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Bill’s Best Bets – August 2015

The charm of old Rioja

by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Every country has its emblematic regions, names which are as much synonymous with “wine” as they are with the country to which they belong. France has a few – Chablis, Bordeaux and Champagne are good examples. Italy has Chianti. And Spain? It’s Rioja.

When I hear “Rioja,” red wines  “exploding” with fruit is not the first thing I think about. The fruit is there, but it’s secondary. I most often associate notes of tobacco, espresso, truffle and leather. Spices like vanilla, sandalwood and dried coriander. The reason is both the grapes and how the wines are aged.

There are a number of red grape varieties grown in the region: graciano, garnacha (grenache) and mazuelo (carignan) being the “supporting” grapes. But the workhorse in Rioja is tempranillo and represents more than 75% of all red grape vines in the region.

Tempranillo is not a “powerhouse” grape. It’s lightly coloured and generally is relatively low in alcohol and acidity. And this is where the other grapes come into play: garnacha brings alcohol, graciano the aromatics and acidity, and mazeulo the extra torque (tannin).

The end result are wines that are built to age – so much so that it is rare to find a quality Rioja which is under two years old. And more often than not, they will have been aged much more than that before being commercialized.

There do exist “young” wines, which are labelled as just “Rioja.” These are wines that spend under one year in oak barrels. After that, you will find “Crianza,” which is aged for two years, with at least one year in barrel. These wines show much more fruit and vibrant tannins, great for meat dishes. Try the Montecillo as the 2010’s are still on the shelves. If you are looking for a more modern version with the accent on the fruit, then Palacio’s Montesa is a very clean version of the genre, and perfect for a steak on the grill. And if you would like something off the beaten path, one of my favourite wines from the region comes from Ijalba who make a Rioja entirely with graciano.

Montecillo Crianza 2010Palacios Remondo La Montesa 2011Ijalba Graciano 2012

Reserva wines are aged a minimum of three years, with at least one year in oak. But like the Crianzas, there is no shortage of much older bottles available at the SAQ, If you are a fan of very oak driven wines, perfect for smoked baby back ribs, try the 2010 Baron de Ley. If you are looking for a wine with the balance tilting towards the fruit, then try the  2009 Monte Real. At 6 years of age, it is still brilliantly fresh.

Barrels aging wines very slowly at Lopez de Heredia

Barrels aging wines very slowly at Lopez de Heredia

While it is over $40, if you want a treat, then try the 2002 Tondonia from Lopez de Heredia. This is absolutely unique and if you want to taste the fruit of Rioja, without much barrel interference, then splurge on this wine. Pork with Bourbon BBQ Sauce and a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette works wonders with it.

Baron De Ley Reserva 2010Monte Real Reserva 2009Vina Tondonia Red Reserva 2002

And finally, there are the Gran Reserva wines, which must spend at least two years in barrel and three in bottle before being put on the market. Here is where the wines approach more of a pinot noir in style. Try the 2001 Faustino for a great example. But if you want a wine that will last for decades, yet still drinks well now, try the 2005 Castillo Ygay. Simply put, fantastic.

Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001Marqués De Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial 2005

And can they age even more? When I visited Faustino, I tasted as far back a 1964. Both that wine and the 1970 were still remarkably fresh. At Castillo Ygay, a 1980 Gran Reserva in magnum was just a young adult in terms of its maturity.

Ygay's 2005 Grand Reserva is mind blowingly good

Ygay’s 2005 Grand Reserva is mind blowingly good

It is this effect of barrel aging which ultimately gives Rioja its unique sense of antiquity. Where they differ from Bordeaux, for example, is that many use primarily American oak barrels. Because American oak is more porous than French oak, the wine can leach out more barrel flavours such as vanilla. And, they allow a touch more oxygen to enter the wine which will soften tannins and give a more velvety texture, as well as many of the earthy notes I described earlier.

So while most regions pump out young wines, Rioja still ages their wines for you. What is remarkable, are the prices. Few of the world’s great wine regions offer this quality and complexity for so little.

Have a great end of Summer.

Bill

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

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


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Les choix de Nadia – Août 2015

Un mal pour un bien
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Devise des éternels optimistes, formule préférée de certains chroniqueurs sportifs, l’expression « un mal pour un bien »  s’applique aussi à la chose vineuse. Le concept de « mauvais millésime », par exemple. Jadis utile pour se prémunir de quelque bouteille exécrable, cette notion s’avère de moins en moins pertinente avec les écarts qui se resserrent entre les années. Et si, au fond, un mauvais millésime n’était pas forcément synonyme de mauvais vin…

Chaque année, dans les régions tempérées plus particulièrement, la vigne est soumise aux aléas de la météo. Depuis le printemps jusqu’à la récolte, à l’automne, une foule d’intempéries peuvent survenir et compromettre la qualité du vin qui aboutira dans votre verre. Selon les années, on appréhendera de la verdeur et une certaine dilution ou, à l’inverse, des saveurs excessivement mûres et de la lourdeur. Les premiers étant nettement plus souvent décriés par la critique que les seconds.

La verdeur, j’en conviens, est rarement attrayante. (Bien que je m’étonne de l’apprécier de plus en plus dans certains cabernets, mais nous y reviendrons une prochaine fois.) Par contre, une légère dilution peut s’avérer être une véritable bénédiction pour certains vins. Prenons l’exemple des millésimes 2009, 2010 et 2011 à Napa, en Californie. Trois tristes années pour les palais en quête de puissance et de sucrosité, mais ô combien agréables pour les amateurs de vins frais et digestes, dont je suis.

L’exemple californien m’est revenu en mémoire la semaine, alors que je dégustais une série de Douro du millésime 2013, que plusieurs observateurs ont décrit comme une année « atypique ». En gros, beaucoup de pluie jusqu’en mars – ce qui a permis de renflouer les réserves en eau, amoindries par deux années de sécheresse –, une floraison tardive, un temps sec et très chaud en juillet et en août et des épisodes de pluie au moment des vendanges.

Et dans le verre ?

Du plaisir! Des vins souvent moins concentrés, qui atteindront certainement leur apogée avant les 2011 (excellente année), mais qui, pour le moment, font preuve d’une grande buvabilité. Une vertu d’autant plus appréciable que, depuis quelques années, plusieurs producteurs du Douro adoptent une approche très moderniste qui donne à leurs vins des allures de… cabernets de Napa.

Tous vendus sous la barre des 20 $, voici quelques très bons vins du Douro qui feront votre bonheur quotidien.

Alves De Sousa Caldas 2013Barco Negro 2013Vale Do Bomfim 2013DOW, Vale do Bomfim 2013, Douro : produit par la famille Symington (Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Vesuvio, Altano, etc.) un bon vin rouge de table, plus leste et coulant que le 2012 dégusté plus tôt cette année. (15,95 $)

BARCO NEGRO, Douro 2013 : particulièrement délicieux cette année, le vin de François Lurton est tout en fruit, juteux, un peu nerveux et suffisamment charnu. Belle surprise!

ALVES DE SOUSA, Caldas 2013, Douro : un vin substantiel comme on en trouve peu à moins de 15 $. Même en 2013, on a réussi à obtenir une certaine concentration, tout en préservant le caractère digeste d’un bon vin de table. (14,90 $)
Niepoort Dialogo 2013Dourosa 2013Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas 2013
NIEPOORT, Dialogo 2013, Douro
 : les vins de Dirk Niepoort se distinguent des autres vins du Douro par leur caractère digeste, qui les rend si agréables à table. C’est particulièrement vrai en 2013 et pour cette cuvée dont l’étiquette est décorée d’une bande dessinée amusante, qui invite au dialogue. (16,20 $)

QUINTA DE LA ROSA, Dourosa 2013, Douro : l’intensité de ce vin donne presque l’impression que le vignoble de la famille Bergqvist n’a pas été touché par la pluie en 2013. 14 % d’alcool, du fruit et une concentration digne de mention. (18,25 $)

RAMOS PINTO, Duas Quintas 2013, Douro : je crois n’avoir jamais été déçue par les vins de ce domaine appartenant à la maison champenoise Roederer. 2013 n’y fait pas exception. Très complet pour le prix. (18,35 $)
Cistus Reserva 2009Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande 2011Quinta Da Romaneira Tinto 2010Caldas Reserva Red 2011
ALVES DE SOUSA, Caldas Reserva 2011, Douro
 :
Un peu plus ouvert que lorsque goûté l’an dernier à pareille date, ce vin composé exclusivement de touriga nacional s’impose d’emblée par l’intensité de ses parfums de fleurs, de fruits confits et de réglisse. (21,85 $)

QUINTA DA ROMANEIRA, Sino da Romaneira 2010, Douro : ce 2010 affiche encore le caractère nerveux d’un vin jeune. Rien de tonitruant, mais toute la fraîcheur voulue. 12,5 % d’alcool, des saveurs fruitées pures et une vitalité qui donne soif. Impeccable pour le prix! (20 $)

CASA FERREIRINHA, Vinha Grande 2011, Douro : pour le meilleur ou pour le pire, le Douro se modernise, mais cette illustre maison, propriété du groupe portugais Sogrape, demeure fidèle au style classique qui a fait sa renommée. Toujours le même bon vin suave et généreux, gorgé de fruits, mais très digeste et adapté aux plaisirs de la table. (19,25 $)

QUINTA DO VALE DA PERDIZ, Cistus Reserva 2009, Douro
Déjà commenté l’année dernière, ce 2009 est maintenant ouvert et prêt à boire. Une autre preuve que le Portugal est une source quasi intarissable pour les amateurs à la recherche d’aubaines. À boire au cours des deux prochaines années. (19 $)

Santé!

Nadia Fournier

~

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


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Season 5, Table 13 – Semi-Final #2 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

Fontanafredda Barolo 2010 (aka A Knife Fight at a Spanish Prison)

After weeks of battling for position and points, only six contestants have advanced to the Semi Finals of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Last time, at the first semi-final (Table 12), we saw Will Predhomme and Sara d’Amato tie and advance to the finals, while Bill Zacharkiw went down in flames. This week, John Szabo, David Lawrason and Jennifer Huether battle it out for the last coveted seat in the finals.  Table 13 is an extremely close match with all three “experts” demonstrating why they made it to the semi finals.  Watch to see who will move on to the final.

with play button

Watch Table 13 or read on to learn more about the contestants and the scoring method.

Score Card:

Advancing to the Semi Finals are:

Group 1 : Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw and Will Predhomme  (Table 12)

Group 2: John Szabo, Jennifer Huether and David Lawrason  (Table 13)

Click on the score card below to see how the semi finalist were selected.

RankingsUpTo_5-13

Table 13

Jennifer Huether, MS

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

Jennifer

John Szabo, MS

John is Canada’s first Master Sommelier. He’s a partner and principal critic for WineAlign and authors the bi-monthly Vintages Buyer’s Guide. John is wine editor for Toronto’s CityBites Magazine and is author of Pairing Food and Wine For Dummies. John also designs wine programs, teaches, speaks, judges and travels around the world, and to round out his experience and get closer to the land, he also owns a small vineyard in Eger, Hungary, the J&J Eger Wine Co. These days you’ll find him climbing volcanoes.

John 1

David Lawrason

David is a principal critic and VP of Wine for WineAlign. He is also co-head judge for the National Wine Awards of Canada and the World Wine Awards of Canada. He is wine columnist for Toronto Life and Ottawa magazine, a WSET instructor with Fine Vintage Ltd, and National Wine Advisor to Gold Medal Plates, a chef competition held in ten cities that raises funds for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. He also reviews Ontario wines for www.WineryToHome.com.

david

 

The Scoring

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

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

Let the games begin! Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch Table 13.

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, you can watch all previous season under the Videos tab.

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

Table 1 – Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Table 2 – Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Table 3 – Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Table 4 – The Grinder Pinotage 2013
Table 5 – Faustino VII Tempranillo 2012
Table 6 – Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012
Table 7 – Laroche Chablis St. Martin 2012
Table 8 – Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2010
Table 9 – Root: 1 Carmenère 2012
Table 10 – Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2012
Table 11 – Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012
Table 12 – [Semi Final #1] Sterling Chardonnay 2012

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

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


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BC Wine Report : Midsummer Update

By DJ Kearney

2015 in BC is an Early and Potentially Fine Vintage, if… and it’s a BIG if

Editors note: There have been a number of conflicting news stories published recently in BC about the 2015 vintage and its potential. DJ Kearney was on the ground in the heart of BC wine country last week, investigating firsthand. This is her report on what 2015 looks like, mid-summer. ~ TR.

I toured quickly through the Okanagan and Similkameen in the first week of August, and things are looking potentially mighty fine. Even if you live on the coast in Vancouver, you are likely aware that it’s been an unusually dry and warm season here in BC, starting well back in the spring with the second warmest February and the driest May on record. The sunshine and heat got grapes off to an early start, and the fine conditions guaranteed an even budbreak and complete fertilization.

Okanagan Falls

Okanagan Falls

 

And then June and July hit like a sledge hammer of dry heat. The last weekend in June saw over 30 high temperature records broken in BC – some of which had stood since the 1890’s. On Saturday, June 27th the mercury reached 40.3 °C in Osoyoos, 36.4 °C in Penticton, 36.1°C in Summerland, and in the emerging region of Creston, it reached 38.1 °C, a full 5 degrees hotter than its 1956 record high. BC received this incredible weather largess while Ontario was experiencing autumn-like temperatures.

Early veraison this summer in BC

Early veraison this summer in BC

In BC, veraison is well under way, even on Vancouver Island where Bailey Williamson of Blue Grouse Winery noted that for once, the pace of ripening is keeping up with the interior. On the Naramata Bench, Oleg Aristarkhov at Moraine showed me early-ripening Dunkelfelder grapes that are already netted (birds know when grapes are ripe for the pickin’), while the malbec, viognier and pinot noir are looking fine. Word up and down the valley is that harvest will be at least two weeks ahead of usual expectations. There have been water restrictions across the province, but nothing that has affected vines so far. In scorching Kamloops, Monte Creek’s winemaker Galen Barnhardt has stated that they practice deficit irrigation anyway on their vineyards, so the torrid heat and aridity is not adding undue water stress.

So what’s the potential problem then? Too much of a good thing. The extreme heat of June and July caused vines to hunker down and marshal their resources, literally ceasing to ripen until the temperatures settled closer to 30 rather than 40°C. On the upside, aridity has lowered the fungal disease pressure and the swarms of wasps and fruit flies that plagued 2013 are not evident. But viticulturists are definitely challenged monitoring irrigation levels and managing canopies.

Canopy management is critical in 2015

Canopy management is critical in 2015

Dave Patterson at Kelowna’s Tantalus Vineyards toured me around and pointed out careful partial leaf-thinning, just enough to let in dappled light, ventilation, and protect riesling, pinot noir and chardonnay from sunburn. Shoulder thinning and bunch thinning will happen in a bit, and he’s happy so far with sugars numbers (Brix) and flavour development.

Over in the Similkameen, John Weber at Orofino told me that the grapes are colouring up nicely and the muscat already tastes sweet. He’s cautious to make any grand claims about a great vintage: “Sugars are already bolting ahead of phenolic ripeness. We have already seen sunburn on our pinot noir and I would be very happy to see a steady 20°C for the next two months to slow it down. This year could be a struggle keeping the alcohol levels down. I hate having to pick due to high sugars.” The Similkameen Valley’s trump card is the non-stop wind that freshens each day, and keeps disease pressure low.

A quick and compressed harvest as vintners race to keep ahead of sugar levels could be a reality. August 5th and 6th saw a little sporadic rain and welcome cloud cover and two days of cool temperature, but more is needed. The fires? No concern about smoke taint, or lack of sun penetration so far, but there is still lots of summer left. Everyone I spoke to agreed with Dave Patterson’s cautious caveat: it could be an excellent vintage, but we need a few weeks of cooler temperatures – especially at nighttime. It is far too early to tell now.

Orofino Vineyards

Orofino Vineyards

I did have a chance to taste a few barrel/tank samples from the good-looking 2014 vintage:

Tantalus Chardonnay 2014:  still cloudy; streamlined apple/pear fruit with sharply chiseled acidity and obvious oak that will start to melt into the wine until release.

Tantalus Juveniles Pinot Noir 2014 – the 4th vintage of the Juveniles bottling, these are the newest Dijon clone plantings; gorgeously fragrant with violets and raspberry scents; compact ripe cherry fruit with dazzling acidity and a delicate suggestion of oak.

Moraine Pinot Noir 2014: I predict a stunner when this is a finished wine. Ridiculously perfumed nose – the kind of floral/earthy smell that seems sucked straight out of the earth. Smooth palate of ripe red berries and fruit-coated polished tannins; already dripping with finesse and elegance.

Moraine Malbec 2014: impossibly perfumed with potent dark berried fruit, plush, plush palate and juicy acidity.

Moraine Syrah 2014: showing more cracked pepper than the 2013, with explosive floral fragrance orange oil note, rich plummy fruit, and fresh, crunchy acidity.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly BC Wine Industry Report, WineAlign West publishes the popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide highlighting widely available wines at VQA & BCLS stores, as well as our Critics’ Picks report, focusing on wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

 


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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – August 2015

Let the Cocktail Fit the CountryAugust 10, 2015

by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine 

During the Pan Am Games in Toronto, the InterContinental’s Azure Lounge matched drinks with sports and their countries. This was the ultimate “let the cocktail fit the country” exercise and reminded me that there are some places in the world where their cocktails are as iconic as their top tourist sites.

Azure’s “Beach Volleyball” cocktail took the fact that Brazil is a power house in beach volleyball and matched it with the country’s most famous spirit, cachaça to make their version of a Caipirinha, the country’s favourite cocktail. Azure’s recipe calls for two ounces of cachaça, one lime quartered and a teaspoon of white sugar. You muddle the lime and white sugar in a shaker, add ice and cachaça, shake and pour into rocks glass (no straining) for the ultimate refreshing hot weather cocktail. (Up the sugar or lower the lime if you want a less tart beverage.)

The Caipirinha came to be in the 1800s, first made by Brazilian slaves. They drank boiled cane sugar juice called garapa and mixed it with cachaça made from sugar cane. For flavour they added spice and fruit juice. One of these mixes, the batida de limao, which is made with lime, is the base of today’s Caipirinha.

In Rio de Janeiro’s trendy Santa Teresa district, the restaurant Aprazível has its own cachaça sommelier, and a cachaça list with over 100 brands, organized under the states that produce them. Cachaça is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice: the best come from artisanal pot still production in regions such as Salinas in Minas Gerais state, Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state and Monte Alegre do Sul in São Paulo state and can be aged in wood barrels for many years.

Pitú Cachaça founded in 1938 claims to be one of the oldest and most traditional spirit companies in Brazil. If you want to make copious Caipirinhas without breaking the bank this is the brand for you. Leblon Cachaça rests up to six months in vintage XO cognac casks to lend it a sophistication and ultra-smooth character.

The Pisco Sour is long claimed by both the Peruvians and the Chileans as their national drink. Pisco is basically a white brandy (unaged) made from certain varieties of distilled grapes. In Peru they add egg white to the basic mix of Pisco, lime juice and sugar syrup and top that with a dash of angostura bitters. Beyond the slight difference in drink recipes (in Chile no egg white or angostura) is the battle over who owns the rights to Pisco.

Pisco is Peru according to the Peruvian government. The country has a town of Pisco that overlooks the Pisco River at the foot of the Pisco Valley. The town dates back to 1574. Melanie Asher, founder and CEO of Macchupisco, a leading Peruvian producer and exporter, rightly says Pisco is a deeply ingrained part of the culture of the country.

Chile however produces much more of the grape liquor and both countries have strict regulations governing its production. That said under the Chilean system, water may be added to dilute the alcohol content before sale while in Peru this is not allowed.

Pitu Cachaca Leblon Cachaca Macchu Pisco El Gobernador Pisco Capel Premium Pisco

Pisco has been produced in the Pisco region of southern Peru since 1613 while the first documented evidence of Pisco production in Chile dates no further than 1871. However to complicate things, in 1693 Peru and Chile were not separate countries, rather part of the same territory within the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru, and Chile also has a town named Pisco.

Suffice to say both countries have strong claims to Pisco and don’t wish to give an inch to the other. And indeed they both insist they invented the Pisco Sour. The Peruvians say it was conceived in the 1920s at the Morris Bar near Lima’s main plaza. The Chileans say it was invented at a bar in the town of Iquique. Whatever the truth – Pisco sours are delicious and a must order in either country.

Macchu Pisco from Chincha, Valle de Ina, Peru is a single grape Pisco (quebranta) that’s very aromatic and flavour packed. El Gobernador Pisco from Valle di Limari in Chile is produced in a single discontinuous distillation in copper alembic stills to conserve the scents of the muscatel variety. Capel Pisco from a cooperative in the Elqui Valley in Chile is delicate and fragrant.

The Caribbean is the home of rum and to protect its provenance, The Authentic Caribbean Rum (ACR) marque was recently developed by the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association. Most islands have both their indigenous rums and their special drinks. On Bermuda it’s the “dark ’n stormy” Goslings Rum hovering above ginger beer. On Cuba the Daiquiri, a simple mix of rum, sugar syrup and lime juice was made famous by Ernest Hemingway at the El Floridita Bar in Havana which he frequented.

St. Lucia Distillers Chairman's Reserve Rum Skipper Rum Finest Old Demerara Navy Dark Rum New Grove Old Tradition 5 Year Old Rum El Dorado 3 Year Old RumChic Choc Spiced Rum

Try these rums in your cocktails for spirited results: St. Lucia Distillers Chairman’s Reserve is a hand crafted blend of double distilled pot and continuous rums. Skipper Rum is a finest old demerara, produced and aged in Guyana and New Grove Old Tradition is a five year aged Mauritius Island rum.

For a light rum effect try El Dorado 3 Year Old White Rum, that’s smooth on the palate with a dry finish. Want spice and flavour – go for Chic Choc spiced rum from Quebec which launched this year. A true taste of Nova Scotia can be had with Fortress rum matured in Louisbourg, a national historic site in the province – right now available in Nova Scotia and trying to expand its horizons in Canada.

Luigi Francoli Grappa Del Piemonte Nebbiolo Nonino GrappaGrappa is synonymous with Italy though not known for its appearance in cocktails. Nonino, one of the best producers is trying to change that with the Nonino Tonic and other recipes, some found on the neck of the Grappa Nonino bottles on the shelves now. Luigi Francoli Grappa Nebbiolo, is value priced from a family that has been distilling since 1875.

Liqueurs are both a vital part of many cocktails and part of the identity of countries known for their love of food and beverage. In Italy quintessential Italian flavours show up in liquors such as Sambuca (anise), Amaretto (almond), Maraschino (bitter-sweet cherry/almond) and Frangelico (hazelnut).

Luxardo Sambuca dei Cesar is intensely anise and licorice like with a creamy vanilla palate. Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira has terrific marzipan/almond flavours that linger. The Luxardo Maraschino liqueur is an essential part of the cocktail The Last Word, the Aviation, Brandy Crusta and many other classics. Frangelico made from locally grown hazelnuts in Piedmont, blended with coffee, cocoa and vanilla speaks distinctively of the local tastes.

So remember, when in Rome – you know the cliché.

Margaret Swaine

 

Luxardo Sambuca Dei Cesari Luxardo Amaretto Di Saschira Luxardo Maraschino Originale Liqueur Frangelico

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on: Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits

Editors Note: You can find Margaret’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great spirits!


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Vins canadiens : goûter à l’aveugle pour mieux voir

par Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Avec plus de 1400 vins soumis par plus de 200 domaines provenant d’un océan à l’autre, les juges ne manquaient pas de boulot, fin juin, alors qu’ils étaient réunis à Niagara Falls pour le 15e Concours des meilleurs vins canadiens (les National Wine Awards of Canada). L’effort en vaut vraiment la peine : pour moi comme pour l’ensemble des juges, ce rendez-vous annuel est une occasion exceptionnelle de prendre le pouls d’une industrie qui commence à atteindre une véritable maturité et qui offre des vins de classe mondiale.

La dégustation des vins se fait à l’aveugle, ce qui permet, au final, de voir plus clair dans tout ça. À goûter sans savoir si tel pinot vient de l’Ontario ou de la Colombie-Britannique, de tel grand domaine ou de tel petit vignoble, on évalue de façon plus objective ce qui se fonctionne et ce qui est moins réussi, d’une catégorie à l’autre. À la fin du concours, les juges reçoivent un cartable où ils peuvent finalement savoir l’identité des vins qu’ils ont goûté personnellement : c’est toujours un mélange de satisfaction, de surprise et… de leçon d’humilité. Les coups de cœur ne viennent pas toujours d’où on les attend.

Pour tous les goûts

La diversité des styles mis en valeur par le jury est impressionnante. Parmi les lauréats, le style mesuré, précis et poli du domaine de l’année, Mission Hill, avec le plus grand nombre de vins lauréats, côtoie les chardonnays naturels de chez Norman Hardie, qui ont raflé deux médailles platine et qui lui ont valu une place au top 10 des petits domaines les plus primés. Au palmarès, des vins plus modernes côtoient des cuvées d’approche peu interventionniste, des vins chaleureux, mûrs et amples sont primés au même titre que des vins mettant en valeur la minéralité, l’acidité et la vivacité.

Les syrahs, rieslings, chardonnays, cabernets francs et pinots noirs continuent de très bien faire, mais voici que deux gamays et des assemblages rhodaniens, tant en blanc qu’en rouge, se retrouvent aussi primés en platine, une catégorie réservée au 1% des vins qui ont reçu les meilleures notes, après deux rondes de dégustation, parfois trois. Du côté des médailles d’or, on trouve aussi du zweigelt, de l’albariño, du viognier, du pinot gris et même du merlot (bien que ce cépage donne des résultats assez décevants, de façon globale, à l’échelle canadienne). Si des gens vous disent qu’ils ont du mal à trouver des vins canadiens à leur goût, c’est probablement parce qu’ils n’ont pas cherché bien loin.

(Pour voir l’ensemble des résultats, par type de médaille et par catégorie, avec la liste des domaines les plus primés, ainsi qu’une série d’articles sur divers aspects du concours, cliquez ici.)

 Quelques coups de cœur

Parmi mon palmarès personnel, mes deux plus hautes notes ont été au Cabernet franc Coyote’s Bowl de la maison Church and State, très belle expression du cépage, toutes régions géographiques confondues, comme par le Riesling Triangle Vineyard de Thirty Bench, complexe, tendu, énergique à souhait et bon pour des années et des années en cave. Un de mes vins canadiens préférés, d’année en année, à l’aveugle ou pas.

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Cabernet Franc 2013Thirty Bench Riesling Small Lot Triangle Vineyard 2013Wild Goose Gewurztraminer 2014Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut
Juste derrière, parmi mes notes les plus hautes, on trouve aussi bien un gewurztraminer hyper expressif mais sans aucune lourdeur, celui de l’excellente maison Wild Goose que des bulles très classiques de chez Blue Mountain, ou encore que le gamay de chez Malivoire, qu’on pourrait mettre côte-à-côte avec un chiroubles ou un fleurie, sans aucune hésitation, à mon avis.

Malivoire Gamay 201413th Street Gamay Noir 2013Château des Charmes Gamay Noir "Droit" 2012
Parlant de gamay, ceux de chez 13th Street et du Château des Charmes ont également fait le bonheur des jurés, montrant que le cépage a beaucoup de potentiel en Ontario – et aussi en Colombie-Britannique.

Du côté du Québec

Vignoble Les Pervenches Seyval Chardonnay 2013Les Pervenches Les Rosiers 2014Je me suis également réjoui que le jury, à l’aveugle, ait récompensé de médailles d’argent deux vins du Vignoble Les Pervenches, soit leur Chardonnay Les Rosiers et leur Seyval-Chardonnay. Ce n’est pas nouveau qu’on célèbre le talent de Michael Marler et de Véronique Hupin, pionniers de la viticulture québécoise, mais c’est bien de le confirmer de cette façon. Le chardonnay est un des cépages qui réussit le mieux au Canada : le fait qu’un domaine québécois parvienne à se tailler une belle place au palmarès montre qu’on peut obtenir d’excellents résultats, au Québec, à condition d’y mettre l’attention, la minutie et le savoir-faire requis.

Parmi les autres lauréats québécois, signalons le Cidre de feu du Domaine Labranche, lauréat d’une médaille d’or, ainsi que le mousseux d’érable du même domaine, qui a remporté une médaille de bronze. Un petit coup de chapeau également au vin de paille du vignoble Le chat botté, tout à fait original, au Poiré de Glace du Coteau Rougemont et au Brochu de La Vallée de la framboise, heureux assemblage de framboise et de cassis, tous trois médaillés de bronze.

Une raison de se réjouir, dans l’ensemble des catégories, est que le prix des vins lauréat est souvent très raisonnable : parmi les médailles platine, la fourchette est entre 18 et 35$! Voilà un 1% qui peut plaire à au moins 99% de la population, quoi! Reste à souhaiter, d’un point de vue québécois qu’un plus grand nombre de vins canadiens trouvent une place sur les rayons de la SAQ, afin de représenter toute la diversité et la qualité de ce qui se fait aussi bien en Ontario qu’en Colombie-Britannique ou en Nouvelle-Écosse.

Domaine Labranche Cidre De Feu 2013Domaine Labranche Petillant Sparkling Maple Wine 2013Le Chat Botté Le Paillé Ambré 201Coteau Rougemont Poire De Glace 2013La Vallée De La Framboise Le Brochu Raspberry Black Currant Liqueur

Grand prix canadien des vins du monde

Grand Prix Canadien des vins du mondeLes domaines d’ici et d’ailleurs auront une autre occasion de faire valoir la qualité de leurs cuvées lors du Grand prix canadien des vins du monde (les World Wine Awards of Canada), qui auront lieu à la fin du mois à Toronto. Les inscriptions sont présentement en cours! Tous les détails pour s’incrire sont disponibles ici. Un point de consolidation est disponible au Québec, cette année, et les vins primés profiteront d’une visibilité accrue au Québec, grâce à l’auditoire de plus en plus nombreux de Chacun son vin.

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son Vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins !


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What’s New at the LCBO – August 2015

Between our VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide and Steve Thurlow’s top picks from the LCBO Wines, we have the whole store covered each and every month.

What’s New at the LCBO in August
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The LCBO does not release many new wines mid-summer, but I was able to find a few new wines to tell you about since I last reported. Some are on shelf already; the rest will arrive over the next few weeks. Consequently, I have reprised below five additional wines that arrived over the last few months that are great value and are worthy of a second mention.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated.

Anyway, I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal and then sign in to WineAlign to check on inventory at your local LCBO, which should be set up as your Favourite Store in Find Wine at WineAlign.

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!

REDS

Lavau 2011

Quinta Do Valdoeiro 2013

Domaine La Gardie Merlot 2013

Domaine La Gardie Merlot 2013, Vin De Pays d’ Oc, Midi, France ($10.95)
This opaque purple red wine is a great buy for a pure clean structured red. Not a lot of complexity but well balanced for cheese and meat dishes.

Quinta Do Valdoeiro Baga, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah 2011 Bairrada, Portugal ($12.95)
A fresh lively blend of the indigenous grape baga with two other grapes. Try with roast meats.

Lavau 2011, Côtes Du Rhone Villages, Rhone, France ($12.90)
A very youthful 2011 Rhone red, lively with mild tannin. It’s mid-weight and fleshy with nice sweet and sour tension. Very good length.

Faustino V Tempranillo Rosado 2014, Rioja, Spain ($12.90)
This shocking pink rosé is hard to miss on the shelf in its distinctive tall bottle, so grab a few and enjoy with mildly flavoured meat dishes. Don’t overchill or you might miss the good stuff! Best 2015 to 2016.

Creekside Cabernet Merlot 2013 v2

Kir Yianni Paranga 2012

Faustino V Tempranillo Rosado 2014Charles Tort Côtes Du Rhone Old Vines 2013 Rhone Valley France ($13.40) A fruity and spicy southern Rhone red that’s brimming with fruit yet has the structure for food. Try with a steak. (No image available)

Kir Yianni Paranga 2012, Macedonia, Greece ($13.70)
This is a modern styled red blend with little evidence of its Greek origin. It is full bodied and quite vibrant with very good length. Try with lamb cutlets.

Creekside Cabernet Merlot 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($14.95)
An opaque fruity complex red with a refined pure nose of cherry fruit with herbal and floral tones. It is mid-weight to full-bodied with a fine tannin structure and lemony acidity. Try with a steak.

Erben Pinot Noir Reserve 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany $15.45
A soft fruity nicely structured pinot that would be good with roast pork. It is very pale but has some nice delicate aromas of cherry and plum fruit.

Long Weekend Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 2014

Les Trois Couronnes 2013

Erben Pinot Noir Reserve 2013Les Trois Couronnes 2013, Crozes Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France ($17.65)
A cellar worthy syrah-rich red that would go well with a steak. Fruity, yet structured with an appealing nose.

WHITES

Long Weekend Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($12.95)
A well priced, fresh aromatic juicy white from Fielding Estate; good for sipping but fine also for seafood or chicken appetizers.

~

We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check out my list of Top 50 wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated list in our WineAlign’s Top 20 Under $20 report.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


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Les bons achats de Marc – août

L’autre Australie
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Nadia en parlait récemment ici même, sur Chacun son Vin. Les vins australiens sont mal représentés au Québec. Certes, il y en a près de 350 inscrits au répertoire du monopole, mais relativement peu sont vraiment intéressants et surtout distinctifs, c’est-à-dire à même de révéler le potentiel insoupçonné de ce pays.

Cela n’empêche pas l’Australie d’être – avec l’Afrique du Sud – le pays qui a enregistré la plus forte hausse des ventes à la SAQ la dernière année, avec un bond de 16,4 %. Cette performance est pour l’essentiel due aux quatre ou cinq grandes entreprises qui produisent là-bas environ 80 % du vin national.

Pas que ces mastodontes soient à dédaigner, bien au contraire. Mais, comme le disait un œnologue rencontré à Melbourne en 2012 : « Avant, il y avait plus de gars allumés et colorés dans notre industrie. Puis, un jour, les grosses sociétés ont débarqué et une bonne partie du fun s’est envolée… Mais là, ces dernières années, le plaisir revient, il y a de plus en plus de vignerons déterminés, pleins d’idées et surtout passionnés. »

C’est certain : quand on débarque chez les mégaproducteurs, pour la poésie du vin, il faut repasser. Leurs immenses installations ressemblent à des raffineries. On enfile même des gilets de sécurité pour avoir le droit de circuler parmi les citernes et les camions. La plupart des dirigeants de ces entreprises assument toutefois bien ce statut « industriel ».

Et j’ai bien aimé, personnellement, une bonne partie de ce que j’ai bu lors de mon passage chez ces supergrands, tant chez Peter Lehmann (8,5 millions de bouteilles) et chez Wolf Blass (48 millions) que chez Yalumba (environ 12 millions).

CHIC, UNE BIÈRE !

Je suis allé en Australie deux fois, jusqu’ici. À chaque reprise, ces constats : ils servent le vin rouge trop chaud (pour nos palais nord-américains) ; et la bière froide – la fameuse cleansing ale – est une bénédiction après une grosse dégustation de généreux rouges australiens.

Troisième réalité méconnue, il ne fait pas atrocement chaud partout, en ce pays. Certaines régions, notamment autour d’Adélaïde, sont même assez fraîches. Pensons aux Adelaide Hills, à Clare Valley (rieslings vifs et structurés), à Eden Valley (rieslings plus floraux, plus délicats), à la Tasmanie (pinot noir et mousseux).

Cela dit, même dans la Hunter Valley, au nord de Sydney, une des régions les plus chaudes, on trouve d’excellents vins. Et notamment des blancs, chose encore plus étonnante. Les sémillons de la maison Tyrrell’s, par exemple, peuvent par surcroît vieillir jusqu’à 20 ans, voire plus – comme en ont font foi les quelques verticales auxquelles j’ai eu l’occasion de participer.

On n’en trouve hélas que rarement au Québec. Il ne doit pourtant pas en manquer pour l’exportation, puisqu’en Australie même, environ 40 % de tout le vin blanc consommé sur place vient de… Nouvelle-Zélande — en l’occurrence, le fameux Sauvignon Blanc.

Paradoxe, quand tu nous tiens. 

Quoi qu’il en soit, elle semble révolue, l’époque où tout ce qui provenait de Down Under manquait de finesse et de subtilité. Tout n’est pas renversant, évidemment, et la signature australienne, son obsession pour le primary fruit, se reflète toujours dans une majorité de cuvées. Mais on sent aussi une volonté de lever le pied, justement, de toujours contrôler à fond la vinification, c’est certain, mais en étant davantage à l’écoute des terroirs et de ce que chaque région précise, chaque coteau, chaque vallée permettent d’aller chercher.

Et donc, pour un peu que l’offre se raffine dans les magasins de la SAQ, on va franchement s’amuser.

À boire, aubergiste !

Bien entendu, je ne vais pas vous laisser filer sans suggérer une couple de bonnes bouteilles, sinon remarquables du moins d’un bon rapport qualité-prix.

Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2014 : Très correct chardonnay australien, au boisé tempéré, aux saveurs pas trop sucrées (6 g de résiduel) et à l’acidité bien présente.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2014 : Un boisé plus marqué que dans le Bin 65 de Lindemans, des notes de fumé, un ensemble qui demeure relativement nerveux.

Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2014 Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2014 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2014

Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2014 : Corsé, parfumé, épicé, impression de sucre résiduel assez marquée, pourtant il n’y en a que quelques grammes, selon saq.com. Probablement à cause du fruit bien mûr, abricoté.

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2012 : Un riesling à la fois riche et corsé, minéral également, avec des notes de pierre à fusil au nez. Les accents rappelant les conifères, typiques du riesling, ressortent en bouche. Beaucoup d’agrumes également, la lime notamment. Du coffre, du nerf et pratiquement pas de sucre.

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2012 : Moins minéral que son grand frère « Polish Hill » (moins cher, aussi), moins fumé et moins profond, mais très bon, tout en fruit et en nervosité, et un caractère bien typé riesling.

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2012 Grosset Springvale Riesling 2012 Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2013 Tait The Ball Buster Red 2012

Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2013 : Un très bon pinot noir de Tasmanie au nez fumé, qui évoque également la rhubarbe et la mûre. En bouche, l’ensemble est encore bien tendu, légèrement tannique.

Tait the Ball Buster Red 2012 : Costaud, baraqué même, mais voilà, l’acidité est là, le vin n’est pas lourd malgré ses 15,5 % d’alcool. À table cependant, on ne sifflera pas une bouteille en moins de deux ; à réserver pour les fromages durs de fin de repas.

 

Santé !

Marc

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son Vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins !


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 8, Part Two

The Wines of EcoTopia
By David Lawrason with wine notes from John Szabo MS and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

This weekend VINTAGES releases 24 wines from British Columbia, Washington and Oregon – collectively the Pacific Northwest. It is a generous feature compared to many of late, and it hits all the right buttons in terms of identifying grapes and styles that define the region. The selection is centred on the average $19.95 price point that VINTAGES calls home, with a subsequent good to very good, 85 to 88 point scoring range generally defining the quality. The exceptions are some more expensive and higher quality Oregon pinot noirs. To delve into a wider and higher end selection, you could attend Vintages Goes Northwest event at Toronto’s Corus Quay Building Atrium (Queens Quay & Lower Jarvis) on Monday August 17. I hope to see you there!

The Pacific Northwest prides itself on a certain eco-freshness and sensitivity. An intriguing book called The Nine Nations of North America published in 1981 by American journalist and professor Joel Garreau, parsed the continent by geographic and economic influences – instead of the arbitrary political boundaries imposed by colonial powers in the 19th Century. It called the Pacific Northwest nation – wait for it – EcoTopia. I have never forgotten that name, or concept, because it is just so right. And if you don’t think so, just ask a resident of EcoTopia. They will set you straight.

What does this mean in wine terms? Well I look for freshness at these northerly latitudes and altitudes, and it does underpin the wines, especially when comparing them to the softer wines of California – the great southern seductress. But something else strikes me about PNW wines – a sense of winemaking newness and trying-too-hardness. There seems to be a pre-occupation with winemaking over terroir. Over-oaking is frequent, as well as pushing alcohol levels. And in some wineries – especially on the American side – pushing sweetness. It may just be at the quality and price level of this release, but that is what is being presented to you this time out.

It is of course still relatively early days for the Pacific Northwest, a premium wine region just 30 years, or one generation, down the track. And given its mountainous spine, there are great terroirs to be had – even if still being prospected. Many of the regional appellations on PNW labels, duly noted in VINTAGES catalogue, remain rather broad. The only real exception I noted in the release is the Similkameen red by Sandhill, which catches a riveting mineral nerve and less ripeness.

Here are some of the better and more definitive wines on the PNW feature, plus other reds of note. Last week John Szabo covered off the Loire Valley and other whites.

Pacific Northwest

Cedar Creek 2013 Riesling, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($18.95)
David Lawrason. CedarCreek remains at standard-bearer for Okanagan wines of great clarity and varietal definition. This is a light, tart and juicy riesling loaded with green apple, lime and some flinty minerality. CedarCreek, along with winemaker Darryl Brooker (formerly of Flat Rock and Trius in Ontario) was recently acquired by Mission Hill.

A To Z Wineworks 2013 Chardonnay, Oregon ($19.95)
John Szabo – A to Z may be Oregon’s largest producer, but the range is highly competent. This is clean, fresh, nicely representative chardonnay from grapes sourced from throughout the state, mostly from the south. Oak is not a feature – this is all about the apple-citrus fruit in a cool climate idiom.
Sara d’Amato – America’s best selling Oregon chardonnay has thankfully graced us with its presence and offers a great deal of complexity, charm and vibrant energy for the price. The oak here, although present, is nicely restrained and bolsters the elegant fruit. Sip on its own or with buttery shellfish.

CedarCreek Riesling 2013 A To Z Wineworks Chardonnay 2013 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2013 L'école No 41 Semillon 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Chateau Ste. Michelle has long been known as a riesling specialist, and this nods to that experience. It’s not a profound, complex example but the acid-sugar balance is very fine, and I really like the peach, floral and spicy nose that is nicely clean and expressive.

L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Semillon, Columbia Valley, Washington ($24.95)
David Lawrason – The little schoolhouse on the road to Walla Walla has become synonymous with this wine region. They have been making semillon from day one – and I can’t think of another American winery that has. This has a rich, dusty, spicy semillon nose of fresh fig, some blossom florality and candle wax. It’s quite full bodied, fleshy and spicy.
Sara d’Amato – This striking semillon offers fresh acids but more body and viscosity than its more famous South African counterparts. Lush and appealing with just a touch of funk to keep it interesting.

Adelsheim 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($41.95)
John Szabo – David Adelsheim may be best know for having brought the “Dijon” chardonnay clones from Burgundy to Oregon in the early 1990s, but his pinot noirs are certainly among the best in the state. Even this non vineyard-designated example delivers the bright, savoury, crunchy red fruit and elegance that makes Willamette pinot so intriguing.
David Lawrason This is a very bright, generous, structured, quite youthful pinot with surprisingly lifted floral, raspberry plum fruit plus a hint of beetroot. It’s medium bodied, quite firm and tart with a mineral edge.

Domaine Drouhin 2012 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon ($45.95)
David Lawrason – This is an In Store Discovery in limited release, but well worth seeking out. Drouhin was the first Burgundy producer to invest in any pinot noir region outside of Burgundy. This has a reserved, very pretty nose of red cherry, nicely fitted with seamless oak vanillin, spice and cedar. Very delicate and fine aromatics! It’s medium weight, supple and refined.

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2012 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2012  Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2013 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2011

Burrowing Owl 2013 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($40.95) (556613)
Sara d’Amato – These ambitious pinots tend to evolve unpredictably and with varying degrees of success but I am particularly pleased with this example at this point in time. Mid-weight but voluminous with bright acids, supple tannins and lovely woody integration.

Sokol Blosser 2011 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon ($34.95)
John Szabo – Be sure to give this some time in the glass (or decanter, or cellar), this is very reductive (grapefruit-tinged) off the top, from a cool vintage. But the palate delivers fine, succulent balance, inviting savoury acids, and genuine mineral-saline character. All in all, a classic Jory-volcanic soils, Willamette pinot. Best 2015-2019.

Mission Hill 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia $26.95
David Lawrason – This VINTAGES Essentials has taken one of two golds in the Cabernet Sauvignon category at the 2015 National Wine Awards. It is a really stylish, well composed red with generous oak melding nicely with currant/blackberry fruit. There are herbal notes, vanillin, tobacco and spices – all nicely integrated.
John Szabo – Perennial performer Mission Hill presents a nicely polished and firm, classically styled cabernet, with all of the necessary elements at the price: dark spicy fruit, integrated wood, balanced-crisp acids and fine length. Comfortably in the premium range. Best 2015-2022.

Sandhill 2012 Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet Merlot, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – The Similkameen – a parallel valley west of the Okanagan – is emerging has a great zone for energetic, granitic/mineral reds. This single vineyard red has a lifted nose with blackcurrant, herbs and spice. It’s medium weight, terse and coiled with intense slightly green flavours.

Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Sandhill 2012 Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet MerlotAirfield Estates Runway Merlot 2012 Lone Birch Syrah 2013

Airfield Estates 2012 Runway Merlot, Yakima Valley, Washington ($22.95)
John Szabo – A rare firm and dusty, grippy merlot, with no concessions to the typically soft and oaky style prevalent in eastern Washington. I like the herbal flavours and vibrant acids, as well as the lingering finish. Another year or two will benefit this to be sure. Best 2016-2022.

Lone Birch Syrah 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – This sustainably farmed syrah, well priced and upbeat, is substantial, rich and modern in style. It offers harmony, style and concentration in a widely appealing package.

Other Reds

Espelt Viticultors 2013 Old Vines Garnacha, Emporda, Spain ($14.95)
David Lawrason – What a great summer burger and ribs red! It is a lovely, supple yet fairly rich and powerful garancha that shows off the fragrant strawberry/cherry jam fruit of the variety without soupy or confected excess. Pretty floral peony and white pepper aromas as well.
John Szabo – A hell of a wine for $15 from a little known corner of northern Spain, this should be bought by the case for summer BBQs, and/or winter stews. It’s big, ripe, wild and savage, balanced even at 15% alcohol, with inviting Mediterranean scrub-herbal flavours and firm acids/tannins. Best 2015-2023.

Vicchiomaggio 2010 Agostino Petri Riserva Chianti Classico Docg, Tuscany, Italy ($29.95)
John Szabo – Classy and refined, elegant Classico with terrific balance, succulent acids, and fine-grained tannins. The perfumed finish lingers nicely. Best 2015-2022.
David Lawrason – Indeed a classically style, for the short term cellar, although you could aerate and drink now as well.

Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2013 Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Riserva Chianti Classico 2010 Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011Paolo Conterno Riva Del Bric Barolo 2010

Dei 2011 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy, ($27.95)
Sara d’Amato – A producer who stands its ground often producing wines of spectacular heights. Despite the obvious concentration and approachability, there is a traditional feel here with impressive structure and compelling notes of  briny black olive, peppery violets and succulent black currant. Excellent value.

Paolo Conterno 2010 Riva Del Bric Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($39.95)
David Lawrason – A great vintage, a great price, a great producer. Can’t go wrong here! It is not a powerhouse or a dynamo, but it is well woven, complex, complete and well structured. The nose weaves classic nebbiolo sour cherry, spice, herbs, leather and earth – again all juxtaposed so well. The length is excellent.

Cosme Palacio 2009 Rioja Reserva, Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – Lovely, succulent and harmonious Rioja, entering a fine stage of maturity, infinitely drinkable. Tannins are still firm, but the saline-juicy acids will keep you coming back for more. Nice stuff. Best 2015-2029.

Cosme Palacio Reserva 2009Château de Lancyre Esprit de Garrigue 2013Château Plaisance 2009Clos des Brusquières Châteauneuf du Pape 2012

Château De Lancyre 2013 Esprit De Garrigue, Languedoc, France ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Great value is charming, juicy summer red – a syrah, grenache blend that over-delivers! It is fairly pale but has a lifted very savoury, indeed garrigue nose, with pepper, balsamic, lavender and wild strawberry “fraise du bois” fruit.

Château Plaisance 2009, Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Great value in Bordeaux can be hard to come by so this stunner for under $20 made me take note. Matured but still pleasantly youthful. This nicely composed blend is dry and savory with grippy tannins and elegant floral notes. Wonderfully balanced and ageworthy.

Clos Des Brusquières 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France ($47.95)
Sara d’Amato – This small producer in Châteauneuf was one of the first in this prestigious appellation to bottle its wines to current standards in the early 1900s. Super traditional, the wine is fermented stem and all in concrete and barrel and is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. This was an immediate hit with me and is a textbook example of this distinguished wine offering plenty of muscle, earth, leather and garrigue.

Ramos Pinto 2013 Duas Quintas, Douro, Portugal ($17.95)
John Szabo – Another fine vintage for this Douro table classic, the 2013 is forward, dark and deeply fruity with sweet currant and blackberry inflected with floral and old wood spice notes. I appreciate the succulence and density, the fine-grained but firm tannins, the impressive weight and length. Terrific value. Best 2015-2023.

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas 2013 Angove Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Angove Vineyard 2013 Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia, ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – Bad Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon is hard to come by so you’ve got great odds when something like the Angove Vineyard Select graces our shelves. A joyful example of this standout style that offers delightfully sweet brine, a touch of iodine along with an abundance of fruit peppered by notes of violets and roses.

Penfolds 2013 Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia ($23.95)
David Lawrason – This is a new mid-priced multi-regional blend from Penfolds. It sports great cabernet lift with soaring eucalyptus, searing blackcurrant, cordite and black pepper aromas. It is full-bodied, dense, tense and focused with great fruit and mint arching across the palate.

And that’s a wrap for this week. I will return next week with the lead up to the August 22 release that features wines scored 90 points by someone, somewhere. As we are not interested in promoting or debating scores by other reviewers we will pass on that theme and simply work to find you the best values, at any price or score. As we always do.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 8th, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Part 1: Wine to Chill

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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Medals of Honour

The Final BlendAug 5, 2015

by Anthony Gismondi

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Anthony Gismondi

How many times can you write about a competition? I ask myself this loaded question as I pore over the results of the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards. After 15 years it would appear the answer is as many times as it takes to tell the story. Given the breakneck pace with which the domestic wine industry is accelerating, I have to admit it’s getting easier. Add to that a growing pool of talented tasters who can discern the nuances that make Canadian wine different, and relevant, and an industry that cares enough to be measured annually (in 2015 to the tune of 1400+ entries), well you have some very meaningful results.

I’m always amazed at the attention domestic wineries afford foreign accolades and medals given the relative low number of entries in a broad Canadian category and the mix of judges, nearly all of whom would be unfamiliar with Canadian wine or tasting them for the first time. You don’t get that variation at The Nationals. With categories of 50 to 100 entries it is difficult enough to win your flight, let alone return and beat the best of the best.

A great example is the Riesling category. There were 98 entries and fourteen flights, averaging eight wines per flight, from across the country. The best were tasted twice, by a total of eleven different palates. The top ten wines scored between 90 and 92 points and the prices ranged between $18.50 and $31.95 (at the winery). Winning that category and grabbing a Platinum medal was the Thirty Bench 2013 Riesling Small Lot Triangle Vineyard from Ontario. If that isn’t worth its weight in platinum plated gold I’m not sure what is. There are many wines that have achieved similar results, as pointed out by my colleague David Lawrason, but it’s up to the wineries to tell that story.

That said, we continue to do our best to help readers out with perhaps the best feature of The Nationals. After the competition we asked our judges to file 75 notes on medal winning wines to the WineAlign website. The selection of notes differ based on which panels each judge was on and of course the wines they were asked to taste throughout the week. This year we shuffled the judges throughout the week across different panels to try and eliminate any block voting and frankly to keep all the personalities in check. It also allowed our experienced panel leaders to work with almost everyone tasting, adding to the all-important knowledge transfer that goes both ways all week. See our list of judges.

In terms of the numbers, entries (1408) and wineries (205) both set records for size in 2015, reflecting the explosion of interest in Canadian wine across the country. There were some epic battles in the tasting rooms as cool climate, Canadian style wines have finally made it to the forefront of the awards. Fruit, freshness, liveliness, sense of place, balance, length and tension are the new hallmark of our best wines as oak and alcohol and gross intervention during the winemaking process fades into our historical background.

One of the most interesting aspects of 2015 is the parity that is coming to Canadian wine production. Faulty wines are now few and far between and when it comes to the medals the best are spread wide and far. The ultimate platinum medals given to the top one percent of all entries totalled 14 and they were given to twelve wineries.

In years gone by we would focus on all the categories and flight winners, still a big part of the results, but by celebrating the top one percent of wines in the competition regardless of grape, category or origin we are trying to send a message about what can be done in Canadian wine at a very high level. Also, we think when you encounter a 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada Platinum medal winner you can bet on it. We have always been careful when awarding medals at The Nationals because as a team of reviewers we want each of them to mean something to the producer and the wine buyer.

While it’s easy to say just over half the wines entered grabbed medals, and competition naysayers say it all the time, they never mention that just under half of all the entries did not get anything. Remember, we only reward the highest scoring bronze medals in the competition; in a sense they are wines that received 87 points, barely missing getting a silver. This makes them worthy medal winners, and again our thinking is to improve the breed (in the case the worth of a bronze medal) by simply rewarding the best.

Over the years the Best Winery in Canada has brought a great deal of attention and stature to the winning winery. It’s highly coveted by Canada’s most competitive wineries and frankly in a country with over 500 producers any winery getting into the top 25 as a result of its performance at The Nationals really should be tooting its horn. It’s a very a significant achievement.

For the record, our performance report rates any winery entering five or more wines in the competition, automatically entering that producer into the race for the WineAlign Canadian Winery of the Year. While the report was originally designed to help us assess each winery’s performance in the competition, the results are so compelling we now share Canada’s top 25 wineries to help you make better buying decisions.

From a practical point of view, we know consumers are interested in a winery’s top wines, so the final calculation is done by selecting the wineries’ five top scoring entries. It also means large wineries entering 10 or 20 wines have no special advantage over smaller boutiques, since only five wines are used to calculate any single performance ranking. That said, in 2015 we recognised the country’s smaller producers, including our inaugural Best Performing Small Winery, using the same criteria but limiting the list to those who produce 10,000 cases or less.

What it all comes down to is one of the most useful wine buying lists in the country, and a true guide to which wines and wineries are performing at the very top of the Canadian wine industry.

Finally, if you are new to wine and unfamiliar with our competition, it has deep roots. David Lawrason and I started the ‘Canadian Wine Awards’ back in 2001. At the time we thought it would be a useful snapshot of the current state of domestic wine and we still do.

The challenge was, and still remains, to organize a week that is fair to the wines, the judges and the readers and not lose too much money getting and publishing real results. We are still looking for an overall sponsor that could take that burden off, but hey, it’s Canada, we are only learning how to celebrate excellence.

In the meantime we finish with Fifteen Years of Champions: all of the past winners of the National Wine Awards of Canada Winery of the Year. We salute their prowess and wish them well in 2016. They are going to need it.

Canadian Winery of the Year winners:

2015 – Mission Hill Family Estate, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

2014 – Peller Family Estate, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
2013 – Mission Hill Family Estate, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2012 – Tawse Winery, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
2011 – Tawse Winery, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
2010 – Tawse Winery, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
2009 – Sandhill Winery. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2008 – Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2007 – Mission Hill Family Estate, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2006 – Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2005 – CedarCreek Estate Winery, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2004 – Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2003 – Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2002 – CedarCreek Estate Winery, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
2001 – Mission Hill Family Estate, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

 


Related Links and Articles:

The RESULTS of the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

Mission Hill Captures its 4th Canadian Winery of the Year Award

Thirty Bench Wine Makers wins inaugural Best Performing Small Winery

A Record Medal Haul, A Widening Range of Wines

Canada’s Top Wineries


Sponsors

We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: Fortessa Canada for the quality, and virtually indestructable, Schott Zwiesel glassware used throughout the judging, Container World for shipping and logistics and Dairy Farmers of Canada for their ongoing support of  our Awards. A special thank you to Jason Dziver for the above images, as well as for each and every Awards bottle image appearing our site. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.

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