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Les bons choix de Marc

Comment résoudre le casse-tête de Pâques
de Marc Chapleau

Le problème avec Pâques, ce n’est ni le jambon, ni l’agneau et ni le chocolat traditionnels que l’on s’escrime à marier à tel ou tel vin. Non, la vraie difficulté, le vrai casse-tête, c’est qu’il n’y a justement plus de coutume qui tienne. De nos jours, on doit en effet s’attendre cette fin de semaine là à manger à peu près n’importe quoi, et souvent un peu de tout, au cours du même repas.

Marc Chapleau sm

Marc Chapleau

Moralité : il nous faut un ou des vins passe-partout, à même d’accompagner sans trop de dommage une grande variété de plats.

Surtout qu’il arrive souvent que l’on ne sache même pas ce qu’on va manger précisément, étant donné qu’on est invité. Dans ces cas-là – et à moins d’être impoli comme moi et de texter la veille à ses hôtes pour s’enquérir du menu –, pas de risques à prendre. Et surtout pas de gros rouges tanniques, l’heure étant en règle générale à la légèreté, à la table même comme autour.

Fort bien, direz-vous, mais que fait-on si on mange de l’agneau ? Un rouge costaud s’impose alors pour soutenir la comparaison, non ?

Un rouge assez généreux, oui, mais pas nécessairement tannique ni relativement astringent.

Quoi qu’il en soit, voici, à divers prix, des pistes pour se tirer d’affaire en présence de différents plats, et j’oserai dire jusqu’au traditionnel jambon.

Commençons justement par ce cochon, tiens. Ma suggestion : oubliez le vin, pour une fois, et accompagnez-le d’un autre type de grand cru, la savoureuse bière belge Chimay Trappistes Grande Réserve vendue en bouteille de 750 ml au prix très raisonnable de 10,70 $. Pour une poignée de dollars, la chance de s’offrir l’une des plus grandes bières au monde !

Vous grimacez ? Trop triviale, une bière ?

Dans ce cas, pourquoi pas l’un de nos excellents cidres locaux, en train de gagner – ou de regagner – l’estime des Québécois.

Chimay Trappistes Grande Réserve Extra Forte  Cidrerie Du Minot Crémant De Pomme 2013  Domaine Lafrance Cidre Mousseux  Michel Jodoin Cidre Mousseux Rosé  Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2012

Parmi les meilleurs disponibles sur le marché, le Crémant de pomme rosé du Minot, le Cidre mousseux « avec un soupçon de cidre de glace » Domaine Lafrance et le Cidre rosé mousseux Michel Jodoin.

Autrement, si vous n’aimez pas les bulles, le jambon avec os simplement bouilli et servi sans trop de façon s’accommodera, en blanc tranquille, d’un chardonnay comme le très bon Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2012, à 19 $ et provenant de la vallée de Limari, au Chili.

DES ROUGES PASSE-PARTOUT

Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011Margrain Vineyards Home Block Pinot Noir 2010Schug Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2012Du côté des vins rouges qui pourraient aller avec la plupart des viandes et même l’agneau, de même qu’avec les quiches et autres préparations typiques des brunchs, ne faites ni une ni deux et optez pour du pinot noir. Mais pas de Bourgogne : plutôt du Nouveau Monde, pour avoir plus facilement et à bon compte un vin plus généreux et plus fruité, plus consensuel aussi, à même de plaire à une majorité.

Trois bons choix à la SAQ présentement. De Californie d’abord, le Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012, à 28,20 $. Puis, deux vins de Nouvelle-Zélande : à 35 $, le Margrain Home Block Pinot Noir 2010 et, un cran meilleur mais aussi un bon cran plus cher (48,75 $), le Dog Point Pinot Noir 2011. À servir rafraîchis, les trois, après un passage d’environ 45 minutes au frigo.

ET LE CHOCOLAT ?

Je n’allais pas l’oublier. Sauf que, ça me gêne un peu, nous sommes ici sur un site de vin et de boissons alcoolisées… mais voilà, il y a aussi qu’on y dit les vraies affaires, rien n’est arrangé avec le gars des vues.

Tommasi Recioto Valpolicella 2010Alors voici : le meilleur accord avec le chocolat, et de loin, c’est avec un bon café – et je ne blague pas. Maintenant, si vous y tenez, essayez le Recioto Valpolicella Tommasi 2010, à 26 $ la demi-bouteille. Moins sucré qu’un porto, et porté par une très belle acidité, cet excellent vin de dessert de la Vénétie ne titre au surplus que 13 % d’alcool. Ça se boit en criant coco !

À noter que ce serait également une excellente idée d’oublier toute nourriture et de le siroter pour lui-même, en plein air, sur la galerie, en priant très fort pour que le beau temps s’installe à demeure et que l’été, bientôt, ressuscite…

Voilà pour ma contribution en liquide au happening pascal. Ne forcez pas trop sur le chocolat, ça tache les doigts. À très bientôt !

Marc Chapleau

P.-S. Et avec tout ça je n’ai même pas parlé du rosé, pourtant le vin passe-partout par excellence ! Je vous invite donc à aller jeter un oeil sur le dernier texte de Nadia Fournier [Les choix de Nadia – Cellier], qui en recommande un très bon.

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 grands vins!


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Best Buys in BC – Easter Spotlight

Peter Cottontail is en route, hopping down the bunny trail to appear either as a chocolate benefactor or an entrée, depending on your family plans (and sense of humour, I suppose). From Easter egg hunts to leisurely spring brunch to a multicourse dinner, Easter long weekend is often centered around food. As we all know at WineAlign, wine and food goes together as organically as Easter morning and treats. With that in mind, we based this month’s Best Buys picks around what we will be pairing to this long weekend’s feasting. 

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Sunday is Easter and with the two big turkey holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) behind us, the question is, will it be ham, lamb, pork or fish and which wines should you be thinking about pairing with your choice? This month we explore some of the classic Easter matches. I know, they are no rules anymore when it comes to pairing food and wine, but as mother might say “If your friends were jump off a bridge would you do it too?” Maybe she was thinking about those people who drink shiraz with halibut and cabernet with sushi just because someone said drinking red wine is good for you. Years of experience have taught me some wines react better with certain foods than others. The trick is to know which is which.

One of Easter’s problematic matches is that handsomely glazed ham awash in sugar (pineapple) and salt. Both ingredients tend to bring out the bitterness and tannins in wine. The pairing is not insurmountable as long as you think about fruity, lighter structured reds with supple tannins. Garnacha from Spain or grenache from France should do the job. My pick is M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône 2012, a mix of grenache and syrah it yields a juicy, fresh, peppery, black fruit flavoured red perfect with the fat and sweetness of the ham. Where white wine is in play a non-wooded or lightly wooded pinot grigio (or gris) would be equally acceptable and my pick is a local favourite: Mission Hill Pinot Gris Reserve 2012. Its round, full, fatter palate with passion fruit, pink grapefruit, and baked green apple is just the ticket to handle the busy flavours of a holiday ham.

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes Du Rhône 2012  Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2012  Domaine De Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2011 Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010

Lamb is more of a slam dunk pairing for syrah or shiraz. A roasted leg of lamb allows for plenty of manoeuvring room with red wine but the classic match is syrah or shiraz. Plenty of minty, lamb flavours call for an equally intense red to tame them and you get that with syrah or syrah blends such as the M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2011, a classic stony, savoury, umami styled Roussillon with juicy black fruit that is rich and intense. Lamb is the perfect foil. The crazy syrah value is Falernia Syrah Reserve 2010 from the Elqui Valley in Chile. Its black pepper, black cherries, chocolate and tobacco will surely melt every mouthful of lamb.

The delicate flavour of pork makes it an ideal candidate for citrus-based marinades and you can choose red or white wine for the match, but the best is riesling. One of the best new world values is the Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling 2008 from the Eden Valley. Its juicy lime aromas, electric riesling flavours and zesty minerality will all tame the pork. Locally my pick is the Red Rooster Riesling 2012. The style is off-dry, with refreshing acidity and delicious lemon, peach and guava fruit flavours that should carve their way through the pork.

Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling 2008  Red Rooster Riesling 2012 Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Pinot Noir 2011

Let’s see now – all that leaves is B.C.’s signature fish: the salmon. In its simplest form the pre-meal smoked salmon (and cream cheese) can be a delight to share with your dinner guests. In this case I’m sticking to sparkling wine and a classic Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne N/V. Fruity, mineral, oyster shell, nutty, floral undertones set the pace for a delicious pre-dinner aperitif that will stand up to the smoke and salmon. If salmon is the main course you may want to consider the classic B.C presentation: cedar-planked salmon. In this case the dense ‘meaty’ oily fish with its smoky flavours can play host to a rich New World pinot noir. My pick is Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2011. Clearly one of the better Chilean pinots we have tasted this year and still affordable. Look for fruit sweetness and tangy acidity pulling at each other and causing pleasing tension, perfect for salmon. Happy Easter.

DJ Kearney

I love Easter for the egg hunts, the bonnets, the 4 day weekend and especially the non-stop feasting.  Drinking, cooking and eating a wide variety of flavours from all corners of the Easter-celebrating world demands a broad range of wine styles.

8th Generation Riesling 2012Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2012Château De Sancerre Sancerre 2012A whole baked or grilled salmon can feed an extended family crowd with minimal fuss.  Whether you wrap fillets in puff pastry or simply stuff with citrus, and aromatic herbs, white wine needs to have some substance and architecture to contend with richness and intense fish flavour.  The Chateau de Sancerre 2012 offers the necessary beam of focused citrus, crunchy acidity, and persistence.

A richer partner for salmon (and excellent with baked ham too) is a Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2012 – a stunner that’s not just brilliantly priced, but an ager as well.  Make a lipsmacking, glossy lemon butter sauce for the salmon for optimal pairing magic.

Smoky, succulent sweet-salty baked bone-in ham is not only a centerpiece, it will yield a motherload of meals all week-long. A barely off-dry Riesling for the luscious texture, sweet glaze and crunchy, fatty bits like 8th Generation Riesling 2012 will keep your palate cleansed and tingling through every bite.  Add herbes de provence to the brine, darken the glaze honey and red wine, and uncork a smooth southern Rhone wine like the M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône 2012.  And if you are roasting a rosemary-marinated leg of lamb for Easter dinner, their Côtes du Rhône will fit like a velvet-y glove.

Rhys Pender, MW

Easter is just around the corner, a time when the promise of spring is in the air, but it still can be chilly and I am not yet ready to switch wine focus to just light, crisp and chilling whites, bubbly and rosé. It is a time to sit on the fence with something refreshing for the afternoon apéro, with something a little more warming to suit the cool evenings.

Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Palomino Fino Extra Dry SherryGérard Bertrand Château L'hospitalet 2011 Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2012 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Easter food is also well suited to these kinds of wines. If you do lamb or ham or if the Easter bunny ends up in your pot, a softer, earthy red or a full-bodied white will do the trick. For apéro, be brave and try the Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry. This slightly odd salty, bready and crisp wine grows on you with time, particularly if served with snacks of roasted nuts, olives and anything deep-fried. When moving onto Easter dinner try the Gérard Bertrand 2011 Château l’Hospitalet La Clape for its soft, savoury warmth, the similarly themed M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône 2012 or a fuller bodied white such as the Spier Chenin Blanc 2012 from South Africa. If roast lamb is your Easter treat, the Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 has the right mix of flavour intensity and structure to match well.

Treve Ring

As spring sunshine returns to BC, my mind turns towards the warmth of Spain. The extreme diversity across the land of bulls affords wines to suit all tastes and menus. Easter Brunch will be brightened with the consistent, crisp, bright (organic!) brut cava from Pares Balta – a sparkling steal of a deal with pure apple, citrus and stone. If roasted pork or rabbit is on the menu, Toro’s Elias Mora 2010 would suit, reflecting the sunwarmed heat of the renegade region through its red-fruited, unfiltered 100% tinta de toro (tempranillo). Should herb grilled lamb be making an appearance, a fitting match is Vinos de Finca’s Losada 2009 from Bierzo, highlighting the mencia grape in this lush, juniper-scented big red.

Parés Baltà Cava Brut Viñas Elias Mora 2010Losada Bierzo 2009 Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2012 Domaine Lathuiliere Pisse Vieille Brouilly 2012 Lini 910 Labrusca

But Spain doesn’t reserve all my attention this holiday weekend. The savoury Domaine Wachau 2010 Gruner Veltliner Terraces from Austria caught my memory this month, intriguing with its anise textured and honey kissed notes. Try it with the first of the halibut season. Much closer to home, Stag’s Hollow 2013 Riesling from Amalia Vineyard on Osoyoos’ west bench would make for a fantastic versatile bottle for the table; the shining peach, lime and creamy peach a match for dishes porcine, poultry or piscine. I poured the pure and structured deliciousness of Domaine Lathuiliere Brouilly Pisse Vieille 2012 for a Cru Beaujolais tasting this month, impressing the trade group with its blend of stony seriousness and berry fruitiness. This old-vine gamay would be a brilliant fit for your Easter turkey or cran-glazed ham (#GoGamayGo). If, like me, your traditions are decidedly unconventional, pick up the dry, fruity Lini 910 Lambrusco from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. The striking bottle has ripe berry depth and enough tannin to take on salmon, tuna or poultry, plus fresh acidity and lively bubbles to lend to the festivities.

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


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Le monde du vin selon Nadia

Les cornichons

Nadia Fornier

Nadia Fornier

Comme nombre de jeunes Québécois une fois le cégep terminé, je suis partie avec mon sac à dos à la découverte de l’Europe. Je pensais y passer six mois, et de vignoble en vignoble, je me suis fait prendre au jeu. J’y suis restée près de deux ans.

À mon retour, j’avais 22 ans et je rêvais de la « grande Bourgogne ». Mais comme beaucoup de gens hélas, j’en parlais bien plus que j’avais l’occasion d’en boire.

Un jour, devinant mon intérêt pour le vin – j’en parlais sans cesse –, un collègue de la restauration m’a offert d’assister à une soirée de son club de dégustation. J’ai sauté sur l’occasion.

La thématique de la soirée portait sur la Bourgogne et le Jura. J’étais dans mon élément, tout allait bien, relativement bien. La gêne tombait peu à peu, mon syndrome de l’imposteur s’estompait. Puis, c’est arrivé…

L’un des derniers vins blancs de la soirée était un vin « naturel » du Jura issu de savagnin. Lorsque mon tour fut venu de prendre la parole, j’ai souligné la tenue en bouche et l’équilibre du vin, ajoutant que j’avais beaucoup aimé, même si a priori, j’avais été un peu déconcertée par son nez de cornichon à l’aneth.

Visiblement insulté, le propriétaire de ladite bouteille s’est lancé dans un discours aussi pompeux qu’interminable, au terme duquel j’avais perdu toute assurance. En résumé : j’aurais mieux fait de me taire. Peu lui importait que j’en aie vanté les nombreux mérites, que j’aie salué son équilibre et sa texture. En évoquant les cornichons à l’aneth, j’avais réduit son vin au statut de vinaigre…

À partir de cette soirée, j’ai commencé à me méfier de mes perceptions et cet épisode a continué de me hanter, même après plusieurs années à fréquenter le vin de façon professionnelle.

Puis, il y a deux ans, lors d’un séjour dans le Jura, j’ai eu la chance de rendre visite au vigneron-artiste qui était à l’origine de ce fameux vin. Incognito, jouant les touristes. Tout allait bien, merveilleusement bien, nous passions un agréable moment. Puis, c’est arrivé… Encore! Le nez dans le verre, j’ai redécouvert l’arôme du plus terrifiant des condiments.

J’étais encore à débattre en mon for intérieur quant à l’opportunité d’interroger ou non le vigneron à ce sujet, que je me suis entendu dire, du bout des lèvres, mais quand même.

–      Au risque de vous offusquer ou de paraître ridicule, est-il possible que je retrouve dans ce vin des parfums de cornichon à l’aneth?

J’ai fermé les yeux et serré les dents en attendant sa réponse.

–      C’est loin d’être ridicule, mademoiselle !

–      Ah bon ?

–      D’abord, les arômes d’aneth et de fenouil sont assez fréquents sur ce savagnin. Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais c’est souvent comme ça. Et puis, le vin doit bien contenir près d’un gramme d’acide acétique, ce qui explique la notion de vinaigre…

–      Vous n’êtes pas fâché?

–      Pas du tout. Est-ce que le vin vous plaît ?

–      Absolument!

–      Alors, c’est tout ce qui compte !

Le savagnin, les cornichons et moiVoilà! Fin de la conversation. Neuf années d’incertitude balayées en deux minutes. Le savagnin, les cornichons et moi étions réconciliés. Enfin !

Si je vous raconte tout ça, c’est que je sais combien le monde du vin peut être intimidant. Surtout au début. Mais ce serait bien dommage de bouder son plaisir par peur du ridicule. Le vin ne devrait-il pas être une source de volupté et de découverte plutôt que d’angoisse ?

Certaines personnes de votre entourage donnent l’impression d’être plus calées que vous en matière de vin ? Et alors ?

Il y a une époque dans la vie de tout amateur de vin où l’on explore sans vraiment connaître. Et ce sont peut-être les moments les plus excitants. Ceux de l’éveil à des textures et à des saveurs nouvelles. Un plaisir purement sensoriel, zéro intellectuel.

Alors, allez-y, osez vous prononcer ! Votre appréciation d’un vin ne fera peut-être pas l’unanimité. Qu’importe. Nul ne détient le monopole du bon goût. C’est l’idée même de Chacun son vin : une pluralité d’opinions pour une pluralité de vins.

Car en plus de vous donner accès aux commentaires de chroniqueurs professionnels, Chacun son vin vous donne accès à un forum gratuit. Je me joins donc à Bill, Marc et Rémy, mes complices dans cette nouvelle aventure, pour vous convier à y participer, sans gêne et sans modération. Au plaisir de vous lire et d’échanger avec vous.

À propos des étoiles

Plutôt que d’adopter la notation sur cent points comme certains de mes collègues de Chacun son vin, j’ai préféré garder les mêmes barèmes que pour Le guide du vin, c’est-à-dire une séquence de zéro à cinq étoiles.

Chaque vin que je décris est donc noté dans sa catégorie et non pas dans l’absolu. Ainsi, un vin courant a autant de chances qu’un grand cru de se mériter une note de quatre étoiles, pour autant qu’il s’avère excellent dans sa catégorie.

Mais surtout, gardez en tête que ce sont les mots qui décrivent le vin, pas les étoiles ni les pourcentages…

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The Successful Collector, Julian Hitner – The new Gran Selezione Category of Chianti Classico

Raising the bar or raising prices?

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Debuting this spring, the new ‘Gran Selezione’ category of Chianti Classico has the entire wine world abuzz. What exactly is this new premium wine category? What are the rules? And when might we expect to begin seeing bottles labelled as Gran Selezione in VINTAGES stores?

Such questions were uppermost on my mind when I attended the official launch of Gran Selezione in Florence last month. Held in the illustrious Throne Room of the Palazzo Vecchio, the excitement of participating producers (some of the best in the region) was palpable. For many, the creation of the Gran Selezione category had been a long time coming. With the widely recognized rise in the quality of Chianti Classico over the past several years, it was only natural that a new ranking be developed at the top level so as to reflect the calibre of the best bottlings. To most in attendance, this was at least the message the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico very much wished to convey.

Chianti LogoThe rules for Gran Selezione are reasonably simple. First and foremost, all grapes must be estate-grown. In other words, producers may not purchase grapes from other growers (such as bulk producers) for the purpose of adding them to the final blend. Second, the wine must be matured for at least 30 months in wood prior to release, including at least 3 months in bottle. Finally, the wine is to be strictly examined by an expert panel of impartial judges before release. As with Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, all Gran Selezione must be produced from 80-100% Sangiovese. In addition to local grapes such as Canaiolo and/or Colorino, grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot may constitute up to 20% of the final blend.

The establishment of this new category has been met with considerable anticipation, though several issues remain. Of these, the most significant is how this new premium ranking will affect other existing categories of Chianti Classico. For instance, will the style of wines bottled as ‘Chianti Classico Riserva’ be changed? According to existing regulations, Riservas must be aged for at least 2 years in wood, including 3 months in bottle. They also do not have to be crafted exclusively from estate-grown fruit. But even already (and this should not come as a surprise), some producers have begun diverting their best estate-grown fruit from wines formerly destined to be labelled as Riserva to bottles destined to be labelled as Gran Selezione. As a whole, does this mean the quality of Chianti Classico Riserva is destined for a nosedive? Only time will tell.

Chianti Pyramid

 

Another issue is whether Gran Selezione wines (the grapes of which are not even obliged to come from single vineyards) will even be qualitatively superior to Chianti Classico Riserva or ‘standard’ Chianti Classico in the long run. Simply put, is the Gran Selezione category nothing but a price grab in the making? So far, this does not seem to be the case. From what I tasted during my time in Firenze, wines labelled as Gran Selezione almost always represented the finest, most qualitatively appreciable bottlings of any given estate, at least among Chianti Classico offerings. A good omen of things to come? Once again, only time will tell.

Indeed, the quality of initial offerings are truly impressive, with many possessing a much-welcomed extra degree of concentration and complexity that seem to definitively separate them from their ‘standard’ counterparts. But personal preference does play a role, as not everyone might appreciate their Chianti Classicos aged for so long in oak at the expense of fruit freshness and approachability. Hence the contradictorily positive effect(s) of the new Gran Selezione category: an expansion of styles and more diverse levels of quality than ever before.

Availability of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione:

At present, wines labelled as ‘Chianti Classico Gran Selezione’ are set to be released in VINTAGES stores over the next several years. At time of publication, we are uncertain if these wines will be featured in bi-weekly releases or if they will be offered exclusively through the VINTAGES Classics Collection. For now, all wines may only be purchased through the agent listed. They are truly worth seeking out.

My top choices:

Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($75.00) surpasses a large number of expectations. For both its concentration and refinement, this is definitely one of the most powerful, most delicious versions I have ever tasted from this extraordinary establishment. Decanting is recommended. Available through Trialto Wine Group.

San Felice 2010 Il Grigio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($35.00) is a first-rate outing, representing one of the best buys of this premium new category. In addition to 80% Sangiovese, five other grape varietals made it into the final blend. Decanting is recommended. Available through John Hanna & Sons.

Fontodi 2010 Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($95.00) is the finest version I have tasted thus far, hailing from one of the most accomplished producers in Tuscany. A potential legend in the making, the Manetti family has every reason to take pride in this incredible offering. Decanting is certainly warranted. Available through Rogers & Company.

Il Molino di Grace 2010 Il Margone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($75.00) is built for the very long-term, but may be consumed now with unbridled gusto. For those unfamiliar with this winery (launched in 1999), Frank Grace’s eponymous operation has developed quite a reputation for itself in a very short time. Decanting is recommended. Available through Connexion Oenophilia.

Antinori 2009 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($60.00) is to be commended on so many levels, not just for its sensational pedigree but also for its obvious superiority to a good number of its predecessors. An immensely rewarding wine. Decanting is recommended. Available through Halpern Enterprises.

Chianti Classico Riservas currently available:

Castello di Bossi 2008 Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva ($29.95) hails from an estate with which I am only just beginning to become familiar. Owned by the Bacci family, human activity appears to have taken place at Castello de Bossi since ancient Roman times. A very fascinating locale for winegrowing. Decanting is recommended.

Fontodi 2009 Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva ($75.00) represents one of the top offerings of its graduating class, and may very well be the last vintage of Vigna del Sorbo to be bottled as ‘Riserva.’ A wine of remarkable disposition and breed, this will keep for up to a dozen years. Decanting is recommended.

Castelgreve 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva ($29.95) provides an extremely solid introduction to wines crafted more in the ‘traditional style.’ This usually means greater emphasis placed on dried fruits and cedarwood, an approach that tends to lend itself well to all sorts of Italian foods. Decanting is recommended.

Castello San Sano 2008 Guarnellotto Chianti Classico Riserva ($19.25) was tasted a year ago and has since been reduced in price. Enjoyable over the medium term, this may not be the most complex wine, though the quality of its ingredients makes for a rather impressive experience. Decanting is recommended but not mandatory.

Click the links below for more Chianti Classico wines and reviews.

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

Editors Note: You can find our critics reviews by clicking on any of the links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great reviews.

Julian’s Chianti Classico Reviews
All Julian Hitner Reviews


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Anthony Gismondi; The Final Blend

The Nationals: Fourteen years of searching for Canada’s best wine.

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

When our judges sit down to evaluate this year’s crop of wines at the 2014 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada some in the room will have judged at all 13 preceding events. Since there is no way to convey to you how valuable that is in the tasting room we are including the chardonnay results gleaned from the first, 2001 Canadian Wine Awards held high above the Royal York Hotel in Toronto to compare with the latest 2013 chardonnay results from our stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake last summer. I think you will agree we have all come a long way.

You might say David Lawrason and I were dreamers back then, thinking that if we provided the perfect setting for an annual ‘Canadian Wine Awards’ competition, wineries would fall over themselves wanting to enter their wines and measure themselves against the opposition. Let’s just say we have learned a lot over the past 14 years.

It’s been a long process of building trust. First among ourselves to the do the job properly and then to convince Canadian producers what we are doing is worth their participation. Both David and I have worked extremely hard to hone our judges into the sharpest panels in the country. Many have cut their wine teeth judging in other shows around the world. Over the years we have worked with scores of judges looking for just the right combination of experience, tasting ability and the most important asset, the ability to work within a group, to make sure the best wines get moved forward.

Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason - Lead Judges

Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason

We don’t always get it right individually but with the right leadership and a room full of open minds what we try to do is make sure the group seldom, if ever, gets it wrong.

When we started the Canadian Wine Awards it was our goal to make sure the results were a three way win – for the wines, for the judges and for the awards organizers. I clearly remember returning from shows in Europe where I spent a week tasting and assessing wines for free never to be told which wines I had tasted. In Australia I learned the importance of the panel leader and the head judge and the need to develop younger apprentices. We use all this and more at The Nationals.

Over time the costs to put on the awards have crept up from some $80K to about $105K. I mention this because I have read so much about what a money grab wine awards are for the organisers. We don’t make any money on the first 1100 entries, which is why we lost money for most of the formative years and have barely balanced the budget in the remaining competitions. We always thought an iconic Canadian company would step in and sponsor the awards but so far that has yet to happen. We are not complaining or even contemplating quitting, because as Canadian hockey players would say, “It is what it is.”

That said, we remain committed to building something that will stand the test of time and celebrate the best of Canada wine. Even that in itself sounds, well, almost un-Canadian. We have other odd notions too.

NWAC13 Logo We pay our judges for a week’s work because we value their time and their input. We also fly them in and out from across the country and we feed them each day. Including the back room and volunteers, we look after 30 people for seven days. After moving about the country – Toronto, Lake Louise, Victoria and Calgary –  a few years ago we made the decision to hold the awards in wine country to shine a spotlight on various Canadian wine regions and so far we have spent some memorable weeks in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Okanagan Valley and the Annapolis Valley. Could Vancouver Island or Prince Edward County be next?

But back to the three way win.

We have a lot of happy judges because they can taste a fabulous cross-section of local wines, blind, under ideal conditions (many they wouldn’t see in their own market) and before they walk out the door at the end of the week they receive all their notes and scores along with key sheets telling them which wines they tasted that week. They are immediately free to write about any of the hundreds of wines they tasted, using their personal notes no matter what the outcome of the awards.

From a winery’s point of view, their wines are put in front of a number of top commentators from across the country and we promise to publish a permanent online note at WineAlign for all wines receiving a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal. Of course, winery entrants can also meet the judges throughout the week and they are welcome to inspect the back room of the competition as well. We have nothing to hide.

Volunteers and wines

Separate room for Volunteers and wines

By the way, unlike many competitions done with brown bags etc. to rightfully hide the labels from judges, we opted for a much more fail-proof system. We use separate rooms so that all bottles and labels are visible to the back room staff but never seen by the judges. This is in addition to several checks throughout the system from entry to physically pouring the wine into a tasting glass that prevents any wine from ending up in the wrong flight. We also have a wonderful sponsorship with Schott Zwiesel that puts each wine in a top quality restaurant style glass, versus a tiny ISO wine glass, giving the mostly young wines some room to breathe and show off.

That brings us to the wineries that don’t enter. To be frank we don’t dwell too much on their absence because in blind tastings we don’t really know who is missing in any given flight of wines. Post competition, when the names are revealed we may ponder their absence for a moment or two, but frankly if they weren’t involved there isn’t much we can discuss or compare. My sense is consumers are more confused and doubting when they don’t see a winery’s wines in the rankings. That said we have come to learn some wineries just “don’t do competitions” for whatever reasons and in the end we respect anyone’s decision not to compete.

We can all argue about what a medal is worth but at The Nationals please know that we fret over every gold and silver medal. In the minds of our judges each is a major achievement. We also award what we term a high bronze; to keep the number of medals to a meaningful amount we only recognise the top end of the traditional bronze range, in our case 86 and 87 points. And last year we implemented the concept of ‘virtual’ medals ensuring that all gold, silver and bronze medals appear on the WineAlign website whenever anyone is searching our database.

NWAC 2013 Platinum MedalIn keeping with our attempts to add extra value to a winery entering our awards we instituted platinum medals in 2013 – see our winners here – to recognise the very best wines in the competition. They represent only one percent of the total entries and are chosen based on the highest scoring wines. In the past we highlighted the Best White, Red, Sparkling and Dessert wines of Show, but often this would be at the expense of say five or ten wines that actually scored higher than the top wine in any single class. Under the new Platinum system if the top five wines of the year are syrahs or chardonnays they will be recognised as such and stand alone above individual category winners with slightly lower scores. This reflects the tasting room mantra and the raison d’être of The Nationals: find the best wines in each flight and push them forward to be eligible for the highest medal possible.

Speaking of flights, over the years we have trimmed our average flight size and daily wines tasted and find we get better results. Today our wine flights average eight or nine wines and we taste about 80 to 90 wines each day. There are no 50-wine flights at The Nationals and there are no 200-wine days for our judges. We keep our people fresh and engaged for the six hours they work each day.

Penticton, British Columbia

Penticton, British Columbia – Home of the 2014 ‘Nationals’

And finally, the win for the third party, the organizers, WineAlign. The awards give us a chance to feed our huge audience, now more than 1.5 million unique visitors each year, with the latest information on Canadian wine. The yearly results of The Nationals are yet another way we can engage with them on a regular basis. Our results aren’t just on the radar for a day in the newspaper, or a single press release. They are built into our website and remain there for all to see. And this year for the first time, the results will also be published in French.

David and I feel great responsibility for the awards, and after 14 years we believe we are finally gaining the trust of the judges, the wineries and consumers. I guess what we are saying is we don’t take anything for granted. All we ask is that everyone else do the same and help make this the most successful year yet. The 2014 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada takes place June 20-25 in Penticton, British Columbia and David Lawrason and I can’t wait to dream again.

2001 Canadian Wine Awards

CHARDONNAY

Gold

Hawthorne Mountain 2000 Gold Label Chardonnay BC, 24.95
Daniel Lenko 1999 Old Vines Chardonnay ON, 19.95

Silver

Henry of Pelham 1999 Reserve Chardonnay ON, 13.95
Inniskillin Okanagan 2000 Reserve Chardonnay BC, 14.95
Inniskillin 1999 Montague Vineyard Chardonnay ON, 16.95
Stoney Ridge 2000 Kew Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay ON, 18.95
Strewn 1999 Terroir Strewn Vineyard Chardonnay ON, 18.95
Peninsula Ridge 1999 Reserve Chardonnay ON, 24.95
Cilento 1999 Reserve Chardonnay ON, 29.95
Thirty Bench 1999 Reserve Reif Vineyard Chardonnay ON, 40.00

WineAlign 2013 National Wine Awards of Canada

CHARDONNAY

Platinum

Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 McLean Creek Chardonnay McLean Creek Vineyard $35 – $42
Quails’ Gate Winery 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay $35

Gold

Mission Hill Family Estate 2010 Perpetua Osoyoos Vineyard Estate $35 – $41
Henry of Pelham 2011 Chardonnay Estate $20
Mission Hill Family Estate 2011 Reserve Chardonnay $17 – $20
Norman Hardie Winery 2010 Chardonnay Unfiltered $35

Silver

Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 Tribute Series Chardonnay Old Main Road Vineyard $35 – $42
Baillie-Grohman 2011 Chardonnay Baillie-Grohman Vineyard $25
Ravine Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay $24
Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2011 The Census Count Chardonnay $13
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate 2011 Delaine Chardonnay $25
Exultet Estates 2011 Chardonnay The Blessed $40
JoieFarm 2011 En Famille Reserve Chardonnay $30
Road 13 Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay $24
Burrowing Owl 2011 Chardonnay $25 – $36
Hidden Bench 2011 Estate Chardonnay $29
Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay $25
Closson Chase 2011 Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard $30
Mike Weir Wine 2012 Chardonnay $25
Tawse 2010 Estate Chardonnay $38
Tawse 2010 Member Select Chardonnay $50
Niagara College Teaching Winery 2010 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay Donald Ziraldo Vineyard $19
Privato Vineyard and Winery 2011 Chardonnay $30
Lailey 2011 Chardonnay, old vines $40
Tawse 2011 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay $46
Norman Hardie Winery 2011 County Chardonnay Unfiltered $35
Wayne Gretzky Okanagan 2012 Chardonnay $16
Trius Winery at Hillebrand 2011 Trius Chardonnay Barrel Fermented $20
Painted Rock Estate 2011 Chardonnay $30

The complete results of the National Wine Awards of Canada are posted on WineAlign at: NWAC 2013 Results. The results include all the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners in several style and grape variety categories, plus a “performance report” on the Top 20 wineries in the country. 


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Chacun Son Vin: Welcome to the Conversation

Chacun Son Vin: Welcome to the Conversation
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I have been writing about wine for over ten years, and have been involved in various aspects of the wine industry for over twenty. I owned a restaurant, was the head sommelier at a Relais Châteaux restaurant, and worked the floor at the SAQ.

Over that time I’ve seen a lot of changes. Wine styles have come and gone. The “New World” is not so new anymore, and wine from the four corners of the wine world have never been more accessible.

However, the most important change is you. Yes, you the wine lover.

There was a time when wine critics and sommeliers descended from their mountain tops to proclaim their verdict about wines. You were expected to shut up and drink.

You have levelled the playing field. You have your own tastes and opinions, and they are as worthy as ours. Critics, like myself and others on the team of CSV – Marc Chapleau, Nadia Fournier and Rémy Charest, and everyone who writes for WineAlign –  taste far more wine than most. We travel, meet winemakers and walk the vineyards. We taste back vintages so that we can better assess a terroir and the wine that it produces over time. This allows us to look at a wine in a larger context than most, and our job is to bring this information to you.

We’ll do that here.

But our palates are no more worthy than yours. The future of wine criticism is about a conversation. It is about an exchange of viewpoints. And what I love most about Chacun Son Vin is that it provides that link.

You’ll notice that we critics don’t always agree about wines. I’m virtually allergic to new oak; I prefer finesse over power, and firmly believe that the very best wines are not those which are technically perfect, rather those that reveal the imperfections of the land and the vintage in unique and tasty ways. Others have their own criteria.

Those that know me know that I don’t like scoring wines. There are too many variables at play which can change an appreciation of a wine. But a condition of becoming part of this team was that all wines had to be scored; which provides the unique ability of this site to let you “align” your tastes with various critics. And that is new, and a good thing. And in the end, having an opportunity to recommend wines that I love and to write about the wine industry to an even greater audience was more important than “the score.”

So I choose to use a five-star scale. Decoding my pleasure-ometer is as follows: two stars I consider drinkable yet unexciting; three stars is a good, solid wine; four stars and I’m running to the store to buy more, and for a wine to get five stars, I probably cried as I drained the last of the bottle.

I do factor in price, so value is a consideration. In my books, if a winery is going to be charging more than $30 a bottle, I hold them to a higher standard.  Conversely, if a winery can produce an inexpensive bottle that talks of a place and doesn’t taste like it came out of a laboratory, then they reach hero status with me.

But please read the tasting note, that’s what’s really important!

Notes & Stars

So follow the voice or voices that you feel best align with your tastes. But remember, you can also participate and I hope many of you use this site to further this conversation.

The SAQ releases hundreds of wines every two weeks. Many of these are new to the province, and new to us. We as a team will try and taste as many of them as we can. We will recommend what we like, and tell you why. And by leaving us your email and becoming a member, we will send you weekly emails with a list of what turned us on.

After that, it’s up to you.

Bill Zacharkiw

 

 

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Bienvenue chez Chacun son vin

Chacun Son Vin, un nouveau site web consacré au vin, voit le jour aujourd’hui au Québec! ChacunSonVin.com offrira le guide le plus complet au Québec en matière d’achats et d’appréciation des vins.

Montréal, Québec, le 3 avril 2014- WineAlign, le plus important service en ligne dédié à la découverte, au partage et à la critique des vins, autour d’une vaste communauté virtuelle, est fier d’annoncer le lancement de son site québécois, Chacun son vin. Avec la mise en ligne du site québécois, WineAlign/Chacun son vin devient la référence par excellence pour les achats de vin dans tous les principaux marchés canadiens.

Final_ChacunSonVinLes chroniqueurs québécois Marc Chapleau, Nadia Fournier, Bill Zacharkiw et Rémy Charest deviennent les principaux collaborateurs du nouveau site et se joignent ainsi à l’équipe de chroniqueurs de WineAlign, qui regroupe les meilleurs et les plus chevronnés de tout le Canada.

« Nous comprenons toute l’importance de créer un site véritablement québécois, et pas seulement une version française de WineAlign », explique Bryan McCaw, président de WineAlign. « Tout en suivant une approche similaire à celle qui a assuré notre succès en Ontario, Chacun son vin possède son propre nom, sa propre identité et sa propre équipe. En rassemblant une équipe de chroniqueurs parmi les plus respectés au Québec, nous croyons avoir établi les bases requises pour nous permettre de bâtir quelque chose de solide dans le principal marché du vin au Canada. »

« Pour les amateurs de vins francophones du Québec », poursuit-il, « Chacun son vin offre une gamme complète de services en français, y compris des notes de dégustation des plus récents arrivages, des articles informatifs et un espace où l’on peut échanger des idées et des opinions sur le vin. »

Les amateurs de vin auront la possibilité de choisir la ou les langues – et même les régions – qu’ils veulent utiliser sur le site : français seulement, français et anglais pour le Québec seulement, ou un accès complet à l’ensemble de la communauté et aux chroniqueurs de tout le Canada. Les utilisateurs pourront ainsi avoir accès à la communauté qui leur convient. »

Chacun son vin : comment ça marche

Chacun son vin offre des services exceptionnels pour aider les consommateurs à faire des achats bien informés en allant à la SAQ. Vous pouvez l’utiliser avant de vous rendre en succursale, en lisant les notes de dégustation des plus récents arrivages, ou encore en utilisant votre téléphone intelligent, quand vous êtes devant les rayons de votre succursale. Le site combine les inventaires à jour en succursale, les notes de dégustation de chroniqueurs professionnels et les avis de la communauté, afin de bien aligner les choix de vins avec votre budget, vos accords mets-vins préférés, vos gouts et ceux de vos amis.

Chacun son vin est aussi un site pratique, où l’on trouve des articles écrits par plusieurs des meilleurs chroniqueurs vins au Québec et au Canada, ainsi que des outils efficaces pour gérer votre cave. Il s’agit également d’un site social qui permet de partager de l’information et d’échanger sur les vins avec vos amis et avec l’ensemble des membres de Chacun son vin et  de WineAlign

 L’équipe québécoise

L’équipe - Chacun son vin

L’équipe – Chacun son vin

Chroniqueur vin et auteur, Marc Chapleau œuvre dans le monde du vin québécois depuis 1985. Il a écrit pour toute une gamme de publications, y compris le Guide Hachette des vins, Voir, Affaires Plus, Vins & Vignobles et Wine Tidings. Il a également été le rédacteur en chef de Cellier, un magazine qui a été récompensé de plusieurs prix.

« Le plaisir du vin, c’est de le partager et Chacun son vin est un lieu de partage, où les amateurs peuvent échanger leurs notes et recommandations », explique-t-il. « J’ai hâte de contribuer à mon tour à cette nouvelle communauté du vin. »

Nadia Fournier a récemment pris la relève de Michel Phaneuf à la tête du Guide du Vin Phaneuf, véritable référence au Québec, publiée depuis 1981. En plus du Guide du vin, elle écrit également une chronique mensuelle dans le magazine L’Actualité.

« Chacun son vin vise à rassembler des gens qui ont une grande diversité d’opinions, avec un but commun: guider le consommateur et l’aider à trouver le vin qui lui convient. Je suis très heureuse de me joindre à cette communauté d’amoureux du vin. »

Bill Zacharkiw tient une chronique vin hebdomadaire dans la Gazette de Montréal depuis 2007. Ses articles sont publiés partout au Canada via le réseau de quotidiens de Post Media. Avec 25 ans d’expérience dans le monde du vin, comme sommelier et comme chroniquer, Bill s’est fait connaître pour son regard irrévérencieux sur tout ce qui entoure le vin.

« C’est un honneur pour moi de faire partie d’une aussi belle équipe et, encore plus, de contribuer à ce que WineAlign a accompli : la création d’un site dynamique où l’on peut à la fois obtenir de l’information et partager son propre point de vue. L’avenir est à la conversation entre chroniqueurs et amateurs de vin, et Chacun son vin viendra certainement favoriser cette conversation. »

Rémy Charest écrit sur le vin et la gastronomie depuis 1997, dans des publications comme Le Devoir, Coup de Pouce, Châtelaine, Le Journal de Montréal et Cellier, entre autres. Il contribue régulièrement à Bien dans son assiette, une émission consacrée à l’alimentation à la radio de Radio-Canada. Il fait également partie de l’équipe de direction du magazine américain Palate Press. 

« Je suis très fier de contribuer à faire découvrir au Québec ce que WineAlign a réussi dans le reste du Canada et je serai particulièrement heureux de travailler du côté des médias sociaux, afin de contribuer à établir un dialogue fructueux autour du vin avec les amateurs québécois. »


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Ontario Wine Report: Cuvée 2014 and Brock’s Experts Tasting

This is the first of our monthly reports on Ontario wine by WineAlign’s Ontario-based critics.  Both Sara d’Amato of Toronto and Janet Dorozynksi of Ottawa attended the ever-growing Cuvée and Experts Tasting events earlier this month and file their reports. It was announced during this year’s event that Brock University’s CCOVI program will be managing this event going forward, with proceeds going into wine industry training and research programs.

Cuvée Winemakers Showcase Their Best
by Sara D’Amato

Cuvee 2014Set in the Grand Ballroom of the Niagara Fallsview Casino, this 26th anniversary of Cuvée event showcased wines from 41 different Ontario wineries and a solid group of critically acclaimed Chefs. What was particularly exciting for guests of this annual event is that they are afforded the opportunity to fraternize with all of the participant Winemakers and Chefs. In addition to the Gala event on the night of February 28th, “Cuvée en Route” allowed pass-holders to take advantage of “red carpet” or exclusive tastings at the individual wineries all through.

This year’s Gala followed last year’s format which allowed winemakers to choose only a single wine per winery to showcase at the event (despite some grumbling that the wines were not always chosen by the winemaker). Regardless, I’ve warmed up to this approach for a number of reasons. One wine per winery is much easier to conquer and keep straight – let’s face it, not all of us are critics who are spitting at this event. In addition, this format allows the winery to put its best foot forward and to showcase wines that often get overlooked, expressing some personality along the way. Finally, the atmosphere feels less competitive and much more convivial as it is free of the constrains of awards and “best of” categories of years past.

I did very much enjoy the amped up décor, grandiose feel and terrific food this year which included the likes of Chef Erik Peacock’s Lamb Belly Man Tao (who subsequently was awarded a Promote the Promoters Award at CCOVI’s Experts Tasting). Such offerings certainly deserve a resplendent setting – not to mention the lovely company, dressed to their nines. But enough about style and backdrop and on to the wines . . .

Cuvee 2014It’s no wonder so many producers chose to showcase their 2010 reds at Cuvée this year, as it was a warm, near perfection year for darker hued wines. But reds were not the only stars of the show – pinot gris was shockingly good. Chardonnay was also striking and both pinot noir and sauvignon blanc made a strong presence.

Despite some minor variation, the wines largely showed very well and the choices were smartly made by the wineries. I would have loved to taste every offering, but unfortunately conversation and a real time impediment always seems to prevent such a monumental task. It was great to see so many WineAlign members at the event as well. And I extend a special thank you to Dan Trcka from Grape Selections who has shared his photos with us. (You can view more of Dan’s Cuvée pictures and his event summary at: http://grapeselections.com/cuvee-2014/ )

All WineAlign Critic and member reviews of the winery offerings can be found on under the tag: Cuvée 2014.

Stratus Red 2010 ($110- magnum) This awe-worthy offering from the hands of J-L Groux at Stratus is a wine of immense complexity and impact. Still young and a bit tight, the palate shows notes of wild dried herbs, rose petal, black fruit, vanilla, cedar and tobacco. Elegant, balanced and superbly knit. This rich tapestry of flavour set on a sophisticated and carefully coaxed structure is sure to provide enjoyment over the next half decade and more. Harmonious and brilliantly integrated are the hallmarks of J-L’s assemblages.

Cuvee 2014Lakeview Cellars 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Niagara, Ontario ($29.95) A gold medal winner in the National Wine Awards of Canada, this rich, ripe and highly gulpable cabernet sauvignon is a testament to the fact that we shouldn’t give up on this varietal in Ontario. In a warm, favorable vintage such as 2010, cabernets can be showcased proudly as a single varietal bottling. Notes of blackberry, a little bramble and pepper make up the palate bolstered by firm tannins. Acidity is mild but present and pleasantly balances the wine.

Ridge Road 2013 Pinot Gris ($16.95) A mere six weeks in bottle and this lovely pinot gris is already starting to show its colours – literally speaking it is a pretty pink hue (as the skins of this grape are actually pink) but also boasts a really sensual aromatic profile that includes notes of peach, honeysuckle and rosewater. Just off-dry, elegant and nicely balanced. Medium-bodied with a food friendly attitude. Notes of fresh green herbs linger on the finish. Relatively new to the scene, Ridge Road came to be a winery in its own right in 2009 on a 100-year-old established vineyard site on the western extremity of the Niagara region in Stoney Creek.

Calamus 2013 Pinot Gris ($16.95) It would appear that 2013 was a terrific vintage for Ontario pinot gris. Here is a wonderful example of such elegance of this cool climate style – Alsatian in feel with just a touch of sweetness. Creamy with notes of peach, pear, honeysuckle and white pepper. Mid-weight with great balanced. Pretty, lingering and honest.

Peninsula Ridge “Wismer Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95) A very impressive sauvignon blanc from the superb Wismer vineyard site. This harkens back to the days of Jean-Pierre Collas when sauvignon blanc reigned supreme at Peninsula Ridge. The winery is currently under the winemaking direction of Jamie Evans who has coaxed the maximum expression from these lovely grapes and has done so with a sensitive hand. The wine is hugely aromatic featuring complex and compelling notes. The palate is impressively succulent and nervy, fresh, classically built with notes of gooseberry, lemongrass and thyme. Clean, vibrant and with terrific length and at a very fair price.

Cuvee 2014Domaine Queylus 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve, Niagara, Ontario ($45). Domiane Queylus is a unique project spearheaded by winemaker Thomas Bachelder that has taken many years to come to fruition and involved good friends with a common goal. Without sounding sentimental, there is a great deal of love in this bottle. An impressively grand pinot noir that makes a real textural impression on the palate – with a feathered tickling of the tongue, the tannins are present but unobtrusive. Classically styled in the Burgundian tradition but with Niagara feel that brings a greater juiciness and a touch more lushness to the palate. Nicely ripened, the palate features notes of cran-cherry, sweet tomato, a slight smokiness and bergamot. However, the wine evolves so quickly in the glass that more is revealed with each sip – a wine to keep in your glass throughout the evening.  Should be very interesting so feel this evolve over the next 3-5 years.

The evening came to a conclusion with Sun Media Après Cuvée Party which saw most of the guests dancing the night away with Icewine & bubbles or sampling an array of local craft beer, charcuterie and cheeses. Cuvée 2014 proved to be another terrific celebration of VQA wines with a greater sense of camaraderie and local pride than ever before. For more information visit the Cuveé website at: http://cuvee.ca/grand-tasting and maybe we can meet there next year!

The Experts Tasting at CCOVI
By Janet Dorozynski

The annual Experts Tasting at Brock University’s Cool Climate and Oenology Institute is one of the highlights of the trade tasting calendar in Ontario, with this year’s 25th anniversary edition being no exception. Each year the tasting focuses on a particular theme, for example a wine style, grape variety or a specific region/appellation in Ontario. This is my ninth or tenth year to attend this annual event and I have to say that this benchmarking exercise is always very informative and instructive. It is a means to see how wines being made in Ontario fare against one another, as well as against the foreign wine ringers that are always thrown in.  Many of the wines are from current releases or vintages but we also get to taste back vintages which show the evolution and how each wines are maturing.

Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

This year’s tasting boasted a record attendance of over 150 members of the trade, media and wine industry, with a bus load of Toronto sommeliers brought in courtesy of Wine Country Ontario and Will Predhomme, former sommelier extraordinaire at Toronto’s Canoe Restaurant and now wine guy about town.

The 25th anniversary tasting focused on grape varieties and wine styles that are noteworthy for Ontario and we had the opportunity to taste through flights of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and red blends from Bordeaux grape varieties. There was also the final “Wine Options” flight, based on the Australian blind tasting sport or a multiple choice test on the wines tasted, where we worked in teams to identify the grape variety, appellation, region or country of origin, vintage and price for five different wines. Sadly I wasn’t part of the winning table but we did put in a respectable showing with a final score of 85 out of a total of 120 points.

We started the tasting with a flight of Riesling “breakfast wines” with several stellar examples from Niagara and a ringer from the Finger Lakes. There were three Rieslings from Charles Baker, from the Picone Vineyard in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation in Niagara, which is the farthest away from Lake Ontario at the top of the Niagara Escarpment and, some might say, the least forgiving in terms of climate and terrain. However, from what we tasted, Riesling seems to have found a home in this sub-appellation, with the slightly off-dry styles of Charles Baker Riesling showing great intensity, finesse and ageability.  The 2009 Riesling was especially impressive, with spicy citrus and pear notes, coupled with typical Riesling petrol notes and a long stony finish.

The Cool ABC flight, which stood for Appealing, Balanced Chardonnay, shone the spotlight on what many believe to be Niagara’s and Ontario’s signature white grape variety.  Most of the wines showed cool-climate deliciousness with good restraint of oak usage. Notwithstanding, the Kittling Ridge 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay from Niagara Peninsula showed more generous oak with intense floral and citrus and stone fruit flavours in an overall appealing package.  And at $16.95, it certainly had many in the room wanting to have another look at a winery that was recently sold to Magnotta Wines.

Brock's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute Experts TastingThe two red flights featured Pinot Noir and red blends, made predominantly from well-known Bordeaux grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Pinot Noir, which we learned from CCOVI’s newest oenologist and scientist Belinda Kemp, is a decidedly “unfunny” (read difficult and pernicious)  grape in the flight  entitled “You’ve been Pinot’d”,  showed a range of aromatics and flavours, from light and floral red fruit flavours, to deeper, grippy dark berry flavours, depending on the vintage, site and of course, winemaker.  A contrast in styles and approach is evident between the Inniskillin 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve and Foreign Affair 2009 Pinot Noir, the latter comprised of 40% appaissimento or dried berries in the blend, resulting in dense dark fruit and intense flavours, while the former showed very enjoyable but leaner red berry and current flavours with fresh acidity and a long chalky finish. Most of this Pinot flight, and in fact, many of the wines tasted, were very good indeed, with many showing the range and diversity of Ontario wines.

The red blend flight put the question to the tasters – “are we on the right track?” and had us determining if Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Merlot was the dominant grape in the blend. With Merlot comprising the  dominant majority in a number of the blends, notably the Konzelmann Heritage Reserve 2012, Trius Red 2011 and Truis Grand Red 2010, which showed juicy and dense dark fruit, with the slightest hint of bell pepper flavours that could be coming from the Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon,  or from the Merlot itself.  The 2004 Meritage from Creekside Estate Winery and  2002 Henry of Pelham Reserve Cabernet Merlot, both showed remarkably lively flavours and intensity and are proof that Ontario red blends can be worthy of ageing.

The final “Wine Options” flight featured all the above varieties and red blends with a Lake Erie North Shore Syrah thrown in, an experimental bottling called North Shore Project, which is collaboration between Hinterland Wines in PEC and Will Predhomme, with fruit sourced from the vineyards of Colio Estates. The goal is to put LENS or Ontario Syrah on our radar and judging from this example, Syrah has a bright future in Ontario’s southern-most appellation.  Next year’s Expert’s tasting will focus on significant wine styles and emerging grape varieties in Ontario and I’m sure will prove as equally interesting as this year’s tasting.

In addition to an instructive tasting, the winners of the Promote the Promoters Awards were given out to recognize those who promote, in an exemplary manner, VQA wines in Ontario. This year’s winners included William Mancini, a product consultant from Toronto and a posthumous award to the LCBO’s David Churchill in the LCBO category; Erik Peacock, from Wellington Court Restaurant in the category of Hospitality; Shawn McCormick of UnCorkOntario.com in the category of Promoter-at-Large; Lloyd Schmidt, viticulturist and Canadian wine pioneer for Lifetime achievement and to Wine Align’s VP of Wine, David Lawrason in the Media Category.  For more information on the Award winners and a complete list of the wines tasted at this year’s Expert’s Tasting see here: http://www.brocku.ca/ccovi/outreach-services/experts-tasting

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


 

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Sara’s Sommelier Selections – Mar 2014

On Air with Mike Chalut

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Some of you may have heard John and I on what is becoming a regular contributing spot every month or so on Mike Chalut’s food and wine inspired Friday radio show on 103.9 Proud FM. We are certainly proud to have the opportunity to reach out to such a wide audience and chat about which wines make us tick. Mike Chalut is an extremely busy personality whether it be hosting World Pride Events in England, contributing to various publications such as “On the Go” and “PIE” magazines or hosting the Food Network celebrity stage at the Delicious Food Show. And despite having interviewed stars such as: Lady Gaga, Olly Murs, Carly Rae Jepsen, Linda Evangelista, Hugh Jackman, and Bethenny Frankel, he still seems to find us interesting enough to invite back every month. This is a feature that takes the stuffiness out of wine and makes it real for all of us.

Today we are speaking about overcoming the springtime blues. In the spirit of the celebrating the imminent arrival of the aforementioned season instead of mourning our collective misfortune, which has been this winter in Ontario, I propose drinking well-priced bubblies in order to improve your mood. Let’s stop drinking big reds by the fireside and instead, enjoy bubbles by the new, longer light of day. Please don’t roll your eyes at my optimism until you try these smile-worthy finds for yourself.

Sparklers that are sure to put a spring in your step from the Mike Chalut Show, airing Friday March 28th, 2014:

Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti 2012
Piedmont, Italy ($14.75)

Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti 2012

Mont Marçal Extremarium Reserva Brut Cava
Catalunya, Spain ($20.95)

Mont Marçal Extramarium Reserva Brut Cava

Chateau Des Charmes Brut Methode Traditionelle
Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, Canada, ($22.95)

Chateau Des Charmes Brut Methode Traditionelle

Rotari Rosé
Trentino, Italy, $17.95

Rotari Rosé

Here’s an easy link to all the wines mentioned in this and past articles: Sara’s Sommelier Selections

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Best Buys in BC – Spring into Action

With the cherry blossoms bursting here on the coast (sorry rest of Canada), daylight savings recovered and spring’s equinox this week, we are welcoming the appearance of fresh, bright wines. We’ve started to see the first of the 2013 vintage on our shelves and over the coming weeks we will share our spring release notes, from wines at home in BC and abroad.

This week, however, we’re not waiting for the wines to come to us – we’re out in the field vineyard tasting ourselves. DJ, Rhys and I are in California, while Anthony is in Australia as part of the Peter Lehmann Wines Mentor Awards Program. We hope you can ring in spring with some of our friendly March picks below. 

BC Critic Team

DJ Kearney

Yes, the calendar says it’s Spring, but here on the best coast we never know what to expect, so I use food and wine to trick my psyche into feeling spring-like, even if it buckets in Vancouver from now ‘til the end of June.

Riesling is a very good place to start when it comes to wines that taste of verdant life and renewal. Harper’s Trail 2012 Pioneer Block Dry Riesling offers brain-rinsing acidity, edgy lime citrus and mineral essence that pairs with satay chicken skewers marinated in lemongrass, lime leaf and coconut milk. Next up, King Crab. The season started a bit late and is still going strong, so head to a great fish shop and treat yourself. To complement a simple steamed preparation I choose Jay Drysdale’s Bella West Side 2012 Sparkling wine, with its spare framework and acid verve, where pure chardonnay flavours are laid naked except for a veil of yeasty complexity. If I want to pull out all the halibut stops and pan roast with brown butter and lemon sauce, I’ll chose top oaked chardonnay like Mission Hill’s 2011 Perpetua, a wine with both heft and grace. And when a little grass-fed beef is on the menu (leaner, beneficial fatty acids and lower gluten than grain fed) and a big red calls my name, I love the (yes, still youthful, but just decant) Perseus Select Lots 2010 Invictus. There is abundant flavour, a truly scented violet character and best of all, the kind of savoury, delightful sweet green herbal element that is pure Okanagan and also very Spring-like. Bottom’s up, and in a few months, Spring might show up…..

Harper's Trail Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2012Bella Sparkling West Side Chardonnay 2012Mission Hill Perpetua 2011Perseus Invictus 2010

Rhys Pender, MW

Spring is around the corner and wine thoughts turn to crisp rosé, picnics by the water and refreshing whites to counter the sunny days. But, spring is notoriously unpredictable, warm days, yes, but often followed by chilly nights. It feels as if the entire potential of spring is captured in the sun, and when it slips behind a cloud or a tree you are plunged, temporarily you hope, back into winter. The wines you choose need to be tempered for just such a situation. You may feel a little claustrophobic from an over abundance of cuddly, warming reds that have nursed you through winter. Yet the weather is not yet demanding uber-refreshing, high acid and racy white wines. Spring is a time to sit on the wine fence. Medium-bodied whites that are refreshing yet still have some weight work as do lighter reds with a little juiciness to match some meaty intensity. Rosé is a good bet too.

Bernard Baudry Les Granges Chinon 2011Teusner The Riebke Shiraz 2012Bougrier Vouvray 2012Louis Bouillot Perle D'aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne

Chinon can be the perfect match with a few slices of salami, pâté and some firm cheese outside on a sunny spring afternoon. The Bernard Baudry 2011 Les Granges is a great example. When the snow has been swept off the deck, something like the Teusner 2012 Riebke Shiraz will warm you through a stint in front of the BBQ on a chilly spring evening and match with whatever meaty goodness comes off the grill. For white wines, Vouvray gives a little richness, often from a touch of sugar, but also through a waxy texture and matches well with chicken, quail and meatier white fish. The Famille Bougrier 2012 Vouvray is great value. And for rosé, why not celebrate spring with a bubbly version. It goes well with sunshine and Adirondack chairs before the warmth of the sun dips behind the horizon. The Louis Bouillot N/V Cremant de Bourgogne, Rosé Brut will pair with any snacks that are conjured up.

Treve Ring

With Vancouver International Wine Fest and France fresh on my mind (and palate), the first bottle that comes to mind this month is M. Chapoutier Les Vignes Bila-Haut Blanc 2012 from Côtes du Roussillon. This bright, juicy, mineral-marked wine is made in with the same terroir-respectful, biodynamic practices that are the hallmark of Michel Chapoutier’s numerous 100-point wines in the Northern Rhône. Much closer to home, though nearly as foreign-sounding to most is Calona Vineyards Sovereign Opal. At a nearly unheard of price and from a very unheard of grape, this soft, scented wine will make you think of spring’s blossoms. The sovereign opal grape is a cross of marechal foch and golden muscat developed by Agriculture Canada to thrive specifically in the Okanagan Valley.

M. Chapoutier Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon BlancCalona Sovereign Opal Art SeriesAnna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic Sparkling WhiteRoad 13 Honest John's Rosé 2013Bodegas Leceranas Evohé Vinas Viejas Garnacha 2010

If the last wine’s flavours make you think of spring, just looking at the Anna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic bottle will evoke the same response. This organic prosecco’s light bright florals and citrus will have you planting lettuces for fresh-from-the-garden salad. If the evening winds are calm, fire up the BBQ (yes – we do that year round on the coast) and crack a bottle of the newly released Road 13 Vineyards Honest John’s Rose 2013. The vibrant pomegranate and structured cherry will certainly stand up to chicken burgers or veggie kabobs. And if you need a charmingly rustic, warming red to ward off the evening chill, don’t miss out on Bodegas Leceranas Evohé Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2010 from Aragon, Spain. These old vines (from 65 years through to their 2nd century!) are fermented in 100-year-old concrete vats with wild yeasts, resulting in a vibrant kirsch, red currant, fresh red, calling out for Patatas Con Chorizo.

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


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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008