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Soif de « nature »

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Pour la deuxième année consécutive, la SAQ met en marché une sélection printanière de vins nature, c’est-à-dire biologiques et élaborés avec un minimum de manipulations et un apport réduit, sinon nul, en soufre. Le monopole d’état répond ainsi à une demande sans cesse grandissante pour ce type de produit, particulièrement auprès d’une nouvelle génération d’amateurs de vin. Mais pourquoi les vins natures sont-ils si populaires?

Si je me fie à ce que j’observe sur le terrain – dégustations professionnelles, bars à vin, conversations autour du comptoir de cuisine – je serais portée à croire que leur succès repose essentiellement sur trois choses.

D’abord, l’attrait du bio. À moins d’avoir vécu dans une grotte pendant les 20 dernières années, on ne peut qu’être sensibles aux arguments de l’agriculture biologique. En cette matière, le vin nature pousse encore plus loin puisque, en plus d’être issu de raisins bios – enfin, la catégorie n’étant pas encore définie par des règles strictes, ce n’est pas toujours le cas, hélas! – il est élaboré sans ajout de correctifs œnologiques, avec une dose minimale de soufre. Élaboré dans les règles de l’art, c’est ni plus ni moins que du jus de raisin fermenté, simplement.

Ensuite, et je sais que cet argument ne fera pas l’unanimité, j’y vois un désir de se démarquer de ses prédécesseurs. Dans ma jeune vingtaine, lorsque j’habitais en France, la plupart des jeunes de mon âge n’avaient aucun intérêt pour le vin. Le vin, ça faisait « vieille France », c’était la boisson de leurs parents. Plutôt boire des whisky-coca – même à table – que de ressembler à ses parents. Au Québec, même tendance, mais un peu plus modérée. Pour se démarquer de leurs parents, adeptes de régions françaises et italiennes classiques, les jeunes adoptent des vins de régions nouvelles, de vignerons émergents, parfois à tendance nature.

Enfin, et c’est là, à mon avis, la plus évidente des raisons, les vins natures sont populaires parce qu’ils sont bons. Pas toujours, mais souvent.

J’entends déjà ses détracteurs s’amuser de leurs défauts. C’est vrai qu’ils en ont. Mais limiter le vin nature à ses seuls défauts est pour le moins réducteur et tient presque de la mauvaise foi.

Plus je navigue dans cet univers fascinant et complexe qu’est le vin, moins je crois aux étiquettes, aux catégories, aux camps qui divisent. Vrai, il existe des vins natures tellement défectueux qu’ils en sont imbuvables. Vrai, il existe aussi nombre de vins à tendance commerciale qui sont d’un ennui mortel, quand ils ne sont pas complètement ruinés par un abus de bois ou par un reste de sucre.

Vrai, trop de procédés œnologiques peuvent tuer l’expression du terroir. Tout comme les déviations bactériennes et la prolifération de la macération carbonique à toutes les sauces, sur tous les cépages et dans toutes les régions.

Entre ces deux pôles, il existe une foule de vignerons rigoureux qui n’ont que faire des étiquettes qu’on veut bien leur accoler et qui souhaitent une seule chose : faire du vin, du bon vin. Des jusqu’au-boutistes qui s’appliquent à traduire le goût du lieu d’origine de leurs vins. Sincèrement, sans raccourcis, sans maquillage. À mon sens, c’est ça le vin nature. Juste ça. 

On a soif !

Domaine Sébastien Brunet Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 Château Lagarette Cyrus 2010 Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2014Parmi les quelques vins sélectionnés cette année, le Chiroubles 2014 de Christophe Pacalet, neveu de Marcel Lapierre, l’un des pionniers du mouvement nature. Issu de vignes de gamay âgées de 90 ans et fruit d’un excellent millésime dans la région, le vin est très invitant au premier nez. Déjà si séduisant, avec sa vitalité, son caractère vibrant et ses couches de saveurs fruitées et épicées, mais on pourrait aisément le mettre en cave jusqu’en 2020. Le meilleur vin de Chiroubles que j’aie goûté depuis longtemps. (27,55 $)

Toujours en France, mais du côté de Bordeaux, on propose le Cyrus 2010, un 100 % cabernet franc produit au Château Lagarette, une propriété des Côtes de Bordeaux cultivée en biodynamie. Encore passablement boisé, il mériterait de reposer en cave quelques années. (24,25 $)

Pour l’apéritif, l’amateur de Vouvray voudra absolument découvrir le premier vin du Domaine Sébastien Brunet à la SAQ. Son Vouvray Brut 2013, méthode traditionnelle, est impeccable. De légères notes oxydatives au nez pourraient faire craindre un manque de fraîcheur, mais la bouche est équilibrée, sans le moindre signe de fatigue, portée par une bulle fine, distinguée. (24,30 $)

Frappato Barunieddu Azienda Agricola Biscaris 2013 Sangiovese Puro Chianti Fattoria Lavacchio 2014 La Biancara Masieri Classico Angiolino Maule 2014On voudra aussi découvrir l’excellent Masieri 2014, élaboré par Angiolino Maule et ses fils, dans les collines de Gambellara, à l’est de Vérone. Assemblée à du trebbiano, la garganega puise dans les sols volcaniques de Vénétie une expression aromatique singulière et une structure digne de mention. Une belle bouteille pour s’initier à prix doux aux charmes du vin nature. (21,45 $) 

À moins de 20 $, on propose aussi un bon Chianti Puro 2014, pour accompagner les pâtes pou la pizza. Pas de maquillage inutile, mais une expression inaltérée du sangiovese; fruité, vif et fringant. (19,95 $)

Enfin, dernier vin de cette promotion, le Barunieddu 2013 de l’azienda Biscaris, en Sicile. Intéressant dans un registre plus corsé que la moyenne des vins de frappato. (21,65 $)

Les petits extras…

Six vins « natures », c’est bien, mais c’est un peu limite. Je vous en donne quelques autres – peut-être même de meilleurs – goûtés au cours des derniers mois.

Commençons d’abord avec deux vins de frappato, parce que celui commenté ci-haut m’a laissée, je l’avoue, sur ma soif.

De l’aveu d’Arianna Occhipinti – la star de la viticulture sicilienne –, le Frappato 2014 – Tami  est un vin : « 100 % raisins ». C’est-à-dire qu’il est vinifié sans additifs ni élevage sous bois, afin de laisser s’exprimer toute l’essence aromatique du cépage frappato, une curiosité du sud de la Sicile. À 20 $, une aubaine à saisir tant qu’il y en aura en succursales.

Après l’élève, le maître : Giusto Occhipinti, l’oncle et le mentor d’Arianna. Co-propriétaire de COS, où il produit des vins d’une pureté et d’une race peu communes. Son Frappato 2014 est un modèle du genre : vibrant, gouleyant, léger comme une plume et pourtant complexe, avec un large spectre de saveurs fruitées, épicées, herbacées, minérales. Belle bouteille!  (30 $)

Dans le même registre de goût, mais en France, du côté du Beaujolais, le Morgon 2014 de Jean Foillard est arrivé sur les tablettes tout récemment. Élève du regretté Jules Chauvet et de l’école du sans soufre, Jean Foillard est un nom important de l’appellation Morgon. Ses vins sont raffinés, élégants et habituellement dotés d’un excellent potentiel de garde. Son 2014 est l’une des belles réussites des cinq dernières années.

Tami Frappato 2014Azienda Agricola Cos Frappato 2014 Jean Foillard Morgon 2014 Château Cambon Beaujolais 2014Château Cambon Rosé 2015

Situées à Saint-Jean d’Ardière, tout près de Belleville, les vignes du Château Cambon ont en moyenne une cinquantaine d’années et sont classées en AOP Beaujolais, mais elles jouxtent les appellations Morgon et Brouilly. Propriété de Jean-Claude Chanudet et de Marie Lapierre, la mère de Camille et Mathieu, le domaine a donné un très bon Beaujolais 2014, coulant, juteux, gorgé de saveurs affriolantes de fruits rouges. Un vin de caractère.  (23,45 $)

Surveillez aussi de près l’arrivée du Château Cambon Rosé vers la mi-maiGoûté lors d’une visite en France en février dernier, le 2015 était tout à fait délicieux. Saveurs ciselées, précises, délicates et un équilibre idéal entre le gras et la fraîcheur. (23,25 $)

 

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 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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20 vins à moins de 20 $ pour avril 2016

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

Fin de mois, printemps qui se laisse désirer : tous les voyants sont au vert ou bien au rouge, selon qu’on garde ou non le moral, dans l’attente des vrais beaux jours. Quoi qu’il en soit, toujours commode d’avoir sous la main une liste de bons vins pas chers. Suivez-nous alors, en voici une vingtaine, comme à l’habitude sous la barre des 20 $.

Notre équipe du Québec : Bill, Marc, Nadia et Rémy

 

Les choix de Rémy

Dans le monde des vins à 15$, est-on limité à des vins simples et sur le fruit? Pas du tout. Le Hecula de la solide maison Bodegas Castaño, un mourvèdre bien rond et chaleureux, met certainement du fruit à revendre au nez, mais il a aussi en bouche de l’épice, du cèdre et d’autres petites touches sympathiques. Le Curator d’Adi Badenhorst, pour sa part, offre aussi des fines herbes et de la fumée – une dose de fumée qui mérite un petit coup d’air pour se dissiper et qu’on profite pleinement de cette cuvée qui prouve une fois de plus que l’Afrique du Sud a beaucoup à offrir.

En montant près des 20$, on trouve aussi pas mal de vins qui ont de la prestance et une certaine finesse, même dans le nouveau monde aux tendances souvent assez ostentatoires. Le malbec Tintonegro Limestone Block, produit par deux compères argentins très futés qui ont l’œil sur le terroir, plutôt que sur le bois et la maturité, est assez exemplaire : la générosité du malbec, sur une trame pleine de fraîcheur, le tout servi sur un plateau de graphite. Avis à tous : le malbec et le calcaire, là-bas, font très bon ménage.

Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2013 Curator A.A. Badenhorst Western Cape 2013 Tintonegro Limestone Block 2012 Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015 Chartier Créateur D'harmonies Le Rosé 2015

À la veille de mai, le mois où on fait tout ce qui nous plait, on regarde aussi du côté des rosés. Mes deux choix du mois offrent de beaux contrastes, montrant que ces vins sont loin d’être tous coulés dans le même moule ou faits pour le bord de la piscine. Toujours très populaire, Le Pive est particulièrement radieux, sur le millésime 2015, se distingue par son côté chantant, droit et frais. Le Rosé Chartier 2015, lui, a de la fraîcheur aussi, mais sa trame est plus généreuse et surtout, sa texture enveloppante est on ne peut plus séduisante. Deux vins distincts : à chacun sa journée ensoleillée.

Les choix de Marc

À tout seigneur, tout honneur : d’abord le seul blanc de ma sélection du mois, le Don Pascual Viognier Reserve 2015, de l’Uruguay. Un bon viognier, assez aromatique et aussi pratiquement sec. À 15,45 $, un très bon rapport qualité-prix.

En rouge, j’ai retenu, toujours à prix raisonnable, le Casa Silva Carmenère Colchagua 2013, du Chili. Fraîcheur en bouche, bon fruit, alcool en bride, pas de sucre apparent (3 g, peut-être). À 15 $, une excellente affaire ! Puis, du Roussillon cette fois, le Domaine Cazes Cap au Sud 2014. Bouche gourmande et épicée, le vin est relativement corsé mais peu tannique. Excellent rapport qualité-prix.

Don Pascual Reserve Viognier 2015 Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2013 Domaine Cazes Côtes Catalanes Cap Au Sud 2014 Allegrini Belpasso 2012 Domaine La Montagnette 2015

De Vénétie maintenant, le Allegrini Belpasso 2012 est typé, bien en fruit et tout en nervosité. L’ensemble est par ailleurs à peine mi-corsé. À table, avec des pâtes, de la pizza ou du poulet grillé. Enfin, le Domaine la Montagnette Signargues Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2015. Un rouge au fruit d’une très bonne pureté qui s’avère par ailleurs tonique (acidité + reste de gaz carbonique) et relativement profond. LE rouge de l’été pour les grillades ? Bien peur que oui…

Les choix de Bill

Comme le printemps s’amuse à jouer avec nos nerfs, côté météo, mes cinq choix du mois s’accommoderont du temps qu’il fait, il y en aura un pour convenir à l’occasion. À ce propos, si vous ne croyez pas que la température influence notre consommation, tant mieux pour vous. Car personnellement, la météo m’influence grandement.

Pour combattre les soirées fraîches, rien de tel qu’un robuste rouge du Roussillon. Le Castell d’Agly Domaine Cazes 2014, un maury sec, est suave, viandé et très complexe. Et bio, par-dessus le marché ! Pourquoi ne pas le siroter à l’extérieur, à table, ne serait-ce que pour sortir enfin de la maison. Autre très bon rouge, le Zuccardi Innovacion 2014, d’Argentine. Un assemblage de tempranillo et de malbec mi-corsé, sec et intéressant — à moins de 10 $.

Castell D'agly Maury Sec 2014 Innovacion 2014 Primelli Soave 2014 Sevilen Isabey Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde 2015

En blanc, et tandis que le crabe des neiges est toujours de saison, un vin délicat et nuancé est de rigueur. Rare de trouver un blanc qui corresponde à moins de 15 $, alors imaginez ma surprise en découvrant, à moins de 11 $, le Primelli Soave, doté par surcroît d’une belle texture et de minéralité. Si vous recherchez un blanc plus riche, par exemple pour marier aux fruits de mer, le turc Isabey Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (un vin de Turquie, oui) est dans le style néo-zélandais, et très bien fait, par ailleurs.

Enfin, quand il fera assez chaud et que vous viendra une envie de rosé, le pétillant Casal Garcia Aleveda est un bon exemple de Vinho Verde. Il ressemble à un gin tonic aromatisé à la fraise et à un peu plus de 11 $, il fera parfaitement l’affaire sur une terrasse ensoleillée.

Les choix de Nadia

À commencer par le Cheverny 2013 du Domaine Sauger. Rien de complexe ni intense, mais un bel exemple de ce que peut donner cette appellation peu connue de Touraine et une expression pure, coulante et désaltérante des cépages pinot noir (70 %), gamay et malbec. À ce prix, on serait fou de s’en passer.

Un cran plus généreux et nourri par le soleil du sud, le Terres de Méditerranée 2014 de Dupéré Barrera reste au sommet de sa catégorie. Beaucoup de fruit et de corps, du tonus et de la vigueur. Super achat !

Domaine Sauger Cheverny 2013Dupéré Barrera Terres De Méditerranée 2014 Papagiannakos Savatiano 2015 Château Des Charmes Chardonnay 2013Babich Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2015

Enfin, pour l’apéro ou pour accompagner le crabe sans se ruiner, vous aimerez le caractère modérément parfumé, nerveux, vibrant et tout en légèreté du Savatiano 2015 de Papagiannakos.

Envie d’un peu plus de gras? Le Chardonnay 2013 du Château des Charmes (14 $) et le Chardonnay 2015 de Babich (17 $) sont autant de bonnes options. Tous deux présentent les qualités d’un bon chardonnay non boisé : gras, avec des saveurs pures de fruits blancs et un caractère désaltérant. Deux très bons rapports qualité-prix.

Santé !

La liste complète : 20 bons vins à moins de 20$

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 grands vins!


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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico

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20 under $20 for April 2016

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here’s the “It’s Finally Spring” version of the 20 under $20.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team : Bill, Marc, Nadia & Remy

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

In the spirit of the varying temperatures that we experience in early spring, my five wine choices are paired with weather. So no matter what comes our way, there’s wine for the occasion. And by the way, if you don’t believe that weather affects your drinking, you are lucky – it absolutely does with what I decide to drink.

To combat the evening chill, a big brawny red from the Roussillon?  The 2014 Maury sec, Castell d’Agly from Domaine Cazes is suave, meaty and very complex. And organic to boot! How about for sweater weather, and eating outside, even if it is just to make the point that you will not be held hostage inside anymore! I was shocked by the 2014 Innovacion from Argentina’s Zuccardi. A blend of tempranillo and malbec that is medium bodied, dry, interesting – and under $10.

Castell D'agly Maury Sec 2014 Innovacion 2014 Primelli Soave 2014 Sevilen Isabey Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde 2015

For those first war, evenings, and while snowcrab is still around, a nuanced and delicate white is in order. While its rare to find any white drinkable under $15, how about the Primelli Soave for under $11. Dry, delicate, textured and with a subtle mineral note. If you want to eat fish or seafood and require a richer dish, the Turkish, yes I said Turkish, grown 2014 Isabey Sauvignon Blanc is a nod to the  Zealand style, but works it beautifully.

And finally, for that next hot day, when you just want to crack a rose, the gently fizzy Casal Garcia from Avelehda is a great pink riff on Vinho Verde. Tastes like a strawberry flavoured gin and tonic in many ways, and at just over $11, a fun ‘lil pink to crank back cold in the sun.

Marc Chapleau’s picks

While I normally try for a little more balance in my suggestions, this month there is but one white: The 2015 Viogner from Uraguay’s Don Pascual. It’s well-made, aromatic and dry. At just over $15, a great value.

My first red is the always great valued Carmenere from Chile’s Casa Silva. It’s fresh, with solid fruit, no excess in alcohol and tastes dry. At $15, a great deal.

Don Pascual Reserve Viognier 2015 Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2013 Domaine Cazes Côtes Catalanes Cap Au Sud 2014 Allegrini Belpasso 2012 Domaine La Montagnette 2015

From the Roussillon, Domaine Cazes’ 2014 Cap au Sud is both richly textured and spicy, powerful while not overly tannic. Another excellent value.

Moving to the Veneto, the 2012 Allegrini Belpaso is what you would expect from the region – lots of fruit with lots of freshness. It’s a versatile wine and can pair with spaghetti, pizza or even grilled chicken.

Finally, the 2015 Cotes du Rhone Village, Sinargues from Domaine de la Montagnette. A red which shows a great purity of fruit, whose acidity and slight note of CO2 combine to bring an exceptional brightness to the wine. The BBQ wine of the summer? It just might be.

Rémy Charest’s choices

In the world of under-15$ wine, is fruit, fruit and fruit pretty much all you can get? Nope. Hecula, a generous monastrell (mourvèdre) from solid producer Bodegas Castaño, sure shows a lot of ripe fruit on the nose, but on the heartwarming palate, you’ll find enticing notes of spice, cedar and more. Madcap South African producer Adi Badenhorst also throws a lot at you with his Curator, a Rhône blend showing smoke and fresh herbs, among other things. A fair bit of smoke, in fact – something that dissipates quickly when you aerate the wine, so you can fully enjoy it.

Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2013 Curator A.A. Badenhorst Western Cape 2013 Tintonegro Limestone Block 2012 Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015 Chartier Créateur D'harmonies Le Rosé 2015

Getting closer to the 20$ mark, you can get a lot of style and finesse, even in the more in-your-face reaches of the new world. Take the Tintonegro Limestone Block Malbec, for instance, produced by two smart guys in the higher reaches of Mendoza, Argentina. There’s terroir, here, not just ripeness and oak : you get the generous malbec fruit, but with lovely freshness and a backbone of graphite. Take note : malbec on limestone is a really awesome match.

As we’re nearing May – and hopefully, rising temperatures – let’s take a look at what rosés have to offer, too. My two picks of the month show that not all rosés are made equal – or limited to poolside quaffing. The very popular Le Pive shines particularly brightly in the 2015 vintage, with a crisp and bright personality. François Chartier’s 2015 Rosé has a fair bit of freshness, too, but it has an extra layer of generous fruit and floral aromas and, especially, a beautiful, enticing texture that keeps going, and going…. Two distinct wines with different occasions in mind.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

Let’s start with the 2013 Cheverney from Domaine Sauger. It’s nothing overly complex but is a great example of the potential of this lesser known appellation of the Touraine. A wonderfully pure and refreshing blend of pinot noir (70%), gamay and malbec. At under $17, you would be crazy not to give it a try.

A touch more generous and sun-laden, the 2014 Terres de Mediterrane from Dupere-Barrera is once again at the top of its category. Loaded with fruit and no lack of body, vigorous and so drinkable.

Domaine Sauger Cheverny 2013Dupéré Barrera Terres De Méditerranée 2014 Papagiannakos Savatiano 2015 Château Des Charmes Chardonnay 2013Babich Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2015

 

Finally, for an aperitif or to accompany some crab without breaking the bank, you’ll love the character the Savatiano 2015 Papagiannakos. Moderately fragrant and vibrant, but still light and lively.

Want a little more richness? Chateau des Charmes 2013 Chardonnay and Babich 2015 Chardonnay are good options. Both have the qualities of good unoaked chardonnay – bold, with pure flavours of white fruit and refreshing character. Two very good values for the money .

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin 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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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – April 30, 2016

Global Chardonnays, Springtime finds and What it takes to be The World’s Best Sommelier
By Sara d’Amato with notes from David, John and Michael

Click here for more from Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

From Tasmania to Washington to the Côtes de Provence, there are so many gems in this weekend’s release that we each had difficultly narrowing down our top five picks. Thankfully John Szabo covered the two main features of this VINTAGES release, that of the Pacific Northwest and rosés last week. In addition to those spotlights, this release offers a substantial selection of quality wines from both BC and Ontario as well as very fine global chardonnays of which we have several double alignments. An out-of-this-world Chilean sauvignon blanc was also successful in charming more than one of our palates.

Although some interesting rosé finds from the south of France where previously highlighted, we couldn’t resist recommending a few more from this twelve bottle springtime release. Hoping for warm days ahead, you’ll find plenty of fresh, nervy offerings to tantalize your senses as well as some rich, comforting reds in case the beau temps doesn’t arrive.

Buyers’ Guide to Whites & Rosés

Quinta de Couselo 2014 O Rosal, Rías Baixas, Spain ($23.95)
David Lawrason – The albarino-based whites of Spain’s northwest Galician coast can range from dull and weak to overly tropical and blowsy. I like them somewhere between these two extremes, as delivered here. The property once belonged to Cistercian monks but it has been a family winery since 1864, and there is a sense of this pedigree in the bottle. It is a lovely example of Rias Baixas – elegant, a touch floral, complex and well balanced.
John Szabo – A serious version of Rias Baixas, crisp, crunchy, bone dry, genuinely concentrated and richly flavoured. I like the lick of white pepper (“stony, mineral”), and the sharp, well-chiselled acids.

McGuigan 2015 Bin 9000 Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales Australia ($14.95)
John Szabo – Hardly a wine of earth-shattering complexity, but this fits the bill for fans of crisp, bright, saliva-inducing unoaked whites, simple but highly quaffable, ready to enjoy. Think of it as a dry riesling/unoaked chardonnay sort of wine, at a nice price.

Josef Chromy 2014 Pepik Chardonnay, Tasmania, Australia ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A crisp but leesy chardonnay with a northern Burgundian feel. The vibrant, floral and delicate flavours of cool climate chardonnay are beautifully expressed here.
John Szabo – Chromy makes a fine representation of cool Tasmanian terroir, zesty and lively, unoaked, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Chablis. It’s all citrus and green apple fruit, enlivened by tight acids and a pinch of CO2 on the palate. An ideal oyster/patio sipping, aperitif wine.

Quinta De Couselo O Rosal 2014McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2015 Josef Chromy Pepik Chardonnay 2014 Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2014

Norman Hardie 2014 Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($39.00)
Sara d’Amato – Norm’s Niagara chardonnay offers more plumpness than its County’s counterpart without sacrificing elegance, verve and focus. Drink now and don’t chill excessively.
Michael Godel – It’s hard not to compare Norman Hardie’s Niagara Chardonnay side by side with his County-grown and produced estate counterpart but this much I know. A Hardie Niagara Chardonnay is meant to be enjoyed in its early youth. This 2014 is so good right now.

Vignerons de Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013, Burgundy, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A real steal, this chardonnay from the white only appellation of Montagny in the Cote Chalonnaise is skillfully produced with terrific intensity and structure. Despite its technical correctness, it still offers an abundance of ready-to-drink pleasure.

Montes 2015 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Zapallar Coast, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($19.95)
Michael Godel – This is an exciting hyperbole of Chile, a Sauvignon Blanc from the coast with wild flavours and singing aromatics. Job well done with this newly directed Montes.
John Szabo – The Zapallar D.O. is a new, cool coastal region in Chile pioneered by Aurelio Montes on the far out Pacific coast at the end of the Aconcagua Valley. And this is very pungent and zesty sauvignon to be sure, like jalapeño purée with lime zest and lemon juice, all good things, offering good density and weight.

Vignerons De Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013 Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015 Gassier Sables D'azur Rosé 2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Rose 2015

Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015, Rhône, France $18.95 (701318)
Sara d’Amato – Longing for hot, sunny days, this most sophisticated of French rosé appellations is a terrific way to take a mental vacation. A spot on, very distinctive Tavel offering rich colour, a dry palate and some tannic presence giving it the ability to stand up to meat such as pork and lamb.

Gassier 2015 Sables d’Azur Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – Consistently and unquestionably pure and classically reasoned Rosé from Gassier. A dictionary entry rendering from Provence.

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2015, East Coast, New Zealand ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Villa Maria produces one New Zealand’s most consistent portfolios across a wide range of whites and reds. It is no surprise to see the same high quality with this lively Rosé. It possesses palpable aridity and true red fruit aromas.

Buyers’ Guide to Reds

Featherstone 2013 Red Tail Merlot, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A red blend that is ageing remarkably still with an abundance of fresh fruit and a plump, fleshy palate. Offers everything an affable textbook merlot should including flavours of Christmas cake, chocolate and deep plummy fruit.

Le Gravillas 2014 Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Known for fairly average wines, Plan de Dieu can surprise every once and awhile. Due to lack of wide recognition, this southern Rhône region offers approachable pricing. Lavender, tapenade, black pepper and sundried tomatoes evoke Provence and its sunny warmth.

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2013 Le Gravillas Plan De Dieu Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2014 Lamadrid Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec 2012 Pata Negra Reserva 2010 Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico 2013

Lamadrid 2012 Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.00)
David Lawrason – One of my main beefs about Argentine malbecs is that many are released too soon, and come across as too blunt and coarse. This is still youthfully tannic but it is also fresh and juicy with lifted mulberry, herbs and graphite aromas and flavours. But the real attraction was the very good concentration for the money. The length surprised me.  The style immediately suggested a barbecue.

Pata Negra 2010 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($17.00)
David Lawrason – There is a very traditional school of winemaking in Rioja that reveres textural richness and length, even if the flavours are not bright and fruity. Indeed some can be downright farmy.  This maturing example is chock full of cured meat, leather, peppery spice and cedar but so smooth and complex. Very impressive depth of flavour for the money and great balance.

Tenuta Di Capraia 2013 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Red fruit forward, leather and spice. These are the hallmark characteristics of classic, charming Chianti. This is Capraia’s 2013. A six days a week Chianti Classico.

Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From an underrated, emerging Pacific cooled region well north of Santiago, this is a deep, dark syrah with quite lifted aromas of tar, licorice, stewed blackcurrant/cherry fruit. I would like to see a bit more linearity and finesse but it is very impressive in terms of flavour depth, complexity and genuine syrah-ness.

Tabali Reserva Especial Syrah 2012 De Grendel Shiraz 2013 Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2006 Sordo Rocche Di Castiglione Riserva Barolo 2008

De Grendel 2013 Shiraz, Coastal Region, South Africa  ($24.95).
David Lawrason – Syrah/shiraz is the most exciting red from the Cape nowadays. I had several stunning examples on a recent visit.  This is from a vineyard in the Durbanville Hills only 7kms from and 200 metres above the cold Atlantic Ocean. It is a classic with all kinds of complexity, verve and depth. The ferrous minerality and acidity is very mindful of the northern Rhone, and it boasts amazing complexity and depth for the money.

Château Bouscassé 2006 Vieilles Vignes Madiran, France ($38.95)
John Szabo – This is clearly a superior, ambitious wine of class and pedigree, from the sister property of regional leader Château Montus. At this stage it’s pretty much fully mature, with a taste reminiscent of porcini mushroom broth – a big hit of umami. Yet it’s also still very structured, tannic even, with puckering astringency, so serve with assorted salty protein dishes. Terrific length and complexity overall. Best 2016-2026.

Sordo 2008 Rocche di Castiglione Riserva Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($49.95)
John Szabo – A fine and savoury, now nicely mature nebbiolo from the village of Castiglione Falletto, crafted in a rather classic style, complete with leathery and tarry red fruit, liquorice, dried herbs and more. The palate is medium-full bodied, filling and washing over the taste buds, with excellent length, depth and complexity. Best 2016-2025.

~

The World’s Best Sommelier

He’s Swedish, 31 and loves hip-hop music. The title of World’s Best Sommelier was bestowed upon the unconventional Arvid Rosengren this month in Mendoza, Argentina. Fifty-six countries participated in this “Olympics of Wine” including our Canadian champion, Elyse Lambert of Quebec.

What does it take to achieve this most coveted of titles? Over the course of five days, the competitors are whittled down to 15 and then to 3 finalists. Rigorous theory exams, blind tasting and identification of spirits and wines, locating errors in wine lists, pouring a magnum of Champagne into 15 different shaped glasses, menu pairing and convincing a table of guests to buy expensive wine are among the many tasks. All of this must be diligently and calmly performed in a timed setting in front of thousands of of spectators in a language other than your mother tongue.

The-fifteen-semi-finalists-of-the-Best-Sommelier-of-the-World-Contest-Argentina-2016

The fifteen semi finalists of the Best Sommelier of the World Contest Argentina 2016

It is not unusual for competitors to train five to ten years for this very competition. All candidates are national champions before they are offered a seat on the world stage. This year, three of the top five finalists were women including Elyse Lambert. A substantial Canadian delegation attended the competition made up of members of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, a national organization with chapters in BC, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces. Celebrated winemakers and great supporters of Canadian Sommeliers, Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling (producers of both Sperling Wines and Versado among others) offered their Mendozian home to Canadian delegates over the course of the week.

The results are clear, Canada has a wealth of talent and our sommeliers rank among the world’s best. This international recognition of our Canada’s wine savvy community is the reason it has been chosen as the location for the Pan American Best Sommelier Challenge in 2018 which will take place in Montreal. Raise a glass to those who make a living serving others, and in particular, making sure that we are only served the best of wine!

Santé,

Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (April – 2nd Edition)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

When I wrote to you a few weeks ago, I thought that spring would soon be here; I was so wrong. So to console you I have found some great value wines to drink while we all wait for the weather to improve.

For you bargain lovers I have some great news. Although there are only three new wines on my Top 50 Best Values this month there are another six, that were already on the list, that are either discounted or have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply, making these wines even more attractive and your spring drinking even more affordable.

There are also some new listings that are fine buys. As usual wines have been joining the Top 50 Best Values list and others have fallen off over the last 4 weeks. Those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems. I have also included in this report four wines that almost made it onto the Top 50. I am writing about them because they all have lots of BAMs for the next 4 weeks.

Steve’s Top 50 is a standing WineAlign best buys list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. 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 current discount period runs until May 22nd. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine highlighted.

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

Reds

Citra 2014 Sangiovese Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.95 +5 BAMs) – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose, but quite tasty with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Santa Carolina 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rapel Valley, Chile ($8.95 + 5BAMs) – This is a pure and very even red with a good depth of flavour. Not a lot of complexity but then it is under $9. Try with roast meats.

Santa Carolina 2015 Merlot, Chile ($8.95 + 5 BAMS) – Great value for an exuberant fruity merlot. The palate is brimming with lively bright fruit with enough tannin for balance and good to very good length. Enjoy on its own or with cheese and meat dishes. Very versatile.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2014 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 K W V Paarl Cape Ruby Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2013 Château Canteloup 2012

K W V Paarl Cape Ruby South Africa ($9.85 + 6BAMs) – This is a fullbodied fortified red made in similar way as ruby port. It is medium sweet well balanced with decent length. Try with blue cheese, semi-sweet dark chocolate or dried fruit and nuts.

Bodegas Castaño 2013 Hécula Monastrell, Yecla, Spain ($10.45) New to Top 50 – The monastrell (mourvedre) grape in southeastern Spain makes many delicious juicy full bodied reds like this. The palate is very smooth with a good depth of flavour and it finishes dry with some fine tannin for grip. Very good length. Try with roast meats.

Château Canteloup 2012, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($19.65 + 10 BAMs) – This is great value for a good quality Bordeaux with the aromatics of a great wine. Though the structure is not that of the best, it is still very impressive for the money. It’s medium weight with a silky mid-palate, then a firm tannic finish. Excellent length.

Whites

Periquita White 2013, Portugal ($8.95 + 5 BAMs) – A juicy blend of three white grapes with a very smooth palate and a good depth of flavour. Enjoy with mildly flavoured seafood.

Domaine Jean Bousquet 2015 White Blend, Argentina ($11.90 + 4 BAMs) – This is an aromatic white that’s midweight and deeply flavoured with the fruit well balanced by soft acidity. Try with roast veal or pork.

Periquita White 2013 Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015 Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015

Santa Rita 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($11.95 + 7BAMs) – A juicy nicely structured sauvignon with just enough sweetness to balance the acidity and not too much greenness. Try with sautéed seafood.

Marqués de Riscal 2014, Rueda, Spain ($12.70 + 6 BAMs) – This is a pure fresh crisp white with an aromatic nose of grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper with some honey notes. Since it is lively and juicy with very good length and is so refreshing, it is a great selection for seafood and mildly flavoured white meats.

Wolf Blass 2014 Yellow Label Chardonnay, Padthaway/Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($12.95 was $14.95) – This is a well balanced fruity lively chardonnay with a touch of oak; quite elegant for such an inexpensive wine. Try with rich seafood dishes, roast pork or sautéed veal.

Marqués De Riscal 2014 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Riverlore 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.90 was 15.90) New to Top 50 – This crisp very juicy kiwi sauvignon shows classic Marlborough aromas and flavours. It is midweight and well balanced with a creamy rich palate and crisp dry herbal lemon finish. Try with grilled calamari or creamy goat cheese.

Peter Yealands 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.95 was $15.95) New to Top 50 – There is a soft appealing mineral tone to the aromas and flavours of this juicy vibrant mouthwatering sauvignon. Nice concentration and very pure with very good length. Try with seafood dishes.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

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 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 WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, 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 (Click on Wine => Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list), 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. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

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 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Je note !

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Oui, je note — comme dit dans la publicité la petite boulotte.

Je donne un score, un pointage sur 100, aux vins que je déguste notamment ici, pour vous. Depuis longtemps mais pas depuis tout le temps ; à l’époque du journal Voir par exemple, dans les années 1990, je m’en abstenais.

Pourquoi avoir changé d’idée ? Difficile à dire. J’ai commencé à scorer, pour ainsi dire, à mon arrivée à La Barrique. Ça se faisait déjà dans ce magazine, sauf erreur, et je me suis volontiers prêté au jeu, sans rechigner.

Car je ne trouve pas, comme certains, que le vin est quelque chose de trop subjectif et de trop noble pour le réduire à une simple note. On le fait bien pour les films, pour les romans, les voitures, les restaurants.

Enfin oui, c’est vrai, jamais une note ne reflètera vraiment le goût du vin, ses odeurs, sa texture.

Et oui, encore, c’est vrai que l’écrit, le commentaire, en dit souvent beaucoup plus que la simple note – qu’elle soit sur 100, sur 20 ou sur une échelle de 1 à 5 étoiles.

Mais pas toujours.

Il m’arrive ainsi, perso, de tourner autour du pot, de trouver ceci ou cela à une bouteille donnée mais sans trop savoir comment tourner mon commentaire, comment dire les choses. Parfois, cela arrive, je m’en confesse, c’est pour ménager d’éventuelles susceptibilités.

Dans ces cas-là, ne m’écoutez pas, ne vous fiez pas à mes palabres : allez voir le score directement, il voudra tout dire.

NOTER, C’EST COMMUNIQUER

La note est d’ailleurs là pour ça. Pour résumer l’impression globale — la seule qui compte, au fond — en moins de deux. Et c’est pour cette raison, également, que cette note doit être dans l’absolu sinon elle rime à très peu de choses.

J’ai donné 85 à un vin, et le prix est de 55 $ ? La messe est dite : il s’agit d’un bon « petit » vin, n’en attendez pas le nirvana et surtout, à ce prix-là, pensez-y au moins cinquante-cinq fois avant d’acheter.

Je note 90 un vin qui s’avère, qui plus est, vendu seulement 20 $ ? Ne perdez pas de temps à me lire, même si j’écris très bien : courez en acheter une caisse !

Pourquoi alors certains refusent-ils de donner une note aux vins dont il parle dans leurs chroniques ?

Bonne question. C’est leur choix — et leur prérogative, c’est certain.

Maintenant, qui, quel consommateur vivant dans le monde pressé d’aujourd’hui, se plaindrait de pouvoir compter, en plus d’un commentaire écrit bien senti, sur ce type d’indication ?

 

À boire, aubergiste

Bon, cela dit, l’idéal demeure de noter ET de commenter les vins d’un même souffle, pour donner un portrait complet. Ce que font la plupart d’entre nous, notamment ici, sur Chacun son Vin.

En temps normal, seuls les membres Privilège peuvent voir les notes que nous mettons aux vins, sur notre site. Une fois n’est pas coutume : vous les trouverez exceptionnellement ci-dessous, sujet de la présente chronique oblige.

Bodegas Castano Solanera Vina Viejas Yecla 2013 — Un très bon rouge espagnol à base de mourvèdre (70 pour cent), auquel s’ajoutent à parts égales du cabernet sauvignon et du grenache. Puissant fruité et épicé, et à la texture relativement dense et serrée. À servir avec une viande rouge grillée. 20,15 $ — 88 %

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère Colchagua 2013 — Difficile de se tromper au nez, on est vraiment dans la famille des cabernets, avec des notes herbacées et de cendrier froid — d’âtre refroidi. Fraîcheur en bouche, bon fruit, alcool en bride, pas de sucre apparent. À 15 $, une excellente affaire ! — 88 %

Fontanafredda Barolo 2011 — Étiquette plutôt quelconque, vieillotte, mais contenu ô combien satisfaisant ! Un barolo de facture moderne à la fois typé, relativement astringent entre autres, mais avec aussi un minimum de chair. La cerise, le tabac, de l’amertume en finale. À tout juste moins de 30 $, à ne pas manquer ! — 91 % (pas de niaisage, c’est dire, achetez !)

Castaño Solanera Viñas Viejas 2013 Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2013 Fontanafredda Barolo 2011 Don Pascual Reserve Viognier 2015 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Don Pascual Viognier Reserve 2015 — Un bon viognier urugayen, assez aromatique — l’abricot —, corsé en bouche mais aussi rafraîchissant et pratiquement sec. À 15,45 $, un très bon rapport qualité-prix. Accord gourmand : avec les ris de veau, suggère le producteur, ce qui me semble une excellente idée ! — 87 %

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 — C’est rendu que je vois 15 % d’alcool sur une étiquette de vin californien et que je me réjouis : au moins, cela risque moins d’être doucereux, tous les sucres ou presque auront fermenté. Or c’est à peu de choses près le cas, le vin est corsé, généreux, mais bien structuré, avec de bons tannins et une certaine fraîcheur. La belle Californie ! Prix (34,75 $) bien mérité. — 90 %

Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2015 — Impeccable ! Et très typé sauvignon de Nouvelle-Zélande, avec ses intenses notes de pamplemousse rose, son acidité marquée, son reste de gaz carbonique aussi. Tout simple, pratiquement sec (3,9 g) et diablement efficace. 21,90 $ — 88 %

Listel Rosé Sable De Camargue 2015 — Couleur orangée pâle – on dirait un « vin orange » -, des notes végétales (pas déplaisantes) au nez, un caractère moyennement corsé, pas de sucre résiduel apparent (pourtant il y en a 4,5 g), une bonne texture relativement grasse, de l’acidité. À 13,10 $, un bon achat ! — 85 %

Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Listel Gris Rosé 2015 Famille Perrin Tavel Rosé 2015 Domaine Sébastien Brunet Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 Duval Leroy Brut Rosé Champagne

Tavel Famille Perrin 2015 — Savoureux tavel, plus corsé qu’un côtes-de-provence rosé mais avec autant de fraîcheur et une belle longueur. Bravo aux Perrin !  21,95 $ — 89 %

Domaine Sébastien Brunet Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 — Finement miellé (le chenin) au nez et saveurs à l’avenant, amples et rafraîchissantes, passablement élégantes aussi — fines, même. L’un des meilleurs vouvrays mousseux qu’il m’ait été donné de goûter ces dernières années. 24,30 $ — 90 %

Duval-Leroy Brut Rosé — Avec sinon l’été du moins le vrai printemps qui se montre le bout du nez, terminons avec un champagne rosé, très cher, 87 $ mais vraiment très très bon, finement brioché, épicé, nerveux, long en bouche. Miam ! — 92 %

 

Marc

P.S. Une autre fois, on parlera du fait que la notation, par exemple dans l’échelle sur 100, se limite en réalité à donner entre 85 et 90 à la très grande majorité des vins…

 

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 grands vins!


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Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – April 30, 2016

Buyers’ Guides for the Pacific Northwest & Rosé, The State of Pinot Noir (and other varieties), and Prince Edward County
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report is overflowing with recommendations and reviews, a reflection of a busy past couple of weeks of tastings and trade seminars. The VINTAGES April 30th release features a lopsided Pacific Northwest selection with some excellent Oregon pinot noir. California is also heavily featured in this report, following on the heels of the hugely successful annual wine fair, that is, if the number of attendees is correlated to success.

Over 1,000 industry insiders not only showed up, but even lined up, to squeeze their way into to the Canadian Room at the Fairmont Royal York to revel and taste in its carnival-like atmosphere. The Wine Bible (revised edition 2015) author Karen MacNeil, also keynote speaker at the luncheon, launched the day with an excellent overview and memorable tasting of pinot noir representing over 800 kilometers of coastal Californian vineyards from the Anderson Valley to Santa Ynez. Click for this week’s feature article on the State of California pinot and reviews of some of the state’s top bottlings. Although the specific wines reviewed are as widely available as white unicorns, all of the producers on the list and their other cuvees are worth tracking down.

For more immediate gratification, see my full list of 18 recommended California wines – the state does more than just pinot noir, you know. These were whittled down from over 60 samples of currently available or incoming wines sent to the Media Room, where I hid for most of the day to avoid the California trade crush.

Small but mighty Austria likewise held a trade fair last week, with a trade seminar focused on the country’s vastly improved red wines, now serious contenders. The addition of local varieties such as Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent to the worldwide roster of worthwhile reds is like discovering a new exotic spice to add to your culinary repertoire. Also on display were the first releases of fresh whites from the superlative 2015 vintage, destined to become a classic. I’ll be highlighting some of the best in a mini Austrian Wine Buyer’s Guide to be posted at a later date.

IMG_8994

County in the City – The calm before the evening storm

The annual County in the City tasting brought the best of Prince Edward County to Toronto on the same day, featuring mostly a mix of the very promising 2015s, and the few drops of the 2014s that survived the yield-crippling (but paradoxically quality-improving) May frost. I was pleased to see that the established names continue to deliver exceptional wines, spurred on in part by increasing competition; a clutch of relative newcomers is knocking at the door. And while chardonnay and pinot noir are still the flagships, pinot gris is clearly another grape to watch in the County. See my mini PEC Buyers’ Guide for some of the best.

VINTAGES Preview

And read on for highlights of the VINTAGES April 30th release, which features a lopsided Pacific Northwest selection, with some excellent Oregon pinot noir, and a largely disappointing, commercial range from Washington State. British Columbia was inexplicably officially left out of the thematic (“Though no agreed boundary exists, a common conception [of the PNW] includes the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia”, according to Wikipedia), though there are two BC wines worth your attention, which I’ve added to my recommendations.

Mount Hood from the Dundee Hills-8781

Mount Hood from the Dundee Hills, Oregon

A range of rosés representing all major wine producing continents is timed perfectly for the long-awaited arrival of spring in Ontario. It’s a perfect illustration of why southern France remains the world hotspot for pink, that is, if you’re after premium dry, delicate but flavourful, purpose-made rosés. I’ve listed three excellent examples.

And since that’s more than enough for one report, I’ll throw the rest of my miscellaneous top picks, including a couple from the “Aussie Whites” mini-feature, into next week’s general Buyers’ Guide along with the rest of the WineAlign crü.

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: Oregon

Willakenzie Estate Gisèle Pinot Noir 2013 Soléna Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir has been planted in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since 1966, and has been the focus of the rapidly expanding industry ever since. Being at the edge of viable ripening is where pinot likes to be, and the grape’s propensity to magnify even small variations in micro climate and soil chemistry and structure make it perfectly suited to the Willamette’s cool climate and varied soils. Two fine value variations on the marine sedimentary soils known as “Willakenzie” found in the Yamhill-Carlton sub-AVA are on offer April 30th, both unusually refined for the often firmly tannic, black fruit flavoured wines most typical of these soils.

The Soléna 2012 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir ($35.95) is a particularly classy wine. Very fragrant, pretty, concentrated, delivering verve, depth and fine-grained structure. Soléna is run by Laurent and Danielle Montalieu, who purchased the 80-acre Domaine Danielle Laurent in May of 2000 as their wedding gift to each other, planting six clones of pinot noir shortly after (also wedding gifts to one-another, offering another dimension to the vow ‘till death do us part’). Best 2016-2022.

Even lighter, more fragrant and delicate is the Willakenzie Estate 2013 Gisèle Pinot Noir ($36.95), also from Yamhill-Carlton, the entry-level blend from various estate parcels designed for early enjoyment. It’s crafted in the pale, oxidative style, filled with tart red fruit and beetroot, earth, and pot pourri flavours, while tannins are very light. You might call it a fragile pinot noir, though not in a negative sense, ready to drink now or hold short term at best. I do appreciate the delicate nature of this wine – not all reds need be dark and burly.

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: British Columbia

The Naramata Bench on the east side of Lake Okanagan, north of Penticton, is increasingly recognized as a sweet spot in the valley, improbably capable of delivering everything from fresh whites to serious reds, like the Laughing Stock 2013 Portfolio, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($54.95). Have to say, I love their tag line: “We wake up every day with the constant motivation of not living up to our name”. You surely won’t be laughing while chewing on this intense, ripe, regionally accurate flagship Bordeaux blend (the full portfolio), complete with sage brush and ripe black fruit, measured but noted oak, and a wide range of spicy aromatics. Ambition is evident. Best 2016-2023.

Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan is the source of the Nk’mip 2013 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($24.95). Pronounced kw-em kw-empt in the Osoyoos First Nation’s language (meaning ‘achieving excellence’), Qwam Qwmt is the top range from Nk’Mip. In this case a ripe, rich, resinous and wood-inflected chardonnay, with lots of polish and concentration in a classic west coast style – the kind that often sells for much more a few hundred miles further south.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013 Nk'mip Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2013Hogue Genesis Meritage 2012 Joel Gott Riesling 2012

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: Washington State

As mentioned in the intro, the selection of Washington wines generally fails to excite, especially considering some of the terrific wines made now by over 800 wineries in the United State’s second largest wine producing state. For an example of the widely appealing, easy-drinking commercial style, try the Hogue 2012 Genesis Meritage, Columbia Valley ($18.95). It’s a modern and ripe, oak-inflected Bordeaux blend, medium-full bodied. It won’t change your life, but nobody will get hurt, either.

Washington does riesling quite well, arguably the state’s most successful white variety. The Joel Gott 2012 Riesling Columbia Valley ($19.95) is a perfectly serviceable example, crunchy and just off-dry, fresh and fragrant in a typical lime zest-inflected varietal idiom. Ready to enjoy.

Buyers’ Guide to Rosé

Côteaux Varois en Provence

Côteaux Varois en Provence – credit to: CIVP F.Millo

Rosé is a challenging category to understand. Different varieties, wildly varying climates and especially winemaking techniques conspire to broaden the stylistic field. You’ll find everything from deeply coloured, sweetened versions to pale and bone dry, all labeled simply as rosé. How are you to know what you’ll get without tasting? Sadly, you can’t. That is, unless you’re seeking the bone dry, serious, pale versions, which I admittedly do. By legal definition, the rosés of Provence (and its various appellations, mainly Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d’Aix en Provence Côteaux Varois) are pale and dry, and as reliable as they come.

Gabriel Meffre Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé 2015 Château la Tour de L'évêque Rosé 2015 Saint Aix Rosé 2015There are two fine examples arriving on shelves on April 30th: Saint Aix 2015 Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France ($22.95) is the finest. A serious, fragrant, flavourful, balanced and bone dry, fresh rosé here that’s dangerously drinkable but also offers a more sophisticated flare, and great length, too. Also excellent is the ever-reliable Château la Tour de l’Évêque 2015 Rosé, Côtes de Provence France ($19.95), a regular fixture on LCBO shelves. The 2015 is another classic Provençal example, though a touch riper and softer than the previous vintage, more advanced and ready to go with heaps of red fruit and herbs. Alcohol is a heady 13.5%, so while it’s infinitely drinkable, it’s no light, afternoon sipper to be sure.

A little further north, the southern Rhône appellation of Tavel is unique in being the only AOC in the Rhône Valley dedicated purely to rosé, also invariably dry. Tavel is famous for it’s powerful style, as evinced in the Gabriel Meffre 2015 Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé, Rhône Valley ($19.95), replete with inviting liquorice-fennel seed and white pepper to spice up succulent red fruit.

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All April 30th 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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Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012

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John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: Prince Edward County April 2016

By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The annual County in the City tasting brought the best of Prince Edward County to Toronto on April 14th, featuring mostly a mix of the very promising 2015s, that is, the few drops that survived the yield-crippling (but paradoxically quality-improving) May frost, reportedly the coldest May 23 since 1961.  Many excellent 2014s were brought out for the first time, a vintage that looks to have produced the finest wines yet in several growers’ portfolios.

The Vintner’s Quality Alliance now counts 31 registered VQA wineries currently operating in the County (although adherence to the VQA is not obligatory and so the actual number of commercial wineries is higher), up from 26 the previous year. This shows that the PEC wine industry continues to inch onward and upward. In fact, a shortage of grapes is becoming a more familiar refrain, and not just in very low-yielding vintages like 2015.

It’s clear that the region’s unsympathetic climate is a grand challenge for winegrowers – there’s no easy route to financial success, and the top wines are necessarily costly. If you’re thinking it’s time to buy land and plant a vineyard in the County to sell grapes for profit, you’d better check those numbers again, carefully. Yet the results of what makes it to bottle are promising enough, and in many cases are already more than good enough, to justify such a tenuous existence. I can only hope that more people will take up the challenge to exploit one of North America’s best, if least profitable, terroirs. Didn’t somebody say that nothing worthwhile is easy?

During this latest snapshot, by no means comprehensive, of the state of PEC wine, I was happy to see the established names continue to deliver exceptional wines. No doubt they’ve been spurred on in part by increasing competition; a clutch of relative newcomers is now knocking at the door, broadening the range of wines worth tracking down. And while chardonnay and pinot noir remain the flagship grapes, I’d like to throw pinot gris into the ring, clearly another grape to watch in the County. The number of VQA-approved pinot gris’ jumped to 15 labels in 2014, still a relatively small number of wines (just over 100 VQA PEC wines were produced in the same year), but confidence in the grape appears to be growing, and the results are highly encouraging.

Here are some recommended current releases by grape.

Chardonnay

2014 This marks the first vintage for which new winemaker Keith Tyers was in full control, and he appears to have dialled back ripeness and barrel influence in the Closson Chase 2014 Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay ($28.95), favouring a more chiselled and tightly wound style, and less of the cream-custard-style of earlier vintages (also abetted by the cool 2014 vintage). This is terrifically lean, tight and stony, and I like the way this comes together on the palate, allying firm acids with citrus and green peach/pear fruit, and just a light delicate touch of caramel wood spice on the finish which will surely fade into the ensemble in short order (this spent just under a year and a half in barrel, of which less than 10% were new). Best after 2017.

Closson Chase

It’s fantastic see Lighthall Vineyards come on so strong in 2014, with a string of great wines across the board at attractive prices. The Lighthall Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay (25.00) is pure, fresh and stony; if ever there were discussion about the Chablis-like expression of chardonnay from the county, this could be cited as evidence. I love the crunchy citrus fruit, the grapefruit flavours. Enjoy now or short term hold.

2014 is likewise a breakout vintage for winemaker Colin Stanners, having rendered his 2014 Chardonnay ($30.00) from estate fruit into a marvellously chalky, reductive, Puligny-like pure expression of limestone, with no holds barred and no concessions to easy commercial appeal. The palate is tight, even with a touch of residual sugar, but it works here in the rivetingly acid milieu. This could use another 6 months to a year in cellar to flesh and round out. Distinctive, and very promising for the future of this site.

Keint-He continues to sharpen it’s range of both PEC and Niagara wines under winemaker Ross Wise, and this first release of the 2014 Greer Road Chardonnay ($30 est.) is a fine and crisp, crunchy and lively, very fresh expression, very transparent. Wood sticks out a little for now on the skinny frame, but cellar for another 6 months for better integration.

Pinot Gris

PEC pinot gris is gaining in popularity, at least in terms of the number of labels, and Lighthall enters the ring for the first time with the Lighthall Vineyards 2014 Pinot Gris ($25), a real cracker, produced from fruit grown at Huff Estates. It’s open, fragrant, lightly honeyed, barely off-dry on the palate, but with a real sense of stoniness and saltiness, a fine addition to the growing County lineup.

2015 was the first County vintage for former Lailey (Niagara) winemaker Derek Barnett, and it’s great to see such a confident hand at the helm at Karlo Estates after the untimely passing of Richard Karlo. The Karlo Estates 2015 County Pinot Gris ($29) is a very strong release, crafted in somewhat of a richer, fuller, Alsatian style relative to other examples. It’s off-dry and apple-flavoured, quite densely packed (though with only 12% alcohol – still generous for PEC). I like the sense of stoniness allied to ripe fruit, the generous proportions, and the solid length.

County Pinot Gris

The most intriguing and experimental version goes hands down to Stanners Vineyard 2014 Pinot Gris Cuivré ($25), a wine crafted in a style that approximates the ancient, ‘farmhouse’ approach regaining popularity in northeastern Italy known as ramato (‘coppered’ in Italian) or cuivré in French. Skins are soaked for 24 hours before pressing and fermentation, just long enough to give this a distinct copper hue. It’s the second vintage in this style for Stanners, and the result is a pleasantly lean and bright wine, with deceptive length that hangs on and on. Don’t expect opulence; this is more about freshness, and the light, tacky, textural experience from tannins extracted during the maceration, more grippy than rosé, and just on this side of a light red. Stainless steel ageing preserves the fruit and spice, and florality of the variety. It’s an intriguing wine worth tracking down; be sure to carafe before serving to give it air (and not too chilled either).

The most patio-sippable version comes from Huff Estates and their 2015 Pinot Gris ($20), a crisp, clean, fresh, citrus-scented version, closer to pinot grigio than pinot gris in style. It’s an easy-drinking, bright and fresh, aperitif style wine. 

Pinot Noir

Norman Hardie rarely misses a beat, and his 2014 County Pinot Noir Unfiltered ($39 est, not yet released) emerges here with supreme grace, with fine-grained, delicate texture, seemingly light but anchored on solid base of impossibly ripe fruit at just 10.9%. I love the length, the absence of any wood flavor, the terrific mineral saltiness. It’s really in a class of its own.

Frédéric Picard at Huff Estates made a very convincing and competitively priced 2014 Pinot Noir ($25) from estate fruit and vineyards in South Bay, easily the best yet from the Huff. It’s clearly genuinely concentrated and ripe (even if still light in the County style), with finely integrated wood influence (fermented and then aged in 3000l oak foudres) and plenty of succulent red fruit and spice. It’s great to see such quality at the price; just hope it can be maintained, even if that’s wishful thinking.

Lighthall Vineyards winemaker Glenn Symons has likewise upped his game with the 2014 Pinot Noir ‘Quatres Anges’ ($30), the fifth reserve pinot produced at the estate, and by all accounts the best. He describes the 2014 growing season as “perfectly balanced with epic, unequalled ripening, allowing the fruit to fully express itself”. My translation of that from the glass is a light, fragrant, leafy County pinot, really well-pitched, with delicate tannins and silky texture. It’s filled with grace and charm and ready to enjoy this summer.

Glenn Symons - Lighthall Winemaker

And establishing the growing consistency of their range, the Stanners 2013 Pinot Noir ($35) is also worth a look. It’s likewise a pinot for fans of pale and delicate reds, yet this slim wine (11.5% alcohol) nonetheless carries a solid freight of flavour, based on faded floral/pot pourri, dried red fruit notes, sour and fresh. Tannins are ultra-fine and soft, while acids are balanced-bright, sufficient to drive saliva. Only resinous wood notes (from less-than-stellar barrels?), lets the expression down somewhat. Drink now with a light chill.

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

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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California: The State of Pinot Noir

By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

“The quality of pinot noir has escalated dramatically in the last ten years”, asserts Karen MacNeil in her introduction to a tasting of thirteen California pinot noirs held last week to kick-off the annual California Wine Fair. The author of best selling The Wine Bible (fully revised in 2015) and chairman and creator of the program at The Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley, MacNeil is as well qualified as anyone to make the claim. She’s been a keen observer of the California wine industry since the 1970s, and as a native New Yorker, is unfettered by regional chauvinism. The wines she selects for the tasting amply prove the point.

And I couldn’t agree more with MacNeil’s assessment of the state of California pinot noir. The grape has undergone a radical makeover over the last decade, more than any other variety. Chardonnay, too, it can be said, has been given a 21st century facelift, slimmed down, toned up, and applied less makeup to be sure. But pinot’s evolution has been more complete, transforming from garish cabaret dancer to elegant ballerina (just keeping up the mixed metaphors) in under a generation.

Perhaps that’s because pinot noir had so much further to go in order to find a comfortable and natural regional expression, while great California chardonnay has a much longer and more robust history, with many protagonists. Once all but indistinguishable from merlot or even cabernet, California’s finest pinot noirs are now clearly recognizable as pinot noir, while still informed by the generous sun and thick fog that flood coastal vineyards and give rise to the state’s unique style.

Karen MacNeil and her selection of representative California Pinot Noir-4982

Karen MacNeil and her selection of representative California Pinot Noir

There are of course producers who found a confidently Californian expression many years ago – pinot pioneers Josh Jensen of Calera, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, and Burt Williams and Ed Selyem of Williams-Selyem spring to mind. But the list of people making memorable pinot noir now stretches into the dozens, drawing on vineyards spread over 800 kilometers from the Anderson Valley in the north to Santa Barbara down south. Pinot noir is California’s 5th most planted variety, and it finally has an expression all its own, in all of its infinite nuances. This is fantastic news for devotees of the grape.

The turning point for pinot noir came sometime around the turn of the millennium, when it was apparently recognized that pinot is in fact not cabernet, and that it needs to be farmed differently, in different areas, and treated with more deference in the winery. During the tasting, MacNeil shared the thoughts of one winemaker who makes both pinot noir and cabernet (a rarity). After spending some time away from the winery, he likened his cabernet to a Labrador retriever that jumps and slathers you in delight on your return, happy, undemanding, unchanged. Pinot noir, other the other hand, is more like the sullen, aloof cat, which eyes you suspiciously and rancorously as you walk in the door, as if to say: “where have you been?” before slinking off moodily into another corner. Compared to pinot noir, cabernet is a breeze to make, another reason why it has taken so long to master.

What Makes for Great California Pinot Noir?

As we taste, MacNeil, a consummate educator, asks us to consider some key points that distinguish great California pinot noir. She speaks of “corruptness”, a twist on a common theme discussed amongst pinot fanatics, where slight imperfections contribute to the appeal of a wine. “Pinot Noir needs a little corruptness, something dark, primordial”, she says. Indeed, beauty often resides in slight asymmetry; technical perfection has all the romance and excitement of differential calculus. MacNeil quickly points out that she’s not referring to outright flaws, just minor deviations.

Also critical to pinot greatness (and the greatness of any wine) is what Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton describes as ‘negative space’. As in visual arts, what isn’t there often helps to define what is, the visual equivalent of deafening silence, or the spaces that hang between the notes in a piece of music. To illustrate, MacNeil taps out a beat – a constant “rhythm” that great pinot should lay down as it washes across the palate, like a trusty metronome, with essential silence between the beats.

Texture is also critical, one of the pinot noir’s greatest assets. California’s pinots are most often softer and gentler – read less tannic – than red Burgundy, a feature, McNeil speculates, which arises from enlightened winemakers’ desires to get as far away as possible from cabernet. There is undoubtedly a suppleness and softness in California pinot that is rare to find elsewhere.

And one last hugely important point: understanding the difference between richness and concentration. These separate attributes are frequently confused, as MacNeil suggests. California wines are rarely short on concentration; that’s easy to achieve in a warm, sunny climate. Harvest your grapes after they start to shrivel into raisins and you’ll get plenty of concentration (and alcohol). But that’s not genuine flavor richness and certainly not complexity. MacNeil quotes famed wine importer Kermit Lynch: “turning up the music loud doesn’t make it any better.” Exaggerated concentration was a common flaw (and still is in some cases), but the best of the new generation have honest richness and depth and breadth of flavour, something that can’t be faked in the winery.

The road to pinot greatness requires of course vineyards in the right areas, a trial-and-error process that takes considerable time. But by now it has become clear where the most suitable pinot noir sites are found in California.

Three Top Regions to Consider

If I were forced to narrow down California’s 137 AVAs to just three essential regions for Pinot Noir, these would be the Sonoma Coast, the Sta. Rita Hills and the Anderson Valley. What all three have in common is their proximity to the Pacific and its heavy cooling effect felt in onshore vineyards. Fog, too, plays a mighty role in moderating climate and slowing ripening in all sites except those located above the fog line.

Sonoma Coast-3146

Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast is a large, sprawling AVA (the largest in Sonoma County), so to be more specific, I’m referring to what the locals call the “West Sonoma Coast” (or sometimes “far, true, real or extreme Sonoma Coast”), an unofficial distinction that carves out the coolest, westernmost 10% of the AVA. It runs roughly from Jenner, where the Russian River meets the Pacific, north to Annapolis, and from just a couple kilometers inland from the coast to no more than about 20 kilometers, except in the most southerly section where lower coastal hills allow cooling influence to seep a little further, to near Freestone, Occidental, Green Valley and Sebastopol. In short, it’s the coolest, rain and fog-soaked western margin of the county in the coastal hills, often within sight of the Pacific. And the distinction is taken seriously by those eager to distinguish themselves by the more sun-soaked vineyards of inland Sonoma Coast. There is in fact a West Sonoma Coast Vintners (WSCV) Association of some 40 vintners with vineyards in the West Sonoma Coast, or who source grapes from it. Most of the top names in Sonoma pinot make wines from this area.

A little further north in Mendocino County, the Anderson Valley is likewise a cool, heavily Pacific-moderated AVA, about 25 kilometers from end to end. The west end of the Anderson Valley, open directly to the ocean via the Navarro River valley (also known as “the deep end”) and reliably bathed in morning fog, is only a few kilometers from the Pacific. It’s classified as a Region I viticultural area, the coolest still viable for grape growing. Aside from pinot noir, Anderson Valley is also known for its chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer, and especially traditional method sparkling wine. Champagne house Roederer set up shop here.

Hirsch Vineyards-3171

Hirsch Vineyards

Although nearly 800 kilometers further south, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County is another hot, cool spot for fine pinot. In California, as in Chile, its proximity to the ocean that principally defines climate, not latitude, and here a similar Pacific-exposed geography plays out to create cool, coastal growing conditions. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA could also have been called a valley, indeed one of the most clearly delineated transversal valleys (east-west) on the western coast of the Americas, thanks to tectonic plate movements that spun the coastal hills 90º clockwise, from parallel to perpendicular to the coast (see this brief video of plate motion). The resulting open end to the Pacific draws in cold air and fog with occasional ferocious intensity, and vineyards, especially those at the western end near Lompoc are indeed at the marginal edge of viable viticulture.

If you’re just starting your California pinot road trip, these would be my first three stops.

A Tasting of Cool California Pinots

The following wines were selected by Karen MacNeil to illustrate the current state of California pinot. To avoid repetitiveness in describing production techniques, virtually all wines were made from 10-20 year old vines, including multiple clones of pinot noir, fermented with wild yeasts, punched down by hand in open top fermenters, and aged in barrel but with minimal new oak. You might call it a recipe for the best.

(Ontario Agents are listed where available.)

Foursight Wines 2012 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

A relatively new, small family-run operation. Pale garnet colour. Delicately aromatic, tending towards the oxidative, more floral, faded fruit, leafy end of the spectrum. The palate is mid-weight, very soft and gentle, low tannin, with some baby fat and balanced acids, neither fat nor racy. Good length on light caramel wood notes. A really lovely style, for fans of delicate pinot. 91

Failla Wines 2013 Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Winemaker Eric Jordan has never studied winemaking; his degree is in Art History “Artistic intuition is hard to teach.”) Fruit comes from David Hirsch’s vineyards on the far Sonoma Coast, the pinot pioneer in the region with some parcels planted in the 1970s. This is saturated red-garnet, with pronounced fruity-cherry aromatics, like spiced morello cherry, with little obvious wood. The palate is firm and succulent-juicy, with great tension and sappy red fruit flavor, and very good length on lifted alcohol vapors. Great length – there’s considerable underlying power here. This will develop nicely over the next 2-3 years, and gain in complexity. 92

Talley Vineyards 2013 Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley (The Vine Agency)

The Arroyo Grande AVA is about halfway between Mendocino and Los Angeles, historically a big fruit-growing area. Subdued aromatics, slightly dusty and medicinal, showing old wood and slight volatility. The palate is a little sharper, leaner, with less depth and richness of flavor. Simple and straightforward. 88

Sandford Winery 2013 La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills (Terlato International)

Richard Sandford is co-responsible for the first pinot noir plantings in Santa Barbara, the Sanford and Benedict vineyard planted in 1971. La Rinconada abuts the original site on a north-facing slope. This has quite a saturated red colour, pure, holding on to some ruby hints. The nose offers riper, darker fruit within the pinot spectrum, with a measure of dark spice though it’s not obviously woody. The palate is verging on full, firmly textured, with dusty, structure-giving tannins, marked acids, with impressive length on the finish. I find this appealingly salty, savoury in the most positive way. 93

Williams-Selyem 2013 Precious Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast (Tre Amici)

Fairly dark ruby colour, matched by a core of dark fruit, like spiced black cherry, with cola nut and dried twig-leafy notes, more brooding and introspective. Wood influence is more prominent here. The palate is surprisingly light and lithe, low in tannins, axed more on acids, with lingering, high-toned notes (pleasantly lifted VA), and tightly wound texture. An intriguing wine that hasn’t quite come together – give it another 2-3 years. 90

Laetitia Vineyard & Winey 2013 La Colline Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Vineyard

Made from a selection of ‘Martini clones’. Pure, limpid red with a light ruby rim. Rather simple but pleasant red-fruited pinot noir, lightly candied. The palate offers an impression of sweetness, with an intriguing herbal note that brings to mind mescal and also brings balance to otherwise very ripe fruit. Tannins are lightly grippy. This stays on the right side of balance. 89

Brewer-Clifton 2014 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills (Barrel Select)

From vineyards practically on sand dunes by the coast. Pure ruby-garnet red. Some stem inclusion (whole bunch) is evident from the marvelous aromatics, mixing fresh red and slightly darker fruit character with a measure of fresh earth, twiggy-leafy spice and more, including a touch of funk. The palate is rich and sappy, with fine flavor density and notable salinity, and great length – this has genuine concentration and a broad range of flavours. Fleshy, satisfying and dense, without excesses. Love the seaside saltiness. 94

McIntyre Vineyards 2013 Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands

The warmest AVA on the table and it shows in this simple, medicinal cherry fruit-flavoured example, more power than finesse. The palate offers an impression of sweetness, with sweet oak notes. More of a plundering wine that rolls across the palate, focused on concentration rather than elegance. 89

Wrath Vineyards 2013 Boekenoogen Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highland

Another warm(er) climate example, resulting in a broad, very ripe, dark fruit and spice-flavoured pinot, more languid on the palate, even fat, with a vague sweet impression. Sweet baking spice lingers. 89

Kosta Browne 2013 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast (Halpern)

Closed aromatically, revealing only oak-spiced, mostly red but very ripe fruit, and vanilla extract. The palate is thick and full, structured, more palate grabbing, but also slightly sweet and generous with alcohol. This is certainly less edgy and bright than typical far Sonoma Coast pinot, pushed into a more powerful style. A bit of a bruiser. 90

Radio-Coteau 2013 Savoy Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley (Cru Wine Merchants)

There’s some funk leading off on the nose, though the palate is lovely, lean and vigorous, energetic, focused on fresh red fruit, cran-cherry, neither shrill nor over-wrought. Acids are firm and driving, bolstering light but dusty, structure-giving tannins. Great length. Really like this. Perhaps not the most complex, but alive and tension-filled. 93

Au Bon Climate 2012 Knox Alexander Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley

California pinot pioneer, and mentor to so many winemakers on the south-central coast, Jim Clendenen delivers the most old school style wine on the table. This 2012 Knox Alexander, named for his two children, is open and oxidative, earthy, old wood-driven, driven by acids, twiggy, with light but dusty-grippy tannins. A lovely, savoury style, infinitely drinkable, lighter but with serious flavor intensity. 92

Paul Hobbs 2013 Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir, Napa Valley (Authentic Wines & Spirits)

The darkest pinot on the table, with dramatic oak, fruit and intensity to match, a ‘back end’ wine that hits you on the finish. This is a big, ripe, intense, palate-gripping example with notable oak, and marked but ripe, supple tannins, abundant but not obtrusive. Better in 2-3 years in any case. For fans of power over finesse. 90

And just in case pinot is not your thing, here are 18 other recommended California wines from the fair: John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: California Wine Fair Highlights

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

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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John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: California Wine Fair Highlights

By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

These picks were whittled down from over 60 samples of currently available or incoming wines. The Ontario agents are listed for each wine; prices subject to change. Follow the wine links for complete reviews and to see if these wines are available near you. I’ve posted a separate feature article on the State of California pinot and reviews of some of the state’s top bottlings. Although the specific wines reviewed are as widely available as white unicorns, all of the producers on the list and their other cuvees are worth tracking down.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($33.95, Airen Imports) – A toasty, yeasty, pleasantly doughy release for this California sparkling stalwart, with pleasant appley fruit and mid-weight, fresh, lively, dry palate. Solid length.

Wente Vineyards 2014 Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley ($17.95, Churchill Cellars) – A pleasantly open and aromatic, sweet wood tinged, floral and soft chardonnay with wide appeal. Everything is nicely in place. Drink now.

Grgich Hills Cellar 2012 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($67.95, Rogers & Co.) – A tight and sharp Napa chardonnay in the house style, particularly well chiseled in this warm vintage, still hanging on to tight, reductive, flinty, grapefruit aromatics. There’s terrific tension and genuine length, not to mention complexity, even if this is still 2-3 years away from prime enjoyment. Wood, stones and fruit are seamlessly integrated. Terrific, savoury, highly sapid wine. Tasted in June 2015 and April 2016.

Flowers 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($64.95, Rogers & Co.) – Made from a blend of mostly purchased fruit, predominantly from the far west of Sonoma County (Sonoma Coast) and some declassified estate lots, recently bottled. The 2014 vintage fell during the heart of the drought in northern California, the third consecutive low rain year. Vines started their cycle early, resulting in a long growing season and harvest beginning in early September. “Quality was exceptional,” says winemaker Dave Keatly, yielding an “opulent chardonnay, but with great acids”. 20% new wood is used, though a portion is also aged in stainless. I find this fragrant and very attractive, featuring ripe lemon and lemon blossom aromas/flavours. Wood is not a major factor, though beneath the ripe fruit lies a gentle range of baking spice. There’s plenty of mid-palate richness, and length is very good to excellent. A fine follow-up to the (also excellent) 2013, best after 2017. Tasted January 2016 and April 2016.

Esser Wines 2014 Chardonnay, Monterey County ($19.95, Noble Estates) – A significantly improved wine over the previous vintage, Esser has shifted from vaguely sweet and overripe, to a pleasantly tight, smoky-flinty, fresh and pure expression of chardonnay, of modest depth and length, but pure, easy-drinking and refreshing. A genuine cool climate style, rendered well.

Etude 2012 Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch, Carneros ($49.00 at the SAQ, Treasury Wine Estates) – From Etude’s ranch in the rolling hills of Carneros, this 2012 pinot is a generous and dark fruit-flavoured wine, on the more plush and generous side of the grape’s range of expression, offering both richness and concentration in a full, satisfying style all around. Wood is still noted in the sweet dark spice notes, so I’d give this another 2-3 years to resolve and mellow. Bold and generous all in all.

Schug Carneros Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($45.00, Lifford) – A lighter, leaner, more pale and savoury expression of pinot noir, in the typical house style of Schug, succulent and saliva-inducing. I appreciate the restraint and the firm acid profile of this wine, anchored on light, dusty (stem?) tannins and no small measure of saltiness. Very good to excellent length.

Marimar Estate 2013 Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($36.75, Family Wine Merchants) – A pinot that hails from the warmer, further inland part of the Sonoma Coast AVA, and it shows in this generous but balanced example from the reliable house of Marimar Torres. This is nicely pitched and firm, juicy and ripe without excess, with excellent length. I like the savoury side of this wine, the gentle salinity, and the lengthy finish. Lovely stuff.

Daou Vineyards 2013 Mayote, Adelaida District, Paso Robles ($174.95, The Vine Agency) – 45% Syrah, 43% cabernet sauvignon, 12% petit verdot. A Paso wine of uncommon depth and complexity from steep slopes at 2,200 feet elevation, offering a wide range of savoury herbal notes, ripe but not raisined fruit, especially considering the almost unnoticed 15.2% alcohol. The density, richness and concentration is particularly obvious – a wine of evident ambition, structure, power and complexity, like most California ‘Mountain’ wines. Tuck this in the cellar for 3-5 years minimum – this is not an easy-drinking, fruity California wine.

Duckhorn 2012 Three Palms Merlot, Napa Valley ($99, Rogers & Co.) – The iconic Three Palms Merlot finds an elegant balance of richness and concentration here in 2012, with fine grained tannins, balanced alcohol and acids, and genuine long-lasting finish. This is clearly a wine of class, pedigree and elegance, with a great future ahead even if it’s delicious now. One of the state’s top merlots to be sure.

Long Meadow Ranch 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($85.00, Profile Wine Group) – Here’s a fine, firm, gritty and honest Napa cabernet, with succulent acids and tight but still fruity and fleshy texture. I like the savoury depth and the dark, swarthy character – a wine with great personality and depth. Drink now, but better in 3-5 years to be sure.

Raymond Family Classic (Boisset) 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast ($19.95, Charton-Hobbs) – This is a nicely forward, ripe dark fruit flavoured cabernet from areas north of San Francisco, bold, fruity, plush and easy-drinking yet with a bit of grip and substance. A solid value in the California constellation, without being overtly commercial, and ready to drink.

Stags’ Leap Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($49.95, Treasury Wine Estates) – Firm, tight and gritty, this wine is not for the fans of plush and cuddly cabernet, but it has all of the savoriness and the tight, dusty texture that makes this grape so well suited to salted protein dishes, not to say T-Bone on the grill. Very good length. A very solid vintage for Stags’ Leap.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2013 Stag’s Leap Vineyard (SLV) Cabernet Sauvignon, 40th Anniversary Vintage, Napa Valley ($125, Profile Wine Group) – The iconic SLV vineyard delivers a gritty, firm, densely packed and savoury, succulent 2013 cabernet, with ample flesh and dark fruit on the palate, a broad range of cacao-infected wood spice and long, saliva-inducing finish. This is a commanding, ripe but balanced, nicely anchored wine, one of the best from SLV in recent memory.

Kenwood Vineyards 2012 Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County ($39.95, Corby) – This is a very fine vintage for the Jack London Cabernet, balanced, savoury- succulent, with that extra dimension, depth and length of the very best wine. Wood has been well managed and the concentration and complexity are genuine. Top stuff.

Archimedes (Francis Ford Coppola) 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County ($77.95, Noble Estates) – A dense and rich, concentrated, gritty and firm cabernet, one of the most juicy and savoury in the Coppola range. I like the tight-knit tannins, the succulent acids, and the very good to excellent length. Nice stuff.

Silver Oak Cellars 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($125.95, Halpern) – I have to say that the 2011 Silver Oak Alexander Valley stood out from a long range of California cabernets tasted alongside. It has such genuine acids, balance, and succulent, savoury character. Yes of course the new American oak stands out in the profile even at this developing stage (100% American oak, and new), but there’s no doubt it will integrate as time wears on, and wears down its blunt force. There’s no contesting the length and richness of flavor – obtained without recourse to raisined/overripe fruit, just low yielding, carefully cultivated grapes. I love the lingering, salty finish. Best after 2021. Tasted April 2016.

Heitz Wine Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley ($192.00, Lifford) – Dense, ripe, ultra dark-fruit scented and tinged with eucalyptus in the classic Martha’s Vineyard style, the 2005 has already shed a great deal of its tannic cloak, evident in the copious sediment observed in the glass. Flavours have shifted into the sotolone category, which is to say, maple syrup and sweet caramel, like great old fortified wine burnished by time. Excellent length and depth – a wine of obvious history, pedigree and complexity. Ready to drink, or wait another decade if you wish.

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

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John Szabo MS

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008