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Gourmet Games – October 2

Special Offer for WineAlign Members:  $15 Off the Ticket Price (Promo Code: WineAlign)

Join Azureau Wine Agency on Thursday, October 2, at the 2nd Gourmet Games to sample over 60 wines from 14 award-winning wineries from around the world.  Guest chefs from some of Toronto’s best restaurants will also conduct high concept cooking demonstrations as top sommeliers engage in a food/wine pairing competition designed to educate consumers on how wine professionals recommend enjoying wine.2014-09-11_14-00-50

“We invented the Gourmet Games as a fun way for consumers to get into the minds of top chefs and sommeliers and learn to think as they do,” says Dan Rabinovitch, President of Azureau Wine Agency. “No one is going to tell you a pairing is wrong, but our guests may learn something new about the magic that can occur when two sets of flavours and textures are combined. Of course, simply walking around and discovering new wines is also welcome at the Games.”

The Gourmet Games features world-class food & wine talent including Master of Ceremonies Bob Blumer of the Food Network, WineAlign’s Sara d’Amato (who will be moderating the Premium Experiences), Sommelier Zoltan Szabo, and chefs from perennial top Toronto restaurants Cava, George on Queen, and newcomer Cluny Bistro. Wineries from Spain, Italy, Argentina, California, Australia, South Africa, and Chile will be pouring wines that are available for order at the show or purchase at the LCBO.

Sara's New Pic_Sm

Sara d’Amato

Premium Experiences (moderated by Sommelier and WineAlign critic Sara d’Amato):

World Wine Bubbles, Exploring Non-Traditional Sparkling Wines 7-7:45 pm

The Winemaker Series by Alpha Crucis  8-8:45 pm

Vino & Smoke, Cigar and Wine Pairing with Mombacho Cigars  9-9:45 pm

Event Details:

Thursday, October 2, 2014
Location: Berkeley Church – 315 Queen St. East
Time:  6:30 to 10 pm
Tickets: $80 for General Admission/$25 for each Premium Experience

WineAlign Members receive $15.00 off ticket price – Use Promo Code: WineAlign

 Purchase Your Tickets Here


Participating wineries include:

Bodegas Salentein/Callia – Argentina
Chalk Hill/Alpha Crucis – McLaren Vale, Australia
Armas de Guerra – Bierzo, Spain
Vega Sindoa – Navarra, Spain
Rioja Vega – Rioja, Spain
Casas del Bosque – Casablanca, Chile
Erste + Neue – Alto Adige, Italy
Antica Fratta – Franciacorta, Italy
Winery Exchange – California, USA
Bodega Rejadorada – Toro, Spain
Paca & Lola – Rias Baixas, Spain
Simonsig – Stellenbosch, South Africa

Click here for more information on the wineries and the wines they will be pouring.

About Berkeley Church:

berkeley-st-church1Built in 1871, The Berkeley Church has been transformed into Toronto’s most original event venue. Nowhere else will you find such a beautiful blend of traditional ambiance and modern decor. Details such as the original 17-foot stained glass windows, hard wood floors and Victorian Inspired bar makes the Berkeley Church a stunning escape from the ordinary. This location is accessible by TTC, taxi and Green P parking is available on all surrounding streets for responsible designated drivers.

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Bill’s Best Bets – September part 2

September 18th Cellier Release
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Back again with what to buy from the 2nd Cellier magazine release which will be Thursday, Sept 18. The last release (Sept 4th) focused on Bordeaux and the Rhône. This time, many of the wines hail from a region which is very dear to us Quebeckers, the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Quebec is quite unique in the world with respect to this oft-maligned region. In many parts of the world, including France, it is known for producing bulk wine. Back in my days working the restaurant floor as a sommelier, I was shocked on a number of occasions when I suggested a Languedoc wine to French tourists, and their response was that they would never drink such cheap wine.

Amazing how perspectives on a wine region can be so different. The Languedoc-Roussillon is number one in Quebec in terms of bottles sold of any region in the world. And it is not of bulk wine. To me, the Languedoc is one of the more dynamic wine regions in the world. And while they do produce a ton of wine – the Languedoc-Roussillon produces more than all of Australia – much of what we see here are wines that are not only interesting and unique, but exceptional value.

So if you are already a fan, here are some suggestions. If you aren’t familiar with the region, then it’s time you get up to speed. This is Bargainville folks. From the sparklings of Limoux, to the rusticity of Corbières, the refinement of Coteaux du Languedoc, to the sun infused grapes of the Roussillon, there is truly a wine for every palate.

Le Loup Blanc La Mère Grand Minervois 2011Pierre Gaillard Transhumance 2011Let’s start with the wines that gave me the biggest buzz. From one of the least known appellations of the Languedoc, Faugères, is the 2011 Domaine de Cottebrune’s Transhumance. The winery is owned by one of my favourite vignerons in Cȏte Rȏtie, Pierre Gaillard. And much like his wines of the Northern Rhȏne, this is power in a velvet glove. Gaillard’s delicate touch is unmistakable as he takes this classic grenache-syrah-mourvèdre blend and offers up a palate of powerful fruit and garrigue with refinement and class. (180 cases)

On a completely different track, but with an equal joy factor, is Vignoble Le Loup Blanc’s 2011 Minervois. This is a beautiful expression of syrah and grenache. Owned by now Montrealer Alain Rochard, this has all the aromatic expression of a low to no sulphite wine. Organic, grown and made with care, the wine has incredible energy and purity. No oak to get in the way – just fruit, fruit and more fruit. (172 cases)

Moving south into the Roussillon, the Parcé Frères 2010 Cotes du Roussillon Village, Zoé, is made for those who want wines with torque. A blend of syrah and grenache, you can sense the sun in the grapes with its rich, dark fruits. But underneath the mass of fruit is a mineral streak that refines, adds depth and refreshes. (300 cases)

Zoé Parcé Frères 2011 Tessellae Carignan Old Vines 2011 Château L'argentier Vieilles Vignes De Carignan 2011If the Zoé isn’t big enough for you, try the 2011 Old Vine, cuvée Tesselae, Côtes du Roussillon from Louis Roche. Especially if you drink more new world wines and want to try a wine from southern France, this wine will make the transition very easy. Holds its 14.5% alcohol very well. I refer to it as one of those aaarrrrgggh! wines. Try it and find out why. (249 cases)

As I did last time, I’ll use this newsletter as a forum to talk about other noteworthy wines that are not part of the magazine release, but deserve some love. Fans of the carignan grape will be happy as the SAQ has re-ordered Elisabeth et François Jourdan’s Vieilles Vignes L’Argentier. Much like the 2010, the 2011 is dark fruited and replete with notes of black liquorice, meat and minerals. Never about the fruit, this is all about the texture.

No discussion of the Roussillon is complete without mentioning the fortified wines of Maury. I recently tasted two wines from Mas Amiel, and both are worthy purchases, especially if you are fans of Port. Less sweet and more elegant than the Portuguese wines, Maury’s wines often go un-noticed. The 2011 Vintage shows notes of figs and dried cassis. Amazing pairing with anything chocolate. If you want to try something even more impressive, there are a few bottle of the 15 year left in the store. Apparently the SAQ has yet to re-order them, so not sure when this exceptional wine will be back. If you can find one – buy it!

And finally, there are two Rhône wines that were not in the September 4 release. I love the Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Château Mont-Redon. When I first tasted the 2009 two years ago, I found it a touch fat, which was due to the hot vintage. But two years later, I’m happy to report that the wine is now tasting very much like the Mont-Redon that I love – finesse, elegance and all about the fruit. Patience pays off!

Mas Amiel Vintage 2011 Mas Amiel Prestige 15 Ans D'age Château Mont Redon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2009 Philippe Nusswitz Orénia 2012

Also of note is Philippe Nusswitz’s 2012 Orénia. From the little known IGP of Duché d’Uzès, which is located in the northern part of Nîmes, this is a classic fruit first Rhône wine. Keep it chilled and enjoy.

So that’s it for now. Next on the newsletter list is September’s 20 under $20.


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

Bill’s Best Bets – September 4th Cellier

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 13th – Part Two

Wines That Moved UsSept. 11, 2014

by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

In Part One of our September 2013 release preview we sifted through the large contingent of Ontario wines being offered by VINTAGES. And we have also just published an Ontario Wine Report that updates the many local wine events in the weeks ahead, and recommends even more Ontario wines available outside of the LCBO. All of which has left us a blank canvas this week to highlight a random selection of wines that simply moved us.

But before revealing them, a note that our critics’ reasons for selecting which wines to highlight can differ. We do not have a formula, and we don’t consult with each other. Personally I am moved first by quality, especially when from an unexpected place or winery. I love to see underdogs over-achieve. Often of late those wines have been organically or biodynamically grown without my knowing that fact ahead of time. But a wine will usually only show up among my picks if value is also a big factor.

Most important, there are many, many other wines not mentioned that we like and have rated highly. So not being mentioned does not mean they are not worthwhile, and I strongly urge you to go the next step and browse the entire slate of reviews from each critic. You can find the complete list of September 13th VINTAGES wines under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later.


Lefèvre Rémondet Brut Blanc Crémant De Bourgogne

Vincent Couche 2002 Brut ChampagneVincent Couche Brut Champagne 2002, France ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This is great value in mature but still vibrant Champagne. I mean who expects a 14 year-old vintage Champagne to be this good and this youthful for $50 (a base price for Champagne). Vincent Couche is a leading light in the ranks of small “growers”, tending is 32 acres organically. I strongly suspect that accounts for the energy and depth that took me by surprise at the tasting bench, before I knew anything about Vincent Couche.

Lefèvre Rémondet Brut Blanc Crémant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($20.95)
Sara d’Amato – A remarkable crémant that offers the toasty lees and depth of a Champagne. A blend of 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay makes for a good deal of substance and power. Celebration worthy.


Studert-Prüm 2012 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany ($20.95)
John Szabo – There’s simply nowhere in the world that can reproduce this wine style, and great Mosel Kabinett is surely among the world’s best wine buys. This is a superb, intensely mineral, very natural wine with an absolutely unique flavour profile, at a giveaway price. Best 2014-2022.
Sara d’Amato – This Kabinett is refreshingly traditional and offers so much enjoyment, complexity and stuffing for the price. Slate, petrol and buckwheat honey are offset by wild herbs and lemon curd. This unmistakable value is nervy with plenty of racy mineral and terrific length.

Michel Gassier 2013 Les Piliers Viognier, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato: This deliciously complex viognier boasts impressive freshness and balance with a long, lingering finish. A great deal of compelling flavours have been coaxed out this simple Vin de France from Michel Gassier who focuses on organic farming in the Costières de Nimes region. Try with crab or sushi.

Kunde Chardonnay 2012 Sonoma Valley, California ($21.95)
David Lawrason –  There is of course a strong movement to cool climate, lean, mineral chardonnays, but this celebrates what made first made California chardonnay famous. It is boldly fruity, delicious yet even handed in all respects.  Kunde Family Estate is an impressively large producer with vineyards both on the floor of and in the hills above Sonoma Valley. Winemaker Zach Long strives for “balanced fruit, and full flavoured complex wines”.  He’s nailed it here, at a good price.

Studert Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2012 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Viognier 2013 Kunde Chardonnay 2012 Stellenrust Wild Yeast Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2011 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon Uchizy 2012

Stellenrust 2011 Wild Yeast Barrel Fermented Chardonnay Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95) John Szabo – From a near-century-old estate with high-elevation vines in the cooler Bottelary ward of Stellenbosch, this is classy, complete, intriguing wine at a great price, for those seeking character and depth at a fine price, not just simple, fruity white.

Seresin 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand ($21.95)
David Lawrason – Here is another biodynamically farmed success story. It was a stellar vintage for NZ sauvignons with most showing real depth and vibrancy. What I like about this example is it’s leaner, more mineral style, whereas many Marlborough ‘savvies’ are getting very fruity, fatter and a touch sweet.

Mallory & Benjamin Talmard 2012 Mâcon-Uchizy, Burgundy, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason –  Great value here –  a lovely tender, fleshy and bright style of chardonnay that Macon does so well.  The sister and brother Talmard team have taken the family’s 31 ha – spread through four villages in southern Burgundy – and increased both quality and quantity.

Red Wines

Wits End Luna Shiraz 2012

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Reininger 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington ($20.95)
David Lawrason – This is a great buy from the Pacific Northwest – so why not have included it in the PNW feature last month, where it might have received more attention?  This immediately impressed with structure and depth well beyond $20 – a classic firm yet generous cabernet to drink now or hold five years.
John Szabo – From the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards, this is a full, dense, savoury and spicy Washington cabernet with firm, hard tannins and plenty of extract – not a wine for fans of fruit, but much more distinctive, “terroir”-dominated profiles. I’d suspect this will be better after another 1-2 years and hold for close to decade, which is rare indeed for a $20 US wine. Best 2015-2022.

Chateau Montelena 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($59.95)
Sara d’Amato – While many of the 2011s from California are lean, a little mean and sadly dilute, Chateau Montelena has risen to the task of creating a wine for the ages with freshness, complexity and length. This stripped down version of this iconic cabernet is one of my favorites in recent memory

Wits End 2012 Luna Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($16.95)
David Lawrason – I had just finished tasting the excellent $60 “Bruce” shiraz when along comes a shiraz of very similar style and only slightly less quality – at one third the price. Wits End is made by Chalk Hill Wines owned by the Harvey family. The wine is made by French oenologist Emmanuelle Requin-Bekkers, who apparently has a very elegant touch.

Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2013

Salton Classic Cabernet Franc 2012

Cederberg Shiraz 2010Château De Pierreux 2013 Brouilly, Beaujolais, France ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This jumped off the tasting bench with amazingly lifted florality and juiciness – the way I remember other fine Brouilly gamays over the years. It is from a very large estate that is now in the portfolio of Burgundy’s Boisset family, and has been converted to biodynamic viticulture.

Salton 2012 Classic Cabernet Franc, Serra Gaucha, Brazil, ($12.95)
Sara d’Amato – Although a very simple wine, it is pure, un-manipulated, juicy and certainly intended to please. A lovely value from Serra Gaucha – Brazil’s largest region under vine, producing over 85% of the country’s wine. Located on the border of Uruguay, its topography is made up on mostly low mountain ranges populated by “gauchos” (cowboys).

Cederberg 2010 Shiraz, Cederberg, South Africa ($24.95)
John Szabo – 250 kilometers north from Cape Town, the Cederberg winery (which confusingly shares its name with the Wine of Origin Cederberg ward, though it’s also the only winery in the region), is South Africa’s highest elevation wine farm at 950-1100 meters asl. The vineyards are surrounded by pristine fynbos (native vegetation) and there’s no downy mildew thanks to isolation and extreme conditions. This is savoury and firm syrah, fresh, dark-fruited and spicy, with excellent length. Best 2014-2020.

Stobi Vranec 2010

Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2009

Carrick 2011 Pinot NoirCarrick Pinot Noir 2011, Central Otago, New Zealand ($38.95)
Sara d’Amato – Carrick has been producing noteworthy pinot noirs since the mid-90s that have featured potent, aromatic appeal and great refinement. Hailing from Central Otago, one would expect this to be, very ripe and perhaps a touch overblown. On the contrary, the wine is supremely elegant, slowly revealing layers of flavour in the glass. Nicely structured for mid-term cellaring.

Dominio De Tares 2009 Cepas Viejas Mencia, Bierzo ($29.95)
John Szabo - A reliable name in the region of Bierzo, Dominio de Tares’ “Cepas Viejas” (old vines) is produced from vines over 60 years old. This is just starting to come into prime drinking – I love the mature, spicy nature of this wine, coupled with freshness and structure, though there’s still lots of life ahead. Best 2014-2024.

Stobi 2010 Vranec, Tikves, Republic of Macedonia ($11.95)
John Szabo – for the price you can’t very well go far wrong here. In my slowly growing experience with Macedonian wine, the local variety vranec is easily the most interesting, hitting a profile that reminds me somewhat of cabernet franc with its dark fruit and floral aspects, and firm but not hard tannins. I have to say this is a very solid and flavourful wine for the money, and well worth a look. Best 2014-2020.

And that’s it for this week. We are working ahead on the September 27 release which features Portugal and a huge international selection as VINTAGES beefs up for the big autumn buying season. Also in the pipeline is an article on Niagara riesling by John Szabo, and then a look at the rieslings of Austria’ Wachau region by Julian Hitner.


Until next time!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES September 13th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Sept 13th Part One – Ontario Focus

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Chateau St Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County

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Ontario wine is busting out all over.. and our critic’s pick their fave’s

Ontario Wine Report – 2014 VintageSept. 11, 2014

by David Lawrason with notes Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

It’s that time of year to zero in on the fruits of labours past, and Ontario winemakers and wine lovers should be pretty pleased at the moment. On to vintage 2014 in a moment, but we are now enjoying some cracker cooler clime 2013 whites and richer 2012 reds (the best balanced hot vintage wines to date).

But first to tasting and buying opportunities. On Saturday VINTAGES releases a chunk of notable Ontario wines, which John Szabo covered right here. Meanwhile the folks across the hall on the General List side of the soon-to-be-sold LCBO HQ launched an Ontario TasteLocal promotion of their own, with a youth-oriented tasting on Queen Street West before Labour Day, and a release of new wines as well, although many are marketing driven commercial blends or less expensive varietals of little real interest.

Looking ahead, The Niagara Grape and Wine Festival launches Sept 13 with three full weekends of tastings and events at And Wine Country Ontario is gearing up for its big annual downtown Toronto VINTAGES-sponsored tasting of over 100 wines at the Royal Ontario Museum on October 2. See Taste Ontario at So no excuses not to find wine to taste.

On a political level, things are also perking along for wider distribution of Canadian wine. At the recent premiers conference in Charlottetown PEI,  B.C. Premier Christy Clark managed to squeeze a commitment out of Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne that within a year Ontario would do something about opening its borders to the direct import of B.C. wine for personal consumption. (B.C. already allows Ont wine to be direct shipped). We await the details and timelines, but as I have said all along – go ahead and order it anyway. The feds made it legal in June 2012.

Just before that announcement, the C.D. Howe Institute endorsed greater competition and privatization of wine sales in the province, which would suit The Wine Council of Ontario just fine. It has rightly and bravely been promoting the sale of both domestic and imported wines in private wine shops in Ontario at

And finally, in the vineyard, where it all counts for quality, Ontario winemakers are also breathing a bit easier for the 2014 vintage. The frigid winter played havoc with exposed (un-buried) vines, reducing crop levels, and severely damaging winter sensitive varieties like merlot, sauvignon blanc and syrah. Some Lake Erie vineyards will have only 10% of their normal crop! A late spring and coolish summer had ripening set back by a couple of weeks, with enough rain and humidity to make it a typically challenging Ontario season. But the last ten days of above average temperatures have helped. Harvesting of earliest varieties could be underway momentarily. C’mon September, play nice!

As you contemplate all this, and decide to enjoy Ontario wines along with Ontario corn, tomatos, peaches and plums, Sara and I offer our thoughts on some of the more interesting Ontario wines encountered this season – no matter where and how encountered – although we draw heavily from the platinum and gold medal ranks of the WineAlign National Wine Awards judged in June (full results here). Some may be on the shelf under your nose, others might require some web-surfing or a weekend in wine country. Some are ground-breaking, some are controversial, some are excellent quality – but none are boring.

David Lawrason’s Picks

Hidden Bench 2011 Tete De Cuvee Chardonnay,
Beamsville Bench, $45.20
Hubbs Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir Unfiltered 2011 Peller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2012 No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason DziverTasting blind, I didn’t know what had hit me during the preliminary round of the National Wine Awards but this brilliant, profound and concentrated chardonnay almost knocked me out of my chair – as it did panel mate Bill Zacharkiw of Montreal. So how it missed a platinum in the second round – and settled for gold – is beyond me. Maybe however it won’t sell out as quickly. Don’t you miss it if you get a chance.

Peller Estates 2012 Gamay Reserve, Niagara Peninsula, $18.90
With an Ontario Lieutenant-Governor’s Award and a gold at the National Wine Awards of Canada, Peller’s Reserve Gamay by winemaker Katie Dickenson (who took over in 2012)  leaps to the head of a genre in Ontario that many are yet to embrace.  During the LG Awards a panelist asked if one could really take this out into the world as an example of excellence in Ontario wine. To which I replied – yes, and I would take it straight to Beaujolais.

Hubbs Creek 2011 Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County, $28.90
I put this National Wine Awards silver medalist on my list not so much for what it is now (a solid 90 point, beautifully integrated county pinot) but for what it represents and will be.  The 2012 awaiting release in the months ahead is clearly a 90+, and it stems from committed high density viticulture by owner John Battista Calvieri.  Although the 1000 case winery has only produced three vintages, some of the vines, planted in some of the County’s stoniest soils on Danforth Road, date back to 2002.  The ring of County authenticity is loud and clear.

No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver

Exultet 2013 Pinot GrigioExultet Pinot Grigio 2013, Prince Edward County, $30.00
I had three head turning experiences with mineral driven County pinot gris this summer – a finely tuned 2013 by Hubbs Creek above, an excellent Alsatian styled, mineral-driven Grange of Prince Edward 2012 and this amazing and delicious and profound yet light on its feet “Grigio” by Exultet.  It is the best pinot gris I have yet had from Ontario and yes, worth the brave price of $30.

Tawse 2012 Carly’s Block Riesling,  Beamsville Bench, $31.95
With a second consecutive Lt Governors Award and a Platinum at the National Wine Awards there can be little doubt that Carly’s Block – named for Moray Tawse’s daughter –  planted in 1978 and now farmed biodynamically, is one of the greatest riesling sites in the province.  This is scintillating riesling, and particularly notable for 9.8%, a direction more Niagara riesling producers need to go.

Sara D’Amato’s Picks

No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason DziverTawse 2011 Robyn’s Block ChardonnayNo Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver, Twenty Mile Bench, ($45.95)
This is a serious cool climate endeavor; one that has helped put Ontario on the map as a world-class chardonnay producer. With locally trained winemaker Paul Pender at the helm, the wines of Tawse are afforded a real sense of place and benefit from a superb collection of carefully chosen sites.  The Robyn’s block is the oldest of the winery’s estate plantings and is home to 30 year-old chardonnay vines. The quality of the fruit is immediately evident on the nose alone as is the quality of the French oak in which it spends a full year. Rich and with enviable depth and complexity, this top local chardonnay is one of those wines I like to bring abroad to showcase what we do best.

Eastdell Estates 2011 Black Label Shiraz By Diamond Estates, Niagara Peninsula, ($19.95)
Cool climate syrahs certainly turned heads at the National Wine Awards this year and the category was one of my favourite to judge. Syrah’s pepper, musky loveliness can be muted in warmer years or climates. It takes a very sensitive understanding of the varietal to find just the right location where it will thrive and a deft hand to know when it is ready to harvest. This lip-smacking, sensually inviting example from a longer growing season, delivers exotic spice, freshly ground pepper, black fruit and succulent sour cherries to the palate. Finish of great length is pleasantly earthy and musky.

No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason DziverFlat Rock Cellars 2012 Gravity Pinot NoirNo Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver, Twenty Mile Bench, ($30.15)
There are so many astounding, utterly compelling pinot noirs to be found now as the ages of vines increases in Niagara and as we focus more fine-tuning and small batch production. Flat Rock Cellars Gravity pinot noir is one of those iconic examples, which offers terrific complexity, lovely dimension, and, in this warmer vintage, a beautifully lifted nose of wildflowers and cherry. Locally trained Winemaker Jay Johnston has made his rounds of Ontario wineries and has now settled into this well-suited role at Flat Rock producing expressive wines with grace and poise.

Chateau Des Charmes 2012 Cabernet Franc, St. David’s Bench Vineyard, Niagara, ($25.95)
The Bosc family has been producing wine in their well-established locale in St. David’s Bench, just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake, for over 35 years. One of the founding families of quality wine production in Ontario, and developers of new and unique clones, appealing wines with “charm” have become a hallmark of their portfolio. This lovely cabernet franc exhibits grace, balance and elegance along with the pepper and perfume typical to perfectly ripened cool climate styles.

No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason DziverHidden Bench 2012 Roman’s Block Rosomel Vineyard RieslingNo Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver, Beamsville Bench,  ($32.00)
Such a small amount of this site specific riesling was produced and we should all be glad this project came to fruition. This impressive result features a palate which is zesty and pure with an abundance of mineral and delicate layers of floral and tender fruit. Ethereal, nervy and distinctively Niagara.

Niagara College Teaching Winery 2012 Dean’s List Prodigy Icewine, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario ($43.00)
Niagara College Teaching Winery has graduated many of Ontario’s most talented winemakers and has a fully operational winery teaming with students anxious to learn the ropes. Birthed from such a dynamic and experimental setting comes this exquisite Icewine. So much complexity has been coaxed out of this vidal, a grape known more for its hardiness than its intricacy, delivering concentrated notes of honey, dried herbs, soy sauce and balsamic. A distinctive and truly memorable feat exhibiting terrific balance which makes you feel like you can have more than just a sip or two.

And that’s it for now. In the days ahead John Szabo will be publishing a special report on Niagara riesling, which many claim is the single best wine that Ontario makes.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia

Le second souffle
par Nadia Founier

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

La rédaction d’un guide annuel sur le vin est une sorte de marathon. On voit défiler les bouteilles comme le coureur de fond enchaîne les kilomètres. Un à la suite de l’autre, parfois dans la monotonie, parfois même dans la douleur. Ne riez pas, c’est vrai ! Pensez aux aphtes et aux ulcères, pour cause de surdose d’acidité, qui sont au dégustateur de vin ce que les crampes et les blessures musculaires sont au marathonien.

Mais bon, trêve de doléances. Je sais qu’on n’a pas le droit de se plaindre, quand on a la chance d’exercer un métier aussi fascinant. Et puis, heureusement, il nous arrive aussi d’avoir droit à un second souffle…

Il y a deux semaines, j’étais dans l’Espagne. Pas en Espagne, c’eût été trop agréable. J’étais plutôt dans le calme de ma campagne, plongée dans la section « Espagne » du Guide du vin 2015. Pendant des heures et des heures, j’ai vu se succéder des vins banals. Pas mauvais, juste anonymes et interchangeables. Tantôt des petits rouges à saveur commerciale (souples, fruités, plus ou moins assaisonnés de copeaux de bois); tantôt des grosses bombes fruitées et sucrées, chargées d’alcool et de goûts torréfiés qui leur donnent des airs de Coffee Crisp. Puis, est arrivé ce second souffle, enfin !

Venu de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, ce souffle avait l’allure d’une bruine de bord de mer qui vous rafraîchit par une journée de canicule. Cette bruine, c’était Rueda. Une appellation de la région de Castille et Léon, surtout connue pour ses vins blancs légers, désaltérants et assez modestes, dans l’ensemble. Pourtant, cette journée-là, tous les grands crus du monde n’auraient pas autant fait mon bonheur !

Comme quoi, dans le vin comme dans la vie, tout est une question de contexte. Parlez-en aux politiciens mal cités !

Les vins portant la mention « Rueda Verdejo » en contre-étiquette sont issus à 100 % de verdejo. Ceux commercialisés sous la simple appellation « Rueda » peuvent être issu d’un assemblage de verdejo, avec de la viura ou du sauvignon blanc.

Buil & Giné Nosis Rueda 2013Bodegas Shaya Verdejo 2013Les propriétaires de Juan Gil – un domaine phare de l’appellation Jumilla, à 90 kilomètres de la ville d’Alicante –, se sont aventurés à Rueda, où ils élaborent l’excellent Shaya 2013. Même si l’étiquette officielle de l’appellation n’en fait pas mention, le vin est issu à 100 % de verdejo, dont quelques vignes centenaires.

La famille Buil (Priorat) a elle aussi exporté son savoir-faire jusqu’en Castille et Léon, où elle produit un très bon vin blanc de l’appellation Rueda. Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, on pouvait encore trouver quelques bouteilles du 2012 en succursales. Le Nosis 2013 prendra le relais d’ici quelques semaines.

Telmo Rodriguez a sillonné l’Espagne du nord au sud à la recherche de vieilles parcelles de vignes, souvent menacées d’arrachage. Son activité s’étend aujourd’hui depuis la Rioja, jusqu’à la région de Malaga, en Andalousie. La rumeur veut que le célèbre œnologue tourne l’attention médiatique sur une région viticole, dès qu’il y implante un projet. On comprend assez vite pourquoi en goûtant ces vins rouges musclés et, dans une moindre mesure, le très bon Basa 2013, produit dans la région de Rueda.

Dans le secteur très prisé de La Seca, Bodegas Naia mise, entre autres, sur de très vieilles vignes de verdejo, plantées au 19e siècle et ayant survécu au phylloxéra, dont elle tire un Rueda hors norme, fermenté et élevé en fûts de chêne. Bien qu’il me semble un peu moins distinctif que le 2008 dégusté l’année dernière, le Naiades 2010 impressionne par sa richesse et sa vinosité.

Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco 2013 Bodegas Naia Naiades 2010Bodegas Naia Naia 2011 Las Brisas 2012 Hermanos Lurton Rueda Verdejo 2012

Plus modeste, mais aussi plus typé, le Rueda Verdejo 2011 a tout pour plaire. Le 2013 qui prendra le relais au début du mois d’octobre est tout aussi digeste et savoureux. En attendant son arrivée en succursales, on pourra se consoler avec le Las Brisas 2012, plus aromatique, grâce à l’apport du sauvignon blanc, mais surtout friand et facile à boire. Ou encore avec celui des frères (Hermanos) Lurton, très sec et issu de verdejo à 100 %.

Et parce que l’Espagne produit quand même une foule de bons vins rouges gorgés de soleil, vous voudrez aussi goûter cet excellent vin de Navarre : Artazuri Garnacha 2013; hypergourmand et sans la moindre lourdeur. Une véritable aubaine !

Artazuri Garnacha 2013 El Castro De Valtuille Mencia Joven 2011 Torres Laudis 2011 Torres Salmos 2009 Torres Perpetual 2010

Pour quelques dollars de plus, El Castro de Valtuille Joven 2011 est un exemple très révélateur de l’immense potentiel de Bierzo, une autre appellation de Castille et Léon à classer parmi les étoiles montantes du firmament ibérique.

Enfin, le tour du pays ne serait pas complet sans un petit détour par la Catalogne. Sur les coteaux vertigineux du Priorat, Mireilla Torres, la fille de Miguel, façonne cette cuvée exclusive au marché québécois. Fruit d’un assemblage de carignan et de grenache, le Laudis 2011 est, en quelque sorte, le petit frère du Salmos et du Perpetual.

Salud !

Nadia Fournier

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire.


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Louis M Martini Winery Dinner with Master Winemaker Michael Martini

WineAlign is pleased to present a gourmet dinner with Master Winemaker Michael Martini on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014.

Join third generation winemaker and Napa Valley Icon Michael Martini as he presents a selection of exclusive wines from his family M_Martiniwinery the Louis M Martini Winery, celebrating over 80 years in the Napa Valley. Mike Martini grew up in his father and grandfather’s vineyards, learning first-hand what it takes to make world-class wines. When he wasn’t in school in rural St. Helena, he was working at the winery, in the vineyard, or out riding horses.

Today, St. Helena has grown up, and so has Mike but he still gets up every day to make Cabernet Sauvignon that will make his family proud. This dinner will be all about CABERNET SAUVIGNON!!  We will showcase Napa and Sonoma Cab’s including two wines that are exclusive to this dinner and the very small production Lot 1.

Michael will be joined by WineAlign’s John Szabo.

Event Details:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Location:  Pangaea Restaurant (1221 Bay Street, Toronto)

Reception and Dinner: 7 pm – 10 pm

Tickets:  $100 including taxes and fees

Please note tickets are limited to 45, so book early to avoid disappointment – our winemaker events sell out quickly.


Purchase Your Tickets Here


Louis M Martini Signature Cocktail

Torchon of Foie Gras with toasted brioche, mushrooms, pearl onion and wild blueberry

Wine pairing:  2012 Louis M Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Duck roulade with spiced roasted cauliflower, raisins, crispy kale and coriander

Wine pairing: 2011 Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Beef striploin with celeriac-rosemary crust, oven glazed vegetables, roasted king oyster mushroom

Wine pairing: 2011 Louis M Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Braised Lamb Neck with crisp parmesan polenta, root vegetable confetti, fine herb salad

Wine pairing: 2010 Louis M Martini Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

Local Artisanal Cheeses with stone fruits and honey

Coffee/Tea and petit fours

*There are no substitutions*

About Pangaea

pangaea (pan-gee-ahhh!) is the acclaimed Yorkville restaurant named after the super continent that existed on earth 250 million years ago before the tectonic plates separated to form the land masses on world maps today. Pangaea Restaurant co-owners Peter Geary and Martin Kouprie chose this tricky to spell name because it evokes what they want their restaurant to be: a place where international inspiration and regional ingredients come together to form a unique and wonderful dining concept.

A success since 1996, Pangaea Restaurant continues to be faithful to this original goal. Today, as on the first day our door swung open on to Bay Street, Peter and Martin ensure that Pangaea Restaurant is a place where people can come to experience the best food and service Toronto has to offer. At Toronto’s Pangaea Restaurant plates do indeed move twice a day; but, instead of continental plates, china plates artfully topped with delectable regional cuisine are the ones traveling.



Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

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British Columbia Wine Report

Back to {WINE} School TimeSept. 9, 2014

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Even though it looks like BC’s public schools will not be back in session any time soon due to a bitter and lengthy teachers’ strike, September’s arrival signals back to school for many lucky BC students. Wine students.

After a busy summer for most of the trade, autumn is a natural slide back into indoors, books and studies. There are classes for all levels of professional and amateur wine students, both informal and accredited, all over the province. Classes vary widely in scope, instruction and cost, and potential wine students should do a little homework to find out what method best suits their needs; it can be confusing to know the difference between ISG and WSET and CMS and beyond – a whole lingo of acronyms in itself! As a wine professional with a funny little alphabet of post-noms, I’m constantly queried on the best way for people to improve their wine knowledge – be it for their personal pleasure, or for improving their career. For this Back To {Wine} School BC Wine Report, I’m going to give you the Coles Notes on the various programs available.


The class you chose depends on your end goal. If you’re a beginning amateur (CONsumer) who would like to understand the difference between chardonnay and cabernet, you may not need or want an accredited course. There are numerous courses at community rec centres and colleges, as well as continuing studies courses offered through universities such as the University of British Columbia. Some private wine shops offer a series of courses to customers, which is a great way to learn more about what’s at your local shop. These courses are often offered in the evenings or weekends, and aimed at widening your world wine scope in a more casual and consumer-appropriate way.

IMG_4912If you’re in the industry, or want to be, you will want to find an accredited course, for PROfessionals. Certification from an accredited education provider will be helpful on your resume, and provides a standard level that is recognized widely. At the entry levels, the instruction between the programs is similar, but as you progress through your studies, you’ll want to know what your end goal is so you can direct your path. You’ll also learn how to taste (yes, and spit) professionally and methodically as well as how to taste wine blind – more than just a nifty party trick.

End Goal: MW vs MS

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

This globally recognized, multi-tiered program is great for people just starting wine studies or for those who have informal and/or self-guided training as you can enter at any level that suits. Courses build from Level 1 through 3 into increasingly detailed material about the world of wine and spirits, as well as blind tasting skills. Level 4 is the Diploma level, and is comprised of 6 different detailed units, each focusing on an aspect of global wine business or style. The Diploma is usually a 2-3 year program, and can be taken in class or through Distance Education. There are very few schools worldwide able to administer the Diploma program on behalf of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, based in London, England. Completion of the WSET Diploma is the stepping stone to become a Master of Wine (MW), the highest academic/wine business qualification in the world. *WineAlign’s Rhys Pender is an MW.

There are a few different schools in BC that are accredited for WSET instruction and classes run at various schedules year round, but only the Art Institute of Vancouver is certified to teach the Diploma level. Diploma courses run on a globally synched calendar – meaning all students around the world write exams on specific dates. Other WSET providers in BC include WinePlus+, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Fine Vintage and the BC Wine School.

Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS)

IMG_6838Though not a permanent fixture in BC, the Court of Master Sommeliers leads the Introductory Sommelier Course and a Certified Sommelier Course through the Art Institute of Vancouver each fall. Unlike WSET and their focus on global wine business, the focus of CMS instruction shifts to wine service, and completion of their Advanced Sommelier level is the gateway to becoming a Master Sommelier (MS), an exam process chronicled in the documentary SOMM. *WineAlign’s John Szabo is an MS. Vancouver’s CMS courses will be taught via the Art Institute at the end of September and afford students the chance to gain an accredited designation from CMS. Vancouver classes fill up quickly; students who are marching on towards their MS have to travel to the United States to write the Advanced Level exams.

There are other accredited courses in BC that are more localized geographically (International Sommelier Guild) or specialized (French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Specialist). For budding winemakers and grape growers, the Viticulture and Wine Studies Program at Okanagan College is a great place to start.

And now for the Homework…

Unlike most schools, the best part about wine studies is homework. Tasting, tasting, tasting wines from around the globe – benchmarks and oddities – to set your palate and your wine compass. I’m a lifer – a lifetime student – who is excited and grateful to learn new things every time I pick up a glass.

Here are a series of wines that I think everyone, at any level, should experience. Consider it homework.

If you can learn to say Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett 2011, you’re ahead of the game, and even more when you start to grasp off-dry and intense Mosel Riesling.

After learning German, Greek will be easy – especially when you have the sunny and likable Boutari Moschofilero 2012 from Peloponnese, Greece in your tasting glass.

You will learn how some wineries deftly merge modernity with centuries of tradition, as with the Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.

Or how producers are reclaiming biodynamic and natural farming techniques to lead today’s brigade of responsible natural wines, like Beaujolais’ Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2011.

In our locavore province, students will be schooled on important local wines, like Naramata’s Nichol Vineyard Syrah 2010, made from Canada’s oldest Syrah vines.

St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011 Boutari Moschofilero 2012 Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2011Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2010

A big part of the class will be learning type and benchmarks for regions. Sonoma’s Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2011 should be on every wine lover’s playlist for its creamy oak and lemon curd balance.

And Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalicino DOCG 2008 makes for a great lesson in elegant Brunello di Montalcino from a very good vintage.

A huge benefit of formal classes is tasting a series of wines beyond most peoples’ budgets. Tasting stunning, shining grower Champagnes, like Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils ‘Cuis 1er Cru’ Blanc de Blancs NV Brut will make you forget you’re at ‘school’.

Ferrari Carano Fumé Blanc 2011 Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Blanc De Blancs 'cuis' 1er Cru Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Hidalgo La Gitana Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port

And another, oft overlooked benefit? Your savvy instructor can introduce you to very tasty wines at very tasty prices, like the brambled and cassis-clad Concha y Toro 2012 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Maipo Valley, Chile.

Context is everything, and your instructor will paint a hazy picture of Jerez’s history when introducing you to the idiosyncratic Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla from Southern Spain’s Sanlucar De Barrameda.

Similarly, when you are tasting wines – like Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny – from the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the and start to grasp that you’re learning, and tasting history all at once, you’ll want to stay a student forever.

Treve ~

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

IMG_4717 IMG_6010

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Austria Report 2014: Visiting Vienna, Best of Blaufränkisch; Little Black Danube Valley Address Book + Ontario Buyer’s Guide

Sept. 9, 2014

VieVinum-logo-2014-02John Szabo reports on his latest trip to the Imperial capital of Vienna for the 2014 edition of Vievinum. Apparently, he had fun, and he shares some discoveries that will be useful to all but die-hard, one-brand wine drinkers.

Mozart + Schnitzel +… Wein
by John Szabo MS

Mozart, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Salzburg music festival, the waltz, Wiener schnitzel, 19th century coffee houses or skiing in Innsbruck… Austria has many cultural references with which many North Americans will have at least some vague familiarity, if not personal intimacy. But wine from Austria? Awareness in Canada that wine is produced in this tiny, mostly Alpine central European country is as limited as the number of shelf-facings on Canadian government monopoly stores. That is, at least outside of the cozy world of sommeliers and wine writers and the not-so-occasional wine consumer unafraid to venture into the darker corners of the Vintages section. For these people, Austrian wine has already emerged from the dark Vienna Woods.

But since Austria may well produce some of the finest wines you’ve never tasted, it’s high time to experience Austrian life beyond Mozart.

So here’s my pitch. It includes suggestions on what to do in romantic Vienna to get you in the mood, followed by a look at the current Austrian wine scene, a list of the cream from nearly four score of blaufränkisch recently tasted (that’s Austria finest red grape), and the addresses in the Danube Valley that every wine lover should have (from the flagship appellations – Wachau, Kamptal, and Kremstal – for the country’s most important white variety, gruner veltiner, as well as riesling – Austria’s best kept secret and some of the very finest in the world). I’ll round it up with a Buyer’s Guide of wines currently available in Ontario. There is, of course, so much more. But it’s a start.

Visiting Vienna

A Gustav Klimt original tapestry at Café Griensteidl

A Gustav Klimt original tapestry at Café Griensteidl

Each time I travel to Vienna, I’m swept up by the romance that hangs in the air, that suffuses the old wood panels and ancient stones, and lingers in the almost audible string quartets echoing off the cobbled streets and dancing in the dying light glinting off the Danube. I sit on the patio of the 19th C. coffee house Grienstiedl in the Michaelerplatz sipping a g’spritzer, an upscale version of soda and white wine, while listening to the soulful strings of a concert-level celloist reverberate off the walls of Empress Sisi’s Hofburg Palace residence with a sound that most concert halls would envy, busking more for practice than for pay.

I never miss a chance to travel up to the Nussberg vineyard on the northwest hills above the city to take in its magnificent, commanding view over all of Vienna, the spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the Stephansplatz a tiny toothpick in the distance.

The Nussberg Vineyard overlooking the Danube River and Vienna

The Nussberg Vineyard overlooking the Danube River and Vienna

And it’s from this vineyard that one of my favorite Viennese wines hails: the Nussberg Alte Reben from Franz Wieninger, made from an interplanted mix of old vines that ripen each year under the Pannonian sun. This traditional field blend and others made from the 650-odd hectares within the city’s boundaries are a uniquely Viennese specialty officially called gemischter satz, which is almost as much fun to say as it is to drink. (If the Alte Reben isn’t available, Wieninger’s straight up Gemischter Satz is a more than worthy substitute.)

Mayer am Pfarrplatz

Mayer am Pfarrplatz

It’s unthinkable not to spend an evening in one of the dozens of heurigen in the outlying districts, like the Mayer am Pfarrplatz in the 19th district where Beethoven stayed in 1817 to work on the Eroica and begin composing the 9th symphony, and more recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his entourage nearly knocked me over on their way out through the narrow wooden door. Heurigen are Austrian institutions devoted to local food and especially wine scattered around the city’s outlying districts, where everything is produced on-premise, including the wine, and is served on long wooden tables in the open air under vine-covered pergolas. And the accordion plays on.

Then I’ll return to the center and stroll through the cobbled streets of this Imperial City, and admire its magnificent baroque buildings and palaces, heavily statued parks and squares, the rows upon rows of museums, the extravagant wood-paneled shrines to coffee, and inhale the strangely pleasant and authentic scent of fresh horse manure as I idle past the rows of carriages parked outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral waiting to ferry passengers around the old quarter of the 1st district.

A Carriage ride through Vienna, passing the Hofburg Palace

A Carriage ride through Vienna, passing the Hofburg Palace

If hungry, there’s always the city’s most famous schnitzel at Figlmuller’s or the incomparable tafelspitz at Plachutta – a Rabelesian feast of boiled meats – or for more refined Austrian cuisine, the Michelin-starred Steiereck.

And throughout it all, I’m constantly struck by the nation’s inherent composure and self-confidence; you can’t help but get a sense that Austrians are secure, and more than just financially. There’s a sense of comfort related to both the past and present, and indeed a conspicuous absence of insecurity regarding the future.

I suppose such a city couldn’t help but produce that legendary Viennese haughtiness – so pronounced in some cases as to make even a real Parisian blush – that I’ve come to expect, and even appreciate, being such a dramatic change from Canadian politeness. I suspect the attitude is born of this culture of precision and suspicion, even intolerance, of anything sub-standard that seems to be shared by all of Alpine Europe. Is it the mountain air? Order your drinks and get on with it, no time for polite dithering.

The Wine Scene

Wine culture thrives in Vienna, but not in the self-conscious, self-congratulatory way it often does in North America. In countless restaurants and wine bars, details are taken seriously but matter-of-factly, and one inevitably concludes that serving a wide selection of local wines at the proper temperature in gorgeous crystal stems is really just the way things are done, not how some star sommelier has dictated they should be in order to gain advantage over the competition and notoriety for himself. Switzerland may have watches, but Austria has some of the world’s finest glassware, such as the ever-expanding range from Georg Riedel, and Zalto, which for my money is easily the best high-end stemware on the market, so there are no excuses.

No visit to Vienna is complete without a stop at Wein & Co. just off of the Stephansplatz, one of the best wine shops/wine bars in the city where you can browse, buy, and bring your wine over the to bar side for chilling and sipping. That’s if you don’t find anything you like on the already extensive “regular list”. The historic Zum Schwarzen Kameel is also a favorite, especially if you find a seat on the crowded patio. You’ll experience fine wine and Viennese attitude all in one.

The Austrian Wine Zeitgeist

Austrian confidence permeates the wine industry, too, particularly refreshing in a business that is constantly looking over the fence to see what’s happening on the other side. Not to say that Austrian winemakers aren’t interested in the rest of the world, nor arrogantly under the impression that they make the world’s best wine – far from it – but neither do they feel an urgent need to change what they’re doing to chase current consumer trends. It’s as if to say, “stay the course and success will come”.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Only a few short decades ago the entire Austrian wine industry was in a state of crisis, if not outright panic, in the face of an overblown scandal that saw exports drop off the radar. It was as though a millennial tradition of winemaking had evaporated like the angel’s share from a barrel of wine. The remote, glorious past meant nothing to contemporary wine drinkers.

But setbacks can be turned into opportunities, and Austrians wasted no time in revamping the entire industry from top to bottom, imposing some of the strictest quality controls in the world of wine. The return road to international markets was bumpy and many of the same mistakes that have hampered other new and old world winemaking countries were committed, such as over reliance on international, often unsuitable grapes, adherence to the belief that clever winemaking could fix any problems, and devotion to over ripeness and the flavour of new oak. “The past three decades have seen plenty of setbacks, wrong turns and detours” says Willi Klinger, head of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

White Wines

Near Weißenkirchen in the wine region Wachau in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). View from single vineyard Achleiten towards west. © AWMB / Egon Mark

Near Weißenkirchen in the wine region Wachau in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). View from single vineyard Achleiten towards west. © AWMB / Egon Mark

White wines have historically been Austria’s strength, and the fine-tuning that has occurred over the last three decades has shifted them into the top world leagues. Gruner veltliner remains the most planted grape by a good margin and in many ways defines Austrian wines, at least for export markets. It’s a polyvalent variety, running the spectrum of styles from light and whit-pepper scented from cooler areas like the Weinviertel, to round, full-bodied lush examples from the wind-blown loess soils west of Vienna on either side of the Danube (especially the regions of Wagram and Traisental), and piercing, firm, minerally wines from vineyards planted right on primary rock (gneiss, granites, etc.) in the Danube Valley.

Riesling Rocks

Yet Austrian Riesling, in my view, and at the risk of offending a large percentage of the wine industry, produces the country’s very finest white wines. The examples from the primary rock terraces lining the Danube west of Vienna, especially the Wachau region and select sites in the Kamptal and Kremstal, are strikingly mineral, powerful, enormously complex wines capable of long-term cellaring and shouldn’t be missed by fans of the grape. See below for some trustworthy names to look for.

Other Exotics

Other more exotic local grapes like rotgpfler and zierfandler from the Thermenregion south of Vienna can surprise by their dense orchard fruit and minerally character. Look for the wines of Stadlmann for a good introduction. In the southern part of the country, in the region called Steiermark (Styria), sauvignon blanc is the calling card. Steep slopes of varying composition including volcanic, gravel, limestone soils yield pungent sauvignons, somewhere between Loire Valley, Bordeaux and New Zealand in style, and most closely resembling the perfumed examples in Italy’s neighboring Friuli region. Look for Sattlerhof or Tement to get yourself started.

I’ll also put in a word for Styria’s pale rose specialty called Schilcher [SHILL-hair] made from the blauer wildbacher grape. These bone dry, searingly tart wines are a bit of an acquired taste, but I personally love the vibrancy and first-sip-of-the-day acids. Try Reiterer’s Alte Reben (“Old Vine”) Engleweingarten schilcher for a pleasant shock.

Reds on the Rise

Hands down, however, the greatest improvements in Austrian wine have come in the red wine category. I recall the first tasting of Austrian reds I attended some fifteen years ago in Toronto, where I was struck by how woeful they were for the most part: thin, green, weedy, or crushed by excessive oak and over-extraction. Klinger, referring specifically to red wines, is appropriately circumspect: “Looking back, we can see that while each of these innovations [international varieties, extraction, excessive oak use] were important steps on the way to new red wine highs, they were not the essence of this development.”

Now Austrian vintners, at least the top tier, have moved past this developmental phase to the point where terroirs and native varieties have been embraced with confidence. “Austria has three aces up its sleeve, namely the indigenous grape varieties Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. It is only now that we really understand how to play this incredible starting hand,” says Klinger.

Top Austrian Red Wine Tasting at the Hofburg Palace (Can you spot the WineAlign logo on someone's computer?)

Top Austrian Red Wine Tasting at the Hofburg Palace (Can you spot the WineAlign logo on someone’s computer?)

My most recent tastings, including wines from the excellent 2011 and 2012 vintages, underscore the point. Austrian winemakers today can confidently spend more time looking at their vineyards rather than outside the country, comfortable in the knowledge that both their native grapes and their varied terroirs are able to produce wines that are as distinctive and qualitative as any other great local specialties around the world.

Proof of Success

A quick glance at the steep upward graph depicting Austrian wine exports over the last three decades tells a clear tale: foreign markets have grown increasingly confident in the quality of Austrian wines, and are willing to pay more and more for them. Exports reached an all-time high of 137m euros in 2013, all the more remarkable considering the steady or even decreasing exports by volume, thanks in part to several consecutive short crops. The value curve has been rising steeply for a decade. Also, average export price per liter topped 3 euros (c. $5) for the first time in 2013. That may not seem like a lot to Canadian consumers used to paying $15 and up for a decent 750ml bottle of wine, but that figure is among the highest in the world.

Still Work to Be Done

But there is, of course, still work to be done – any country that stands still in today’s market is quickly left behind. Red wine quality is still not uniformly high, and too many still rely on the crutch of over-making wines. The divide between progressive and backward looking winemakers is still wide. Blaufrankisch, despite its firm tannins and marked acids, is nonetheless a dainty variety, with delicate tart red fruit flavours that need to be preserved through careful handling. Heavy wood/caramel flavours all too easily overwhelm the delicate fruit character that makes the grape so attractive in the first place, and one gets the sense that great fruit is often compromised by aggressive winemaking. Several of the wines recently tasted are not at international level, while a handful could even be considered defective, and this among what are supposed to be the country’s top rated wines.

“When it comes to Blaufränkisch, we have seen that it was the right decision to move the focus away from cellar techniques and place it on the work in the vineyard,” emphasizes Klinger, words that more winemakers need to take to heart.

For detailed information on the Austrian wine industry and all appellations, visit the Austrian Wine Marketing Board excellent and comprehensive website.

The Wines: Top Blaufrankisch from 2011-2012

Following are a dozen blaufrankisch to track down at all costs. The wines were tasted in June 2014 during the biennial fair called Vievinum held in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. The list of wines to be tasted was compiled by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board from the highest rated wines as judged by the local press.

The Burgenland in the far east of Austria on the border with Hungary, and its various sub-appellations, remains the reference region of production. Among my general observations is that limestone and slate soils seem to give the best – most refined, elegant and mineral – versions of blaufrankisch. The Leithaberg and Eisenberg DACs are almost uniformly excellent, while the silty-loam-clays of Carnuntum were generally less exciting, with many wines bearing the heavy hand of the winemaker. Exceptions, however, prove the rule.

A Killer Dozen

Weingut Ernst Triebaumer 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Mariental Burgenland. Ernst Tribaumer took over the 300 year family operation in 1971, implementing a new quality direction. Many cite the 1986 Triebaumer Mariental blaufrankisch as the first great serious Austrian red wine, and it continues to be a reference point. The Mariental vineyard is an east-facing, mostly calcareous vineyard in Rust, with over 50-year-old vines, bottled separately only in exceptional vintages. The 2011 intense and concentrated, but without exaggeration, in the darker fruit spectrum, dense, rich, compact. Nearly twenty years on since this wine first catapulted Austrian reds into the international spotlight, this still remains a top reference. Best after 2018 – this can also age magnificently into the late ’20s.

Roland Velich of Moric, a Blaufränkisch specialist

Roland Velich of Moric, a Blaufränkisch specialist

Moric 2011 Blaufränkisch Lutzmannsburg “Alte Reben” Burgenland. Roland Velich is a widely recognized master of blaufrankisch, a variety he has pushed to the limits to see what could be obtained. His range of village and single vineyard wines is nothing short of extraordinary, vinified meticulously with the lightest of touches and refinement and elegance in mind. The old vines from Lutzmannsburg, some over 100 years and planted in high density, is all about finesse and florality, pure and authentic, the hallmarks of this sandy-loam over primary rock site. An energetic, natural wine of top quality.

Weingut Gernot und Heike Heinrich 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Alter Berg Burgenland. Gernot Henrich runs a sizable operation (500k bottles annually) from a stylish, modern facility in the Burgenland, producing several ranges of wines, each at the top of their respective price categories. Grapes are biodynamically farmed, and the key words here are purity and elegance. The Alter Berg is a sea fossil-rich site in the Leithagebirge hills on the western shore of Lake Neusiedl, vinified à la pinot noir, in open top wooden fermenters and aged in 500l barrels. This is classic blaufrankisch: pure wild cherry, floral, blood orange character, clean and pure, with gorgeous, juicy acids and fine-grained tannins. For current enjoyment or mid term hold.

Former sommelier-turned-blaufränkisch-producer Uwe Schiefer

Former sommelier-turned-blaufränkisch-producer Uwe Schiefer

Weingut Uwe Schiefer 2012 Blaufrankisch Königsberg, Burgenland. A former sommelier at Vienna’s top restaurant, Steiereck, Uwe Schiefer is another acknowledge blaufrankisch specialist and among the first to pursue the more refined and elegant side of the variety. From his excellent range, the Königsberg vineyard stood out; this pure limestone site planted with over 50-year-old vines is a beauty. Classy, spicy and beautifully structured, with terrific length, it should hit prime towards the end of the decade. Look also for the 2012 Eisenberg, a top notch schist-quartz expression of the grape.

Weingut Wachter-Wiesler 2011 Blaufränkisch Reserve “Alte Reben” Eisenberg. This was a great discovery for me, the first wine I’ve tasted from Wachter-Wiesler, established in 1999 with the amalgamation of the two families’ vineyards. “For me, a wine is most interesting, natural and authentic when it is known where its grapes are grown,” says Christoph Wachter, and every effort to preserve the natural vineyard expression is made. The Alte Reben (“old vines”) is made from eighty year-old vines grown on the green slate soils that dominate the Eisenberg appellation, aged in 1500l casks. It delivers high density and intensity, compact tannins and firm acids, not to mention tremendous length. A serious wine, succulent, elegant and balanced.

Weingut Birgit Braunstein 2011 Blaufränkisch Leithaberg DAC. Another great discovery are the wines of Birgit Braunstein, made from organically grown, minimally-handled grapes. The limestone-rich soils of the Leithaberg favour finesse, which is perfectly preserved by wild ferment wild in wood vats and ageing in old 500 liter barrels. This 40 year-old vine cuvée is pure, and fragrant, succulent and lively. I love the fresh acids firm, structured tannins, balanced by ripe and zesty red berry fruit. Good to very good length. Best after 2016.

Weingut Familie Prieler 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Goldberg Burgenland. The Prieler family has been in Schützen for at least 150 years practicing polyculture, and made the transition to a dedicated wine estate in 1972. Today the family farms 30 hctares of vineyards on the western shores of Lake Neusiedl under a nature reserve. The Goldberg and its mineral-rich slate soils is the top blaufrankisch bottling, pure, red fruit driven with typical herbal spice. I like the black currant character, juicy, lively acids, and fully integrated wood (26 months in small barrel, though must be well-used).

Dorli Muhr, Muhr-van der Niepoort wines, Carnuntum

Dorli Muhr, Muhr-van der Niepoort wines, Carnuntum

Weingut Muhr – van der Niepoort 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Spitzerberg Carnuntum. This is the only non-Burgenland blaufrankisch to make my top list, though considering the unusually high limestone content of the Spitzerberg, and the partnership between Dorli Muhr and Dirk Neipoort (of the extraordinary Niepoort wines in the Douro Valley, Portugal, it’s not surprising that it sits in the top class. This is fine, fragrant, balanced and elegant blaufrankisch, highly minerally, with lovely wild cherry fruit. And if you think this is good, just wait for the 2012s to be released.

Weingut Pittnauer 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Ungerberg Burgenland. Although considered St. Laurent specialists, the biodynamically-farmed, wild yeast fermented blaufrankisch from the Ungerbrg vineyard is a stunning wine. It spends 20 months in old barrels, delivering an intriguing aromatics including green olive, citrus-blood orange, and authentic grape spice while the palate is arch classic blaufrankisch with its mid-weight, fine but dusty tannins and crunchy acids, plus mineral character.

Weingut Anton Hartl 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Rosenberg Leithaberg DAC. Organically certified grapes (since 2010), high limestone content in the vineyard and gentle handling give Toni Hartl’s blaufrankisch a quality edge. The 2011 is just on the right side of reductiveness, with lively red berry fruit, tart and juicy – a blaufrankisch on the more elegant and succulent side.

Weingut Anita & Hans Nittnaus 2011 Blaufränkisch Ried Tannenberg Burgenland. Although not the most expensive wine in the Nittnaus range, the Tannenberg vineyard blaufrankisch is for me their finest wine. Made from biodynamically-grown grapes, the 2011 has genuine complexity and character, voluminous and substantial palate, with fine-grained, firm tannins and succulent acids. A superb wine, best after 2016.

Weingut Krutzler 2011 Blaufränkisch Reserve Burgenland. In opposition to the current trend in the Burgenland for site-specific bottlings, the Krutzlers “no longer rely exclusively on single vineyards, but rather focus on the interplay of premium fruit, consistent vineyard management and steady stylistics”. The Reserve is made from 15- to 30-year-old vines on the estate’s top sites on the Eisenberg and in Deutsch-Schützen, and this offers a nicely balanced nose and palate to match, with a fine mix of tannins and acids, alcohol and fruit. Everything is nicely in place, with excellent length. Best after 2016.

Little Black Book Addresses in The Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal

While not an exhaustive list, these are the producers you shouldn’t miss when traveling through the Danube Valley west of Vienna, or when shopping anywhere for top bottles of grüner veltliner and Riesling from Austria.


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger

Weingut Emmerich Knoll


Weingut F.X. Pichler

Weingut Rudi Pichler

Weingut Veyder-Malberg

Weingut Pichler-Krutzler

Peter Veyler-Malberg

Peter Veyler-Malberg, Wachau



Weingut Rudi Rabl

Weingut Kurt Angerer

Weingut Allram

Weingut Bründlemayer

Weingut Jurtschitsch

Weingut Fred Loimer



Weingut Geyerhof

Schloss Gobelsburg

Weingut Hiedler

Weingut Nigl

Salomon Undhof


Buyer’s Guide: Top Smart Buys in Ontario

The following recommended wines are currently available in Ontario, either at the LCBO or via consignment agents. Click on each for the details.


Loimer Spiegel Grüner Veltliner 2012 Kamptal, 94 $64.95

Weinrieder Riesling Kugler 2009, Weinviertel 92 $29.95

Weingut Loimer Grüner Veltliner Terrassen 2012 Niederösterreich, 92 $39.95

Domäne Wachau Achleiten Smaragd Riesling 2011, Wachau, Austria 92 $36.95

Biohof Pratsch Steinberg Grüner Veltliner 2010, Niederösterreich 91 $35.95
Salomon Undhof Wachtberg Reserve Erste Lage Gr†Ner Veltliner 2011, Kremstal 91 $27.95

X. Pichler Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner 2012 Wachau, 91 $37.95

Salomon Undhof Wachtberg Reserve Erste Lage Grüner Veltliner 2011, Kremstal, 91 $27.95

Loimer Grüner Veltliner Trocken 2013, Dac Kamptal 90 $23.95

Wieninger Gemischter Satz 2013, Vienna 90 $20.95

Kurt Angerer Grüner Veltliner Kies 2013 Niederösterreich, 90 $19.95

Meinklang Grüner Veltliner 2013, Burgenland 89 $15.95

Winzer Krems Edition Chremisa Grüner Veltliner 2012 Niederösterreich, 89 $24.95

Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2012, Wachau, 88 $17.95

Zahel Gruner Veltliner Goldberg 2013, Vienna 88 $22.60

Weingut Loimer, Grüner Vetliner ‘lois’ 2013 Niederösterreich, 87 $18.95

Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Vom Sand 2013, Südsteiermark 87 $19.95



Heinrich St Laurent 2010, Burgenland 91 $36.95

Weingut Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2012, Burgenland 89 $24.95

Heinrich Zweigelt 2012, Burgenland 89 $24.95

Zantho St Laurent 2011, Burgenland 88 $18.00


That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS


Filed under: Featured Articles, , , , , ,

Les bons choix de Marc – Septembre

Allez hop ! dans l’évier
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Et moi qui viens tout juste d’en parler ! Du fait qu’on s’identifie étroitement à nos bouteilles, et qu’on voudrait tellement qu’elles soient toujours bonnes et irréprochables. Surtout quand on les apporte à une dégustation et qu’on les partage…

Eh bien j’ai été servi. Malgré le titre de la présente chronique, je n’ai tout dernièrement pas fait le bon choix… Enfin, disons que j’ai eu l’air d’une sorte de cordonnier mal chaussé, samedi dernier. Après m’être étendu en long et en large sur la sensibilité et la susceptibilité de l’amateur, j’ai en effet royalement payé la traite à un vieux couple d’amis un peu perdu de vue et venu passer la fin de semaine avec nous.

Inès et Perry (pour ne pas les embarrasser, j’utilise des noms fictifs) ne sont pas maniaques de vin, bien qu’ils aiment ça beaucoup et soient très curieux. Ils avaient apporté une super-bouteille avec eux pour accompagner le barbecue : Château Margaux 1978. Le premier grand cru classé de Bordeaux, dont on trouve du 1999 à la SAQ — pff, c’est jeune comme millésime — pour la modique somme de 1 035 $. Mille trente-cinq, oui monsieur.

Château Margaux 1978— J’ai reçu ça récemment en héritage d’un riche oncle dont je n’avais pas entendu parler depuis je ne sais plus combien d’années, m’explique Perry en déposant la bouteille sur le comptoir sitôt le pied dans la maison.

— Wow, ai-je répondu, et wow, ai-je ensuite répété malgré que j’étais bouche bée et donc sans voix.

— On s’était dit Inès et moi qu’on allait la boire avec toi…

Il était genre cinq heures de l’après-midi, l’heure de l’apéro, lequel s’est avéré être un champagne Égly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut, rien pour tomber en bas de sa chaise mais tout de même, vu le canon avec lequel ils avaient débarqué, il fallait que je sorte autre chose qu’un banal Brut sans année de grand négociant.

Puis arriva, vers 18 heures, le grand moment. Comme le bordeaux avait plus de 35 ans et qu’il restait d’être relativement évanescent, je suggérai de ne pas le carafer, certes, mais d’en prélever tout de même l’équivalent d’un dé à coudre, « enfin, un peu plus, dis-je, mais à peine, juste pour voir, des fois qu’il serait fermé, ou dans une phase muette, c’est rare après tout ce temps, mais ça arrive ! »

One, two, three… tasting !

C’est évidemment à moi que revient l’honneur de tester messire Margaux 1978.

De fait, ça ne sent pas grand-chose et la couleur, qui a viré au rouge très orangé, est encore belle et plutôt conforme à ce à quoi l’on s’attend d’un vin de cet âge. Apparemment, il manquait juste d’air, après tant d’années passées enfermé dans le verre.

Sauf que… j’ai aussi eu comme l’impression de sentir le carton, un peu.
« Oh non, me suis-je alors lamenté in petto… »

Je n’ai pas porté le vin à ma bouche – ce qui m’aurait pourtant permis de confirmer ou non le caractère bouchonné. J’ai seulement dit qu’il n’était pas bavard, le bougre, et qu’on allait le laisser respirer une heure ou deux, dans sa bouteille entamée.

À l’heure dite, je retourne au vin et, l’oxygénation aidant, tough luck, il est bouchonné et pas qu’un peu. Même pas besoin de goûter.

Gêné – même si ce n’était pas « mon » vin –, je fais la grimace et je dis aux amis que le vin est kaput, irrémédiablement perdu. Là-dessus, sachant qu’il ne pouvait être retourné pour échange vu l’oncle, vu l’héritage et l’achat dieu sait où, iglou-iglou-iglou, je le balance dans l’évier.

La face qu’ils ont faite…

Ils comprenaient, mais quand même, quel pétard mouillé ! Eux qui s’attendaient à un feu d’artifice et à des paillettes de bonheur dans mes yeux…

Bien sûr que le problème, c’était le liège, et que le vin était contaminé depuis la mise en bouteille.

Sauf qu’en y réfléchissant bien, avec le recul, je me dis qu’il n’était peut-être pas vraiment bouchonné, j’ai peut-être jugé trop vite et… je blague, les copains lisent ces lignes en même temps que vous, je le sais, et ils ont à l’instant manqué s’étouffer en m’entendant.

Hélas non, le vin était bel et bien perdu et les illusions, envolées.

Moralité ? Je n’ai, franchement, aucune idée de la leçon qu’il faut en tirer.

Sinon, peut-être, qu’un petit mensonge blanc, de temps en temps…

À boire, aubergiste !

Après cet impair – mais en était-ce vraiment un ? –, quelques bons choix à s’offrir ou à offrir, pour la fin de semaine.

Deux bons côtes-du-rhône pour commencer. D’abord celui, impeccable, de la maison Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2010, qui ne déçoit d’ailleurs à peu près jamais. Puis, autre valeur sûre et qui plus est, à petit prix, le La Montagnette 2013 de la petite mais hautement qualitative cave coopérative d’Estézargues.

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône 2010Domaine La Montagnette 2013 Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière 2010 San Felice Il Grigio 2010

Toujours en rouge, mais du Sud-Ouest cette fois, le Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière 2011 est un très bon cahors, à la fois corsé et élégant, aux tannins plutôt mûrs. Également très recommandable, et plus tannique celui-ci, plus astringent, le San Felice Il Grigio 2010, un chianti classico par ailleurs bien concentré. Quant au Mas Amiel Notre Terre 2010, un côtes-du-roussillon-villages, on appréciera sa puissance, son caractère chaleureux, doublé d’une texture suave, relativement élégante.

En blanc maintenant, j’ai un joli mousseux dans ma besace cette semaine, le très hop-la-vie Bailly-Lapierre Vive la Joie 2008, un crémant de Bourgogne rafraîchissant tout en étant d’une étonnante profondeur.

Mas Amiel Notre Terre 2010 Hugel Gewurztraminer 2012Bailly Lapierre Vive La Joie 2008 Château Vignelaure Rosé 2013

Du côté des blancs tranquilles (sans effervescence), j’ai bien aimé le Gewurztraminer Hugel 2012, épicé et nerveux, et pratiquement sec.

Pour terminer, un rosé, primo parce que c’est techniquement encore l’été et, deuzio, parce qu’on peut très bien apprécier ce type de vin à l’année : le côtes-de-provence Château Vignelaure 2013, généreux et épicé, et pratiquement sec lui aussi.

Santé !


Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins!

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 13th – Part One

Ontario Focus and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Take a short tour by helicopter across the Niagara Peninsula for a bird’s eye view of Canada’s largest growing region (or check out the photos below). You’ll see the three main topographic features of the region that make grape growing possible, and which shape the character of the wines: the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Both the lake and the river moderate climate extremes like the soft focus feature on your camera, and generate crucial air movement to keep vines healthy. The Escarpment for its part contains that moderating effect in the area between the water and the cliff face, like the focus lock feature. And then of course there are the soils…

Ontario is the theme of the September 13th LCBO-VINTAGES release and the focus of this report. And although Ontario’s cool climate is evidently well suited to crisp whites, bubbles and Icewine, this time there are several red wines that really shine. Warmer vintages like 2010 and 2012 provide opportunities for winegrowers to showcase more substantial reds from grapes like merlot, cabernet franc and syrah, while cooler years like 2011 favour more elegantly styled reds. Forty years of learning just how to deal with Ontario’s often challenging climate has softened the vintage variation curve significantly and Ontario can now be counted upon for consistent quality red wines. There’s a great selection below to choose from, with at least two WineAlign critics aligning on almost every wine.

Looking east and north to Lake Ontario, with the forested top of the Escarpment in the foreground

Looking east and north to Lake Ontario, with the forested top of the Escarpment in the foreground

Approaching Château des Charmes from the west - St. David's Bench Sub-Appellation

Approaching Château des Charmes from the west – St. David’s Bench Sub-Appellation

The Niagara River Sub-Appellation Hugging the Riverbank

The Niagara River Sub-Appellation Hugging the Riverbank

Niagara Falls from Above, with US falls in bottom left

Niagara Falls from Above, with US falls in bottom left

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 

The other theme of the release is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of Tuscany’s ‘big three’ DOCG appellations. But Vino Nobile is like the middle child, getting less attention than either Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino. Stylistically (as well as geographically), it also falls generally between its two better-known neighbors. Vino Nobile is similarly based on sangiovese, locally called prugnolo gentile, but the rules allow up to 30% of other varieties, which makes pinning down a typical style more challenging. But the best combine real savory Tuscan character with a finesse rarely found in Brunello, and less forced ambition than one encounters in Chianti Classico aiming to live up to an unrealistic flavor profile.

The Annual New Vintage Release Tasting at the Montepulciano Fortress

The Annual New Vintage Release Tasting at the Montepulciano Fortress

A trip to the Fortress of Montepulciano last year to taste the latest releases revealed a region in dynamic development – things are changing in this small hilltop village, and very much for the better.

I credit in part the storied house of Avignonese for the regional shakeup, which was purchased in 2009 by Belgian-born Virginie Saverys. The highly purposeful and self-motivated outsider promptly converted the entire estate to organic/biodynamic farming, and at 200 ha, it’s the largest in the region.

This move has undoubtedly caused some chatter amongst the neighbors: it’s time for everyone to pick it up or get left behind. In any case, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a region worth keeping a close watch on to capture the best before Montalcino-like pricing inevitably sets in. We pick our favorites of the examples on offer.

Buyer’s Guide: Ontario

Rosehall Run 2011 Cuvée County Chardonnay, VQA Prince Edward County ($21.95)
John Szabo - Dan Sullivan’s ’11 County chardonnay is a lean, taught, tightly wound wine with a fine lactic quality in the style of Chablis. A highly representative example all in all, which highlights the County’s mineral character nicely. Best 2014-2019.

Charles Baker 2011 Picone Vineyard Riesling, VQA Vinemount Ridge ($35.20)
David Lawrason – The cooler vintage and excellent ten-acre site farther from the lake at higher altitude have created a riesling with real verve and intensity, including classic Niagara minerality from the older vines on the site planted on clay limestone soils.

Flat Rock 2013 Riesling, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Flat Rock’s riesling from a high slope on the escarpment has long been a benchmark. The style is juicy, intense and fruit driven, with added acid lift in this great riesling vintage. And Flat Rock has always kept its prices grounded as well.
Sara d’Amato – A love at first sip riesling. The 2013 delivers considerable verve and excitement for the dollar. Bright, racy and dry – lovely on its own but also with also has a great deal of food pairing potential.

No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2011 No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver

Thirty Bench 2012 Red, VQA Beamsville Bench ($24.00)
John Szabo – The 1998 Thirty Bench Red has been referenced by several experts as the wine that made them believers in Niagara reds – that wine was a monster at nearly 15% alcohol if I recall correctly. Now 14 years later, the 2012 is in my view even better: better balanced, more poised, more enjoyable to drink while still retaining its full-body, dense, rich and savoury flavours and spicy-fruity complexity. This could easily sit alongside right bank Bordeaux reds at twice the price. Best 2014-2024.
Sara d’Amato – A gold award winner at the National Wine Awards, this impressive Bordeaux style blend delivers intensity, brightness and loads of appeal. The blend exhibits a well-developed balance, focus and definition but is also generous, fleshy and inviting.

Lailey Vineyard 2012 Syrah, VQA Niagara River ($27.20)
John Szabo – I consider Derek Barnett of Lailey a reference point for Niagara syrah, crafting his version in a no-makeup, straight-out-of-bed style, complete with messy hair and a bit of sleepy dust in the eye. Niagara River, along with St. David’s Bench, are arguably the two most suited sub-appellations for the grape. This will give top Northern Rhône syrah a run for the money, at about half the money. Best after 2015.
David Lawrason – From the time I first tasted syrah from the neighboring Delaine Vineyard about ten vintages ago, I knew this little patch of Niagara within a km of the river was a special place for this variety.  The warmer vintage and Derek Barnett’s deftness with barrels have fashioned a very sensual northern Rhonish edition example, which walked off with a gold medal at the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada.

Tawse 2011 Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($31.95)
John Szabo – I’ve always appreciated the more forward, lively and elegant expression of the Laundry Vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation, usually the first of the Tawse cabernet’s to be released, and one which Paul Pender has learned to read and allow to express its delicacy rather than impose a pre-conceived style. It takes some time in the glass to reveal its full fruity-floral side, so decant before serving for best enjoyment. Best 2014-2018.

Domaine Queylus 2011 Tradition Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($29.95).
John Szabo -The wines of newcomer Queylus are made by the venerable Thomas Bachelder, from all-Niagara Escarpment fruit including one of Le Clos Jordanne’s former vineyards even if this is labeled generically as Niagara Peninsula. The style in this cool vintage is decidedly earthy and tart red fruit dominated, with supple but nicely delineated texture. It’s firmly acidic in the best sense, for fans with Euro-leaning sensibilities. Best 2014-2017.
Sara d’Amato – A serious undertaking and a considerable value. This project headed by former Clos Jordanne winemaker Thomas Bachelder betrays the long, laborious but passionate undertaking of friends and colleagues that brought this project to fruition. A lovely balance of new world intensity and old world precision and balance.

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011 Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2011 No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver No Unauthorized Reproduction WineAlign @Jason Dziver

Château Des Charmes 2012 Merlot St. David’s Bench Vineyard, VQA St. David’s Bench ($29.95)
John Szabo – A big and powerful merlot here, richly fruity, full-bodied, and dense, accurately reflective of both the warm vintage and the house style of red wines built to age. This will likely be best after 2016 or so – there’s plenty of stuffing here to envisage a positive outcome.
David Lawrason – This house has always made reds to age, and so with considerable tannin still at play I would not approach this for another three to five years. That said, the warm year and maturing vines in Niagara’s warmest sub-appellation have created a merlot of substance and yes, even some mid-palate elegance.
Sara d’Amato – Understated but a charmer nonetheless with flavours that blossom with time in the glass to reveal a rather complex array of flavours from licorice and earth to plum and raspberry. Lovely grip and appealing rusticity.

Tawse Growers Blend 2010 Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Despite 2010 being a hotter, riper year many Niagara pinots suffered lack of colour and structure, and some are already fading. This is one of the strongest pinots of the vintage and it is just now softening into prime. A silver medal winner at this year’s Nationals.

Norman Hardie 2012 County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, VQA Prince Edward County ($39.00)
David Lawrason – This vibrant, perfumed and elegant County pinot has waltzed off with a platinum medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada, a testament perhaps to maturing vines and a warmer season.  It will certainly sell out quickly at the winery so this release may be a last chance to grab some.
Sara d’Amato – The leader of the pack of remarkable County pinot noirs, this warm vintage has bolstered the flavours yet the wine remains both complex and ethereal – the hallmark of Hardie’s wines. Well deserving of its platinum award from this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada.

Buyer’s Guide: Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano

Poliziano 2011 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy ($29.95)
Castellani Filicheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010 Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 2008 Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011John Szabo – Occasionally it takes only a split-second whiff to confirm that what’s in the glass is of superior quality; such was the case with Poliziano’s Vino Nobile. Beyond aromatics, there’s genuine depth and concentration on the palate, and you have to admire the balance and vibrancy coupled with complexity, for the money. Best now-2020.
David Lawrason – From a leading modernist, this is a very refined, tidy wine – so well balanced and appealing now that it is hard to believe it has only been in bottle over a year.  A lighter vintage may be one reason, as well as ageing up to 16 months, mostly in new French oak.  But it too should age well through the rest of this decade. Lovely fragrance here.

Carpineto 2008 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva, Tuscany, Italy ($29.95)
David Lawrason – I was pleasantly surprised by the youth this 2008 Riserva is showing. It was not a great vintage, and indeed there is a certain unexpected lightness to this wine. The fruit aromatics are bright and almost floral with oak in the background despite ageing four years before release (two years in large Slavonian oak with a small percent in French barriques). It should handle another five years in the cellar although it is balanced now.

Castellani Filicheto 2010 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – A tidy little value from the Vino Nobile mini-thematic – it’s solidly flavoured, savoury and succulent, and ready to enjoy tonight.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Sept 13th:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

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