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Mon petit sherry !

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

On a beau chanter ses louanges sur tous les tons depuis, disons, la nuit des temps, rien à faire : le xérès — ou le sherry, c’est selon — ça ne se vend pas.

Enfin si, la Société des alcools en écoule tout de même une certaine quantité. Sauf que les statistiques ne sont pas reluisantes. Une baisse de 6,3 % pour l’ensemble de la catégorie au cours de la dernière année.

Les seuls à connaître encore du succès au sein de la famille, avec une modeste hausse de 0,5 % des ventes (toujours en dollars), ce sont les finos et les manzanillas – des xérès secs, et même archisecs. Quoique, succès, c’est vite dit, puisqu’il s’en vend tout de même dix fois moins que les autres types de xérès, dont les sucrés : seulement 612 caisses standard de 9 litres l’an passé, alors qu’on parle d’un produit qui coûte en règle générale moins de 20 $ !

La question qui tue, maintenant : pourquoi en parler, de ces vins espagnols si particuliers, si à peu près personne n’en achète ?

Bon point.

La grande raison, je dirais, c’est que le xérès est peut-être, de tous les vins, celui à propos duquel le public et les spécialistes divergent le plus d’opinion. Autrement dit, il s’en vend très peu, mais je n’ai encore jamais rencontré un critique, un sommelier ou un journaliste qui n’aimait pas d’un amour sincère et profond le xérès, nommément le fino et la manzanilla.

la maison Lustau

Image tirée du site Internet de la maison Lustau, et où l’on voit les caves – les fameuses « cathédrales » – où repose le xérès.

Et je ne compte pas, non plus, le nombre de papiers consacrés à ce sujet qui commencent en disant quelque chose comme : « J’adore le xérès, c’est l’un des plus grands vins de la planète et pourtant, il demeure encore aujourd’hui sous-estimé. Permettez donc que je consacre ma chronique de cette semaine à vous convaincre de vous adonner, vous aussi, aux incroyables plaisirs que recèle cette perle de l’Andalousie… »

Bla bla bla.

Je ne me moque pas. C’est juste que je ne sais plus, moi non plus, par quel bout prendre mon consommateur pour l’intéresser à ce grand vin.

Un goût très particulier

Qu’est-ce que ça goûte, pour commencer ? Qu’a-t-il de si spécial pour que personne ne veuille s’en enticher ?

Parlons du xérès sec, de ce fino et de cette manzanilla. La couleur, d’abord : très pâle, au point où on dirait de l’eau. Le nez : ça sent surtout la levure, la poussière et la vieille cave, bourrée de champignons. Enfin en bouche, c’est comme je disais sec et même archisec. Au point où nombreux sont ceux qui font la grimace, quand ils y goûtent pour la première fois. Ouch !

Les Anglais ont une belle expression, pour cela : ils disent que le sherry, it’s an acquired taste.

En d’autres termes, il faut en apprivoiser le goût, les odeurs aussi. Spontanément, vite comme ça, it’s not love at first sight

Par contre, quand on tombe sur une belle bouteille, tous ces attributs en apparence rébarbatifs se conjuguent pour donner un vin fortifié (mais à peine, il ne fait en fin de compte que 15 % d’alcool environ) d’une incroyable pureté de saveurs et doté d’un profil à la fois austère et envoûtant, unique au monde.

Flor, solera, et cetera

Ce caractère distinctif du xérès est en grande partie lié à son procédé de fabrication. Que je ne vais pas vous expliquer ici, vous envoyant plutôt où vous apprendrez l’essentiel à propos de la flor et de la solera, notamment.

Tout de même, cette remarque. On entend souvent dire, un peu partout dans le monde, qu’un grand vin commence dans le vignoble. C’en est même rendu une sorte de cliché. Or, dans le sud de l’Espagne, autour de la ville de Jerez de la Frontera même ou près de Sanlucar de Barrameda (patrie de la manzanilla), les vignobles ont longtemps été délaissés, beaucoup de producteurs — sauf les meilleurs, comme de raison — s’approvisionnant en vin auprès de coopératives, au prétexte que de toute façon, c’est la fortification et surtout la solera qui font le xérès.

Comme quoi même sur ce plan, le fameux vin andalou fait bande à part.

De bons xérès à la SAQ

Il vient d’arriver quelques xérès de la maison Lustau, dans les magasins du monopole. Ça tombe bien, parce que les finos et les manzanillas gagnent à être bus le plus tôt possible. L’idéal serait même de les boire sur place, dans un bar à tapas, tirés directement du fût. Mais bon, contentons-nous de se rendre dans une SAQ près de chez nous…

Pour s’initier au xérès (ou pour prendre ses jambes à son cou — je blague), rien de tel que la manzanilla Papirusa de la maison Lustau, fine et délicate, et avec une odeur évoquant la craie. Plus puissant, et qui sent la noisette ainsi que l’olive verte, le Fino Solera Lustau est à sa façon tout aussi bon.

Emilio Lustau Papirusa Solera Reserva Very Dry Manzanilla Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva Osborne Fino Quinta Sherry (375ml)

Le classique d’entre les classiques, c’est cependant le Tio Pepe, plus corsé encore tout en demeurant bien sec. Bravo, en passant, à la maison Gonzalez-Byass pour avoir inscrit la date d’embouteillage sur la contre-étiquette. Autre bon choix, le Fino Quinta Osborne, épicé et bien vif, et en plus bouché à l’aide d’une capsule dévissable, pour plus de fraîcheur.

Un dernier fino sec, mais pas un xérès à proprement parler puisqu’il provient de la région de Montilla-Moriles, plus au nord : le Fino Capataz Alvear est plus délicatement marqué par la flor et il a une touche sucrée, qui évoque le chocolat blanc.

Enfin, une incursion du côté des xérès doux et aussi un poil plus alcoolisés, à 18 % en moyenne. Par contre, ceux-là sont plus faciles à aimer d’emblée, riches, veloutés et sucrés comme ils le sont.

Alvear Capataz Fino Montilla Moriles Alvear Amontillado Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce Gonzalez Byass Noe Pedro Ximenez Aged 30 Years

Le Medium Dry Alvear (un montilla-moriles et donc un quasi-xérès lui aussi) est sucré et noisetté, ni tout à fait sec ni tout à fait doux.

Le Solera Cream 1847 de Gonzalez-Byass est une sorte de vieux tawny portugais, pas trop liquoreux, délicieux à siroter.

Enfin le Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 ans est quasi brun, très très sirupeux et très très particulier, mais sans pour autant être dénué de complexité.

Santé !

Marc

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!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 2nd – Part One

Pure California: 100+ Reviews of the Best of “New” California; The Icons of Napa Cabernet, and Sandhi, A Name to Know.
by John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The theme of the report this week is pure California, the focus of the VINTAGES August 2nd release, and David Lawrason and I list our top picks (with significant alignment). Next week David will lead coverage of Alsace, the Loire Valley, Greece, and the best of the rest along with my picks (Sara d’Amato is in the south of France conducting serious research). I’ve also included a couple of outstanding Santa Barbara chardonnays tasted at the i4c last week, and I’ve finally managed to publish close to 100 reviews from landmark California tastings held last October in San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma. Find the best pinot, chardonnay, Rhône blends and so much more on WineAlign; fans of California wine, and I know there are many of you, will want to track these down. But wait, there’s more – check out this report on the very best of the best Napa Cabernets. Read on for all the gold.

A California Wine Summit

Before we get into the top picks from the VINTAGES August 2nd release, those deeply into California wines may want to consider searching further afield. I’ve published nearly 100 of my top picks (mostly current releases) from an extraordinary set of tastings held last October in California. The “California Wine Summit” was organized and hosted by the Wine Institute of California for a select group of international journalists (WineAlign’s Anthony Gismondi also attended), with the aim of sharing the radical changes and developments that have occurred within the California wine industry over the last decade or so.

These extraordinary tastings were compiled and led by some of California’s most respected critics, authors and winemakers, including Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle and his top chardonnays, Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, and her favorite Pinot Noirs, Patrick J. Comiskey, critic for Wine & Spirits magazine and terrific California blends, and a once-in-a-lifetime tasting of iconic Napa Valley cabernets led by master sommeliers Geoff Kruth and Matt Stamp. And those were just some of the formal tastings.

The New California Wine

Jon Bonné and his top Chardonnays, with Gerard Basset MS, MW, OBE

Jon Bonné and his top Chardonnays, with Gerard Basset MS, MW, OBE

Perhaps Jon Bonné has best captured the zeitgeist in his recently published book The New California Wine, which is “the untold story of the California wine industry: the young, innovative producers who are rewriting the rules of contemporary winemaking; their quest to express the uniqueness of California terroir; and the continuing battle to move the state away from the overly technocratic, reactionary practices of its recent past.” Fans of California wine are well advised to grab a copy of this book – it’s an accurate synopsis of what’s going down in the Golden State.

No stones were left unturned during the summit as we tasted through every notable grape variety and wine style that the state has to offer over the course of a week, with detailed information, expert comparative analysis and historical perspective provided along the way by the folks who know it best. Only one tasting failed to shine: “California does value”, the one area where even the best of the new California often falls short. Value is of course relative, though with few exceptions, compelling sub-$20 (CAD) wines are few are far between in my view. The majority of entry-priced brands, at least those we find on shelves in Canada, prey on the human weakness for sugar. But once again, sales figures are in diametric opposition with me, so what do I know.

Dollars aside, the new California (as well as the California that’s so old it’s new again, and the California that never followed fashions of any kind) has an extraordinary offering of wines on shelves now. If you’ve turned away from California for whatever reason, I’d suggest you give Ontario’s most important foreign wine supplier another look.

Set your WineAlign search parameters to “California” and pick your favourite grape/style to see what’s on top. Be sure to check “show wines with zero inventory” for the full list, as some wines have yet to reach our shelves.

The Best of the Best of Napa Cabernet

I’ve also posted a blow-by-blow report of a tasting of iconic Napa cabernets, including all of the rarities – it was the sort of tasting one hardly ever reads about, let alone participates in. The notes were edited only for spelling, making it a more intimate and unadulterated view of the moment, including some impressions that surprised even me.

Buyer’s Guide for Vintages August 2nd 2014: California

White

Hahn S L H Estate Chardonnay 2012Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012Alignment: Robert Mondavi 2012 Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley ($23.95)
John Szabo – One of the most reliable and consistent Fumé Blancs, not to mention the original, from California, Mondavi (and winemaker Geneviève Janssens) still leads the way and delivers wide pleasure at the right price. I like the balanced between tropical and orchard-citrus fruit, in an approachable, round and soft style. Best 2014-2018.
David Lawrason – In California’s Mediterranean climate it is difficult to make snappy, acid-driven sauvignon blanc. Robert Mondavi engineered a great alternative years ago by adding semillon and barrel ageing, and calling it Fume Blanc. It has been one of my favourite California whites ever since – uniquely spicy with intriguing green olive an evergreen notes.

Hahn 2012 S-L-H Estate Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County ($32.95). David Lawrason – Hahn has emerged as dominant player in Monterey with huge vineyards and polished fruit driven style of wines. This is unabashedly big, generous and fruit driven – as so many chards are in California – yet it retains a sense of composure

Red

AlignmentNapa Angel 2008 Aurelio’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($62.95)
John Szabo - Chilean vintner Aurelio Montes’ Napa project is a particularly dense and full cabernet sauvignon, with tightly knit dark fruit and chocolate flavours, unsurprisingly, similar in style to his top wines from Chile. This is mature and drinking well now. Best 2014-2022.
David Lawrason – If you detect a certain Chilean bloom and piquancy in this delicious, sensuous Napa cab it is due to the fact that it is made by Chilean Aurelio Montes (who makes some of grandest reds of Chile’s Colchagua Valley, including Purple Angel).  This is excellent, collectible an drinkable cabernet – complete, profound and deep.

Grgich Hills 2010 Estate Grown Zinfandel, Napa Valley ($48.95). John Szabo – Biodynamic estate Grgich Hills rarely disappoints with any of their wines, which remain, relatively speaking, fairly priced within the Napa Valley context. This is an unusually aristocratic version of zinfandel, with fruit so very lively and vibrant – a difficult thing to achieve with zin in the Napa Valley. Best 2014-2020.

Beringer 2007 Bancroft Ranch Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Bancroft Ranch Vineyard, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley ($79.95). John Szabo – The Bancroft Ranch wines are often among my favorites from the vast Beringer portfolio, which for me has more distinctive character than the (more expensive) Private Reserve, of which this cabernet is often a notable component. This 2007 has evolved nicely into a dusty-grippy, savoury and dark fruit flavoured wine with a nice streak of scorched earth and minerality from the volcanic soils of Howell Mountain. Best 2014-2020.

Seghesio 2012 Zinfandel Sonoma County, California ($29.95). David Lawrason – I am not at all happy about the sweetening and mocha-fication of California’s commercially priced zins. To rise above the soup you need to raise your price ceiling and focus on classic producers like Seghesio – a family with zin its veins for generations.

Montes Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Grgich Hills Estate Grown Zinfandel 2010 Beringer Bancroft Ranch Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Seghesio Zinfandel 2012

Sandhi: The California Wines You Want to Get to Know

It wasn’t my first exposure to the wines of Sandhi in Santa Barbara County – one, the Sandford and Benedict Vineyard bottling, had been selected by Jon Bonné for his tasting of top Chardonnays during the California Wine Summit. But it was a pleasure to sit and taste a few more wines with co-owner Rajat Parr during the i4c weekend in Niagara. Sandhi, which mean “collaboration” in Sanskrit, is a joint venture established in 2010 between Parr, then, and still, wine director of the Michael Mina restaurant group, partner in San Francisco’s landmark RN74 and one of the US’s most recognizable wine figures, Charles Bank, the former owner of Jonata and Screaming Eagle, and winemaker Sashi Mormann. The winery is focused on small lots of chardonnay and pinot noir from select vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, particularly the cooler stretches of the AVA a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.

I was delighted but not surprised to find that Parr, an outspoken advocate for balanced, moderate alcohol wines in his buying role for Mina, has upheld his position for his own production. The Sandhi wines are all about finesse and freshness, structure and balance, well articulated without attempting to replicate European wines- the fruit is still Californian, as it should be. Sandhi wines are available through the Trialto Wine Group across Canada, as are Parr’s other joint ventures, Domaine de La Côte, also in Santa Barbara (check out the excellent syrah), and Maison l’Orée in Burgundy.

Two to Try:

Sandhi 2012 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, California ($48.00). A vibrant, moderate alcohol, terroir-driven chardonnay. Flavours are in the ripe orchard and even lightly tropical spectrum, though this is all about the zesty acids and firm structure, including a pleasantly chalky, tacky mineral texture.

Sandhi 2011 Rita’s Crown Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California ($78.00). A wine of serious depth and complexity off the charts; the balance is pitch-perfect, on the upper end of the intensity scale, with terrific length. Really top-notch stuff for current enjoyment or mid-term hold. Tasted July 2014.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Aug 2nd:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews

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 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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A Cult Napa Tasting – Not Your Everyday Affair

Best of California Cabernet
by John Szabo MS

John Tasting

John Szabo, MS

The following is a report on a (more than likely) once-in-a-lifetime tasting of the best of California cabernet, part of a week-long event with the rather grand title the “The California Wine Summit” organized by the Wine Institute of California last October. Admittedly, however, its grandness surpassed expectations, and this was just one of multiple landmark tastings throughout the week, if you can believe that.

The selection of wines was done simply (and cleverly) enough: the Institute asked some of California’s most respected writers, including Jon Bonné (San Francisco Chronicle), Linda Murphy (US contributor to the Oxford Companion To Wine and co-author with Jancis Robinson of American Wine), Alder Yarrow (Vinography: a wine blog), Karen MacNeil (author of The Wine Bible), and Patrick J. Comiskey (Wine & Spirits Magazine), to submit a list of their favorite Napa Cabernets, no holds barred.

The Institute then tallied up the results and the wines with the most mentions were tracked down, miraculously in some cases, and presented to our group of international wine press. All manner of rarities were included, the sort of tasting one hardly ever reads about, let alone participates in. And to make matters better, the tasting was expertly prepared and hosted by Master Sommeliers Geoff Kruth and Matt Stamp, while additional colour commentary was provided by Patrick Comiskey, Karen MacNeil and Alder Yarrow. It was extraordinarily grand, a tasting not even the great Chateaux of the Médoc could touch (not least because the Bordelais would never allow anyone else to select, let alone publicly comment on their wines, on their own dime).

A pretty nice line up of Napa Cabernet..

A pretty nice line up of Napa Cabernet…

The formal tasting was followed by dinner at Silver Oak, where more fine wines were heaped upon the table like the grandest Medieval wedding , including many older vintages of the same wines. It was a night to remember to be sure, but those later notes remain my private property.

Napa Cabernet: The Best of the Best

The reviews below were edited only for spelling, making it an intimate and unadulterated view of the moment, including some impressions that surprised even me. Wines are ordered by my score, top down; prices are approximate.

Diamond Creek 2009 Red Rock Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain ($200.00)

Really pretty, lifted, floral, spicy, tar and roses-scented, almost nebbiolo-like red from the iconic Diamond Creek estate, in this case from the iron-rich red soils of the Red Rock Terrace parcel. The complexity is extraordinary to be sure. Tannins are grippy and firm, grasping your palate and leaving no doubt that this will age magnificently. The finish goes on and on. Extraordinary stuff.  Tasted October 2013. 98 points.

Dunn 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain ($90.00)

A supremely dense, spicy, lightly herbal-vegetal, scorched earth and mineral-flavoured wine within the regional, almost savage profile of Howell Mountain. The palate is rustic and thick, with firm, tannic structure – this will age magnificently no doubt – built on a solid frame, yet there’s more than enough fleshy fruit to ensure full integration over time. All in all, quite approachable considering the customary burly house style. Tasted October 2013. 95 points.

Corison 2009 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley St. Helena ($125.00)

From Cathy Corison’s flagship, 40-year old vineyard planted on phylloxera-resistant St. George rootstock, the 2009 Kronos delivers a dense, dark-fruited, briary, highly spicy, orange peel-scented nose, with very well-integrated oak profile. It’s structurally tense, anchored on almost tart acids with ripe, almost red fruit, and old vine vinosity. Terrific length. I suspect this will be best from about 2017 on, with the potential to live well into its third decade. Tasted October 2013. 95 points.

Quintessa 2010 Napa Valley Rutherford ($145.00)

Classic, ripe black and blue fruit, with savoury forest floor, pine needle, marked but gentle wood influence, and high-toned floral notes. This is polished and elegant on a big frame, like Bordeaux in a very warm vintage, classy and complex. Best after 2015. Tasted October 2013. 95 points.

Spring Mountain 2010 Elivette Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain ($150.00)

Spring Mountain Vineyards has been producing cabernet for a century, with vineyards now farmed virtually biodynamically on the top of Spring Mountain and its volcanic and sedimentary soils. There’s a freshness and lifted floral note, more red fruit-driven, and light sweet baking spice touch alongside an earthy undertone. The palate offers excellent succulence, and fine-grained, firm tannins. A very fine and elegant wine, with depth and complexity, to be enjoyed after 2018 or so. Tasted October 2013. 95 points.

Ridge 2009 Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains ($160.00)

Apparently enough folks named the Monte Bello among their favourite wines that is was included in this otherwise all-Napa lineup. The 2009 includes about 30% merlot and petit verdot along with cabernet, offering wonderfully perfumed aromatics, high-toned, violet-floral, sweet but just ripe black berry fruit. Amazingly enough, the American oak in which this is aged is a gentle spice addition (wood is air-dried long-term). The palate is mid-weight in the usual elegant style of Ridge, with fine, succulent acids, balanced alcohol (13.5%) and terrific length. Although surprisingly approachable now, this is of course a wine with great tension and tremendous ageing potential. Best from 2019- 2039. Tasted October 2013. 95 points.

Spottswoode 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley St. Helena ($145.00)

A classically styled Napa Cabernet from the historic Spottswoode property, biodynamically-farmed, ripe yet with a distinct roasted vegetable note. Fruit is both black and blue, with a sweet core and dense concentration and very firm, ageworthy structure. Alcohol is generous. This is far from prime, I’d say this will be best after about 2018, and should last several decades after that without a stretch. Tasted October 2013. 94 points.

Scarecrow 2007 Rutherford ($500.00)

From an old plot of vines adjacent to Inglenook, planted in the 1940s. This is classy to be sure, with evident ripeness and concentration and a vinous, old wine density, excellent balance and extraordinary length. A very fine wine to be sure. There’s great precision and elegance beyond the dense masses of flavour – a wine you can truly drink and enjoy, not just sit on a pedestal. Tasted October 2013. 94 points.

Harlan Estates 2009 Oakville ($770.00)

The 2009 Harlan is quite classy and surprisingly approachable at this early stage (if still a long way from maturity), with a marvelous amalgam of earth, spice box, tobacco, leather and of course plenty of dark fruit, and dried prune, figs and dates. Tannins are bold, ripe, anchoring the masses of fruit, with excellent length. For fans of the full on, bold, dense, rich Napa style. Tasted October 2013. 94 points.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2009 SLV Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District ($145.00)

Quite sweet and oak-tinged on the nose, with masses of (high-quality) barrel spice notes, vanilla, bitter chocolate, espresso bean, plus dense black fruit verging on liqueur-like concentration. The palate is smooth and supple, with very ripe, plush tannins, generous alcohol and long, long finish. There’s a scorched earth, red iron-like mineral note, though this remains a wood-infused bottle for the time being. To be revisited after 2017, with longevity of a couple of decades I’d suspect. Tasted October 2013. 93 points.

Continuum 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Pritchard Hill ($175.00)

The project of Tim Mondavi, an estate (92% estate fruit) wine from about 40 acres on Pritchard Hill, with 15% cabernet franc on iron-rich volcanic-derived soil. The nose is suppressed for the moment, a dense and brooding wine, though with a surprisingly supple and approachable palate – the texture here is fully beguiling, silky, yet densely packed and high in alcohol. The finish is long but carried on alcohol vapours – more of a winemaker’s wine, yet very fine in any case. Best from 2015. Tasted October 2013. 93 points.

Bond 2009 Pluribus, Spring Mountain ($250.00)

A markedly spicy, and lifted, wood spice-driven wine, very refined and elegant, yet with high, palate warming alcohol. There’s an intriguing aromatic profile with orange peel nuances I more often associate with Italian wines. Structurally the wine is firm and fine-grained, buoyed on alcohol, with nutty, chestnut flavours lingering over ripe red and some black fruit. Great length.  Tasted October 2013. 93 points.

The iconic tower at Silver Oak

The iconic tower at Silver Oak

Silver Oak 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($110.00)

The all-American oak ageing regime of Silver Oak comes through in spades in this 2009, delivering plenty of melted butter, coconut, and sandalwood – the particular house style is well-marked. The palate is as always neither heavy nor light, with vibrant acids, nicely succulent and balanced. One gets the sense that the base material is really very fine here, though you must also enjoy the heavily wood-derived profile to enjoy the ensemble, or wait at least a decade before opening. Tasted October 2013. 91 points.

Dalla Valle Maya 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville ($N/A)

Fully ripe and raisined, evidently a forward and dense, stylized wine, complete with a touch of VA. The palate is thick, hot, very firm, almost astringent, with very good length. All in all, an exaggerated style, with challenging drinkability in my view. Tasted October 2013. 91 points.

Shafer 2009 Hillside Select, Stag’s Leap District ($275.00)

Full on blue fruit and espresso, wood-derived flavour, in an unabashedly ultra-ripe, Napa valley style. Alcohol is hot, likely over 15%, with blueberry yoghurt flavours. All in all this comes across as rather one-dimensional, not in the top league in my view, though revisit in 4-6 years. Tasted October 2013. 90 points.

Cheers,

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS


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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July update)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO this month

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

It was fun again this month finding 20 wines under $20 for this report. Some new wines joined  my Top 50 Best Values and there are some monthly discounts (LTOs) from the LCBO as well as a slew of Bonus AirMiles (BAMs) making some wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so; all making your summer drinking more affordable.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection. I select some from Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period  for this report runs until August 17th – so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published.

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

Reds

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy $7.75 + 4BAMs – Italian flavour and character at a good price for a food balanced wine.

Casal Thaulero Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Abruzzo, Italy $7.75, New to Top 50 – A simple red for enjoying with pizza and meaty tomato pasta sauces.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011, Chile $7.95 + 4BAMs, Top 50 – A solid midweight red for enjoying with roast or bbq meats.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013 Casal Thaulero Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011 Fonseca Periquita 2012 Santa Carolina Merlot 2012

Fonseca Periquita 2012, Peninsula De Setubal, Portugal $8.95, New to Top 50 – Dependable value medium bodied red with a spicy side to the fruit.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2012, Chile $8.95 + 4BAMs, Top 50 – A very drinkable red at a good price for everyday enjoyment.

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $9.95 + 4BAMs – A well made pure cabernet that has not been adulterated with over-oaking and sweetness.

Castillo De Monseran Garnacha 2013, Carinena, Spain $9.95 + 5BAMs – An exciting youthful red finely balanced for enjoying with many foods.

Quartetto 2009, Alentejano, Portugal $10.30 + 4BAMs – A full bodied red made from four Portuguese grapes with some elegance – rare for this price.

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Castillo De Monseran Garnacha 2013 Quartetto 2009 Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011 Montes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011, Ontario $11.95 was $12.95, New to Top 50 – A soft fruity sweetish midweight red that’s balanced with good length.

Montes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile $13.40 + 4BAMs – An easy drinking ripe cabernet with lots of flavour. Very tasty.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95 + 5BAMs – A juicy fairly complex malbec with very good length.

Fifth Leg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2011, Western Australia $16.00 + 5 BAMs – A cool climate elegant red with a long juicy finish.

Las Rocas Garnacha 2011, Do Calatayud, Spain $16.75 + 8BAMs – An aromatic midweight red with good length and complexity.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2013 Fifth Leg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2011 Las Rocas Garnacha 2011 Jacob's Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia $16.95 + 10 BAMs – Classic Coonawarra cabernet at a good price. Finely balanced with some ageing potential.

Grahams Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008 Douro Valley, Portugal $16.95, New to Top 50 – A soft powerful fragrant Port with the alcohol finely balanced by fruit and acidity.

Whites

Periquita White 2013, Portugal $8.80, New to Top 50 – A fruity fragrant white for mildly flavoured seafood.

Dunavar Muscat Ottonel 2012, Hungary $8.95 + 3BAMs, Top 50 – Great value for an aromatic flavourful juicy white for Asian cuisine or rich poultry.

Two Oceans Chardonnay 2012, Western Cape, South Africa $10.25 + 6BAMs, Top 50 – The 2012 is a big improvement. Lots of ripe flavours yet crisp and fresh. Great value.

Periquita White 2013 Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2013 Goats Do Roam White 2013

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile $11.95, New to Top 50 – The new vintage is just as good. A mildly oaked vibrant juicy chardonnay.

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $11.95 + 5BAMs, Top 50 – An aromatic rich dry white, great as an aperitif or with Asian cuisine.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the Vintages Essential Collection.

On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines  I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 wines on the Top 50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your current needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50, since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

How I Choose the Top 50

I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. You can easily find all of my all Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for July
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (July 2014)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

We’re well into summer now, and priorities have distinctively shifted into summer holiday mode. We’re still tasting as much as ever, though patios, beaches, campsites, parks, docks and boats play heavily on our choices now. As Ella so soulfully and rightfully crooned, it’s Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Our 20 Under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~
Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

It’s amazing how a few warm days can transform a lightweight, fruity wine into a quenching patio favourite that has everybody asking to see the label. Remember light and fruity doesn’t have to mean flavourless and flabby nor should the wine possess a finish that lasts longer than a weekend round of golf.

Case in point, Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Or, from further south, the simple, juicy and off-dry Fetzer Quartz Winemaker’s Favourite White Blend 2012. Chill them down, find a deck chair and away you go.

Equally refreshing – and local – is Grant Stanley’s 50th Parallel Estate Riesling 2013 from British Columbia Lake Country with its bright acidity and tension. Think grilled pork.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 Fetzer Quartz Winemaker's Favourite White Blend 2012 50th Parallel Riesling 2013 Bold Vine Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 Château Peyros Tannat Cabernet 2009

Barbecue freaks often reach for red, and this juicy example from California will match many al fresco meals. Bold Vine Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 is a catchy, friendly fresh, easy-sipping style for lighter grilled dishes, plus tapas, cheese and pizzas.

Finally, it’s fun to explore new grapes, blends and region in the summer and  Chateau Peyros Madiran Tannat Cabernet Franc 2009 qualifies on all counts.

This very interesting tannat /cabernet franc blend from southwest France’s Madiran region will expand your wine knowledge, and your big meaty BBQ pairing options.

DJ Kearney

White wines from the Southern Hemisphere typically bring a trio of satisfying factors:  generous fruit, lush texture and killer value. I’ve chosen five bottles from south of the equator that are lovely summertime wines for relaxed outdoor dinners.

Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 brings brisk and cheeky to a new level, with tropical notes, grassy freshness and dusty minerals for a tossed salad of local goat’s cheese, grapes, kiwi and baby greens. Use the wine in the vinaigrette as the acid for complete harmony.

South Africa’s Cape winelands have embraced sauvignon blanc in a bearhug, and are sending lovely trim wines to market, like the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Savoury with nettles and crunchy gooseberries, it’s a dry and earthy companion for chilled cucumber soup.

Giesen Wine Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Miss Molly By Moreson Hoity Toity Chenin Blanc 2012 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2012 Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012

Chenin Blanc is the Cape’s most planted white grape and in Miss Molly Hoity Toity 2012, a jolt of perfumed viognier romps through the blend.  Lemony fresh with a peachy finish, it’s built for simple grilled chicken skewers.

Yalumba makes a wide range of wonderful wines, and led the charge planting Viognier in Oz.  Organic, floral and gorgeous, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2012 is for grilled salmon and stonefruit salsa.

Finally, a Chilean looker that is under $20 by just a penny, but it over-delivers even at this price.  Stately and rich, I want Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012 with steamed Dungeness crab and Meyer Lemon butter.

Rhys Pender MW

Summer is finally here and in a dramatic fashion. At the time of writing this, temperatures in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys were in the high 30s. The body wants to slow down, shade and water are sought after and crisp, dry and refreshing wines are in order. Fortunately there are many great wines that have the perfect level of refreshment.

My first recommendation this month is not a grape variety and place that we often associate and maybe that is why the Nederburg The Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2012 is such a great deal at $10 (BC)!

Summer also means dry rosé time. Few wines are as well suited to lounging in the shade on a hot day than very cold, light pink rosé from the south of France. The Domaine Saint Ferréol Les Vaunières 2013 and the Bieler Père et Fils 2013  are both perfect.

Nederburg The Winemaster's Reserve Riesling 2012 Domiane St Ferreol Les Vaunieres 2013 Bieler Père & Fils Sabine Rosé 2013Baldes & Fils Château Labrande 2010 Trapiche Pure Malbec 2012

Red wine may also be necessary at this time of the year and particularly later in the evening when it finally cools off and you want to grill big chunks of red meat. A good red wine for this must have character but not be overly boozy or heavily laden with oak. And don’t be afraid to chill them down in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. The Château Labrande 2010 Cahors Malbec is a good choice.

Another important red wine that is bucking a lot of the trends of sweetness and chocolatey oak is the Trapiche 2012 Pure Malbec from the cool Uco Valley part of Argentina’s Mendoza. The vineyard is managed to slow ripening and the grapes are picked a little earlier to avoid jamminess. The wine then sees no oak staying fresh, juicy and lively. And it works.

Treve Ring

Vive le Juillet! Tour de France and this week’s Bastille Day celebrations have me in a distinctively French frame of mind. While many people – erroneously – consider French wines to be expensive and intimidating, I argue that the amazing diversity of regions, styles, grapes – and price points – makes France a wine buyers (and drinker’s) delight.

Everyone loves bubbles, especially when they are pink, fresh, fruity, easy and $16. The Loire Valley’s Remy Pannier Royal de Neuville Rose is a gentle, off-dry example that matches summer’s rosy sunset.

If you prefer your pinks dry, pick up the Chateau de Brigue Côtes de Provence Protégée Rose 2013, a crisp and refined syrah and cinsault blend that will fit patio sipping or your albacore tuna niçoise.

Tour de France riders spent a couple of days in the Vosges mountains, undoubtedly satisfied to slake their thirsts with juicy, fruity, round whites like Kuhlmann Platz Gewurztraminer 2012.

Remy Pannier Royal De Neuville Petillant RoseChateau De Brigue Rose 2013Kuhlmann Platz GewurztraminerCave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010 Cote Mas Languedoc Reserve 2012

A GSM blend is always a good bet for summertime suppers, so two must be doubly as good, right? True when we’re talking about Cave de Rasteau La Domelière 2010 from AC Rasteau. This savoury grenache, syrah, mouvedre blend is from one of the oldest wineries in the Rhone valley and demonstrates its pedigree now with a few years patina.

In a younger, fresher vein is the Cote Mas Languedoc Reserve 2012, from Languedoc AC. Here, Grenache, syrah and mouvedre are joined by the charismatic and secretive carignan, resulting in a savoury and garrigue-imbued herbal cherry wonder, ideal for dusky nights al fresco.

Keep cool out there BC – we’ll be back next month to satisfy your wallets and your palates with a special edition 20 Under $20 focused on The World Wine Awards of Canada.

20 Under $20 in British Columbia

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!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 19th – Part Two

Guess Who’s Coming to the BBQ?
by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo

David New 2014

David Lawrason

Every year about this time food and wine media all over the northern hemisphere like to feed into the season with features on BBQ wines – and VINTAGES magazine is no exception with the July 19th release. As if we needed help to understand that what we really want are wines to fit the relaxed, convivial mood of dining outdoors. We want fruit and balance and purity. We don’t really need nuance, and we don’t want to belabour precise matches to this or that. Nor do we want average quality wines masquerading as BBQ wines just because they are cheap. There is some art to creating balanced wine, and it is fine by me if that means they are more expensive. VINTAGES has its selections, but we only align with them on and couple in terms of quality. So we have gone beyond to suggest others that show balance, purity and flavour depth – wines that make us feel good, like an evening with friends and family, for which the BBQ is merely a prop.

Where the Stars Align

Hedesheimer Hof Weingut Beck Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012Paco & Lola Albariño 2012Hedesheimer Hof Grauer 2012 Burgunder Kabinett Trocken, Pfalz, Germany ($18.95).
David Lawrason – I am paying a lot of attention to pinot whites from the warmer German regions of Pfalz and Baden. This has real polish and oodles of fruit.
Sara d’Amato – Oof, the name is a bit of a mouthful but so is the wine – rich, decadent and deserving of such a grand title. To break it down, name of the grape: grauer burgunder aka pinot gris; the level of quality or sweetness: Kabinett Trocken (Kabinett is generally off-dry unless designated “trocken”). A sure-fire value.

Paco & Lola 2012 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain ($18.95)
David Lawrason - The fragrant, slightly exotic albarino grape – that is making waves along the Atlantic coasts of northwestern Spain and over the border in northern Portugal’s Vihno Verde – has a very summery, garden fresh appeal. This particular example is one of the best to arrive this year.
Sara d’Amato – A terrific introduction to albarino, this textbook example is nicely packaged and offers appealing notes of dried herb, saline, pear, lime and lemon curd. Juicy and fresh but also with great presence and gumption.

Alain Jaume Grande Garrigue Vacqueyras 2012Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler 2012 RieslingDr. Pauly Bergweiler Riesling 2012, Mosel, Germany ($13.95)
David Lawrason – This is shockingly good value – a classy, super fresh and bright Mosel riesling. It may not work with grilled foods, but if your al fresco dining also includes fruit based salads and mild cheeses grab a handful.
John Szabo – Dr. Pauly’s basic QBA riesling is a terrific deal, offering all of the hallmark Mosel riesling character at a price that would make most rieslings blush. This would make a fine “house” wine for the summer.

Alain Jaume 2012 Grande Garrigue Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Meat–meisters who want more than fruit in their red will love this rich, ripe, plummy, peppery, spicy southern Rhône. My love affair with Vacqueyras continues, but this is not for the faint of heart.
Sara d’Amato – In the shadow of the great wines of Gigondas, Vacqueyras is certainly an unsung hero of the Côtes-du-Rhône, producing some of the better values of the southern villages. This example is really quite polished, tight and refined with all the “garrigue” that title suggests. Fleshy, juicy and widely appealing.

Lawrason’s Picks

Niro 2012 Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($15.95). Pecorino – the grape not the cheese – is emerging as yet another “discovery white” among the somm set. With good reason. This is a bright, balanced, subtle yet powerful dry white – not to mention excellent value.

Rockway 2012 Small Lot Block 12-150 Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95). Since Niagara College grad David Stasiuk took over the winemaking helm at Rockway the quality has rocketed at the only Ontario winery with a golf course. This has good weight, presence and depth with some refreshing stoniness.

Viña Cobos 2012 Felino Malbec, Mendoza ($19.95). Argentina will undoubtedly be drowning their soccer sorrows with great hunks of scorched beef and mugs of malbec. Commiserate with this lovely, balance beauty from the hands of California roving oenologist Paul Hobbs.

Niro Pecorino 2012 Rockway Small Lot Block 12 150 Riesling 2012 Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2012 Brazin (B)Old Vine Zinfandel 2011 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2011 Herdade Do Sobroso Sobro Red 2012

Brazin 2011 (B)old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California ($19.95). This has good heft and thankfully comes up just short of being overly confected and mocha-fied like so many of its modern, overly commercialized peers. The nose has some of the brambly, woodsy, outdoorsy character (the French would call it garrigue) that I like in authentic zin.

MacMurray Ranch 2011 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($24.95). Yes it is a borderline overly fruity, sweetish California pinot, but it actually hangs together, and has ideal out-door ease, freshness and charm. Chill lightly.

Herdade do Sobroso 2012 Sobro Red, Alentejano, Portugal ($14.95). This is a decent buy in easy drinking Portuguese red – and not often do you hear those words in the same sentence. It blends local varieties of southern Portugal with cabernet and syrah, aged just a short time of three months in barrel to maintain exuberant fruity appeal.

More Picks from Sara

Schreckbichl Colterenzio 2012 Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy ($18.95). Although we saw this come through almost a year ago, I certainly preferred it most recently. The wine has seen a lovely mini evolution and is drinking beautifully at this point.

Château Haut Dina 2010, Côtes De Bordeaux Castillon, Bordeaux, France ($15.00). A rustic, traditional blend primarily made up of merlot as is usually the case in the right bank. Undeniably charming with some lovely pleasure enhancing faults such as just a touch of brett and volatility. Such ruggedness is nicely balanced with a wide array of fruit from plum to fig. A wine with a great deal to offer at this price – Bordeaux traditionalists take note!

Chateau-Haut-Dina-2010 Perrin & Fils l'Andéol Rasteau 2011 Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère 2011

Perrin & Fils 2011 l’Andéol Rasteau, Côtes Du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($19.95). Rasteau can grow remarkable grenache on its sunbaked terrain and the varietal often makes up a good deal of the appellation’s blends. Typically a good value, the 2011 l’Andéol is immediately appealing, revealing and easy to appreciate. Its affable, supple and succulent nature makes for a terrific everyday red but it is also quite versatile and can be enjoyed from aperitif to cheese course.

Viña Tarapacá 2011 Gran Reserva Carmenère, Maipo Valley, Chile ($17.95). One of last year’s judges picks at the World Wine Awards of Canada, Tarapaca’s Gran Reserva shows no signs of loss of life. In fact, it continues to exhibit more harmony and complexity as it gently matures. Sourced from high quality vineyards throughout the Maipo, it is especially distinctive of place and variety and exhibits the structure and concentration of a wine twice its price.

Szabo’s Best Buys

Fattori Motto Piane Soave 2011

Mastroberardino Greco Di Tufo 2011

Cave Spring 2011 CSV RieslingCave Spring Riesling CSV 2011, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95). 2011 is a fine vintage for the Cave Spring CSV riesling, balancing ripeness and freshness in the usual dry and more full-bodied style favoured by winemaker Angelo Pavan. A fine wine for current enjoyment or mid-term cellaring.

Mastroberardino 2012 Greco Di Tufo, Campania, Italy ($22.00). Regional leader Mastroberardino delivers another fine example of Greco di Tufo, which, along with Fiano di Avellino, producers the region’s top whites in my view – this has character and personality in spades, and no small measure of volcanic-ash minerality.

Fattori 2011 Soave Motto Piane, Veneto Italy ($22.95). Soave is a schizophrenic region, with a large but uninteresting part of production grown on flat, overly fertile soils. The best, however, come from the poor volcanic hills to the north, like this, from a 3.9h parcel of 30-year-old garganega on Monte Calvarina. Grapes are dried for 40 days to create a full-bodied, rich and creamy, intensely flavoured example, with high alcohol (14.5%) and a whack of salty, savoury, volcanic minerality. A fine find for fans of distinctiveness and regional character.

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Trimbach 2011 Réserve Pinot GrisTrimbach Réserve Pinot Gris 2011, Alsace, France ($23.95). A lovely wine in the classic, upright, firm and dry Trimbach style, with excellent intensity and length, especially considering the generally lighter and earlier maturing 2011 vintage.

Castello Di Gabbiano 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy ($22.95). 2009 is a full and very ripe, structured and concentrated vintage for the Gabbiano Riserva, displaying almost Brunello like richness, which was my guess (and teammates Sara D’Amato and Steve Thurlow) when faced with this wine blind in the final episode of So, You Think You Know Wine?, season four. Suffice to say that it has depth and intensity above the mean.

Dei 2010 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy ($27.95). I love the elegant wines of Dei, always seamless and refined, structured and complex, neither overly traditional nor obviously modern. The 2010 is a fine vintage, the epitome of refined sangiovese.

Domaine Berthoumieu Haute Tradition Madiran 2011

Abad Dom Bueno Crianza 2006

Château Lalande-Borie 2010, Saint-JulienChâteau Lalande Borie 2010, Bordeaux, France ($39.85). Arch-classical left bank Bordeaux from a great vintage, best after 2018, or hold until the late ’20s.

Abad Dom Bueno 2006 Crianza Do Bierzo, Spain ($14.95). Wow – what a terrific value. Most wines in this price range can only dream of this complexity. It’s fully mature, yet still holds on to attractive dark fruit and floral character. To buy by the case.

Domaine Berthoumieu 2011 Haute Tradition Madiran, Southwest France ($17.95). I first tasted the wines of Didier Barré over a dozen years ago and was impressed then, as I am now, by the way he manages to tame the rough tannins of tannat without sacrificing regional character and authenticity. This wine will appeal to fans of classic cabernet sauvignon, with which it shares similar dark berry, cassis fruit flavours and firm structure. Best suited to cuts of rare-grilled beef or lamb on the BBQ.

…..

And that’s it for this edition. I will be missing the great i4c event this weekend due to foreign travels (a rare trip to New Zealand in winter) but John Szabo will be in Niagara flying the flag and moderating events. If you have some time to catch up on your reading don’t miss recently published articles wherein John explores the wines of Greece in-depth, and Julian Hitner raises the awareness of Haut-Medoc in Bordeaux, an especially good source of good value wines in the terrific 2010 vintage.

Until next time!

From VINTAGES July 19th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
July 19th Part One – Very Cool Chardonnay

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 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Behind the scenes at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada 2014

A Quality Affair

Last month WineAlign converged on Penticton, British Columbia for the National Wine Awards of Canada. For five full days the ballrooms of the Penticton Lakeside Resort were transformed into a world class stage to judge the country’s best wines.

While we are busy tabulating the results – which will be announced later this month – we thought you might enjoy this insider’s look at what goes on behind the scenes of one of the best wine competitions in the world.

It’s as good as it gets!


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Bill’s Best Bets – July

Whites to serve warmer
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Most wine fanatics can remember particular moments, or perhaps certain wines that were game changers. Moments that shifted the paradigm so that afterwards, you were no longer simply drinking fermented grapes and getting a slight buzz, but drinking something that represented much more than the wine in your glass. The experience got you hooked.

One of those moments happened to me in the mid 90’s. Now I can’t tell you what I drank, I know it was a Californian chardonnay that my sister brought back for me from a trip she made to San Francisco. What I do remember was having a meal/date on a backyard terrace on a hot summer evening, and drinking that wine when it was probably close to 20 °C.

The texture was so rich, the wine so aromatic. Talk about complexity. My mind was blown. Like most people I was a red wine drinker but that moment turned me onto white wines and my fascination with them has never waned.

Pay attention to temperature

La Vieille Ferme Côtes Du Luberon 2013Château Coupe Roses 2012Fast forward to a few weeks ago and once again I was floored by the “warm white.” With the evening temperature way over 20 °C, our bottle of Minervois from Château Coupe Roses was just left to get ambient on the table. Made with 100% roussanne, while it was very good  at around 10 °C with our souvlaki, as it got warmer and warmer, the wine gained in both texture and aromatics. Must have finished that last glass when it was over 20 °C.

Now before you start trying to break the serving temperature record on all your whites, some are best served around 8C. Anything with sugar, like off-dry rieslings, should be kept cool so that you keep the acidity. Likewise, wines whose chief attribute is their acidity, like those made with sauvignon blanc, muscadet, pinot grigio and vinho verde, for example, shouldn’t be served much higher than 10 °C.

But if your wine is made with grapes where the joy factor is linked to their rich texture and aromatics, then feel free to play around. And this is not limited to expensive wines either. One inexpensive wine which will gain much more with a few degrees is La Vieille Ferme.

Made with boubelenc, grenache blanc, vermentino and roussanne, if you try it just directly from the fridge, which is around 4 °C, you’ll have a pretty boring white wine. But once it reaches around 10-12 °C, then the texture is much more interesting and it shows much more aromatically.

It will give you a completely other dimension, and all for $14.

Château Villerambert Julien 2012Vina Gravonia Rioja Crianza 2004If there is a theme in the above two wines, it’s that southern French grapes like roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, like it a little bit warmer. Another Minervois, this time made with roussanne and viognier, is the Château Villerambert JulienI found its sweet spot to be around 14 °C. Oh, and after being decanted for a few hours.

Southern French whites aren’t the only wines that benefit from higher than expected service temperatures. One of my favourite white wines, the Gravonia Crianza from Rioja winery Lopez de Heredia, has just been released. This is the bomb – but it should come with an instruction manual. I would open it in the morning, take a sip, put the cork back in and take it out of the fridge an hour before serving. Let it go as warm as you dare.

My record for warm white service temperature probably goes to the wines of France’s Jura. In fact, I don’t even bother putting most of them in the fridge. A Vin Jaune, the weirdest of all whites whereby the savagnin grape is raised like a sherry, only starts to get going around 12 °C. Any cooler you are wondering what sort of strange beverage is masquerading as wine in your glass. It peaks around 16 °C and I have drunk them a number of times around 20 °C.

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010Domaine Stépahne Tissot Arbois Savagnin 2010But Vin Jaune isn’t for everyone and is an acquired taste. A great entry point into the oxidative world of the savagnin grape is Stephane Tissot’s Arbois. The wine spent just two years, as opposed to the six years of a Vin Jaune, under the protective “voile.” Superb with curries and white meats.

Finally, there is chardonnay. This is never an easy one. I prefer my Chablis, unless it is a Grand Cru, around 10 °C. But after that, it really is a matter of taste. I tried the 2010 Bourgogne from Jean-Charles Boisset at different temperatures and loved it most at 12 °C. Because it is already four years old, the extra warmth allowed for more nuance.

So there you go. I suggest you take your whites out of the fridge, and try this experiment yourself. Drink your first glass and just allow the wine to warm up. If you have trouble with whites, then this might be what was missing.

And this doesn’t mean you should put away your ice bucket. It’s summer folks, and you should always have it next to your table. And not only for your whites, but for your reds. But that’s another article.

Happy summer,

Bill

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

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 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Les choix de Nadia – Juillet

Cool Chardonnay !
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

La fin de semaine prochaine, du 18 au 20 juillet, la région de la péninsule de Niagara sera l’hôte de la quatrième édition du i4c (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration), un festival dédié au chardonnay de climat frais.

À l’approche de ce rassemblement auquel je participerai, plusieurs questions me sont venues en tête quant à la définition même de la « fraîcheur ». Qu’est-ce qui distingue un chardonnay de climat frais du reste de l’océan de chardonnays produits sur la planète ? Et au fond, sur quoi repose réellement cette sensation de fraîcheur que procurent certains vins ? Est-elle simplement attribuable à la teneur en acidité du vin ou plutôt aux familles d’arômes qui s’en dégagent ? Est-ce que la fraîcheur est attribuable exclusivement au lieu d’origine des raisins ou est-ce que la signature du vigneron joue aussi un rôle important ?

Autant de questions mériteraient sans doute une longue réponse complexe et nuancée. Pourtant, après mûre réflexion, j’en suis venue à une conclusion plutôt simple. Pour moi, la définition du chardonnay de climat frais pourrait se résumer à un mot : minéralité.

Malheureusement, la définition de ce terme largement utilisé dans le jargon des critiques de vins – dont je suis – demeure certainement aussi vague, sinon plus, que la notion de fraîcheur, puisqu’il repose sur un concept encore plus abstrait.

INTERNATIONAL COOL CLIMATE CHARDONNAY ASSOCIATION - Célébrations

« On peut produire des gros chardonnays boisés un peu partout dans le monde, mais ce qui nous intéresse au i4c, ce sont des vins digestes qui traduisent les subtilités de leurs terroirs d’origine. » Thomas Bachelder, vigneron globe-trotter et l’un des fondateurs de l’International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration.

« Antidote à l’ennui »

En faisant quelques recherches, j’ai retrouvé une réflexion sur la minéralité qu’avait diffusée Denis Dubourdieu, professeur à la faculté d’œnologie de Bordeaux. Dubitatif devant cette perception qui ne s’appuie sur aucune recherche scientifique, Dubourdieu émettait quelques hypothèses après avoir longuement cogité sur la question. En voici un résumé :

« La minéralité caractérise certainement le goût d’un vin inspiré par le refus de la facilité, dicté par l’ambition de faire un vin inimitable associé à un lieu et à nul autre. [...] Minéral dans votre esprit s’oppose à pâteux, complaisant, sucré, alcooleux, sur boisé [...] et est alors synonyme de pur, aérien, frais, serré, tendu, complexe et mystérieux. [...] Minéral fait aussi référence à l’effort. Quand la vigne est facile à cultiver, le vin est ennuyeux à déguster. La quête de la minéralité est finalement celle de l’antidote à l’ennui, que les vins complaisants finissent toujours par susciter. »

Mais comment donc obtient-on ce goût minéral ?

L’histoire a depuis longtemps prouvé que les vins fins et subtils provenaient généralement de régions où le climat n’avait rien d’excessif. Juste ce qu’il faut de chaleur pour que le raisin mûrisse lentement, mais sûrement.

Dans les régions torrides, le fruit mûrit sans peine chaque année, mais donne rarement des vins subtils ou profonds. Voilà pourquoi la Bourgogne donne des chardonnays infiniment plus complexes que ceux de la Baja California, au Mexique.De là l’idée de planter les cépages à leurs limites géographiques : le plus au nord possible dans l’hémisphère nord, le plus au sud possible dans l’hémisphère sud. Et de miser, dans les régions montagneuses, sur les terroirs d’altitude et les coteaux protégés du soleil.

Le type d’agriculture a aussi une incidence sur la complexité d’un vin. En bannissant les d’engrais chimiques et les désherbants et en travaillant les sols, on favorise l’enracinement profond de la vigne et l’apport minéral. Aucune étude scientifique ne le prouve, mais le résultat dans le verre, lui, ne fait aucun doute.

Enfin, loin de se limiter au sol, la minéralité tient aussi de l’état d’esprit qui anime le vigneron. Car entre les mains d’un vigneron paresseux ou trop ambitieux, même un grand terroir de Bourgogne peut être réduit à la banalité. Trop de bois ou de bâtonnage, une vigne mal entretenue, des rendements trop élevés, une vendange trop précoce, trop tardive, etc. Autant de détails qui font toute la différence entre le vin ordinaire et le vin mystère…

De Rougemont à Auckland

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2011Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Cote 2012Vendredi dernier, histoire de m’amuser un peu, j’ai servi à l’aveugle quelques vins blancs québécois à des amis amateurs de vins qui étaient venus prendre l’apéro à la maison. Dans le lot, le Chardonnay 2012 La Côte de Coteau Rougemont (23,95 $). À l’aveugle, tous étaient persuadés qu’il s’agissait d’un vin européen. Je ne tomberai pas dans les superlatifs faciles, mais je dirai seulement que quelqu’un a évoqué la Bourgogne… À suivre!

Le Montréalais Thomas Bachelder, ancien vinificateur du Clos Jordanne (Niagara), a démarré une activité de négoce transatlantique, spécialisée dans le chardonnay et le pinot noir, en Bourgogne, en l’Oregon et à Niagara.

Stylistiquement à mi-chemin entre Meursault et un Chablis Premier cru, le Beaune blanc 2010, Les Longes(43,25 $) est un heureux mariage de vivacité et de gras. Pas donné, mais excellent!

Sans avoir la même dimension aromatique, son Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011 (27 $)mérite une mention spéciale pour sa tenue en bouche et son volume. À moins de 30 $, c’est un achat avisé.

Encore disponible dans quelques succursales au moment d’écrire ces lignes, le Chardonnay 2011, Wismer Vineyard(41,25 $) est l’archétype d’un bon chardonnay de climat frais. Dégusté à nouveau la semaine dernière, le vin faisait preuve d’une tension remarquable en bouche, avec une finale rassasiante tant par sa texture que par sa vigueur. 

Chablis, quintessence du chardonnay ?

De l’avis de plusieurs, le chablis est la quintessence du cépage chardonnay. Grâce à leur acidité naturelle et à leur équilibre, les meilleurs peuvent être conservés plusieurs années.

À la tête du domaine familial Louis Moreau depuis 1994, Louis Moreau est aussi président du comité interprofessionnel des vignerons de Chablis. De manière générale, les vins sont très fidèles à l’idée de pureté et de franchise propres à l’appellation.

À la fois vigoureux et vineux, agrémenté de saveurs cristallines et doté d’une franche tension minérale, le Chablis Premier cru Vaulignot 2011 a tous les éléments recherchés dans un chablis ! Fort belle réussite aussi pour le Chablis 2012. Parfaitement sec et suffisamment vineux.

Enfin, de l’aveu de Louis Moreau, le Petit Chablis 2012 est naturellement plus friand, souple, fruité et moins minéral qu’un chablis courant. N’empêche, c’est l’un des beaux exemples du genre offerts sur le marché.

Louis Moreau Chablis Vaulignot Premier Cru 2011Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2012Domaine Louis Moreau Petit Chablis 2012La Sœur Cadette Bourgogne 2012

Au Domaine de La Cadette, Jean Montanet est un pilier de la région de Vèzelay, dans l’Yonne (au sud de Chablis), où il pratique une agriculture biologique depuis plus de 10 ans. Sa « petite » cuvée, La Sœur Cadette, est issue à la fois des vignes du domaine et d’achat de raisins. Encore plus complet que le 2011 dégusté l’an dernier et toujours vendu à moins de 20 $. Une aubaine à saisir! 

Le chardonnay aux antipodes

Carmen Chardonnay Reserva 2012De Martino Legado Reserva Limari Chardonnay 2012Œnologue de la maison De Martino, Marcelo Retamal est l’un des plus brillants œnologues chiliens de sa génération. Il a mené plusieurs études des sols de la vallée centrale qui sont désormais une référence pour les nouvelles plantations. Persuadé que la cordillère des Andes représente l’avenir du vignoble chilien, il préconise un retour à la viticulture d’altitude.

À l’ouverture, son Chardonnay 2012, Legado – produit dans la région fraîche de Limari –peut presque passer inaperçu. Car ce n’est vraiment qu’après quelques heures qu’il se révèle à sa juste valeur. On découvre alors un chardonnay très pur, à des lieues des cuvées lourdes et exagérément boisées. À moins de 20 $, on en ferait son vin blanc quotidien !

Depuis quelques années, Viña Carmen – une cave appartenant au groupe Santa Rita, mais gérée de manière autonome – ne cesse de me surprendre par la qualité de ses vins, qui offrent généralement un excellent rapport qualité-prix. Pour une bouchée de pain, ce Viña Carmen Chardonnay 2013 (13 $) vendu dans l’ensemble du réseau est un modèle du genre. Rien de bien profond ni de minéral, mais un très bon vin blanc sec, équilibré et agréable à boire.

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2009En Nouvelle-Zélande, au nord de l’île du Nord et en périphérie de la région métropolitaine d’Auckland, Kumeu River, le domaine de famille Brajkovich, est réputé à juste titre pour produire quelques-uns des vins les plus fins du pays. Animé par la volonté d’obtenir un vin pur et fidèle au goût du lieu, Michael Brajkovich a opté pour une approche peu interventionniste, qui a certainement contribué au caractère singulier de ses cuvées.

Disponible en bonnes quantités à la SAQ, le Chardonnay 2009, Estate (34,25 $) est une valeur sûre. Un peu moins complexe et intense que les cuvées parcellaires du domaine, mais tout aussi élégant. Il a aussi un bon potentiel de garde.

Encore disponible dans quelques succursales dans les régions de Montréal, Québec et Sherbrooke, le Hunting Hill (40 $) est la preuve que la Bourgogne n’est pas la seule à donner à ce cépage ses lettres de noblesse. Le chardonnay conjugué au plus-que-parfait !

Au plaisir de vous rencontrer la fin de semaine prochaine à Niagara.

Santé !

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. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 19th – Part One

A Complete Starter’s Kit for the i4c and Very Cool Chardonnay
by John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report features chardonnay in the key of cool, the thematic of the VINTAGES July 19th release, as well raison d’être of the upcoming International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration. The i4c, as it’s better known, is just that: a celebration of chardonnay grown in cool places around the world. The WineAlign team has put together a robust preview of some of the top wines that will be poured over the course of the weekend, which runs from July 18-20th in venues across Niagara. And even if you’re not going, these chardonnays are worth knowing. Next week, we’ll cover the top picks for the obligatory backyard BBQ.

The idea for the i4c was dreamt up on a summer’s night in 2009 by a group of local winemakers lounging around a backyard fire. These winemakers believed that chardonnay, one of the most widely planted grapes in Ontario, “is deserving of a renaissance. It’s resilient and refined. It can be steely or floral, complex or focused. It expresses terroir better than any other grape we grow.” And the Niagara-based celebration of cool climate chardonnay was born.

The forward-thinking group also realized that Ontario chardonnay needed to be put into an international context, and so it was mandated that at least half of the participating wineries in the yearly celebration would be from outside of the province to ensure a truly global view of the myriad nuances of chardonnay grown in cool climates. The celebration’s clever motto – 400,000 acres can’t be wrong – tells the story of chardonnay’s dominance of the fine wine world, with Ontario seeking to establish its own niche within.

School of cool

The School of Cool at i4c

It was also determined that a respected international keynote speaker with an important outsider’s perspective would be invited each year – a show of confidence by the local industry. The inaugural celebration in 2011 welcomed Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator, Stephen Brook (Decanter) joined in 2012 and Steven Spurrier (Decanter) in 2013. Tim Atkin MW, a multi award-winning London-based wine writer and broadcaster will deliver this year’s keynote address and share his perspective on how Ontarian vintners are performing while the world is watching.

Although there is a full day of technical talk aimed at the trade on Friday the 18th at Brock University, the rest of the weekend’s events are designed for general enjoyment. Stephen Brook had this to say about the 2012 edition: “We gathered to celebrate some great cool climate wines and to explore what makes them distinctive, but we also enjoyed those wines with top international winemakers alongside great food in a delightfully informal atmosphere. The perfect blend of sophisticated appreciation and unsophisticated fun”.

Principals from fifty-eight wineries and around 2000 guests are anticipated over the course of the weekend, and I’d hope to see you among them. I’ll be moderating the technical sessions on Friday, so if you’re particularly keen, stop by with your most detailed questions. Panels of experts have been convened to discuss topics like “Yield in Context: a discussion regarding the importance of yield in producing high quality wines, in relationship to other factors (terroir, weather, mesoclimate, vine age”. It’s the sort of stuff that has kept you up at night wondering. For all of the rest of the event details and tickets visit: www.coolchardonnay.org

Your i4c Starter Kit: Some Top Preview Picks

Unless you’re amazingly efficient and plan on staying in Niagara for the whole weekend, it’ll be tough to taste over a hundred wines. So here’s a short, if not comprehensive, list of what not to miss to get you started; even if you’re not attending the i4c, these are chardonnays worth tracking down. All recommendations will be either released through VINTAGES on July 19th, or are available directly from wineries.

International Selections

Domaine Dublère Savigny Lès Beaune Aux Vergelesses 1er Cru 2011Champy Pernand Vergelesses En Caradeux Premier Cru 2011Triple Alignment! No chardonnay celebration of any kind would be complete without wines from the spiritual and physical home of chardonnay, and Burgundy is indeed represented by several fine wines. At the top of the quality pile is the Maison Champy 2011 Pernand-Vergelesses En Caradeux 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($49.95).

John Szabo – Although En Caradeux may not be the most celebrated 1er cru in Pernand, Champy’s bottlings in recent vintages have been outstanding, and this one follows in the same vein. It also underscores the dramatic improvements that the larger negociant houses have been forced to make to keep up with the rising quality of small family-run domaines. The 2011 is an excellent success for the vintage, to be enjoyed after 2016 or held into the mid-twenties.
David Lawrason - Sitting at the foot of the Corton-Charlemagne vineyards this Pernand is one of the great underrated white wine sites of Burgundy. Combine that with much improved winemaking at the tiny negociant firm of Champy in Beaune and you get one exciting, cracking good chardonnay.
Sara D’Amato – En Caradeux is a tiny 1er Cru climat located within Pernand Vergelesses that produces both chardonnay and pinot noir, but is best known for its whites. There is great dimension and length to this wildly compelling wine with a touch of naughty volatility.

Triple Alignment!

John Szabo – The village of Savigny-les-Beaune is arguably the best of the lesser-known communes of the Côtes de Beaune, and one of my favourite hunting grounds for value, such as it exists in the Côte d’Or. The 2011 Domaine Dublère Savigny-Lès-Beaune Aux Vergelesses 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($58.95) is hardly inexpensive, but drinks like solid Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru with its restrained, firm, tightly wound, briskly mineral style.  It’s another exception to the rule of usually light and delicate 2011s, best after 2017.
David Lawrason – Savigny les Beaune and Pernand Vergelesses are adjoining AOCs, so I am assuming this hails from a site somewhere on the border. And it delivers similar quality and style to the Maison Champy Pernand, if in a slightly more sleek and tender style of Savigny.
Sara D’Amato – The Vergelesses vineyard is the closest of the Savigny-les-Beaune sites to Pernand-Vergelesses which nuzzles up to the Grand Cru sites of Corton. Expect terrific depth, poise and substance from this exceptional chardonnay that I rarely reward with such a score.  Both grand and reserved, this is an epic wine.

DECELLE-VILLA SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE BLANC 2012Domaine Nadine Ferrand Lise Marie Pouilly Fuissé 2011Also fine value from the same village is the Decelle-Villa 2012 Savigny-Les-Beaune Blanc, Burgundy, France ($40.95), a producer who has attended the i4c in the past. Olivier Decelle is the man behind the highly regarded fortified Roussillon wines of Mas Amiel, while Pierre-Jean Villa helped develop les Vins de Vienne, a sought-after boutique négociant in the northern Rhône. The pair has joined forces in Burgundy, where they share a cellar with Canadian Thomas Bachelder (also at i4c 2014), making wine from both purchased grapes and estate parcels all managed organically or biodynamically. Wood has been masterfully integrated into this minerally ensemble, while elegant white-fleshed fruit dominates the palate.

Domaine Nadine Ferrand Lise-Marie 2011 Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France ($27.95). Southern Burgundy is another regional hot spot where quality and value intersect. The limestone-rich soils of the hills surrounding the villages of Pouilly and Fuissé yield the region’s top crus (an official cru system is currently being proposed), and Nadine Ferrand farms 10 hectares in the heart of the appellation. In 2011 she produced a very floral Pouilly Fuissé with substantial intensity and depth. I appreciate the freshness and balance on offer, the ethereal nature without being insipid. This is simply well-balanced, genuinely concentrated, well made, regionally representative wine.

Miguel Torres Gran Viña Sol Chardonnay 2012Marimar Estate Acero Chardonnay 2012The Russian River Valley of Sonoma is not a particularly cool region admittedly, but the Marimar Estate 2012 Acero Chardonnay Don Miguel Vineyard Russian River Valley, California, USA ($29.95) is an unoaked cuvée (acero means stainless steel in Spanish) from Marimar Torres, aimed at, and achieving, freshness balanced with typically ripe Russian River fruit. I like the equilibrium of fleshy fruit and firm acids; serve it chilled to tone down generous alcohol and up the freshness.

Double Alignment!

John Szabo – And keeping it in the family, Marimar’s father Don Miguel offers the keenly priced Miguel Torres 2012 Gran Viña Sol Chardonnay, Penedès, Spain ($15.95). Cool and Spain aren’t often in the same sentence, but a case can be made for the genuinely cooler highlands of the upper Penedès region north of Barcelona where this wine is grown. It’s simple but fresh and lively, with intensity that’s more than in line with the price category.
Sara D’Amato – The grapes of this well-priced chardonnay come from the middle and upper Penedès at higher elevations (up to 800 meters above sea level) which gives the wine a cooler climate feel of lively fruit and vibrant acids. Just a touch of oak is welcome and matches the intensity of this peppery wine well.

A Banker’s Dozen Very Cool Ontario Chardonnays (All will be at the i4c)

Hidden Bench 2011 Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($38.00) From Hidden Bench, owned by the former i4c chairman Harald Thiel, this a really very fine chardonnay. The Felseck vineyard on the Beamsville Bench has consistently yielded minerally, palpably chalky-textured wines over the past several vintages and the 2011 even brings that minerally edge up a notch or two. It’s tightly wound and stony the way we like it, and surely one of the top chardonnays of the vintage.

Hillebrand Showcase Series 2012 Wild Ferment Chardonnay Oliveira Vineyard, Lincoln Lakeshore ($36.20)The Oliveira Vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation is one of the few sites below the Niagara Bench that’s capable of producing genuinely mineral and composed examples of chardonnay, as Hillebrand (now Trius) has consistently shown over several vintages. The 2012 is given royal treatment in the cellar including a ‘wild ferment’ with native yeasts, and is rich and powerful to be sure, but also poised and highly stony, with impressive balance.

Tawse 2011 Quarry Road Chardonnay, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula $34.95 The Quarry Road vineyard in the cool Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation is consistently my favorite chardonnay from the excellent Tawse range, and 2011 has yielded another first class edition. It stands out for its purity, precision and pristine fruit and limestone character.

Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2011Hillebrand Showcase Series Wild Ferment Chardonnay Oliveira Vineyard 2012Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2011Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2011

Malivoire 2011 Mottiar Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95) Malivoire winemaker Shiraz Mottiar spotted the site that he would eventually purchase while cycling along the Niagara Escarpment, divining that this abandoned pear orchard, directly under the limestone cliff of the Escarpment could potentially yield fine wine. He appears to have been right. It was planted in 2003, and has since proved itself to be an excellent source for mineral-suffused, true cool climate chardonnay. This 2011 version is neither rich nor lean, but offers a certain honey-slathered stone character that I find highly appealing.

Norman Hardie 2012 Unfiltered County Chardonnay, VQA Prince Edward County ($39.00) Norm Hardie has done as much as anyone to put Canadian chardonnay on the map, and his wines have become staples on top wine lists across the country. The 2012 ‘County’ offers immediate enjoyment without sacrificing the hallmark minerality and elegance of the house style. This also has a bit more weight and flesh than the mean and fills the mouth in satisfying fashion, though still clocks in at just 12.1% without a hint of green – the magic of Prince Edward County.

Lailey Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay Old Vines, VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula ($40.20) This wine could certainly be included in a panel discussion on vine age vs. quality, making an eloquent that argument that older vines make better wine. From vines planted over 35 years ago, this is well-made, quality wine with integrity and honesty.

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay Unfiltered 2012Lailey Vineyard Chardonnay Old Vines 2012Cave Spring Csv Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2011Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2011

Cave Spring 2011 CSV Estate Bottled Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95)A cool and composed, vintage for the Cave Spring CSV chardonnay, one of the most reliable in Ontario year after year. It’s more than fairly priced for the quality on offer.

Bachelder 2011 Niagara Chardonnay, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($29.95) Thomas Bachelder is an obvious chardonnay (and pinot) fanatic, making these two grapes in three countries (Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara). Just about anything under his label is worth a look, including his ‘entry level’ Niagara chardonnay blended from three blocks (Wismer, Saunders and Wismer-Foxcroft) He’ll also be pouring the excellent single vineyard Wismer chardonnay at the i4c as well.

Triple Alignment! Le Clos Jordanne 2011 Village Reserve Chardonnay VQA Niagara Peninsula ($30.00)

John Szabo – 2011 is shaping up to be a fine vintage for Le Clos’ whites, a combination of maturing vines, and winemaker Sébastien Jacquey getting more attuned to the vagaries of Niagara and the specifics of his vineyards. This is certainly no major step down from the other “crus”, so fair value to be sure.
David Lawrason - The Village reserve may be the basic “vineyard blend” in the Le Clos lineup, and perhaps lacking a bit of finesse of its more expensive stable mates, but this is solid, complex, thoughtful cool climate chardonnay.
Sara D’Amato – Liquid loveliness – this entry level chardonnay from Le Clos Jordanne benefits from a superb vintage that was, by all accounts, warm and dry but with a bit of a dicey start that may have caused some natural thinning and subsequent concentration in the resulting wines. Here is a wine with definition, with amplitude and on a path of graceful maturation – a fine example of cool climate character.

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011Southbrook Vineyards WhimsyStratus Chardonnay 2012

And for those who like more sumptuous versions of chardonnay, there are two from the marginally warmer growing area south of Niagara on the Lake. The Southbrook Vineyards 2012 Whimsy! “Richness” Chardonnay, VQA Niagara On The Lake ($34.95) is a barrel selection of wines that fit winemaker Ann Sperling’s whimsy of the vintage. It’s from biodynamically-grown estate fruit, and is really is all about the palate: thick and dense, rich and full, as the name promises.

In a similar vein, the Stratus 2012 Chardonnay, Niagara On The Lake ($48.00) is a wine for fans of full-bodied chardonnay that coats the palate. The overall impression is highly reminiscent of California-style (more Sonoma than Napa) chardonnay, ambitiously oaked and very creamy, not surprising given the input of California consultant Paul Hobbs at Stratus.

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

From VINTAGES July 19th release:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews

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 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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