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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 5, Part One

Fudging Sweetness: Notes from the New World
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Without VINTAGES having a specific theme for the Sept 5 catalogue, we have decided to create our own themes for this release.  I make some New World recommendations this week, while John will lead off with European wines next week. That sounded like a straightforward assignment until I came to actually search for my best buy values. While I found some excellent whites, I discovered that there was only one New World red that makes the cut – the good ole’ Faithful Hound from South Africa. The dearth of value picks is partially explained by the fact there are no Australian reds being released, which is very odd. As well, there are only a handful of South American and South African reds. But the real reason for the absence of New World red values rests squarely on the strong core of American wines.

There are 15 American reds on the release – from California, Oregon and Washington. And there are some excellent wines, which Sara has pointed out. But none make my value cut because their prices are high (perhaps thanks to the weak Canadian dollar) and in many cases their quality suffers because of excessive sweetness.

Sweetness in lower priced/commercial American reds is nothing new. Most California reds on the LCBO’s general list have some perceptible sweetness. But I am discouraged that it is creeping into more expensive wines, and moving from California into Washington, in particular, and even into Oregon’s pinot noirs. Let alone into other countries.

It is obvious that American consumers, and many Canadian consumers for that matter, like sweet reds. They sell very well. I have always believed in the idea that ‘there is no wrong or right about what wines you like’; but as a critic who is supposed to be providing an objectively derived opinion on quality, it’s clear to me that excessive sweetness lowers quality – just as excessive alcohol, acidity or tannin lowers quality. It is a question of imbalance, of sweetness making the wines too thick, soft and soupy. They miss that key element of refreshment that underlies all great table wines and makes any wine “drinkable” through more than a few sips. It can also dumb down or mask varietal and regional expression.

It really is a matter of how sweet is sweet on a wine by wine basis. I am in the lucky position of being able to examine this wine by wine, but most consumers are not. There is usually no label indication that there is sweetness/sugar in red wines; one has to read into code words on back labels like ‘smooth’, ‘velvety’ and ‘fruity”. Why isn’t the industry – including the LCBO – brave and honest enough to call them what they are – sweet reds? Because the industry knows people like sweetness but would rather be perceived to be drinking dry (perhaps because we know a balanced dry wine is better?).

Eleven of the 15 American wines in VINTAGES catalogue are categorized on the LCBO’s official Perceived Sweetness Scale as D or Dry. The other four are categorized as Extra Dry. Which I guess means that Dry doesn’t really mean dry. In any event, in 13 of the 15 reds – including those labeled as Extra Dry – I perceived some sweetness – from the egregious sweetness of Conundrum, to more subtle sweetness in a wine like the very good Hess Select Cabernet (at $24.95 the only one to come close to being recommended on value). The two wines that taste clearly dry are the great Ridge 2012 Montebello ($190) and Grgich Hills 2012 Zinfandel ($49.95), but neither are good value.

Here are our picks:

California and New World Reds

Chateau Montelena 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, ($70.95)
Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2012 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Sara d’Amato – Although this traditional beauty has seen a considerable increase in price over the past year, it has not faltered in its characteristic refinement and elegance. This very old world style evokes the delicacy of the wines of Margaux on Bordeaux’s left bank. If you’re thinking along this vein then the price might seem just right.

Ridge Vineyards 2012 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, ($190.95)
Sara d’Amato – There is no great value here but Ridge’s Monte Bello site, located in the upper elevations of the Santa Cruz Mountains, consistently produces stunning results. Its cooler site gives the wine unusual elegance, a distinctly mineral component and a savory tartness that provides both energy to the palate and great potential longevity.

Hess Select 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino/Lake/Napa Counties, California, ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – This the best value of the Californians in this VINTAGES release and a consumer favourite. I especially appreciated the honesty, generosity and the dry, un-manipulated feel of this solid find.

The Hilt 2012 The Vanguard Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California, ($64.95)
Swartland Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound 2012 The Hilt The Vanguard Pinot Noir 2012Sara d’Amato – Santa Rita Hills is a very special place for cool climate varietals, in particular, pinot noir. The vineyards are in relative close proximity to the ocean that blows in cool breezes and sweeping fog. This climatic influence gives the grapes of this southerly region freshness and delicacy. Dried leaf, musk and peppery spice enhance the juicy cherry fruit on the palate of this old world inspired but distinctly southern Californian pinot noir.

Mulderbosch 2012 Faithful Hound, Western Cape, South Africa ($20.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very impressive, dense and complex blend of six Bordeaux varieties with cab sauv and franc adding up to 50%. It is certainly ripe but it has impressive tension, complexity and depth at this price; with some Cape granitic minerality and herbaceousness. A classic example of the Old World-New World yin & yang of many South African reds.

Swartland Winery 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, South Africa($12.95)
Sara d’Amato – Who doesn’t love the combination of cheap and delicious? I can’t imagine that this will last long on the shelves so be sure to pick up in multiples this clean, natural feeling, and well-made Bordeaux blend from a winery known for their extensive bush vine plantings.
Ontario & New World Whites

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95)

Flat Rock 2013 Riesling

Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2013 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2013David Lawrason – This is a fine vintage of one of Niagara’s best on-going examples of this distinctively aromatic chardonnay clone. Expect fairly generous floral, lemongrass, lychee-melon and anise on the nose. It’s medium bodied, well-balanced, warm and quite powerful – a great choice for a late summer garden dinner.
Sara d’Amato – Chardonnay musqué is a clone that gives a unique flavour profile to the resulting wine of flowery muscat. This light and fresh example delivers lovely tension from vibrant acids and an elegant mineral component. Drink up – this might just make summer last a little longer!

Hidden Bench 2013 Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($28.95)
David Lawrason – For the past seven vintages Hidden Bench’s “basic non-single vineyard chardonnay” has achieved a 90-point WineAlign rating. This could be the best yet, from a great white wine vintage in Niagara. It is textbook premium Niagara chardonnay – very refined, solid and complex with the ability to age. It has become too easy perhaps to call chardonnay like this Burgundian; but it truly does have a core and elegance mindful of a fine example from the key villages of the Cote de Beaune.

Flat Rock 2014 Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.95)
David Lawrason – A stunning riesling and a heck of a good deal – this tense, nervy, mid-weight style delivers tingling vibrancy to the palate which balances its just off-dry character. One of my favourite vintages yet of this consistently good quality find.

Henry Of Pelham 2013 Estate Chardonnay, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
KWV The Mentors Chenin Blanc 2014 Te Whare Ra Toru 2014 Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2013David Lawrason – Yet another lovely and nicely priced 2013 Niagara chardonnay! It is silky yet poised with well integrated, subtle and complex flavours of ripe yellow pear, butter, almond, toast and vanilla cream. It will equally comfortable as a sipping style, or with grilled white meat dished.

Te Whare Ra 2014 Toru, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)
David Lawrason – I am not a big fan of aromatic blended whites. Most of them are toss offs to use up spare batches of cheaper wine. So you might at first glance think this rather expensive for a blend. But there is a difference here. It is an organically grown, single vineyard blend of three varieties – gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris – that have been co-fermented (not combined after the fact). So not only is it fragrant and well balanced, it has a real sense of integration and completeness.

KWV 2014 The Mentors Chenin Blanc, Paarl, South Africa ($29.95)
David Lawrason – The Mentor’s series are the top wines in the KWV range – changing from year to year, but always sourced from the best older vine sites in this large company’s portfolio of vineyards. This oaked chenin shows great power, depth and exotic, very spicy flavours, right down to a sense of minerality on the finish.
That’s a wrap for this week. If you are reading this over the weekend of August 29 to 31 think of us as at the World Wine Awards of Canada where we tasting through an international selection of wines available somewhere in the country. All to keep you abreast of what’s new and what’s good in more affordable wines.

Cheers
David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Sept 5, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 22, Part Two

Finding Value over $20
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Last week David Lawrason highlighted some of the best money could buy in this upcoming release for under $20. This week we focus on some higher priced offerings.

At these price points, we know that your expectations run high and so do ours. Wines recommended at this level tend to be excellent examples of classic styles and varietals that are characteristically representative of their region. However, they must be more than that to achieve top marks. They must excel in the categories of complexity, structure and finesse. Let it be known that our scores are not impacted by price although scores tend naturally to be higher at these price points. For example, when a wine achieves a score of 88+ at under $20, you can bet we are screaming at you to check it out. At the upper echelons of price point, more of these high scores should be expected.

What makes a wine worthy of a hefty price tag? There is no debate that a great wine costs more to make, as much as the bargain hunter in us would like to believe otherwise. There are more and better quality wines available now at low prices, in particular, from such regions such as Portugal, Argentina and Chile. However, great wines, more often than not, cost more.

Here are just a few reasons why. First, labor costs are higher. Consider, for example, how labor intensive it is to maintain an organic vineyard without the wave of a chemical wand, the work that is required to bury vines and uncover them as is done in the high quality production of Prince Edward County wines, or, how in the upper Cru Classé of Bordeaux’s left bank, an individual is assigned to manage every row of vines. A Bordelaise winemaker once told me of Chateau Margaux: “On brosse les dents des vignes” referring to the painstaking detail that goes into maintaining each vine. Triple sorting, manual de-stemming of grapes and small lot punch downs by hand are a few of the labor-intensive techniques that may go into the production of a fine wine.

In addition, better quality grapes involve lower yields in the vineyard, which impact the quantity, quality and thus the price significantly. The use of high quality, new oak barrels for long periods of time, uniquely designed amphorae, or the use of a new fleet of concrete eggs can also lead to an increase in cost. You will see below that we have highlighted for you some of these special techniques.

Due to the high quality and limited production of our top picks, many of our $20+ recommendations are in short supply. As such, some of these wines fall into what the LCBO used to call “ISD” (In Store Discovery) and is now referred to as FSE (Flagship Store Exclusives). Technically these wines offered in limited quantities are part of the VINTAGES bi-monthly releases. The listings can be found both in the VINTAGES catalogue and online. As the name suggests, these wines are available only in select stores. This category is often overlooked and, not surprisingly misunderstood, but there are some real gems to be found.

Without further ado, the best bets for your cellar, for good friends and for yourself:

WHITE

Von Hövel Scharzhofberg Saar Riesling Auslese 2011

Charles Baker 2012 Picone Vineyard RieslingCharles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($35.20)
John Szabo – Not to be shown up by the Germans, Niagara, too, has its special sites, like the cru-worthy Picone vineyard and its 35 year old riesling vines. Baker’s interpretation is crackling, sinewy, as mineral as they come. And thanks to riesling’s dark shadow, you’re getting one of Ontario’s best wines for under $35. If it were labeled chardonnay, nobody would blink at double the price.
Sara d’Amato – Often, slightly warmer years like 2012 produce more interesting and age-worthy rieslings in Niagara and here is a spot-on example. The clay-limestone soils of the small but mighty Picone vineyard are uniquely suited to this finicky varietal. Only free-run juice, not pressed, is used to make this consistently memorable wine.

Von Hövel 2011 Scharzhofberg Saar Riesling Auslese ($48.00)
David Lawrason – This 21 acre estate was taken over by 7th generation winemaker Max  Schatzi in 2010, who began immediately to convert the site to organic viticulture.  This is not cheap, but it is a gorgeous, precise example of late harvested Saar riesling. Sweet of course but ultra-refined with lacy acidity and such tenderness. Love the ripe apricot, melon, honey and floral aromas and flavours.
John Szabo – As I never tire of saying, German Riesling is one of the world’s greatest values. Period. Here’s an unimpeachable bottle of poetry from one of the country’s greatest vineyards, the majestic Scharzhofberg, in auslese ripeness (late harvest, medium-sweet) for under $50. Laughable. The depth of flavour on a 7% alcohol frame is nothing short of astonishing. I’d like to see this again in another half dozen years. Best 2020-2030.

Buena Vista 2013 Chardonnay, Carneros, California ($23.95)
David Lawrason – Since being taken over by Boisset of Burgundy Buena Vista wines are indeed striving for finesse and layers. This is a quite rich, elegant and complex chardonnay with lifted very toasty, nutty, slightly caramelized\fried onion aromas, with honey and corn in the background. Quite exotic.

Vidal Fleury 2012 Condrieu, Rhône, France ($49.95)
Sara d’Amato – We rarely see whites of the northern Rhône in Ontario much to shame. This 100% viognier offers a lush texture and notes of peaches and cream. Unfined, produced using wild, indigenous yeast in small lots, and after, spend 12 months on their lees. Available in limited quantities as a Flagship Store Exclusive.

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013 Vidal Fleury Condrieu 2012 Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2013 Domaine Cordier Père Et Fils Maçon Fuissé 2012

Beringer 2013 Luminus Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, USA ($39.95)
John Szabo – In the oft over-priced world of Napa chardonnay, here’s an example that shines for far fewer dollars than most. This has nothing to do with the blowsy, woody Beringer wines of yore – it’s far more “luminous”, truly enlightened, lively, and well balanced, from one of the cooler pockets of the Napa Valley. There’s genuine length and depth here, too. Best 2015-2021.

Domaine Cordier Père et Fils 2012 Mâcon Fuissé, Burgundy, France ($29.95)
John Szabo – Burgundy is frequently skewered for its poor value quotient, but the savvy know that there are plenty of brilliant values as soon as you step off the Route des Grands Crus. The town of Fuissé in southern Mâcon has enviable terroir, and the Cordier family coax out it’s best. Yes, fine white Burgundy for under $30. Best 2017-2022.

RED

Cakebread Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Thirty Bench 2013 RedThirty Bench Red 2013, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($24.00)
Sara d’Amato – An underpriced, stunning red which from a high achieving winery at this year’s National Wine Awards. This knockout Bordelaise blend delivers both power and elegance along with enticing notes of smoky herbs and spicy black pepper.
David Lawrason – Thirty Bench was named Best Small Winery in Canada (under 10,000 cases) at the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards, partially because winemaker Emma Garner snagged medals across a range of wines, including a bronze for this wine. It’s a nervy, juicy Niagara red from a cooler vintage that avoids the greenness and sourness of many others. It has lifted aromas of cedar, currants, tobacco and graphite. It’s not at all heavy but flavour concentration is very good to excellent.
John Szabo – A classic cool climate Bordeaux-style blend done very well, showing the touch of a gentle, deft hand. It’s not for nothing that Thirty Bench earned the inaugural Best Performing Small Winery award at this year’s nationals. This is all elegance and class at a rare price. Best 2015-2023.

Cakebread 2011 Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA ($162.95)
Sara d’Amato – Cakebread can do magnificent work with cabernet sauvignon making it elegant, polished and playing up its complexity. Here is an open and revealing wine, not masked by over treatment and showing off ingredients of superb quality. The cooler vintage adds to the wine’s refinement and dimension with notes of wild, dried herbs and acids that peak out from behind the fruit.

Cantina Del Pino 2010 Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy ($37.95)
Sara d’Amato – In the shadow of its more renowned neighbor, this Barbaresco is testament to the appellation’s undervalued nature. This offering easily rivals the complexity and structure of your average Barolo with great intensity and potential longevity for much less of a price.
John Szabo – If, like me, you liken Piedmont to Burgundy (similar philosophy-obsession of expressing vineyards through a single grape), the former can be considered great value. This “village”-level equivalent from various vineyards averaging 40 years old is a perfect example, in perfect sync and harmony, from a cracking vintage. Best 2017-2025.

Mocali 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($44.95)
David Lawrason – One of the great joys of Brunello is that its long ageing at the winery renders it ready to drink. Add the lushness of  2009 vintage and the efforts of one my fave small Brunello producers, and this is a winner. This is very fragrant, tender yet intense Brunello to enjoy right now- so elegant, supple yet not at all blowsy. The tannin is well fitted. Excellent to outstanding length.

Poggio Bonelli 2011 Poggiassai  ($31.95)
David Lawrason – Available only in Vintages Flagship stores, this is a very impressive modern Tuscan red from sangiovese and 25% cabernet sauvignon grown on a classic 81 ha estate near Siena. It has a lifted, very engaging nose of blackcurrant, coffee, sage and cured meat, with underlying green olive/caper notes. It’s medium weight, fairly juicy and tender, with a certain vibrancy. Very Italian! Excellent to outstanding focus and length.

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010 Mocali Brunello di Montalcino 2009Poggio Bonelli Poggiassai 2011 Castello di Gabbiano Bellezza Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011  Finca de la Rica El Nómada 2011

Castello Di Gabbiano 2011 Bellezza Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG, Tuscany, Italy  ($39.95)
John Szabo – $40 Chianti you say? This is every bit as good as any Brunello, which start at $40 and move quickly up in price. While not exactly classic sangiovese (it reminds me more of old school Spanish Rioja), this is a big, bold and impressive wine to be sure, with terrific complexity and length. Best 2015-2026.

Finca de la Rica 2011 El Nómada, Rioja, Spain  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – From a south facing vineyard near the village of La Bastide, “The Nomad” is a smart, tense yet delicious young Rioja, made from 90% tempranillo and 10% graciano, aged 16 months in French oak.  It shows nicely concentrated and ripe currant/berry fruit integrated with pine/herbal notes, gentle oak and savoury notes. I like tension, juiciness and depth here.

Château La Bienfaisance 2010

Domaine Durieu 2012 Lucile Avril Châteauneuf du PapeDomaine Durieu Lucile Avril Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012, Rhone, France ($44.95)
Sara d’Amato – An offering that should go straight to your cellar. A finely crafted Châteauneuf-du-Pape that is built to age and needs time for its tannic toughness to soften up.

Château La Bienfaisance 2010 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux ($39.95)
David Lawrason – The excellent 2010 vintage strikes again. This is a nicely fragrant, complex St. Emilion with a sense of elegance and precision.  Classic Bordeaux cedar currant/raspberry, tobacco, wood smoke and foresty aromas are very attractive. It’s mid-weight, firm and well proportioned – a bit on the light side. Not quite ready yet thanks to its firmness, but its showing fine promise.

~

We return next week with fall offerings (already!) as we move into what is best when the air becomes crisp. At that time we will be deep into sorting out our top international picks at the World Wine Awards of Canada that begin on August 27th. We are pleased to have some of Canada’s top palates from coast to coast with us in Toronto to help with this enormous task. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @WineAlign #WWAC15 for live updates of the awards.

Cheers,

Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES August 22nd, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 22, Part One – Super Values Under $20

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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 22, Part One

Super Values Under $20
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Here at WineAlign we score wines on their quality. Yet value is the reason we usually highlight certain wines in these VINTAGES preview newsletters. This week Sara and I highlight super values under $20, and next week John Szabo returns from vacation to join us in putting forward values over $20. Which makes the essential point that value is not just a matter of lower price, and that it can be found, or at least argued, at almost any price point.

I have long struggled with whether to include a separate value rating with my reviews. In fact I did use a three-star value rating, as well as a score, at one point when reviewing for Wine Access. As did John. I have two counter arguments. One is that value does get a bit more subjective, and two, that readers engaged enough to be reading wine reviews in the first place are entirely capable of making that value judgement themselves, and can fit it into their own budgetary parameters.

But the temptation to rate value remains large. What is our job if not to find the best wines at the best possible price? At WineAlign we are currently tinkering with mathematical methodology to design a meaningful value rating system, and due to the size and history of our database we should be able to arrive at a fairly accurate statistics-based scale.

I guess the question is whether you, dear reader, want it. We would love to get your feedback in our Comments forum at the end of this newsletter.

Meanwhile, here are some super values for late summer enjoyment.

Whites

Grace Lane 2013 Riesling, Yakima Valley, Washington ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Yakima Valley is a large, high desert region with controlled irrigation from water descending the Cascade Mountains. Its situation allows for hot days and very cool nights – the ideal setting for growth of high quality wines. Grace Lane specializes in riesling and this excellent value, off-dry example is dynamic, nervy and surprisingly complex.
David Lawrason – Riesling is the #1 white variety in Washington and underpriced due to lower land costs and a softer market for riesling in the US. But here in Canada we know good riesling when we see it. It’s quite fulsome, ripe and rich with generous aromas of pineapple, yellow plum, honey and spice. It’s medium bodied, fleshy, off-dry and quite concentrated.

Von Buhl 2012 Armand Riesling Kabinett, Pfalz, Germany ($18.95)
David Lawrason – True Pfalz! This is great value in organically grown riesling from a classic producer. It’s very pretty and complete with refined aromas of pineapple, peach and lemon; some white flowers and clover honey. It’s light bodied (9.0%) yet fleshy and delicate. Such precision!

Man Vintners 2014 Free-Run Steen Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, South Africa ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Free-run chenin blanc is not quite the same as say, free run chicken. But there is a similar sense that quality should be better. (Free run juice flows freely out of the grapes without pressing of the bitter skins and should therefore be more delicate). This shows authentic and generous aromas of quince, honey and candle wax of Cape chenin. Quite substantial and complex for the money. MAN might seem an odd name but it is actually a compilation of the initials of the names of the wives of the three couples that own this winery.

S. Cristina Massoni 2014 Lugana, Lombardy, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – The northern Italian region of Lugana is well-known for its structured, mineral influenced and aromatic whites made principally from the turbiano variety (or Trebbiano di Lugana). Here is a classic example that is zesty, nutty and lightly tropical with fresh acids and a little lees contact. A wonderful treat for the last, lazy days of summer. (DL agrees!)

Grace Lane Riesling 2013Reichsrat Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett 2012Man Vintners Chenin Blanc 2014S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014

De Wetshof 2014 Limestone Hill Chardonnay Unwooded, Robertson, South Africa ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Unique and intriguing! From limestone soils in the hot inland region of Robertson, this is bold, ripe yet firm unoaked chardonnay. There is some flinty sulphur on the nose, but also very generous green melon, wildflower and vague orange scents. It’s medium weight, fleshy, elegant and loaded with exotic flavour. Danny De Wetshof has long been considered one of the best chardonnay producers of the Cape.

Koncho & Co. 2012 Tsinandali, Kakheti, Georgia ($12.95)
Sara d’Amato – Nervous about picking up an inexpensive Georgian wine from the shelves? Don’t be! This is a gem of a find and one at a price that is notably low for VINTAGES. Tsinandali wines are generally made from a blend of rkatiteli and mtsvane and have a relatively long ageing process of several years in order to develop a more integrated, complex profile.

Henri Bourgeois 2014 Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc, Vins de Pays du Val de Loire, France ($15.95)
David Lawrason – One of the best sauvignon producers of Sancerre goes outside the zone to lower the price on a very well defined Loire sauvignon, that is both sleek and structured. It shows nicely lifted mint, lavender, grapefruit, green apple and pepper on the nose, with very good focus and length.

Paco & Lola 2013 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a lovely albarino with snap and crunch, very good depth and well defined, lifted aromas of pineapple/starfruit, fresh herbs and yellow flowers. It’s mid-weight, very fresh and well structured, with great acidity and a sense of minerality.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2014Koncho & Co Tsinandali 2012Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014Paco & Lola Albariño 2013

Reds

Herdade do Rocim 2011 Red, Alentejano, Portugal ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite charming, juicy yet substantial red with lifted aromas of currant/raspberry fruit nicely inset with oak spice, toast and light char. It’s medium weight, a bit tart and green on the palate, but I like the tension and length for the money.
Sara d’Amato – From Lower Alentejo in southern Portugal, Herdade do Rocim is a state of the art project which produces widely appealing blends. The indigenous varieties of aragonez, touriga nacional and alicante bouschet are represented in this savory blend along with spicy syrah. Try with barbecued short ribs.

Château Des Moines Menodin 2010, Bordeaux Supérieur ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Great Bordeaux authenticity and half-decent depth and complexity for the money. For two years now I have been singing the praises of this vintage in Bordeaux. Do not overlook 2010 while it is still hanging around.

Herdade do Rocim 2011 RedChâteau Des Moines Menodin 2010La Ferme Du Mont Le Ponnant Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012

La Ferme Du Mont 2012 Le Ponnant Côtes Du Rhône Villages, France($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – La Ferme Du Mont’s grenache focused wines of Provence are often top value. Here is a wine with a traditional feel – a little earthy, funky and rustic. It is well seasoned with saline and black pepper which nicely compliments the juicy cassis fruit.

Palacios Remondo 2014 La Vendimia, Rioja, Spain ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – This is a fresh, youthful Rioja with very little oak blended from grenache and tempranillo. Despite the plump, plummy fruit on the palate, this year’s Vendimia shows surprising restraint and elegance. A sultry and aromatic find.

Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2014Tahbilk The Tower Shiraz 2013Viña Maipo Gran Devócion Carmenère Syrah 2012

Tahbilk 2013 The Tower Shiraz, Central Victoria, Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite intriguing, somewhat sinewy shiraz that harkens back to the northern Rhone to some degree. Not great power or depth but I like the weave of pepper, vanillin, blackcurrant, vague mint and resin. There is grip and intrigue unexpected at the price.

Viña Maipo 2012 Gran Devócion Carmenère/Syrah, Maule Valley, Chile ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – An intense and concentrated blend with the elegant dried herbal notes of carmenere and the peppery vibrancy of syrah. Focused and impressively structured for the price.

That’s a wrap for this week. Tune in next Thursday for our more expensive recommendations.

Cheers
David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 22nd, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Pacific Northwest Tasting - Aug 17th

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

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

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

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

with play button

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

Score Card:

Advancing to the Semi Finals are:

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

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

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

RankingsUpTo_5-13

Table 13

Jennifer Huether, MS

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

Jennifer

John Szabo, MS

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

John 1

David Lawrason

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

david

 

The Scoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 8, Part Two

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

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Northwest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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

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


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Pacific Northwest Tasting - Aug 17th

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 8th, Part One

Loire Valley and Smart White Buys
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Loire Valley is one of my favourite regions. Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé remain world sauvignon benchmarks. Cabernet franc from the appellations around Tours and Saumur define the perfumy cool climate style. Chenin reigns supreme east of Tours and south of Angers, challenged only perhaps by South Africa for its most singular expression, though the Loire wins hands-down on diversity. And Muscadet remains, dollar for dollar, the best value white wine on the planet (if you define best as dry, stony, lean and taut, as I do). The moments when my home Muscadet supplies run dry are very dark indeed.

The August 8th VINTAGES release features a competent but limited selection from the banks of France’s longest, languidly lumbering river, enough to get you started. We reveal our top in this report, along with a miscellaneous assortment of attention-grabbing whites. Next week David leads off on the larger Pacific Northwest thematic and other memorable reds. I won’t keep you any longer; there’s mid-summer sipping to be done.

Buyers’ Guide for August 8th 2015: Loire Valley

Domaine Bonnard Sancerre Rouge 2013

Domaine des Côtes Blanches Sancerre 2013Domaine des Côtes Blanches 2013 Sancerre, Loire, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – An arch-classic, old school, very chalky-flinty example of Sancerre, with fine depth and length. Textbook. Love the dusty texture and ripe-creamy-taut texture, as well as the length.

Domaine Bonnard 2013 Sancerre Rouge, Loire, France ($23.95)
John Szabo – Pinot noir was more widely planted in Sancerre before phylloxera, and is slowly making a bit of a comeback. Attentive viticulture is key, but even still these are light, transparent, fragrant versions without the meat and fat of even lighter-style Burgundy. But that’s their charm: all lace and grace, pinots to drink with a chill. Bonnard’s fits perfectly within the regional idiom, crunchy and leafy.
Sara d’Amato – This light bodied, fragrant pinot noir is an absolutely delightful sipper. Cherry, thyme and dried rose add elegance and intrigue to the palate. Chill slightly for ultimate refreshment.

Bouvet Nv Brut Excellence Crémant de Loire, Loire, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Good Loire chenin sparklers can be great value when they deliver – and this delivers. It is brightly fruity – loaded with chenin’s pear/quince waxy fruit, lemon and a touch of biscuit. It’s light, slender, a touch off-dry with brilliant acidity and fruit on the palate. Quite delicious, penetrating and very good value.

Clos Les Montys 2013 Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie, Loire, France ($13.95)
John Szabo – Lean, crisp, bright, totally transparent and bone dry, in other words, textbook Muscadet. Complexity and length are ultimately modest, but at the price, this delivers everything it needs to and more.
David Lawrason – It is simplistic, but a light, polished, super fresh young Muscadet with green apple fruit, lime/grapefruit and vague stoniness. It’s quite juicy and tart with some bitterness on the finish. Wanted a bit more complexity for a higher rating (87) but at $13.95 who’s complaining.

Bouvet Brut Excellence Crémant De LoireClos Les Montys Vieilles Vignes MuscadetChâteau Favray Pouilly Fumé 2011

Château Favray 2014 Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Upon the pebbly Villiers limestone soils, sauvignon blanc flourishes in Pouilly-Fumé. This dynamite offering from Château Favray exemplifies the region’s characteristic flinty, mineral character, with racy acids that are refreshing as opposed to austere.
David Lawrason – This is from a 15 hectare estate on pebbly limestone soils, owned by a gent named Quentin David who revived an ancient property in 1980 that had been laid low by phylloxera in the 19thC. It’s an excellent buy in a solid, firm and nicely complex sauvignon with grapefruit, green pear, spice and dried herbs. It’s medium weight with taut acidity, some warmth and very good to excellent length. The herbal elements carry well on the finish, to excellent length.

Buyers Guide for August 8th 2015: Smart Whites

Wegeler Sweet Riesling 2012

Rieflé Steinert Pinot Gris 2010Rieflé 2010 Steinert Pinot Gris AC Alsace Grand Cru, Alsace, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – A pinot gris in the opulent, late harvest, distinctively Alsatian style, dense and robust, from the calcareous Steinert grand cru. Fans of exotic, flirtatious fruit underpinned by residual sugar and acid take note. Would be a treat with roasted pork or chicken, or soft cheeses.

Wegeler 2012 Sweet Riesling, VDP Gutswein, Mosel, Germany ($19.95)
David Lawrason – I looked up Gutswein (good wine) and found the following definition: “VDP GUTSWEIN, or regional wines, originates from an estate’s holdings within a region. They are entry-level house wines that meet the general standards prescribed by the VDP and provide a good introduction to the VDP’s hierarchy that inherently links wine quality with origin”. Well this certainly out-performs that definition. It is a lovely, pristine, off-dry riesling with classic Mosel charm, delicacy yet authority. Expect lifted floral, honeyed, peachy fruit with some lemon. Great fruit here; real precision that only the Mosel can really deliver.

Contrade Di Taurasi 2012 Grecomusc’, IGT Campania Bianco, Italy ($32.95)
John Szabo – An utterly arresting wine made from the unique and rare Rovello grape, formerly known as Grecomuscio (no relation to Greco), this has substantial complexity in a decidedly non-fruity style. It’s focused entirely on stony-flinty-chalky flavours on a lean, almost austere, taut frame, not a crowd pleaser by any means. But I love the tension and the quivering acids, and the green herbs and sea salt wash on the long finish. Very original.
Sara d’Amato – This Campanese rovello is a stunner with the potential for interesting evolution. The broad and complex palate is dizzying and offers compelling notes of honey, stinging nettle, parsnip, lime and white tea. Collectors take note!

Domaine Lafage 2013 Côté Est, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is an exotic, bloomy and spicy young white that combines Mediterranean varieties grenache blanc and vermentino. I would have bet on some muscat as well, but apparently it is the vermentino providing all the lemongrass and floral lift. It is very crisp, tidy and well-balanced, with a tart, stony finish. The catalogue says it is “new at VINTAGES” but it was actually on the General List some years ago and was just as good then.
Sara d’Amato – A grenache blanc and vermentino blend perfect for summer sipping. A sure-fire crowd pleaser, this dry, punchy, flavourful white is well-priced enough for everyday drinking.

Contrade Di Taurasi Grecomusc 2012Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013Vicente Gandía Nebla Verdejo 2014Santa Tresa Rina Lanca Grillo Viognier 2013

Vicente Gandía 2014 Nebla Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Attractive tropical notes have been coaxed out of this fleshy verdejo whose bright acidity provides freshness and focus. To boot, you can put your conscience at ease as this 125-year old, highly-awarded Valencian winery is well-known for its sustainable winemaking and social responsibility practices.

Santa Tresa Rina Lanca 2013 Grillo Viognier, Terre Siciliane, Italy ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Located on 50 hectares with a surface layer of light red sandy loam over well-drained limestone base in the vicinity of Mt. Etna, this is great value at $13.95. It’s a sub-tropical, semi-exotic white that combines perfumed spicy viognier with Sicily’s grillo grape of similar aspect. Look for fairly ripe star anise, pineapple, licorice and spicy aromas and flavours.

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

From VINTAGES August 8th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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The 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

A Record Medal Haul, A Widening Range of WinesJuly 29, 2015

by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason, Co-Head Judge

The results of the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada are out (read on or skip to the results), with more medals handed out than Canadian athletes won at the Pan American games that wrapped up Sunday in Toronto (they won 271). Who knew there were so many sports, and so many young Canadian athletes so good at what they do? And who knew that so many different types of Canadian wines from different regions in the country would also rise to the top? This is the 15th anniversary of these Awards. And the stats on this year’s judging, which took place at the Sheraton on the Falls in Niagara Falls, are record-breaking. A total of 1,408 wines were entered from 205 wineries. Sixty wineries entered for the first time, a testament to the growing number of wineries in the country, and faith in these awards as being a way to showcase and benchmark new wines.

We handed out a record number of awards as well – 14 Platinum, 101 Gold, 263 Silver and 375 Bronze. Given that a bronze must have been scored 87 points by a panel of a minimum of three judges, we have hundreds of wines in Canada that our experts felt were ‘very good’or better. That should instill some confidence among consumers.

NWAC15Plat_Cropped_Whiteback NWAC15_Gold_Cropped_Whiteback NWAC15_Silver_Cropped_Whiteback NWAC15_Bronze_Cropped_Whiteback

Among the list of 14 Platinum winners – the top 1% of wines in the country – there were three gamays from B.C. and Ontario, three “Rhone/syrah” inspired reds and one Rhone inspired white from B.C., two cabernet francs from Ontario and one merlot-based blend from B.C., two chardonnays from Norman Hardie in Prince Edward County, a great Niagara riesling, and a classic vidal icewine from the Okanagan Valley.

Among the 101 Gold Medals, we again saw a huge diversity of styles and varietals on the podium, although two thirds were reds, which may come as surprise to those who perceive cool climate Canada as a white wine hot zone. And within the reds there was a fairly equal split among the main genres – pinot noirs,  cabs and merlots as well as syrahs and blends thereof. Both British Columbia and Ontario were dealing with good red wine vintages in 2012 and 2013, the vintages that dominated this year’s competition (To qualify a wine must be bottled and available commercially in 2015).

Among the many silver and bronze medals you will find even more varietal and regional diversity. We saw wines from grapes like arneis, blattner, chasselas, pinotage, tempranillo, carmenere, grenache and a seyval/chardonnay from Quebec. We had western Canada wines from Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands, the Fraser Valley and Cranbrook. We had eastern Canada wines from all of Ontario’s VQA regions, Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and regions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

What underlies this success and diversity? It is winemakers – not the varieties or regions themselves. It might be a stretch to compare our winemakers to athletes – in a physical sense at least – but there is certainly no less passion among the many – and often young – Canadians that are taking over the reins of Canada’s wine industry. These men and women are driven not so much by competition with their Pan-American and Euro peers, as they are driven by being different, and exploring with both confidence and a sense of adventure, what Canada can do well. There is now a huge sense of what’s possible here, a spirit that actually does mirror the new attitude fuelling our athletic success.

Richard Karlo

Richard Karlo – Karlo Estates

Speaking of passionate and innovative winemakers, the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada are dedicated to Richard Karlo, a much loved winemaker from Prince Edward County who passed away earlier this year. As well his ever-present optimism and booming laugh, Richard was known for pushing boundaries in the County, which is defined largely as pinot-chardonnay-sparkling region. He planted winter hardy Minnesota hybrids like Frontenac Gris that resulted in much loved rosé and dessert wines. He worked with a wide range of red varietals from both Niagara and PEC to create a portfolio of wines as generous and outgoing as he was himself. In his memory The National Wine Awards is making a donation in his honour to his favourite local charity, The Loyalist Humane Society.

Richard’s winemaking spirit is pan-Canadian, making it less and less important to be comparing regions in a quality sense. Certainly given geography and vintage variation there will be differences in terms of which varietals might fare better, but when you dig deep into sub-appellations in both B.C. and Ontario in particular, you find that both provinces have micro-zones that are quite capable of producing a wide range of grapes and styles.

So is it time to stop generalizing? Have we matured enough to do so? I personally think Canada, as a multi-regional wine growing country, has a huge future with Icewine, sparkling wine, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, gamay, cabernet franc and merlot, with perhaps more vintage specific success awaiting cabernet sauvignon and syrah.

Chief judge and awards architect Anthony Gismondi will be announcing the NWAC 2015 Winery of the Year Award on August 5th, as well as the winner of our new WineAlign 2015 National Wine Awards Best Performing Small Winery (10,000 cases and under). He will explain the process of ranking the wineries, one that we think is ultimately the fairest and most objective that can be achieved. This year, because we want to make it easier to relate to wines that might only be available in their provinces, we will be presenting lists of the top performing wineries in each B.C. and Ontario.

The Judges and the Judging

This national blind tasting competition for Canadian wines began in 2001 as the Canadian Wine Awards operated by Wine Access magazine. In 2012 the awards were acquired by WineAlign and re-named the National Wine Awards of Canada. Chief judge Anthony Gismondi and I have been aboard from the beginning, along with a core of veteran judges from east and west. As well each year we have added new judges, including an impressive group from Quebec when WineAlign took over and then created its French language site called Chacun Son Vin.

We had 16 core judges from seven provinces, and those judges were regionally interspersed among six panels so that each wine was judged from a “national” perspective. We also welcomed back Dr. Jamie Goode, one of the leading palates and wine bloggers from the United Kingdom. You can link to read about each of our judges here.

Group photo

Judges and key staff of the Nationals

Last year, under the guidance of veteran Vancouver judge DJ Kearney  we initiated a program called the Judges Training Judges Mentoring Initiative, where “top palates” were selected to attend a pre-competition judging seminar, then sit in on the preliminary round of tasting.  Their scores were not counted but they were fully engaged in the discussion, listened to and respected.  This year we were delighted to have two very accomplished sommeliers working with two of the largest restaurant cellars in Ontario: Emily Pearce, sommelier at Toronto’s Barberians Steakhouse and sommelier Katy Moore from Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario.

The actual judging process is very carefully designed to be fair to each wine entered. They are of course served blind, and served at appropriate temperature. The wines are grouped in small flights by variety/style of 8 to 10 wines.  Judges tasted about eight flights a day (fewer than many other competitions) to help stave off palate fatigue.

Three person panels have about three minutes to judge each wine, in silence – then another five to ten minutes to discuss any discrepancies.  An odd-man-out difference of opinion on a wine would have a huge influence on a straight mathematical score. So it becomes a panel captain’s job to build a fair consensus, making sure that wines don’t fall through the cracks.

But landing the wines on the table requires as much or more diligence as the judging.  The right wine has to be in the right glass, in the right order, and appear thus on all flights lists and the competition database. This requires a detailed wine registration process, then back room set up that begins 48 hours before the first wine is sipped. This year our incredible back room staff of over 20 volunteers processed 1408 entries, handling 4,500 bottles in the process.

BackroomCollage

Our judge’s tasting experiences in Niagara were not limited to the judging bench. We would begin at 8:30 each day going until about 3:30, with a non-wine lunch break. At 6pm each evening we were off to visit with dozens of Ontario winemakers assembled at various wineries/restaurants in Niagara. Many thanks to fabulous evenings and food, wine and conversation at Ravine Vineyards Restaurant, The Good Earth Winery Bistro, Treadwell’s in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Trius Winery Restaurant and the new Restaurant at Redstone Winery. We all learn a great deal about each other at these events. So a special thanks for all the very efficient co-ordination efforts by Magdalena Kaiser and Joanna Muratori of Wine Country Ontario.

Events


Next year the National Wine Awards return to Penticton, British Columbia, repeating a process of alternating between east and west each year.  From the outset these awards have been designed a national event, not a series of regional awards, and after fifteen years Canadian wine is feeling very much like it is just that – Canadian.  We just need to get it flowing unfettered between the provinces in order for all Canadians to feel the same way about it that we do. Fingers crossed, one day soon!

David


The RESULTS of the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada


Sponsors

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

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Argentina Part II : Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sparkling in Search of Place and Purpose

by Anthony Gismondi, David Lawrason and Treve RingJuly 27, 2015

Over the past seven months, five of our WineAlign contributors travelled to Argentina, each bringing back different stories and aspects of the country. You can read Rhys Pender MW and Sara d’Amato’s views in Part One of the series here.

~

A number of years ago I noted that when visiting Argentina, or most any other region for that matter, I was spending too much time in cars, eating lunch and dinner and not enough time tasting wines as they relate to the region, its terroir and its place in the world of wine. Hence the switch to early morning hotel tastings where themes and wines can collide and information is gathered in a much more efficient manner in a neutral space. Then the rest of the day, on the road, makes more sense.

A special thanks to the elegant Hyatt Hotel Mendoza for the room required and to Wines of Argentina for keeping an open mind and especially Edgardo del Popolo (Dominio del Plata) and Roberto de La Mota (Mendel Wines) for sharing some fabulous nuggets of information about their country, its wines and the places that make them special.

We wish we could see all these wines in Canada but the monopoly system and the general trend to taxing quality wine out of reach of the average wage earner in Canada makes it less and less likely. There are so many agendas that can foil the fine wine business in a heavily controlled liquor market like Canada. From ignorance to greed and back, the chances of seeing the brightest Argentina has to offer is left to a dwindling select few retailers and restaurants. Undaunted, our job is to uncover the latest and the best and push the names forward. The irony is, as the wine gets better and better, the quality, brought into Canada by many distributors, and sold by many retailers, government and private, is anything but. Certainly it does not reflect fast moving modern developments of a place like Argentina.

-AG

 

Cabernet Franc Ascending
By David Lawrason

I am going to state a bias upfront that Argentine malbecs pose difficulties more me. I understand them but I also find many to be blunt and monochromatic, especially at lower price points where young malbecs can have joyless rawness. I really do appreciate all the work underway in Argentina to fashion malbecs with more elegance, and I do score many very well.  I also like the current movement to find more complexity and elegance by blending other varieties.

After two trips to Argentina since December I would argue that perhaps the best blender and alt-variety is cabernet franc. The first visit with WineAlign colleague Anthony Gismondi was a tightly focused, intense tasting foray, anchored by themed, comparative flights of wines at our hotel before we ventured into the fields of Mendoza and Cafayate. The second trip provided a much broader lens, accompanying a Gold Medal Plates group of Canadians to many of the same wineries, this time from a consumer perspective.

Globally, cabernet franc has long been used as a vehicle for bringing aromatic life and palate freshness to heavier wines. The negative can be that it thins too much and encroaches on ripe fruitiness with its herbal, tobacco leanings, even at moderate proportions. But the very ripe, full bodied reds of Mendoza are the perfect canvass on which to splash a little greenish franc-ness.  The best show just a bit more elegance, freshness and complexity.

A caveat here that none of the wines I want to speak about are currently available in Canada – so not on the WineAlign database – but what else is new? Canada’s liquor boards always lag years behind trends on the ground abroad.  It is articles like this that might one day make them appear.

View from Bodega El Esteco

View from Bodega El Esteco

Among the handful of varietal labelled cabernet francs that scored 90 points or better I was most surprised and impressed by Kaiken 2013 Cabernet Franc, that would sell here for about $40. Sourced from a small block of “massal” or original vines in the Uco Valley, it presented very pretty, totally correct franc aromatics with excellent balance and length. Melipal 2013 Cabernet Franc from the Agrelo district of Mendoza showed classic currants, tobacco and great oak integration, a creamy palate then that tweak of cab franc greenness on the finish. Still in Mendoza, but from the very high altitude Guatallery sub-zone of Tupungato, Los Noques 2013 Cabernet Franc showed amazing lift, florality and freshness. And up north in Cafayate, Etchart 2013 Cabernet Franc showed lovely savoury cedar and tobacco and pink flowers. Very charming and less heavy than Mendoza peers.

As surprised as I was to find so many excellent ‘solo’ cab francs, I was just as intrigued to discover what cab franc does in blends. A little goes a long way. Staying up north in the province of Salta, Bodega El Esteco 2011 Altimus from the remote Valles Calchaquies carried only 14% cabernet franc and 25% cabernet sauvignon – a rich, quite oaky wine that really showed refreshing, dusty cab franc on the finish. Fuego Blanco 2012 from chalky soils in the Pedernal Valley of San Juan carries 10% cabernet franc co-fermented with malbec – lovely freshness, elegance, some minerality. The Pedernal Valley landscape is desert or semi-desert but at 1400 metres above sea level the temperatures are moderate with warm sunny days and cool nights. The rocky, poor-quality soils, glacial in origin, are dotted with flat, dark stones that give the valley its name, pedernal being the Spanish term for flint. Poor soils, low yields, it is a pattern.

Fuego Blanco Malbec Cabernet Franc 2012Per Se Le Craie 2012Manos Negras Malbec Atrevida 2010

Per Se 2012 La Craie from the Gualtallary region is a co-fermented gem with 65% malbec and 35% cabernet franc and another big winner from limestone (craie) soils. *See Anthony’s in-depth look at this special wine below.

Manos Negras 2010 Atrevida is 97% malbec but the remainder is cabernet franc and it shows with just a touch of lift and franc tobacco. Perhaps this is all that is needed to keep Argentine malbecs aloft.

Whether the lead actor, or best grape in a supporting role, I came away convinced that cabernet franc’s future in Argentina is assured.

 

Argentina’s Cup Bubbles Over
by Treve Ring

When you think about Argentina, sparkling wine isn’t top of mind, and possibly not even in the picture. That’s poised to change, as vineyards climb ever higher and cooler, grapes are picked ever earlier and the diversity of styles more accepted than ever before. At the 2013 edition of the Argentina Wine Awards, the number of sparkling wine samples had increased by 220% over the 2007 edition, and a full 30% over 2012. In that year, this sparkling wine sector totaled $22,900,515, an 8.2% growth with respect to 2011.

Though espumante has been produced since the 19th century, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century and the proliferation of pinot noir that bubble began to bubble upwards. Wineries both local and foreign started to show interest in the unique dry and sunny climate and unspoilt terroirs; Chandon, Mumm, Bianchi, Norton and Nieto Senetiner amongst the leaders in the sparkling stride. In the 1950’s and after a worldwide search for new regions to develop, Moët & Chandon’s oenologist, Renaud Poirier, named Mendoza the more suitable terrain for sparkling wine outside of France. Today, the Argentinian subsidiary of Moët & Chandon produces a wide variety of bubbles including Terrazas de los Andes and Baron B.

Refreshing with Norton with the Andes as a backdrop

Refreshing with Norton with the Andes as a backdrop

Unquenchable global demand for Prosecco may have helped in recent years, with consumers wanting to branch out, safely, from a familiar charmat or tank style, not to mention a comfortable entry level price point which Argentina can hit. Though styles range from frothy and fruity to traditional method and serious, the majority that I saw in my travels there and on the shelves back home are akin to Prosecco, easy, approachable, fresh and accessible. Last year Moet Hennessy announced they will spend £1.5m in the UK to back the launch of Argentinian sparkling wines that it believes will tempt drinkers away from top-end Prosecco without asking them to pay Champagne prices.

The best examples, across all sparkling styles, come from altitude, allowing the grapes to take full advantage of relief from the intensity of Argentine sun. In the Uco Valley, and especially in the 1000m heights of Tupungato, chardonnay and pinot noir thrive, ripening easily while retaining crisp acidity when harvested early. In the high desert of Salta, and the arid otherworldly landscape of Patagonia, potential is great, and being recognized and utilized with greater reach every year. Malbec, sauvignon blanc, Chenin, torrontes, viognier and sémillon are also utilized, while pioneering producers trial other grapes.

Here are a few of my top sparkling picks from a brief visit to Argentina in earlier this year, as well as some that are available on our shelves in Canada. Salud.

Bodega Ruca Malen Brut NV, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Norton Cosecha Especial Brut Nature 2010, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Extra Brut NV, Mendoza
Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc De Blancs NV, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodega Santa Julia Brut Rosé 2012, Mendoza, Argentina

Bodega Ruca Malen BrutBodegas Norton Cosecha Especial Brut Nature 2010Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Extra Brut Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc De BlancsBodega Santa Julia Brut Rosé 2012

From Calchaqui to Rio Negra. In Search of Place and Purpose
by Anthony Gismondi

David Lawrason and I had not travelled together in years but our recent visit to Argentina was certainly one of the best weeks we had spent on the road in ages.

Our first morning tasting (there were several) was hosted by two giants of the Argentine wine business: Edgardo Popolo, the general manager of Dominio de Plata and Roberta de la Mota, partner Mendel Wines.

We began with the oldest working winery in Argentina (1831) and one of the highest vineyards. Colomé Auténtico 2012 from the Calchaqui Valley in Salta is pure Malbec, from 90 year old vines made with little intervention. The vineyards are grown and worked using sustainable practices thus presenting the “authentic” expression of the terroir. The winery practices pigeage, does not use commercial yeasts or lactic bacteria to speed up the fermentation, acid correction and the use of sulphur dioxide is minimal and it has no oak influence. This begs the question why so many softer, sweeter versions of malbec make their way to Canada? If you are making under 100,000 cases we see no need for the fruit bomb malbecs that do little if anything for your image and frankly aren’t all that healthy to drink.

One degree south takes us to Tolombón, where shallow, stony, splinter shale soils with quartz are the norm. The malbec here has a slightly riper, sweeter profile as seen in the Anko Flor Cardón 2012. It’s classified Winkler IV, as was the Auténtico, but it seems a touch warmer likely due to the lower altitude. The fruit is sourced from the Estancia Los Cardónes district of Salta, the northernmost winemaking province of Argentina, located just south of the town of Cafayate at roughly 1700 meters along the eastern slopes of the Valle de Calchaquies. The little soil found there is packed full of crushed mica. Winemakers and co-owners Jeff Mausbach, Alejandro “Colo” Sejanovich and Saavedra Azcona and family have planted the rockiest sites looking for minerality. I know, I know the notion of minerality doesn’t really exist in any wine… until you sense it. All I know is I’ll take the stony minerality of this wine over a residual sugar, soaked brand any day.

High desert vineyards of Salta

High desert vineyards of Salta

Old vines are a big part of the story told by Viña 1924 De Angeles Gran 2012 Malbec. There are many old blocks offering different styles, weight and structure. The fruit here is 100 percent malbec and it comes off Parcel 3 at Vistalba, a site planted in 1924 at 980 metres. Density is a medium at 7,200 plants per hectare and the irrigation is old school by furrow. This wine never ceases to amaze from its big black licorice, black cherry, earthy, smoky nose to its savoury, intense palate awash in black cherries, smoked licorice root, tobacco, orange peel and vanilla flavours. A wonderful expression of old vine malbec made with just the right touch of modernity. The farming is organic and the fruit picked for the Gran Malbec is picked a week later than the regular.

Next up was the Viña Cobos Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2012 that hails from Lujan de Cuyo, at Perdriel, (33°10’29.45″S). The site is at 980 metres above sea level and faces southeast presumably to escape the desert sun. The terroir is clay over sandy loam that gives way to gravel and stone. In fact the soils are alluvial and low in organic material but very well drained. The result is bigger, sweeter tannins with plenty of flavour. More Napa in style, it tends to jump the terroir and rely more on its dense sweet tannins, floral, black berry, tobacco aromas and intense black cherry and blueberry fruit with flecks of orange zest and violets. There’s just enough minerality and acidity to keep it all interesting. Steak is a must.

A glimpse at two new wines from Gualtallary, Tupungato followed. This stony, high-altitude paradise lies just south of the city of Mendoza. First up was Bodega Aleanna Maldito Cabernet Franc 2012. At 13.8 percent alcohol this wine goes through a whole cluster co-fermentation with some malbec in cement before aging in 100-year old foudres. With no real wood influence other than it oxidative contribution the fruit is given a chance to shine. At 1400 metres the acidity is prominent at this stage and somewhat overbearing; it’s a style but it’s tart. According to La Mota and Popolo, Argentine cabernet franc needs time in the vineyard and time in the bottle.

Bodega Colomé Autentico 2012 Anko Flor Cardón 2012 Viña 1924 De Angeles Gran Malbec 2012 Vina Cobos Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2012

Two kilometers away and some 100 metres below Maldito, Del Popolo makes 800 bottles of Per Se La Craie 2012, (translation by itself; and chalk). Some 1300 metres above sea level Per Se La Craie sits in the remarkable stone paradise of Tupungato. This elegant Gualtallary red, micro-fermented, tops out at 14.50% alcohol but you hardly notice it on the palate. In 2012 the grapes come from minuscule parcel selections originally planted for Dona Paula and in what was a warm year, Del Popolo chose all the limestone spots, in cooler vineyards to cope with the challenges of a warm growing season. The 65/35 malbec and cabernet franc is co-fermented; the wine spends 16 months in second use French barrels. Soils are amazingly complex: calcareous and alluvial gravels with the aforementioned spots of limestone. Both varieties were de-stemmed and they are fermented together with wild yeasts in French oak used barrels. Elegant and well-stitched Del Popolo credits talented winemaking partner David Bonami (Norton) for his assistance in year one. The fruit was destemmed before a 35 day maceration fermented on wild yeasts. The textures are chalky, silky and amazing. Bursting with fruit and minerality, it is a story teller. All class.

Vista Flores is the next stop heading south through the much heralded Uco Valley. Popolo’s departure from Dona Paula was feisty winemaker Susana Balbo’s gain. Upon his arrival at Dominio del Plata the first thing del Popolo asked Balbo was to consider taking her signature Nostros and set it free to travel to the best vineyard (fruit) each year. Originally the best vineyard in Agrelo it is now a Single Vineyard Nomade, a name meant to celebrate its journey every year to the best grapes they can find. Enter Dominio del Plata Nosotros 2012 Vista Flores, Uco Valley, Mendoza. In 2012 Nosotros is sourced from selected parcels in the region of Chacayes at 1200 metres, along the far west, high side of Vista Flores. The soils are complex, colluvial-alluvial origin with a sandy-loam frame in the first 10 inches. The second layer of calcareous soil and white gravels goes down two metres. Clearly more and more limestone sites are being planted to vine. More vertical and more linear, Popolo likes minerality and freshness while winemaker Susana Balbo likes sweetness and roundness with toast. So far it’s a fine match; Nosotros 2012 is a delicious, intense juicy vibrant red wine made with intensity and balance. A star is born.

Familia Zuccardi Aluvional 2012 La Consulta, San Carlos, Mendoza was next and the level jumped another notch. At 15% alcohol you might expect it to assault you but after 12 months in concrete vats using indigenous yeast there is an electricity and freshness and fruit that is almost overwhelming. Aluvional is made from several sites, all handpicked by winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi in the La Consulta, San Carlos region. At 990 metres above sea level, some 130 km south of Mendoza City, this is the mother lode. The vines were planted in 1974 on poor alluvial soils of sandy-silt-clay mixed with rock. Love the tension and the acidity of what is a complex rich, powerful red, full of floral fruit. All hail Sebastien and his relentless fire to find the true home of malbec.

Next door to Zuccardi’s Aluvional, the Mendel Finca Remota 2011 offers another look at Altamira, surely one of the finest pieces of terroir in all of Argentina. The 2011 was a little cooler than 2012 and the wine is a bit tighter. The vineyard is older, thought to be planted in 1950, the alcohol is a little lower at 14.3% and it spends 18 months in new French oak. Easily the most complex of the bunch, no doubt one of the most important characteristics of Mendel La Remota is the intensity and complexity of the fruit. Like the Angelus, it presents its old vines in the texture and viscosity that you don’t get in younger vines. It presents as a polished river stone, not one you have just cracked open.

Dominio Del Plata Nosotros Vista Flores 2012 Zuccardi Aluvional La Consulta 2012 Mendel Finca Remota 2011

Another step south takes us to Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel 2012, a tiny sub-section of Altimira in San Carlos area of the Uco Valley. The fruit here is grown on sandy, silty colluvial soils with small brick-like stones in pink and orange scattered about. Yields are only four tons per hectare. Microvinification takes place in second-used 225 liters, French oak barrels filled with 170 kilograms (375 lb) of pure-clean berries. The barrels are closed up and sent to a temperature controlled room where the alcoholic, wild culture and malolactic fermentation takes place. To make a soft extraction, the barrels are rolled daily for 10 to 15 days. After that the wine is racked to new French oak barrels where it is aged for 18 months. This artisanal vinification method ensures that grapes are handled gently and all the process is carried out by gravity. Only exceptional years can spawn a Los Indios Parcel Malbec limited in quantity to 2000 bottles. Like the Aluvional the spice and violets dominate the nose with impressive acidity and or freshness followed by texture, texture, texture. Impressive to say the least at this young age.

We concluded the tasting with two ‘southern’ reds from Patagonia. First up was the Marcelo Miras 2012 Malbec from Ing. Huergo, General Roca, Río Negro planted in 1979. This was made in the traditional style and aged for 15 months in French and American oak barrels and from a typical north Patagonian desert climate – think warm days and cool nights at 39º 08´ S. Here you can get big colour and structure thank to the thickness of the skins so you must pay attention to prevent the wine from being to rustic. The growing season can be shorter, much like the south Okanagan Valley. Solid but in tough against the group.

Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel Malbec 2012 Marcelo Miras Malbec 2012 Bodega Noemía A Lisa 2012

The finale was Noemia de Patagonia A Lisa 2012 from Mainque, Valle Medio, Rio Negro, a 90/9/1 blend of malbec/merlot with a touch of petit verdot that are sourced from estate grown limestone and purchased from nearby vineyards, managed biodynamically. Again, freshness permeates this red with only 13.5 percent alcohol. Long days of light in the summer compensate for the wind and cool temperatures bring out the floral aspects to lift the mid-palate flavours. The tannins are soft here and almost sweet. Impressive already and yet only a baby; like all the wines in this tasting it needs time to reach its full potential.

A stunning morning that only reinforces how little we see from Argentina in Canada and how little we are likely to see if the gatekeepers continue to demand cabernet and chardonnay to fill a retail philosophy completely out of touch with the reality of modern wine.

As we wrapped up the tasting both del Popolo and La Mota reminded us, “We tried to show you our terroir. There wasn’t any wine where our hope was to show you the grapes.” Aclamaciones to that los caballeros. Your objectives were accomplished and more.

~

Argentina Part I : Rewarding Freshness
Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder (VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide)

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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Wines of Argentina - Wine Jam & BBQ

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part Two

Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder
By David Lawrason with wine notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Argentina is featured on this release, and I am newly enthused by goings-on after two visits there within the last year. In fact five WineAlign writers have been there in recent months, and we have published the first article of a comprehensive two-part national series that delves deep into the current state of that nation (read part one here). If Argentina wasn’t confident about what’s going on they wouldn’t be inviting the world to have a look. The nub of the story is that Argentina is evolving into something more than a one-hit malbec wonder.

You have an opportunity to explore this in more detail as 20 producers arrive in Toronto next week (July 29) at Wines of Argentina’s Wine Jam and BBQ at the St. James Cathedral. (Find out more and get your promo code here.)

Before continuing I refer you to a ‘letter to the editor’ by Christopher Freeland of the LCBO in response to my June 27 release commentary on VINTAGES handling of the pre-Canada Day selection of Ontario wines. Please go to Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27 – Part Two and scroll down to the comments section. And yes there is a connection to Argentina.

Mr. Freeland delivers an impassioned and detailed defence of the LCBO’s treatment of Ontario wine, and chastises me for not recognizing everything the LCBO is doing around homegrown wines. Fair enough, but I was not discussing the LCBO’s overall program, only VINTAGES lack of ability to create a meaningful focus on Ontario wine on that pre-Canada Day release.

I repeated the complaint two weeks later around VINTAGES’ Spanish feature, and I will say it again this time, with VINTAGES slender selection of six Argentine wines. Yes, there are already other Argentine wines on the General List and VINTAGES shelves. But why not really make this a feature and give 25 new Argentine reds a shot at a spot? Or 50? The reasons VINTAGES cannot do this are in my original discussion around Ontario wine.

VINTAGES is not being ‘unfair’ to Argentina, Spain or Ontario. They are actually being overly fair to all wines around the world (which makes Ontario wineries crazy). They are limited in what they do because they are in the end the one and only retailer and unable to provide the depth of selection one can find in other major North American markets. If it ain’t at the LCBO it ain’t on shelves anywhere in Ontario – which has underpinned my criticism of the LCBO from the start.

Back to what Argentina is doing now, and how that is reflected on this release. The selection only has one malbec, which indeed recognizes Argentina’s growing diversity. There are two cabernet sauvignons, which is a nod to the importance of this underrated grape, but neither are truly memorable cabernets. There is a Patagonian cabernet franc that is very much worth a look, and it is a variety on the up-tick throughout Argentina. But why no Patagonian pinots, and cab franc from Mendoza? There is a terrific torrontés value, but why not three for the dog days of August?

And none of the wines mentioned so far are above $20, which dismisses legions of premium wines that are available. In limited distribution as an In Store Discovery there is Catena’s excellent icon red named for founder Nicolas Catena. But where are the bonardas, many more great red blends, the biodynamic wines, the unoaked amphora wines from Sebastian Zuccardi, the brilliant French influenced reds from Monteviejo and the other member wineries of Clos de Los Siete, the great cabs and tannats from Cafayate, the syrahs of San Juan, the new lovely roses made from the pais grape.  We just have to wait and hope I guess.

With Sara d’Amato still on vacation John Szabo and I present our value picks from Argentina, as well as other New World and Europe.

Argentina:

Nicolás Catena Zapata 2010

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012

Pietro Marini 2013 TorrontésPietro Marini Torrontés 2013, Salta ($12.95)
David Lawrason – Torrontés is found in most regions but hits its freshest and most exotic heights in the northern province of Salta. Grown at 1750 metres in the Calchaqui Valley this is huge value! It has a billowing aroma of lemongrass, tangerine, spearmint and licorice – very exotic. It’s mid-weight, nicely smooth and a touch sweet, with great acidity and some warmth. Deep chill for garden sipping.

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012, Patagonia ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This hails from a remote, parched landscape (see label) in southern, cooler Patagonia. But cab franc is on the rise farther north in Mendoza as well, both as a blender and stand alone varietal. This is nicely done and every Canadian interested in one of our country’s better red varietals should be having at peek at this Patagonian.

Nicolás Catena 2010 Zapata, Mendoza ($110.00)
John Szabo – Yes this is certainly expensive, but if you’re a serious collector, it’s worth your attention. In the context of impressive, age-worthy wines, it’s comfortably in the upper echelon, made since 1997 from Catena Zapata’s top lots of cabernet and malbec. Indeed, I’d say it has better structure and balance than many similarly-priced wines from the new world, and would give plenty of pause to the classics from the old as well. Tuck this in the cellar for another 5-10 years minimum and then stage your own “judgement”-style comparative blind tasting. It’s rare to say, but I’d prefer a single bottle of this to a half dozen commercial, typically, sweet, over-oaked Argentine malbecs. David Lawrason – Ditto :)

Euro Reds:

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Maçanita 2012 RedMaçanita Red 2012, Douro, Portugal ($18.95)
John Szabo – From the dynamic team of Joana and brother António Maçanita (the latter of Fita Preta in Alentejo and the Azores Wine Company), this is a cleverly made wine with wide appeal. 60% Touriga nacional and 40% tinta roriz combine to make a generous, ripe, fruity and floral blend from the Douro, well within the typical flavour wheelhouse, with added polish and well-managed, succulent, rounded texture. Best 2015-2022.
David Lawrason – Very nicely made modern Douro lacking just a bit of depth for 90 points, but close and still good value.

Carpineto 2010 Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($27.95)
John Szabo – Tuscan cabernet is rarely a detour for me, but I was stopped in my tracks by this concentrated and structured wine from Carpineto. The website provides no real insight (“grown in vineyards considered particularly suited for the production of great wines”, and, “scrupulously field selected”), but marketing fluff aside, I’d speculate that the vineyards are indeed special, as this delivers the type of depth, complexity, structure and length that can’t be manufactured in the winery. Genuinely great wine at a great price. Best 2015-2025.

San Fabiano Calcinaia 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($24.95)
John Szabo – Like the Farnito above, and against all odds, this second Tuscan cabernet in the same release also caused the world to stop spinning for a moment. It’s a hell of a mouthful for $25, full, firm, highly extracted, with immense tannic structure and abundant wood influence. Don’t touch it for at least another 3-5 years, but it’ll never be soft and polished so plan ahead with some salty protein and a decanter at the ready. Best 2018-2028.

López De Haro Crianza 2008

Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2013

Prunotto 2012 MompertonPrunotto Mompertone 2012, Monferrato, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Monferrato is an underrated  DOC region sandwiched between the powerhouse regions of Piedmont and Tuscany in NW Italy. From a leading peimontese producer this is a refined, well balanced if not showy young red with classic, perfectly ripened blackberry, floral and herbal nuances.

Tessellae 2013 Vieilles Vignes Carignan, IGP Côtes Catalanes, Southwest France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Another terrific value from the Roussillon, showing the wild and savage depths of which old vine carignan is capable. I love the scorched earth, the wild, resinous herbs, the dark fruit, the spice notes, not to mention the superior depth and structure at the price. Best 2015-2023.

López De Haro 2008 Crianza, Spain ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a good buy at $15, if you like lighter reds, and Spain’s Rioja reds in particular. Lopez de Heridia is one of the great classic, traditional wineries of Spain, indeed of Europe. That they have delivered a minor classic at this price is a very pleasant surprise. It’s lighter, tight and elegant – quite tender in fact.

New World Reds:

Melville Verna's Estate Syrah 2012

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012

Paxton AAA 2012 Shiraz GrenachePaxton AAA Shiraz Grenache 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Paxton is a leading biodynamic producer in McLaren Vale, with their minimal intervention mantra stated on the back label. This is big and edgy but like so many BioD wines it delivers consistent, complex, profound flavours of excellent to outstanding length. Compelling if not soothing. Should age well for five years.

Blue Pyrenees 2012 Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Festooned with award competition medallions, this bottle hails from the remote, arid and intriguing Pyrenees region 200kms NW of Melbourne. It’s medium-full bodied with great granitic acidity/minerality, fine tannin and juicy, savoury flavours. Excellent length. The medals are deserved.

Melville 2012 Verna’s Estate Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California ($37.95)
David Lawrason – Santa Barbara, with coastal influence at a warm latitude, is one of the great sources of syrah in California. And I find most examples echo the cooler northern Rhone more so than Aussie shiraz styling. This is a classic – full bodied, fairly dense, racy and refined. The focus and length here are excellent.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Next week John and I will return to lead off commentary on VINTAGES, August 8 release, which features the Pacific Northwest and Loire Valley. (I promise not to gripe about lack of selection).  And next week also stay tuned for the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Part 1: Wine to Chill

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


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part One: Wine to Chill

By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason

Don’t Forget to Chill Those Reds

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

A water-and-ice-filled bucket might just be the greatest wine gadget ever invented. Just a few minutes in one of these simple but magical devices can turn your red wine from a flabby, alcoholic and soupy drinking chore, into a crisp, fresh and fruity thirst-quenching delight. Not only in summer, but throughout the year, red wines are almost always served too warm; anything above 20ºC is a service faux-pas akin to aerating in a blender. For many reds, 12º-14ºC is far better. Most restaurants are guilty of this disservice. All of those open reds sitting out on the back bar in July? Forget them. That goes for January too. Don’t be afraid to ask for the ice bucket when dining out. At home, you’re in full control, so use the fridge, or your own ice bucket, to bring those reds into the best temperature zone to maximize enjoyment.

This report focuses on and handful of reds (and whites), which are particularly sensitive to temperature. The LCBO calls them “Wines to Chill” – the main theme for the July 25th VINTAGES release. David and I have included our top picks that are best with a chill, including whites. Read on to find out why temperature matters, or just skip to the recommendations.

Why Temperature Matters

When it comes to eating and drinking, temperature matters. Cold cheese straight from the fridge, for example, offers only a shadow of its aroma and flavor potential. Warm soft drinks are mostly sugary, aggressively carbonated, and hard to swallow. Chefs also know that any dish served cold, such as terrines, patés, or soups, need to be slightly more salted than the same dish served hot, because your perception of salt decreases at lower temperatures; that’s to say things taste less salty. The interplay between temperature and sensory perception likely occurs by many mechanisms, including the direct action of temperature on sensory receptors, but in any case, it’s clear that people’s taste receptors are modulated by temperature change. Basically, the same foods and wines taste different at different temperatures, so when you’re serving wine, consider the effects, both positive and negative, of the wine’s temperature.

Aromatics

Temperature dramatically affects aromatics. At a chemical level, when a substance is warm, its molecules vibrate fast. When cold, they slow down. In other words, the colder a wine is, the slower and less volatile its aromatic compounds are, and thus the less aromatic a wine will be. At the other end, when a wine is too warm, many of the enjoyable aromatic molecules are so active they’re gone before you can smell them, leaving little but the light burn of alcohol vapors. It’s always smarter to err on the side of too chilled than too warm – cold wine will warm up. The only solution for a glass of hot red wine is an ice-cube, which is not ideal.

Taste and Texture

Beyond aromatics, temperature also affects wine texture and taste. Wine served cold seems more acidic (which makes it more refreshing), fruitier, and more tannic (which makes it more astringent and bitter). This is why red wines are generally served warmer than whites: they contain tannin (the substance in wine that causes the astringent, drying, mouth-puckering sensation), while whites and rosés rarely have any tannin at all. The curious thing about tannin is that you perceive its drying effect more at lower temperatures. That means if you take the same tannic wine and serve it at both 10ºC and 18ºC, the cooler sample will appear more astringent and more bitter, perhaps unpleasantly so. At 18ºC the wine will still be tannic, but much more tolerable. Then when decanted and served with a little salty protein, the tannins may no longer be a significant factor at all.

But many reds grapes have naturally low tannin levels such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Barbera. These wines are more enjoyable when served with a chill, as are most unoaked reds of any variety. You can increase the fresh, fruity aspect without danger of making them too astringent. Creeping alcohol levels across the world is yet another reasons to serve reds chilled to knock down the burn of alcohol. And because the majority of red wines produced today are intended for immediate consumption, that is, with little tannin, you can serve just about every thing in your cellar at least slightly chilled, especially in the summer and with spicy foods. Even your most prized bottle of massive, concentrated red wine is best below room temperature, which for most folks is above 20ºC.

Bottom line: serving wines cooler increases their crispness, fruitiness, and astringency, and decreases aromatic intensity. Serving wines warmer makes them seem more sweet, flabby and alcoholic, less fruity and less astringent.

Buyers’ Guide: Reds To Chill

Remelluri Lindes De Remelluri 2010 Viñedos De Labastida, Rioja, Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a classy, polished, well composed and elegant “second” wine from the respected Rioja house of Remelluri. Made from vineyards in the village of Labastida, adjacent to the historic Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri estate, it’s neither ultra modern nor traditional in style, finding it’s own just balance. I appreciate the finesse and elegance; a very classy wine over delivering by a wide margin. Best at 16ºC, from 2015-2022.

The Good Earth 2012 Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95)
John Szabo – Gamay is a classic candidate for chilling, capitalizing on the variety’s mists of strawberry, raspberry and red currants, and increasing the cut of its juicy acids. The Good Earth’s wines have improved notably since bringing on winemaker Ross Wise (also at Keint-He), and this 2012 is delightful, especially alongside a plate of charcuterie or grilled sausages.

Remuelluri Lindes de Remelluri Viñedos de Labastida 2010 The Good Earth Gamay Noir 2012 Seven Terraces Pinot Noir 2013 Lailey Merlot 2013

Seven Terraces 2013 Pinot Noir, Canterbury, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – Lighter style pinot, like this crunchy, leafy, cool climate example from Canterbury on New Zealand’s south island, needs a light chill to deliver its full message of refreshment.

Lailey 2013 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95)
John Szabo –  Merlot swings both ways, from delicate and elegant to dense and extracted. Derek Barnet’s version leans to the former style, an open, honest, no-nonsense wine with lovely fresh herbal notes, lively red and black fruit, minimal oak and maximum floral-violet character. It’s reminiscent of cool climate malbec, a positive association.

Buyers Guide: Whites (To Chill)

Dog Point Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($42.95)
John Szabo – This is a chardonnay of terrific intensity, so be sure not to serve ice cold (10-12ºC would be about right). Though the lovely, edgy, reductive-flintiness character will shine through at any temperature. A classy example from one of New Zealand’s most reliable and accomplished producers, and fine value in the worldwide context of premium chardonnay. Best 2017-2026.

Jean-Max Roger 2013 Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre, Loire, France ($26.95)
John Szabo – Here’s another terrific Sancerre from the ultra-reliable Jean-Max Roger, this one very floral and mineral, like an essence of chalk dust and sweet green herbs. Best 2015-2020.

Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2013 Momo Pinot Gris 2014 Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne

Momo 2014 Pinot Gris Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – Tone down the impression of sweetness in this rich, Alsatian-style gris with a proper chill. It’s quite unctuous and indeed off-dry with overripe orchard fruit, yet balanced by more than sufficient acids. Length and depth are excellent for the money – a terrific option with spiced-up dishes.
David Lawrason Momo is a second label of Seresin, a prominent organic producer. NZ tends to like its ‘gris’ on the lush side. This has generous ripe peach cobbler, bready, honey and floral notes. It’s quite full bodied, fleshy and warm with some firm acidity. I wouldn’t open it for refreshment in the hot sun, but over an evening meal of chicken, pork – with Asian accents – it could perform very nicely.

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Bubbles last longer in chilled wine, and are perceived as less aggressive. Low temp also hides the pinch of sugar added to virtually all sparkling wines to balance their ripping acids. This is a beautifully balanced crémant, elegant and fresh, with a fine streak of stony flavour, hazelnuts and marzipan, and fresh brioche. And half bottles ($11.95) are perfect for two.

Tenute Messieri 2012 Visioni Offida Pecorino, Marche, Italy ($16.95)
John Szabo – I love the unusual herbal and resinous, licorice, tarragon and citrus zest notes in this pecorino, a wine to take you out of the rut of standardized fruity white wines. Perfect for fresh herb-inflected salads and fish dishes on the terrace, chilled, of course.

d’Arenberg 2014 The Stump Jump White, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a creative blend from one of the iconic producers of McLaren Vale, nicely combining riesling, sauvignon with Rhone white varieties like roussanne and marsanne. It is mid-weight and quite fresh without distinct characteristics, as often is the case with blends. Nicely bridges refreshment and richness, and it has the weight to stand up to grilled foods.

Tenute Messieri Visioni Offida Pecorino 2012 d'Arenberg The Stump Jump White 2014 Crossbarn Chardonnay 2013 Wolfberger Signature Muscat 2013 Miraval Rosé 2014

Crossbarn 2013 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is from Paul Hobbs, a very successful international winemaker born and raised in a vineyard in upper New York State, and currently consulting at Stratus in Niagara.  The oak is very nicely played here – supportive of the peach fruit with leesy/vaguely toasty complexity. It’s mid-weight, serious yet fresh. A style to which more California wineries should aspire.

Wolfberger 2103 Signature Muscat, Alsace, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a dry muscat, a style that Alsace is doing better than any other region. I love the soaring aromas of lavender, spice, shaved ginger, orange marmalade and persimmon. Exotic indeed. Chill well and serve with Asian inspired salads, pad thai. I was reminded of Argentine torrontes.

Miraval 2014 Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is perhaps the best ‘Brangelina’ rose yet (by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). It’s more restrained and lower alcohol than previous years. Very pale pearl pink colour typical of Provence. Lovely soft and pure aromas of red plum, watermelon with vague herbs. It’s mid-weight, very smooth, dry and elegant. A fine afternoon sipper but do not overchill.

Ktima Gerovassiliou 2014 White, Epanomi, Greece ($18.95)
David Lawrason – No austerity measures here. This is a lively, firm blend of malagousia and assyrtiko – two principal indigenous grapes of Greece. It has a quite lifted, exotic nose of lychee, pineapple, fennel and clover honey, with some white pepper. It’s mid-weight, fresh, lively and quite spicy on the palate and finish. Very good value.

Ktima Gerovassiliou White 2014 Jermann Pinot Grigio 2014 Dal Cero Pinot Grigio 2013 Louis Jadot Clos de Malte Santenay Blanc 2011

Jermann 2014 Pinot Grigio, Venezia-Giulia, Italy ($31.95)
David Lawrason – I am dead certain most would never venture $30 on an Italian pinot grigio, but this does not mean the category can’t attain these heights. For a generation Jermann has been a leading producer of Italian white wines. And if you prize, elegance, purity, subtlety and finesse you will love this understated wine.

Dal Cero 2013 Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This was not highlighted in VINTAGES Chillable feature but add it to the list.  It is a quite lovely, light, fresh and pure pinot grigio with apple, florals and lemon. Straightforward, zesty and pure with very good length. Ideal for an Ontario summer.

Louis Jadot 2011 Clos De Malte Santenay, Burgundy, France ($39.95)
David Lawrason – A good buy in serious white Burgundy – and underpriced because Santenay doesn’t have the cachet of neighbouring Chassagne-Montrachet.  It is quite powerful, well-structured and complex with lifted notes of barrel toast, lemon curd, pear puree, candle wax and toasted almond. It is mid-weight, firm and quite dry. Excellent length. Drink over the next three years (maybe longer).

 

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

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
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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