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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.

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

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


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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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Bill’s Best Bets – June 2016

A Summer of Whites
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

It’s looking pretty solid in terms of temperature for the next week folks – nothing but sunshine and high 20’s in the forecast. While I am a year long white wine drinker, I know many of you keep the whiter shade of pale for times just like this. Fine.

So in the spirit of weather and wine pairing, I’ll use this opportunity to offer up an all-white newsletter this month. I have tasted a number of phenomenal white wines that should be included in any shopping list. Whether you are looking for light and fresh, or rich and mouthfilling, I have you covered. But first, a note on serving these wines.

The summer heat is cause for concern for all wines, especially if you are eating outside. Keep that ice bucket handy for dunking your whites, and especially your reds. Remember that when the ambient temperature is 30C, your wine will be as well. No red wine should be served over 18C – ever!

But this is not an excuse for serving your whites like they were lemonade. It was, in fact, a summer night that must have been close to 30C which turned me on to richer white wines. That night, my dinner companion and I, in the throes of some great post-dinner banter, simply forgot about the bottle of chardonnay that was sitting on the table. We had been drinking it straight from the ice bucket, and the wine was ok. When we finally got back to the bottle, and while I can’t tell you what was the exact temperature of the wine, to this day I can remember the rich, buttery texture. It had great length and exuberant aromas. It was perfect.

Since then I pay extra attention to my whites. Not every white should be served in the 10-16C range. The general rule is that the more you want acidity to show, the cooler the service temperature. If a wine contains residual sugar, it should also be served cool, and by that I mean 8-10C. Most sparkling wines as well fall into this category unless you are lucky enough to be drinking vintage champagne, in which case you can let them warm up a touch.

Here are a few suggestions of wines that I have tasted of late, starting with the freshies.

One of my favourite white wine styles is white Bordeaux though stylistically, depending on the percentage of semillion to sauvignon blanc in the blend, they can be quite different. An exceptional semillon dominated wine, the 2014 Graves from Château Graville Lacoste is my wine of the early summer. Complex fruit, minerality and superb freshness makes for an exceptional and versatile white.

If you prefer the citrusy notes of sauvignon blanc, the 2014 Touraine from Jean-Francois Meriau will do the trick. Fresh, grassy and crisp on the finish.

Château Graville Lacoste Graves 2014Jean François Mérieau l'Arpent Des Vaudons 2014 Weingut Geyerhof Rosensteig Grüner Veltliner 2014 Atlantis Dry White 2015

If you have yet to taste the greatness of Austrian whites, then the 2014 Grüner Veltliner, from Geyeroff is a great place to start.  This Austrian winery is one of the references in the Kremstal region for both their grüner and riesling. Complexity, minerality and unique. Well deserving of its four stars.

Greece is home to assyrtiko, one of the world’s most noble white grapes. I am a huge fan, and for an inexpensive taste of greatness, try the 2015 Atlantis from Argyros. Vintage after vintage, this delivers. Fried calamari is a perfect accompaniment.

And I must indulge by mentioning a fino Sherry. If you love dry wines. If you love interesting flavours. If you love marinated fish and olives and need something to wash them back, then try the Manzanilla from Barbadillo.

Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla Château De Maligny Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2015 Jean Claude Boisset Aligoté Bio Ecocert 2014

While great white Burgundy is getting more expensive and harder to find, two styles remain accessible and fit into the fresh category. Chablis is unique and each terroir is so distinctive in terms of its minerality. If you love hard rock, then try the 2015 Montee de Tonnerre from Maligny. Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in a glass. Try it with lobster while they are still inexpensive. It seems that there is a new found interest in aligote these days, and I welcome it. When done well, it can be a great wine. Usually made without any barrel, the 2014 Bourgogne Aligote from Jean-Claude Boisset proves that you can make it into a richer styled wine.

This style of aligote segues nicely into the richer wines. Roussanne, greanche and viognier are all richer grapes and you can find all three in the 2015 Costières de Nîmes from Château de Campuget. Stone fruits and spice and a rich texture. Also from the southern Rhone, the 2014 Côtes-du-Rhône from is easily one of the better regular listed whites at the SAQ. A blend of viognier with rousanne, marsanne and bourbelenc, it shows the richness that one expects alongside a wonderfully spicy finish.

Château De Campuget Invitation 2014 E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2014 Domaine Rijckaert Côtes Du Jura Les Sarres 2012 Domaine Aupilhac

The Jura can be quite divisive as many wines are slightly oxydised. But I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love the 2012 Chardonnay from Domaine Rijckaert. So complex, so interesting as well as incredibly finessed. On a similar vein of finesse and body, try the 2014 Cocalieres from Domaine Auphilac. Amazing complexity and wonderfully rich. One of my favourite whites at the SAQ under $30.

Enjoy the heat folks!

Bill

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

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


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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico

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Winery Profile: Westcott Vineyards

A quest to make fine sparkling, pinot noir and chardonnay up on Vinemount Ridge
Text and photos by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The first thing that struck me upon arriving at the Westcott Vineyards in Niagara, was that the vineyards are on a south facing slope. In that instant, this improbable project made sense.

Up on the Vinemount Ridge appellation south of Jordan and atop the Niagara Escarpment, vines miss the moderating effects of Lake Ontario, but south-facing slopes with longer and stronger sun exposure enables the ripening of earlier varieties like pinot noir and chardonnay.

Creating an estate winery focused on these Burgundy varieties has been the goal of Carolyn and Grant Westcott since they began searching for land in Niagara in 2005. Carolyn grew up in nearby Font Hill.

“We looked originally on the Bench, recalls Grant, “but there was just nothing available”. The plot that caught their eye was a stone’s throw from vineyards belonging to the Staff family, and over a rise from a large vineyard planted for Le Clos Jordanne.

They were further encouraged by local authorities like former Brock University viticulturist Kevin Ker, PhD., also known as “Dr. Dirt”.  And by local winemaker Thomas Bachelder who then introduced them to French viticulturist Alain Sutre, well-known consultant to several projects in Niagara and British Columbia.

Arthur Harder, Carolyn and Grant Westcott

Arthur Harder, Carolyn and Grant Westcott

In 2007 they began planting the 27-acre site, but it would be 2012 before any wine was made. Their location in the protected Niagara Escarpment region meant approvals for building a winery were delayed. “Our friends kept asking, ‘where’s the wine’? Grant laughs.

But the real challenges were still to come, in the cold winters of 2014 and 2015. “They were simply unreasonable winters” he said.

The Westcotts knew that their Vinemount Ridge site risked winter damage and they had prepared by placing wind turbines on the brow of their slope. However, they discovered in 2014 that the circulation from the fans did not reach a lower parcel bordering 17 Mile Creek near the winery, and that section was lost.

The following winter they “hilled up”, piling earth around the trunk and lower cane to insulate the vines in that section from the cold. They also realized they shouldn’t let fruit hang too late into the autumn, which weakens the vines for the upcoming winter. Still they lost 40% of their pinot noir in 2015.

Other aspects of the site, however, are ideal. It is essentially clay-loam soils with some areas having more limestone. The yields are low, which is ideal for quality chardonnay and pinot noir. As well, it is a windy site which reduces humidity and fungus pressure that can be severe in Niagara.

Arthur Harder, Winemaker

Arthur Harder, Winemaker

“We are not organic and will use synthetic sprays if we absolutely must,” says Carolyn, “but we are farming as naturally as we can”.

With production beginning to ramp up in 2012, and a new winery finally rising on the property, the Westcott’s went in search of a winemaker and found veteran Arthur Harder.  “I am really enjoying the focus on sparkling wine, chardonnay and pinot noir” Harder said, “and the fact that my winemaking here is more barrel focused”.

Indeed the barrel work is quite evident in the first commercially released 2013 chardonnays and pinot noirs where oak and oxidative notes crowd the fruit. The structure and depth are excellent, which is very promising for future vintages. And I was very impressed tasting 2015s from the barrel, although, again, quantities from this cold stricken vintage will be relatively small.

Carolyn Westcott and Emma

Carolyn Westcott and Emma

The wines are labelled and priced in two tiers. The less expensive, less wooded wines carry intriguing names like Violete, Lillius, Delphine and Temperance. Each refers to a strong-willed, independent minded woman from high society of the early 20th Century.

Violette, for example, is a sparkling wine named after Violette Selfridge, a pilot who flew a Gyspy Moth airplane around the world in 1928. Delphine is named for Delphine Dodge (of the motor company) a debutante who raced boats in the 1920s. Temperance is a wink at Carolyn’s great grandmother who was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement that led to Prohibition of alcohol in the early part of the 20th Century.

The Wines

The Westcott portfolio is centred on sparkling, chardonnay and pinot noir, all from estate vines. Here are our recommended wines. You can click on any of the wine names or bottle images to read full reviews from the WineAlign team:

Westcott 2015 Violette ($24.95) – This is a less aged, dry, mid-weight sparkler with crisp acidity and lifted pear, lemon fruit and firm, almost mineral finish.

Westcott 2013 Brilliant ($29.95) – Aged 14 months on lees this is a quite refined and elegant bubbly with more evolved earthy, dried fruit flavours.

Westcott 2013 Lillias (Unoaked) Chardonnay ($20.00) – A well balanced, dry, maturing and nicely structured chardonnay. The 2015 is available shortly.

Westcott Vineyards Violette Sparkling BrutWestcott Vineyards Brilliant Methode Traditionnelle 2013 Westcott Lillias Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 Westcott Vineyards Lenko Old Vine Chardonnay 2014

Westcott 2014 Chardonnay Old Vine Lenko Vineyard ($32.95) – A firm, intense mineral driven chardonnay from the oldest chardonnay vines in Ontario. Outstanding length.

Westcott 2013 Estate Chardonnay ($26) – A maturing, quite full bodied, well textured chardonnay with lemon, pear, herbs and nutty oak.

Westcott 2013 Delphine Rosé ($15) – This pale orange rose is dry, firm and lively with vague sour cherry and earthy notes.

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2013Westcott Delphine Rosé 2013Westcott Estate Pinot Noir 2013Westcott Reserve Pinot Noir 2013

Westcott 2013 Estate Pinot Noir ($30) – A mid-weight, firm pinot with cran-cherry, earthy and some green notes and sour edges. (The 2012 Estate Pinot is also available)

Wescott 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir ($46) – A barrel selection with medium weight, intense prominent cherry, spice flavours. Firm, very good to excellent length.

As a regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our critics independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to WineAlign. See below for more details provided by the winery.

~

Westcott VineyardsMore about Westcott Vineyards

Great wine, quality wine, is really a story of passionate people. Why? It’s simple. Great wine is crazy hard hand involved work that no machine can approach. It’s year round dedication to hand tending grapes and vines. Every vine and every bunch of grapes is checked, pruned, thinned, managed with every individual rotten grape pulled and every rough weather day teared and sweated. This is what quality in wine means to us, while passionate is really another word for nutty. We’re Grant and Carolyn Westcott and we’re passionate about making extraordinary wine.

Visit our website at WestcottVineyards.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

If you would like to join our mailing list to receive periodic updates from our winery, please drop us a line at : info@WestcottVineyards.com

T: 1.905.562.7517

Open Daily from 11am – 6pm

 


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Westcott Vineyards

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Bill’s Best Bets – May 2016

Light reds and big whites
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

One of the questions I am often asked when I am speaking at tastings for regular folk, and by that I mean non-industry people, is what are my favourite wines. After years of hemming and hawing – I like lots of wine – I finally looked at what I tend to drink most often. And what did I find? Well, it turns out that I like light reds and big whites.

I know that this is counter to current consumer tastes, which tend to lean towards light whites and big reds. If you look at popular white wine styles, from New Zealand sauvignon blanc to pinot grigio, the accent is on acidity. Most people still look at white wine as limited to aperitif time, which I agree is when you want to be drinking lighter, higher acid whites. I drink them too.

Although white wine is on the rise in Quebec, while red wine sales actually dropped last year, it’s still a 70-30 split in favour of red. And when it comes to red, the comment I hear most often from consumers is “I like wines that ‘taste’.” No wonder cabernet sauvignon is still the king of grapes, and “sugar bomb” wines like Menage A Trois and Apothic, with their profuse flavourings of chocolate, vanilla and coffee, alongside the powerful jammy and sweet fruit, are so popular.

My wine choices are more a result of my food choices. I have greatly reduced the amount of red meat I eat. I am not dogmatic about it, and I still grill up a T-bone or lamb chop from time to time. I am more than happy to open a “bigger” red at those occasions, but for most of the time, whether it be seafood, Indian vegetarian meals or white meats, white just seems right. And white with might is usually what I go for.

If I’m drinking a bigger, more powerful white, than what is my aperitif of choice? I like to drink a red with fruit, good acidity, delicate tannins and wines are best served slightly chilled at 14-15C. And when I do drink red with my “lighter” meals, then these more delicate reds support but don’t overpower, my key to a great food and wine pairing. And best of all, many of these lighter reds are equally easy on the wallet.

So in honour of those who don’t believe might equals right when talking red wine, and who love richer textured whites with structure and flavour, here are a few suggestions of wines recently drunk. Let’s start with red…

While stocks are getting low, one wine which sells out almost as fast as the bottles are put on the shelves is the Austrian Pitti from Weingut Pittnauer. At well under $20, this blend of zweigelt and blaufrankisch works great as an aperitif, and rocked my hamburgers the other night.

Pinot noir is a classic “keep it cool and pack it back” wine. If you are looking for an inexpensive pinot, try the Pinot noir from Mezzacorna. Slight herbal note on the finish adds some depth to this northern Italian pinot and the texture is right on. At under $16, an easy purchase. A touch more powerful, but with that Marlborough signature brightness is Spy Valley’s 2013 Pinot noir. Super tasty and with crunchy, just ripe fruit.

Weingut Pittnauer Pitti 2013Mezzacorona Pinot Noir 2013 Spy Valley Pinot Noir 2013 Domaine Sauger Cheverny 2013Georges Descombes Brouilly 2014Jean Foillard Morgon 2014

It’s rare to find pinot noir in a blend, but the 2013 Cheverny from Domaine Sauger is just that. Pinot alongside gamay and malbec, this is Loire drinkability at its finest, and all for under $17.

No discussion of light reds is complete without talking Beaujolais, and especially Cru Beaujolais. Both the Brouilly from George Descombes and the Morgon from Jean Foillard show crunchy fresh fruit, minerality and delicate tannins. Stock a few away for a few years as well if you can afford it.

In terms of whites, southern France is a haven for richer whites. While most think red when they hear Minervois, the white from Chateau Coupe Roses is wonderfully rich and elegant. On a similar theme, but with a Condrieu-esque feel to it, the Cotes-du Rhone from Perrin’s Coudoulet de Beaucastel will accompany any lobster or richer seafood dish perfectly.

Château Coupe Roses 2014 Château De Beaucastel Coudoulet De Beaucastel Blanc 2014 Domaine Du Grand Tinel Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2012 Michel Gassier Nostre Pais Blanc 2013Lagarde Viognier 2015 Clos Du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay 2013

While in the Rhone, if you want to spend some cash, try the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine du Grand Tinel. I love great grenache blanc and along with a touch of clairette and bourbelenc for freshness, this is a beautifully rich and if you want to go there, thought-provoking wine. Staying in the Rhone, but moving to Costieres de Nimes, Michel Gassier’s 2013 Nostre Pais is a similar blend and while doesn’t have the same finesse, it is half the price and a great example of grenache blanc.

Another Rhone grape, viognier, absolutely shines in Argentina. The 2015 Viognier from Henry Lagarde is a ripe, yet very faithful representation of the grape. Try this with scallops or lobster.

Chardonnay in California can be a touchy proposition, but the 2013 Calcaire from Clos du Bois is an excellent representation of the grape in Russian River. Lemon and orange rinds, a touch of butter and a mineral, edgy finish. Really impressive, especially for the price.

Spring is here folks!

Bill

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

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


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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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

By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

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

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

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

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

Here are some recommended current releases by grape.

Chardonnay

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

Closson Chase

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

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

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

Pinot Gris

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

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

County Pinot Gris

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

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

Pinot Noir

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

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

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

Glenn Symons - Lighthall Winemaker

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

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

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


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Season 5, Table 12 – Semi Final #1 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

Sterling Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012 (aka Quacks Like a Duck)

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

John Szabo, David Lawrason and Jennifer Huether qualified as group two of the semi-finalists, and they will be up next time. Sara d’Amato, Will Predhomme and Bill Zacharkiw qualified as group one and they will lead off in today’s episode.

The group at Table 12 agree hands-down that the grape variety is chardonnay, but where exactly is it from? Watch to see who goes on to the Finals and takes home the ultimate bragging rights.

Table 12

Watch Table 12 or read on to learn more about the contestants and the scoring method.

Score Card:

Advancing to the Semi Finals are:

Group 1 : Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw and Will Predhomme

Group 2: John Szabo, Jennifer Huether and David Lawrason

Have a look at the score card below to see how the semi finalist where selected.

Score Card

Table 12

As always, the video series brings together Canada’s top wine experts, but this time a few well-known food personalities have taken on the daunting task of competing against wine critics, sommeliers, and wine educators.

Sara d’Amato

Sara is a Toronto-based wine consultant, sommelier, wine critic and principal partner with WineAlign. She has worked in cellars both in Niagara and in France, as Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel and at the Platinum Club of the Air Canada Centre. She is also a contributor to Chatelaine magazine. Sara is the first and only woman to have won the Grand Award at the prestigious Wine Tasting Challenge.

Sara d'Amato

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill is a partner and principal critic at Chacun son vin. His writing career began in 2004 with The Caveman’s Wine Blog, one of the first on the internet. For the last 5 years he has been the weekly wine writer for the Montreal Gazette. His articles are carried across Canada via NationalPost.com and other newspapers. Bill can be heard on CHOM FM (Montreal) every Friday morning to talk about Wine that Rocks.

Bill Zacharkiw

Will Predhomme

Will Predhomme is a prominent Canadian Professional Sommelier, beverage business development specialist, and industry liaison. Will’s experience reflects a career based in the beverage alcohol, hospitality, education, government and private sectors. For several years, he was the Senior Sommelier at Canoe Restaurant. Now he teaches WSET courses, is o-producer of Ontario and Oregon-made wines, host of The Globe & Mail Wine Basics videos, and is Managing Director of Predhomme Market Insights. He is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and in 2010 he won the title of Best Ontario Sommelier.

will

 

The Scoring

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

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

Let the games begin! Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch table 12.

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Videos tab.

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

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

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

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


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 11 – Part Two

Cool Chard and Hot Reds
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The annual three-day homage called the i4c – International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration – is almost upon us, this July 17th-19th at various venues across the Niagara Peninsula. The 5th edition of the i4c features some 60 wineries, about half from Canada and the other half representing cool pockets of chardonnay from every continent. And Ontario is poised to show very well in the international context. The VINTAGES July 11th release supports the event with a feature selection of wines that will be poured over the weekend; David and I have previewed our favourites in this report, along with our top red picks.

If you plan on attending this excellent affair but haven’t made your plans yet, consider joining the WineAlign luxury bus trip to the signature event of the i4c weekend on Saturday night, the World Tour Grand Tasting & Dinner (details below). The really keen can taste all 121 chardonnays – the only event where every wine in attendance will be cracked – while chatting directly with winery principals and jostling for position with respected writers and sommeliers from home and abroad, including keynote speaker Matt Kramer from the Wine Spectator.

I’ll be waist-deep in chardonnay all weekend, starting first thing on Friday morning over three fascinating panel discussions for the “School of Cool” at the White Oaks Resort. I’m tasked with prodding panelists, keeping passions under control, and discourses on track for topics as potentially explosive as “Does Minerality Exist?”, or as much discussed as “The Taste/Aroma of Cool [chardonnay]”, and as misunderstood as “All That Sparkles”, a discussion on the effects of lees ageing, longevity of bubbles, oxidative vs. reductive handling and much more. It will be as serious as it sounds, with panels loaded with perspectives based on hard science and deep experience, from researchers, professors, winemakers and journalists. Too geeky, you say? Apparently not. The 350 tickets available tickets are already virtually sold out, so act fast if you want in.

Will Ontario Chardonnay Perform?

The i4c was born from the belief that chardonnay in Ontario performs consistently, and well, and from the desire to share that news with the rest of the world. But boldly, the group who dreamed up the idea wanted to show their wines alongside the best from every other cool(ish) place on the planet, not in isolation, confident that the home team would not be routed. Although it’s a celebration not a competition, such events inevitably invite comparisons. In light of the impressive chardonnay flights the WineAlign cru experienced in June at the National Wine Awards – for me among the most convincing flights in the entire competition – and many more recent tastings of local wines, I’m confident that Ontario chardonnay will impress in this international context. Most of the wines at the i4c are from two strong but very different vintages, the giving and voluptuous 2012s, and the tighter and more finely tuned 2013s. Price and value are relative equations, but again I say with confidence that if regions like Burgundy and California were producing wines of the same quality and price as is Ontario, in the $20 to $40 range, there would be worldwide street parties. As it stands, I suggest you come and party in Ontario. And note that this is pure pragmatism, not flag-waving.

Buyers’ Guide to Cool Chard

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Dix Neuvieme Chardonnay 2012Pearl Morissette 2012 Cuvée Dix-Neuvième Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($35.20)
John Szabo – Those familiar with the wines of François Morissette already know the idiosyncracies of his range, crafted with minimal intervention and very low sulphur. No effort is made to mask the ripeness of 2012, and this is as texturally rich, full-bodied and creamy as it gets in Ontario, appealing on its depth of flavour, the sheer weight imparted by both full ripeness, and the exceptional length. It’s a different paradigm for Ontario chardonnay, but one that works, and which should be part of the panoply adding depth to the region. Despite the oxidative feel, the wine is stable and should continue to age, and move though several phases of evolution.

Flat Rock 2012 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)
John Szabo – Just starting to open nicely, Flatrock’s Rusty Shed 2012 is a lovely, elegant, seamlessly integrated chardonnay, deftly oak-influenced and texturally very attractive. Best-2015-2020.
David Lawrason –If you like your Ontario chardonnay with more opulence and generosity then look to the 2012 vintage, and Flat Rock’s easy going style. This is a rolling and ready to drink chardonnay with complex slightly reductive/flinty notes, lemon, toasted almond and generous green pineapple/pear fruit.

Le Clos Jordanne 2012 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($40.00 Winery)
John Szabo – Winemaker Sebastien Jacquey crafted a beautiful 2012 Claystone, managing the warm season by picking at precisely the right moment, not too late, retaining crucial vibrant acids, and then adding back flesh and weight with long ageing on the lees (at least that’s how I see it). This has a lovely, slightly nutty profile, terrific, lemony acids and a pleasantly yeasty-toasty finish. New barrels, it seems, were in the small minority. With Jacquey now gone from Le Clos, all eyes are on the winery’s future.

Henry Of Pelham 2013 Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95 Winery)
John Szabo – It’s delightful to see this top tier wine crafted with such restraint and delicacy – I suppose it’s the confidence that comes with 30 years in the business that allows you to let the vines and vineyard speak most loudly. Wood is indeed a minor, integrated component in the overall flavour profile, which is focused more on ripe pear and orange-citrus fruit, spiked with sea salt and gentle old wood spice. The length is excellent – there’s genuine presence and depth here.

Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2012Henry of Pelham Speck Family ChardonnayCave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2013 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2013 Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2012

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Cave Spring has been making good whites for so long it’s easy to take them for granted. Angelo Pavan’s slim, taut style is right in the wheelhouse of the 2013 vintage, which may be the best of the decade for whites so far. Add in maturing vines and the brand is only getting even better. Great value in Chablis-esque chardonnay.

Hamilton Russell 2013 Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($37.95)
David Lawrason – From a classicist and pioneer of South Africa’s most exciting chardonnay region, this is full bodied, quite powerful and complex. It’s a riveting chardonnay that holds your attention from start to finish, sip to sip, glass to glass. Although you may want to serve it with grilled seafood or poultry rather than pour it as a summer sipper.

Bachelder 2012 Oregon Chardonnay Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($29.95)
John Szabo – Thomas Bachelder’s 2012 Oregon chardonnay is showing very well at the moment, representing the Willamette with style. What really beguiles is the sensation of sapidity and salinity, not to mention the great length. At the price, it is an excellent value, although it might be a touch soft to go long distance – ’12 was very warm – so enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Best 2015-2020.

Buyers’ Guide to July 11 Reds

Uccelliera 2012 Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Tuscany, Italy ($31.95)
Omaggio A Gino Friedmann Lambrusco Di Sorbara 2013 Uccelliera Rosso Di Montalcino 2012John Szabo – A full, ripe, ambitious Rosso with evident depth, density and pleasant salinity, from one of Montalcino’s best. Drink 2015-2022.

Omaggio a Gino Friedmann 2013 Lambrusco Di Sorbara, DOC, Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($14.95)
John Szabo – Pale pink in the Lambrusco di Sorbara style (Sorbara is the sub-biotype of the large Lambrusco family of grapes), this is all strawberry shortcake and red currant jam on the nose, but just when you were expecting a sweet palate, this enters bone dry and sharp, like a welcome session of electric shock therapy. Tart red fruit/cranberry flavours linger. Hardly a monument of complexity, but a great charcuterie wine to be sure, and the classy package looks far more expensive than the $15 price tag.

Beyra Vinhos De Altitude 2012 Red, DOC Beira Interior, Portugal  ($12.95)
John Szabo – A thoroughly satisfying wine for $13, from the granite inland mountains of central Portugal, zesty, fresh, fruity, with enough roundness to please widely, and enough cut to please the punters. Serve with a light chill.

Tawse 2013 Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Gamay is maturing into a bona fide variety in Canada, with the recent National Wine Awards highlighting the strength of this variety in our coolish regions (results coming soon). This is a lovely light yet serious gamay with classy, pure aromas of strawberry/cherry compote, fresh herbs, pepper and a touch of salami\like meatiness.

Buena Vista 2011 Pinot Noir, Carneros, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This intense and surprisingly complex pinot once resided on the LCBO’s general list (sorry to see it moved off to more sporadic distribution). But it is here for now, and worth grabbing a handful as a current grilling season pinot, as its now showing just a touch of maturity. It’s a California pinot with French leanings. The winery was purchased fairly recently by Boisset of Burgundy.

Beyra Vinhos De Altitude Red 2012Tawse 2013 Gamay NoirBuena Vista Pinot Noir 2011 Valentin Bianchi Malbec 2013 Dominio Del Plata Crios Limited Edition Red Blend 2013

Famiglia Bianchi 2013 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.95)
David Lawrason. I am increasingly impressed by Bianchi’s reds – there is a just a touch of more restrained Euro classicism in era where many peers are going for fruit opulence and generosity at every turn. This is a dense, spicy, concentrated young malbec that could age nicely for five years.

Dominio Del Plata 2013 Crios Limited Edition Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina ($14.95)
David Lawrason. They would do better to state that this a tannat on the label (90% tannat and 10% syrah). This variety is showing fine potential in Argentina, bringing structure that malbec often lacks. The colour is deep, the nose is brooding with some iron and dried ripe berry fruit.  It’s full bodied, dense and balanced, and great value at $14.95.

WineAlign i4c Bus Tour Details

i4c Bus TourYour evening begins with the Grand Tasting – the only public tasting event that showcases all of the wines of the i4c. Taste your way through the realm of Cool Climate Chardonnays, self-explore at the ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ station – an interactive palate profiler, and sip bubbly and slurp oysters at the pre-dinner reception. Then, join Chef Paul Harber of Ravine Vineyard Restaurant and Chef Craig Youdale of the Canadian Food & Wine Institute and their dream team of vineyard chefs for a family-style feast Ontario-style. After dinner, enjoy the “Après Chardonnay” bar featuring the Ontario winemakers’ favourite RED wines, the popular Craft Brewery bar, and dance under the stars.

We feel we’ve put together a fantastic evening. The cost of the i4c tasting and dinner alone is $150 + taxes. Add on the expense of driving from Toronto to Niagara and you’re already well north of $200. By joining WineAlign you’ll not only get round trip luxury transportation, grand tasting & dinner; but you’ll also get reserved seating, a souvenir T-shirt and a Summer of Chardonnay Passport, for $225.00 all in (incl’ taxes, fees and gratuities). And you don’t even have to drive.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

All-in Price: $225

Bus Itinerary:
Depart Kipling Subway Station: 3:15pm
Pickup at Burlington Go Station (Fairview & Brant): 3:50pm
Arrive at i4c, Ridley College, St. Catharines: 4:45pm
Depart i4c: 10:30pm
Arrive at Kipling: 11:45pm

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

From VINTAGES July 11th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews
VINTAGES July 11th Part One – Spain’s Diversity

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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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011


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Experience the i4c World Tour Grand Tasting and Dinner – Sat. July 18 – And we’ll do the Driving!

On Saturday, July 18th, please join us on a luxury bus trip to the signature event of the i4c weekend.

The Cool Chardonnay World Tour and Dinner showcases the world’s best Chardonnay and Ontario’s best cuisine. The fourth ‘C’ in i4C stands for Celebration and this is definitely a Celebration of amazing Cool Climate Chardonnays. This is the fifth anniversary of i4c – it’s an incredible event with over 60 wineries attending from around the world.

Your evening begins with the Grand Tasting – the only public tasting event that showcases all of the wines of the i4c. Taste your way through the realm of Cool Climate Chardonnays – from lively unoaked wines to smooth and rich barrel-aged vintages. The popular ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ station will return for the 5th anniversary event – an interactive palate profiling tasting of four exemplar Cool Climate Chardonnays.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

14c strolling

Stroll through a pre-dinner reception, exploring the incredible marriage of Canadian oysters and Champagne or Sparkling wine presented by Oyster aficionados Tide & Vine Oyster Co. Then join Chef Paul Harber (Ravine Vineyard Restaurant) and Chef Craig Youdale (Canadian Food & Wine Institute) and their dream team of region’s top Vineyard Chefs who will present a family-style feast highlighting the bounty of Ontario.

14c dinner

After dinner, enjoy the “Après Chardonnay” bar featuring the Ontario winemakers’ favourite RED varietals, the popular Craft Brewery bar, and dance under the stars.

We feel we’ve put together a fantastic evening. The cost of the i4c tasting and dinner alone is $150 + taxes. Add on the expense of driving from Toronto to Niagara and you’re already well north of $200. By joining WineAlign you’ll not only get round trip luxury transportation, grand tasting & dinner; but you’ll also get reserved seating, a souvenier T-shirt and a Summer of Chardonnay Passport. The price of our trip is $225.00 which includes all wine, food, taxes, fees and gratuities. On top of all that you’ll have the peace of mind of not having to drive.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

All-in Price: $225

Grand Tasting Schedule – Ridley College, St. Catharines Ontario
5:00pm – 7:00pm – Grand Tasting
7:15pm – 8:15pm – Oyster & Sparkling Reception
8:15pm – 9:45pm – Al Fresco Feast served Family Style with a “world tour of Chardonnay” and special library Chardonnays
9:30pm – 10:30pm – Après Chardonnay Bar, live entertainment

Besides the grand tasting & dinner we’ve managed to secure:

  • Reserved seating at i4c
  • i4c t-shirts ($25 value)
  • Summer of Chardonnay Passport*

* To celebrate their 5th Anniversary, the wineries of the i4c have launched The Summer of Chardonnay. This passport entitles guests to special tastings and experiences at 23 Ontario wineries from Chardonnay Day (May 21) to Labour Day (September 7).

world

Bus Itinerary:
Depart Kipling Subway Station: 3:15pm
Pickup at Burlington Go Station (Fairview & Brant): 3:50pm
Arrive at i4c, Ridley College, St. Catharines: 4:45pm
Depart i4c: 10:30pm
Arrive at Kipling: 11:45pm

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

i4c John and David

We want to make our bus trips a great experience for everyone. So while there will be lots of wine to drink, we encourage our members to spit a lot in order to keep their palates sharp and enjoy the amazing cool climate chardonnays.

WineAlign promotes the responsible, legal and enjoyable consumption of wine to adults over 19 years of age. Please drink responsibly. Please arrange a designated driver to and from Kipling, or take public transit. We will be emailing a RELEASE, WAIVER OF LIABILITY, AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK AGREEMENT out to all participants that will have to be signed and collected when boarding in Toronto and Burlington.
If you are interested in attending, please purchase your ticket quickly to avoid disappointment.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

i4c chefs

 


Filed under: Events, News, , , , , , ,

WineAlign Bus Trip to i4c World Tour Grand Tasting and Dinner – Sat. July 18

i4c logo

On Saturday, July 18th, please join us on a luxury bus trip to the signature event of the i4c weekend. The Cool Chardonnay World Tour showcases the world’s best Chardonnay and Ontario’s best cuisine. The fourth ‘C’ in i4C stands for Celebration and this is definitely a Celebration of amazing Cool Climate Chardonnays. This is the fifth anniversary of i4c; it’s an incredible event and we are going to the best part.

The evening begins with the Grand Tasting – the only public tasting event that showcases all of the wines of the i4c (60 wineries!). Taste your way through the realm of Cool Climate Chardonnays – from lively unoaked wines to smooth and rich barrel-aged vintages. The popular ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ station will return for the 5th anniversary event – an interactive palate profiling tasting of four exemplar Cool Climate Chardonnays.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

14c strolling

Stroll through a pre-dinner reception, exploring the incredible marriage of Canadian oysters and Champagne or Sparkling wine presented by Oyster aficionados Tide & Vine Oyster Co. Then join Chef Paul Harber (Ravine Vineyard Restaurant) and Chef Craig Youdale (Canadian Food & Wine Institute) and their dream team of region’s top Vineyard Chefs who will present a family-style feast highlighting the bounty of Ontario.

14c dinner

After dinner, enjoy the “Après Chardonnay” bar featuring the Ontario winemakers’ favourite RED varietals, the popular Craft Brewery bar, and dance under the stars.

Early Bird Price (until June 21): $200
Regular Price (after June 21): $225

Grand Tasting Schedule – Ridley College, St. Catharines Ontario
5:00pm – 7:00pm – Grand Tasting
7:15pm – 8:15pm – Oyster & Sparkling Reception
8:15pm – 9:45pm – Al Fresco Feast served Family Style with a “world tour of Chardonnay” and special library Chardonnays
9:30pm – 10:30pm – Apres Chardonnay Bar, live entertainment

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

14c girl

Besides the grand tasting & dinner we’ve managed to secure:

  • Reserved seating at i4c
  • i4c t-shirts ($25 value)
  • Summer of Chardonnay Passport ($170 value)*

* To celebrate their 5th Anniversary, the wineries of the i4c have launched The Summer of Chardonnay. This passport entitles guests to special tastings and experiences at 23 Ontario wineries from Chardonnay Day (May 21) to Labour Day (September 7).

We feel we’ve put together a fantastic evening. The cost of the i4c tasting and dinner alone is $150 + taxes. Add on the expense of driving from Toronto to St. Catharines and you’re already well north of $200. By joining WineAlign you’ll not only get round trip luxury transportation, grand tasting & dinner; but you’ll also get reserved seating, a t-shirt and a passport. The early bird price of our trip is $200.00 which includes all wine, food, taxes, fees and gratuities. On top of all that you’ll have the peace of mind of not having to drive.

Bus Itinerary:
Depart Kipling Subway Station: 3:15pm
Pickup at Burlington Go Station (Fairview & Brant): 3:50pm
Arrive at i4c, Ridley College, St. Catharines: 4:45pm
Depart i4c: 10:30pm
Arrive at Kipling: 11:45pm

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

i4c John and David

We want to make our bus trips a great experience for everyone. So while there will be lots of wine to drink, we encourage our members to spit a lot in order to keep their palates sharp and enjoy the amazing cool climate chardonnays.

WineAlign promotes the responsible, legal and enjoyable consumption of wine to adults over 19 years of age. Please drink responsibly. Please arrange a designated driver to and from Kipling, or take public transit. We will be emailing a RELEASE, WAIVER OF LIABILITY, AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK AGREEMENT out to all participants that will have to be signed and collected when boarding in Toronto and Burlington.
If you are interested in attending, please purchase your ticket quickly to avoid disappointment.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

i4c chefs

 


Filed under: Events, News, , , , , , ,

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008