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March 2015 : Spring in the Vineyard

British Columbia Wine ReportMarch 18, 2015

by Rhys Pender, MW

Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender MW

As is often the case in BC’s Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, spring comes quickly in the vineyard. Winter for a vineyard manager is a time of mixed feelings. Once the grapes are harvested, the vines watered in with a last irrigation before the lines are blown out and the nets removed, there isn’t a lot you can do. Except worry.

You worry a lot during the winter. It is the price to pay, flirting with the whims of Mother Nature, for growing grapes in the northern extreme of where viticulture is possible. Every vineyard area in the world has something to stress over, something beyond the control of people and in the hands of Mother Nature. It could be heat, drought, rainfall, hail, humidity or a range of pests and diseases. In theOkanagan andSimilkameen few of these are a serious problem except for one thing – extreme cold.

A bit of cold weather isn’t entirely a bad thing. In fact, it is essential to shut the vines down and regenerate them for the upcoming year. Ideally the cold weather comes slowly and steadily, allowing the vines to build up their hardiness to survive the worst of what Mother Nature can throw at them. With gradual cooling, vines can often withstand temperatures as low as -20°C without any damage. Scientists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland run tests every couple of weeks to test how hardy the different grape varieties are. The chart they send out showing the lethal temperature at which half the buds will die at is poured over by growers all winter with one eye on the thermometer. You can also go out into the vineyard and take cuttings and then slice open the buds to see if they have been killed by frost. Basically all you can do is hope.

Spring in the VineyardOnce the warmth starts it can often be a very sudden start to the year. This year, temperatures in early March were already hitting 20°C in the day, even though nights could still be a chilly sub-zero. Nice weather to be out pruning in for sure, but a worry that the early heat may encourage buds to push and place them at the mercy of a late freeze. The worrying continues.

As soon as the vines are dormant, pruning can begin. Pruning is probably the most important job in the vineyard. It largely determines both the quantity and quality of a crop. Pruning too much creates a small crop and large shoots that will not only produce an uneconomical crop but also create over vigorous shoots from which to choose when pruning the following year. Under pruning creates too many shoots and they may not grow large enough to create the leaf area that will ripen enough grapes. Balance is the key and it takes a trained eye to look at each vine individually and determine exactly what treatment it needs.

The next step is planning for the year ahead. When will the vine’s sap flow enough for you to tie down the canes, how many hours do you need to allocate for weed control, thinning and other canopy management? You switch on the irrigation and hope nothing has frozen and exploded, that the pump still works and that pocket gophers haven’t eaten through too many of your pipes. More to worry about.

Once the buds burst and the vines start growing it is basically non-stop work in the vineyard until harvest. But getting through the winter without damage is the first of many feelings of relief that you feel throughout the year, relief at different milestones successfully achieved and potential devastation avoided. And then there is always the next thing to start worrying about. That is farming.

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For readers in Vancouver, I hope to see you at Chambar on April 7th. I’m teaming up with Chef Nico Schuermans for the Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series. It promises to be delicious – and WineAlign members get a special price. (click here for more info)

Cheers!

Rhys Pender, MW

~

Rhys, along with his winemaker wife Alishan Driediger, own and farm the boutique and organic Little Farm Winery, in the Similkameen Valley.


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Bill’s Best Bets – March 19th Cellier Arrivals

The Riches of Italy – Part Two
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Italy is the focus of the March CELLIER magazine and I must congratulate the SAQ for having put together a really good selection of wines. Of the 30 wines from either March 5th or March 19th, I found the large majority to be highly recommendable. Normally at a tasting such as this, if I can find 10 of 30 that stoke me, then that’s pretty good.

And to add to the fun the vast majority of the wines are in the $20-$30 range making them very accessibly priced. What do you want? Nebbiolo? Aglianico? Grecanico? You might as well go for all of them. I have already posted my top picks from the March 5th selection in Part One, now here’s Part Two with the wines that I really loved from the March 19th group.  (Please note that you may not see all of the store inventory until the release date, but you can still plan ahead!)

CELLIER March 19 release

To kick things off, Paolo Scavino’s 2013 Vino Rosso is a remarkable wine for under $20. Light, bright but with remarkable complexity that is made with grapes harvested from the estate’s younger vines.

Another very reasonably priced Piedmont wine is Castello di Neive’s 2010 Barbaresco. While it should properly be called a Langhe as it doesn’t show the complexity of many more expensive Barbarescos, it nicely shows the finesse and aromatic joy that is the nebbiolo grape.

Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso 2013 Castello Di Neive Barbaresco 2010 Silvano Piacentini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2012 Gerardo Cesari Jema Veronese 2010

If you are a fan of Ripassos, then Silvano Piacentini’s 2012 is a must try. Without going sweet, the wine is textured, complex and with admirable tannins that grip but don’t dry. For a twist on the theme, Cesari’s 2010 Jema is made with 100% corvina, and shows a touch of sweetness which ramps up the aromatics of dried fig and dates. Great wine for cheese.

Di Majo’s 2011 Norante is made with organically grown grapes from the Molise DOC, which is located in the southern part of the Abruzzo. Ripe and so wonderfully rustic, for $18, you can’t go wrong.

Di Majo Norante Algianico 2011 Prà Otto Soave Classico 2013Cos Rami Sicilia 2012

For you fans of Soave, one of the region’s best producers Prà, has an entry-level Soave that hits all the right notes. While they work on a riper style, the signature pulsing minerality drives this wine nicely.

And to finish, perhaps my favourite wine from the tasting is the 2012 Cos Rami. This Sicilian white, made grecanico and inzolia and vinified with extended skin contact which gives it a darker hue, is best drunk after a few hours in a carafe and at 10-16C. With lobster season around the corner, it makes a really interesting pairing. Incredible complexity and so much fun to drink.

CELLIER Premium Feature

Cellier New ArrivalsFor Chacun son Vin Premium members, we have added something new to the site to make your CELLIER shopping even easier. Now if you look under the Wine tab in the menu bar, you will see an option for <<CELLIER New Arrivals>>. By clicking here, you will be brought to a new page where we have grouped all of the new release wines and reviews together by date.

So you can check out my tasting notes on all the wines in one place.

Ciao!

Bill

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

From CELLIER March 19, 2015:

Bill’s Best Bets
All Reviews
Part One – March 5th

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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County in the City 2015 – Try and Buy Event with Special Offer

Join us on Thursday, April 16, for the 4th Annual County in the City, and sample some of the best wines Prince Edward County has to offer!  Over 20 small-batch and family-owned wineries will sample more than 50 different wines, including many vintage and specialty wines.

countyinthecity_logoThis is the place to taste and buy some of Canada’s top cool climate wines. Most you’ll never see outside of PEC.” – John Szabo MS

This tasting event will delight the palates of Torontonians and introduce them to some of the most enticing flavours of Prince Edward County; Ontario’s hottest growing wine region.

“‘County in the City’ is the most efficient way for city folk to slice and dice the fascinating and increasingly diverse range of Prince Edward County wines, most made in such small quantities that you will never see them at the LCBO.” – David Lawrason

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Many of the County wines showcased at the event are not available at retail wine outlets in the GTA, so guests can take part in the “Try and Buy” program and have delicious County wines delivered right to their door. Mix and match bottles from different wineries and receive FREE shipping (minimum 6 bottles).

Special Offer:

Buy a ticket to County in the City and receive a complimentary Thursday night (June 18th) ticket for the Toronto Wine and Spirits Festival ($20 value).  It’s the best outdoor wine beach party you’ve ever seen!

Event Details:

Thursday, April 16, 2014
Location: Berkeley Church – 315 Queen St. East
Time:  5pm to 9pm
Tickets: $49.00 in advance (includes all wine and food samples)
Tickets: $60.00 at the door (subject to availability)

 Purchase Your Tickets Here

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Participating Wineries:

Karlo Estates Winery
Lighthall Vineyards
Harwood Estate Vineyards
Norman Hardie Winery
Three Dog Winery
Stanners Vineyard
Keint-he Winery
Rosehall Run Winery
Casa Dea Estates Winery
Closson Chase
Sandbanks Estate Winery
Grange of Prince Edward County Vineyards and Estate Winery
Devils Wishbone
Huff Estates Winery
Trail Estate Winery
Black Prince Winery
By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery & Vineyard

 Purchase Your Tickets Here

About Berkeley Church:

Built in 1871, The Berkeley Church has been transformed into Toronto’s most original event venue.  Nowhere else will you find such a beautiful blend of traditional ambiance and modern decor. Details such as the original 17-foot stained glass windows, hard wood floors and Victorian Inspired bar makes the Berkeley Church a stunning escape from the ordinary.  This location is accessible by TTC, taxi and Green P parking is available on all surrounding streets for responsible designated drivers.

The Berkeley Church

The Berkeley Church photo above courtesy of Dan Trcka: www.grapeselections.com


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Report on Cuvée and Expert’s Tasting 2015

Ontario Wine ReportMarch 16, 2015

by Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

February 27, 2015 was a frigid day to set off to Niagara’s Fallsview Casino for Cuvée’s annual grand tasting and the first time I experienced the Falls frozen over, almost entirely so. Not only did the grand affair take place on the 27th but it was also the 27th anniversary of the event.

The format has changed greatly over the years but this year, like several years before it, participant wineries were asked to have their winemakers present one wine of their choosing to the large gathering of consumers and media. At $200 a ticket, attendees were afforded the chance to hobnob with the winemakers (all in their finest black-tie garb) and enjoy some exquisite cuisine presented by the finest local Chefs.

The evening kicked off with Tony Aspler’s presentation of his annual Cuvée Award of excellence to Laurie Macdonald, the director of VQA. The soiree finished memorably as guests were treated to a selection of craft beers, sparkling wine and Icewine as the dance floor filled up, brought to life by live music at Après Cuvée.

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White wine highlights:

Riesling and chardonnay made their usual splashes at the Grand Tasting but there were some surprisingly lovely entries made of semillon, chenin blanc and pinot gris.

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 Big Head Wines Chenin Blanc 2013 Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2012

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 ($22.95) – Organic and biodynamic production are the hallmarks of Southbrook but it is the attention to detail and an uncompromising approach that produces some of the region’s most memorable wines as well as its most unconventional and polarizing bottlings. This example is elegant, sublimely integrated, undeniably sophisticated and thankfully, well-priced.

Big Head Chenin Blanc 2013 ($22) – Prolific winemaker Andrezj Lipinski knocks it out of the park, once again, with this substantial, unctuous and widely-appealing chenin blanc from old vine Niagara Lakeshore fruit.

Cave Spring Cellars 2012 Riesling CSV, Beamsville Bench ($29.95) – I seem to be drawn in by the warmer vintages of Cave Spring’s CSV riesling and this example exhibits those notable flavours of petrol and passion fruit as well as a rich, tongue-coating texture and memorable length.

Red wine highlights:

Not surprisingly, gamay and cabernet franc were standouts in this year’s tasting and prove that Niagara has both the climate to produce consistently outstanding examples of these varietals and the gumption to craft fine, high-end examples.

Peller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2012 Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2010 Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012

Peller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2013 ($18.75) – Talented Winemaker Katie Dickenson, has been making a splash since her debut as Winemaker with Peller only three years ago. She continues to produce serious and noteworthy wines such as this Gamay, one of her favourite varietals – and it shows!

Two Sisters Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010 ($48) – The buzz continues to grow about Two Sisters who have been officially open for less than a year but have captured the attention of top critics across the globe. Proprietors Angela and Melissa of the Marotta construction family have brought Adam Pearce, a Niagara College Wine and Viticulture graduate, to lead the winemaking team with his low interventionist methods.

Vineland Estates 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve, Niagara Peninsula ($40) – Soon to be released, this show-stopping Cabernet Franc is vibrant but meaty and substantial. It is a solid expression of the unique, high-quality and age-worthy style of cabernet franc of which Niagara is most capable of producing.

Expert’s Tasting

John Szabo

John being congratulated by Magdalena Kaiser and Zoltan Szabo

Once a year, a gathering of Ontario’s top winemakers, educators, sommeliers and wine critics are brought together by Brock University’s CCOVI for a day of academic discussion on the state of affairs of local, cool climate wine production and the unique potential of the industry. This is usually mixed with a little competitive joviality as attendees are asked to identify wines blind among international ringers. All in all, a chance to get serious after the Gala’s revelry.

The Expert’s tasting was hosted by the gregarious Jamie Drummond, Sommelier and wine and food journalist with Good Food Revolution who has been a long-term promoter of Ontario wines. Along with the wine flights, the coveted VQA Promoters Awards were presented by WineAlign principal critic Janet Dorozynski. Some notable mentions were the Media Award bestowed upon WineAlign’s very own John Szabo MS as well as the educator award to Evan Saviolidis, a past WineAlign World Wine Awards Judge. The Lifetime Achievement Award was rightfully granted to Len Pennachetti, proprietor of Cave Spring Cellars and a pioneer in the development of Ontario’s quality wine production. For a list of all the deserving recipients: http://Cuvée.ca/news/

A snapshot of four flights of note:

Legends Estates Pinot Gris Terroir 2013 Pelee Island Pinot Grigio 2013Flight #1: The beauty of the middle path – a discussion focused on pinot gris and pinot grigio lead by LCBO product manager, Ontario Wines, Astrid Brummer. Although Niagara produces both these distinctive styles, it is no surprise that pinot grigio is a much better marketing title.

No longer do the names on the label necessarily implicate the style of wine produced. That being said, many of Ontario’s dazzling pinot grigios seemed to prove a much greater value than one of LCBO’s top sellers, Santa Margherita our ringer of the flight.

Pelee Island 2013 Pinot Grigio, Ontario ($13.95) – Hailing from the most southern wine production area in Canada, Pelee Island winery is one of Ontario’s most visible wineries on the shelves of the LCBO. It has been some time since I have revisited this top selling, well-priced pinot grigio and I was pleasantly surprised by the wine’s clean, pure and elegant output.

Legends Estate 2013 Terroir Pinot Gris, Lizak Vineyards, Niagara-on the-Lake ($17.55) – Here is one fresh, crisp pinot gris that exhibits the lovely lightness and refreshing dryness more common in pinot grigio. Regardless of the name, it is certainly a focused and finely crafted pinot.

Flight #2: For whom the bell pepper tolls lead by Shiraz Mottiar, Malivoire winemaker

Peller Estates Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Trius Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment 2013Our flight illustrated the wide diversity of sauvignon blanc present across Ontario. The region has yet to focus on a particular style but given the level of quality and the bold fruit tasted perhaps it shouldn’t. There was some consensus that perhaps the industry’s styles should be as diverse as our vintages.

Trius 2013 Clean Slate Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc, Niagara-on-the Lake Vineyard ($32) – As premium of a price as you can pay for sauvignon blanc in Niagara, this stylized sauvignon benefitted from a touch of oak and a good deal of creamy lees ageing. Its wild ferment only enhanced its local character.

Peller Estates 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Four Mile Creek ($30.20) – A riper style of sauvignon blanc almost devoid of the grassy, green vegetal notes characteristic of the varietal’s cool climate expression. A solid, well-made and appealing wine.

Flight #3 Weirdos, misfits and uprooted things with thoughts from Joshua Corea, Sommelier Archive Wine Bar

Sad to say goodbye to some of these uprooted varietals after our, literally, killer winter. With semillon and chenin blanc likely on the chopping block, some other varietals like viognier and gamay surprisingly took center stage.

Creekside 2013 Viognier Reserve, St. David’s Bench, Queenston Road Vineyard ($29.95) – Creekside has long been one of Niagara’s most important producer of this varietal. Call it a guilty pleasure, this lips-smacking viognier is a bombshell with epic flavour and impact.

Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Viognier 2013 Keint He Voyageur Gamay Noir 2013 Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2013

Flight #4 Hip Hip Gamay! Amelie Boury, Winemaker at Chateau des Charmes lead this rousing discussion on a topic that everyone in attendance seemed to champion. The excitement for gamay has certainly gained strength if the empty glasses and rapid-fire discussion were any indication.

Keint-He 2013 Voyageur Gamay Noir, Beamsville Bench, Niagara ($25.00) – This peppery beauty is indicative of a unique Niagara expression of gamay that is brimming with big aromatics and a great deal of charm.

Malivoire 2012 Courtney Gamay Noir, Beamsville Bench, Niagara ($25.95) – This top block from the winery’s estate puts the succulent fruit center stage. Malivoire’s gamays are consistently exciting and are among the top examples in Niagara.

That’s all for this year! I look forward to watching out for these many exciting Ontario trends in the year to come.

Santé!

Sara

From John Szabo: Cuvée 2015: Judging vs. Choosing and The Winemakers’ Stories

Cuvée Event Photo credit goes to: Fab Formisano

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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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Cuvée 2015: Judging vs. Choosing and The Winemakers’ Stories

Ontario Wine ReportMarch 16, 2015

Text and photographs by John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

It was a brittle and glacial February evening for the 27th annual Cuvée celebration of the Ontario wine industry at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. Outside, the lampposts shivered and the iron railings surrounding the gorge groaned under a thick coating of ice. Even the mighty cataracts were given pause by the cold, struggling by the sheer force of gravity to stay fluid, while the normally raging Niagara River below had hardened into a solid sheet of snow-covered ice as if to blanket itself from the icy caress of another Canadian winter’s night.

Yet inside, it was all fireside warmth and smiles. Some seven hundred or more wine drinkers had overcome the darkness of cold and had gathered to warm their palates with fifty-two Ontario wines, the maximum expression of each vintner’s art and soul.

If you haven’t been to Cuvée in the last couple of years, things have changed. For the first twenty-four years of the event, the process of selecting the wines to be presented to the public was altogether different. The wines were chosen through a competition, judged by the winemakers themselves – winemakers judging the wines of their peers – a sort of Oscars of the Ontario wine world. Wineries would submit wines to the Cuvée Awards competition, and then winemakers would gather and taste them blind, in various categories, just as we do at WineAlign for the National and World Wine Awards of Canada. The top scoring wines were awarded the opportunity to be poured at the Cuvée Grand Gala, and the winemakers who came out on top of course earned bragging rights for the next twelve months.

But the awards-style process of selecting Cuvée winners was discarded like pressed grape skins in 2013, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the celebration. It was, as I’m told, a way of freshening up an event that had perhaps run its course. “We started to review ways to make enhancements to Cuvée and create a new format that would again be the first of its kind”, says Magdalena Kaiser of Wine Country Ontario, who was on the Cuvée board when the changes were made. “And so a Grand Tasting was created where one single wine each year would be highlighted – the winemaker’s favourite.”

So now, the selection is left up to each winemaker. Each chooses what he/she believes is a unique wine, something representative. Or at least that’s supposed to be the plan.

But admittedly, I miss the old selection process. It was unique in the world, and I always found it fascinating to learn what the winemakers of Ontario liked about Ontario wines. Which deserved awarding and which deserved the kitchen sink? What grapes were favoured, outside of commercial considerations, in the rigid context of a blind tasting? And which winemaking approaches were becoming more universally accepted or rejected? After all, winemakers are often much harsher critics than wine critics, lightning quick to point out even the most minor technical deviations, like a Spanish inquisitor sniffing out an infidel, or a nosy neighbour ratting out dissenters to Party Officials.

Seeing which wines the winemakers would choose to represent the entire industry, through the unsullied, anti-commercial process of evaluating anonymous bottles, certainly added another valuable perspective in the vast constellation of opinions that populate the wine universe. I’m sure it was also a useful opportunity for winemakers to take a hard objective look at the industry as a whole from 30,000 feet, to taste each other’s wines without the mental shackles of friendship, admiration, envy or dislike that impede objectivity when tasting in each other’s cellars or at industry events. It’s a fair way to get a sense of where Ontario wines stand on a broader stage, to identify strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps even gain inspiration to try new techniques, and plant (or rip out) certain varieties.

Frozen Niagara River and Sluggish Falls

Frozen Niagara River and Sluggish Falls

The new approach though, allowing winemakers to take control of their own message-in-a-bottle, paints a vastly different but also interesting scene. Feedback from the industry and attendees is apparently positive. “The fifty-two winery spots were filled far before the deadline, and we actually had a waiting list of wineries wanting to participate”, writes Barb Tatarnic of COVVII at Brock University, which took over management of the event in 2015. So it seems most wineries have embraced the new format: no judging, no awards, just a chance to let consumers read that message and decide for themselves if it moves them. It’s surely also fascinating, and in some cases telling, to see how winemakers view themselves through the lens of the wine they select as their representative.

In an ideal world, I’d love to see the two formats combined in some fashion, so we’d benefit from the insight offered by both selection processes.

I also couldn’t help but notice that the new format also opens the door to distortion of the spirit of the event. While the majority of wineries in attendance rose above the base needs of business – the current that runs through virtually every other consumer wine event on the planet – some couldn’t resist the siren call of commerce.

Perhaps under pressure from the sales and marketing department (and in the wine business, there is always pressure), some felt compelled to show the wine that is readily available, just released, or most popular, rather than the one they’re most excited about or personally fascinated by, or what they’re ultimately most proud of – the wine that distills their philosophy and personality into a bottle. But those are precisely the wines we want to taste. Those are the wines that, even if not available, cast a warm and positive glow over an entire winery’s range, and by extension the whole industry – it’s what those same marketers call the halo effect. And those are the wines that make Cuvée unique, rather than just another fancy wine gala.

It’s also unfortunate that Cuvée is not fully representative of the entire Ontario industry – there wasn’t a single winery from Prince Edward County in the room, for example. And other noteworthy wineries were conspicuous by their absence, and not because they didn’t make the deadline. When I inquired why, say, Tawse or Hidden Bench or Norm Hardie didn’t participate, I was told essentially that they were too busy, a polite way of saying that other events are more worthwhile, and that Cuvée is overly Niagara-centric. “Perhaps if this event were held in Toronto in alternate years and celebrated the industry as a whole, not just Niagara, it would attract more interest from us” wrote Harald Thiel of Hidden Bench, for example.

Yet in the end it certainly is a worthwhile event from my perspective, with enough winemakers rising to the occasion and pouring something representative, something that unfolds another leaf in the story of Ontario wine.

And for those who missed Cuvée 2015, I’ve rounded up a baker’s dozen of my top picks based on a combination of wine quality and intriguing narrative. But rather than writing my usual critique (you can assume they’re all worth buying) I’ve asked the winemakers instead to share the reason why they selected their wine, to tell a (mostly unedited) story that captured some aspect of their art or history or personal journey.

Meet the Winemakers

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2027 Cellars Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012-9352

2027 Cellars Fox Croft Block Chardonnay

2027 Cellars 2012 Wismer-Foxcroft Block Chardonnay ($30)

Kevin Panagapka: ” 2012 was my second year working with the Wismer Vineyard ‘Fox Croft Block’ Chardonnay. I intentionally picked this block slightly early in 2012 to retain the acidity and ease back on the alcohol. I like the tension in the wine; there is a fine acidic backbone and minerality I haven’t seen in other blocks.  I feel like the wild barrel fermentation added complexity and mouthfeel while the Burgundian Oak is working in nicely after a year in bottle.  Frankly, out of my current portfolio I felt this wine was showing the best at the time, which is why I chose it for Cuvée. For me, it’s about understanding the individuality of each vineyard block. I fell like this Chardonnay has a wonderful sense of place.”

Big Head 2013 Chenin Blanc ($22)

Andrezj Lipinski: “I would have gladly chosen any one of our wines for their quality but the Chenin is special to me. I think it has tremendous potential, it just needs to be planted in the ideal areas of Niagara, and the vineyard we source from in Niagara-on-the-Lake, close to the water and protected by it, is giving us beautiful and healthy fruit consistently. We let it go naturally in older oak, and it sings. The 2013 had much more hang-time than the 2012 resulting in some wonderful complexity that is just starting to push through.”

Andrezj Lipinski and his Big Head Chenin Blanc 2013-9353

Andrezj Lipinski and his Big Head Chenin Blanc

Jay Johstone and his Flatrock Cellars The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2012-9374

Jay Johstone and his Flatrock Cellars The Rusty Shed Chardonnay

Flatrock Cellars 2012 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay ($24.95)

Jay Johnston: “We chose the 2012 Rusty Shed Chardonnay because we’ve loved that wine since it was first blended together. We had a lot of different styles of barrel fermented Chardonnay in the cellar in 2012, and this was my first chance to blend the Rusty, having started at Flat Rock in September that year. Tasting the results when we racked and blended the 25 barrels selected for Rusty was a very special moment. All of the barrels were so individually unique beforehand, and then once blended they created an extremely focused and pure wine that totally blew us away. It was one of those ‘wine moments’ where you really appreciate the creative and artistic side of winemaking.”

Marty Werner and his 2013 Ravine Chardonnay-9404

Marty Werner and his 2013 Ravine Chardonnay

Ravine Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay ($25)

Marty Werner: “I selected our 2013 Ravine Chardonnay because I feel that it shows the potential of picking Chardonnay in Niagara-on-the-Lake while the grapes are still green, as opposed to golden. I feel that picking the grapes earlier can show off not only fruit, but other complexities such as vintage and sense of place.”

Stratus Vineyards 2012 White ($44)

JL Groux: “The 2012 Stratus White is the tenth edition of that wine and we are celebrating our tenth anniversary this year so it did fit well for Cuvée. With no aromatic varieties and 43% Chardonnay, the 2012 has a lot of depth and length. The balance is made of Sauvignon Blanc at 42% and Semillon at 15%.”

Westcott Vineyards 2013 Estate Chardonnay ($26)

Carolyn Hurst (owner; Arthur Harder is the head winemaker): “This wine represents the culmination of a vision that started in 2006 with the purchase of the vineyard and the selection of the chardonnay clones and root stock. We dreamed of creating a chardonnay of this elegance and we were rewarded in 2013 for our hard work and care. We are inspired by this wine to continue on our rocky road journey to perfection.”

Suzanne Janke standing in for JL Groux and his 2012 Stratus White-9428

Suzanne Janke standing in for JL Groux and his 2012 Stratus White

Victoria and Garett Westcott and their Westcott Estate Chardonnay 2013-9439

Victoria and Garett Westcott and their Westcott Estate Chardonnay 2013

Red 

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery David Sheppard ‘Vintage 30’ Cabernet 2012 ($36.95)

Dave Sheppard and his _Vintage 30_ Cabernet, Coyote's Run-9393

Dave Sheppard’s Vintage 30 Cabernet

Dave Sheppard: ‘Jeff Aubry had asked me to pick something special from the vintage to do an anniversary issue wine, so the field was wide open. The Cabernet Sauvignon was a “one-off” opportunity from a grower (Ralph Serluca) whose vineyard is only a couple of kilometers from Coyote’s Run and within the same sub-appellation. Ralph had offered us the block of Cab pending our approval upon inspection. The moment I set foot in the vineyard I told Jeff “we must have these grapes”, not thinking specifically of the 30th anniversary wine at the time, but rather just that the vineyard was absolutely beautifully and paternally tended and the grapes were spectacular.  It was an opportunity not to be missed. Later in the process when it came time to select a wine for the 30th, I admittedly quite selfishly gravitated towards what I thought to be the best of the vintage, and that was the Cabernet Sauvignon from that vineyard.”

Lailey Vineyards ‘Impromptu’ (84% Syrah with malbec and petit verdot) 2012 ($45)

Derek Barnett: “I chose the wine for its elegance and balance, something I think that the Niagara River appellation brings out in syrah each and every year. I also chose it because it is awesome, too‎”.

Creekside Estate Winery Broken Press Syrah 2011 ($39.95)

Rob Power: Pouring our top Syrah at high-end Ontario wine events usually raises a few eyebrows. But one taste reminds that Syrah actually does very well in cooler climates. And it also serves notice that Niagara is much more than a one or two-trick varietal pony: many different great wines are possible across the Peninsula’s varied terrain. Broken Press, à la Côte-Rôtie, includes Viognier skins in co-ferment with Syrah, imparting added aromatic complexity and rounded texture.”

Derek Barnett and his Lailey Impromptu 2012-9386

Derek Barnett and his Lailey Impromptu 2012

Rob Powers and his Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2011-9470

Rob Powers and his Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2011

Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Pinot Noir 2012 ($35)

Emma Garner: “Our 15 year-old Pinot Noir block at Thirty Bench has been quite a well kept secret until just recently.  Our reputation at the winery has always been centered on Riesling and its unique ability to demonstrate the subtleties of terroir. Pinot is another such variety and I have finally started to understand our vines and just what they are capable of. 2012 was a picture perfect year to develop optimal ripeness. It was also a year in which grapes could get too ripe and jammy if left to hang too long. We found the sweet spot with our 115 clone Pinot Noir in 2012. Extended skin maceration (3 weeks) and judicious oak usage (100% French and 15% new) helped to develop a wine worthy of aging. I truly feel that I have turned a page in my Pinot vinification journey. It has always been somewhat daunting, however. Now I realize that it is an endless journey in search of the perfect glass.”

Emma Garner and her Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2012-9414

Emma Garner and her Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2012

Craig MacDonald and his Trius Grand Red 2012-9395

Craig MacDonald and his Trius Grand Red 2012

Trius Winery Grand Red 2012 ($55)

Craig McDonald: “The G Red was my choice because I wanted to showcase an unusual technique I learnt from an old Penfolds Winemaker back in 2000, ‘Slingers’, whilst at De Bortoli in the Yarra. Once fermentation is complete and the free-run wine is transferred out of the wooden vats I use gravity to press the remaining cap and gently ‘drip’ the wine from the skins directly into barrel. It takes a bit of practice to make the right cut and it’s a pain in the butt to dig out later on but the wine is stunning – rich, intense and inky black but with fine silky tannins because it’s naturally pressed and not dug out and pressed mechanically. Most of the G Red was made this way so it’s actually pressings from our best blocks of company fruit from the great 2012 vintage. I think pressings are often overlooked by Winemakers so this is my ode to B-Side Winemaking and classic Aussie innovation ”

The Foreign Affair Winery Petit Verdot “On Assignment” ($49.95)

Len Crispino: “In exceptional years like 2012 we produced a single varietal Petit Verdot. We take a judicious approach on the proportion of grapes dried, in this case almost 15%. We believe our slow drying method yields subtle nuances and rich complexities. We do not depend on a standard formula. Decision are based on listening to the vintage, being respectful of the varietal and being true to our desired artistic interpretation through innovation.”

Len Crispino and his Foreign Affairs and his Petit Verdot 2012-9418

Len Crispino and his Foreign Affairs and his Petit Verdot 2012

Brian Schmidt and his Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012-9448

Brian Schmidt and his Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012

Vineland Estates 2012 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($40.00)

Brian Schmidt: “I just had to bring out the 2012 Reserve Cabernet Franc for an early showing at Cuvée.  I am thoroughly convinced that Cabernet Franc is Ontario’s “red hammer” and I believe the variety is most suited to showcase our terroir with consistency. I think the 2012 Reserve is the “sledge” and it drives the Cabernet Franc point home with authority. After its quick outing I had to pull it back into the cellars where it is going to quietly develop more depth and finesse until it is ready to come out for good.”

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

Sara d’Amato: Report on Cuvée and Expert’s Tasting 2015

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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Quelques trouvailles au Salon des vins de Québec

par Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Ce qui est à la fois génial et frustrant, dans un évènement comme le Salon international des vins de Québec, c’est qu’on goûte plein de choses différentes et parfois inattendues – mais qu’il en reste toujours plus qu’on ne réussira pas à goûter. La quatrième présentation du salon se poursuit jusqu’à demain, 17h, et elle s’est lancée hier dans la bonne humeur, alors que les professionnels y faisaient le tour des tables, souvent en groupes, pour voir ce que les nombreux agents et producteurs sur place avaient à offrir.

On pourrait passer les trois jours sur place et toujours avoir plein de trucs à découvrir. En un après-midi, hier, j’ai fait de belles trouvailles et des rencontres sympathiques, dont je partage quelques-unes ici.

Un arrêt en Bourgogne

IMG_9016Côté Bourgogne, j’avais bien apprécié ma visite à la maison Jean-Claude Boisset, l’été dernier, en compagnie de l’oenologue en chef Gregory Patriat, qui me faisait défiler des premiers crus à une vitesse presque étourdissante. J’ai continué à apprécier d’autres cuvées de ce genre de négoce haute couture, depuis, et c’est pourquoi je suis allé échanger quelques minutes avec Laure Guilloteau, également oenologue chez Boisset, pour goûter quelques cuvées: un aligoté 2013 élevé en barriques, qui renforce mon préjugé favorable envers ce cépage, un pouilly-fuissé excellent, équilibré, qu’on pourrait donner en exemple parfait de l’appellation, un chorey-les-beaune sympathique et surtout, un gevrey-chambertin 2012 puissant, équilibré, avec de belles acidités et des tannins bien placés, qu’on pourrait bien mettre à la cave pour plusieurs années.

Du Pic-Saint-Loup, avec ça?

François Chartier est au rendez-vous tout le weekend pour présenter sa gamme de vins, et les vignerons avec qui il s’est associé sont également IMG_9008en ville. Roger Mézy, du Clos des Augustins, responsable entre autres du blanc Chartier en IGP Languedoc, est au rendez-vous pour parler non seulement des vins de Chartier, mais aussi de deux cuvées à lui, produites dans les environs de Pic-Saint-Loup, l’appellation la plus septentrionale du Languedoc. Son Bambins blanc 2013 est un assemblage inhabituel de vermentino, de chardonnay et de roussanne, qui combine bien la nervosité du premier et la structure du dernier. Le rouge, qui réunit syrah, grenache et mourvèdre, offre la générosité – mais aussi ce petit côté herbacé bien particulier à Pic-Saint-Loup. Deux cuvées qui ont de la personnalité à revendre.

Les mystères du romorantin

IMG_9009Un des plus anciens cépages de la vallée de la Loire, le romorantin, est aussi un des plus beaux – et des plus rares. Il vit dans une appellation qui lui est exclusivement consacrée, cour-cheverny, représenté au Salon par le Domaine des Huards, dont quatre vins sont présentés – tous disponibles en SAQ. Paulina Gendrier (qu’on voit sur la photo en compagnie de Cyril Kérébel, le patron de l’agence La QV), m’a présenté deux cuvées distinctes, le Romo 2010 et le François 1er 2008, qui m’ont frappé par leur différences marquées, le premier étant nerveux et fringant, l’autre d’une profondeur exceptionnelle. Les deux cuvées sont travaillées de la même manière – en cuve inox – la différence entre les deux étant selon elle essentiellement attribuable à l’âge des vignes, plus vieilles dans le François 1er. Les deux sont très bien, en tout cas, et capables de passer de belles années à la cave – pour un prix modéré, en plus.

Un grüner qui fait ton bonheur?

IMG_9010Du côté sud de la salle, quelques kiosques sont consacrés à des régions: Émilie-Romagne, Afrique du Sud et Autriche, entre autres. De belles occasions de se faire une idée sur ce qui fait bouger ces zones viticoles et sur les cépages qui les caractérisent. Mon ami et excellent sommelier Kler-Yann Bouteiller étant derrière la table autrichienne, j’ai goûté plusieurs vins faits des cépages typiques du pays, à premier titre le grüner veltliner et le blaufränkisch. Mon préféré du lot, le blaufränkisch de chez Prieler, expansif et généreux, avec tout le fruit noir et l’épice typiques du cépage, disponible en SAQ pour 25$ et des poussières. Kler-Yann et moi avons beaucoup discuté du grüner veltliner de Pichler-Krutzler, dense et puissant, très serré, que personnellement j’aimerais revoir dans 5, 10 ou même 15 ans. Un vin de dessert botrytisé de chez Feiler-Artinger, élégant et complexe, vaut aussi le détour. Allez goûter par là, vous serez agréablement surpris, si vous n’avez pas encore goûté ce qui sort de ce pays.

Du vin de quoi?!!?

IMG_9015Dans la catégorie étonnement total, il y a aussi chez l’agence Les Contrebandiers, des vins de clémentine, d’orange et d’orange sanguine produites dans la région de Séville, en Espagne. Des goûts d’agrumes prononcés, avec un peu d’amertume rappelant un peu la marmelade. Est-ce que j’en boirais tout seul? Je ne sais pas trop. Par contre, en cocktail sur du gin ou de la vodka, voire même pour donner un côté orangé à un cocktail à base de bourbon, ça pourrait probablement être vachement intéressant…

J’ai également profité du salon pour goûter plusieurs cuvées à moins de 20$, dont celles du Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille, toujours très réussies, et des trucs agréables d’Argentine, de Grèce et de Vénétie. Je vous en reparle dans notre chronique mensuelle des 20 bons vins à moins de 20$, à la fin du mois.

Il y en aurait eu bien d’autres, aussi, avec un peu plus de temps disponible. Par exemple, j’aurais bien aimé aller déguster les bourgognes du domaine Meix-Foulot, dont le vigneron est présent sur place, ou parler de l’appellation Vinsobres avec Anthony Jaume, regoûter les vins du Loup Blanc avec Alain Rochard, ou poser quelques questions à Jorges Guimaraes de Sogrape, la grande (et solide) entreprise viticole du Portugal. Pour n’en citer que quelques-uns.

Ramenez des bouteilles à la maison

Nouveauté au salon, cette année: on peut commander sur place des bouteilles de vin en importation privée. Alors que, normalement, l’achat d’importation privée se fait seulement à la caisse, le Salon est une occasion de faire exception et de découvrir des vins qu’on ne trouve pas dans les succursales de la SAQ, de façon accessible et simple. J’ai croisé hier quelques amis qui se réjouissaient de remplir leurs bons de commande avec des trouvailles « exclusives ». Si vous avez le béguin pour un vin méconnu, c’est une belle occasion de le ramener à la maison.

Et si vous faites des découvertes, pourquoi ne pas les partager ici-même ou sur notre page Facebook?

Santé et bon salon!

Rémy

Quelques idées pour une visite réussie


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 21st – Part One

Icon Wines Demystified
By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

“Icon comes from the Greek word eikenai, meaning ‘to seem or to be like.’ In certain religions, statues of religious figures are referred to as icons – because they are prayed to as if they were the thing they represent.” So goes one definition plumbed from the web.

So what do icon wines represent? We assume they are wines – often made in the image of Bordeaux from cabernet, merlot and their disciples – that have reached some awe-inspiring, mystic, spiritual pinnacle of perfection and grace. But often icon wines are simply the most expensive wines that a producer can get away with stuffing into an overly heavy bottle, in the hope that the consumer will be so besotted by the gravitas of it all that they won’t notice that the wine itself is only very good, not great.

South Americans, Americans and yes some Canadians are particularly fond of the term, and it’s all about hype. Which is certainly the case of the California wines that VINTAGES has chosen to call icons in its March 21st release, that leads up to the 36th annual California Wine Fairs in Ottawa April 10th and Toronto April 13. And the fact that some soar past $100 adds to their sense of gravitas. I am not saying most are not excellent wines; I have scored several 90+ (my threshold of excellence). But at $100 or more they should be jaw-droppingly outstanding at 95 points +, which they are not.

For many, my protest will not matter a fig. These wines will sell quickly because there are enough buyers with enough money who choose to pay more to assure they will get quality. And that reason is just fine. I only want to temper the expectations of those who might venture a pile of money on an icon and expect the moon, only to find out they are looking into the glare of a streetlight – hardly a celestial, spiritual or unique experience.

Below we focus on the California “icons” that actually come closest to delivering somewhere near greatness, 92 or 93 points. At the same time we put forward some Bordeaux on the same release that also deliver quality very nicely. Some are just as expensive as the Californians (but Bordeaux wines ironically are rarely called icon wines). And then we scatter in some true values as well for those who just want an honest bottle.

Just before we get there, I have another observation from this tasting that relates to vintage variation. The Californians include 2011s and 2012s, and there is quite a difference between the two years. The 2011s are less ripe, with more Bordeaux-like leanness and greenness but they do have terrific energy. The 2012s are riper, softer and frankly a bit understated and lacking some energy. They may open and rev up with more bottle age, but they fail to ignite at the moment. Over on the Bordeaux side, the 2011s are also of lighter stock. Not green necessarily but lacking some depth of flavour (length) for their price tag. While beside them, a clutch of minor, less expensive, good value 2010s show the class and structure of that great vintage.

California “Icons”

Cade 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley ($112.95)

Dominus 2011

Dominus Napanook 2011

Cade Cabernet Sauvignon 2011David Lawrason – Cade is a recent arrival on the slopes of Howell Mountain, an off-shoot of the famous Plumpjack Winery created in part by former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. The winemaker is Danielle Cyrot, a woman of French descent who has managed to bring considerable elegance and a complex weave to Howell Mountain fruit more commonly known to make blockbuster, masculine cabs. This contains non-estate fruit; the Cade Estate cab rings up at $300US at the winery.
John Szabo - If you’re going to spend big in Napa, spend it on a “mountain” wine like this one. The 21-acre Cade estate was established in 2005 high on Howell Mountain, and vines are farmed organically. The 2011 is a grand success for the vintage, no doubt in part to the vineyard being above the fog line and thus maximizing the benefits of the scarce sunlight. It’s a densely packed wine, as savoury as it is fruity, with the expected grip and firm dusty texture of hillside Napa wines, in need of another 4-6 years in the cellar. Best 2020-2030.
Sara d’Amato – Power and refinement are distinctive features of the volcanic, higher elevation plantings of cabernet on breezy Howell Mountain. The cooler 2011 vintage is surely responsible for the wine’s terrific acid structure, fine tannins and lovely purity of fruit – a real standout for collectors.

Dominus 2011, Napa Valley ($176.95)

David Lawrason – If fame is the foundation of icon-hood, storied Dominus is perhaps most deserving of icon status. I have often found Dominus rather simple and almost boring for the price it garners, but something in this vintage turned my expectations on their head. I immediately thought of a fine, traditionally made Bordeaux, perhaps because the cooler 2011 vintage has imparted some tension. Very nicely constructed and focused, with excellent to outstanding length.
Sara d’Amato – It is no surprise that some of the best wines in this feature come with a hefty price tag but here is one worthy of attention. This old world, cabernet-focused blend from the Bordelaise Moueix dynasty offers immediate appeal, huge structure and a wide breadth of flavours.

Dominus 2011 Napanook, Napa Valley, USA ($76.95)

John Szabo - Admittedly I loved the 2011 Dominus (above), but for pure value Napanook, the second wine of the estate, is the one to buy. It’s very nearly as good with its lovely and savoury, earthy and complex profile, firmly in the old world stylistic camp as Dominus has been from the start. Best 2015-2026

Ridge Three Valleys 2012

Ridge 2011 Estate Cabernet SauvignonRidge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($61.95)

John Szabo - Just about everything from Ridge is worth a look, and in the context of top California cabernet, this is an outright bargain. Forget what you’ve heard about the 2011 vintage – top producers like Ridge made some of the most compelling, balanced wines in the last two decades. This is all class, firm, succulent, zesty and ripe, still tightly wound and closed up, but this unquestionably has the balance and stuffing to evolve beautifully over the next 2-5 years. Best 2018-2030.
David Lawrason – Ridge is perched high on the crest of a mountain south of San Francisco – the Silicon Valley in view to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west. The wines have never lacked structure. In this cooler vintage you will indeed detect some greenness and firmness, but it is a cabernet-lovers cabernet. Excellent length.

Ridge 2012 Three Valleys, Sonoma County ($35.95)

Sara d’Amato – Only a warm California vintage can perfect fruit ripening like in this Sonoma zinfandel and carignan dominant blend. Ripe red fruit abounds on the palate featuring peppery spice along with refreshing notes of pine and menthol. Clean and succulent with a very authentic, un-manipulated feel.
John Szabo - A fine vintage for the Three Valleys, Ridge’s Zinfandel-led blend, with firm and honest, woolly tannins, a nice mix of ripe and sour fruit, red and black, along with a range of savoury wild herbs. Best 2015-2027.

Clos Pegase 2012 Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, ($29.95)

Calera Chardonnay Mt. Harlan 2013 Clos Pegase Mitsuko's Vineyard Chardonnay 2012Sara D’Amato – There is a real traditional California feel to this well-balanced and beautifully integrated chardonnay featuring a great deal of presence, ripened tree fruit, oily viscosity and creamy malolactic texture. Mitsuko’s Vineyard is a large, 365-acre site in the cooler climate of Los Carneros named after proprietor Jan Shrem’s wife. The site’s varying degrees of slope, of elevation and soil types create great diversity in the grapes harvested often resulting in rather complex and compelling wines.
John Szabo - Mitsuko’s Vineyard is a sprawling 365 acre parcel on the Napa side of the Los Carneros AVA with diverse soils and aspects, all of which builds complexity. This substantial chardonnay doesn’t sacrifice freshness despite ample richness, and while oak influence is abundant, there’s also impressive fruit extract to compensate. To be cellared another 2-3 years; best 2017-2022.

Calera 2013 Chardonnay Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, USA ($49.95)

John Szabo - This is a serious bottle of wine. The Mt. Harlan Chardonnay Vineyard was planted in 1984 on own roots (un-grafted) using cuttings from errant vines found among the pinot noir of Josh Jensen’s original vineyards. The site is naturally low yielding, which shows in this generously proportioned wine. There’s a real sense of chalky-minerality, and while wood is very marked for the moment, this will surely knit together beautifully in time. Best 2018-2025

Bordeaux

Château Pontet-Canet 2011, Pauillac 5eme Cru ($150.00)

David Lawrason – Riding a Parker 100pt rating the previous 2010 vintage of Pontet-Canet sold at VINTAGES last month for $300. So it’s decent of them to have cut the price by half for this less good vintage. (You won’t see Napa doing this). The 2011 remains a firm, reserved and well-built young Pauillac, but it does not have the depth or wow you may expect if this is your first brush with one of the most talked about properties of Bordeaux.
John Szabo - Pontet-Canet is perhaps the most progressive Château in Bordeaux. Alfred Tesseron converted to organic/biodynamic farming some years ago, and vineyards are worked by horse. Clay amphorae were introduced in 2012 in an effort to decrease wood influence – all things that would have seemed impossible a decade ago. The efforts have been worth it, for although ’11 was a challenging vintage, this wine is a marvel: explosive and concentrated, full, dense and rich – a real honest and solid mouthful of wine. Cellar at least 4-6 before opening, or hold a couple of decades. Best 2020-2035.

Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2011, Margaux, 3eme Cru ($89.85)

David Lawrason – This is a lovely blend very much in the Margaux vein; which to me is all about charm and refinement. The blend here is 50% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot. A very fine effort in a lesser vintage.

Château Clerc Milon 2011, Pauillac, 5eme Cru ($89.85)

John Szabo - 2011 is a nicely polished, full but firm, succulent and vibrant vintage for Clerc Milon, perfect for enjoying while waiting for the 2009s and 2010s to come around. But don’t drink it right away – give it another 3-4 years to fully knit. This is classy wine, full stop. Best 2018-2031.

Château Pontet Canet 2011 Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2011 Château Clerc Milon 2011 Château Bel Air 2010 Les Charmes De Magnol 2010

Château Bel-Air 2010, Haut-Médoc ($28.95)

David Lawrason – For one bottle of Chateau Pontet-Canet you could buy five bottles of this firm, well structured mid-weight Medoc cabernet-based red – that I rated the same as Pontet-Canet in terms of quality. What a difference a vintage can make? And with five bottles you could open one to test drive then stick the rest into the cellar, for another ten years. It’s textbook Bordeaux.

Les Charmes De Magnol 2010, Médoc ($18.95)

David Lawrason – This is very good value – a nicely balanced, ripe and decently structured Bordeaux for under $20. It is a second label from the grand (and also large) Château Magnol, a showpiece property and hospitality centre just north of Bordeaux’s city limits.

Other Bordeaux-Styled Reds

Pondview Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2012

Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Chakana Estate Selection Red Blend 2012Chakana 2012 Estate Selection Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina ($29.95)

David Lawrason – This is a fairly new winery based in Lujan de Cuyo, but focused on wines grown in stonier alluvial soils whether in Agrelo or in Altamira in the southern Uco Valley. Increasingly revered Chilean viticulturalist Pedro Parra has helped Chakana map its vineyards. The winemaking consultant is Italian Alberto Antonini, who also works his minimalist, terroir-first magic at Altos Los Hormigos. This compiles 60% malbec, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 20% syrah into a quite fragrant, savoury young red. It’s quite dense, elegant and refined.

Tahbilk 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria, Australia ($22.95)

David Lawrason – This is not a cabernet with gravitas, but it does have complexity, vitality and pretty good depth. It’s a bit more cool, curranty and spare than many Aussie reds, and I could drink a bottle with ease; especially around rack of lamb.

Pondview 2012 Cabernet Merlot Reserve, VQA Niagara Peninsula Canada ($18.95)

John Szabo - This is an enjoyable wine from Pondview, an honest and juicy, Bordeaux blend with sweet-tinged fruit and decent depth and structure. This should please fans of cool climate cabernet at the price. Best 2015-2022.

And that is a wrap for this edition. John leads off next week with the wines of Southwest France and other sundry picks from the March 21st release. Meantime also look forward as John and Sara d’Amato both report on this year’s Cuvée event for the Ontario Wine Report. I will be on holiday and travelling for the rest of March and will not be covering any of the April 4th release; but we have asked Michael Godel to offer some of his recommendations. Michael’s often lyrical reviews are fascinating, and he is in there tasting constantly – which to me is the pre-requisite to being a successful, objective critic.

Cheers,

David

From VINTAGES March 21, 2015:

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
John Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews

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


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Salon des vins de Québec : quelques idées pour une visite réussie

par Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

À Québec, il est attendu, le Salon des vins et spiritueux, qui en est cette année à sa quatrième présentation. Pour vous donner une idée, l’édition précédente, en 2013, avait accueilli 12 500 visiteurs, ce qui est environ la même fréquentation que la Grande dégustation de Montréal (13 000, en octobre dernier) – alors que cette dernière a lieu dans un marché cinq fois plus grand, en termes de population.

Il faut dire qu’il est un peu seul de sa gang – pas de Raspipav, de salon des vins italiens et tutti quanti, à Québec – ce qui le rend d’autant plus attendu, quand il revient une fois aux deux ans. Et le Salon sait aussi faire appel à des personnalités bien en vue et appréciées du public, comme la porte-parole Jessica Harnois ou encore Ricardo Larrivée, qui sera sur place samedi et dimanche pour faire goûter sa gamme de vins. François Chartier y sera également, tant pour une animation sur les accords mets-vins avec son complice Stéphane Modat (présentée samedi à 16h avec vins Chartier et bouchées Modat à la clé), que pour la finale du Grand défi des chefs Ribera del Duero – Cacao Barry, où trois chefs (sur soixante participants) viendront présenter les recettes d’inspiration chocolatée conçues pour cette compétition originale (dimanche à 16h).

Il y aura aussi bon nombre de conférences, sur des régions comme l’Afrique du Sud ou la Loire, sur des produits comme le cidre de glace (avec François Pouliot, de la Face cachée de la pomme), ou encore sur la biodynamie, avec le vigneron Friedrich Schatz qui travaille, comme son nom ne l’indique pas, en Espagne. La liste complète des activités est disponible sur le site du Salon des vins.

le Salon international des vins et spiritueux de Québec

Des dizaines de domaines, provenant d’une trentaine de pays (un record, nous dit l’organisation) ont également envoyé des représentants vers Québec, des maisons bordelaises bien connues comme Joseph Janoueix à des producteurs chiliens qui le sont moins comme Villaseñor. Parmi ceux-ci, je vous suggère notamment d’aller piquer une jasette avec :

– Isabelle Meunier, excellent vigneronne québécoise installée en Oregon, qui était jusqu’à récemment chez Evening Land, et qui représentera les vins de Willamette Valley, en compagnie de représentants des maisons Chehalem et Cristom.

– Jean-Pierre Colas, sympathique vigneron ontarien, qui officie chez 13th Street Winery, dans le Niagara.

– Géraud Bonnet, de la Ferme apicole Desrochers, dont les hydromels vont vous épater, si vous ne les avez pas déjà goûtés.

– Mathieu Mercier, le maître de chai de la maison Osoyoos-Larose, qui produit des assemblages bordelais de grande finesse dans la vallée de l’Okanagan, en Colombie-Britannique.

Anthony Jaume, du domaine du même nom, qui produit dans la belle appellation de Vinsobres – et qui est aussi un des complices de François Chartier dans sa gamme de vins vendue tant en SAQ que chez IGA.

– Paulina Gendrier, une québécoise qui travaille avec son mari Alexandre dans la Loire, et qui pourra vous parler en particulier des merveilles du cépage romorantin.

Jérome Quiot, de la famille du même nom, qui produit plusieurs belles cuvées dans la vallée du Rhône.

Il y en a des paquets d’autres, aussi, qui seront sûrement étourdis à la fin du weekend, à force de verser à gauche et à droite à quantité d’amateurs, tout au long de la fin de semaine.

Salon international des vins et spiritueux de Québec

À part ça? Partez à l’aventure. Goûtez des trucs que vous ne connaissez pas, des régions que vous ne regardez même pas, habituellement : sortez de vos ornières. L’intérêt d’avoir accès à 1 500 produits ouverts à la dégustation, c’est justement de vous permettre de sortir de l’ordinaire.

Si vous faites des découvertes au Salon, n’hésitez pas à nous en faire part en partageant vos notes et photos sur la page Facebook de Chacun son vin.

Rémy

Quelques trouvailles au Salon des vins de Québec


 

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20 under $20 in BC: March 2015

Spring Fever in BC

We know we’ve been fortunate this past winter in British Columbia. Mild temperatures on the coast and just the right amount of crisp winter snow in the interior and on the ski hills has made for a picture-perfect winter, and the past few weeks of unseasonably warm weather has given an early boost to buds and blossoms. Though some chilly, clear nights have us reaching for warming reds, our critics’ thoughts are springing ahead to lively, fresh whites and rosés.

DJ Kearney is on the road this week to Jura, France, so the rest of us at WineAlign West are warming and welcoming spring with these great buys.

~ TR

BC Critic team

Anthony Gismondi

We don’t know a lot about winter here on the coast and we would prefer to keep it that way, but it doesn’t mean we don’t feel your pain if you are still fighting winter in your part of the province or country for that matter. This month’s picks are betwixt and between the last days of winter and the early days of spring.

We open spring with two seafood friendly sauvignon blancs. The first is Kismet Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, an Okanagan newcomer that gets the fruit and the grass in the right proportions.

One of the standard bearers of New World sauvignon blanc is the Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 from California. The Mondavi goal was always a richer, Napa Valley style but with the brightness of sauvignon and in 2013 it’s bang on.

Masi Modello Bianco delle Venezie 2013 will suit your shellfish or white fish dishes well with its almond, apple skin, pear and grapefruit flavours. Simple, fresh, clean style and solid value.

Kismet Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013Masi Modello Delle Venezie Bianco 2013Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011

Now for some reds to ride out the storm. Monday night merlot doesn’t get much better than Santa Rita 2011 Merlot Reserva. The reserva series has an injection of flavour and structure that can easily take on grilled meats.

Slightly denser and rounder in texture are the Familia Gascon Malbec 2012, a tasty red for your favourite ribs recipe while the Paz de Finca Las Moras Malbec 2012 with its lifted blueberry and black fruit flavours would be fun for mid-afternoon or post dinner cheese plate or a prime rib dinner. From home, the Blasted Church 2013 Big Bang Theory, a mixed bag of red grapes, will suit a mixed lot of grilled red meats, especially after a splash through a decanter.

Familia Gascon Malbec 2012 Paz De Finca Las Moras Malbec 2012 Blasted Church Big Bang Theory 2013 Quady Batch 88 Starboard

To finish off with something sweet, California’s Quady Batch 88 Starboard is a soft, sweet and round and eminently easy-drinking port-like wine. The style lies somewhere between a ruby (fruity) and a tawny (aged) Portuguese port.

Hang in there – spring is just around the corner.

Rhys Pender MW

The weather in BC is surprisingly warm this early spring, something I know will irk our friends in the chilly East. Such is the weather, thoughts have already turned to fresh, juicy, chilled whites and rosé and afternoons are even warm enough to enjoy them outside in the sun.

One wine I have enjoyed recently is a great value rosé that is consistently very drinkable, the La Vieille Ferme Ventoux Rosé. The 2013 is dry, crisp and nicely savoury.

Another juicy wine and one that is nice slightly chilled is the Masi 2013 Bonacosta Valpolicella. A light bodied red that is elegant with some interesting earthy flavours and great with a plate of charcuterie.

La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rose 2013 Masi Bonacosta 2013 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Norton Reserva Malbec 2012

I must admit Marlborough sauvignon blanc can be a bit tiresome, admittedly only due to the fact that it is so consistently good quality and very recognizable. Every now and then you find one that seems a bit more interesting and different. I like the 2013 Spy Valley for its cilantro and minerality on the long, crisp finish.

That last wine I want to recommend is a heartier red but still with some freshness from containing about 50% high altitude cooler climate Uco Valley fruit. The 2012 Norton Reserva Malbec ($20) is worth spending a few dollars more than you might normally for an Argentinian malbec. You will appreciate the difference.

For readers in Vancouver, I hope to see you at Chambar on April 7th. I’m teaming up with Chef Nico Schuermans for the Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series. It promises to be delicious – and WineAlign members get a special price. (click here for more info)

Treve Ring

Spring forward? I love when daylight savings brings me an extra hour of light in the evenings, paving the way ever forward until the spring equinox and the arrival of the previous year’s vintage hitting the shelves.

The newest release of Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer always signals spring with its juicy and off-dry rose blossom notes. Pair with papaya salad. Or if you’re looking further afield, Chile’s Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2013 is so textbook floral and spice perfumed, you could swear you’re walking through a perfumed rose garden, eating a pink grapefruit (you’d have lots of coin left for fruit after spending only $11 on this wine.)

For a richer, classic styled gew, reach for P.J. Valckenberg’s 2012 Gewurztraminer from Germany’s Pfalz region. This mid-sweet, round and ripe white is an enjoyable 9.5 percent alcohol, and a welcome addition to your brunch table (especially with orchard fruit waffles).

Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2013 Valckenberg Gewurztraminer 2012 Calona Sovereign Opal Art Series 2013

Still in the aromatic white camp, but singular unto itself is the Calona Vineyards Artist Series no. 1 Sovereign Opal 2013. Entirely singular, actually, since the blossomed and honeydew Sovereign Opal grape was developed by Agriculture Canada (marechal foch x golden muscat) to thrive specifically in the particular conditions found in the Okanagan Valley.

One body of wine I really grew to appreciate last year were the intriguing whites of Portgual. You would be forgiven for guessing the Dão Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 was a Rhone white on a blind tasting. Encruzado, especially with some age (2009 still on shelves) builds herbal, hazelnut, honeycomb and savoury stone while maintaining a firm rod of acid.

I must admit, I fire up the grill year round (sorry!) and one of my favourites meals is BBQ chicken. On cool March weekday evenings, a tumbler of Marlborough’s smoked strawberry Newharbor 2009 Pinot Noir and grilled chicken thighs can work wonders. Or unscrew the ripe and fruity Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012 from Valencia, Spain if you’re doing beef sliders and chips on the grill for an easy mid-week and highly affordable meal.

Dao Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 Newharbor Pinot Noir 2009 Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012 Segura Viudas Brut Rose

Of course if you really want to feel like spring is here, pop the cork on pink bubbles and enjoy that extra hour of daylight. The alluring salmon pink Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rosado is a fitting dry, creamy, fruity rosé sparkler to elevate any sunset and to welcome in spring.

WineAlign in BC

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

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

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


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Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series – Vancouver – April 7, 2015

Enjoy a unique fine dining experience and benchmark Australian wines at Vancouver‘s Chambar restaurant as curated by Maclean’s and hosted by outstanding sommeliers and culinary talent.

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You’ll love the sumptuous four-course meal paired with premier Australian wines.  Joined by Sommelier Rhys Pender MW and Chambar’s chef, Nico Schuermans, guests are invited to learn the subtleties of the pairings from the experts.

WineAlign members enjoy an exclusive discount and can purchase tickets at the Maclean’s subscriber rate of just $99+HST (regular price $149).

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Rhys and Nico

Event Details:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Location:  Chambar (568 Beatty St, Vancouver, BC)

Cocktail Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm – 10pm

Tickets:  $99 plus HST

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

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Wines Being Served Include:

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Coldstream Hill Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2012
Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

*A vegetarian option will be available.  To provide the highest quality food and wine experience, your chef and sommelier are carefully curating the menu in advance of the evening.  Unfortunately, this means that substitutions, food restrictions, and allergy considerations cannot be accommodated.*

About Chambar

Chef Nico Schuermans and his wife Karri have brought to life their dream of opening a restaurant where guests can experience fine dining in a warm and inviting atmosphere.  Their philosophy is based on a commitment to fresh, innovative, and incredible food this is presented without pretension.  The result is a restaurant with exquisite cuisine, exceptional service, and a room that glows.  They are strong advocates for environmental and social responsibility.  Chambar Restaurant became carbon neutral in 2011.

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Purchase Your Tickets Here

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008