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Ce bon vieux Languedoc

Hors des sentiers battus22 mai 2015

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Grosse commande, voilà quelques semaines, alors que j’étais à Montpellier, dans le sud de la France, dans le cadre d’une opération médiatique baptisée Terroirs et Millésimes.

Retrousser mes manches, j’ai dû – et voilà que je me mets à parler en jedi –, car les organisateurs avaient rassemblé pour l’occasion quelque 1200 échantillons qu’une centaine de chroniqueurs spécialisés du monde entier, dont bibi, étaient invités à déguster.

Tout ça en six jours top chrono. Et à raison, dès lors, de 200 vins par jour.

Je suis fait fort, c’est bien connu, mais au-delà de 150 vins, perso, je ne parle pas seulement jedi, je lévite aussi très très haut, ou très très bas, c’est selon.

Trêve de plaisanterie : personne ne nous forçait à tout goûter. Sauf que, à l’instar de l’amateur qui se présente dans un salon des vins et qui voit s’offrir à lui des tas de stands et des centaines de bouteilles, je me suis senti obligé, le premier matin, à mon arrivée dans la salle de dégustation du très joli château de Flaugergues, de concocter un plan de match.

À l’impossible nul n’étant tenu (on croirait encore entendre Yoda), j’allais me contenter de survoler ce Languedoc. Goûter chaque matin une quarantaine de vins en essayant de cerner les principaux attributs de telle et telle appellations.

Voici donc, en vrac, « bruts de cuve » pour ainsi dire, des commentaires consignés dans mon calepin tout au long de cette semaine fort bien organisée par le Conseil interprofessionnel des vins du Languedoc.

DU GÉNÉRAL…

Le Languedoc synonyme de vins charnus, puissants et concentrés : pas mal finie, cette époque-là. Grâce notamment à un pH plus bas (et donc, en gros, plus d’acidité), les vins rouges affichent un caractère plus serré, plus tendu, par ailleurs parfois à peine corsé.

Comme ailleurs en France et dans le monde, il y a souvent plus d’un style au sein d’une même appellation, certains vins sont par exemple plus riches et plus mûrs, d’autres plus droits, plus nerveux.

Le Rhône Nord demeure la référence avouée pour plusieurs vignerons du Languedoc, et au premier chef ceux qui misent sur la syrah dans leur assemblage. Nous-mêmes, en dégustant telle ou telle cuvée, on s’est passé ce type de réflexion : « On dirait un beau saint-joseph, tu ne trouves pas ? »

Ce n’est pas parce qu’il s’agit d’une réunion de professionnels du vin que tous les crachats, appelons ça comme ça, sont gracieux et impeccables. Que tous les amateurs se désolant de ne savoir que dégouliner au-dessus d’un crachoir se consolent ! En revanche, quand on y va fort sur le piston et qu’on propulse un jet direct et puissant, gare aux éclaboussures sur l’ordi du gars à côté, qui s’entête à prendre ses notes au beau milieu du champ de bataille…

Languedoc

… AU PARTICULIER

En rafale, par appellation ou désignation spécifique, des observations générales, après avoir goûté à chaque fois une vingtaine d’échantillons :

Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup : des rouges plus viandés, plus charnus et où la syrah est bien évidente (notes de réduction, souvent), tout en demeurant assez minéraux.

Languedoc La Clape : un caractère plus mentholé et plus épicé.

Languedoc Montpeyroux : un côté agrumes souvent manifeste, accompagné de quelques notes végétales pas déplaisantes.

Languedoc Grès de Montpellier :  des rouges minéraux, à la texture bien serrée.

Terrasses du Larzac : peut-être les plus beaux rouges de la région, à la fois riches et frais, très digestes, marqués par la minéralité et aux accents souvent réglissés.

Picpoul de Pinet : deux grands styles, l’un plus tendu, plus nerveux ; l’autre plus tropical et avec une odeur de cire d’abeille, lourdaud par moment.

Coteaux-du-Languedoc blanc : la pêche, la poire, vin assez riche, plus que les picpouls chose certaine, moins vif.

Coteaux-du-Languedoc rosé : généreux, assez sec, bonne acidité, de la texture, une certaine mâche.

Cabardès : appellation assise entre deux chaises, caractère végétal du cabernet sauvignon souvent dérangeant ; rapport qualité-prix, cela dit, pouvant être très honnête.

Minervois rouge : des rouges assez épais, au boisé apparent, moins tendus et moins minéraux que la plupart des autres rouges de la région.

Minervois La Livinière :  similaires aux précédents avec toutefois un léger surcroît d’acidité.

Saint-Chinian : relative déception lors de cette semaine de dégustation, plutôt capiteux, parfois astringents, fruité en retrait. Parmi les exceptions, le domaine Borie La Vitarèle, hélas pas vendu à la SAQ.

Saint-Chinian Roquebrun : Je n’ai goûté que les vins de la cave coopérative locale (bien présente au Québec), typés syrah, charnus et toniques, bien soutenus par l’acidité.

Blanquette de Limoux : fraîcheur, caractère parfois légèrement rancio, peu de sucres résiduels. Seul problème, le nom, blanquette, qui fait, disons, moyennement classe – aux oreilles de Québécois, du moins. Un souhait : que les superbes cuvées du domaine Taudou, en blanquette et en crémant notamment, fassent bientôt leur apparition sur notre marché.

Clairette du Languedoc : des blancs originaux (à base du cépage clairette), plutôt rustiques et pas vraiment sur le fruit, comme on dit, mais généreux, légèrement terreux ainsi qu’assez serrés.

Fitou : des rouges décevants (millésimes 2012 et 2013 goûtés), maigrichons, astringents, amers souvent. À revisiter.

Corbières : de la matière, pas trop extraits, avec une bonne fraîcheur. Le Blondus Ricardus 2012 du comédien Pierre Richard est convaincant, frais et digeste, élancé comme lui ! Vivement que notre monopole en importe.

Des moules cuites sur le barbecue

Des moules cuites sur le barbecue (!) au Mas d’Encoste, domaine qui appartient à Frédéric JeanJean, président sortant du Conseil interprofessionnel des vins du Languedoc.

UN NOM PORTEUR

Malgré les nouvelles appellations d’origine protégée à part entière – Terrasses du Larzac, Picpoul de Pinet, La Clape bientôt et Pic Saint-Loup éventuellement –, la notoriété des vins du cru, comme le signalait récemment le quotidien Midi Libre, est encore beaucoup plus portée par le nom de la région que par ceux de ses appellations. Et cela vaut sauf erreur aussi au Québec – le Languedoc demeurant, malgré une hausse de prix, synonyme de bon rapport qualité-prix, les vins étant dans l’ensemble à la fois généreux et rafraîchissants.

~

À boire, aubergiste !

Que du Languedoc, pour faire bonne mesure.

Domaine Clavel Les Garrigues Coteaux-du-Languedoc 2014 : assemblage de syrah, carignan et grenache un peu austère dès l’abord, mais qui gagne rapidement à l’aération.

Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Languedoc rosé 2014 : rosé étonnamment délicat, tant au nez qu’en bouche, et qui pour cette raison rappelle un bon rosé de Provence. Épicé et fruité, par ailleurs.

Les Garrigues 2012 Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014 Château Cazal Viel Vieilles Vignes 2013 Château Cazal Viel L'antenne 2011

Château Cazal-Viel Saint-Chinian Vieilles Vignes 2013 : rien de compliqué, tout en fruit, saveurs mi-corsées, et prix très ok.

Château Cazal-Viel L’Antenne Saint-Chinian 2011 : du même producteur, une convaincante syrah puissante et épicée, bien boisée également.

Col de l’Orb saint-chinian rosé 2014 : Fruité bonbon assez marqué, bouche à l’avenant, assez corsée, généreuse.

Domaine de la Grange des Pères vin de pays de l’Hérault 2011 : un grand vin et l’un des porte-étendards du Languedoc. Cher, ça n’a pas de bon sens, mais qu’est-ce que c’est bon ! Incroyable, par ailleurs, que le vin contienne 4,5 g de sucre résiduel, comme l’indique saq.com.

Cave De Roquebrun Col De L'orb Rosé 2014 Domaine De La Grange Des Pères 2011 Domaine Anne Gros Et Jean Paul Tollot Minervois La Ciaude 2012 Domaine La Prade Mari Conte Des Garrigues 2010

Domaine Anne Gros et Jean-Paul Tollot Minervois La Ciaude 2012 : ce couple de vignerons bourguignons réussit très bien en Minervois, témoin ce rouge serré et concentré, au potentiel évident.

Domaine La Prade Mari Conte des Garrigues Minervois 2010 : très bon minervois là aussi, qui fait mentir l’impression que m’ont fait les vins du secteur goûtés à Montpellier. Corsé et concentré, tout en générosité et avec de la fraîcheur.

Bonne dégustation !

Marc

P.-S. Je suis disparu des écrans radars pour quelques jours, jusqu’à lundi soir tard, la faute au doré, à la grise et à la mouchetée…

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 60 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 May 30 – Part One

Pinot Noir’s New World and Ontario Whites
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Nowadays I am having a barrel of fun tasting and tracking pinot noir’s global gallop. The selection coming May 30 to VINTAGES in Ontario is a clinic on the state of affairs.

When I starting following pinot noir in the mid 80s it was an almost monastic, local grape variety turning out occasionally brilliant wines on a slope called the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, France. With over 400 years of experience they had pretty much figured out that this thin-skinned, nervous and unpredictable grape variety had a knack for showing its place or origin. To taste a line-up of pinots from Burgundy from the same vintage and same producer but different appellations – a horizontal tasting – is still the most important thing an inquisitive wine fan can do for him or herself. It is an indelible lesson on terroir.

For most of the past 30 years the wine world has tended to believe that Burgundy – because it was the first and sometimes brilliant – was the only place where pinot noir could possibly be interesting and of high quality. But of course that is not true. A grape that can show terroir in one place can show terroir anywhere. And what we are now enjoying is the rooting of pinot noir in distinctive terroirs around the world.

The only unifier is a certain preferred climate where it is fairly cool through latitude, altitude or proximity to maritime influence to preserve essential acid tension and fruit purity. The pinot vine can actually grow in different soil types, where it will render different textural nuances, and although styles may vary, quality need not. That is in the hands of the winemakers, and pinot winemakers are among the most serious in the world.

I have been paying a lot of attention to New World pinot through my career – it being a focus of my first extended wine travel in 1984, in California. Yes California, where it was supposed to be too hot for pinot. But go tell that to Josh Jensen who had established Calera, Dick Graff at Chalone, the Carneros pioneers at Acacia and Saintsbury, Jim Clendenen at Sanford in Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz Mountains men like Martin Ray who planted pinot in the sixties. Even Tim Mondavi, back in his exuberant youth was enthralled by California pinot, and we opened a few together in 1984. My personal taste affair with good California pinot has continued ever since, as long as sweetness and confection do not interfere.

Most recently my attention has shifted to New Zealand, which I have visited three times in two years. I think it is the most exciting pinot region outside of Burgundy. Pinot noir is the country’s most important red variety and it grows very well in the cooler southern half of the country. There are many terroirs here, and I have gone over-length in a recent article published here to outline what I think are 24 pinot noir appellations. But I am equally intrigued by pinots in other southern hemisphere locales in the past five years, and how they show their origin. And of course I have written a lot about pinot in Canada. Even Germany, the world’s third largest producer of pinot noir (Spatburgunder) could be considered a “newish world” for pinot.

Beyond the terroir hunting, what I like most about New World pinot is a certain fruit lift, exuberance and drinkability. Great Burgundy can be ethereal, and I have had some NW pinots that get close to that as well. But what I enjoy just as much is simply drinking a fresh, yet complex and generous pinot noir. And that is what this VINTAGES collection offers. They are interesting enough to be discussed, yet generous enough to be enjoyed, ideally with a light chill, from a large, fine rimmed glass, on the deck before, during and after dinner.

Here are our picks, and interestingly almost every pinot in the release has been “picked” by one or more of us. Such is the individuality of pinot, and in a weird way, its greatest strength.

The Pinots

Auntsfield 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand ($29.95)

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Pinot Noir 2013 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012David Lawrason – I am delighted to see Southern Valleys on the label! This is a large “unofficial” but increasingly obvious sub-district of Marlborough where pinots are growing on gravel/clay soils. There are very exciting terroir-driven pinots in the five southern valleys that each might one day have their own appellation – Fairhall, Ben Morven, Omaka, Brancott, Waihopi. This is lovely, very expressive pinot from a cooler year, although still showing considerable ripeness.
Sara d’Amato – David Herd, one of New Zealand’s forefather’s of wine, was responsible for planting the first of Auntsfield’s grapes in 1873. Needless to say, Auntsfield is one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries and produces a masterful pinot noir.
John Szabo – The Cowley family now runs Auntsfield, an established regional leader in the Southern Valleys sub-region widely acknowledge as the best spot for pinot noir in Marlborough. This is a wine of pure pleasure, not massive structure, well balanced, juicy and succulent. I love the immediate drinkability; serve with a light chill. Best 2015-2020.

Rosehall Run 2013 Hungry Point Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County, Ontario ($24.95)

David Lawrason – Being a County pinot this is a light weight among others in this release, but it does have great aromatic lift and cool climate pinot cranberry-sour cherry fruit. It is not as deep as Dan Sullivan’s more expensive JCR pinot, but there is great piquancy and charm here. County to its roots.
Sara d’Amato – Every time I taste this pinot noir (now for the third time) that is quickly coming into its own, it becomes more and more enjoyable. It is produced on the legendary “Hungry Point” site which surrounds Rosehall Run and is formerly known for its inability to produce sustenance. It is now a premium, nutrient-poor growing site for coaxing out only the most concentrated flavours from the berries.

Argyle 2012 Artisan Series Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($44.95)

John Szabo – Although Argyle started off in the late 1980s as a dedicated sparkling wine producer (launched by Brian Croser of Petaluma fame and Bollinger champagne, among others), it was quickly realized that fine table pinot noir could also be produced in the region. This Reserve is made from Argyle’s top lots in the Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs and their predominantly volcanic-Jory soils, yielding a perfumed, lightly floral, silky-textured pinot, well-tuned to this ripe vintage. Best 2015-2020.
David Lawrason – This nicely defines Oregon’s pinot place, a cross-hatching of ripeness and tension. Look for pretty aromas of fresh red cherry jam, spice, herbs and light toast. There is elevated youthful tannin, so I would give it a year or two – and it should last admirably for five.

Argyle Artisan Series Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2012 Saint Clair Premium Pinot Noir 2013 O'Leary Walker Pinot Noir 2012

Montes 2012 Limited Selection Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($14.95)

David Lawrason – Pinot Noir in Chile is a relatively recent endeavour, and not yet considered a whole-hearted success. But Chilean pinot is developing a signature that echoes its cabernets and carmeneres reds, showing lifted blackcurrant, fragrant rosemary like herbaceousness derived from its local “garrigue” called boldos. This is ultra-fresh, juicy and lively. And very well priced.

Saint Clair 2013 Premium Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – I was instantly enamored by this juicy and succulent Marlborough pinot noir offering plenty of verve and a very pleasant note of red currant jelly. This consistently good value producer is most known in Ontario for their sauvignon blanc and it is no surprise that their pinot noir is of equal and perhaps better quality.

O’Leary Walker 2012 Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The western edge of the forest clad hills above the city of Adelaide offer the best pinot noir conditions in all of South Australia. O’Leary Walker is based in the Clare Valley two hours away but the family has Adelaide Hills holdings with vines planted in the 90s. Very lifted aromatics here and it is fresh and juicy with considerable tannin.

Frei Brothers Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Jekel Pinot Noir 2012 Migration Pinot Noir 2013

Frei Brothers 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, USA ($27.95)

John Szabo – This nicely captures the approachable nature of RRV pinot without slipping into excesses of fruit, oak or ripeness. I like the punchy and edgy nature, with balanced fruit and alcohol, herbal and earthy character playing nicely to all preference camps. Best 2015-2020.

Jekel 2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California  ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – Bill Jekel is well regarded as an influential and boundary-pushing producer who was instrumental in the creation of a Monterey AVA. If you enjoy this both substantial and elegant pinot, the Jekel riesling is also one to watch for.

Migration 2013 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, USA ($44.95)

David Lawrason – Migration is the Sonoma wing of the Duckhorn flock. And it has the lovely raspberry and florality that I love in Russian River pinot, with just a touch of evergreen foresty character. It’s delicate, fruity and well balanced.

Ontario Whites

Hidden Bench 2013 Estate Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($23.95)

Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 Redstone Limestone Vineyard South Riesling 2012 Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2013John Szabo – One of the province’s top riesling producers, Hidden Bench regularly delivers quality far above the average, proving there’s no substitute for meticulous farming. The 2013 estate bottling is clean, pure, crisp, dry and firmly structured, and even though this is the “mere” estate blend, it could easily sit among the top single vineyard bottlings in the region.
David Lawrason – This is a very complete and complex riesling; a dandy statement to riesling’s prowess on the Beamsville Bench.

Redstone 2012 Limestone Vineyard South Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)

David Lawrason – Redstone is a Tawse owned property that will begin to make its mark in the summer of 2015 when it opens, complete with a restaurant. This riesling comes from the Limestone Vineyard over near Flat Rock on Twenty Mile Bench. The ripe 2012 vintage has provided generous peach, honey and petrol character.

Lailey 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula Canada, Ontario ($14.95)

John Szabo – Unoaked chardonnay is rarely a category that excites, but Derek Barnett has managed to coax an unusual amount of flavour out of this 2013. It’s vaguely nutty and creamy, but still lively and crisp and genuinely dry, and altogether more “serious” than the price would imply. In other words, it’s a great buy for serious Tuesday night sipping.

Other Whites and Rosé

Château De Sancerre 2013 Sancerre, Loire Valley, France ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The only ‘chateau’ in Sancerre is owned by Marnier-Lapostolle, the company that produces Grand Marnier liqueur, and also owns Casa Lapostolle in Chile. This is a beautifully refined, delicate and fresh sauvignon to reserve for delicate seafood occasions.

Maison Roche De Bellene 2012 Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy, France ($20.95)

Sara d’Amato – Tremendous value alert! This entry level Burgundy is anything but simple exhibiting a leesy texture, fresh acids and delicately integrated oak. Although this chardonnay would certainly prove versatile with food, I recommend sipping on its own, barely below room temperature.

Château De Sancerre 2013 Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Gewurztraminer 2010 Castello Di Ama Rosato 2014

Domaines Schlumberger 2010 Kessler Gewurztraminer, Alsace Grand Cru, France ($33.95)

John Szabo – Gewurztraminer is the most planted grape in this 28ha grand cru in the village of Guebwiller, and Schlumberger its most emblematic producer. The pink sandstone seems tailor-made to produce a terrifically rich, exotically ripe and plush, opulent style, such as this. The 2010 vintage also yielded wines with brilliant acids, which in this case beautifully balance the considerable residual sugar. A textbook lesson in Alsatian GW. Best 2015-2022.

Castello Di Ama 2014 Rosato, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)

Sara d’Amato – Lending some credibility to the rosé category, the famed Chianti Classico producer, Castello di Ama, has put forth an undeniably sophisticated blend of merlot and sangiovese. Sourced from high-quality, low-yielding old vines, this rosé was certainly not a mere afterthought, as are many commercial pink wines.

~

That is enough for this week, and what a busy week it has been at WineAlign. We have published an Ontario Wine Report update on Prince Edward County, and have released our 7th instalment of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”. (We get better folks!). We are also ramping up for the National Wine Awards of Canada that are just a month away in Niagara Falls. We are pleased to announce that Jamie Goode will be joining us again from the UK. British Columbia wineries are rapidly reaching their shipping deadline and the response has been excellent, so now it’s time for Ontario wineries to ante-up and register their wines. In recent years the medal performance of B.C. and Ontario has nicely evened out.

John will be here next week covering the substantial southern Rhône Valley collection on the May 30 release.

Until then.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 30, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Ontario Wine Report – May 2015

Prince Edward County
by David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

In the wake of two major Prince Edward County tastings in recent weeks (County in the City in Toronto and WineAlign’s trip to Terroir in Picton) I offer thoughts, opinions and reviews on the “state of the County”. Having followed the County from the days in the late 90s when vineyards were first being planted – and before wine was made – I have a perspective that is historical, sentimental and critical (as wine critics are supposed to have). It’s a tough balancing act, but in the end I am writing about what’s in the bottle for those who are buying it. This year at Terroir I encountered everything from great highs to significant lows, but overall the playing field is evening out, prices are moderating a bit, and the palette of wine styles and varieties is broadening and becoming more colourful.

New Wineries

The official Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association touring map for 2015 lists 34 wineries. But not everyone joins associations, so there are at least three others to my knowledge that are not on the official touring map. There are four new wineries this year (within the past 12 months or so) – Broken Stone, Darius, Trail and Traynor. I see real potential in three, and I have not yet tasted Darius.

Traynor Family Vineyard has a great locale at the junction of Loyalist Parkway and Danforth Road just south of Hillier. Mike Traynor has been “in the game” in Ontario wine for over a decade. He began and trained at the former Willow Heights in Niagara, then moved out to make wine at the ambitious but short-lived Oak Heights in the Northumberland Hills northeast of Cobourg. He purchased his current acreage in Hillier in 2008 and opened late last year. A Niagara-bred sauvignon blanc was a hit at Terroir, but I also really liked a deft un-oaked chardonnay. Pinot Gris was good too, altho’ a bit sweet thanks to a stuck ferment. Good potential here; he will be joining the club with County fruit soon enough.

Broken Stone occupies an excellent site on Closson Road between Old Third and Closson Chase. Tim and Micheline Kuepfer have been planting their dream for over five years while holding down day jobs and residence in the GTA. They are focusing on chardonnay and pinot noir and the first releases show classic County lightness and minerality. No formal reviews yet after a quick encounter at Terroir.

Trail Estate has opened on Benway Road in the Hillier area, just south of Hinterland and Grange. It is owned by the Sproll family, with winemaker Dan Tweyman at the helm. Their own vineyards are very young, so everything so far is from Niagara fruit. Very modern, bright, squeaky clean winemaking here – liked their gewürztraminer. I will be watching them grow and move into County fruit with interest.

The Charmat Sparkling Trend

The bubbly gold rush is on. With Huff, Hinterland and Grange having proven there is great potential with traditional, more expensive ‘champenois’ method sparklers, the next wave is to produce bubbly that is simpler and less expensive. Everyone is jumping in. And County fruit – with its snappy acidity and aromatic fragrance – is the perfect ingredient for these simpler wines. Hinterland (the County’s sparkling wine specialist) is the incubator of the trend. From their barn at Closson Road and Benway they are equally (proudly) marketing sparklers from the traditional, charmat and ‘ancestral’ methods. The latter is bubbly produced by one fermentation with trapped CO2. And they have sub-contracted most of the sparkling charmat method wine production in the County. At the Terroir tasting on a hot May afternoon, the charmats proved popular including Lighthall Progression and a rose called the Fence, By Chadsey’s Cairns PTO, Huff’s Janine and Rosehall Run Pixie.

Vicki Samaras from Hinterland speaking sparkling to our tour group

Vicki Samaras from Hinterland speaking sparkling to the WineAlign tour group

 

The Rise of Riesling
(by Sara d’Amato)

If you have been to the County, you will have heard the analogy of the climate and soil types to that of Burgundy. Given the similarities, it is not surprising that premium vinifera growing is largely focused on chardonnay and pinot noir. However, riesling is beginning to make a play on the scene. The County’s crumbly limestone bedrock suits the varietal quite nicely but its need for slow ripening can be a challenge in a short growing season. In years past, most of the riesling produced was from small plantings of younger vines and thus was often blended with Niagara fruit – a region with an excellent track record with the grape.

My observations this time around on our recent trip to Terroir was that 100% County riesling is less of a rarity and more of a burgeoning new wine style. What had me curious was a misleading advert in the Toronto Star this past week from pec.on.ca claiming that Prince Edward County was home to more than 10,000 acres of riesling. Certainly, a comma was misplaced as that number is about 10 times less. Norman Hardie was kind enough to offer a tank sample of his very first 100% County riesling harvested in 2014 which I found quite riveting. However, as I mentioned, this is less of a rarity now as I discovered that several other producers were on the same wavelength. Examples certainly worth exploring include Chadsey’s Cairn (ahead in the riesling game), Half-Moon Bay and Sugarbush among others. These versions are light, lively and elegant – traits common to the County’s cooler climate

Other New and/or Singular Wines & Grape Varieties

It’s solidly established that pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and cabernet franc are the core County varietals, but every year Terroir turns out to be a testing ground for other ideas.

Traynor Family VineyardThe late Richard Karlo of Karlo Estates was famous as a quester after new wines, with his faith in the new Minnesota hybrid called Frontenac gris being well known. He also made a quite successful Sangiovese 2013, with a gentle nod to Tuscany in its mid-weight, currant and herbal style. WineAlign will be dedicating the 2015 National Wine Awards to Richard Karlo.

Del-Gatto Winery out past Waupoos on the Cressy Peninsula is also doing work with more obscure hybrids like leon millot and geisenheim (which Waupoos has also made) and they have combined it nicely with seyval blanc and chardonnay in a snappy blend called Dragonfly. Heidi Del-gatto also revealed they have made 12 cases of pinotage (South Africa’s famous crossing of cinsault and pinot noir) but it was not being poured at Terroir.

New Traynor Family has created Alta Red, a blend Saint Laurent and Marquette, the latter being another new Minnesota hybrid gaining converts in the coolest parts of the province.

I also took the opportunity re-visit By Chadsey Cairns 2013 Chenin Blanc, a classic Loire Valley white grape that could be more widely planted in the County.

The Annoying On-Going VQA Conundrum

Last year, for the first time, the Terroir Festival gained ‘farmers market’ status allowing wineries to sell bottles from their stands. The program continued this year. The hitch however is that farmers’ markets can only sell VQA wines, and there are many non-VQA wines being made in the County.

There are several reasons that a wine may not be submitted to or pass the VQA process, and all are somewhat controversial in their own right. But the most controversial for the County and other emerging regions in eastern and northern Ontario is that some wines are ineligible because they contain varieties not on the VQA list of authorized grapes. The list was created in the late 80s to screen out many “inferior’ varieties or those deemed unsuitable for Ontario’s climate; but we have learned a lot since then and many new cool climate varieties have emerged that can work in the province. VQA says it is reviewing the list, but it is taking a very long time.

So in the meantime, at Terroir there was a roped-off area in which the wineries with non-VQA wines were not allowed to sell direct. (And that’s just one of the financial penalties paid by non VQA wines). VQA was originally designed as a quality control and appellation guarantee mechanism, but it is become attached to all kinds of financial and distribution incentives or dis-incentives. In my view VQA should be a pure appellation system, and unhitched from financial consideration.

Twelve Highly Recommended County Wines

Based largely on tastings for the media at County in the City, here are twelve of the most highly recommended 100% PEC wines and yes many are from the most well established and experienced producers. Click to read my reviews and those by John Szabo, Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel.

Whites

Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2013

Rosehall Run J C R Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2014

Closson Chase Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard 2013

Huff Estates Pinot Gris 2013

Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2012

Keint He Portage Chardonnay 2013

Reds

Keint He Portage Pinot Noir 2013

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2013

Lighthall Pinot Noir 2013

The Grange Of Prince Edward County Diana Block Pinot Noir 2010

Huff Estates South Bay Merlot 2012

Rosehall Run Syrah Cuvée County “The Swinger” 2012

Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Photos courtesy of 

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


The National Wine Awards of Canada

NWAC15 croppedThe National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC), held annually in June, is only open to wines grown and produced in Canada. The goal of ‘The Nationals’ is to expose Canadian wine drinkers to the best in Canadian wines. There is no restriction on price, leaving each winery the opportunity to compete with and against the best wines in the country. More importantly, as barriers to ship wines across the country come down, the combination of winning recognition at The Nationals and WineAlign’s ability to display the results alongside your key retail outlets, from the winery direct to across the country, makes it the only competition with enduring post competition sales opportunities.

The 2015 tastings will take place from June 23 to 27 in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Registration is now open. Click here for more information and to register.


Canadian Wineries on WineAlign

It’s easy to explore Canadian wines & wineries on WineAlign. From the menu bar simply choose Wine >> Wineries.  You can select by region or winery name, or use our interactive map. We are adding new wineries all the time, so please let us know if we are missing your favourite.

Canadian Wineries

You can also click on the winery name on any wine page (or as in David’s Links above) to be taken directly to the winery’s profile page where you can see more wines and reviews. Just remember to set your filters to “All Sources” and “Show wines with zero inventory” as winery wines are not linked to retail inventory.

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Season 5, Table 7 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

Shocking Chablis (a.k.a. Chainsaw Wine)

Will “So, You Think You Know Wine?” contestants Jennifer Huether, MS, Bill Zacharkiw, and Chris McDonald be able to chainsaw their way through the wine at Table 7?

Without any clues, host Seán Cullen takes each table through the swirling, sniffing, and gurgling ritual of wine tasting—asking them to correctly identify the grape, country, region, vintage, and price of the wine. Cullen then issues each player a score but not without, first, testing a few of his own theories against the experts. A champion eventually emerges.

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Click here to watch Table 7 or read on to learn more about the contestants and the scoring method.

Table 7

As always, the video series brings together Canada’s top wine experts, but this time a few well-known food personalities have taken on the daunting task of competing against wine critics, sommeliers, and wine educators.

Chris McDonald

Chris has worked in Toronto restaurants for 40 years. He started out as a busboy and quickly traveled up the ranks eventually becoming chef and owner of two of Toronto’s most loved restaurants – Avalon and Cava.  He’s now taking a well-deserved break before he starts his next adventure.

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Jennifer Huether, MS

Jennifer is the first and only female Master Sommelier in Canada. She has a wealth of experience in hospitality and restaurant managment which includes creating award-winning wine program as head sommelier for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. She then went on to become brand ambassador and education director for Cliff Lede Vineyards and now is brand ambassador for Jackson Family Wines.

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Bill Zacharkiw

Bill is a partner and principal critic at Chacun son vin. His writing career began in 2004 with The Caveman’s Wine Blog, one of the first on the internet. For the last 5 years he has been the weekly wine writer for the Montreal Gazette. His articles are carried across Canada via NationalPost.com and other newspapers. Bill can be heard on CHOM FM (Montreal) every Friday morning to talk about Wine that Rocks.

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The Scoring

The scoring on each wine remains similar to past seasons with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation, Vintage and Price.

Variety:  3 points
Country, Region, Appellation:  up to 4 points
Vintage:  up to 2 points
Price (within 10% on either side): 1 point

Let the games begin! Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch table 5.

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Videos tab.

Previously on Season 5 of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”:

Table 1 – Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Table 2 – Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Table 3 – Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Table 4 – The Grinder Pinotage 2013
Table 5 – Faustino VII Tempranillo 2012
Table 6 – Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012

We hope that you find this new series entertaining and that you have as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to feedback@winealign.com and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.


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British Columbia Critics’ Picks : May 2015

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

We’re coming off of the Victoria Day long weekend in BC, and you can tell the WineAlign West team has been drinking – and eating – well, as usual. We’re all looking forward to next month and re-aligning at The Nationals, held for the first time in Niagara Falls. I suspect many trips to wine country are in our future, a treat for us westerners to taste the small scale, singular wines of the area. Of course, we’ll all excited to taste wines from coast to coast (ahem – Nova Scotia), especially ones like the trio from the Wine Islands that I share below.

There will be much more on the Nationals over the coming weeks. If you have a favourite Canadian winery, especially a small, under-the-radar one, please pass along the news that we’re keenly anticipating their entry and opportunity to taste and learn about them. These are the special wines we seek out to write on in columns just like this.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Serious summer wines. Now that’s a section of shelf space you seldom see in a retail wine shop. I mean summer wines are all about light and breezy and fun and fresh and – well you get the picture – but every once in a while you need a wine that reminds you that you care about wine. You need a wine that will test your tasting faculties and frankly those one or two meals a month where you decide the burgers or ribs won’t cut it. So for those nights when the street party is not on, here’s three delicious, summery wines that could qualify as seriously summer.

Descendientes De J. Palacios Pétalos 2012 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Drouhin Vaudon 2013 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale 2011Chianti Classico is all about class, balance and florality and the Ruffino Chianti 2011 Classico Riserva Ducale brings a bright core of fruit mixed with meaty forest floor notes to turn a late summer afternoon barbecue into an intimate, late-night, dinner party for two.

Chablis has a similar outcome on dining. In this case a bottle Drouhin Vaudon 2013 Chablis Reserve de Vaudon may convince you to forgo dinner and served freshly shucked oysters until the wine runs out.

Finally, at some point a grilled steak will appeal but you can dress up the evening with a Caesar salad and fresh chimichurri sauce and go for mencia over cabernet sauvignon, by opening a fabulous bottle of Pétalos 2012. Pétalos is all about the old vine 60-years plus mencia grape that is bio-dynamically farmed on several small, rocky slate-y hillside plots. It’s seriously summer (and seriously great). You very well may drink the entire bottle.

Rhys Pender, MW

Bernard Baudry Les Grézeaux 2011 Marqués De Cáceres Gran Reserva 2005 Arras Grand Vintage 2004This month I’m picking a couple of classics and something a little more out there on the edge. Good bubble is always a great find. Tasmania in Australia is often considered as the closest thing to Champagne in the style of wine it can produce and one of the legends is now in BC. Not only has the Arras Grand Vintage 2004 arrived in LDB stores but it is also an 11 year old example. Not cheap at $61 plus tax but worth a splurge.

Another classic offering good value is the Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva Rioja 2005. At $35 plus tax it isn’t crazy pricing and the wine is solid, complex and interesting.

If you feel like pushing your wine tasting comforts and boundaries and are a little bored by fruity, same tasting wines you will often find something interesting in the Loire. Not for the faint of heart, the Bernard Baudry Les Grézeaux Chinon has plenty of eyebrow raising, but surprisingly pleasant, aromas and flavours.

(You might find both the 2010 and 2011 in the market.)

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2012

Ravenswood Teldeschi Single Vineyard Zinfandel 2012 Howling Bluff Summa Quies Rosé 2014DJ Kearney

My three choices offered delightful surprises when I cracked them open last weekend, all displaying light, ethereal facets that were thoroughly unexpected.

The inaugural Howling Bluff Summa Quies Rosé 2014 is all-pinot noir and struts some serious structure, while a Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard Zinfandel 2012 is one of the most elegant and restrained of its kind.

An impeccable match for steak au poivre is Burrowing Owl’s recently released 2012 Syrah, an alpha wine with a contemplative side. 

Treve Ring

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been travelling pretty solidly the past few months, but so far in May I’ve been focusing on wines from home – specifically my coastal home – the Wine Islands of BC. Often out of mind, out of sight, these small-production, family owned and operated wineries are worth seeking out for a taste of the authentic and unique maritime winegrowing climate of Vancouver and the Gulf Islands of BC. Ask your private wine shop or wine-smart local restos to stock the below, and more.

Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2014 Unsworth Vineyards Petit Milo Vintners Selection 2014 Averill Creek Gewurztraminer 2014Cowichan Valley’s Averill Creek Gewurztraminer 2014 impressed with its cool climate stylings, transforming gew’s flabbiness into a tight, energetic and vibrant spiced white, ideal for Vietnamese flavours or a summer al fresco seafood dinner.

From nearby Unsworth Vineyards (one of the leading spotlights for the region) comes the unique Petit Milo Vintners Selection 2014, a crisp, mid-sweet, pure-fruited white from the hybrid petit milo grape. This is a lovely aperitif wine, especially with melon and prosciutto – and a patio.

Ortega is one of the finer calling cards of the Wine Islands – a coastal, bright, aromatic white grape native to Germany, and a cross between müller-thurgau and siegerrebe. Pender Island’s Sea Star Estate Farm and Vineyards crisp, lively 2014 Ortega is an excellent introduction to the grape, and beauty with papaya salad.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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


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Special Event: Wines of Portugal, A World of Difference.

Challenge Your Senses, Enjoy the Unique and Taste the Soul of Portugal!

You’re invited to discover the exceptional diversity of Portuguese wines during this exciting night where you will meet winery principals and winemakers, travelling to Toronto for this special event. WineAlign members enjoy a special discount on the ticket price.

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“Here’s your chance to kick the varietal habit and come to terms with regional identity instead. Portugal has 200+ grapes, and all old vineyards (and there are many in Portugal) are field blends, like the wines. It’s the region that makes the style difference. This is the way wine has always been made, and understood. We should get back there.” – John Szabo, Master Sommelier

Seize this opportunity to taste more than 250 wines from 34 wineries in one of Toronto’s most historic buildings with a unique range of renowned grape varieties and appellations from Portugal!

In addition to a vast selection of wines, The Food Dudes, one of Toronto’s top caterers will be on hand preparing an array of tasty food pairings. Give in to temptation and be enticed!

Event Details:

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015
Location: The Burroughes Building, 639 Queen St W., 6th floor, Toronto
Time:  7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Tickets: $65.00 with access code WINEALIGN (Regular price $75)

250 Wines from 34 Wineries 

 

Tickets on Sale now.
Click here to purchase tickets.

 

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Spread the word.

Web:            www.winesofportugal.com
Facebook:   Wines of Portugal Canada
Twitter:      @winesportugalCA

For additional information, contact Dominique Landry at Sopexa E: Dominique.landry@sopexa.com

Wines obtained through diplomatic privilege, courtesy of the Consul General of Portugal.

Please Drink Responsibly


Taste the Soul of Portugal

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Acclaimed UK Wine Journalist Jamie Goode joins the Judging Team for the Nationals

National Wine Awards of Canada 2015May 19, 2015

 

We are delighted to announce that, for the second year in a row, acclaimed UK-based wine journalist Dr. Jamie Goode will be a part of our panel of judges in Niagara Falls, Ontario at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.

Jamie Goode new

Dr. Jamie Goode

Jamie’s experience in wine very much mirrors that of our regular judges, which made for a seamless fit inside the tasting room in 2014. Of course another view, and one from Europe, should prove useful to those wineries engaged in the competition and hoping to expand their export horizons.

Jamie first visited Ontario wine regions in 2013 during The International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration and British Columbia wineries during his time at the Nationals in 2014. This year, he will again visit Ontario wineries as part of the judges’ tour.

After last year’s trip to the Okanagan to judge the National Wine Awards of Canada 2014, Jamie published “Thinking out loud about Canadian wine” on his blog wineanorak.com. He had this to say about the Nationals:

“The WineAlign judges are highly competent and well travelled, and it was painless judging with them. The organization of these wine awards, which involved opening over 4,000 bottles, pouring flights for each judge, and then collating the results in real time, was superb. Which means that judges can get on with the process of judging wine. The process was thorough, and every wine was given respect and time to show its best.” – Dr. Jamie Goode

Dr. Goode completed a PhD in plant biology and worked as a science editor before switching careers to wine writing. He’s a book author (The Science of Wine and Authentic Wine – both with University of California Press), writes a weekly wine column for a national newspaper (The Sunday Express), and blogs daily at wineanorak.com, one of the world’s most popular wine websites. An experienced wine judge, he’s a panel chair for the International Wine Challenge each year, and has judged wine in France, Australia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia. He tweets as @jamiegoode.


National Wine Awards of Canada 2015

The National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC), held annually in June, is only open to wines grown and produced in Canada. The goal of ‘The Nationals’ is to expose Canadian wine drinkers to the best in Canadian wines. There is no restriction on price, leaving each winery the opportunity to compete with and against the best wines in the country. More importantly, as barriers to ship wines across the country come down, the combination of winning recognition at The Nationals and WineAlign’s ability to display the results alongside your key retail outlets, from the winery direct to across the country, makes it the only competition with enduring post competition sales opportunities.

The 2015 tastings will take place from June 23 to 27 in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Registration is now open. Click here for more information and to register.

The Judges

There are subtle changes to our panel each year but for the most part the judges are comprised of some of Canada’s leading wine writers, journalists, sommeliers, buyers and industry professionals. The competition also seeks out new and emerging talent in the industry to be part of the panel. This blend of experience and enthusiasm, brought by judges from many regions across Canada, ensures a comprehensive view of the wine world’s most current state. (NWAC15 Judges)

You can follow the 2015 NWAC and our judges’ tweets from start to finish on Twitter @WineAlign and look for the hashtag #NWAC15 .


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 16 – Part Two

Fresh and Fruity Whites and the Best of the Rest
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

Wines for spring cleaning, wines for sunshine or wines for being social on the porch again, this week’s VINTAGES release theme of “Fresh and Fruity Whites” is a sure sign that the warm weather is upon us. As John Szabo completes his tour of the world’s most spectacular volcanic peaks (somebody’s got to do it) I sit grounded in Toronto, for at least the time being, choosing from among our top picks of this most anticipated change of the season.

In addition to these ephemeral selections, we bring you what impressed us most from this release, wines with both staying power and those we think you shouldn’t overlook. Unlike the whites, the reds available have not yet caught up with trend of warmer weather and I both hope and expect to see lighter, fresher reds in the next release. We will certainly see more gamay, primitivo/zinfandel and sangiovese on the shelves that are ready-to-drink and do best with a slight chill.

Fresh and Fruity Whites

Stoneleigh 2014 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, ($21.95)

David Lawrason – The 2014 vintage was considered excellent in Marlborough with a bumper crop that ripened in “near perfect’ conditions – until the tail end of a cyclone came through late in the harvest. It’s hard to say which wines were picked soon enough of course. I have found many of the 2014 sauvignons a bit leaner, cooler and more compact – of which this an example. And that’s not a bad thing.
Sara d’Amato – A classic, elegant sauvignon blanc that rivals the best of Marlborough at a fraction of the price. Bring on the seafood kabobs!

Tiefenbrunner 2014 Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – It wouldn’t be a “fresh and fruity” release without a solid pinot grigio. Tiefenbrunner is located in a picturesque spot fixed in the Italian Alps and is known for its meticulous winemaking and control from grape to bottle. Because of its reliable quality and its price point, it has frequently been a staple for me when creating wine lists.

Finca El Origin 2014 Reserva Torrontés, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although there are many obstacles to the further development of this remote wine-growing region, the wines, short in supply, are as uniquely arresting as the landscape. This is the home of the exotic torrontés, light, fresh and fragrant. The best examples, such as this, show some restraint and mystique.
David Lawrason – If you have not yet put Argentine torrontés in your summer patio repertoire don’t hesitate with this classic example from the Cafayate Valley in northern Argentina. A citrus explosion! Bring on the ceviche.

Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2014 Finca El Origin Reserva Torrontés 2014 Matetic Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Creekside Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Matetic 2014 Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($13.95)

John Szabo – Tough to beat this crunchy, green apple and green pepper-flavoured sauvignon for sheer value, another welcome release from biodynamic producer Matetic in the cool, coastal San Antonio Valley. This tops many wines asking $5 more.
David Lawrason – A great buy here in a brilliant, juicy sauvignon that bristles with intense grapefruit/lime, nettles and passion fruit. It’s from an excellent, biodynamic producer that is the sole owner of the isolated Rosario Valley right on the edge of the San Antonio and Casablanca Valley appellations. It is a cool coastal site that has infused great energy.

Creekside 2013 Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula Canada ($17.95)

John Szabo – Creekside has made sauvignon a specialty, but there appears to have been a slight style shift in 2013 – this is less effusively aromatic and tropical than previous vintages, and I must say I like the more subtle and crisp profile. A mix of citrus and green apple, and gentle green herbs makes this a lively and pleasant wine, a little more “grown up” in my view.

Best of the Rest

Simonsig 2012 Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – From the house that first made traditional method sparkling wine in South Africa, this pinot-chardonnay blend with a splash of pinot meunier offers considerable toasty richness in a broad and mouth-filling style, notably dry despite the richness.

Vinum 2012 Africa Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – Incorrectly slotted into the VINTAGES “fresh and fruity” feature, this rich and savory chenin blanc still deserves recognition. Body, texture, viscosity – all of these are impressively featured at such an unassuming price.
John Szabo – Fans of complex, wood aged whites will rejoice at the quality/price of this chenin. Made in a “natural” (nothing added or subtracted) and idiosyncratic style, it’s a wine of texture more than immediate fruitiness, balancing ripeness with both acids and salinity. There’s loads of character for $16 in any case.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique 2012 Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2012 Hillebrand Showcase Series Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2011

Hillebrand 2011 Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($36.20)

John Szabo – As far as premium chardonnay goes, I’d say that winemaker Craig MacDonald has nailed this beautifully, and kept the price fair. As with most great chardonnay, this is a wine of mainly textural interest, offering a rich and complete mouth full of just-ripe orchard fruit, balanced with high quality wood. I like the succulent acids that prop up this flavour-heavy ensemble, and the excellent length. A very serious, accomplished cuvée all in all. Unfortunately the fruit source is not revealed – it’s labeled only as “Niagara Peninsula Vineyards” – but I’d be curious to know from where this hails exactly. Best 2015-2020.

Tawse 2011 Growers Blend Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato  – A wine that has experienced impressive evolution – with a cohesive palate of wood, fruit and acids and much smoother tannins than its jerky beginning. A gem of a pinot that still has years to come.

Corvidae 2013 Lenore Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Here’s a rarely seen (at the LCBO) great buy in Washington syrah – which in my mind is the premier red grape of eastern Washington and the southern Okanagan in BC. It’s a medium to full bodied, classic cool climate syrah with deep colour, considerable density and ripeness, yet just enough cool climate black pepper, licorice and smoked meat to please northern Rhone syrah fans.

Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2011 Corvidae Lenore Syrah 2013 Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Château Haut Peyraud 2010

Lapostolle 2012 Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon, Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($24.95).

David Lawrason –  Yet another biodynamically-grown Chilean wine shines on this release – from a great estate occupying one of the great vineyard sites in the country. The depth, harmony and complexity here are remarkable for a $25 wine.

Château Haut Peyraud 2010, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($16.95)

David Lawrason – I love the sense of poise and subtlety in this ‘petit’ 2010. What a wonderful vintage. This is a Bordeaux bargain, a lightweight, fairly supple merlot that is moving into prime.

Château De Gourgazaud 2013 Cuvée Mathilde Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)

Sara d’Amato – A spicy, peppery, musky and sweaty blend from southern France – unpretentious, raw and rustic. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Château De Gourgazaud Cuvée Mathilde Minervois 2013 Meandro Do Vale Meão 2012 Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2008

Meandro 2012 Do Vale Meão, Douro, Portugal ($24.95)

David Lawrason – This is a very high energy red, bristling with wild berry and woodsy aromas, and all kinds of zesty acid and tannin. So you may want to age it, but I really feel that this vibrancy is key to its enjoyment. Chill just a bit and pair it with savoury seasoned red meats.
John Szabo – Even more impressive than the excellent 2011, this is another top value, complex, concentrated and structured Douro red blend from Vale Meão. Although considered the “second label”, this is better than most from the valley, especially at the price. Best 2015-2022.

Coppi Peucetico 2008 Primitivo, Gioia Del Colle, Puglia, Italy ($13.95)

Sara d’Amato – Vibrant and peppery, this mid-weight primitivo exhibits lovely, lingering floral and cherry notes. Savory, fun and summery – a wine that can take a slight chill for added refreshment.

That’s all folks! David Lawrason will highlight the best of the May 30th release and features next week along with an Ontario Wine Report with news on new wineries and trends in Prince Edward County.

From VINTAGES May 16, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Buyers’ Guide Part One: Australia First Families
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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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20 Under $20 in BC : May 2015

Embrace the Change

Change. We all know it’s inevitable, unavoidable, even annoying.

The sentiment is true for change in routine (like with BC’s new liquor laws) as well as pocket change (who carries coins?)

However, you’ll have to embrace change both coinage and taxation for this column now, as we’re moving to 20 Under $20 before tax. I know, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, and now the wines we recommend may actually cost you $23 and up when you’re at the till. But we’ve been closely monitoring wine sales in BC since the April 1st Fools Day announcement, and it makes the most sense for all to make the pricing shift to reflect what you’re seeing on store shelves.

Believe me, we’re still tasting and searching to bring you the best value buys in wide scale distribution that we can find for this column. It’s just that, in this province, the searching has become a little more challenging. No worries – the WineAlign West team is up for the challenge, and never been afraid of a little change.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s the first long weekend of the year. Temperatures are soaring and the barbecues are in full heat. This month we turn to some friendly, affordable ‘barbecue’ reds and whites you can take with you to a neighbourhood bash so that look like you know what you are doing around the grill. My secret: I have always thought the first duty of any barbecue red is to be affordable, if only because it complements the casual nature of most ‘cues. It also allows the host to accommodate last minute additional guests with minimal damage to the pocketbook. Since wineries seldom characterize their wines as “barbecue reds,” lest you think of them as not serious, I have selected a handful of affordable labels you can proudly term barbecue red or white. All you need to add is the guest list.

The Devil’s Rock Pfalz Riesling 2013 is crazy good for the price, bringing super fresh flavours to the table. Pop this open early for appetizers or bring it out with a piece of cheese.

Serious wine folk will be knocked out by M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Blanc 2013. This is a seamless mix of juicy grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeu. Pour this into a glass hand it to your guest and walk away like you are the king of wine.

Devil's Rock Pfalz Riesling 2013 M. Chapoutier Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Blanc 2013 Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011 Sinfonia Monastrell Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Whiplash Lodi Zinfandel 2012

People turn their nose up at merlot for various reasons although none will turn away from the Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011. Play up the soft textures and the savoury black cherry flavours. You can’t miss with grilled sausages here.

Next up is Sinfonia Monastrell Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Floral, blueberry, cranberry fruit with good acidity make this an easy wine to pair with grilled meats.

Finally you can’t have a barbecue without zinfandel. My pick is the tasty Whiplash Lodi Zinfandel 2012. Lodi zinfandel can be rich, ripe and spicy. In the case the tannins are moderate but nothing a big slab of ribs wouldn’t defeat easily. Have a great long weekend.

Rhys Pender MW

The weather has been stunning lately in the Similkameen Valley and I just want to be outside doing two things. One is drinking crisp, dry, refreshing zippy whites, preferably in the hammock and the other is drinking dry, savoury, meaty reds while grilling meat over an open fire. Here are some wines that fit those two scenarios nicely and all under $20.

Great value freshness for the price is the Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014. For something a little more mineral try the Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013.

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 Paz De Finca Las Moras Malbec 2013 Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2012 Lovico Gamza 2011

I also seem to be spending a lot of time standing around the BBQ or fire pit eating smoky, grilled meat. The natural pairing is a red wine with plenty of character and a savoury edge. These two from Argentina – Paz de Finca Las Moras Malbec 2013 and Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2012 will do nicely.

You are probably less familiar with Bulgarian wine but some of the native grapes are delicious. The Lovico Gamza 2011 is both cheap and perfect with a meaty evening around the BBQ.

DJ Kearney

My value picks this month are wines that I want to drink outdoors while I am fussing over food on the grill. Or perhaps sipping and relaxing while David fusses over the grill…

To start, maybe while menu scheming, I’ll drink a glass of the Kim Crawford Pansy! Rosé 2013, a watermelon-hued New Zealand rosé with a grown-up dry finish.

An appetizer might be grilled peaches wrapped in prosciutto, and the Lake Breeze The Spice Jar 2013 aromatic white blend with lush fruit and overt fruity finish will work a treat.

If grilled oysters or salad with goat’s cheese follow, so will the La Chablisienne Saint Bris Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a delicate, tangy wine that is also lean and saline.

Kim Crawford Pansy! Rosé 2014Lake Breeze Winemaker Series The Spice Jar 2013La Chablisienne Sauvignon Saint Bris 2013 Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2011 Almansa Laya 2013

Lamb chops rubbed in Italian herbs and Tuscan olive will be a fine match for the earthy and nicely developed Gabbiano Chianto Classico 2011. I love how authentic, light yet ripe this vintage presents.

If lusty bacon burgers are sizzling away, awaiting a thick slice of aged cheddar, then the full-figured Laya 2013 will fill a big glass and its massive fruit, generous oak and thick texture will be just the thing for the burgers, and to sit by the Weber kettle when dinner is over and watch the coals glow.

Treve Ring

Glorious spring weather has equaled an over-abundance of asparagus, halibut, al fresco dinners (twice this past week alone) and fresh, bright wines worthy of the season.

I’ve been tasting a lot of BC 2014’s this month, and two northern Okanagan whites that stood out in a field of impressive wines is the Spierhead Riesling Gentleman Farmer Vineyard 2014 with its streamlined, crisp, cool orchard fruit, and 50th Parallel Estate Grown Pinot Gris 2014, deftly blending herbal intrigue with ripe peach and white florals.

Spierhead Riesling Gentleman Farmer Vineyard 2014 50th Parallel Pinot Gris 2014 See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztraminer 2014Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014Steller's Jay Brut Sparkling Wine 2009

If fragrant orange sauced Chinese flavours are in your bowl, you should splash some See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztaminer 2014 into your glass. Ripe lychee, melon and white peach are overlaid with fine ginger spices. Though if you’re in the mood for sushi or sashimi instead, I recommend the pithy tangerine and green apple lean (but not mean) verve of Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014.

Of course, not all the current local releases are 2014. Traditional method sparkling wine takes time, and with Steller’s Jay Brut Méthode Classique 2009, you can expect green apple, lemon pith and a white grapefruit cushion of fruit on the medium bodied palate. There is always time for bubble – and I recommend this with brunch or canapés. Preferably outside in the spring sun.

Here’s a short-cut to the complete list searchable by store: 20 under $20 in British Columbia

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WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report and include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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


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Les choix de Nadia pour mai

Amants  de la  du nature
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Hier soir, j’ai soupé avec une amie. Une amie qui ne travaille pas du tout dans le monde du vin, mais qui m’étonne toujours par la justesse et la pertinence de ses observations en la matière. Sans le vouloir, elle me confronte souvent avec ses questions.

Hier soir donc, alors qu’on partageait, accessoirement, une bonne bouteille de vin, elle me dit à propos d’un vin que je vous nommerai plus tard :

« C’était du nature, vraiment? Me semble que ça ne goûtait pas comme du nature… »

Je savais exactement ce qu’elle voulait dire, mais lui ai quand même demandé de développer. Ce qu’elle fit : « disons que c’est très clean pour du nature. »

Voilà, c’était dit.

Mon amie, comme tant d’amateurs de vins et plusieurs professionnels même, reconnaît souvent les vins naturels à leurs défauts. De sorte que lorsqu’un vin sans soufre ne présente aucune déviation, elle doute qu’il puisse s’agir d’un vin nature.

C’est triste, mais surtout symptomatique de la perception générale et d’un certain cynisme qui anime beaucoup de gens de l’industrie quand il est question de « vins nature ».

Vous les entendrez dire que le vinaigre, il le préfère dans leur salade, plutôt que dans leur verre, qu’une odeur de sueur de cheval appartient à l’écurie et les relents de pets au cabinet d’aisance. Sur le principe, je comprends. Après tout, qui aurait envie de boire du vinaigre aromatisé à la sueur de cheval?

Sauf que le vin nature ne se limite pas à ces quelques défauts et autres clichés véhiculés par ses détracteurs. Oui, il y a de mauvais vins naturels. Tout comme il y a de mauvais vins industriels. Et des vins d’un ennui abominable. De plus en plus, malheureusement, avec l’essor de la technique et des produits œnologiques qui envahissent les chais, permettant ainsi aux grosses entreprises de tourner les coins ronds et d’accélérer les processus de production.

D’un côté comme de l’autre, de bons et de mauvais vins. Un excès de technologie peut tuer l’expression du terroir. Un excès de défauts aussi.

N’empêche qu’à leur meilleur, lorsqu’ils sont élaborés dans les règles de l’art, par des vignerons talentueux, méticuleux, les vins naturels atteignent des degrés de pureté qui n’ont peu ou pas d‘égal. Comme le délicieux Épaulé Jeté 2012 Beaumont de Catherine et Pierre Breton. Celui-là même dont mon amie doutait qu’il était « nature », tant il est d’une élégance et d’une netteté aromatique irréprochable. L’un des bons vins de cabernet franc que j’ai bus récemment. Tout ça à 22,70 $.

Voici un exemple. Il y en a des centaines sur le marché. Presque tous disponibles en importation privée pour le moment, à l’exception de ces quelques cuvées, mises en vente le 23 avril dernier, dans quelques succursales de la SAQ.

Domaine Catherine Et Pierre Breton Chinon Beaumont 2012 Maison B Perraud Le P'tit Poquelin 2013Henry Marionnet Première Vendange 2013Terra Del Noce Trinchero Barbera D'asti 2008Jean Foillard Morgon 2013Domaine Olivier Pithon Cuvée Lais 2012

Plus souple et tout en fruit – c’est du Beaujolais après tout –, le P’tit Poquelin 2013 se boit sans soif. Isabelle et Bruno Perraud ont fait le saut dans le vin bio en 1999, après que Bruno ait subi une intoxication causée par un insecticide. Plutôt que de se limiter à la vigne, le couple a étendu la révolution jusqu’au chai et repensé ses méthodes de vinification.

Lui aussi composé de gamay, mais produit dans la Loire, en Touraine plus précisément, le Première Vendange 2013 d’Henry Marionnet est à retenir avant tout pour son attaque en bouche charnue et vigoureuse.

Du Piémont, le Barbera d’Asti 2008 du domaine Trinchero (à ne pas confondre avec le géant américain du même nom) se montrait sous un jour un peu austère lorsque goûté il y a quelques semaines. Une bonne heure en carafe le rendra plus volubile. 

Dans le même registre, surveillez de près l’arrivée, ce jeudi, du Morgon 2013 de Jean Foillard et la Cuvée Laïs 2012 d’Olivier Pithon. Deux grands noms du vin nature, l’un dans le Beaujolais, l’autre dans le Roussillon.

Profil grec

Ce jeudi, la SAQ mettra aussi en vente ces quatre vins grecs, dont deux qui étaient distribués depuis quelques années déjà.

Sur les flancs du mont Helmos, à mi-chemin entre Patras et Corinthe le domaine Tetramythos renaît littéralement de ses cendres depuis cinq ans. Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos a perdu sa cave et une majeure partie de ses vignes dans les feux de forêt qui ont ravagé le Péloponnèse à l’été 2007. Issu de l’agriculture biologique, le Roditis 2013, Patras est léger comme une plume, mais savoureux et désaltérant.

Au nord de la Grèce, dans le secteur d’Amyndeon, Alpha Estate commercialise des vins de facture moderne, passablement corpulents. Bien qu’abordable, leur Axia Red 2010, issu d’un assemblage de syrah et de xinomavro, ne m’a paru spécialement réussi. Quelques mois de repos arrangeront peut-être les choses.

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2013Alpha Estate Axia Red Blend 2010Domaine Tselepos Nemea Driopi Agiorgitiko 2012Thymiopoulos Vineyards Yn Kai Oupavós Xinomavro 2012

Enfin, même sans avoir pu avoir accès à des bouteilles du présent millésime, qui sera de retour à la SAQ à compter de ce jeudi, je me permets d’attirer votre attention sur les deux vins suivants, dont la feuille de route est impeccable.

Tselepos Driopi 2012, Nemea – Yannis Tselepos a fait ses études d’œnologie à Dijon et a travaillé pendant plusieurs années en Bourgogne avant de fonder son propre domaine, dans le Péloponnèse. Issu de vignes d’une quarantaine d’années et toujours très satisfaisant.

Thymiopoulos, Naoussa 2012, Terre et Ciel – Apostolos Thymiopoulos est déjà l’un des jeunes vignerons les plus talentueux du pays. Ses vins rouges issus de xinomavro font à la fois preuve d’authenticité, de pureté, de profondeur. De manière générale, sa cuvée Terre et Ciel a la charpente nécessaire pour vieillir avec grâce. Je vous en direz plus jeudi, quand je courrai en succursales m’en procurer quelques bouteilles…

Vins de barbecue

Pour accompagner les grillades sur le barbecue, la SAQ a choisi de miser, cette année encore, sur la générosité des vins californiens.

Les fans de Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon Vineyard), qui connaissent son attachement pour les cépages rhodaniens – tout sauf du cabernet et du chardonnay! – seront sans doute surpris de voir que l’excentrique personnage signe désormais un claret. Well… à sa façon. Assemblage hétéroclite de cabernet, merlot, tannat, syrah et petite sirah, son Proper Claret 2012 a toute la droiture escomptée d’un méritage, avec un petit accent méditerranéen.

Bonny Doon A Proper Claret 2012 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvée 2009 Lake Sonoma Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2010Chardonnay Plume 2012

Dans le comté de Santa Barbara, Zaca Mesa se consacre essentiellement aux variétés rhodaniennes, mais produit aussi le Z Cuvée 2009, un bon zinfandel gourmand et juteux qui plaira à l’amateur de Zin.

Hormis un arôme de butterscotsch en attaque, le Lake Sonoma Winery Zinfandel 2010 est assez fidèle à ce que l’on peut espérer d’un zinfandel de Dry creek.

Enfin, en blanc, le Plume Chardonnay 2012 est tout à fait caractéristique d’un chardonnay de la vallée de Napa, sans verser dans la démesure.

Moi de mai, mois du rosé !

En 2002, après quelques années à restructurer le domaine en partenariat avec la maison Chapoutier, la famille Terrat a acquis la totalité des parts de ce vignoble cultivé en biodynamie. Les Béatines 2014 est un très bel exemple de rosé de Provence, tant par sa couleur pâle, que par sa texture et sa minéralité.

Sur un mode plus mûr et capiteux, la Cuvée Clarendon 2013 du Domaine Gavoty manque un peu d’acidité, mais il compense par sa tenue en bouche et ses notes minérales.

Les Béatines Rosé 2014 Domaine Gavoty Cuvée Clarendon 2013 Domaine De La Mordorée La Dame Rousse Rosé 2014

Enfin, dans un registre tout à fait différent, quasi tannique tant il a de la matière et de la mâche, La Dame Rousse 2014 du Domaine de La Mordorée fera un malheur avec une pissaladière, ou même des côtelettes d’agneau grillées.

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Présentation dela fonction CELLIER

Nouvel arrivage CELLIERAfin de vous guider encore mieux dans vous achats et faciliter vos emplettes, nous avons ajouté une fonction spéciale au site Chacun son vin pour nos membres Privilège.

Chaque fois que la SAQ met en vente ces nouveaux arrivages, vous n’aurez qu’à visiter notre site et cliquer sur l’onglet «Vin» puis sur «Nouvel arrivage CELLIER», dans le menu déroulant. Aussi simple que cela !

Vous pourrez ainsi lire mes notes de dégustation sur tous les vins du CELLIER, en un seul et même endroit.

À votre santé!

Nadia Fournier

Les favoris de Nadia – Cellier 30 avril
Les favoris de Nadia – Cellier 14 mai

Note de la rédaction: Cet accès exclusif, ainsi que la possibilité de lire dès leur publication tous les commentaires de dégustation publiés sur Chacun son Vin, est offert à nos membres Privilège pour la somme de 40 $ par année. (Les membres inscrits bénéficiant d’un accès gratuit doivent, pour leur part, attendre 60 jours avant de pouvoir accéder à tout notre contenu.)


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Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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