Oakville bottle norms. So very pretty and powerful, out of saturation and into drought from which tannic structure is born. Full on fruit without borders, up to the top of the walls and back down in to the glass. With each sip the tannin builds and builds until the wall is constructed. There is no escape because the architecture is both classic and exceptional. Don’t be in a hurry. Struggle will only tighten the grip. Be patient and the next decade will deliver elegance and grace. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kalon Vineyard 2012, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (670463, $150.00, WineAlign)

This is just the second vintage of the To Kalon Oakville Reserve (as opposed to the Napa bottling) from a vineyard where Robert Mondavi established his winery in 1966 and the next “great one,” after 2009. The To Kalon (western) Oakville Reserve is like the Gretzky of cabernet sauvignons, a generational player that only comes along once (or in wine terms, two or three times) a decade. The finest blocks and the “walk in the park” vintage conspired to make To Kalon a focal point once again, of both pH and acidity on the elevated scale, telling us that longevity will never come into question. The wall of tannin exhibited by the Napa Reserve is not duplicated here and so it is a different sort of structure that builds, with more black cherry rich fruit and coveted acescence, but also an absence refined, as if the French barrel hides, deftly woven into the fineness of grain. There is a dusty, ropey and slow developing rise in character, as if a low, barely audible rumble can be heard, or sensed. A waffling between great and outstanding is certainly understood but by the time we reach 2030 and add up the career statistics of this To Kalon I’m quite certain the jury will be out. Drink 2018-2031.  Tasted February and June 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, California (670463, $144.95, WineAlign)

Tasted at the nine year mark the vintage warmth has nowhere to hide and the fruit is coming within reason of raisin. A small percentage of petit verdot is part of this Mondavi development from fruit as rich, concentrated and extracted as any. The choices made here surely went a long way towards teaching what subsequent decisions were made with the aridity of 2012, 2013 and 2014. The dried fruit as syrup glazing the layers of cake melts into the decadence of barrel chocolate and a roundness of acidity so different that the 2012s. Some earthy, woodsy floor grounds this ’07 so that you are able to see fruit through the forest’s trees. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Though sandwiched betwixt and gobsmacked between some infamous Napa Valley vintages (most notable 1995-7 and 1999) don’t look past this golden era 1998. To Kalon Vineyard is the source so right there is pretty much what you need to know about pedigree and potential. At this 17-18 years point in time a few drops of soy and a melt or two of caramel are noted in the ’98 Reserve’s development. Secondary affirmations and vintage structure bring out the purity of the herbaceous quality in cabernet sauvignon together with the slow evolution of a quiet, respectful wine. A tender and silky balsamic reduction chimes in though time is still a friend, willing and allowing the fruit to continue its natural path towards senectitude. I can’t find any reason to not seek tertiary character and continue to enjoy this over the next six years. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Napa Valley, California (670463, WineAlign)

A few points of merlot were blended into this 21-year salute to Mondavi’s legacy, a cabernet sauvignon impossibly fresh and bright this deep into life. The acidity is not only persistent it’s downright captivating and spellbinding. With thanks to the vintage of course, after a wet spring and a long, cool summer. Few double digit decade retrospective looks into the Mondavi cabernet sauvignon anthology would deliver such clarity of fruit seemingly immune to the truffled passages of time. By dint of tradition and without any forced supervision wines like this govern themselves and yet this might be a larger consideration regarding the entire portfolio. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016

Say, friend – you got any more of that good Sarsaparilla? #thestranger #thebiglebowski #yeahthatsagoodone

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1980, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Mondavi’s 1980 Reserve comes from a time when Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon was made in an unidentified, free and indirect style. The young To Kalon Vineyard may have already known its iconic place but if the makers also knew they could not have so easily created such an early success for us to revel in 36 years later. This is now and still fresh, at least in the context of three dozen years in the bag, with that tied To Kalon triumvirate of acidity, tannin and structure seamless and unsevered. How many aromatic notes can be described? Sarsaparilla, root beer, baked bricks, tomato leaf, pipe tobacco, eryngii mushroom, potpourri and mocha are eight that come to mind and nose. It’s a juicy ’80, not so much in terms of fruit though further sips bring faint memories on the back palate. All this 36 years later manages to remove responsibility from the omniscient perspective of the winemaker and lay it comfortably and pleasurably in our hands and minds. So much thanks for this opportunity. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1975, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Forty one years is a long haul for a wine to hang in there and I’m not sure more than a handful of 1975 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon not plucked from the future iconic climat of To Kalon Vineyard could have survived this test of time. Even with the impressive longevity and lifeline ability this is now more curiosity than pleasure. Some might say at this stage the wine may be aimless but who can deny that it is also possessive of poised intelligence. From a vintage overshadowed by 1974, there is some old California Golden Seals hockey bag sweat in the aromatic mix along with savoury mulch and mushroom. There really is no fruit left to speak of, prune perhaps but no berries. The acidity still rips with some strength, swirling into the burnt caramel and all things considered this ain’t dead yet. It does show some Bretty notes that the 1980 does not and in the end the adage is true, spoken so eloquently by Mark de Vere MW. “Flavours you cannot replicate without time.” Drink 2016.   Tasted June 2016

Godello at Mondavi, February 2016 @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

The Villa Calcinaia estate dates back to 1524 and its gaining on 600 years of Greve in Chianti history is filled with tales of counts, vines and Chianti Classico lore. Today it is the larger than life presence of Conte Sebastiano Capponi that leads the winemaking charge. Capponi wears the family escutcheon on his heart and carries the torch in his mind. Sebastiano is a critical-mathematical thinker but also a wine producer of existential and linguistic intelligence. In fact, his talents also branch out into the realms of the inter-personal and intra-personal. He is by all accounts, Chianti Classico’s renaissance man.

The Count Sebastiano Capponi of @villacalcinaia in his element #greveinchianti #ilconte #conticapponi #chianticlassico

The estate was first owned by the Florentines Sebastiano del Caccia and Niccola di Andrea Capponi, then sold by the former to the latter and it has been used as a countryside retreat for the family ever since. It was in the second-half of the eighteenth century when Count Ferdinando Carlo Capponi decided to reorganise his property in the Greve valley and begin producing wine. The front had already been refurbished some fifty years before, thanks to Count Ferrante Capponi who also added the chapel. The estate comprises a little over 200 hectares of woodland, pastureland, vineyards and olive groves.

On a more than crisp and impossibly beautiful February morning, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Sebastiano and Godello take a walk around the estate, away from the Greve River and onto the fanned amphitheatre of a hill that encompasses the Villa Calcinaia holdings. To the left there are the old plots; a sangiovese vineyard planted in 1959, merlot in 1967 and the multi-varietal plantings in varied blocks. There were post-phylloxera vines of many varieties re-located; trebbiano, malvasia nero, mammolo, gewürztraminer, teredelgo, etc. Also some 1960s nursery plantings from Florence where a flood wiped out all the markings so strange varieties ended up in the vineyard. Roberto Bandinelli helped to identify and separate what from what though some unmarked field blends still exist.

In addition to the classico four tiers of Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Vin Santo, Sebastiano also makes IGT Toscana in Rosato, Vermentino, white and red blends. There too is a second line called Piegaia, also organic and produced from younger vines at a slightly more attractive price point. I just tasted the Annata.

Piegaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

If the 2014 Chianti Classico vintage was a summons to contest then it was winemaker Sebastiano Capponi that met it head on. Challenging weather and low yields tested mettle and solicited acumen so just as the Villa Calcinaia won the battle, so does the Piegaia. My rudimentary understanding would take this to mean “pious earth,” and it is the clay, silt and mineral Greve in Chianti soil that helps to define this wine. Here is inter-personal sangiovese, umami-aromatic, salato e piccante. There may be less refinement (and maturity) than the older sibling but it does not lack for varietal purity or classic character. Piegaia also confirms if perhaps expands on the tart flavours that define sangiovese, with natural acidity and non-combative tannins. I can’t think of a wine list that wouldn’t benefit from this juicy, organic and time-honoured Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Back to February at Villa Calcinaia. A tour through the inner workings of the winery takes us through some barrel samples, including the yet released Annata Chianti Classico, Riserva and two Gran Selezione, La Fornace and La Bastignano. We also taste varietal Mammolo which is Capponi’s version of back up the truck and gulpable gamay or cinsault, Tuscan style. The tour culminates in a tiny room that houses a relief sculpture of the entire estate. It’s a miniature, naturalistic and realistic dollhouse-like rendering of the plots and vineyards of Villa Calcinaia. It’s so cool. Then we sat down to taste the following 10 wines.

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2013 is a Greve in Chianti by-product of what winemaker Conte Sebastiano Capponi will refer to as a cooler vintage. Elongated ripening was trespassed by early September rain so harvest was delayed. Capponi’s tredici Annata is a demurred and soft one, as if the low-lying cloud-cover created a protective environmental layer to keep the perfume of sangiovese perfectly intact and now omnipresent on the aromatics. This is textured CC of a gentle touch and round acidity, pretty, feminine and downy. Fans of the scuola femminile style will live and breathe this in for its first few years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

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

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

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

So very diffident to that annata Chianti Classico, Villa Calcinaia’s Greve in Chianti Riserva 2013 changes a gear (or three), as it should, into a more reductive and yes, reserved sangiovese. The perfume is deeper clay resolved, texture is amplified and the tannins are not only sweeter than the CC but more toothsome than many Riserva. The acidity is very in line with the annata but perhaps also on the sweeter, even a bit more delicate side. This Capponi walks a very balanced, forward, slow gaining of elevation line, like the vineyards themselves the way they rise with facile incline away from the villa and winery. The peaceful easy feeling gifted by this Riserva impresses the estate’s inclinations, something that is reproduced through a miniature architectural rendering of Calcinaia’s property and vineyards. If you ever pay a visit, don’t miss this fascinating model. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

In the low-yielding vintage like 2014 the current state of Villa Calcinaia’s Chianti Classico Riserva shows the signs of a growth stock as opposed to one that is generating lots of cash. This sangiovese is obviously young and not yet telling its Riserva tale, nevertheless I find it quite soothing and cool but really without any herbs or savour (to speak of). Tannins are fine but not so sweet (like ’13) so this wine begs for more time. Its length and it’s quietude will confirm such a request. The return will be generous and a just reward for those who have exercised patience. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Fornace 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

La Fornace was planted in 1975 in close proximity to the Greve River and its sandier soils bring a contradistinct voice to Chianti Classico produced off of other vineyards on the estate. “The Furnace” is so aptly named because of its solar exposure and how the wine takes it in, bathes in it and extricates it to texture. The plot is not denied some of the typical brick-gray Calcinaia clay and the variegation leads to a beautiful exaggeration of the Capponi sangiovese stylistic. Compared to and in conjunction of what I tasted out of barrel for ’15 this completes the Fornace picture, in line with the texture but leaning away from those sweet accents and returning back to more pure and distinct sangiovese roots. Much time will be needed to elongate those angles. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Bastignano 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

I’m not certain whether La Bastignano should translate to “good fortune or “good luck,” (buona fortuna or in bocca al lupo) but regardless of the nomenclature this Chianti Classico Gran Selezione will bring great happiness at some point halfway through the next decade. It is actually called Bastignano after the name of the holding on which the vineyards grow and the name refers to one of the four originally poderi of 1524. Bastignano is to me the most poignant and specific gaze into the mirror rendering of sangiovese, the Villa Calcinaia estate and the maker, a.k.a. Conte Sebastiano Capponi. This Greve in Chianti GS is such an ulterior varietal expression from less clay, more silt, less texture and more elastic structure as a result. There is less density in Bastignano, it’s more elegant and in single-vineyard Gran Selezione, reaching for the ethereal, especially out of 2014, because it has been handled with delicate hands. You get the grilling meats, herbs and an impression that is all location. The wine of place more than any in the Calcinaia line-up, with just a hint of concentrated earth on the finish. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Casarsa 2013 is 100 per cent merlot, from the 1967 planted vineyard, meaning “burnt house,” or if you like “masion brûlée.” Vine age wisdom, an eastern slope and attention to historical detail define this IGT. It is a wine in which all is forgiven, for those who might have been upset these vines planted 50 years ago were not malvasia nero, but in fact, merlot. Casarsa is the Van Gogh “Red Vineyard” Chianteggaia, of discreet super Tuscan spirit, soothing, etched in international stone, rock-solid, spicy, not-leafy and rich without the confectionary aspects of merlot. I can’t taste wood but I can taste Toscana. Great fineness in acidity and plenty of tannin. I am confident to repeat that 2013 was a merlot year, like 1998. So every 25 years certainly (save perhaps for a stopover in 2004 but even more so, 2008). Villa Calcinaia’s is merlot with “Chianteggaia,” of adult molars or animale chops, as costoletta or braciola and indeed would pair perfectly with tender medium-rare roasted veal or beef tomahawk racks. For twenty years, easy. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Ocolos 2015 (Barrel Sample), IGT Toscana, Italy

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

Villa Calcinaia Le Refie 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $57.95, WineAlign)

Le Refie, “the refit” is not what anyone would expect, a 90 per cent petit manseng and 10 gewürztraminer blend, actually somewhat of a field blend. This harkens back to Villa Calcinaia’s weird, wacky and wonderful mixed varietal history, first from some post-phylloxera plantings and then 1960s Florentine nursery plantings where a flood wiped out all the markings so strange varieties ended up in the vineyards, co-habitating like cats, dogs, rabbits and pigs. Le Refie certainly gives a sweeter impression and plenty of waxy citrus, with beesawax all over the palate. This is a very pretty white, mellow and melting, that really dissolves in the mouth like a soft pastille. In that sense its tonic ability is like a cure, as befits another name for refit. Leaves a tannic impression with thanks to the dry extract separating itself from that delicious melt. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2008, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $83.95, WineAlign)

Villa Calcinaia’s Vin Santo 2008 is dried naturally after harvest in the estate’s drying room to produce an ultra-über traditional Tuscan dessert wine. By February the grapes reach 350-400 grams of sugar content and are then pressed and racked to tiny (55 litre) oak barrels (caratelli). The sweet must ferments on the spontaneous yeasts for approximately seven years with only the occasional refilling before bottling. The 2008 is composed of trebbiano (70 per cent), malvasia bianco (15) and canaiolo (15), the latter giving glycerin but not acidity so it is kept to a minimum. The trebbiano is the backbone and source of its nutty spine. The malvasia adds creamy texture and smooth operating consistency. This is closer (at least on the silken palate) to Montilla-Moriles, in a Tuscan parallel universe way, with very aromatic fruits, great acidity and fleshy rehydrated plum, peach, apricot and nectarine. There is a sense of fennel seed on the back palate and then it’s all marzipan at the end. Quite long and unrelenting. Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

Godello with Jancis Robinson

as seen on WineAlign

In March I attended Prowein in Düsseldorf, Germany, the world’s largest wine trade fair, tasting a fascinating array of wines. I also added short visits to lesser known regions, first the tiny Ahr Valley as well as Rheinhessen in Germany. Last month I published a brief synopsis report based on the following tastings:

Jancis Robinson, Alsace, Greek Assyrtiko, Chianti Classico, Franken Silvaner, The Ahr Valley and Rheinhessen…

It was one month ago that David and I attended Prowein 2017, the international wine congress in Düsseldorf, Germany of such immense proportion that words, description and explanation just fail to do it justice. If you are an agent your goals are simple; meet with your incumbent suppliers and taste with enough new ones to fill the holes in your portfolio. But what if you are a journalist like me? What do you concentrate on? Were do you start?

Canada’s two coolest wine cats present the country’s cool whites to a packed #Prowein house #Canadianwine #ontariowine #winesofbritishcolumbia #drjanetdorozynski #davidlawrason #beyondco

First things first. As a Canadian and a representative of Wine Country Ontario I hung around the Canadian pavilion, talked with our coast to coast winemakers, vintners and marketing representatives, took in the seminars on cool climate wines led by David and Dr. Janet Dorozynski and of course, tasted some wines. I’m glad I did because I might have otherwise missed out on four exceptional Canadian bottles.

It’s @jamiegoode talking up #Canadianwine at #Prowein

Pillitteri Estates Winery Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The quintessential cool climate vintage does for more than chardonnay and riesling as told by this classic tier cabernet franc. From winemaker Aleksandar Kolundzic who is rapidly developing guru status where cabernet franc is concerned, which comes as no surprise when you consider how many variations on the theme he lends his laser focus. The 16 months spent in two to three year-old oak leads to mellow melting integration and that seasoned, grace-gifting wood is used to great advantage. This is floral, expansive, chewy, firm and so very pretty. A wise old cabernet franc that will tell great stories of the years gone by well into the next decade. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @Pillitteriwines pillitteriwines  @PillitteriEstatesWinery  @WineCountryOnt  winecountryont  @mkaiserwine  @WineCountryOntario

Vineland Estates Elevation Cabernet 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (173609, $28.00, WineAlign)

The two thirds/one third cabernet franc/cabernet sauvignon stunner from Vineland Estates is pulled (and now labeled) from the 60-acre Bo-Teek Vineyard found within the designated viticultural area Niagara Escarpment (within the broader Twenty Mile Bench) sub-appellation. Estate cabernet of such acumen is predicated on the sound wisdom gathered by a viticulturist and Vineland’s Roman Prydatkewycz knows his cabernet. Winemaker Brian Schmidt takes this paradigmatic escarpment fruit, passes it through the optimal sorter, removes five to eight per cent imperfect berries and a quarter of the cabernet sauvignon fruit. What remains is hand-punched, sent to neutral barrels and is forgotten for 15 months. What emerges is a naturally sweet, vegetal-void elixir, sharp, focused, fervently nervous, tart and captured as if in a dark vacuum or void. It’s all tied inside snug, concentrated and intense. It’s too early for the burst but it will happen within another 12 months time, followed by a six to 12 year slow release of flavour, texture and descendent development of tannin. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted March 2017  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  vinelandestates  benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt  @WineCountryOnt  winecountryont  @mkaiserwine  @WineCountryOntario

Attention proweiners- Still time to discover cool @WinesofCanada in Hall 9 @CVAWine @WinesofNS #ontariowine #bcwine

Benjamin Bridge Brut Brut Rosé Sparkling 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $44.99, WineAlign)

The adjustment for vintage and evolution means that chardonnay takes more control in the Brut Rosé. Warmth and ripeness were easier to come by in 2012 and though the pinot decrease may seem antithetical and not obvious as a result, it is a brilliant stroke of adjudication. With a 43 per cent stake (plus equal parts noir and meunier) the 2012 Rosé rushes out as an open vein of fleshy aromatics, many of which you will have never nosed before. Citrus and floral exotica, like juice vesicles oozing out of fruit and herbal, of Murraya paniculata, pomelo and kumquat. The omnipresent vitality, energy, intensity and Bridge acidity is never denied and definitely not here but the vintage sets this ’12 apart and furthers the experience with travel around excellency. The liquid hits the palate, expands, vaporizes and recurs. It’s magic really, the sparkling wine tasting equivalent of vaping so cue the health benefits. Just when you thought Benjamin Bridge and winemaker Jean-Benoit Deplauriers had hit the mark they turn the mark on its head. Confirms two salient matters; the Nova Scotia sparkling wine leader is the Canadian commander and blush bubbles are what they do with constant consistency. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted March 2017  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  @WinesofNS  #winesofnovascotia  @winesofns

Blomidon Estate Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay 2011, Nova Scotia (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

The 2011 late-picked chardonnay, the “Hurricane” is a hyperbole of itself. Normally picked in later October, the frost-free weather allowed further time and development. Picked from seaside vineyards just ahead of another hurricane (in a season that included Irene), this is sparkling wine you just have to try. Though lean, taut and as intense as you are likely to taste, the developed character and complexity is visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Three years on the lees brings the texture and fills the gaps, holes and voids created by such a tightly wound cool climate chardonnay. The dry factor is exaggerated in 2011 (a one-off says winemaker Simon Rafuse) but the wine takes full advantage of the Extra-Brut intent. Did it require the anxiety of a recent and an impending cyclone? Can it be duplicated? “That’s the story of the Hurricane.” Visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @BlomidonEstate  blomidonestate  @blomidonestatewinery   Simon Rafuse  @WinesofNS  #winesofnovascotia  @winesofns

You can’t see it all, do it all or taste it all, so you pick your spots. The rest of my three-day, 12-pavilion cum airport hangar wanderings can be summed up in five ProWein experiences; Jancis Robinson, Alsace, Greece, Chianti Classico and a great exploration into Franken silvaner and spätburgunder. The grand dame of wine held a special intimate media tasting. With fewer than 18 international journalists in attendance, Jancis Robinson’s seven favourite wines at ProWein were poured, choices she noted “I think should be useful to our readers and seek out value.” Nahe and Weinviertel riesling, Chinese cabernet sauvignon, Crozes-Hermitage, Amontillado and my picks of the lot from Chile and Sicily.

Robinson’s full list of wines chosen and poured were as follows: Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Trocken Bockenaur Schiefergestein 2015, Nahe, Germany, Zillinger Grüner Veltliner Radikal 2015, Weinviertel, Austria, De Martino Cinsault Viejas Tinajas 2014, Itata, Chile, Tenuta delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito Rosso 2014, Sicily, Italy, Chateau Changyu Moser Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Ningxia, China, Maison Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2015, Rhône, France, Williams & Humbert Jalifa 30 Year Old VORS Amontillado NV, Jerez-Manzanilla, Spain.

41 years experience. 65,000 to choose from. Seven meticulous picks. @jancisrobinson @Prowein #Prowein

De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault 2014, Secano Interior/Coelemu, Maule, Chile (BCLDB, 72702 $16.99, WineAlign)

Poured by Jancis Robinson at ProWein 2017, the departure for Chile and cinsault hails from just south of Maule and well south of Santiago. Grapes come from a tiny commune called Coelemu and in fact the name Itata cannot be used for ‘un-noble’ grapes so Secano Interior is the nomenclature employed. Done up in old clay jars called “Tinajas,” the cinsault gets a sort of membrane, a cap if you will, of a layer of tannin and acidity due to the clay after 15 days of carbonic maceration plus a full year in those amphorae. The 31 year-old vines deliver the first strike, a natural cure, then bitter cherry and so the wine would service better with a further chill. Robinson notes that it’s “chock full of fruit and tradition,” an exploration wine, in a part of the world not on the bigger maps. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @DeMartinoWines  demartinowines  @DeMartinoWines  @WinesofChile  @WinesOfChile  drinkchile  @DrinkChile

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito Rosso 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $56.95, WineAlign)

Here is a regional defining Etna Rosso that comes 16 years after the pioneers began to bring these volcanic magma gems to the world, like Frank Cornilessen and Andrea Franchetti of Tuscany’s Tenuto Trinoro in the Val D’Orcia. Made by Marco de Grazie, Santo Spirito is a single vineyard Etna made on the “black lands,” composed of 98 per cent nerello mascalese, deep dark and volcanic, off of 40-100 year old vines. It’s deeply hematic and the nose is like a cross between fennel and the marriage of lava and garrigue. The wine is aged in French barriques and it shows; of vanilla, really mellow liquid bitters. It’s warm (14.5 per cent), young, oak-welling though energetic, playful, like dark modern Burgundy. The finish as so very volcanic twang, like country music, Sicilian style. Such chewy and grainy tannin drapes all over that long finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @tenutaterrenere  @WinesSiciliaDoc  @WinesOfSicily  @GroupeSoleilTO  tenutaterrenere  winesofsicily  realbenhardy  @TenutaDelleTerreNere  @WinesOfSicily

The honour and privilege to taste Alsace is always welcome and especially when the sit down happens with two exceptional humans like Christian and Valerie Beyer. Their Lieu-Dit pinot gris and noir were terrific examples but it was the Riesling that blew me away. From special limestone this is more refined than similar Alsace from granite, of a salty minerality and intensely elegant.

An @AlsaceWines reconnect with Christian & Valérie Beyer @EmileBeyer @Prowein #justlikestartingover #eguisheim #riesling #rieslinggrandcru #pfersigberg #pinotgris #lieudit #hohrain #pin

Emile Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2012, Ac Alsace, France (Winery, WineAlign)

The Pfersigberg or “hill of peach trees” consists of limestone conglomera Muschelkalk and Jurassic stone. Its south exposure on very deep soil produces early maturing wines but from the exceptional 2012 vintage Christian Beyer’s Pfersigberg will last a decade or more. His family’s domain has been farming organically since ’05, officially since ’12 and half of the producers in Egusheim are indeed organic. Christian explains that this Grand Cru is a special kind of limestone, so similar to Burgundy and it lends the salty minerality of itself. Always carries richness with lime fresh citrus, stone fruit acidity and some honey in a riesling that will turn waxy in secondary life. It’s really about mouthfeel and the crisp crunchy rock salt so I and I believe you should really concentrate on the aftertaste. This is more refined than similar Alsace from granite, here from 35-45 year old vines and 35 hL/L yields. Intensely elegant. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted March 2017  @EmileBeyer  emilebeyer1580  Emile Beyer  Valérie Beyer  @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  @vinsalsace  @AlsaceWinesOfficial

With Panayiota Kalogeropouloun and Margarita Damigou of Domaine Sigalas at ProWein

I also sat down with Panayiota Kalogeropoulou and Margarita Damigou for a ProWein date with assyrtiko and it was a revelation to taste a single-vineyard white that turns the world on its head.

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, Santorini, Greece (Agent, SAQ 11814421, $31.00, WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou  @DrinkGreekWine  winesofgreece  @newwinesofgreece

As does a natural Peloponnese Roditis, a white that ignites the light fantastic’s wire.

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2015, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, WineAlign)

Roditis 2015 is the natural one, racked from the top and finally now settled (so at this time of tasting 2016 is not yet in bottle but at this time of writing should already be as it always does in April). This is the cleanest and purest of the natural wines on the planet, low in pH, high of natural acidity and without a care in the world. With nothing to fear in regards to spoilage it can go on its own personal shopping spree, accumulate character, personality and confidence with the end result being that there is more of everything in the natural one. Its terrifically repeatable, replicable and clonal acidity makes it quite trippy, stepping on and igniting the light fantastic’s wire. You just have to take a stab in the dark with winemaker Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos’ roditis. Or ye have not yet lived. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo  @DrinkGreekWine  winesofgreece  @newwinesofgreece

A roam through the Italian pavilion afforded tastings in Puglia, Sicily and as always Tuscany with a one on one face to face with Chianti Classico’s President Sergio Zingarelli and his estate’s flagship wine.

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $122.95, WineAlign)

This is the flagship wine from the famed estate, a Gran Selezione that bears the patriarchal Sergio Zingarelli name. As expected it is a richer, deeper and depth welling GS, clearly aimed towards the crowning achievement of place, more hedonism, but of course, seeking purity and elegance. The extra year or two in bottle means integration and wood having subsided a bit. “We decided to change the vineyard in 1974 in front of Rocca to be the best vineyard with the best grapes and we will produce our best wine,” I am told by Zingarelli as we taste at ProWein. What was 90 per cent sangiovese (planted in 1999-2000) this 2012 is accented by colorino but in 2014 it will be 100 per cent sangiovese. Elegant as much as sangiovese and Gran Selezione will likely ever strive to be. It is hard not to be impressed with this wine. It bursts with the essence of plums and richest of red cherries, but it’s not without it’s requisite crunch and chew. The absence of astringency is remarkable and speaks to the quality of the fruit and the gentle touch while working with such phenolic ability. Start drinking this anytime. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie  @chianticlassico  chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassicoUSA

Cantina di Ruvo Grifo Nero di Troia Riserva Augustale 2012, DOCG Castel del  Monte, Puglia, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Grifo in Castel del Monte was established in 1960 as a cooperative, with 400 farmers and still operates as such with flagship wines based on the local nero di troia. The output is quantified at 1,200,000 bottles per year and increasing. Augustale is the top tier varietal wine from a selection of the vines and produced in small quantities. There is no mistaking what it is, with that specific yeasty bright fruit, slightly volatile to funky but ripe and generous grape scent and bursting with flavour. Spent approximately one year in oak “but the greatest liars are the winemakers,” says Riccardo Ravasio, Direttore Generale presso (General Manager), with a wink and a smile. Mainly big barrels, plus a smaller percentage of small barriques. Fresher than primitivo and with more structure. This has presence and distinction with just a hint of dried fruit, flowers and truffle towards the finish. Classic adult, mature, experienced NdT.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017    @FedericaSchir  @cantinaruvodipuglia

Miracle on #etna from @PlanetaWinery eruptive #carricante of such acidity! The lime! #eruzione #1614 #patriciatoth #prowein2017 #winesofsicily #Prowein

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014, Doc Sicily, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

“Not everyone can carry the weight of the world,” save perhaps Planeta’s Patricia Tóth, a winemaker who celebrates the past, the endemic varietal and in the present, the glaring truth. The name Eruzione is evocative of the estate’s Cru dell’Etna and in a mind’s eye transports history through the narrative of carricante (with 10 per cent riesling). It brings the legendary 1614 Mount Etna eruption to life, a longest ever recorded catastrophe that lasted ten years, halting just on the border of the vineyards of Sciaranuova. This is veritable mountain altitude wine, from high (790-890m) terraced, volcanic black soils delivering fresh conifer savour, saltiness and palpable mineral style. It is sharp and composed on the nose, with citrus distillate and elevated acidity. It does not matter whether you are wide awake or deep in R.E.M sleep. At all times it is a revelation for carricante. This is what it can be! There was no need for crop thinning, it was picked four to five weeks after the sparkling and it spent five months on the lees. The texture and the potential longevity are thankful for this. “Combien, combien, combien du temps?” At least seven years. Talk about the passion. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

No self-respecting wine journo departs #Prowein without tasting #carricante @PlanetaWinery with #patriciatoth #etna

The Germany pavilion is the epicentre of the ProWein universe. Gravity would naturally pull you to the Mosel and yet I was in search of an alternative experience. With travels to the Ahr Valley and the Rheinhessen looming I gravitated (naturally) to Franken and more specifically to an intensive workshop with silvaner and spätburgunder. The days of the old flattened ellipsoid, field bottle silvaner packaged in traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel are nearly behind us and while several modern, clean and pure examples match up with the great mineral fresh whites around the planet, one stood apart.

Franken Silvaner

Rudolf May Silvaner Retzstadter Langenberg Der Schäfer 2015, Franken, Germany (Winery, WineAlign)

May’s Der Schäfer silvaner comes from the Retztadter Langenberg, a slope of muschelkalk (predominantly from the lower muschelkalk, or wellenkalk) that characterizes the soil. Looking east the location is protected by the Retzstadt deciduous forest and the warm air of the Maintales flows from the west. This specialized and extra-special silvaner is balanced in its aromatic ability meets proper and right-willing alcohol (13.5), with great quality acidity. True salinity and caper brine put my mind’s senses into concepts where this shares a kinship with assytrtiko. It’s brilliant, stony-gemstone able, savoury, no actually sapid, and exceptionally mouth salivating. Just a touch of texture driven lees builds character and great persistence. Bitters before the end are finely distilled and character building. Fresh to drink now and with more ability than most to age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @frankenwein  #frankenwein  Frankenwein Fränkische Weinkönigin  @Weingut.Rudolf.May  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

So much to say about #silvaner and #spätburgunder #pinotnoir

Passion für Pinot Noir! is the avant-garde Deutscher Qualitäswein Franken slogan for spätburgunder. Rudolf May once again impressed with their Retzbach Benediktusberg but as I was about to pour myself a taste of the next wine, a Franken booth associate swooped in to slip me a Burgundy glass, so I knew this was going to be different. It was the next wine that taught me what Franken pinot noir can be.

Weingut Richard Östreicher Spätburgunder No. 1 Sommeracher Katzenkopf 2013, Franken, Germany (Winery, WineAlign)

No. 1 takes not only the estate’s best pinot noir pick but Franken spätburgunder and paradigmatic pinot noir to an entirely new level. The Katzenkopf (“cat’s head”) is Sommeracher’s best vineyard and it is Weingut Richard Östreicher that demands great respect. As I am about to pour myself a taste a ProWein Franken booth associate swoops in and slips me a Burgundy glass, so this must be different. Certainly an elegance and a refinement not seen yet. I’m thinking only on its perfume from the get go but this Franken sensibility is more important, a soil component that just acts of its own accord in the magic it brings to pinot noir. The compatibility of fruit and acidity with the finest grains of sweet and refined tannin is a revelation. The vintage is an important one to be sure and the firm but still amenably sweet finish mixed with a dash of tonic tells me about the longevity this No. 1 is capable to execute. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted March 2017  #richardöstreicher  Richard Östreicher  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

The desparate grade of Ahr Valley vineyards

On day three of ProWein I jumped on the großer Magie Bus with 17 international journalists and headed for the Ahr Valley, one of Germany’s (of 13) furthest northern wine regions. With an area of 150 hectares (of 100,000 total in Germany), even the Mosel is not so far north. Our first visit was to Meyer-Näkel, a young winery in its third generation. Before that there was a winery (Meyer) and Näkel (restaurant). When the grandparents married the entities merged. In 1982 winemaker Meike Näkel’s father took the winery and her uncle the restaurant.

Michael and Meike

Starting out with two, now there are 20 hectares under vines. The slopes are ridiculously steep, prized for their blue slate soils and so difficult to work. Spätburgunder steals the Ahr Valley show and while Meyer-Näkel’s lieu-dit and grand cru (Großes Gewächs) are impassioned and important works, in Ontario you can find their affordable entry-level treat. It really is what basic German spätburgunder needs and is expected to be.

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder 2015, Deutscher Qualitätswein, Ahr Valley, Germany  (427898, $26.25, WineAlign)

The entry-level pinot noir was bottled in the summer of 2016, after a hot season and dry elsewhere but in the Ahr it rained and it was cool overall. Picking was actually late and the aromatics show off the long, cool, floral temper. De-stemming and fermentation is immediately initialized but the maximum fermentation is 10 and usually six days. The pips are just a quick doo-wop to keep both green and bitter away. A focus on fruit, an absence of tannin and a pure varietal expression. Red trumps green, large wooden casks (15-20 years) also impart no tannin so the finality is simply cherry. That said, this carries some almond pit and green strawberry on the palate. It’s really what basic German spätburgunder is and expected to be. Nicely balanced and in at 13 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    @vonterrabev  Weingut Meyer – Näkel  vonterra  @MeyerNaekel  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Yet nothing could prepare me for what a former German wine queen would pour. Julia Bertram grew up in Dernau, gained experience at Meyer-Näkel and Klumpp. In 2013 she launched her own her vineyard with just half a hectare and now farms three and a half. Nothing fascinates her and the “SchlAhrVino” (association of young Ahr vintners) as much as ripe wines, especially pinot noir. Her whole bunch, wild ferment spätburgunder is nothing short of intense. The world should get ready for her alternative Ahr universe.

World get ready for #juliabertram and her alternative #ahr universe pinot noir @weininstitut #ahrvalley #spätburgunder #handwerk

Julia Bertram Spätburgunder Handwerk 2015, Ahrweiler, Germany (WineAlign)

Former German Wine Queen Julia Bertram grew up in Dernau, gained experience at Meyer-Näkel and Klumpp. In 2013 she launched her own her vineyard with just half a hectare and now farms three and a half. Nothing fascinates her and the “SchlAhrVino” (association of young Ahr vintners) as much as ripe wines, especially pinot noir. Her whole bunch, wild ferment spätburgunder is nothing short of intense. Bone dry, tart and spirited by crisp acidity, the young vines and used barrels deliver notes that are embattled in a spontaneous, natural, posit tug. The world should get ready for her alternative ahr universe pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017    #juliabertram  Julia Bertram  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

The next two were Rheinhessen days, first with five Appenheim village winemakers at Weingut Willems & Hoffman, followed by a visit to taste more deferential and singular spätburgunder at Weingut J. Neus. The single vineyard of Hudertgulden in Appenheim is one of the Rheinhessen’s finest. At Neus we got grippy with the muschelkalk soil meets spontaneous ferments from the team of Operations Manager Lewis Schmitt and agronomist/oenologist/winemaker/cellarmaster Julien Meissner’s pinot noir.

Weingut Knewitz Riesling Hundertgulden 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

From the Burgundy-like soils of this special rolling hills nook in the Rheinhessen, replete with shells and corrals, the Hundertgulden, “hundred guilders” is the most important single vineyard in all of Appenheim. The vintage trumps 2014 and nearly bone dry is still the operative in this super salty, linear, lengthy and age-worthy riesling. A true blue limestone vernacular is spoken and the stone simply slides and glides through the wine. Definitive of place, with leesy texture, elegant, balanced and seamlessly woven through. There is more lime zest and juice than the Appenheimer and more overall citrus tendency. The mirror of Appenheim. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017    weingutknewitz  @Weingut.Knewitz  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Getting grippy with #pinotnoir #jneus @weininstitut #spätburgunder #ingelheim #muschelkalk

Weingut J. Neus Spätburgunder Muschelkalk Alte Raben Trocken Ingelheim Am Rhein 2014, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

From vines 25-40 years old, depending on which barrels are chosen for the final blend, off of the estate’s singular limestone muschelkalk soils. Even some 45 year-old vine fruit can be used, ferments kept separate, just as winemaker Julien Meissner will do with the Großes Gewächs. After tasting the younger vines spätburgunder and trocken first this acts less up front fruit forward, now spirited, of a phenolic tonic, variegated, characterful, open and spontaneous. Large (600 and 1000L) 100 per cent new oak barrels add char and spice to the rampant cherry, but also structure that takes you on the ride from background to foreground. “A strict style of pinot noir,” says Meissner, a cellar master who triples as agronomist and oenologist. Reduction begs for patience and time, tannins are taut and there is this minty, Mornington Peninsula pinot effect. Fruit, tannin, chalk and the conduit of Neuss acidity. The whole package. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @JNeus1881  jneus.ingelheim  @J.Neus.Weingut.seit1881  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

We moved away from the red wine thematic and into more familiar territory when we stopped in at Weingut Thörle for a visit with Christoph Thörle. The single-vineyard Hölle and Schlossberg rieslings are as exceptional as any in Germany but the Ontario presence of the Feinherb should never be overlooked.

Some of Germany’s finest #riesling coming to @TerroirTalk May 29th #thorle #Terroir2017 #christophthorle #saulheim #rheinhessen #terroirsymposium #holle #agotoronto

Thörle Riesling Feinherb 2016, Qualitätswein Rheinhessen, Germany (420091, $18.95, WineAlign)

Off-dry riesling does not always have to be bottled as such but in the Rheinhessen and at Thörle the category of Feinherb is anything but an afterthought. This started as a side fermentation in its first years but is now an important wine in the estate’s multi-tiered processes. The cuvée is gathered from younger vines plus one barrel of premier cru Saulheim fruit. A slight skin maceration (12-18 hours) is employed which helps to temper the tartaric acid though this will be swapped for whole bunch fermentation in warmer years. Hides some of its sugar, especially on the nose which is quite floral, of white flowers and honeysuckle. Honey and wax with sweet herbs bring all into playful light to taste, with plenty of sweet lime and lik-a-maid sour touches. For every Indian Food list in the world. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  Weingut Thörle  @WeingutThoerleGabsheim  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

On our last day in the Rheinhessen we stopped in at Weingut Manz and if you ever find yourself in their tasting room, expect a multi-varietal experience. On any given day you may taste weissburgunder (pinot blanc), riesling, grauburgunder (pinot gris), sauvignon blanc, spätburgunder (pinot noir), merlot, cabernet sauvignon and finally, huxelrebe trockenbeerenauslese. On this day it was the wines spoke to the territorial low yields and late harvest work of Eric Manz.

#goodcombo #weingutmanz #rieslingauslese #herrenberg #restaurantvolker #oppenheim

Weingut Manz Riesling Spätlese Trocken Kehr, Weinolsheimer 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Kehr from Eric Manz is riesling of extremely low yields and a late harvest for what shines to be high in complexity and aging potential. Generous skin contact and even more so in lees action effect makes this quite different than the Kehr “M” but also the Herrenberg Trocken Spätlese. With the sugar here remaining in line with the Hipping (Niersteiner) it is the high acidity that drives the Kehr machine. This seems less arid than the Hipping, more energetic and more reductive than the “M.” Higher potential for aging with so much lime cordial sparkles and brings spirit that will persist into a petrol and honey future that would have to be bright. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted March 2017     Weingut Manz Weinolsheim   @weingut.manz.weinolsheim  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

I don’t always taste #roterhang Riesling but when I do it has to be in the #fockenberghütte

The week in Germany saw virtually no sun, that is until the final morning outdoors above the Rhein River under the shelter of the Fockenberghütte. Here we tasted the Nierstien wines of Weingut Domtalhof, St. Antony and Louis Guntrum with our charismatic M.C. Konstantin Guntrum. We walked the famed Roter Hang Vineyard and had the great fortune to taste Guntrum’s ethereal 1976 Neisteiner Heilgen riesling. Guntrum wears the passion for his home vineyard in his expression, on his sleeve and by the way he walks. “Roter Hang is a geological statement,” he explains. Red soils of friable sandstone, steep and breathtaking. Nierstein is the portal into which you can peer to wonder about great riesling grown above the Rhein.

Weingut Louis Guntrum Riesling Trocken Nierstein Oelberg 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Nierstein’s Oelberg is for vintner Konstantin Guntrum a changing landscape, of different light and greater fog. This dry riesling gives off the sense of intelligence and so grabs your attention and demands your concentration. It also solicits conversation. Takes its time to open up, with no petrol note but the grace of mineral is back there. Lean but slowly changing and developing in just the short time in glass, the charm envelops your sense of smell and taste, renders them keen and then you give it up for the aftertaste and the persistence. While the layers will not yet peel away they will, though may need two full years to do so. Forget the need for immediate gratification because this one is mineral skin deep. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @LouisGuntrum  #louisguntrum  Weingut Louis Guntrum  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

When you see one grand cru you’ve seen another grand cru #nierstein #rheinhessen #rhein #roterhang

The German wine experience is owed great thanks to Stefan Egge, Christiane Schorn, Brigitte Küppers, Michael Mandel and Carola Keller of ProWein press department, Messe Düsseldorf and Wines of Germany. I have been on many Press trips over the years and the organization in Germany was second to none. I will now begin looking forward to ProWein 2018. Until then.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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