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Les bons choix de Marc – Juillet 2016

Payez maintenant, savourez plus tard
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Les Primeurs Bordeaux 2015 sont en vente. S’agit-il d’une bonne affaire, y a-t-il des deals à faire ? Non, pas vraiment. Devrait-on en acheter ? Oui.

Je me contredis, on dirait bien…

Voici le topo : 2015 a été une très bonne année, pas exceptionnelle, pas « 5 étoiles » comme le claironne la SAQ, mais proche tantôt de 2005 et tantôt de 2008, quand on n’y voit pas un 2001 en plus abouti, selon des producteurs que j’ai rencontrés là-bas en avril dernier. Les vins, dans l’ensemble, valent le débours, d’autant que Bordeaux, depuis quelques années, privilégie de plus en plus la fraîcheur, et de moins en moins le bois. La demande est forte, et les prix ne fléchissent pas, loin de là. Ces 2015, relativement tendres, quasi dépourvus de notes végétales, sont convoités.

Mais au-delà de ces constats, le problème avec les Primeurs, ces vins qu’on achète à l’avance et qui n’arriveront au Québec que dans deux ans, c’est que le jeu n’en vaut pas vraiment la chandelle, côté prix et économie.

Il faut verser aujourd’hui un acompte de 40 pour cent, et payer le solde à la réception des produits, en 2018. En principe, on s’attend au final à avoir bénéficié d’un escompte ; normal, puisqu’on aura immobilisé de l’argent deux ans de temps.

Le hic, c’est qu’il est souvent arrivé, dans le passé, que des amateurs n’ayant pas participé à cette vente puissent obtenir plus tard, des années après, les mêmes vins pour pratiquement le même prix !

Car pour la rareté évoquée par notre monopole, il faudra repasser : plusieurs châteaux produisent des centaines de milliers de bouteilles de chaque vin… Malgré la demande toujours élevée, malgré les Chinois, il en reste toujours de très bons à acheter, même longtemps après leur mise en marché.

Un exemple, un seul : j’ai personnellement mis la main, voilà quelques mois seulement, sur un excellent pessac-léognan rouge, le Château Latour-Martillac. Du millésime 2010 s’il vous plaît, une superbe année, aussi bonne sinon meilleure que 2015, en plus costaud. En prime, j’obtenais du vin avec cinq ans de vieillissement déjà dans le ventre, sans avoir eu à casquer d’acompte. Le prix : 55 $ la bouteille. (Et même un peu moins, parce qu’il a été acheté dans le cadre d’une vente avec rabais de 10 pour cent ; alors que les vins achetés en primeur ne donnent pas droit à ce type de promotion.)

Or le même Latour-Martillac, version 2015, est offert aujourd’hui en primeur pour exactement la même somme. Premier versement exigé dès maintenant, et on ne pourra palper la marchandise que dans deux ans.

Tout bien considéré, j’aurais dû acheter encore plus de 2010…

AU DIABLE, LA LOGIQUE !

Cela dit, je viens tout de même de commander des Latour-Martillac 2015, en rouge et en blanc. Ainsi que deux ou trois autres châteaux, parmi ceux qui offrent les meilleurs rapports qualité-prix : Haut-Marbuzet, Beau-Séjour Bécot, Fombrauge rouge, Phélan-Ségur, Vieux-Château Saint-André (29 $ seulement), Haut-Bages Libéral, Fieuzal rouge et blanc, Domaine de Chevalier rouge, Sociando-Mallet (évidemment !) et Branaire-Ducru.

Pourquoi avoir commandé, si le fameux deal n’en est pas un ?

Pour entretenir la flamme.

Pour pouvoir me bercer du fait qu’un bon jour, dans deux ans, je vais recevoir un courriel m’avisant que mes bordeaux 2015 sont arrivés.

Certes, j’aurai dû avancer une bonne somme pour me payer ce luxe, certes, j’aurais pu laisser faire et me rabattre sur d’autres choses, de très bons bordeaux de millésimes moins prestigieux, 2012, 2011, 2014 aussi. Ou oublier la Gironde et consacrer mon budget à l’achat de bourgognes, d’alsaces, de barolos, de superbes bouteilles du Jura, peut-être même une couple de caisses de vin nature, pourquoi pas…

J’aurais pu, c’est vrai. Sauf que là, c’est fait, on n’en parle plus, c’est passé sur ma carte de crédit.

Du bonheur en banque, quoi, on peut dire ça comme ça😉

P.-S. Côté sauternes, ne ratez pas Doisy-Daëne et aussi Coutet, offerts à bon prix. Climens est bien sûr excellent, ainsi que Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Allez-y pour des demi-bouteilles, si je puis me permettre, c’est bien assez et ça coûte pile-poil moitié moins cher.

~

À boire, aubergiste !

Beni Di Batasiolo Langhe Rosso 2014 – Un très bon rapport qualité-prix, que ce Langhe Rosso pourtant légèrement sucré (3,5 g de résiduel). L’équilibre est là, le corps aussi, l’acidité, la masse de fruit.

Monasterio De Las Vinas Carinena 2010 – À bon prix (17,30 $), un rouge espagnol avec un bon cinq ans de vieillissement, assez tannique, pratiquement sec (2,5 g de résiduel), plutôt unidimensionnel mais généreux.

Batasiolo Langhe Rosso 2014 Monasterio De Las Vinas Crianza 2010 Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2014Domaine De La Borde Arbois Pupillin Côte De Caillot 2014Didier Erker Givry 1er Cru Les Bois Chevaux 2014

Bourgogne Pinot Noir Les Ursulines Boisset 2014 – Très bon bourgogne rouge d’entrée de gamme, bien typé, plutôt finement boisé (10 pour cent de fûts neufs), un caractère légèrement herbacé mais aussi un côté floral. Fraîcheur et gourmandise !

Domaine De La Borde Côte De Caillot Arbois-Pupillin 2014 – Finesse, vivacité, boisé bien intégré (fermentation en fûts), caractère très digeste, finale fumée et léger rancio qui enrobe l’ensemble. Prix (40 $) mérité.

Les Bois Chevaux Didier Erker Givry 1er Cru 2014 – Très bon bourgogne rouge de la côte chalonnaise à l’intense arôme de cerise auquel se greffe une très légère note de réduction, qui ajoute à son charme. Boisé discret, superbe acidité, corps moyen, longueur appréciable. À 29,30 $, une affaire !

Domaine Laroche Petit Chablis 2014Domaine De Reuilly Les Pierres Plates 2013Jean Claude Boisset Aligoté Bio Ecocert 2014Bonpas Grande Réserve Des Challières Ventoux 2015

Laroche Petit Chablis 2014 – Impeccable ! Bu après un Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume, et n’a pas démérité. Un « Petit » Chablis de très bonne facture, nerveux et bien ciselé.

Domaine De Reuilly Les Pierres Plates 2013 – Typé sauvignon, herbacé mais sans excès, de la profondeur en bouche, un goût fumé, de pierre à fusil comme dans certains chablis, léger goût de fruit tropical, le vin est sec, par ailleurs. Et excellent !

Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Aligoté Bio 2014 – Un aligoté impeccable, aux savoureux accents fumés, de la vivacité, peut-être même un peu d’acidité volatile qui ajoute à la fraîcheur. Subtile composante boisée (15 pour cent fût neuf) qui contribue à la complexité. À 25,55 $, un très bon rapport qualité-prix !

Bonpas Grande Réserve Des Challières Ventoux 2015 – À petit prix (13 $ et des poussières), un très bon rouge de la vallée du Rhône, fruité et épicé, sans sucre résiduel et bien pourvu en acidité. La fraîcheur est au rendez-vous, c’est dire, de même que la générosité.

 

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 grands vins!

 


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20 Under $20 in BC : July 2016

Your Summer Shopping Guide

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. A time to stress less, the only decision I want to make right now is what gulpable, refreshing wine to crack into. Stocking up with an assortment of these value bottles will ensure the decision is an easy one to make.

~ TR 

BC Critic Team

You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below

Rhys Pender MW

On the heels of Canada Day I’ve gone for an all BC selection this month. There are some great value, really high quality BC wines out there. One of these creeps over the $20 mark by a mere 49 cents but you will find it is well worth it.

The first two wines are a pair of chardonnay from the Okanagan. Both these producers take chardonnay very seriously and are making their wines in the more modern, fresh, elegant style rather than old school bigness. The first is the Quails’ Gate 2013 Chardonnay, a great complex and elegant wine with excellent freshness and length.

Another excellent Chardonnay is the entry level wine from CedarCreek. The 2014 Chardonnay is a lovely combination of fruit and texture.

Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013 CedarCreek Chardonnay 2014 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2014 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2015 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2015CedarCreek Cabernet Merlot 2013

A crushable BC white is the Quails’ Gate 2014 Chasselas, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. They have avoided the temptation to sweeten this up making it a nice, affordable refreshing summertime drink. You could drink lots of this to soothe the heat on a hot summer day.

To me, the quintessential BC pinot gris may be the Poplar Grove. Pear, melon, lemon, dry with good acidity = very drinkable. Both the 2014 and 2015 hit this style nicely. 

A good local red for the BBQ season is the CedarCreek 2013 Cabernet-Merlot. There is nice red and black fruit and a savoury, sagey, dried herb note that would pair well with hearty BBQ fare.

DJ Kearney

It’s summer patio party time, and we need sure-fire values for a (large) crowd and a smoky grill. My five stalwarts include the crisply dry Kris 2015 Pinot Grigio, that satisfies the needs of classic white wine lovers, and the lush, fruity Cuma 2015 Organic Torrontés for sipping with scallop ceviche.

For the juicy lamb burgers on the menu, a glass of gutsy, fragrant Undurraga 2014 Sibaris Pinot Noir Gran Reserva is just the ticket. I believe this to be one of the best value pinots on the planet.

Kris Pinot Grigio 2015 Michel Torino Cuma Organic Torrontés 2015 Undurraga Sibaris Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2014 Finca Los Primos Malbec 2015 Finca Las Moras Tannat Reserva 2014

The amazingly-consistent best-seller Finca 2015 Los Primos Malbec shows tobacco flower fragrance and blueberry fruit. Give it a slight chill to add refreshment. If you don’t know the tannat grape (a staple in the Madiran region of southwest France) Finca 2014 Las Moras Tannat Reserva is a friendly introduction to a strapping, chewy variety.

Treve Ring

Who wants to be running to the store mid-party? Or worse, mid-serious-hammock-time? A few bottles chilled of the lean, bright, melon-led Lagaria 2014 Pinot Grigio from Veneto, or the juicy grapefruit-ringed Graffigna 2015 Centenario Pinot Grigio Reserve from San Juan can save the day. Also from Argentina, the full and toasty Alamos 2014 Chardonnay is handy to have on hand when unexpected guests pop by, bringing fresh crab for the cookout (the best type of friends to have, by the way).

Lagaria Pinot Grigio 2014 Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2015 Alamos Chardonnay 2014 Malbec Gouleyant Cahors 2014 Bogarve Lacruz Tempranillo 2014

Impromptu BBQ sessions are another “problem” if you haven’t stocked up property. A few Le Gouleyant 2013 Malbec from Cahors, with its tobacco, juicy black plum and leather, hemmed by sinewy tannins, will match well with grilled pork chops. For smoky sweet ribs, pull the cork on Bogarve 2014 Lacruz Tempranillo, a ripe, wooded, fruity red from La Mancha, Spain, that leaves a lingering medicinal black cherry note on the palate.

For grilled steak for a crowd, be sure to have Nederburg 2013 Winemaster’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon stocked. This Western Cape red consistently impresses for the price, with its wild blackcurrant, black cherry and tobacco structure. Pairs with the grill. Locally, CedarCreek continues to impress with their entry-tier wines. Most are pure, bright expressions of site and grape, like their 2013 Merlot, a fantastic value for the warm hug of a plush, fruitcake-scented, integrated bigger red. 

Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 CedarCreek Merlot 2013 Yalumba Moscato Christobel's 2015 Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2015

There is no better season to enjoy a plate of fresh fragrant fruits for brunch or dessert. Play the same-same match game with Yalumba 2015 Christobel’s Moscato. Scented fruit salad in a blooming garden of flowers sums up this new moscato from Yalumba, and with a likeable 8.5 percent alcohol package too. 

And for one of Canada’s top gew’s, the consistent Tinhorn Creek 2015 Gewurztraminer impresses again this year, with the concentration of 21 year old vines expressed through ample gingersnap, gooseberry and peach. Tastes like summer.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.

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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Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – July 9th, 2016

Cool French Finds and a Hotbed of Value in Southern Europe
by Sara d’Amato with notes from Michael Godel and John Szabo, MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

This week’s VINTAGES release offers a strong selection of Italian whites, coastal South African finds, reasonably priced Californian reds and a serious, albeit small showing from Portugal and Spain. Note that the vast majority of our selections this week are value-focused at under $20.

It is no secret that the best values in Europe are often found in southern regions where the consistently warm climate allows for higher yields at greater levels of ripeness. Conversely, cooler, fringe climates with greater vintage variation can seldom produce inexpensive, consistent wines at low price points. There are other factors however, that significantly affect value and in Europe one of great importance is prestige of region. Certain appellations, take for example Champagne or Bordeaux, have become akin to brands themselves with names that carry weight and cachet that garner elevated prices.

A combination of these factors is at play in many southern European regions throughout Portugal, Spain, Greece and southern Italy. See below for great values discovered in Rioja in this release. Although Rioja is Spain’s iconic, best-known wine region, it does not yet have the status of Burgundy, for example, and thus cannot yet command a similar average price point. This will not be the case forever especially with a savvy new generation of producers focusing on ever more specific regions and sites for the production of indigenous grapes varieties. In addition, John has highlighted below a stunning aglianico from southern Italy’s Basilicata, a known hotbed for value.

Similarly, southern France’s Languedoc and Côtes de Provence afford hot values and there are some notable finds in this release. We also look further north to the Loire Valley, capable of producing some head-turning pinot noir even outside of distinguished appellations. Such a pinot from a unique parcel of land in the IGP Val du Loire has caught our attention this week. A sauvignon blanc discovery in the relatively humble appellation of Touraine is also the source of a top value pick this week. In both cases, their origins, over their quality, dictate their price.

More summer picks are coming to you next week care of John Szabo and David Lawrason. After briefly assembling last week for the National WineAlign awards, the team is off again travelling to unique wine regions across the globe. Both John Szabo and David Lawrason are back in BC, while Michael Godel is entrenched in Chablis. Shortly I will be off to the southern Rhône for an extended stay. Expect new perspectives on emerging and established wine regions to follow.

Stay cool. Santé,

Sara d’Amato

Buyers’ Guide to July 9th release:

You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below

Domaine De La Chaise Touraine Sauvignon 2014

Waterkloof Circle Of Life 2012Waterkloof 2012 Circle of Life, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A Stellenbosch super blend of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and chardonnay that had me at first sniff. Very careful, very slow wild yeast fermentation of grapes that have been farmed using biodynamic practices has resulted in a very natural feeling wine with almost imperceptible oak and glorious fruit expression.
John Szabo – Paul Boutinot, of French extraction but raised in England, set about searching for his ideal terroir. Ten years later, in 1993, he found it in Stellenbosch, on the south-facing slopes of the Schapenberg, overlooking False Bay in the Cape. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tasted from this beautiful property, including this intensely flavoured, medium-full-bodied blend of sauvignon, chenin, and chardonnay. It delivers significant density and weight, not to mention complexity at the price, with a range of citrus, orchard and tropical fruit. It’s not a summer sipper; there’s too much edginess (light acetic volatility), but that only adds to the character. Reserve for grilled chicken or high intensity fish dishes.

Domaine de la Chaise 2014 Touraine Sauvignon, Loire Valley, France ($14.95)
John Szabo – From the Sologne in the eastern Loire, almost equidistant from Tours and Dijon, this is a terrific bargain for serious sauvignon fans. It’s ripe, composed and complex, blending wet stone with creamy-ripe citrus and orchard fruit, and just a hint of green. Length is very good to excellent in the category.

Abbazia di Novacella 2014 Müller Thurgau, Valle Isarco Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – With nearly a thousand years of winemaking history, the Abby of Novacella in the upper Adige Valley consistently produces one of the top müller-thurgau’s in Italy (and therefore the world!). The 2014 is a varietally accurate, floral-fruity example, bursting with fresh apple/cherry blossoms, alongside fleshy white orchard fruit, pears, apples and the like, lingering impressively on the palate. It’s a lovely sipping/summer patio wine, great with, say, shaved fennel and orange salad.
Sara d’Amato – A smart, elegant summer sipper from high altitude sites on the slopes of the southern Alps. Lightly tropical with distinctive floral aromas and mineral character, both food friendly and widely appealing.

Tablas Creek 2013 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles, California, USA $33.95 (36616)
Sara d’Amato – Available in select VINTAGES stores, this In Store Discovery (ISD) is well worth seeking out. This collaborative project between the Perrin Family of the southern Rhône and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands quickly achieved cult wine status shortly after its inception. The wines are modeled after the blends of Beaucastel and are organically dry-farmed in limestone-based soils very similar to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Côtes de Tablas tier falls just below that of the Esprit series and is approachably lush. A blend based on viognier, it is rich and mouthfilling with the wild floral character, peach and honey very typical of this seductive grape varietal.
Michael Godel – Paso Robles esprit of high command designates this ranging Rhone blend into a category singularly held. The white Chateauneuf-du-Pape oeuvre may be the muse but cooler California is the reality and the ideal. Grip, structure and the anti-boozy blend are hallmarks of great Rhone meets Paso Robles whites.

Abbazia Di Novacella Müller Thurgau 2014Tablas Creek Côtes De Tablas Blanc 2013 Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013 Henri Gaillard Rosé 2015

Flat Rock 2013 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Jay Johnston’s handling of the exceptional Twenty Mile Bench fruit in 2013 is a best of effort. He is the benefactor and we will all be benefactors of such a balanced chardonnay. A wine to impress critics and consumers alike. Bravo.

Henri Gaillard 2015 Rosé, Côtes De Provence, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – A light and elegant Côtes de Provence with gentle floral aromatics, dry and utterly refreshing. Named after the well-respected negociant Henri Gaillard who was instrumental in the international prominence of the Côtes de Provence appellation.

Cune 2012 Rioja Crianza, Rioja, Spain ($16.95)
John Szabo – Ever-reliable CVNE (Compañia Viñícola del Norte de España) crafts another vibrant, savoury, well-balanced wine here, with exceptional length and depth in the price category. What a delightful wine for the money – all vibrant, tart red berry fruit and spice. Serve lightly chilled. Best 2016-2022.

Olarra Laztana 2010 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – From Bodegas Olarra, the Laztana Reserva exhibits impressive complexity for the price and is produced infrequently in small lots. Showing some graceful maturation in flavour profile although the structure is still solid and the fleshy mouthfeel is highly pleasurable.

Cune Rioja Crianza 2012 Olarra Laztana Reserva 2010 Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2014 Señorío De Los Baldíos 2009

Tessellae 2014 Vieilles Vignes Carignan, Côtes Catalanes, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a real tour de force for the price, which shows the possible heights of old vines carignan. It offers a lovely meadow of wild mountain herbs and flowers, with smoky-rocky black fruit, generous, dense and full palate, with high but integrated alcohol. At the price, fans of southern Rhône-style wines should leap at this. Best 2016-2024.
Michael Godel – I can’t say this will please every palate but it if you like fresh, affordable and crushable you should raise your hand and be counted. It has patio, dock and lazing in the grass written deeply with intrinsic vernacular. Cheat on your cellar and defend them all right here.

Señorío De Los Baldíos 2009, Ribera del Duero, Spain ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A lush and modern tempranillo with bold fruit unencumbered by heavy oak. Wholly satisfying and drinking at peak maturity.

Chapoutier 2014 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A re-released favourite, this summery, lighter bodied red with the freshness of grenache and the pep of syrah is offers authentic, regional typicity at a steal of a price.

Hubert Brochard 2014 Les Carisannes Pinot Noir, Val de Loire, France (17.95)
John Szabo – From a small, 5-hectares family estate just outside the Sancerre appellation yet still on prized-flinty-limestone soils, this is an absolutely delicious Loire pinot. It has lovely, light, high-toned aromatics, all fresh-tart red berries, strawberry-raspberry, with some attractive leafy flavours. While concentration is fairly modest, it remains an infinitely drinkable, fresh, wine. If I had a restaurant I’d be pouring this by the glass (and drinking it after my shift). Serve lightly chilled.

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2014 Hubert Brochard Les Carisannes Pinot Noir 2014 D'angelo Aglianico del Vulture 2012 Cigliano Chianti Classico 2013

D’Angelo 2012 Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, Italy ($17.95)
John Szabo – Traditionalist D’Angelo delivers a wildly savoury-earthy, pot pourri-inflected aglianico from the slopes of Vulture volcano, full of wild cherry, beef jerky, leather and more. If you’re seeking a fruity wine, this is not it. But fans of rustic, old country wines will revel in this. Best 2016-2022.

Cigliano 2013 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Some slopes is the San Casciano Val di Pesa (like those occupied by Luiano) have the mineral composition to impose upon and gift dramatic foreshadowing to sangiovese. Here for $20 is such a case.

From VINTAGES July 9th, 2016

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s I4C Preview
All July 9th 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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Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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VINTAGES Essentials: Fertile Ground for Value

Top New Vintages Essentials, July 2016
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The so-called “VINTAGES Essentials” is a collection of some 130-odd wines that is, essentially, a fancy extension of the LCBO’s regular listings. You already know that most of the wines sold in the VINTAGES section are purchased in discreet quantities and released every fortnight – these are the wines that WineAlign spends so much time reporting on, here today, gone tomorrow. When stock runs out, another listing takes its place.

But the Essentials are deemed, well, essential, and thus available on shelves year round, just like all of those familiar brands you see in the ‘regular’ sections of the LCBO. Really, the only difference is that they’re tucked away in the VINTAGES corner of your LCBO in all of its intimidating, wood-paneled glory, basking in the premium halo of the more rare, transient and expensive selections, and deliciously close to those locked glass armoires that harbour the really rare and expensive stuff.

The Essentials program is where the world’s premium wine brands want to be: always available (maximum sales potential, just for being there), yet without the déclassé stigma of being mixed with the hoi polloi on the ‘regular’ shelves, where discount drinkers go to fill their carts with boxed wine, vodka coolers and mickeys of Southern Comfort. Savvy wine companies, and their importing agents, know this, and often take a hit to shave down their pricing so it fits the Essentials matrix – it’s a coveted and therefore highly competitive space. And if you don’t meet minimum sales quotas, you’re booted to free up space for a potentially better-performing wine, ratcheting up the pressure (just as it is for the regular listings). Dropping your price by 10% or even 20% to move from a one-off VINTAGES purchase (with no guarantee of a re-order) into the Essentials category just might make financial sense.

And knowing this, the savvy shopper spots on opportunity: premium wines offered at artificially thin margins. The Essentials are fertile ground for value. But of course not all are killer – it still takes a little effort to sort out the good from the really good. And of course the vintages of these essential listings are constantly changing (that is, the year in which the grapes were grown), which occasions ups and downs in quality and style from year to year.

In June, the LCBO provided an opportunity to taste through the current crop of Essentials. Below are four whites and four reds that came knocking on my door of opportunity. (Be sure to check the vintage on the label – stores are likely to have multiple vintages on the shelves.)

White

Various factors, including a strong American dollar, high production costs and high cost of living make California an unlikely place to find real value. So it was all the more exciting to see one of my perennial favourites not only excel in the latest vintage, but also come down $3: Sonoma-Cutrer 2014 Russian River Ranches Chardonnay ($24.95). This is easily the classiest California chardonnay in the VINTAGES Essentials program, and the ‘14 is particularly well-balanced, crisp, fresh, minimally oaked, focused more on white-fleshed fruit – pear in particular – and citrus. Length and depth are impressive, and you can drink or hold this into the early ‘20s.

As I’ve recently reported, I believe chardonnay is Ontario’s most reliable and consistent grape, so it’s not surprising to find one on the Essentials list. The price, however, is surprising – surprisingly low, especially considering Ontario’s own elevated production costs and variable climate. I know Malivoire has had to stretch to get their 2013 Chardonnay ($19.95) just under the $20 wire, and it’s a fine value. It’s made in the bright, tight, minimally-oaked style, full of lively apple, pear and citrus fruit, and very light leesy-white chocolate flavours. Acids are sharp and crunchy in the best way, and the finish lingers nicely, making it a widely appealing, food-friendly style.

Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2014Malivoire Chardonnay 2013 Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2013 Flat Rock Twisted White 2014

Riesling would be my other pick for Ontario flagship white, excelling for value especially in the sub-$20 category. Cave Spring has been at it for over 35 years, helping to establish what has now evolved into the classic regional style, and the essential 2013 Estate Riesling ($17.95) is a benchmark. It features plenty of pear flavour and bright acids on a vibrant, off-dry frame, so very drinkable.

Blended whites is a more challenging category, often the dumping ground for leftover wine it seems, or a pure commercial play. But Flat Rock shows that they can be serious wines, too. The 2014 Twisted White ($16.95) is another fine and fragrant, just off-dry, joyfully aromatic mix of riesling, gewürztraminer and chardonnay, hitting a nice balance between fruit, floral, and ginger spice, and acids and sugar (with c. 17 grams of residual sugar, it’s slightly drier than Apothic red). This should be your go-to wine for those takeout Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese nights.

Red

Spain has shown itself to be a vast source of serious value in the last few years, and Essentials brings us two fantastic wines from the most historic red appellation, Rioja. On the more premium end, the Muga 2012 Reserva Rioja ($23.95) is a regular and consistent favourite. The 2012 is yet another engaging, fragrant, fruity-spicy edition that hits all of the right notes, perfectly pitched, mid-weight, lightly dusty, with vibrant acids and moderate wood influence in the modern style. Best 2016-2024.

Not as complex but a sheer joy to drink at a nice price is the Lan 2011 Crianza, Rioja ($15.95). It’s also on the more modern side, fruity, juicy and easy drinking with minimal wood influence. It would make a fine party/house/back yard BBQ wine.

Muga Reserva 2012 Lan Crianza 2011 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2012 Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore 2012

In a similar vein, the E. Guigal 2012 Côtes du Rhône ($16.95) is a regionally faithful example, appealingly dark and savoury. It delivers typical tar-like notes alongside dried flowers, resinous herbs, and liqueur-like red and black berry fruit, matching the textbook description of Southern Rhône red blends. Drink or hold short term, to about 2019.

Valpolicella ripasso is a challenging wine to get right in my view, but Zenato’s 2012 Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore Veneto, Italy ($24.95) is among the more reliable and consistently successful versions available at the LCBO. I like the bright acids, refined tannins and very good length, as well as the Mexican chocolate and cinnamon spice over lightly dried red fruit. It’s made using the classic ripasso method – soaking the skins leftover from Amarone pressings in straight Valpolicella to give it a boost – but the potentially confusing “Ripassa” name was born during the period when the Masi company owned the trademark for “Ripasso”, a term which they have since made available to all. Zenato’s brand, however, was already established, so they kept the name.

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

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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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An Exclusive Four-Course Dinner Featuring the Wines of Tabalí

On Tuesday, July 19th, join us for an exclusive four-course dinner and tutored tasting featuring the wines of Tabalí. Chief winemaker Felipe Müller will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason to guide you through this Limarí experience.

Tabalí was one of the first wineries to settle in the Limarí Valley in Chile. They are passionate about producing the highest quality wines by carefully balancing all elements, growing healthy vines, a careful selection of grapes and ultimately the best winemaking techniques. Their young and enthusiastic team are dedicated to producing wines that wine lovers around the world can taste and enjoy.

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets

 

Event Details:

Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Location:  The Shore Club (155 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm

Tickets: $124 per person (plus tax and fees)

*Please note tickets are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Menu and Wine List

Reception Wines
2014 Tabalí Reserve Especial Sauvignon Blanc & 2013 Tabalí ‘Talinay’ Pinot Noir

First Course
Summer Gazpacho
2014 Tabalí Sauvignon Blanc

Second Course
Seafood Ceviche
Featuring Shellfish and Local White Fish
2013 Tabalí Reserva Especial Chardonnay

Third Course
Family Style Dinner
Grilled Canadian Prime Ribeye Steaks and Roasted Chicken
Served with Fingerling Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables
2013 Tabalí Reserva Especial Cabernet Franc & 2012 Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah

Fourth Course
Dessert Platters
Mini Brownies, Fruit Tarts & Key Lime Pie
Coffee Service

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets

About the Winemaker:

Felipe Müller was born and raised in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Today, at the age of 41, he is considered one of the country´s most influential and important winemakers.

In 2006 he joined Tabalí as Chief Winemaker. According to Felipe Müller “Tabalí, though relatively young, has enormous potential, as shown by its outstanding Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines”. The winery’s goal is to make the finest wines of the Limari Valley and ultimately become a reference at a national level, by exploring new terroir, new plantations and new selections of clones. Felipe Müller was named ‘Best Winemaker of the Year’ in the sixteenth version of “Guía de Vinos de Chile 2010”, Chile’s oldest and most prestigious wine industry publication. This distinction was an important recognition for the enthusiasm, passion, and dedication he puts in crafting wines. “Wine is my passion and an important part of my life. I feel capable of leveraging the knowledge I’ve built throughout these many years”, says Felipe.

Felipe Müller

Felipe Müller – Managing Director & Chief Winemaker At Viña Tabalí

In the year 2011, Felipe was appointed as Manager Director, keeping his position as Chief Winemaker. From then Felipe was not only responsible for the quality of the wines but also for the global strategy of the company.

In January 2014 Felipe Müller was chosen ‘Best Young Winemaker’ (next to Aurelio Montes who was chosen Best Senior Winemaker) by El Mercurio, Chile’s leading newspaper.

Felipe will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason.

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets

Tabali Winemakers Dinner

 

About The Shore Club

The Shore Club is right in the heart of downtown Toronto. A vibrant restaurant and cocktail bar offering up lively ambiance. The Shore Club is memorable for its atmosphere, professional service and outstanding cuisine.

Located in the new RBC Centre, the restaurant is situated in Toronto’s bustling Entertainment District and is just steps away from prominent cultural venues such as Roy Thomson Hall, David Pecaut Square and TIFF Bell Lightbox, making it an ideal pre-performance dinner destination.

With its luxurious, contemporary décor, The Shore Club elevates dining to a true feast for the senses. The interior, curated by renowned designer Elaine Thorsell, pays homage to art deco ocean liners, boasting soaring ceilings, a palette of cool blue and green hues and stunning original artwork.

The Shore Club

Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets


Tabali

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Soif d’ici – Histoire de foi

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Qu’on se rassure, je n’ai pas oublié un « e » à la fin du mot. Aucune envie de me plaindre de ma condition hépatique en ce 1er juillet. Plutôt envie d’une profession de foi.

La semaine dernière, la grande famille de Chacun Son Vin / WineAlign était réunie à Penticton, en Colombie-Britannique, pour la tenue des National Wine Awards of Canada, la plus importante compétition dédiée aux vins canadiens.

Pour les membres du jury, ce rendez-vous annuel est une occasion en or pour prendre le pouls du vignoble canadien et échanger avec les vignerons de la région hôte. C’est aussi un excellent prétexte pour se revoir et pour s’amuser un peu, accessoirement. L’ambiance en sérieuse de jour – compétition et travail obligent –, mais légère et festive de soir.

Chaque édition des NWAC a aussi sa trame sonore. Et celle de cette année aura très largement été marquée par Faith. Bientôt quatre jours que je suis rentrée et la chanson de Georges Michael tourne encore en boucle dans ma tête. Sans arrêt. Mais juste le refrain:

« Cause I gotta have faith, faith. I gotta have faith, faith, faith. »

À force, et en relisant mes commentaires sur l’ensemble des vins de cet article, j’y fini par y voir une certaine signification ou une heureuse coïncidence, c’est selon. En fait, je n’ai jamais autant eu foi en l’avenir du vignoble canadien et plus j’y pense, plus je crois qu’il est parmi les plus porteurs du Nouveau Monde. Voilà, c’est dit.

Je ne connais pas encore les résultats de nos séances intensives de dégustation à l’aveugle – plus de 1500 vins étaient inscrits cette année –, mais je peux d’emblée vous dire ceci: l’avenir aura bon goût. Très bon.

#GoGamayGo

Malivoire Gamay 2014Certains cépages suscitent évidemment plus d’enthousiasme que d’autres. Parmi nos favoris de cette présente édition on trouve quelques classiques du vignoble canadien comme le pinot noir et le chardonnay, mais aussi quelques variétés encore trop méconnue, comme le riesling, le cabernet franc, le pinot gris et… notre chouchou, le gamay.

Des 14 médailles platine attribuées l’année dernière, trois ont été décernées à des vins de gamay. C’est plus de 20 % et ça n’a rien de bien surprenant: le gamay est fait pour le climat continental de Niagara.

De plus en plus de producteurs le reconnaissent et misent à fond sur ce cépage essentiellement cultivé dans la région française du Beaujolais. Parmi eux, le domaine Malivoire, où Shiraz Mottiar produit ce très bon Gamay 2014 (20,90 $); juteux, débordant de fruit et soutenu par une saine acidité. L’exemple même d’un bon vin rouge de soif; encore meilleur s’il est servi légèrement rafraîchi.

Pinot noir et chardonnay

Le Canada semble aussi taillé sur mesure pour les deux cépages maîtres de la Bourgogne. L’Ontario, plus particulièrement. Le pinot noir est pourtant reconnu pour être capricieux et le chardonnay est, comment dire… souvent si prévisible qu’il en devient presque ennuyant. Mais lorsque plantés au bon endroit, cultivés et vinifiés comme il faut, ils atteignent à Niagara et dans Prince Edward County (PEC) une finesse et une pureté qui pourraient faire l’envie de bien d’autres régions mieux connues, particulièrement chez nos voisins américains.

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2013 Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013Le climat de Niagara donne généralement des pinots noirs plus nourris et charnus qu’à PEC. Parmi les beaux exemples du genre, on peut retenir, cette année encore, le Pinot Noir 2013 Lowrey Vineyard (42,75 $) produit par Thomas Bachelder. Le plus achevé des récents millésimes pour cet excellent pinot provenant du secteur de St. David’s Bench.

Plus à l’ouest, et provenant de trois différentes parcelles sur le Beamsville Bench, le Pinot Noir 2013 (35,25 $) de Hidden Bench est impeccable et traduit bien le caractère frais et modéré du millésime 2013. Élégant, tissé de fruit mûr et joliment boisé.

Le chardonnay a aussi trouvé un terrain de jeu rêvé sur la péninsule du Niagara. À la SAQ, retenons les vins de Tawse, où le talent de vinificateur Paul Pender s’exprime même à travers le Chardonnay 2013 (23,50 $) courant du domaine. Habituellement peu plus nourri que la moyenne régionale, le Chardonnay 2013 de Flat Rock Cellar continue de gagner en tension cette année.

Bien qu’un peu plus ample et généreux, le Chardonnay 2014 The Brock de Closson Chase, est assez représentatif des chardonnays produits en bordure de la rivière Niagara. En prévente en ligne depuis hier, le vin sera disponible en succursales à compter du 7 juillet. Et pour goûter aux excellentes cuvées de chardonnay qu’élabore Closson Chase dans Prince Edward County, il faudra encore se rendre au domaine.

Tawse ChardonnayFlat Rock Chardonnay 2013 Closson Chase Brock Chardonnay 2014Les Pervenches Le Couchant 2014

Du Québec, on voudra découvrir ou redécouvrir la cuvée Chardonnay 2014, Le Couchant du Vigbnoble Les Pervenches, à Farnham (35 $ – au domaine), mais aussi celui du Domaine St-Jacques – goûté sur fûts cette semaine et très prometteur – (24,95 $).

Cabernet franc

Le financier Morey Tawse est avant tout un amoureux des vins de la Bourgogne – issus de pinot noir et de chardonnay –, mais son domaine est également la source d’excellents cabernets francs, comme le Cabernet Franc 2011 Laundry Vineyard (33,50 $); plus souple, vibrant et accessible en jeunesse que l’ambitieuse cuvée Van Bers 2010 (50 $), disponible exclusivement en ligne.

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011 Tawse Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2010 Redstone Cabernet 2013

Le cabernet franc joue aussi un rôle important (75 %) dans le Cabernet 2013 (23,80 $) de Redstone Winery, la plus récente acquisition de Morey Tawse.

Pinot gris et riesling

Chaque année, parmi le lot de vins de Colombie-Britannique dégustés au NWAC, ceux qui me semblent le plus complets sont issus de cépages alsaciens: pinot gris, riesling, gewürztraminer ou pinot blanc. Tout comme l’Alsace, la Colombie-Britannique bénéficie d’un climat sec et d’étés généralement chauds. Malgré une saison végétative un peu moins longue qu’en Alsace, les vins de Colombie-Britannique affichent ce même éclat aromatique. Des vins blancs originaux et racés qui suscitent déjà l’intérêt de critiques internationaux.

À commencer par ce très bon Riesling 2015 de Tantalus (31,50 $); parfaitement sec, d’une minéralité à trancher au couteau et d’une exquise pureté. Plus souple et facile à boire, le Pinot Gris 2014 (24,60 $) de Poplar Grove déploie de jolies notes de lime et de pomme verte. Un bon vin d’apéritif.

Tantalus RieslingPoplar Grove Pinot Gris 2014 Domaine St Jacques Pinot Gris 2015

Et, contre toute attente, même le vignoble québécois obtient de beaux résultats avec le cépage pinot gris. Goûté (et bu, je le confesse) à trois reprises depuis le mois de mai, le Pinot Gris 2015 du Domaine St-Jacques est l’un de mes vins blancs québécois favoris des dernières années. Du gras, une expression aromatique élégante et une finale saline et désaltérante.

Surveillez de près son arrivée en succursales dans quelques semaines. Si je me fie à l’enthousiasme ambiant lors de son lancement en mai, les quelque 210 caisses devraient s’écouler très vite!

Bon été!

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

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – July 9, 2016

International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration Preview, & Killer, Almost-Chardo Whites
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

It’s July, which means it’s that time again for some of the world’s top chardonnay producers to join their counterparts in Canada for the annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) in Niagara, July 22-24. Since 2011, over 174 wineries from planet wine have poured their coolest chardonnays in Ontario, and this year, the 6th edition, another 30 visiting vintners will show their wares alongside 30 Ontario oenologues, well over 100 wines altogether, with many extra-curricular options. The program this year is as jam-packed as a winery tasting room on a long summer weekend, full of fun, covertly educational events, including the main event, the Cool Chardonnay World Tour Tasting & Dinner on Saturday night. See the schedule and get your tickets. I’ll see you there.

The LCBO joins the celebration with an i4c preview for the July 9th VINTAGES release. By design or diplomatic faux pas, the Ontario selections largely outshine the foreign ones, all from the watershed 2013 vintage, arguably the best yet for Ontario chardonnay. Read on for the best of the lot in the release, plus a few others great chardonnays I’ve swallowed lately. And for those of you who love chardonnay, but would enjoy a little dalliance, I’ve got three irresistible whites, which in a dark glass at the end of the night could pass for a delicious chardo, with an exotic twist.

Chardonnay: You Are The One

It’s never the special bottlings or experimental lots that define a wine region, no matter how impressive they are. It’s the baseline and the top end, and everything in between, which proclaim a region’s signature grape status. What’s the most consistent and reliable variety, at all price points, capable of displaying a range of styles yet still regionally recognizable?

By these criteria, Ontario has a clear champion: chardonnay. Riesling, it’s true, performs superbly and dependably well, and easily anchors the best value category. But it hits a glass ceiling of price and, more contentiously, quality. I know of no Ontario riesling that sells over $40, which would be hard to justify in any case in my view, and most are under $20, right where they should be, with notable exceptions.

Chardonnay, on the other hand, while weaker at the bottom end, can nonetheless peak interest under $20, and ramp up all the way to $50-$60+ with plenty of points of interest along the way. And at the ultra-premium end, the top wines handily equal, and often best, similarly priced wines from around the world. It’s rare that a young wine region hit upon a signature variety within the first generation, but with barely forty years of serious commercial winegrowing, Ontario has found a successful vector with chardonnay.

“We focus so much on Chardonnay as we believe it’s the first white grape of Ontario in terms of consistency, quality, and also its expression of terroir”, declares Daniel Speck of Henry of Pelham, one of the original Niagara wineries, echoing the sentiments of many others. You can bet that if I were planting a vineyard in Ontario, there would be a healthy percentage of chardonnay in the mix. As further evidence, last week at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada judging in Penticton, BC, there were no fewer than three flights of chardonnay, the largest group, along with pinot noir, that made it to the final rounds. This clearly shows that the bulk of entries was very strong (including wines from elsewhere in Canada, but many from Ontario) – it was a sheer pleasure to taste through them all. But it was also bloody tough to pick a top wine. (You and I will have to wait a few more weeks to discover the overall top wines.)

NWAC16 Chardonnay_SZ

And The Original

In a move of supreme foresight, or sheer luck, chardonnay was the first vinifera planted in Ontario in the late 1950s by Bill Lenko. The local Horticultural Research Institute had cautioned Lenko that European grapes wouldn’t survive; how fortunate that he defied those warnings. Today, chardonnay is the most important grape by number of varietal bottlings in the province. It’s also the protagonist of Ontario’s biggest and most important event, the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration, or colloquially “i4c”. Ontario vintners are proud to put their wares on display alongside chardonnays from all of the world’s coolest regions.

Summer School at i4c

So, if you’re still not convinced spend some time over the i4c weekend getting to know the top drops in your backyard. And for the particularly keen, take some summer school courses. I’m chuffed to be back as moderator for the weekend opening “Summer School of Cool” day of seminars on Friday, July 22nd. This year’s three riveting topics are Harvest Timing and Implications – for me the most important decision a winemaker makes every year, which dramatically impacts what’s in the glass. It’s a move you can never take a mulligan on. As the great Chablis producer Bernard Raveneau once told me, “twenty years ago only the most audacious producers had the courage to wait and harvest late. Now, only the courageous harvest early”. It’s a make or break call.

The second seminar explores the age-worthiness of Cool Climate Chardonnay, and the factors that most directly affect it, an FAQ if I ever heard one (plus we’ll be tasting some tidy old vintages – always a treat). And lastly, we’ll get into a deep topic of increasing relevance and bring it out of the winemaking shadows: Skins & Stems: Whole Cluster Winemaking (or Not): Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I know I know, it sounds geeky. But considering the increasing prominence of whites made with skin contact, it will be stimulating to examine chardonnay under this light. And as a first, red wine – in this case pinot noir – has been allowed into the celebration, opening the door to a discussion on the use of stems during vinification. If you’ve ever wondered why this pinot is more deeply coloured and exuberantly fruity, while that one is pale, floral, spicy and earthy, you may want to check this tasting out.

In the meantime, warm up your chardonnay palate with the following excellent examples.

Buyers’ Guide: Cool Chardonnay

Jay Johnson must have been possessed. Or maybe he reached enlightenment, or solved the mystery of the universe. Whatever happened, it conspired to make the Flat Rock 2013 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($24.95) the best yet from this chardonnay-pinot specialist. It hits pitch perfect balance between fruit and wood, acids and alcohol-richness, while offering a fine array of still youthful citrus and pear/apple/orchard fruit. This is a head-turning wine.

Another ‘best yet’ in 2013 comes from Pearl Morissette and the 2013 Cuvée Dix-Neuvième Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($38.20). It’s the most ‘chardonnay-like’ chardonnay to emerge from the Pearl Morissette cellar to date, fermented in assorted, mostly old oak casks, then left unmolested without racking until bottling save for a partial short passage in Georgian clay qvevri which, according to Morissette, snapped the wine back into shape after a period of ‘laziness’. It really excels on the palate – this is all about the texture, unctuous and luscious – and palpable salinity that acts like the fulcrum in tandem with acids to rein in and balance the billowing, lightly oxidative orchard fruit. You’ll get a good ways through War and Peace before the finish dissipates.

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013Pearl Morissette Cuvée Dix Neuvieme Chardonnay 2013 Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2013 Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2014 Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2013

The Speck boys found a terrific groove in 2013 as well, offering us the conspicuously excellent Henry of Pelham 2013 Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay, VQA Short Hills Bench ($29.95). It’s delightful to see this top tier wine from Henry of Pelham crafted with such restraint and delicacy – I suppose it’s the confidence that comes with 30 years in the business that you can let your old vines and vineyard speak more loudly than your barrel supplier or winemaking savvy. This is a wine of genuine presence and depth.

Also at the top of their game, Hidden Bench’s 2013 Estate Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara ($28.75), is another Niagara classic with every bit the complexity, flavour, savouriness and seamlessly integrated wood of the best. And this is just the ‘entry level’, a blend of HB’s three estate vineyards designed for earlier enjoyment. But it delivers marvellous density and intensity on a lithe and vibrant frame. And it’s a steal for the price. Buy a few bottles to enjoy while you’re waiting for the trippy 2013 Felseck vineyard chardonnay to be released later this year.

And lest our guests feel slighted, here’s the top value non-Canadian selection from the July 9th release: Tabalí 2013 Reserva Especial Chardonnay, Limarí Valley, Chile ($18.95). The Limarì valley and its high active limestone and cool coastal influence is in my view Chile’s most suitable chardonnay region, at least of those in commercial exploitation. This is a complex, well-balanced wine to be sure, but what excites me most is the palpable saltiness, the crunchy acids, the well-integrated oak (9 months in barrel), and the lingering, lightly creamy finish. A fine value in premium chardonnay, at a sub-premium price.

Buyers’ Guide: Killer, Almost Chardonnay-like Whites

I’ve enthused about Soave’s Pieropan before, so you won’t be surprised to see the Pieropan La Rocca 2013 Soave Classico DOC Soave, Veneto, Italy ($37.95) on this list. It’s one of the great single vineyard wines of Soave, and indeed of Italy, from a limestone-based site that delivers an exceptionally rich and creamy wine here in 2013. The texture is absolutely gorgeous, creamy and layered, ample and mouthfilling, while crackling acids aided by palpable saltiness reel in the richness and retain balance. Best 2016-2025.

Admittedly I find the wines of Paso Roble in California’s Central Coast area often overblown, but one of the mighty exceptions is the great estate of Tablas Creek, a joint venture between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel, and American importer Robert Haas. The 2013 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles, California ($33.95) is a superb white blend of viognier, grenache blanc, marsanne and roussanne, inspired of course by the Rhône, and grown from cuttings brought directly from Beauscatel. The vineyards sit on the west side of Paso on cooler, limestone soils, which, coupled with the old world winemaking philosophy, result in exceptionally well balanced wine, ripe and rich but equally fresh, with neither excess nor deficiency of any elements. The creamy, orange peel-laced finish lingers on and on. Very classy and collected; best 2016-2024.

Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2013 Tablas Creek Côtes De Tablas Blanc 2013 Palacios Remondo Plácet 2012

Palacios and quality are virtual synonyms, so don’t miss the Palacios Remondo 2012 Placet Valtomelloso, DOCa Rioja, Spain ($29.95), a pure viura grown at nearly 600m one of the highest vineyards in Rioja, just hitting perfect drinking stride now. It can be considered a more modern style, which is to say absent the obvious oxidative and coconut/sandalwood flavours of long American oak-aged, traditional examples, but it has an impressive range of flavours of its own. I like the gently creamy but balanced palate and the long finish, all white flowers and soft fruit. Really lovely; best 2016 2022.

That’s all for this week. Happy Canada Day!

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES July 9th, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All July 9th 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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Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Top Values at the LCBO (June 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I spent the last week in BC with over 20 colleagues from WineAlign judging the 2016 edition of the National Wine Awards of Canada. Between us we tasted over 1500 wines in the competition plus many more at wineries we visited. It was a great exposure to the many good wines being made in Canada today.

I am now back in Ontario and am pleased to tell you that it is another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values with twelve wines joining the list since I last wrote to you.

Some are de-listed favourites, others are discounted or have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive. I also write about some wines that are brand new to the LCBO. It is great when a wine is added to the system and, without any discounts, jumps straight onto the list. Bravo to the canny buyers at the LCBO.

Today’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign 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 July 17th. 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 that I highlight.

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

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013, Wrattonbully, South Australia ($10.95 was $11.95) Delisted – This is a full-bodied powerful fruity red with smoke and spice from oak and some herbal tones and a dash of raspberry jam. The palate is juicy and fully flavoured with a long fruity finish. Very good length. Drink cautiously before running with bulls. Over 2300 bottles remain.

Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.95 was $11.95) – An elegant fruity structured wine for fine dining. It is medium bodied and dry with soft mature tannin and well integrated acidity delivering a gentle velvety smooth palate. Try with roast beef. Very good length.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013 Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2014 Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($11.65) – This is juicy vibrant clean red with fresh raspberry and red cherry aromas with good focus and very good length with an intense fruity finish. Chill lightly and enjoy with BBQ meats.

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($11.95 + 8BAMs) – Carmenere is rapidly becoming the signature grape of Chile where they have now mastered this difficult grape. It is a dense powerful wine that is full bodied but still very juicy with ripe fruit and fine tannin. Very good length.

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014 Ogier Cotes Du Ventoux Red 2013 Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2013

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Red 2013, Rhone Valley, France ($11.95) – This is a soft spicy red with raspberry, grapefruit and cherry fruit aromas and white pepper spiciness on nose and palate. It is mid-weight with soft tannin and very good length. Try with a grilled lamb cutlets.

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($14.10 was $14.95) – The Masi team that has crafted a savoury acid driven style of wine that is eminently food friendly. So do not expect mocha and chocolate laced ripe berry fruit; this is more Bordeauxlike than what Mendoza’s Uco Valley often delivers and I like it a lot.

Whites

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015, Sicily, Italy ($8.20) Grillo is one of my favourite Sicilian native grapes which, when blended here with pinot grigio, delivers a deeply flavoured well balanced white at a great price. It is fairly simple but well balanced with very good length. Don’t overchill and try with sautéed seafood.

Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2014, Argentina ($10.95 was $12.95) – This is lightly oaked to give some added complexity and structure and very smooth with a mineral tone to the fruit. Very good to excellent length with a dry finish. Try with creamy pasta sauces.

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015 Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2014 Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015

Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015 Argentina ($12.00) – This is a very rich smooth white blend that is probably mostly chardonnay maybe with a splash of viognier. It is midweight and deeply flavoured with very good length. Try with roast white meats like pork or veal or rich mature cheddar cheese.

Goats do Roam White 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($12.00) – The aromatic Goats white is a blend of three Rhone whites grapes and  is quite classy smooth and flavourful considering its price.  Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with roast poultry.

Goats Do Roam White 2015 Lacheteau Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Malivoire Chardonnay 2013

Lacheteau Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Touraine, Loire Valley, France ($14.10 + 5BAMs) – This is an elegant flavourful sauvignon with good varietal character that is midweight and quite rich with lots of flavour and fine balancing acidity. Very good length. Try with herbed chicken.

Malivoire Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($17.95 was $19.95) – This is a very classy white with a beautiful soft creamy texture and vibrant zesty acidity that is finely balanced and midweight with the fruit graced by minerality on the finish. Try with mildly flavoured poultry or seafood dishes. Happy Canada Day!

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 38 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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British Columbia Critics’ Picks June 2016

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

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Having just emerged from the National Wine Awards of Canada, and with Canada Day on the horizon, I thought it fitting to put together a case of some of the most memorable Canadian wines that I’ve tasted in the last twelve months for this month’s BC Critics’ Report. Keep in mind, these are the ones available for purchase within BC; I could easily recommend a dozen other Canadian wines that are still kept beyond our provincial borders. Perhaps by next Canada Day, we will stand united to enjoy Canadian wine.

As to be expected in a country this vast, the diversity of grapes, styles and producers is as ranging as our multicultural heritage. There’s a lot to celebrate this Canada Day, and most fittingly, with high quality bottles like these. #TrueNorth, strong and nearly FREE.

Cheers ~ TR

Yes. Fizz. Always. From my side in the far west, the Bella Wines 2015 Gamay Methode Ancestrale stood out for its brave, wild and natural deliciousness (as well as its less-is-more hand-tied packaging). Bonus #GoGamayGo.

From the other coast, Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge 2009 Brut Méthode Classique, a serious traditional method sparkler, made from decidedly untraditional grapes: l’acadie, chardonnay and seyval. This serves an important reminder that exemplary sites can trump grapes.

Bella Gamay Methode Ancestrale 2015 Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2009 Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2015 Blue Mountain Reserve Chardonnay 2013

A wine that typifies coastal to me is Sea Star 2015 Ortega, a vibrant example of the lean, aromatic white grape that is so well suited to the Wine Islands’ marine-fresh coastal climates. Tight pear, white peach, melon and crystalline lemon; pass the shellfish.

I continue to be impressed by Canadian chardonnay, and counting down the days when some of the stunners from Prince Edward County and Niagara are available for purchase in our province. Until then, I’m happy to drink wines like Blue Mountain Reserve 2013 Chardonnay, an elegant, creamy and restrained age-worthy style based on 24 year old Okanagan Falls vines.

Speaking of texture, Haywire 2014 Waters and Banks Sauvignon Blanc Raised in Concrete is imbued with it, from its elderflower herbaceousness to its savoury saltiness. They’ve captured the special site in the glass.

Haywire Sauvignon Blanc Waters & Banks 2014 Synchromesh Wines Riesling Four Shadows Vineyard 2015 Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2013 Little Farm Rosé 2014

Across the board, the most striking wines are the ones where site is king. For Synchromesh Wines 2015 Four Shadows Vineyard Riesling, one of four single vineyard rieslings the winery released from 2015, the wine is a reflection of the higher altitude, steep sloping gravelled site on Naramata Bench. Auslese-styled, this matches concentrated fruit with surging limey acidity, handily balancing 52 g/l RS into 10.6 percent alcohol. Stunner.

Similarly impressive was the Tantalus 2013 Old Vines Riesling, showing the grape through an entirely different smoked stone, wild herb and grippy lens.

Rosé blends the best of both worlds – the drinkability and freshness of white wines with some structure, red fruit and tannins of red. Little Farm Winery 2014 Rosé is drinking beautifully right now (yes, some rosés CAN age), with its cabernet franc expressed with wild herbs, dusted stone and young strawberry fruit. The ideal foil for summer wild salmon bakes or charcuterie.

In a different vein, though similar rosé hue, is the 2015 Le Vieux Pin Vaïla Rosé. Also dry, with silken rhubarb, raspberry, rose bush and fine salts sailing through a streaming palate. Elegant and attractive.

Le Vieux Pin Vaila Rosé 2015 Stag's Hollow Renaissance Grenache 2014 La Stella La Sophia Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2012

Also making repeat appearances in the trevehouse is the Stag’s Hollow 2014 Renaissance Grenache. One of the rare Canadian grenaches, let’s hope this fresh, fragrant plum, blackcurrant and white pepper example from Okanagan Falls inspires more.

Some wines, like people, improve with age. While I was impressed with the 2011 La Stella Winery La Sophia when I last tasted it, I know that I will be rewarded ten-fold in five years’ time, when the firm, sinewy, dark fruit, leather and graphite has further intertwined.

Sometimes age is expressed in other ways, like with the Nichol Syrah. But what else would you expect from the oldest syrah vines in Canada, planted on sloping granite and sustainably farmed. The 2012 vintage is a stunner right now and has time to go still, with alluring violets, grippy thorns and dried herbs texturing the structured black cherry fruit.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.

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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The Answer is Wine. What was the Question? June 2016

by Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

Welcome to the second installment of “The Answer is Wine. What was the Question?” With the popularity of wine and easy access to information and education on all things wine, there still seem to be queries and questions that many wine drinkers have but are afraid to ask. This is your chance to ask about all things vinous that weigh heavy on your mind and see if the answer shows up in this column.  And remember, there are no stupid questions.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and please keep them coming. Email your queries to AskDrJDo@WineAlign.com or tweet them with the hashtag #AskDrJDo.

Q: PH Asks: What are the 3 most planted red and white wine varieties in Mexico?

A: Ah Mexico – one of my favourite travel destinations though not really well known for wine. That being said, Mexico is actually the oldest wine producing country in the Americas with production dating back to the arrival of Spanish colonialists in the 1500s who were used to drinking wine and having it part of Catholic religious ceremonies. To encourage wine growing and making, Governor Cortés declared that all new settlers plant 1,000 vines for every 100 Mexicans on the land that had been granted to them. King Carlos V of Spain also decreed that all ships headed to the Americas include grape vines on their Atlantic passage.

In fact, the first commercial production of wine in the Americas was made in Mexico in 1597 at the Mission of Santa Maria de la Parras, which is now the Casa Madero winery. Commercial wine production became so successful and prolific that by the end of the 1600s, the rulers in Spain limited production to sacramental wine in order to protect the Spanish wine industry.

Fast forward to phylloxera in the late 1800s which had a devastating effect on the Mexico wine industry with vineyard land amounting to no more than several hundred hectares at the beginning of the twentieth century. Fifty years later there were just over a dozen wine producers.

The modern Mexican wine industry is relatively recent and has gone through periods of expansion with a huge surge of plantings taking place in the 1960s to meet the demand for domestic brandy production, and thanks to foreign investment from multinational producers such as Martell and Allied Domecq, to retraction, due most recently to the free trade agreement with the EU in 1989 and the onslaught of low priced wines from Europe.

Wine is produced in seven states in Mexico, with the long skinny peninsula of Baja, California in the northwest being the most important in terms of size and quality wine production. A number of grape varieties are grown both within Baja California and other regions with the main red grapes being Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with Mediterranean varieties well suited to the hot dry growing conditions such as Grenache, Syrah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and perhaps best known to the Canadian wine market, Petit Sirah. Main white grape varieties include Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.

One Mexican winery who has made its way to the LCBO and SAQ on occasion, is L.A. Cetto. Click on the images below to see if one is available at a store near you.

L.A. Cetto Private Reserve Nebbiolo 2010 L.A. Cetto Don Luis Selecion Reserveda Terra 2010 L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah 2013 L.A. Cetto Private Reserve Chardonnay 2014

 

Q: LP Asks:  We have recently retired and would like to take some wine trips further afield which combine wine, art and culture. We are long time wine lovers and are particularly interested in going to wine regions that have interesting and major cities nearby, as well as to regions with wine museums or exhibits. Do you have any suggestions?

A: If you fancy a visit to the Bilbao with a jaunt to Rioja, or a hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town and vineyard excursion to Walker Bay, then the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is a good place to start planning your next getaway. Although wine route travel planners and regional websites abound, the Great Wine Capitals is a network of nine major global cities located in the northern and southern hemispheres and nearby both “Old” and “New” World wine regions, all of which are situated nearby internationally known wine regions. The cities and wine regions include: Adelaide and South Australia, Bilbao and Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux – the city and its neighbouring wine regions, Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, Mainz and the Rheinhessen in Germany, the city and wine region of Mendoza in Argentina, the city and wine region of Porto in Portugal, San Francisco and the Napa Valley and Valparaìso Chile and the neighbouring Casablanca Valley wine region.

Speaking of great wine capitals, the Cité du Vin has recently opened in Bordeaux. If preliminary reviews are anything to go by, the museum, both outside and inside, is a feast for the senses and a reason to visit or re-visit Bordeaux. In addition to the exhibits, the museum boasts a fabulous roof top wine bar with a panoramic view of Bordeaux and the river Gironde, a reading room, gift shop, restaurant and  tapas bar and of course a wine store that will stock bottles from ‘between 70 and 80 countries from the opening. There is also a 250 seat auditorium that will screen Euro 2016 football matches, accompanied by wine tastings of the competing countries.

 

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and please keep them coming. Email your queries to Janet Dorozynski at AskDrJDo@WineAlign.com or tweet them with the hashtag #AskDrJDo.

 


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