Fresh and Fruity Whites and the Best of the Rest
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS
Wines for spring cleaning, wines for sunshine or wines for being social on the porch again, this week’s VINTAGES release theme of “Fresh and Fruity Whites” is a sure sign that the warm weather is upon us. As John Szabo completes his tour of the world’s most spectacular volcanic peaks (somebody’s got to do it) I sit grounded in Toronto, for at least the time being, choosing from among our top picks of this most anticipated change of the season.
In addition to these ephemeral selections, we bring you what impressed us most from this release, wines with both staying power and those we think you shouldn’t overlook. Unlike the whites, the reds available have not yet caught up with trend of warmer weather and I both hope and expect to see lighter, fresher reds in the next release. We will certainly see more gamay, primitivo/zinfandel and sangiovese on the shelves that are ready-to-drink and do best with a slight chill.
Fresh and Fruity Whites
Stoneleigh 2014 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, ($21.95)
David Lawrason – The 2014 vintage was considered excellent in Marlborough with a bumper crop that ripened in “near perfect’ conditions – until the tail end of a cyclone came through late in the harvest. It’s hard to say which wines were picked soon enough of course. I have found many of the 2014 sauvignons a bit leaner, cooler and more compact – of which this an example. And that’s not a bad thing.
Sara d’Amato – A classic, elegant sauvignon blanc that rivals the best of Marlborough at a fraction of the price. Bring on the seafood kabobs!
Tiefenbrunner 2014 Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – It wouldn’t be a “fresh and fruity” release without a solid pinot grigio. Tiefenbrunner is located in a picturesque spot fixed in the Italian Alps and is known for its meticulous winemaking and control from grape to bottle. Because of its reliable quality and its price point, it has frequently been a staple for me when creating wine lists.
Finca El Origin 2014 Reserva Torrontés, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Although there are many obstacles to the further development of this remote wine-growing region, the wines, short in supply, are as uniquely arresting as the landscape. This is the home of the exotic torrontés, light, fresh and fragrant. The best examples, such as this, show some restraint and mystique.
David Lawrason – If you have not yet put Argentine torrontés in your summer patio repertoire don’t hesitate with this classic example from the Cafayate Valley in northern Argentina. A citrus explosion! Bring on the ceviche.
Matetic 2014 Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($13.95)
John Szabo – Tough to beat this crunchy, green apple and green pepper-flavoured sauvignon for sheer value, another welcome release from biodynamic producer Matetic in the cool, coastal San Antonio Valley. This tops many wines asking $5 more.
David Lawrason – A great buy here in a brilliant, juicy sauvignon that bristles with intense grapefruit/lime, nettles and passion fruit. It’s from an excellent, biodynamic producer that is the sole owner of the isolated Rosario Valley right on the edge of the San Antonio and Casablanca Valley appellations. It is a cool coastal site that has infused great energy.
Creekside 2013 Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula Canada ($17.95)
John Szabo – Creekside has made sauvignon a specialty, but there appears to have been a slight style shift in 2013 – this is less effusively aromatic and tropical than previous vintages, and I must say I like the more subtle and crisp profile. A mix of citrus and green apple, and gentle green herbs makes this a lively and pleasant wine, a little more “grown up” in my view.
Best of the Rest
Simonsig 2012 Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)
John Szabo – From the house that first made traditional method sparkling wine in South Africa, this pinot-chardonnay blend with a splash of pinot meunier offers considerable toasty richness in a broad and mouth-filling style, notably dry despite the richness.
Vinum 2012 Africa Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Incorrectly slotted into the VINTAGES “fresh and fruity” feature, this rich and savory chenin blanc still deserves recognition. Body, texture, viscosity – all of these are impressively featured at such an unassuming price.
John Szabo – Fans of complex, wood aged whites will rejoice at the quality/price of this chenin. Made in a “natural” (nothing added or subtracted) and idiosyncratic style, it’s a wine of texture more than immediate fruitiness, balancing ripeness with both acids and salinity. There’s loads of character for $16 in any case.
Hillebrand 2011 Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($36.20)
John Szabo – As far as premium chardonnay goes, I’d say that winemaker Craig MacDonald has nailed this beautifully, and kept the price fair. As with most great chardonnay, this is a wine of mainly textural interest, offering a rich and complete mouth full of just-ripe orchard fruit, balanced with high quality wood. I like the succulent acids that prop up this flavour-heavy ensemble, and the excellent length. A very serious, accomplished cuvée all in all. Unfortunately the fruit source is not revealed – it’s labeled only as “Niagara Peninsula Vineyards” – but I’d be curious to know from where this hails exactly. Best 2015-2020.
Tawse 2011 Growers Blend Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A wine that has experienced impressive evolution – with a cohesive palate of wood, fruit and acids and much smoother tannins than its jerky beginning. A gem of a pinot that still has years to come.
Corvidae 2013 Lenore Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a rarely seen (at the LCBO) great buy in Washington syrah – which in my mind is the premier red grape of eastern Washington and the southern Okanagan in BC. It’s a medium to full bodied, classic cool climate syrah with deep colour, considerable density and ripeness, yet just enough cool climate black pepper, licorice and smoked meat to please northern Rhone syrah fans.
Lapostolle 2012 Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon, Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($24.95).
David Lawrason – Yet another biodynamically-grown Chilean wine shines on this release – from a great estate occupying one of the great vineyard sites in the country. The depth, harmony and complexity here are remarkable for a $25 wine.
Château Haut Peyraud 2010, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – I love the sense of poise and subtlety in this ‘petit’ 2010. What a wonderful vintage. This is a Bordeaux bargain, a lightweight, fairly supple merlot that is moving into prime.
Château De Gourgazaud 2013 Cuvée Mathilde Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A spicy, peppery, musky and sweaty blend from southern France – unpretentious, raw and rustic. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Meandro 2012 Do Vale Meão, Douro, Portugal ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very high energy red, bristling with wild berry and woodsy aromas, and all kinds of zesty acid and tannin. So you may want to age it, but I really feel that this vibrancy is key to its enjoyment. Chill just a bit and pair it with savoury seasoned red meats.
John Szabo – Even more impressive than the excellent 2011, this is another top value, complex, concentrated and structured Douro red blend from Vale Meão. Although considered the “second label”, this is better than most from the valley, especially at the price. Best 2015-2022.
Coppi Peucetico 2008 Primitivo, Gioia Del Colle, Puglia, Italy ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato – Vibrant and peppery, this mid-weight primitivo exhibits lovely, lingering floral and cherry notes. Savory, fun and summery – a wine that can take a slight chill for added refreshment.
That’s all folks! David Lawrason will highlight the best of the May 30th release and features next week along with an Ontario Wine Report with news on new wineries and trends in Prince Edward County.
From VINTAGES May 16, 2015
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!