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Bill’s Best Bets – June 2016

A Summer of Whites
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the heat folks!

Bill

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

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


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Bill’s Best Bets – May 2016

Light reds and big whites
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring is here folks!

Bill

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

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


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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Bill’s Best Bets – September 2015

September Cellier release

by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

It’s back to school and back to tasting the monthly SAQ Cellier release for the gang at Chacun son Vin. We will be timing these emails to give you a head’s up on the best selections from these limited release wines. The SAQ has begun offering some of these wines online prior to them being released in their stores, so if you want to be sure to be get your hands on these bottles, order them online.

The September release, where the focus is on France, is one of the strongest I have tasted. It is chockfull of both bargain wines as well as a touch pricier bottles that can fill holes in your wine cellar if you need to reload. So let’s get right to it.

Bordeaux fans have no lack of choice here with a number of bottles from the very different 2009 and 2010 vintages. These are for the most part “ready to drink”, though a few show the stuffing to be able to handle some extra cellar time.

My top three were the 2010 Château Tayet for sheer power, the 2010 Château Lacombe for its balance and restraint, and the 2009 Hanteillan, which shows surprising finesse and complexity for a wine of such a hot vintage. “Feminine with a temper” is how I described it. All of these wines are under $25, so no need to spend a fortune for a very good Bordeaux.

Château Tayet Cuvée Prestige 2010 Château Lacombe Noaillac 2010 Château Hanteillan 2009

The Southwest is well represented in this release as well. For fans of the deep and dark wines of Cahors, try either the 2009 Cuvée ‘A’ from Château Les Haut D’Aglans or the 2004  Cuvée d’Exception from Château Gautoul. Cahors typically needs some age to show what its got, and these are both primed and ready to drink.

For a white, especially if you have a cellar, the Jurancon Sec from Charles Hours, Cuvée Marie, is always a treat. While fine to drink right now, 3-5 years more of age for this 2013 is ideal. If you love whites with tension, then this is it.

Château Les Hauts d'Aglan Cuvée a Cahors 2009 Château Gautoul Cuvée d'Exception 2004 Cuvée Marie Jurançon Sec 2013Jean J. Boutin Parcelle De Jean 2012 Domaine De Beaurenard Les Argiles Bleues 2012

Rhône fans are also well taken care of with two exceptional wines. The 2012 Saint Joseph, Parcelle de Jean from J. Boutin is like a mini-Cornas with its cassis fruit and edgy mineral note. And if you love the beefy southern Rhône wines from Rasteau, the 2012 L’Argyle Bleu from Beaurenard is a treat. Hailing from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, these boys know their grenache.

Finally from the Languedoc-Roussillon, there are also a few wines to highlight. While the region’s reputation has been steadily climbing, thankfully the prices have not, so you will still find great wines at very reasonable prices.

One of my favourite wines year in, year out is the Corbières from Domaine St-Jean de la Gineste. The 2013 is as good as any I have tasted and for me, is what “table wine” is all about – infinite drinkability.

While the Gineste wine is more delicate and with great acidity, if you want a more powerful, richer wine, go for the 2014 Mon P’tit Pithion from Olivier Pithon. Sun drenched fruit without any noticeable oak.

Some of the most structured wines in the south are made in the Minervois-La Liviniere. The 2011 Natural Selection from Château Maris shows ripe fruit with firm tannins. Drinks well now but will no doubt reward with a few more years of age.

Domaine St Jean De La Gineste Corbières Carte Blanche 2013 Domaine Olivier Pithon Mon P'tit Pithon 2014 Syrah Château Maris Natural Selection Biodynamic 2011 Domaine Modat Comme Avant 2011 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Viognier 2014

One of the more interesting wines of the tasting was the 2011 ‘Comme Avant’ from Domaine Modat. So earthy and so rich, this Côtes du Roussillon is worth investigation, especially if you are a fan of eating wild red meats like deer.

And finally, if you want a good under $20 viognier, which is not easy to find considering the grape’s need for low yields, the 2014 from Michel Gassier honours what makes viognier such an interesting wine – nuanced fruit, minerality and a long, rich finish.

We also tasted a few under $15 wines, with a few that surprised. I’ll wait until the 20 under $20 at the end of the month to reveal my favourites.

Happy September folks,

Bill

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

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin can see the complete list of September Cellier New Releases here, and can see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 30 – Part Two

Southern Rhône Reds and the Best of the Rest
By John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

This week’s report features the top Southern Rhône reds of the May 30th release, along with the best of the rest of the reds. Although prices in the Southern Rhône Valley have been creeping up over the last decade, particularly for the marquee appellations like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, there are still plenty of satisfying wines for the money. In fact, I’d say the region remains one of the top sources for fulsome, impactful reds in a style that appeals almost universally, without the premium commanded by more niche appellations. And in my view, the most costly wines are often the least regionally representative, and thus less interesting. I’ll leave those to the trophy hunters with the corporate boxes.

One of the reasons for the Rhône’s famous value quotient is simple: volume. There are over 71,000 football fields worth of vineyards in the valley, producing enough wine to fill 100 Olympic swimming pools, every year. That’s a lot of wine, second only to Bordeaux AOC in sheer size and production. And considering that there are over 5000 producers of Rhône Valley wine, competition is fierce. In the end, basic supply and demand create a favourable playing field for us, the consumers. So, to carry on the alarming display of mixed metaphors, let’s dive into the WineAlign crü’s top medal-winning performers. It’s telling that there’s such a spread of choices between us (only one double alignment), underscoring again the overall consistency and value offered by the southern Rhône. It comes down to nuances of preference, so align yourself up.

Also in this report you’ll find a fine collection of red wines that cover a wide style and geographic spectrum. Read on to see them, an impressive seventeen recommendations in all.

Buyers Guide: Southern Rhône Reds

Château De Nages 2012 JT Costières De Nîmes, Rhône, France ($24.95)

John Szabo – Nages is the family property of the sizable Michel Gassier wine business, representing the top of the ladder. This bold and ripe but balanced syrah-based cuvée (with 14% mourvèdre) is well worth the detour to this lesser-known southern French AOC, delivering well above the price category. It offers plenty of typical smoky, inky, cold cream and black pepper aromatics, while the palate is firm and lively with lots of tannic grip and floral-violet-inflected flavours. Best 2015-2022.

Pierre Amadieu 2012 Romane-Machotte Gigondas, Rhône, France ($27.95)

John Szabo – One of the first to put the name “Gigondas” on a bottle of wine in 1929, the Amadieu family continues to craft elegant, stylish grenache-based wines from their 7 ha at the foot of the village. This is the original cuvée, offering all of the southern Rhône-grenache suppleness one hopes for, alongside garrigue-licorice complexity and mouth-filling richness. It’s worth the price premium if you’re after something a little classier from the region. Best 2015-2022.
Sara d’Amato – Pierre Amadieu was the first producer to bottle wine with the name Gigondas and was also a principal founder of the region’s AOC. The wines from this estate reflect a traditional, elegant and complex approach. This endearing blend is a prime example of why Gigondas is rightfully emerging from the shadow of the neighboring Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Château De Nages J T Costières De Nîmes 2012 Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas 2012 Domaine Les Aphillanthes Plan De Dieu Cuvée Des Galets Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2011 La Ferme Du Mont Première Côte Côtes Du Rhône 2012

Domaine Les Aphillanthes 2011 Plan De Dieu Cuvée Des Galets, Côtes Du Rhône-Villages, Rhône, France ($23.95)

John Szabo – A biodynamic domaine (certified Biodyvin since 2007) producing terrifically rich and concentrated wines from their 37 hectares of vines between Gigondas and Cairanne. This 2011 CDR is bold, very ripe and boozy in the style of the vintage, with 15% alcohol declared, but, amazingly, it’s not out of whack. Serve with a light chill in any case to increase the freshness. As impressive as many Châteauneuf-du-Pape at twice the price. Best 2015-2020.

La Ferme Du Mont 2012 Première Côte, Côtes Du Rhône, Rhône Valley ($14.95)

David Lawrason – One of my favourite “newish” southern Rhône producers returns with a basic Côtes du Rhône that punches above its weight. It shows more exuberance than many more traditional and pedestrian southern Rhônes at this price.

Domaine De La Vieille Julienne 2012 Les Trois Sources, Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Rhône Valley ($79.95)

David Lawrason – Well this is no bargain, but it is one of my top scoring wines of the release at 93 points, and there will be CdP fans/collectors who might want a few bottles of this very appealing and well made young Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the cellar. It has some opulence yet structured elegance. Best 2017 to 2025ish.

Domaine De La Vieille Julienne Les Trois Sources Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 Cave De Rasteau Ortas Prestige Rasteau 2010 Famille Perrin Les Christins Vacqueyras 2012 Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Philippine Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2013

Ortas 2010 Prestige Rasteau, Rhone Valley ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This is one of the more adventurous wines on the Rhône release, quite tarry, meaty and leathery as it heads into maturity. It is solid and well structured, yet another decent 2010, and good value.

Famille Perrin 2012 Les Christins Vacqueyras, Rhône, France ($23.95)

Sara d’Amato – A consistently sophisticated, polished find from the reliable house of Perrin. Largely grenache which is nicely complemented by peppery syrah. The appellation of Vacqueyras is quickly becoming the rising star of the southern Rhône with underpriced wines that show restraint, elegance and aromatic complexity.

Domaine Les Grands Bois 2013 Philippine, Côtes Du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($18.95)

Sara d’Amato – I am delighted to see the Domaine Les Grand Bois Villages on the shelves of the LCBO again after such a long absence. The Philippine takes its name from one of the three young daughters of the proprietors of this family-owned winery. Mireille and Marc Besnardeau now own an extensive 46 hectares of vines split over 7 southern Rhône communes. This hand-harvested, field-sorted wine made from vines of up to 70 years old is an excellent value.

Buyers Guide: Smart Red Wine Buys

Quinta Das Carvalhas 2011 Touriga Nacional, Douro, Portugal ($21.95)

John Szabo – The crown jewel of the Real Companhia Velha, Carvalhas is a large and spectacular quinta on the left bank of the Douro almost opposite the town of Pinhão where the company’s top wines have been produced since 1975. The 2011 touriga nacional is a bold, ripe, highly polished red with massive structure and concentration (it was a hot year in the Douro), with the potential to improve with another 2-4 years in the bottle. A superb wine for the price, dense, rich and full. Best 2017-2023.
David Lawrason – Go to school here on touriga nacional – Portugal’s signature grape – with this fine, lifted floral yet mineral example. I was reminded of a pure zinfandel. It’s very smooth, deep and driven by good acidity. It should cellar well for ten years. It was a great vintage in the Douro.

2014 Harvest in the Quinta das Carvalhas-3483

2014 Harvest in the Quinta das Carvalhas

Corino 2013 Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95)

John Szabo – Giuliano Corino has nailed this one, a polished and supple, deliciously fruity Dolcetto from hillside vineyards in the town of La Morra, known for its more delicate and seductive wines. Drink or hold short-term; smiles guaranteed.

Rustenberg 2010 Merlot, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – An arch-classic wine from one of the Cape’s most storied producers, which will have your friends guessing Pomerol. This is drinking beautifully now, and should continue to hold through the mid-term. A terrific buy for old world style/Bordeaux blend fans. Best 2015-2020.
David Lawrason This scores big on depth and complexity. The Bordeaux variety reds of Stellenbosch often taste like Bordeaux actually, with more flesh and power. This is a classic example with all kinds of ripe berry fruit, olive, savoury and mineral notes.

Quinta Das Carvalhas Touriga Nacional 2011 Corino Dolcetto d'Alba 2013 Rustenberg Merlot 2010Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Diamandes De Uco Malbec 2011

Errazuriz 2012 Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($19.95)

John Szabo – A polished and supple, generous and fruity example of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, from the higher elevation (“Alto”) Andean foothills of the upper Aconcagua Valley. Winemaker Francisco Baettig has dialled the ripeness and freshness, fruit and oak into a highly appealing style. Best 2015-2020.

Diamandes De Uco 2011 Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95)

David Lawrason – Diamandes is one of the French-owned estates within the Clos de los Siete complex in the Vista Flores sub-region of Uco Valley. The compound reminds me of an outpost of the French Foreign legion! But my goodness are the member estates ever making great wine. The top label from Diamandes was the single best red I tasted in Argentina. This junior version still hits 90 – a classy, dense, poised and well structured malbec.

Trivento 2012 Golden Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – A very impressive cabernet with a great deal of structure and density of fruit for under $20. Trivento is Concho Y Toro’s Argentinean project and is a consistent consumer favourite.

Trivento Golden Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Boschendal 1685 S & M Shiraz Badia A Coltibuono Riserva Chianti Classico 2009 Alvaro Castro Red 2011

Boschendal 2013 1685 S & M Shiraz/Mourvèdre, Coastal Region, Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – A little offbeat but wildly appealing at the same time with a name that is sure to spark conversation. The wine is brimming with a complex array of flavours that include pepper, cool menthol, tilled earth, exotic spice, mineral and an abundance of cassis.

Badia A Coltibuono 2009 Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($38.95)

Sara d’Amato – Finding a wine such as this makes the hours of tasting largely mediocre quality wine all worthwhile. With a bounty of charm and character, this largely sangiovese based blend made from organic fruit is drinking beautifully now but has many years yet to come.

Álvaro Castro 2011 Red, Dão, Portugal ($17.95)

John Szabo – I don’t believe I’ve ever had a wine from Castro that I haven’t enjoyed, one of the Dão’s most sought-after producers. This is all elegance, class and balance in a mid-weight, infinitely drinkable red blend. Best 2015-2021.

WineAlign's Bill Zacharkiw gives the Thumbs Up to Alvaro Castro in Viseu, Dão-3708

WineAlign’s Bill Zacharkiw gives the Thumbs Up to Alvaro Castro in Viseu, Dão

 

Wines of Portugal, A World of Difference.

Taste the Soul of Portugal - June 9th - TorontoOn Tuesday, June 9th, you’re invited to discover the exceptional diversity of Portuguese wines – with yours truly along as your guide. Here’s your chance to kick the varietal habit and come to terms with regional identity instead. Portugal has 200+ grapes, and all old vineyards (and there are many in Portugal) are field blends, like the wines. It’s the region that makes the style difference. This is the way wine has always been made, and understood. We should get back there. Find out more and save $10 on your ticket with WineAlign’s access code.

 

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES May 30, 2015

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Buyers’ Guide Part One: Pinot Noir’s New World
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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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011


Wines of Portugal, A World of Difference.

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 22nd – Part One

Shakeup in the Rhône & Dynamic Global Reds
By Sara d’Amato with notes from David Lawrason

Sara's New Pic_Sm

Sara d’Amato

While John Szabo is busy scaling volcanoes (the life of a wine writer is a difficult and perilous job) I am only too happy to fill in with my thoughts on this week’s enormous release. In fact, as we approach the holidays, these releases will not get any smaller and the selections become quite varied with plenty of big names and labels. As wine writers, we are working double time in order to keep up with it all (as I mentioned, we have it tough).

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images. You can also find the complete list of each VINTAGES release under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Rhône and the Midi

In the midst of some heavy hitters in this release, there is an impressively large number of wines from the Rhône and the Midi that collectively deserve a closer look. It just so happens that this is the region in which I have summered, ever since I was a little tike, and have made some discoveries as of late that are really quite a shakeup for this usually quite consistent region.

First, unusual weather patterns, especially in the winter of recent vintages, have thrown many wrenches into what is a generally a stable region. For example, the heat-seeking grenache is at an all-time low in the Rhône and southern France due to harsh cold snaps over the winters of 2010, 2011 and 2012, causing damage, and in some cases vine death, along with low fruit set at the onset of the growing season. So what does this mean? Well, certainly it means less grenache in blends and often less alcohol and concentration. But tribulation in the world of wine can often yield surprisingly fabulous results and critics worldwide are praising these unique, recent vintages as some of the finest in the last several decades. The resulting wines are stripped down and characterized by purity of fruit and mineral along with a certain finesse making for a compelling outcome.

Second, syrah, oh syrah, is experiencing a heyday both in the northern Rhône where it reigns supreme and in the south where it is experiencing temporary higher concentrations in blends. Cooler temperatures in the north have only enhanced the grape’s naturally peppery, floral character and in the south it benefited from a shorter growing season and some increase in the activity of the Mistral – the cooling, drying wind that sweeps through the Rhône valley (reportedly having caused the madness in Van Gogh that lead him to cut off his own ear). Yes, syrah needs coolness to thrive and fully express its sensual, spicy nature. Extreme heat squashes and fattens this stirring variety and thus it is often carefully planted at higher altitudes or in more shaded locales in southern France. Those wines that featured higher ratios of syrah in these past vintages also benefited from increased concentration due to naturally low yields, most notably in 2012.

Finally, who’s heard of Rasteau, Vacqueyras, Lirac and Tavel? More of you than ever before thanks to efforts by houses such as Perrin and other like-minded producers who push to highlight these distinctive southern regions. Châteauneuf-du-Pape may be the kingpin of the south, but many of the surrounding appellations have stepped up in terms of quality and their competitive prices may have you spending your money on them instead.

Without further ado, our thoughts on the best of the lot followed by statement making reds from around the globe:

Grands Serres Les Hautes Vacquieres Vacqueyras 2012

M. Chapoutier Petite Ruche Crozes Hermitage 2012

Saint Roch 2013 Vielles Vignes Grenache Blanc/MarsanneSaint Roch Vielles Vignes Grenache Blanc Marsanne 2013, Côtes Du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – The whites of the southern France remain unknown to many consumers on this side of the pond,ok but the few that trickle in should not be overlooked. This is a fine, well-priced offering that boasts impressive freshness, vibrancy and elegance.

Chapoutier Petite Ruche Crozes Hermitage 2012, Rhône, France ($24.95)
David Lawrason –  If you need convincing about the difference that biodynamic viticulture makes, buy one bottle of this and another 2012 Crozes-Hermitage to compare directly. This is an absolute northern Rhône classic syrah, firm yet generous with excellent length.
Sara d’Amato – Naturally low yields of concentrated syrah have produced a more firm and robust version of this far-reaching northern Rhône appellation – a product of an exceptional vintage.

Grands Serres 2012 Les Hautes Vacquieres, Vacqueyras, Rhône, France ($24.95)
David Lawrason – There have been about dozen Vacqueyras released in 2014, and all but one or two were excellent buys – if you like your southern Rhônes to be rich, dense and complex, as this example shows. I am coming around to the idea that most Vacqueyras are bigger than most Châteauneuf-du- Pape, at half the price.

Perrin & Fils L'andéol Rasteau 2012

Domaine De Vieux Télégraphe Télégramme Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012

Chàteau De Nages 2012 JT Costiéres De NîmesChâteau De Nages JT Costiéres De Nîmes 2012, Rhône, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Formerly part of the Languedoc, Costieres de Nimes has aligned itself with the Rhône and is now its most southern appellation. The region features a unique microclimate which is significantly cooler than its surrounding appellations (but no less sunny). This version is both robust and vibrant with exceptional balance.

Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe 2012 Télégramme Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France ($49.95)
Sara d’Amato – A lighter, brighter Châteauneuf-du-Pape and one which is terrifically approachable. The blend boasts a classic, traditional feel with plenty of garrigue, musk and earth.

Perrin & Fils 2012 l’Andéol Rasteau, Rhône, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Since 2010, Rasteau is an independent AOC in the Rhône Valley and focuses a great deal on grenache. This example is a wine of contrast featuring an abundance of succulent, zesty fruit along with a rich, mouth-filling texture and a dose of peppery syrah.

World Reds

Calera Pinot Noir 2012

Domaine De l’Herminette 2013 Grand Cras MorgonDomaine De L'herminette Grand Cras Morgon 2013, Beaujolais, France ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This young textbook Morgon nicely bridges the two styles of Beaujolais that I like. The aromatics showcase very pretty fruit and florality, while the palate battens down with more mineral driven character, and becomes more pinot-like.

Calera 2012 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California ($33.95)
David Lawrason – Josh Jensen of Calera almost single-handedly gives pinot noir cred in California with his calcerous-soiled single vineyard wines from high on remote Mt. Harlan in San Benito County. This edition calls on fruit from Central Coast locales but possesses the same structure and complexity as the now very expensive editions. It runs in the family.

Josef Chromy 2010 Pepik Pinot Noir, Tasmania, Australia ($18.90)
Sara d’Amato – This high-tech, cool climate winery has produced a sensational result in this nervy pinot noir at a steal of a price. An exciting, modern style with no shortage of personality.

San Felice 2010 Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy ($27.95)
David Lawrason – Go to school on authentic Chianti – a 100% estate grown sangiovese aged 80% in larger, old Slavonian and 20% in smaller French barriques. No merlot or cabernet to in-fill more berryish fruit, it has all kinds of savoury, sour red fruit complexity – a lovely texture.

Tenuta Stefano 2009 Farina le Brume Langhe, Piedmont, Italy ($16.95)
David Lawrason – If you are Barolo/Barberesco fan, or want to know what they are all about, without paying $40 to $60, try this maturing nebbiolo from the Langhe zone that surrounds those two famous appellations. Lacking some of their depth perhaps but bang-on nebbiolo.

Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012 San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 Tenuta Stefano Farina Le Brume Langhe 2009 Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008 Meerlust Rubicon 2008

Cavino 2008 Grande Reserve Nemea, Greece ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Agioritiko ages so gracefully and here is a perfect example to highlight this characteristic. Although the wine is drinking beautifully now, it is certainly still kicking and has opened to offer an impressive array of flavours.

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($38.95)
Sara d’Amato – This iconic Bordelaise blend from Meerlust had me at first sip. Its pleasant maturation did not deter the flood of flavours on the palate of this complex and highly appealing wine.

~

TT_Session_VolcanicWinesAnd that concludes this week’s edition of the Buyer’s Guide. We will be back next week with Part Two featuring John’s picks and many heavy hitters under VINTAGES’ “Our Finest” Feature.

For those of you in the Toronto area, please join WineAlign’s John Szabo MS at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo on Friday, November 21st for an exotic tour of the world’s best volcanoes! And, of course, the exceptional wines that grow on them.  The Volcanic Wines tasting will take place from 6:30 to 8 pm at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  To buy tickets, please go to foodandwineexpo.ca.

Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES Nov 22nd:

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews


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Bill’s Best Bets – November

The other side of the Rhône
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Every successful wine region has an identity, mostly founded on the wines that sell best, which is hopefully based on what they do best. In the Rhône, that identity is definitely red, and based on syrah in the north, and grenache in the south. While the region’s best estates definitely merit this “red-putation,” the downside is that their white wines tend to be overlooked. And that’s a shame, because many are truly world-class.

One of the problems in navigating the whites of the Rhône, and this is more directed at the south, is that there are a variety of different grapes being used, which will have an effect on the flavour and more importantly, texture profile of the wine. Most, however, will tend to be on the richer end of the texture spectrum.

So let’s start with the easier to understand region, the north, where some of the world’s greatest white wines are produced.

The duo of Marsanne and Roussanne

M. Chapoutier Chante Alouette Hermitage Blanc 2011 Domaine Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 2011 Two grapes which for the most part mimic one another. Both are relatively low in acidity, though roussanne is considered a touch more aromatic. For those of you with a love for richer whites like chardonnay, then these wines should be right up your taste alley.

The most reputed wines come from Hermitage. On these granitic soils, the wines, despite their intense richness, manage to show an admirable mineral quality, which is more associated with cooler climate whites.

White Hermitage is an extraordinary wine and despite low acid and being completely dry, still somehow manages to be one of the best whites for aging. The reason is due to the fact that these two grapes have a high proportion of what is called “dry extract,” what is left in a wine if you boiled off all the liquid. And as they age, they tend to get leaner and leaner as they “cannabalize” their own fat.

The downside is that they can be quite pricey. If you have the cash, then best to start at the top. Jean-louis Chave’s 2011 Hermitage is a rich and already beautifully textured wine that will live for decades. More accessibly priced is Chapoutier’s 2011 Chante-Alouette. Made with 100% marsanne, it shows all the hallmarks of white Hermitage.

Domaine Belle Les Terres Blanches 2012 Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2012 Pic & Chapoutier Saint Péray 2011You can find some exceptional whites in Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitages, especially on sites which have more granite and limestone. A great example is from Domaine Louis Belle. The 2012 is a perfect example of these two great grapes grown on granite, but at a fraction of the price of a Hermitage. I was particularly impressed by Pierre Gaillard’s 2013 Saint-Joseph. Peaches, mineral, great depth and texture. Wow.

But for a bargain, look to the appellation of Saint-Péray. Just south of Cornas, old vines grown on this hillside of granite and limestone are the source of not only superb versions of the style, perhaps a touch more mineral and fresh, but at very reasonable prices. Try the 2011 from Pic & Chapoutier.

Viognier and Condrieu

François Villard Le Grand Vallon 2011Condrieu, just south of the Rhône’s northernmost appellation Cote Rotie, is where one of wine world’s most elusive and temperamental white grapes, viognier, reaches its greatest expression. Viognier is perhaps the white version of pinot noir, attempted by many but mastered by few. Why is it so difficult? Viognier is a grape which has a relatively low acidity, and when grown in regions that are too warm, can easily become flabby. So the key is to find a climate which is warm enough to ripen the grape while not moving into over-ripeness.

Yields are always very low, which is why these wines are rare and often quite expensive. However, when you drink great Condrieu, there is nothing like it. I have called it on a number of occasions an oboe concerto for your mouth. Great Condrieu is subtle, often showing delicate florals and honeysuckle, and notes of white stone fruit like pear and peach. The texture tends to be oily as opposed to buttery, and the length is exceptional. There is a “low level”, almost saline mineral hum that continues for minutes after every sip.

Condrieu works magnificently with lobster, scallops, and richer cheeses. Look no further than François Villard’s 2011 Le Grand Vallon for an excellent example of how good these wines can be.

The mixed bag of southern whites

In the southern part of the Rhône, things are not quite as uniform with respect to grapes, and therefore wine styles. Although they represent a relatively small amount of the total production, many wine makers are particularly proud of their white wines, even though they are far less well-reputed.

Clos Bellane Les Échalas 2010 Château Mont Redon Lirac Blanc 2012Unlike in the north, wine makers have a number of grapes to choose from, including clairette, bourbelenc, viognier, marsanne, grenache blanc and roussane. Many clairette based wines tend to be quite fresh at first, but as they age, can gain a certain amount of richness.

On a more northern taste profile, try the biodynamically grown Clos Belanne. There isn’t a ton of bottles left but this was one of my favourite whites I have tasted over the past few months. A great example of a white that balances freshness with a richer texture is 2012 Mont-Redon’s Lirac. Clairette-based, but with grenache blanc, roussanne and viognier, it is a great deal for the $23 price tag.

One of my fetish wines are white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It represents less than 5% of the total production, but these wines can be very long-lived. Grenache blanc and Clairette are the primary grapes, but many producers also use roussane and another grape called bourboulenc. Jerome Quiot, who makes a great white Châteauneuf-du-Pape  describes these wines as “having two lives.” The first life”, he says is “refreshing, youthful, but still rich enough for white meats. But after 5 years, they gain a smoky, truffle quality that makes them perfect for cheeses.”

Chateauneuf Du Pape Blanc Domaine De Nalys 2012

Quito’s 2011 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2011is a great introduction to the style, as is the 2012 Domaine de Nalys. Both are under $40 and exemplify how these whites can show great complexity and depth, while maintaining a wonderful freshness.

At a Christmas dinner a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to drink a 1989 bottle of Château Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape vieilles vignes. This is made entirely with roussane grapes from vines that are a minimum of 75 years of age. It was rich, honeyed and just oxidized enough to have some interesting nutty notes. On a night when a lot of great wine was poured, this is the bottle that I remember.

One final note about service – these wines must be served on the warmer side of the spectrum if you want to appreciate fully their richer textures. Start them at 10C and let them warm up. I have drunk them up to 18C and they are fantastic.

Bill

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

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


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 27th – Part Two

Big Bird Reds & Rhône FindsSept. 25, 2014

by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

I have written before that the Thanksgiving feast may not be the ideal place to enjoy wines of great nuance and subtlety. There is a lot of competition from plates heaped high, the hubbub of assembled family young and old, and the family dog, denied scraps, whimpering in the corner. And certainly among a larger group of diners there will be some that could care less what they are drinking. So unless you have Thanksgiving dinner completely under control I would lean to more mid-priced priced, vibrant, juicy and flavourful wines. And despite turkey being a bird – I would go with reds to wade into the gravy, savoury dressing and especially the dark meat. So please see some of our selections from our critics below. But if it’s white you are after read John Szabo’s Part One preview here, plus reviews from the Portugal feature and an unexpected line-up of decent Bordeaux.

Sometimes we follow VINTAGES themes in these reports, sometimes not. There was nothing to add to the magazine’s “Groundbreakers” theme, so we strike off on our own, having found a wine or two or three from a region that just can’t be ignored. This happened for Sara, John and I in this release, when we tasted two terrific Rasteau from the southern Rhône, plus others from nearby appellations. These Rhône villages – dotted like stones on a necklace below the jawline of the toothy Dentelles Mountains on the eastern flank of the valley – continue to offer great values. Alas the Rasteau are In-Store Discoveries only to be found in a few larger stores, but they are very much worth seeking out.

And again, as you create your shopping list I want to remind you that wines we highlight below are by no means the only wines worth considering from this mammoth release. Subscribers can check out our complete takes – critic by critic – by clicking here.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below. You can also find the complete list of each VINTAGES release under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Thanksgiving Reds

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2012

Burrowing Owl 2012 Cabernet FrancBurrowing Owl 2012 Cabernet Franc, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia  ($43.95)
David Lawrason – The fruit ripeness, the savoury sage notes and the plush feel of this fine cab franc should make it a turkey shoe-in. Burrowing Owl reds continue to be a go-to. But you may be interested and chagrined to know this wine is selling for $33 at the winery. LCBO policy that treats BC wines as imports are a major reason why BC wines are not better represented here. This behaviour by a government agency in Canada is just not right.

Hamilton Russell 2012 Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa ($44.95)
John Szabo – For those seeking a more gentle Thanksgiving red that still has enough plush fruit and spice to manage the most overcooked of turkeys, try this pinot from the Walker Bay pioneer. Nearly thirty years on, Anthony Hamilton-Russell still leads the pack in the region crafting in 2012 a pinot of distinctive fruit intensity, depth, length and concentration. Best 2016-2024.

Errazuriz 2012 Aconcagua Costa Syrah, Chile $24.95
David Lawrason – I am still not universally smitten by Chilean syrah, and it is a wine still evolving. I think that new vineyards in the cooler coastal regions are the right direction. This has a hugely lifted aroma of blackcurrant, mint and chocolate. It’s slimmer than many Chilean syrahs but loaded with flavour and very bright. So very juicy!

Vignerons De Bel Air Hiver Gourmand Morgon 2012

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Syrah 2012Vignerons De Bel Air 2012 Hiver Gourmand Morgon, Beaujolais, France ($17.95)
Sara D’Amato –
Sensually spiced and light enough to pair with bird of any kind, this well-priced Morgon is a sophisticated addition to a Thanksgiving table. A fine expression of gamay’s versatility and wildly appealing nature.

Alto Moncayo 2011 Veraton DO Campo de Borja, Spain ($29.95)
John Szabo – Riffing off of a similar theme, this old vine grenache, some over 100 years old, from northern Spain is a terrific bargain for those who like it big. The bodega is a joint venture that includes US wine importer Jorge Ordoñez, and the stylistic direction clearly takes it’s cue from the new world. Massive concentration, high 15.5% alcohol, and a year and a half in America oak combine to create this rich, sweet, mouthfilling wine that manages to retain miraculous balance and appeal. Best 2016-2021.

Guenoc 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, California $19.95
David Lawrason – From a large but hidden gem property in Lake County north of Napa, this has some stuffing; as cabernet should – and the classic, cassis fruit, roasted red pepper, tobacco and cedar will work well with turkey. Great value, precisely because it’s not from somewhere more famous, but this is a wonderful site.

Plowbuster 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($25.95)
John Szabo – Named to honour the challenge of farming vineyards in the Willamette Valley strewn with large basalt boulders, Plowbuster’s 2012 is a fine and well-priced pinot. It straddles the old/world stylistic divide, showing lightly oxidative character and firm tannins further tightened by high acids, yet also succulent and concentrated, juicy fruit. Best 2015-2022.

Alto Moncayo Veraton 2011 Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Plowbuster Pinot Noir 2012 Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2010 Stoney Ridge Cranberry Wine 2011

Badia A Coltibuono 2010 Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
John Szabo – For a cranberry meets cranberry pairing, try this simple but classy, regionally representative example of Chianti Classico made from organically-grown grapes. I appreciate the zesty acids and light dusty tannins in the Tuscan idiom. And if you need a story to tell around the table, you can mention that Badia a Coltibuono has been around for a while, since 1051 to be precise. That was the year in which the monks of Vallombrosa began construction on this property, named literally “the abbey of good harvests”. Best 2014-2020.

Stoney Ridge 2011 Cranberry Wine, Ontario, $17.95
Sara D’Amato – A long-time producer of fruit wines, under the direction of former winemaker and fruit wine enthusiast, Jim Warren, Stoney Ridge continues to produce its most popular fruit wine just in time for the holidays. The winery claims that this release is “better than ever” and I would have to agree. It isn’t sweet nor is it too tart or intense. It is light, very flavourful and nicely balanced. With an alcohol level at just over 10%, this lighter wine can help you keep pace throughout your celebration and will nicely compliment that turkey.

Rhône Finds

Domaine Les Aphillanthes 2012 “1921” Côtes Du Rhône-Villages Rasteau, Rhône Valley, France ($37.95)
Domaine Grand Nicolet Les Esqueyrons Rasteau 2012 Domaine Les Aphillanthes 1921 2012John Szabo – Plush, spicy, grenache-based reds from the southern Rhône are terrific with roast turkey, and there’s no better example in the release than this one. From a biodynamically certified estate (Biodivin since 2007), this is exceptional Rasteau made by the husband and wife team of Danielle and Hélène Boulle is a powerful and complex wine, easily the equal of many Chateauneufs at 1.5x the price. Drink during this thanksgiving dinner, or anytime over the next decade.
David Lawrason – This is a refined, generous and delicious. Ambitiously priced for Rasteau and some may want a bit more structure but it is precisely appointed with florals, fruit and spice and has great concentration. Yet there is an almost airy feel unusual in the Rhône.

Domaine Grand Nicolet 2012 Les Esqueyrons Rasteau, Rhône Valley, ($35.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very impressive Rasteau, by a family domain with 16 ha in the appellation. Les Esqueyrons is a southeast facing site on clay limestone, comprised of 50% grenache from 60-year-old vines, and 50% syrah from 30year old vines – harvested at a very low 20 hls/hectare.  The nose is a bit shy but it somehow still oozes fruit richness with plum, olive and even some cranberry lift. What focus and concentration!

Domaine Jean Deydier & Fils Les Clefs D'or Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010

Domaine Brusset Tradition Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas 2012

Domaine Des Andrines 2012, Côtes Du RhôneDomaine Des Andrines Côtes Du Rhône 2012, Rhône Valley, France  ($17.95)
Sara D’Amato – Located just outside Avignon, the city of Popes, Domaine des Adrines grows their old vine syrah, grenache and carignan on premium terra rossa soils topped with the large galets common to the top sites of the south.  With very little notable oak, fine balance and appealing peppery fruit, this affable blend is an excellent value.
David Lawrason – Straight up great value in a young approachable Rhône

Domaine Brusset 2012 Tradition Le Grand Montmirail, Gigondas, Rhône Valley ($29.95)
Sara D’Amato – Planted on the foothills of the “Dentelles de Montmirail” at 250 meters, this traditional, handpicked grenache based blend offers lovely freshness, pepper and garrigue. Exhibiting an authentic sense of place, this solidly built Gigondas shows excellent focus and age-worthiness.

Domaine Jean Deydier & Fils 2010 Les Clefs d’Or Tradition Vieilles Vignes, Châteauneuf Du Pape, Rhône Valley ($44.95)
Sara D’Amato – Grenache reigns supreme in this traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend. Ripe fruit, savory notes and big perfume make for an intense blend that is still quite youthful.

And that’s it for this issue. We return next week with Part One of another sprawling release that features Sonoma, dovetailing with VINTAGES Sonoma event at the Royal Ontario Museum on October 9th. If you are looking for Ontario wine country action this weekend head to Prince Edward County Saturday for TASTE community grown as some of the region’s finest chefs, winemakers, craft beer producers and farmers gather from 11am to 5pm at the Crystal Palace in Picton. Newly named (formerly Taste the County) it is broadening its appeal beyond the wineries, and includes seminars on starting a brewery, foraging the County, mixology and more.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the Rarer Than Unicorn event on Oct 8th at Crush Wine Bar where agent Alto Vino will showcase some examples of the rare wines they represent. (Find out more about their wine and get your tickets here)

Cheers

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES September 27th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Sept 27th Part One – Thanksgiving Whites, Value Portugal & Bordeaux

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 to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Les bons choix de Nadia

Cellier septembre 2014 (1ere vague)
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Depuis une dizaine d’années, plusieurs consommateurs, particulièrement ceux de la nouvelle génération, ont tourné le dos à Bordeaux. Moi-même, peut-être en réaction à la flambée des prix des années 2000 ou par désir d’explorer d’autres régions de monde, j’avoue avoir un peu boudé les vins de la Gironde – en tant que consommatrice, s’entend.

Mais depuis un an ou deux, sans trop savoir pourquoi, je me surprends à regarnir ma cave en crus bordelais ou à en commander au verre, dans les rares établissements montréalais qui osent en proposer.

J’ai toujours un intérêt très très modéré pour les bordeaux modernes, produits dans le but à peine dissimulé de plaire aux critiques américains. Mais lorsqu’il est élaboré sans trop d’artifices et fidèle à ses origines, qu’est-ce que je me régale ! Car avec leur caractère un peu austère et empreint de fraîcheur, les clarets et autres vins rouges du Médoc, des Graves, de Fronsac, de Pomerol et même d’appellations secondaires semblent conçus pour la table.

Ça tombe bien puisque dans la nouvelle édition du magazine Cellier (dont les vins sont commercialisés en deux vagues, soit ce matin et le 18 septembre prochain), la SAQ ramène Bordeaux au premier plan et rappelle qu’en dehors du cercle fermé des crus classés, il existe encore une foule de bons vins vendus à des prix terrestres.

Dans le lot, on voudra surtout retenir les vins rouges des châteaux de Villegeorge, Tour Haut Caussan, Mayne Guyon et Larrivaux, ainsi que l’excellent vin blanc du Château Graville-Lacoste.

BORDEAUX

Propriété de Marie-Laure Lurton, le Château de Villegeorge 2010 (24,75 $) provient d’une parcelle située près de l’appellation Margaux. Plus élégant que charpenté. Un excellent vin en devenir, à prix pleinement mérité.

Deuxième succès consécutif pour le Château Tour Haut Caussan 2010 (26,50 $), un cru bourgeois situé sur la commune de Blaignan, à une douzaine de kilomètres de St-Estèphe. Aussi étoffé et plein en bouche que le 2009 commenté plus tôt cette année, avec un supplément de fraîcheur.

À prix d’aubaine, l’amateur de bordeaux de facture classique se régalera avec le Château Mayne Guyon 2011 (17,95 $). S’il y avait plus de Bordeaux comme celui-ci, l’économie viticole de la Gironde se porterait sans doute bien mieux.

Château De Villegeorge 2010 Château Tour Haut Caussan 2010 Château Mayne Guyon 2011 Château Larrivaux 2010

Dans le même esprit, mais un peu plus cher, le Château Larrivaux 2010 (25,45 $) se signale par ses goûts caractéristiques de fruit noir et de boîte à cigares. Rappelons que ce vignoble appartient à la même famille et est transmis de femme en femme depuis plus de trois siècles. Un fait plutôt rare dans la France viticole…

Plus ambitieux, sans être vraiment complexe, avec un nez de fruit confit et un boisé bien appuyé, L’esprit de Chevalier 2010 (42,50 $) est l’occasion pour les fans de cette maison prestigieuse de flirter avec « l’esprit » du domaine, à moindre coût.

Le Château Belgrave (48,50 $) a connu une importante revitalisation depuis son rachat par les Vins & Vignobles Dourthe (Le Boscq, Pey La Tour, Reysson). On y produit maintenant un vin sphérique et charmeur. Même si je ne suis pas vraiment friande du genre, je suis convaincue qu’il fera plusieurs adeptes.

L’esprit De Chevalier 2010 Château Belgrave 2010 Château La Fleur Du Casse 2010 Château Taillefer 2010 Château Graville Lacoste Graves 2012

Tout aussi flatteur et accessible dès maintenant, le Château Fleur du Casse 2010 (38,50 $) est assez représentatif de l’appellation Saint-Émilion par sa trame tannique veloutée et séduisante.

Propriété des enfants du regretté Bernard Moueix et de leur mère Catherine, descendants d’Antoine Moueix, la branche cousine des propriétaires de Pétrus, le Château Taillefer est la source d’un très bon Pomerol 2010 (34,75 $) élaboré sous les conseils du professeur Denis Dubourdieu.

Enfin, j’ai particulièrement aimé le savoureux Château Graville-Lacoste 2012 (21,35 $). Un vin blanc sec comme on en trouve encore trop peu dans les Graves : minéral, distingué et misant davantage sur la pureté du fruit que sur les parfums de la barrique. Très typé et vendu à prix juste. Personnellement, je ne demande pas mieux !

RHÔNE

Pour vous permettre de faire le plein de soleil avant l’automne, le Cellier propose aussi plusieurs belles cuvées du midi de la France. Dans le lot, une poignée de très bons vins du Languedoc-Roussillon (commercialisés le 18 septembre) et quelques belles découvertes de la vallée du Rhône, dont le Clos Bellane, Les Échalas 2010 (29,95 $), un somptueux vin blanc élaboré par Stéphane Vedeau, sur le plateau de Vinsobres. Le vignoble, acquis en 2010, est certifié en agriculture biologique à compter de cette année.

L’orientation et l’altitude du vignoble – juché à 400 mètres et tourné vers l’est – et la composition calcaire des sols expliquent peut-être la grande sensation de fraicheur qui émane de cette cuvée de marsanne et de roussanne. Parmi les bons vins blancs du sud de la France goûtés cette année.

En plus de produire des vins légendaires sur la colline d’Hermitage, Jean-Louis Chave a mis sur pied une petite affaire de négoce haut de gamme. Les raisins qui entrent dans l’élaboration de la cuvée Mon Cœur 2012, Côtes du Rhône (22,70 $) proviennent d’une poignée de vignerons situés sur les communes de Rasteau, Cairanne, Vinsobres et Visan.

Clos Bellane Les Échalas 2010 J.L. Chave Sélection Mon Coeur 2012 Crozes Hermitage Les Pichères 2011 Domaine De Fontbonau Côtes Du Rhône 2010 Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes 2011

Ferraton appartient à Chapoutier, mais est mené de façon autonome. Question de goût sans doute, mais je n’ai pas d’atomes crochus avec le Crozes-Hermitage Les Pichères 2011 (31,50 $). Costaud, mais surtout un peu pataud et rudimentaire.

Propriété de Jérôme Sarda-Malet (Roussillon) et de Frédéric Engerer, directeur technique au Château Latour à Pauillac, le Domaine de Fontbonau élabore un Côtes du Rhône générique hors norme, tant par sa puissance que par son prix (37 $). Majoritairement composé de grenache et complété de syrah, élevée dans les fûts de Latour. Peut-être taillé à gros traits pour le moment, mais une chose est certaine, il ne manque pas d’envergure.

Pour une fraction du prix, le Château de Nages Vieilles Vignes 2011 fera plaisir à votre portefeuille, peut-être déjà largement sollicité par la rentrée en classe. Beaucoup de vin dans le verre pour 20 $.

Santé et bonne rentrée !

Nadia

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


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Bill’s Best Bets – September

A look at the September 4th Cellier Release
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

The Cellier magazine is back after a summer off, and as usual, a number of wines are accompanying its release. While a few of these wines have already been sold at the SAQ, there are a number which will be making their first appearance at the store level. This seems to be the new formula for the magazine – a mix of new releases and some classic wines. It’s a pretty good idea as a few of these wines which have already been available are pretty damned good.

As always, the 30 featured wines will be split between two release dates – September 4 and September 18. So what’s worth picking up from the first release? Overall, there are a number of very worthy wines, but a few are truly spectacular.

Château La Fleur Du Casse 2010Château Tour Haut Caussan 2010The new releases are all French and from classic regions like Bordeaux, Rhône and the Languedoc, and mostly red wines. So let’s get to it, and start with a few wines from Bordeaux, where the focus is on one of my favourite of recent vintages, 2010.

Despite it not even being close to the most expensive wine in the line-up, try the 2010 Château Tour Haut Caussan. This Cru Bourgeois from the Médoc has been around for over a decade on Private Import and when I worked as a sommelier, was always on my list. This is classic Bordeaux in the best, and most traditional sense of the word. (199 cases available)

Also from Bordeaux, but this time Saint Émilion, the 2010 La Fleur du Casse is as seductive a merlot as you’ll find out there. For those of us who found the 2009’s a touch over the top, especially for the merlot dominated wines of the right bank, this Grand Cru puts the accent back on drinkability over raw power. I would give it at least another 3 years before starting to drink, but its already a pleasure. (126 cases available)

Château Larrivaux 2010Château Les Ricards 2010Going back across the river, the 2010 Haut Médoc from Château Larrivaux is another great buy, especially considering its $25 price tag. Despite it being dominated by merlot, rare for an Haut-Médoc, this is no softy. The tannins have extra bite, probably due to almost 10% of petit verdot in the blend. The estate has another particularity in that it has been run by women of the same family since vines were first planted there in 1861. If you are looking for an inexpensive Bordeaux that will easily cellar up to 10 years, this is it. (300 cases available)

And while I am talking Bordeaux, although it was not part of this release, I recently drank the 2010 Château Les Ricards. For $20, this Côtes de Blaye might be the bargain of the year for Bordeaux. Supple fruit and so ready to drink. I’m not the only one who thinks so as it is flying off the shelves. If you can get your hands on this bottle, then you won’t be disappointed.

Moving south into the Rhône, there are three wines that are musts. Topping the list is Jean-Louis Chave’s 2012 Côtes de Rhône Mon Coeur. One of the great vignerons of Hermitage, Chave also runs a négoce which he treats with equal care. Every year, this wine flies off the shelves and the 2012 should as well, as it might be the best I have ever tasted of this cuvée. Gulp it, drink it slow, age it a bit – no problem. For the price, exceptional. (500 cases)

Clos Bellane Les Échalas 2010Crozes Hermitage Les Pichères 2011J.L. Chave Sélection Mon Coeur 2012I was equally impressed by Ferraton’s 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pichères. But rather than the juicy fruit and ease of the Chave, Les Pichères is about the earthier side of the syrah. Dark-fruited, granitic, mineral, and with tannins that reminded me of a Cornas. This is a huge step up from most Crozes, and at $30, you are getting your money’s worth. Keep a few in the cellar for the future as this will gain with some cellar time. (419 cases)

I am also a big fan of the white wines of the Rhône. While much of the wine drinking world has embraced white wines with high acidities and exuberant aromatics, the Rhône has continued to make richly textured, and at times, phenomenally interesting wines. The 2010 Côtes du Rhône Villages, Les Échalas from Clos Bellane is one such wine. Vigneron Stéphane Vedeau works biodynamically, and this blend of marsanne and roussanne has exactly what I love about the  Rhône style – stone fruit, a dense texture and lots of intriguing spice on the finish. I would pull this from the fridge and never put it back as it will start to shine above 12C. (200 cases)

Back next week with some great buys from the September 18th release. With the focus being on the Languedoc, there’s a few that you don’t want to miss.

Bill

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

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Bill’s Best Bets at the SAQ, May 2014

The many faces of Syrah and Shiraz
By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Would you prefer chocolate or bacon? A dash of pepper perhaps, or maybe black olive? Smoke or violets? Red or black fruit? Well, depending on where your syrah is grown, your wine may show any of the above.

And you have your choice of provenance. Syrah is one of the fastest growing red varieties in the world. In the mid 1980’s, there was under 20,000 ha of syrah planted worldwide, almost entirely in France and Australia. 25 years later, that number has exploded to over 140,000 ha with the majority of these new vines planted over the last 10 years.

But if syrah can now be considered a member of the elite club of true “international” varietals, unlike cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay, there is something schizophrenic about syrah – it is known by two different names. Syrah and shiraz have come to signify more than just the name of a grape, for many it has come to represent a style unto itself.

It’s a climate thing

Syrah and shiraz are the same grapes. Researcher Carole Meredith at UC Davis confirmed via DNA profiling that it was the result of crossing a white grape, Mondeuse Blanche, and the one of France’s oldest red varietals, Dureza. But put a bottle of Côte Rôtie next to a Barossa shiraz and one would be hard pressed to say that they were the same grape.

Hermitage

Hermitage

While soils do make a difference in the grape’s expression, it’s the climate, and by extension, ripeness, that seems to be the most important factor in determining what aromas and flavours you will find in your syrah. As a general rule, cooler sites bring more aromatic nuance, including notes of violets, pepper, spices and red berries. Warmer sites give you more body, texture, power, smoked meat, cassis, blackberry, black olive and chocolate.

I tasted this on a micro-level on a recent trip to the northern Rhône where syrah is the only red grape authorized for the region’s appellations. Tasting through the region is a study of nuance, and one need look no further than the different expressions of Hermitage and Cornas.

Both hillsides are granite based, south-facing, and reach similar altitudes. The difference is that Cornas is 20 km further south, and the vineyard is in the shape of an amphitheatre, which keeps and amplifies the heat. In fact, Cornas in old Celtic language means “burnt earth.”

The result of this somewhat marginal difference in growing conditions makes a world of difference in the wines. Cornas tastes like blackberry jujube: intensely ripe, concentrated, dark fruited and almost jammy. In hotter years, you can find liquorice and olive notes. The tannins are big and burly.

Hermitage, with just a touch less ripeness shows a “lighter” dark fruit note, black currant as opposed to blackberry, more finessed tannins and much more spice. Power versus finesse, and 20km is the difference.

steep slopes of Cote Rotie

The steep slopes of Côte-Rôtie

Go 60 km further north to Côte-Rôtie and the syrah becomes an entirely different beast, much more feline in its expression. Here, at the northern edge of where syrah can ripen successfully, you get redder fruits, more florals and black pepper notes. Interesting to note that black pepper is a cool climate syrah characteristic, and is most prevalent in cooler vintages. In many ways, it is the equivalent of the “green” character in the cabernet family.

And what about the famous “smoked meat,” bacon character of syrah? This is a characteristic of the ripest and richest syrah, which can be found in Crozes-Hermitages, and to a lesser extent on Cornas.

The same climate distinction can be made in Australia, where shiraz is the most planted variety. In the hotter climate zones of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, you get Cornas on steroids. The wines are powerful, full-bodied with blackberry, black fruit, chocolate, plum. But tasting through the much cooler region of Victoria, the shiraz is much more floral with black cherry, plum, black pepper and exotic spice.

Cusumano Syrah 2012Qupé Syrah 2011Pfeiffer Shiraz 2011Of course there are other things at play here. Decisions on winemaking, grape growing techniques and ripeness levels at harvest will change the eventual wine. But climate, at least with respect to syrah, is paramount. So here are a few suggestions from around the globe for you to get better acquainted with the many faces of syrah and shiraz – no matter what you want to call it.

On the redder fruit and peppery spice side of the spectrum, try Pfeiffer’s 2011 shiraz. From the cooler region of Victoria you’ll see more peppery spice and redder fruits than classic Barossa jam. Equally interesting, and even fresher is Qupé’s 2011 California Central Coast syrah. Minerality, herbs and redder fruits with remarkable freshness.

For you bargain hunters, Cusumano’s 2012 Syrah is a nice meeting ground between the cooler and warmer styles. And while we can argue if $22 is indeed a bargain, South Africa’s Stark-Condé winery made one of the best syrahs I have tasted in a while at this price. Crozes Hermitages in style but arguably even better.

Domaine Courbis Champelrose Cornas 2011Domaine Belle Hermitage 2010Saltram MamreIf you want to taste the difference between a Cornas and a Hermitage, one need not spend a week’s mortgage. While these wines are very expensive, I found two excellent examples at very reasonable prices. Domaine Courbis’ 2011 Champelrose is classic Cornas with its blackberry fruit, hint of meat and spice. Compare it to Domaine Belle’s 2010 Hermitage, with its more subtle black currant notes and spice. Pay attention the tannin structure as well, and you will find a much grittier structure in the Cornas.

And no list of shiraz would be complete without a classic Barossa Valley expression of the grape. Try Saltram’s 2010 Mamre Brook. It won’t win any awards for finesse, but if you want a powerful red for your grilled steak, it wont disappoint.

Until next time.

Bill

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

Editors Note: You can find Bill Zacharkiw’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Syrah vines at Donaine Courbis 2

Syrah vines at Domaine Courbis

Rhône photos courtesy of Bill Zacharkiw


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