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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – April 30, 2016

Global Chardonnays, Springtime finds and What it takes to be The World’s Best Sommelier
By Sara d’Amato with notes from David, John and Michael

Click here for more from Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

From Tasmania to Washington to the Côtes de Provence, there are so many gems in this weekend’s release that we each had difficultly narrowing down our top five picks. Thankfully John Szabo covered the two main features of this VINTAGES release, that of the Pacific Northwest and rosés last week. In addition to those spotlights, this release offers a substantial selection of quality wines from both BC and Ontario as well as very fine global chardonnays of which we have several double alignments. An out-of-this-world Chilean sauvignon blanc was also successful in charming more than one of our palates.

Although some interesting rosé finds from the south of France where previously highlighted, we couldn’t resist recommending a few more from this twelve bottle springtime release. Hoping for warm days ahead, you’ll find plenty of fresh, nervy offerings to tantalize your senses as well as some rich, comforting reds in case the beau temps doesn’t arrive.

Buyers’ Guide to Whites & Rosés

Quinta de Couselo 2014 O Rosal, Rías Baixas, Spain ($23.95)
David Lawrason – The albarino-based whites of Spain’s northwest Galician coast can range from dull and weak to overly tropical and blowsy. I like them somewhere between these two extremes, as delivered here. The property once belonged to Cistercian monks but it has been a family winery since 1864, and there is a sense of this pedigree in the bottle. It is a lovely example of Rias Baixas – elegant, a touch floral, complex and well balanced.
John Szabo – A serious version of Rias Baixas, crisp, crunchy, bone dry, genuinely concentrated and richly flavoured. I like the lick of white pepper (“stony, mineral”), and the sharp, well-chiselled acids.

McGuigan 2015 Bin 9000 Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales Australia ($14.95)
John Szabo – Hardly a wine of earth-shattering complexity, but this fits the bill for fans of crisp, bright, saliva-inducing unoaked whites, simple but highly quaffable, ready to enjoy. Think of it as a dry riesling/unoaked chardonnay sort of wine, at a nice price.

Josef Chromy 2014 Pepik Chardonnay, Tasmania, Australia ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A crisp but leesy chardonnay with a northern Burgundian feel. The vibrant, floral and delicate flavours of cool climate chardonnay are beautifully expressed here.
John Szabo – Chromy makes a fine representation of cool Tasmanian terroir, zesty and lively, unoaked, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Chablis. It’s all citrus and green apple fruit, enlivened by tight acids and a pinch of CO2 on the palate. An ideal oyster/patio sipping, aperitif wine.

Quinta De Couselo O Rosal 2014McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2015 Josef Chromy Pepik Chardonnay 2014 Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2014

Norman Hardie 2014 Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($39.00)
Sara d’Amato – Norm’s Niagara chardonnay offers more plumpness than its County’s counterpart without sacrificing elegance, verve and focus. Drink now and don’t chill excessively.
Michael Godel – It’s hard not to compare Norman Hardie’s Niagara Chardonnay side by side with his County-grown and produced estate counterpart but this much I know. A Hardie Niagara Chardonnay is meant to be enjoyed in its early youth. This 2014 is so good right now.

Vignerons de Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013, Burgundy, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A real steal, this chardonnay from the white only appellation of Montagny in the Cote Chalonnaise is skillfully produced with terrific intensity and structure. Despite its technical correctness, it still offers an abundance of ready-to-drink pleasure.

Montes 2015 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Zapallar Coast, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($19.95)
Michael Godel – This is an exciting hyperbole of Chile, a Sauvignon Blanc from the coast with wild flavours and singing aromatics. Job well done with this newly directed Montes.
John Szabo – The Zapallar D.O. is a new, cool coastal region in Chile pioneered by Aurelio Montes on the far out Pacific coast at the end of the Aconcagua Valley. And this is very pungent and zesty sauvignon to be sure, like jalapeño purée with lime zest and lemon juice, all good things, offering good density and weight.

Vignerons De Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013 Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015 Gassier Sables D'azur Rosé 2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Rose 2015

Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015, Rhône, France $18.95 (701318)
Sara d’Amato – Longing for hot, sunny days, this most sophisticated of French rosé appellations is a terrific way to take a mental vacation. A spot on, very distinctive Tavel offering rich colour, a dry palate and some tannic presence giving it the ability to stand up to meat such as pork and lamb.

Gassier 2015 Sables d’Azur Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – Consistently and unquestionably pure and classically reasoned Rosé from Gassier. A dictionary entry rendering from Provence.

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2015, East Coast, New Zealand ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Villa Maria produces one New Zealand’s most consistent portfolios across a wide range of whites and reds. It is no surprise to see the same high quality with this lively Rosé. It possesses palpable aridity and true red fruit aromas.

Buyers’ Guide to Reds

Featherstone 2013 Red Tail Merlot, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A red blend that is ageing remarkably still with an abundance of fresh fruit and a plump, fleshy palate. Offers everything an affable textbook merlot should including flavours of Christmas cake, chocolate and deep plummy fruit.

Le Gravillas 2014 Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Known for fairly average wines, Plan de Dieu can surprise every once and awhile. Due to lack of wide recognition, this southern Rhône region offers approachable pricing. Lavender, tapenade, black pepper and sundried tomatoes evoke Provence and its sunny warmth.

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2013 Le Gravillas Plan De Dieu Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2014 Lamadrid Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec 2012 Pata Negra Reserva 2010 Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico 2013

Lamadrid 2012 Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.00)
David Lawrason – One of my main beefs about Argentine malbecs is that many are released too soon, and come across as too blunt and coarse. This is still youthfully tannic but it is also fresh and juicy with lifted mulberry, herbs and graphite aromas and flavours. But the real attraction was the very good concentration for the money. The length surprised me.  The style immediately suggested a barbecue.

Pata Negra 2010 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($17.00)
David Lawrason – There is a very traditional school of winemaking in Rioja that reveres textural richness and length, even if the flavours are not bright and fruity. Indeed some can be downright farmy.  This maturing example is chock full of cured meat, leather, peppery spice and cedar but so smooth and complex. Very impressive depth of flavour for the money and great balance.

Tenuta Di Capraia 2013 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Red fruit forward, leather and spice. These are the hallmark characteristics of classic, charming Chianti. This is Capraia’s 2013. A six days a week Chianti Classico.

Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From an underrated, emerging Pacific cooled region well north of Santiago, this is a deep, dark syrah with quite lifted aromas of tar, licorice, stewed blackcurrant/cherry fruit. I would like to see a bit more linearity and finesse but it is very impressive in terms of flavour depth, complexity and genuine syrah-ness.

Tabali Reserva Especial Syrah 2012 De Grendel Shiraz 2013 Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2006 Sordo Rocche Di Castiglione Riserva Barolo 2008

De Grendel 2013 Shiraz, Coastal Region, South Africa  ($24.95).
David Lawrason – Syrah/shiraz is the most exciting red from the Cape nowadays. I had several stunning examples on a recent visit.  This is from a vineyard in the Durbanville Hills only 7kms from and 200 metres above the cold Atlantic Ocean. It is a classic with all kinds of complexity, verve and depth. The ferrous minerality and acidity is very mindful of the northern Rhone, and it boasts amazing complexity and depth for the money.

Château Bouscassé 2006 Vieilles Vignes Madiran, France ($38.95)
John Szabo – This is clearly a superior, ambitious wine of class and pedigree, from the sister property of regional leader Château Montus. At this stage it’s pretty much fully mature, with a taste reminiscent of porcini mushroom broth – a big hit of umami. Yet it’s also still very structured, tannic even, with puckering astringency, so serve with assorted salty protein dishes. Terrific length and complexity overall. Best 2016-2026.

Sordo 2008 Rocche di Castiglione Riserva Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($49.95)
John Szabo – A fine and savoury, now nicely mature nebbiolo from the village of Castiglione Falletto, crafted in a rather classic style, complete with leathery and tarry red fruit, liquorice, dried herbs and more. The palate is medium-full bodied, filling and washing over the taste buds, with excellent length, depth and complexity. Best 2016-2025.


The World’s Best Sommelier

He’s Swedish, 31 and loves hip-hop music. The title of World’s Best Sommelier was bestowed upon the unconventional Arvid Rosengren this month in Mendoza, Argentina. Fifty-six countries participated in this “Olympics of Wine” including our Canadian champion, Elyse Lambert of Quebec.

What does it take to achieve this most coveted of titles? Over the course of five days, the competitors are whittled down to 15 and then to 3 finalists. Rigorous theory exams, blind tasting and identification of spirits and wines, locating errors in wine lists, pouring a magnum of Champagne into 15 different shaped glasses, menu pairing and convincing a table of guests to buy expensive wine are among the many tasks. All of this must be diligently and calmly performed in a timed setting in front of thousands of of spectators in a language other than your mother tongue.


The fifteen semi finalists of the Best Sommelier of the World Contest Argentina 2016

It is not unusual for competitors to train five to ten years for this very competition. All candidates are national champions before they are offered a seat on the world stage. This year, three of the top five finalists were women including Elyse Lambert. A substantial Canadian delegation attended the competition made up of members of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, a national organization with chapters in BC, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces. Celebrated winemakers and great supporters of Canadian Sommeliers, Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling (producers of both Sperling Wines and Versado among others) offered their Mendozian home to Canadian delegates over the course of the week.

The results are clear, Canada has a wealth of talent and our sommeliers rank among the world’s best. This international recognition of our Canada’s wine savvy community is the reason it has been chosen as the location for the Pan American Best Sommelier Challenge in 2018 which will take place in Montreal. Raise a glass to those who make a living serving others, and in particular, making sure that we are only served the best of wine!


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

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

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

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012

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Je note !

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Oui, je note — comme dit dans la publicité la petite boulotte.

Je donne un score, un pointage sur 100, aux vins que je déguste notamment ici, pour vous. Depuis longtemps mais pas depuis tout le temps ; à l’époque du journal Voir par exemple, dans les années 1990, je m’en abstenais.

Pourquoi avoir changé d’idée ? Difficile à dire. J’ai commencé à scorer, pour ainsi dire, à mon arrivée à La Barrique. Ça se faisait déjà dans ce magazine, sauf erreur, et je me suis volontiers prêté au jeu, sans rechigner.

Car je ne trouve pas, comme certains, que le vin est quelque chose de trop subjectif et de trop noble pour le réduire à une simple note. On le fait bien pour les films, pour les romans, les voitures, les restaurants.

Enfin oui, c’est vrai, jamais une note ne reflètera vraiment le goût du vin, ses odeurs, sa texture.

Et oui, encore, c’est vrai que l’écrit, le commentaire, en dit souvent beaucoup plus que la simple note – qu’elle soit sur 100, sur 20 ou sur une échelle de 1 à 5 étoiles.

Mais pas toujours.

Il m’arrive ainsi, perso, de tourner autour du pot, de trouver ceci ou cela à une bouteille donnée mais sans trop savoir comment tourner mon commentaire, comment dire les choses. Parfois, cela arrive, je m’en confesse, c’est pour ménager d’éventuelles susceptibilités.

Dans ces cas-là, ne m’écoutez pas, ne vous fiez pas à mes palabres : allez voir le score directement, il voudra tout dire.


La note est d’ailleurs là pour ça. Pour résumer l’impression globale — la seule qui compte, au fond — en moins de deux. Et c’est pour cette raison, également, que cette note doit être dans l’absolu sinon elle rime à très peu de choses.

J’ai donné 85 à un vin, et le prix est de 55 $ ? La messe est dite : il s’agit d’un bon « petit » vin, n’en attendez pas le nirvana et surtout, à ce prix-là, pensez-y au moins cinquante-cinq fois avant d’acheter.

Je note 90 un vin qui s’avère, qui plus est, vendu seulement 20 $ ? Ne perdez pas de temps à me lire, même si j’écris très bien : courez en acheter une caisse !

Pourquoi alors certains refusent-ils de donner une note aux vins dont il parle dans leurs chroniques ?

Bonne question. C’est leur choix — et leur prérogative, c’est certain.

Maintenant, qui, quel consommateur vivant dans le monde pressé d’aujourd’hui, se plaindrait de pouvoir compter, en plus d’un commentaire écrit bien senti, sur ce type d’indication ?


À boire, aubergiste

Bon, cela dit, l’idéal demeure de noter ET de commenter les vins d’un même souffle, pour donner un portrait complet. Ce que font la plupart d’entre nous, notamment ici, sur Chacun son Vin.

En temps normal, seuls les membres Privilège peuvent voir les notes que nous mettons aux vins, sur notre site. Une fois n’est pas coutume : vous les trouverez exceptionnellement ci-dessous, sujet de la présente chronique oblige.

Bodegas Castano Solanera Vina Viejas Yecla 2013 — Un très bon rouge espagnol à base de mourvèdre (70 pour cent), auquel s’ajoutent à parts égales du cabernet sauvignon et du grenache. Puissant fruité et épicé, et à la texture relativement dense et serrée. À servir avec une viande rouge grillée. 20,15 $ — 88 %

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère Colchagua 2013 — Difficile de se tromper au nez, on est vraiment dans la famille des cabernets, avec des notes herbacées et de cendrier froid — d’âtre refroidi. Fraîcheur en bouche, bon fruit, alcool en bride, pas de sucre apparent. À 15 $, une excellente affaire ! — 88 %

Fontanafredda Barolo 2011 — Étiquette plutôt quelconque, vieillotte, mais contenu ô combien satisfaisant ! Un barolo de facture moderne à la fois typé, relativement astringent entre autres, mais avec aussi un minimum de chair. La cerise, le tabac, de l’amertume en finale. À tout juste moins de 30 $, à ne pas manquer ! — 91 % (pas de niaisage, c’est dire, achetez !)

Castaño Solanera Viñas Viejas 2013 Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2013 Fontanafredda Barolo 2011 Don Pascual Reserve Viognier 2015 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Don Pascual Viognier Reserve 2015 — Un bon viognier urugayen, assez aromatique — l’abricot —, corsé en bouche mais aussi rafraîchissant et pratiquement sec. À 15,45 $, un très bon rapport qualité-prix. Accord gourmand : avec les ris de veau, suggère le producteur, ce qui me semble une excellente idée ! — 87 %

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 — C’est rendu que je vois 15 % d’alcool sur une étiquette de vin californien et que je me réjouis : au moins, cela risque moins d’être doucereux, tous les sucres ou presque auront fermenté. Or c’est à peu de choses près le cas, le vin est corsé, généreux, mais bien structuré, avec de bons tannins et une certaine fraîcheur. La belle Californie ! Prix (34,75 $) bien mérité. — 90 %

Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2015 — Impeccable ! Et très typé sauvignon de Nouvelle-Zélande, avec ses intenses notes de pamplemousse rose, son acidité marquée, son reste de gaz carbonique aussi. Tout simple, pratiquement sec (3,9 g) et diablement efficace. 21,90 $ — 88 %

Listel Rosé Sable De Camargue 2015 — Couleur orangée pâle – on dirait un « vin orange » -, des notes végétales (pas déplaisantes) au nez, un caractère moyennement corsé, pas de sucre résiduel apparent (pourtant il y en a 4,5 g), une bonne texture relativement grasse, de l’acidité. À 13,10 $, un bon achat ! — 85 %

Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Listel Gris Rosé 2015 Famille Perrin Tavel Rosé 2015 Domaine Sébastien Brunet Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 Duval Leroy Brut Rosé Champagne

Tavel Famille Perrin 2015 — Savoureux tavel, plus corsé qu’un côtes-de-provence rosé mais avec autant de fraîcheur et une belle longueur. Bravo aux Perrin !  21,95 $ — 89 %

Domaine Sébastien Brunet Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 — Finement miellé (le chenin) au nez et saveurs à l’avenant, amples et rafraîchissantes, passablement élégantes aussi — fines, même. L’un des meilleurs vouvrays mousseux qu’il m’ait été donné de goûter ces dernières années. 24,30 $ — 90 %

Duval-Leroy Brut Rosé — Avec sinon l’été du moins le vrai printemps qui se montre le bout du nez, terminons avec un champagne rosé, très cher, 87 $ mais vraiment très très bon, finement brioché, épicé, nerveux, long en bouche. Miam ! — 92 %



P.S. Une autre fois, on parlera du fait que la notation, par exemple dans l’échelle sur 100, se limite en réalité à donner entre 85 et 90 à la très grande majorité des vins…


Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – April 30, 2016

Buyers’ Guides for the Pacific Northwest & Rosé, The State of Pinot Noir (and other varieties), and Prince Edward County
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report is overflowing with recommendations and reviews, a reflection of a busy past couple of weeks of tastings and trade seminars. The VINTAGES April 30th release features a lopsided Pacific Northwest selection with some excellent Oregon pinot noir. California is also heavily featured in this report, following on the heels of the hugely successful annual wine fair, that is, if the number of attendees is correlated to success.

Over 1,000 industry insiders not only showed up, but even lined up, to squeeze their way into to the Canadian Room at the Fairmont Royal York to revel and taste in its carnival-like atmosphere. The Wine Bible (revised edition 2015) author Karen MacNeil, also keynote speaker at the luncheon, launched the day with an excellent overview and memorable tasting of pinot noir representing over 800 kilometers of coastal Californian vineyards from the Anderson Valley to Santa Ynez. Click for this week’s feature article on the State of California pinot and reviews of some of the state’s top bottlings. Although the specific wines reviewed are as widely available as white unicorns, all of the producers on the list and their other cuvees are worth tracking down.

For more immediate gratification, see my full list of 18 recommended California wines – the state does more than just pinot noir, you know. These were whittled down from over 60 samples of currently available or incoming wines sent to the Media Room, where I hid for most of the day to avoid the California trade crush.

Small but mighty Austria likewise held a trade fair last week, with a trade seminar focused on the country’s vastly improved red wines, now serious contenders. The addition of local varieties such as Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent to the worldwide roster of worthwhile reds is like discovering a new exotic spice to add to your culinary repertoire. Also on display were the first releases of fresh whites from the superlative 2015 vintage, destined to become a classic. I’ll be highlighting some of the best in a mini Austrian Wine Buyer’s Guide to be posted at a later date.


County in the City – The calm before the evening storm

The annual County in the City tasting brought the best of Prince Edward County to Toronto on the same day, featuring mostly a mix of the very promising 2015s, and the few drops of the 2014s that survived the yield-crippling (but paradoxically quality-improving) May frost. I was pleased to see that the established names continue to deliver exceptional wines, spurred on in part by increasing competition; a clutch of relative newcomers is knocking at the door. And while chardonnay and pinot noir are still the flagships, pinot gris is clearly another grape to watch in the County. See my mini PEC Buyers’ Guide for some of the best.


And read on for highlights of the VINTAGES April 30th release, which features a lopsided Pacific Northwest selection, with some excellent Oregon pinot noir, and a largely disappointing, commercial range from Washington State. British Columbia was inexplicably officially left out of the thematic (“Though no agreed boundary exists, a common conception [of the PNW] includes the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia”, according to Wikipedia), though there are two BC wines worth your attention, which I’ve added to my recommendations.

Mount Hood from the Dundee Hills-8781

Mount Hood from the Dundee Hills, Oregon

A range of rosés representing all major wine producing continents is timed perfectly for the long-awaited arrival of spring in Ontario. It’s a perfect illustration of why southern France remains the world hotspot for pink, that is, if you’re after premium dry, delicate but flavourful, purpose-made rosés. I’ve listed three excellent examples.

And since that’s more than enough for one report, I’ll throw the rest of my miscellaneous top picks, including a couple from the “Aussie Whites” mini-feature, into next week’s general Buyers’ Guide along with the rest of the WineAlign crü.

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: Oregon

Willakenzie Estate Gisèle Pinot Noir 2013 Soléna Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir has been planted in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since 1966, and has been the focus of the rapidly expanding industry ever since. Being at the edge of viable ripening is where pinot likes to be, and the grape’s propensity to magnify even small variations in micro climate and soil chemistry and structure make it perfectly suited to the Willamette’s cool climate and varied soils. Two fine value variations on the marine sedimentary soils known as “Willakenzie” found in the Yamhill-Carlton sub-AVA are on offer April 30th, both unusually refined for the often firmly tannic, black fruit flavoured wines most typical of these soils.

The Soléna 2012 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir ($35.95) is a particularly classy wine. Very fragrant, pretty, concentrated, delivering verve, depth and fine-grained structure. Soléna is run by Laurent and Danielle Montalieu, who purchased the 80-acre Domaine Danielle Laurent in May of 2000 as their wedding gift to each other, planting six clones of pinot noir shortly after (also wedding gifts to one-another, offering another dimension to the vow ‘till death do us part’). Best 2016-2022.

Even lighter, more fragrant and delicate is the Willakenzie Estate 2013 Gisèle Pinot Noir ($36.95), also from Yamhill-Carlton, the entry-level blend from various estate parcels designed for early enjoyment. It’s crafted in the pale, oxidative style, filled with tart red fruit and beetroot, earth, and pot pourri flavours, while tannins are very light. You might call it a fragile pinot noir, though not in a negative sense, ready to drink now or hold short term at best. I do appreciate the delicate nature of this wine – not all reds need be dark and burly.

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: British Columbia

The Naramata Bench on the east side of Lake Okanagan, north of Penticton, is increasingly recognized as a sweet spot in the valley, improbably capable of delivering everything from fresh whites to serious reds, like the Laughing Stock 2013 Portfolio, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($54.95). Have to say, I love their tag line: “We wake up every day with the constant motivation of not living up to our name”. You surely won’t be laughing while chewing on this intense, ripe, regionally accurate flagship Bordeaux blend (the full portfolio), complete with sage brush and ripe black fruit, measured but noted oak, and a wide range of spicy aromatics. Ambition is evident. Best 2016-2023.

Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan is the source of the Nk’mip 2013 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($24.95). Pronounced kw-em kw-empt in the Osoyoos First Nation’s language (meaning ‘achieving excellence’), Qwam Qwmt is the top range from Nk’Mip. In this case a ripe, rich, resinous and wood-inflected chardonnay, with lots of polish and concentration in a classic west coast style – the kind that often sells for much more a few hundred miles further south.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013 Nk'mip Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2013Hogue Genesis Meritage 2012 Joel Gott Riesling 2012

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: Washington State

As mentioned in the intro, the selection of Washington wines generally fails to excite, especially considering some of the terrific wines made now by over 800 wineries in the United State’s second largest wine producing state. For an example of the widely appealing, easy-drinking commercial style, try the Hogue 2012 Genesis Meritage, Columbia Valley ($18.95). It’s a modern and ripe, oak-inflected Bordeaux blend, medium-full bodied. It won’t change your life, but nobody will get hurt, either.

Washington does riesling quite well, arguably the state’s most successful white variety. The Joel Gott 2012 Riesling Columbia Valley ($19.95) is a perfectly serviceable example, crunchy and just off-dry, fresh and fragrant in a typical lime zest-inflected varietal idiom. Ready to enjoy.

Buyers’ Guide to Rosé

Côteaux Varois en Provence

Côteaux Varois en Provence – credit to: CIVP F.Millo

Rosé is a challenging category to understand. Different varieties, wildly varying climates and especially winemaking techniques conspire to broaden the stylistic field. You’ll find everything from deeply coloured, sweetened versions to pale and bone dry, all labeled simply as rosé. How are you to know what you’ll get without tasting? Sadly, you can’t. That is, unless you’re seeking the bone dry, serious, pale versions, which I admittedly do. By legal definition, the rosés of Provence (and its various appellations, mainly Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d’Aix en Provence Côteaux Varois) are pale and dry, and as reliable as they come.

Gabriel Meffre Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé 2015 Château la Tour de L'évêque Rosé 2015 Saint Aix Rosé 2015There are two fine examples arriving on shelves on April 30th: Saint Aix 2015 Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France ($22.95) is the finest. A serious, fragrant, flavourful, balanced and bone dry, fresh rosé here that’s dangerously drinkable but also offers a more sophisticated flare, and great length, too. Also excellent is the ever-reliable Château la Tour de l’Évêque 2015 Rosé, Côtes de Provence France ($19.95), a regular fixture on LCBO shelves. The 2015 is another classic Provençal example, though a touch riper and softer than the previous vintage, more advanced and ready to go with heaps of red fruit and herbs. Alcohol is a heady 13.5%, so while it’s infinitely drinkable, it’s no light, afternoon sipper to be sure.

A little further north, the southern Rhône appellation of Tavel is unique in being the only AOC in the Rhône Valley dedicated purely to rosé, also invariably dry. Tavel is famous for it’s powerful style, as evinced in the Gabriel Meffre 2015 Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé, Rhône Valley ($19.95), replete with inviting liquorice-fennel seed and white pepper to spice up succulent red fruit.

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


John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All April 30th 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!

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012

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Le sacre du printemps

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Je sais, calmons-nous, on n’est que le 18 mars, mais c’est tout de même ce dimanche matin, dans moins de 48 heures, que surviendra l’équinoxe du printemps 2016.

Si ça se trouve, alors qu’il fait doux au moment où j’écris ces lignes, le ciel s’apprête peut-être à nous tomber sur la tête. D’où le fameux sacre…

Mais bon, la machine n’en demeure pas moins en branle, et bientôt on ne se pourra plus, assoiffés de chaleur, de trilles d’oiseau et d’entrée de garage nettoyée à grande eau, en bozo.

Cette année, en cette fin mars, il y a aussi Pâques qui nous pend au bout du nez.

Mais ne comptez pas sur moi pour vous dire quoi boire avec le jambon, la quiche à Lorraine ou les repas de cabane à sucre. Enfin si, ou plutôt non, je ne vais pas vous laisser tomber ; en énonçant, attendez que je mette mon chapeau de sommelier, cette règle cardinale des accords vins-mets:  toutes les fois où vous êtes embêtés, chaque fois où l’accord ne coule pas de source, optez pour un rosé. Banal, je sais, réducteur, you bet. Sauf que neuf fois sur dix ça marche. Sans compter que ça connote l’été. Or vu qu’on est encore pris avec mars, avril et peut-être même mai…

Bonne nouvelle, j’en ai quelques-uns à vous recommander, de ces rosés.

Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015 Rendez Vous La Côte Rêvée 2015 Château La Tour De L'evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2015D’abord, de Provence, le très connu Pétale de Rose de Régine Sumeire, qui vient d’arriver dans sa version 2015. Discret, comme à l’accoutumée – peu coloré, peu aromatique aussi. Cela n’empêche pas ce rosé de plaire, avec sa texture assez grasse, ses notes épicées et sinon sa minéralité, du moins son caractère agréablement (bien que légèrement) tannique et astringent. À table, une valeur sûre, sur à peu près tout sauf peut-être des viandes rouges, quoique, c’est encore drôle, comme on dit.

Du Languedoc maintenant, avec un nom et une étiquette plutôt cucul, qui ne font pas vraiment rêver, le Rendez-Vous La Côte rêvée 2015. Un rosé sec et léger, sans vice et avec tout de même quelques bonnes vertus, du fruit et de la fraîcheur c’est dire, ainsi qu’une certaine profondeur, une certaine « épaisseur ».

Toujours du sud de la France, ce formidable bassin à vin rosé, j’ai bien aimé le Pive Gris 2015, qui est bio par surcroît. La couleur, pelure d’oignon, est proche de celle de bien des rosés de Provence. Au nez, ça sent la banane et la fraise, tandis qu’en bouche, l’ensemble est relativement corsé. Très ok !

À boire, aubergiste !

Il y en a, cela dit, pour qui le rosé n’est pas vraiment un vin. Pour qui c’est un entre-deux-chaises, une sorte d’hybride, ni tout à fait blanc ni tout à fait rouge.

Vrai : de grands vins qui soient aussi rosés, inutile de tergiverser, ça n’existe pratiquement pas. De leurs raisins rouges, ceux avec lesquels ils font le rosé, les vignerons gardent généralement les meilleurs fruits pour… leurs vins rouges.

Cela n’enlève rien au mérite de la catégorie. Comme je le disais, à table, le rosé est le vin polyvalent par excellence. Et s’il n’est pas trop appuyé, pas trop maquillé, s’il vient par exemple du sud de la France, il peut aussi faire un très bon apéro, après les bulles et en route vers le blanc corsé puis le rouge.

Tout ça pour suggérer maintenant quelques vins de ces deux dernières catégories que j’ai bien aimés, récemment.

Faux : mon premier vin est blanc, oui, mais pas corsé, même léger. Qu’importe, ce Charles Smith Riesling Kung Fu Girl 2014, de l’État de Washington, n’a pas qu’un nom bizarroïde, il est aussi très bon, frais, et avec un soupçon de gaz carbonique qui avive les saveurs.

Puis d’Italie même si on pouvait presque dire d’Autriche, vu qu’on est tout à fait au nord-est de la botte, le Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Porer 2014 et le Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2014.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2014Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2014 Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2014 Paul Jaboulet Les Traverses 2014 Meia Encosta Reserva 2011

Deux costauds, relativement corsés c’est dire, mais dotés d’une pureté de fruit et d’une élégance de haute volée. À plus ou moins 25 $ chacun, une superbe occasion de découvrir qu’il y a autre chose notamment que la Toscane et la Sicile, dans ce pays.

Finalement, du côté des rouges, à prix doux (16,55 $), le Les Traverses Ventoux Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2014 est souple et fruité tout en ayant de la profondeur – en se révélant un peu plus à chaque gorgée, c’est dire. Exemplaire !

Dernier et bel et bien le moindre (parmi mes bons choix d’aujourd’hui, s’entend), le rouge portugais Daõ Meia Encosta Reserva 2011. Celui-ci a par contre l’avantage d’être bon marché (15 $) en plus d’être robuste et corsé, d’une agréable rusticité. À table, il accommoderait très bien une casserole de porc à la portugaise, voire un couscous royal pas trop relevé.

Bon app’ !



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Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Bill’s Best Bets – March 2016

The March Cellier release
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Spring is around the corner and while we still have at least another month of winter before us, the SAQ seems to already be there. Over the past month I have been tasting a number of lighter reds, many whites and even a few rosés.

And that’s fine with me. While many folks prefer this style of wines in the summer, these are the wines I drink year round. So what’s new? Here are a number of suggestions from the recent Cellier New Arrivals, which put the accent on Italian wines.

Let’s start with the exceptional. Two wines from the opposite ends of Italy caught my attention, both made with grapes I’m sure few have heard about. From Sicily, grown in the volcanic soils of Etna, is Tenuta della Terre’s 2014 Etna Rosso. Nerello mascalese is the grape and fans of nebbiolo-styled elegance will rejoice. From the northern region of Trentino Alto Adige, Foradori’s 2013 Teroldego Rotaliano is one again, and the wine is a marvel of complexity. So mineral, and so drinkable at 12% alcohol.

Tenuta Della Terre Nere Etna 2014 Azienda Agricola Foradori Teroldego 2013 Mascarello Giuseppe E Figlio Toetto 2007 Albino Piona Bardolino 2012

Staying in the north, for those of you who love lighter styled reds, try the 2007 Mascarello Toetta. Made with the freisa grape, this shows a profile similar to nebbiolo – great acid and florals though less tannin. While most Valpolicella Superiore can be a bit bland, in the neighbouring appellation of Bardolino, Albino Pinoa raises the bar of what corvina and rondinella can achieve. Beautiful fruit without resorting to drying the grapes in a ripasso style.

If you want a ripasso, then look no further than Pra’s 2013 Ripsasso. Incredible elegance and finesse and a wine that will keep and age beautifully over the next 10 years. In many ways it shows as much depth and complexity as an Amarone. In a similar vein, the Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2013 Telos il Rosso will please Ripasso fans with a mid-weight wine that shows beautiful fruit.

Pra Valpolicella Superiore 2013 Tenuta S Antonio Telos Il Rosso 2013 Lungarotti L'U 2012 Tua Rita Palazzetto 2013 Borgo Scopeto E Carpazo Borgonero 2011

While Ripasso styled wines are more a modern version of Italian winemaking, Veneto is not the only place where one finds a hint of modernity. Under $20, both Lungarotti’s 2012 L’U and Tua Rita’s 2013 Palazzetto show how cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese can produce a wine that despite its international leanings, can still “drink” very  Italian. Equally interesting is the 2011 Borgonero from Borgo Scopeto E Carpazo. A blend of sangiovese, cab and syrah.

But nothing replaces the classics and two of my favourite wines were Cantina Zaccagnini 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico. Just enough fruit and brilliant acidities. These two have power and will sing best at the table.

Zaccagnini dal Tralcetto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2013 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 Marco De Bartoli Vignaverde 2014 Domaine Cazes Le Canon Du Maréchal 2015 Alternatus Fiano 2015

If you are a fan of white wines, then one of the most unique whites I have tasted in a while comes from Marco de Bartoli. His 2014 Vignaverde is made 100% with the grape grillo and shows melony fruit with a solid mineral streak. Well worth the $26 price tag.

Looking for a great aperitif wine that will work well with lighter seafood. Then look no further than the 2015 Canon de Marechal from Domaine Cazes. Hard to find wine this much fun to drink at $17. One white that blew me away was Angove’s 2015 Fiano. Taken from its native growing zone in southern Italy, in Australia’s McLaren Vale it seems equally at home. Great texture and minerality, that’s what fiano brings and more Australian wineries should be growing it.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris De Cigare Rosé 2015 Château La Tour De L'evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2015 Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015And as we are getting some warmer days, I have already started drinking rosé on my porch in the sun. There are three SAQ classics that in 2015 are showing why they are consistently, year after year, part of my drinking repertory. The Pive Gris, Petale de Rose and Vin Gris De Cigare are all up to the high standards they have set for themselves. So no need to wait until May to start drinking great pink wine, they are already here.

Spring is coming folks!


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

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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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A Wine for All Seasons: Rosé de Provence

Szabo’s Free Run – The Provençal AdvantageDecember 17, 2015

Text and photographs by John Szabo, MS with Bill Zacharkiw

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Even in November, tender sunlight casts a warm, honeyed-pastel glow on the limestone-hewn houses liberally sprinkled on the craggy hills that tumble from Haute Provence down to the Côte d’Azur. The magic hour for painters and photographers stretches well past sunrise and sunset; the clarity and angle of light is nearly always perfect. Temperatures hover in the comforting early 20s, while soft breezes dance down from Alpine highlands or waft inland from the Mediterranean, floating scents of wild mint, lavender, pine needles and mimosas. It’s not hard to imagine what has attracted everyone from early Greeks and Romans to Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Brigitte Bardot and Brangelina. Only sporadic torrential downpours dampen Provence’s perfect year-round climate, channeled by the region’s success – measured in concrete and asphalt – into occasionally deadly flows.

From the beginning of recorded history, the southeast corner of France nestled between the Alps, the Mediterranean and the Rhône River, know to the Romans as Provincia Romana, has produced wine, which is among the only crops, along with olives and aromatic plants for perfumes, which thrive in these arid, rocky soils. And rosé wine in particular, it is argued, was a staple from the beginning, although the same is likely true of most of the ancient world’s wines, made from field blends of grapes of all hues. But that Provence today has staked its reputation on pale, shimmering, ethereal pink wine is beyond question; nearly 90% of regional output, and 95% of exports, is labeled rosé. There is no other region in the world so devoted to it.

View from Bormes-les-Mimosas

View from Bormes-les-Mimosas

The modern Provençal obsession with rosé is traced, perhaps apocryphally, to film star Brigitte Bardot, who put Saint Tropez on the map in the 1960s. The Hollywood bombshell and party girl apparently had a distaste for astringent wines, and local vignerons vying for her attention made every effort to craft the lightest, most delicate wines possible. White wine would have been most logical, but considering there was only a tiny percentage of white grapes planted in the region (and still today less than 10%), the only option was to use red grapes. They had to be treated very gently, without maceration (which extracts both colour and tannins that lead to astringency). And voilà, light-bodied, very pale rosé was born. Bardot was pleased; her glamorous star power made success immediate.

Domaine du Deffends

Domaine du Deffends

From the 1960s on, the production of rosé de Provence steadily increased. Bardot’s personal preferences aside, it makes sense to be sipping light, dry, chilled rosé in a warm climate with classic dishes from the Mediterranean repertoire, heavily axed on seafood and fresh vegetables. Tourism also increased exponentially – just try to find a parking spot on the banks of the vast river of cars and people streaming into Saint Tropez on a July or August day – and the majority of wineries enjoyed a near-inexhaustible local market. There was little incentive to push the boundaries of quality or seek export markets. Rosé de Provence soon became synonymous with seaside summer holidays, frivolous and easy-drinking, more fun than serious, released for Valentine’s Day and best drunk before the autumn equinox.

The message couldn’t have been more simple, and more effective – there was nothing to “get” with rosé, no reason to apologize for not understanding nuances of terroir or technique.

It was just a wine to drink and enjoy, and a great deal of profit was made from this image. There is nearly twice as much rosé consumed in France today as white wine, 30% vs. 17% of total wine consumption.

But advantages can quickly turn into challenges, and the easy marketing dream of Provençal rosé would eventually also clip its wings, limiting its potential to be taken seriously. Prejudices in the wine world die hard.

And at the same time it wouldn’t take long for other regions, within France and beyond, to muscle in on Provence’s success, offering less expensive alternatives to consumers hoping to relive those seaside memories in the south of France.

According to the latest statistics provided by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), worldwide consumption of rosé is up 11% in the last 8 years. Only 5.6% of world rosé production comes from Provence, which is still significant, but competition is increasing. More than half of worldwide rosé production is now modeled after the Provençal style: pale and dry (technically with less than 4 grams of residual sugar). It’s a direct attack.

Natalie Pouzalgues, Centre du Rosé

Natalie Pouzalgues

So with the specter of declining overall consumption in France, and ever-more competitive export markets, action was required. It was time to start making more serious rosé. And to the region’s credit, they’ve done just that. “Quality has risen significantly in the last decade”, Chef de Projet Natalie Pouzalgues of the Centre du Rosé tells me. And the technical improvements have much to do with Pouzalgues and the Centre du Rosé, a research institute created in 1999, conceived and supported by the CIVP, as well as the Chamber of Agriculture and L’Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), with the express goal of improving the general quality and typicity of Provence’s rosés.

Ongoing research has been aimed at providing winegrowers with the means to produce top quality, age-worthy rosé, which can comfortably sit at the table at any time of year and accompany a broad range of cuisines. The impact has been seen at all levels, with most of the bottom end now at the very least respectable, and the top end highly admirable.

But ironically, one of the biggest obstacles to quality production remains the market perception of rosé, especially that it must be drunk as young as possible. On this recent visit, many wineries related their woes regarding their importers, who want the wines to arrive by February after harvest. That means bottling in early January at the very latest, more often in December. “It’s impossible to make stable wine that quickly”, Laurence Berlemont, a top consultant for several wineries with the Cabinet d’Agromnomie Provençal, tells me, “without stripping the heart out of it”. Heavy fining, cold stabilization and sterile filtration are regular practices to drive wine into bottle before its due time. All quality wine, rosé included, requires patience to naturally stabilize and develop.

Most winegrowers in the quality game insist that their wines don’t begin to reach peak until at least June or July, or later. An illuminating vertical rosé tasting at Saint André de Figuière, reaching back to 2003 (out of magnum, to be fair), revealed that carefully made rosé can not only survive, but even improve after several years of bottle age.

But it will take a massive cultural shift to convince consumers that drinking a 2014 rosé on Valentine’s Day 2016 is the smarter thing to do.

Do I believe that all rosé producers should concentrate on making only expensive, age-worthy wines? Of course not. There’s something infinitely attractive about a breezy glass of rosé on a summer terrace. But just as there are both frivolous and serious whites and reds, rosé shouldn’t be relegated exclusively to the frivolous category. And I’d be very wary about any wine that reaches the market before it is six months old.

The Provençal Advantage

When it comes to quality rosé production, Provence retains one significant advantage over the rest of the world.

Bill at work at Les Valentines

Bill at work at Les Valentines

The entire region, and all its tangle of appellation regulations in the bureaucratic Gallic style, has one principal focus: making rosé. Very good red and white are of course produced, but the vast majority of vineyards are conceived, planted and managed, harvest dates are timed, and production methods are tuned exclusively to making a singular style of rosé. This stands in sharp contrast to the vast majority of rosés produced elsewhere, which are, by and large, an afterthought of red wine production, made using a method called saignée.

Saignée-style rosé is made from grapes grown and harvested with the aim of making red wine. Grapes are crushed and put into tanks, and a short while later, a small percentage of the juice is siphoned off (or bled off, hence saignée, meaning “bleeding”). Short skin contact gives this juice a light red or rosé colour, and fermentation continues on as for white wine. The rest of the tank continues on the red wine production track, with the added advantage that the increased skin-to-juice ratio results in greater concentration and structure. The downside is that the bled off rosé is often out of balance, soupy, overripe, alcoholic (or sweet). The ideal ripeness for reds and rosés is never the same, especially if your aim is to make a delicate, elegant pink. To make great rosé is technically demanding. As one winegrower put it, “making good rosé is like watching a Chinese acrobat: it looks very easy to do, but in reality it’s very tough.”

The Classic Style

Provence rosés are blends, based for the most part on grenache for body and fruit, and cinsault for freshness, delicacy and low alcohol, which together usually represent at least half the mix. Syrah (perfume, colour), and carignan, mourvèdre and cabernet sauvignon (acid, structure) complement in varying proportions, depending on vineyard location and house style, and up to 20% of white rolle (aka vermentino) can be co-fermented.

Bill strolling at La Courtade, Porquerolles

Bill strolling at La Courtade, Porquerolles

By definition, under the AOPs Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Coteaux Varois, wines are dry (any rosés with more than 4 grams of sugar fall under generic regional designations), and are invariably pale, delicate and perfumed, with fresh but gentle acids. Alcohol rarely exceeds 13%. And while technical advancements may have been adopted too enthusiastically in the early days (carbon filtering to strip colour, obsessive exclusion of oxygen and use of aromatic yeasts to produce candied bonbon Anglais or grapefruity, sauvignon-like aromas), the best Provençal rosés are transparent expressions of place and grapes, produced carefully, but without artifice.

The Regional Nuances

Montagne Sainte Victoire

Montagne Sainte Victoire

With their distinctive regional character, rosés from all over Provence stand out from those made outside the region. But investigate a little more deeply within the AOPs of Provence itself, and nuanced differences between them begin to emerge. Vineyards in Haute Provence, for example, experience much sharper temperature swings compared to those near the coast, effectively cut off from the moderating effects of the sea by a series of mountain ridges like the Montagne Sainte-Victoire and the Massif des Maures. The climate is far more continental and harvest begins up to three weeks later. Mourvèdre struggles to ripen inland, while syrah bakes on the coast.

Provence also straddles Europe and Africa, tectonically speaking, with a clear fault line separating limestone-based France, on the Eurasian tectonic plate, from the metamorphic-igneous-volcanic geologies of the African plate. Mimosas and cork oaks proliferate in the coastal area based on schist and volcanic soils, but do not grow at all in the calcareous interior. The Centre du Rosé has undertaken to understand the real impact of such dramatic terroir differences on wine style, with much more to do. The point is that even within the seemingly homogenous family of rosé de Provence, there are measurable differences, whose nuances a growing number of sub-appellations attempt to reflect. Will wine writers and sommeliers one day be enthusiastically speaking about rosés de terroir, the way they dissect Burgundy and Bordeaux?



Purpose-grown rosé from a great site, rendered authentically, is great wine. It’s amazingly versatile at the table (try it with your roasted turkey), can be enjoyed relatively young and can develop intriguing character with a few years in the cellar. It should be taken seriously. And if it happens to conjure up happy holiday memories, images of azur seas and honey-coloured houses in the fading light of a summer’s eve, then so much the better.

Buyers’ Guide: Rosé de Provence

Château La Lieue 2014 Rosé Tradition, Coteaux Varois en Provence

La Lieue is a reliable, fine value name in the region, with Julien, the 5th generation in place at the chateau. Vineyards are in one of the coolest areas in the Var départment, where harvest can stretch into November. The top parcels are extraordinarily stony, pure limestone. The Tradition rosé, composed of cinsault and grenache, is relatively pale in colour, gentle, and brightly fruity, ready for drinking on release.

Château Léoube 2014 Rosé, Côtes de Provence

Château Léoube is one of the most spectacular properties in Provence, with 65 certified organic hectares of vines set on 560 hectares of protected Mediterranean scrubland and olive groves virtually right on the coast, in the La Londe sub-appellation. Wines are made by Romain Ott, originally of the widely admired Domaine Ott, before it was bought from his family. This is the mid-tier rosé of the winery made with grenache and cinsault with a complement of syrah and mourvèdre. Uniquely, this is not designed for maximum aromatics: it’s fermented at “normal” temperatures (not ultra cold like many), with some oxygen contact, and put through full malolactic. The result is a rosé with uncommon succulence and depth, fully dry but focused on abundant and pure fruit. It’s the sort of wine that invites sip after sip with its saline edge and crisp acids – a genuine hit of umami. Available in Ontario from The Living Vine.

Château Léoube Vineyards

Château Léoube Vineyards

Domaine du Deffends Rosé d’une Nuit 2014, Coteaux Varois en Provence

A fine property first planted in 1967, originally a hunting reserve, with slightly warmer climate than is typical in the Coteaux Varois in an area referred to locally as “Le petit Nice”. 15 hectares of vines are certified organic. This equal parts grenache and cinsault rosé is fine and succulent, firm and fresh, notably salty, stylish and pure.

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Pétale de Rose 2014, Côtes de Provence

Régine Soumeire is one of Provence’s Grandes Dames, from the 3rd generation to run this property acquired in the 1930s (she also owns the excellent Château Barbeyrolles). 64 hectares are farmed organically in the Pierrefeu sub-appellation in haute Provence, with an average vine age of 25 years. Pétale de rosé is the top cuvée of the estate, from schist and clay-limestone soils, hand harvested, and whole bunch pressed in a champagne press. It’s composed of eight grapes, driven by grenache and cinsault, and crafted in the typical very pale Provençal style, but with uncommon depth and intensity, as well as length, with great palate presence. A classic, classy rosé, with very good to excellent length.

Château La Lieue Coteaux Varois En Provence 2014Château Léoube Rosé De Léoube 2014Domaine du Deffends Rosé d'une Nuit 2014Château La Tour de l'Evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2014

Other Highly Recommended Producers:

Château Revelette

Owner-winemaker Peter Fischer is one of Provence’s great, iconoclastic winemakers, farming 24 hectares in the upper Coteaux d’Aix en Provence organically (and with biodynamic principles) since 1990. The climate is as extreme as the approach, and yields are very low. An exceptional range in white, pink and red includes unsulphured, natural “PUR” (Produit Uniquement de Raisins – “made exclusively from grapes”, that is, with no additions) grenache and carignan; whites are fermented in concrete egg. Le Grand Rouge is one of the region’s finest reds.

Domaine les Béates

40 hectares of organic, isolated vineyards in the Coteaux d’Aix appellation yield a tidy range of white, red and rosé. Entry-level Les Béatines rosé fits the Provençal model, while the estate rosé, an unusual pure syrah, is deeper, almost like a pale red, well-structured, designed for enjoying after a year or two in bottle at least.

Château les Valentines

Very fine and elegant wines from the La Londe sub-appellation, certified organic. Estate rosé is arch-classic; Cuvée #8 rosé offers an additional dimension and terrific complexity. Reds are also a house specialty, based on finesse and freshness, including excellent Bagnard cuvée, equal measures of syrah, cabernet and mourvèdre.

Les Valentines

Les Valentines

Domaine Saint André de Figuière

A family estate led by Francois Combard, whose father worked with Michel Laroche in Chablis until 1992 when he purchased this property in La Londe, already certified organic since 1978. The terroir is very poor, almost pure high acid schists, and the house style is unsurprisingly very Chablisienne, which is to say focused on freshness in a reductive style, with impressively ageworthy rosé, well-structured and dense.

Domaines Ott (Château de Selle and Clos Mireille)

Domaines Ott consists of three separate and exceptional estates, Château de Selle for reds and rosés in Haute Provence, Clos Mireille for whites in La Londe, and Château Romassan for reds and rosés in Bandol, now owned by Champagne Roederer. Rosés are in the very top echelon of quality.

Domaine du Clos de La Procure (Négociant Dupéré-Barrera)

A quality-focused micro-négociant operation with a small property in Côtes de Provence, the Clos de La Procure. The large range is highly competent across the board, made in a minimalist style, with low sulphur, vibrant acids and fresh fruit flavours, more textural than aromatic. Intriguing “Nowat” cuvée is produced without the use of electricity.

Château d’Esclans

Esclans is Bordelais Sasha Lichine’s extreme property in the Fréjus sub-appellation of Côtes de Provence, employing the most impressive technology in southern France including optical sorting machine and individual temperature control for every barrel. Barrel-fermented Garrus is Provence’s most expensive rosé, concentrated, very ripe (14% alcohol is normal), with a high percentage of rolle blended with grenache, designed to impress. Whispering Angel is the highly successful “entry-level” rosé.



Domaine de Rimauresq

A 60 hectare domaine near Pignans in the Var, making dynamic wines of great vibrancy in the tight and reductive style.

Domaine du Jas d’Esclans

Wines from an exceptional terroir in the Esclans Valley and its volcanic soils, near Fréjus. Certified organic.

Château de Brégançon

An elegant château by the sea in Bormes-Les-Mimosas, in the La Londe sub-appellation, with wines to match.

Château Sainte Marguerite

Fine wines from La Londe with the extra dimension of the top level.

That’s all for this Free Run. See you over the next (old) bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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!

Montresor Amarone Della Valpolicella

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The Search for Summery Wines

The Caveman SpeaksJuly 14, 2015

By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I get asked a lot for wine suggestions, especially from my friends. Here’s a conversation that I had a few weeks back. Name was changed to protect the innocent.

Carrie: Bill, we want to buy a few cases of wine to bring with us to the country. We’re there for three weeks and I don’t want to stress about wines when we are up there. Can you suggest a few Summery wines?

Bill: What’s a Summery wine? You mean like white wines?

Carrie: You know I don’t like white that much. You keep forcing them on me and yes, they’re alright but that’s not what I am talking about. You know – summer wines.

Bill: No, I have no clue about what you are talking about. You mean rosés? Most people only drink those in the summer.

Carrie: I’ll get a few, sure. But that’s lunch and afternoon drinking. I need good reds.

Bill: Summer reds? You mean as opposed to winter reds? I didn’t realize red wine was seasonal. What are you eating?

Carrie: How would I know? Stop messing with me, you aren’t being any help at all. You’re Mr. fancy sommelier wine critic.

Bill: (Pause) So really what you are asking me is if I were to take a few cases of wine with me to the country, and that’s all I could drink, what would I bring? It’s like that desert island question where if you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be? I always answer German riesling or Champagne. You should bring lots of those.

Carrie: Yes, I remember that German wine. Didn’t we drink that last time at your place? That was yummy, but I can’t remember the name.

Bill: Hey you remembered! That was the 2013 from Selbach Oster. It’s a great pre-dinner wine when you are cooking and when you eat spicy shrimp and other seafood. And if you want a deadly little sparkling wine for cheap, try the 2013 Vouvray from Vincent Careme or the 2011 Reserva Brut Cava from Juvé y Camps.

Selbach Riesling 2013Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray Brut 2013Juvé y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava 2011

Carrie: Ok, you’ve done aperitif, how about one of your pale rosés? You’ve actually convinced me on those.

Bill: Ha! No more sip sack sweet pinks for you! Go for either the Petale de Rose or the Pive Gris. They are my go to pinks these days. For a little more full-bodied rosé, try the 2014 Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel.

Pétale de Rose 2014Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2014Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel 2014

Carrie: Okay, pinks, bubbles and rieslings. What’s good with trout if hubby can actually catch a trout.

Bill: I would go with something crisp. Try an assyrtiko from either Gaia, Sigalas or my lil jewel from Argyros.

Gaia Thalassitis Assyrtiko 2013Sigalas Santorini 2013Argyros Atlantis White 2014

Carrie: Ok, I’ll try them. Now onto the important stuff – the reds.

Bill: Oh yes, the summery reds. Barbecue wines you mean.

Carrie: Exactly.

Bill: You need a few Burger wines. You guys eat Hamburgers don’t you?

Carrie: Of course.

Bill: Sounds strange but you need a red that goes well with ketchup. A red that you can chill a bit and crank it back but with a touch of green that will go well with the ketchup. My favourite ketchup wine is carmenère. Try the Cono Sur or Carmen. They have some torque as well.

Carrie: Now you are actually helping.

Bill: No problem. This is actually fun. So now a few wines to go with barbecue sauce – ribs, chicken pieces, pork chops – stuff like that. I would go new world here – California, Australia. Wines with loads of oak and lots of fruit, alcohol sweetness, especially if your sauce is a little spicy. Take a good zinfandel like the Lake Sonoma Dry Creek Valley or Ravenswood Besieged. They are a little more expensive but worth it.

Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2013Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013Lake Sonoma Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2010Ravenswood Besieged 2013

Carrie: What about steak? We eat a lot of steak.

Bill: Steak wines. You can go wherever you want. I mean any wine with some good tannin that has done some time in oak will do. (Pause) But nothing too serious. Okay I see what you mean now by summer wines. I wouldn’t go Bordeaux, Rioja or Barolo or anything like that. I would go with wines like those zins I mentioned, or for a change try some Rhône wines. Rhône reds are great, been drinking a lot of those recently. Try the Saint Cosme, Signargues from Morel or Les Halos De Jupiter.

Château de Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2013Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2013Les Halos De Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2012

Carrie: Okay perfect, you will write everything down.

Bill: Not everything. I’ll give you a few specific wines and for the rest just find wines you want to try in the same style. But bring an ice bucket, hopefully it will be hot.

Carrie: We keep the whites in the fridge.

Bill: No, the ice bucket is for your reds. If it’s hot out, make sure it is always handy so you can dunk your bottle in it to keep temperature down. Hot red wine is gross, and you always serve your reds too warm.

Carrie: You are such a snob. You make me nervous every time you come over.

Bill: Okay, I won’t bring my own glass with me this time if it makes you feel better.

Carrie: Such a total snob.



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

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


Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon


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Les choix de Nadia pour juin

Éloge du vin blanc
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Je vous écris cette semaine depuis la Grèce. Le soleil plombe, la mer est d’un bleu turquoise, l’accueil est chaleureux, les pieuvres sèchent sur les cordes à linge et les vins sont délicieux. Ce n’est pas pour vous embêter que je vous raconte tout ça, mais pour une petite mise en contexte.

Hier soir, avec mes compagnons de voyage, nous nous sommes rendus dans une taberna où nous attendait un couple de vignerons de l’Attique, ainsi que le meilleur agneau que j’aie goûté depuis longtemps. Il y avait bien quelques vins rouges sur la table pour accompagner la bête – du cabernet même –, mais à mon avis, les mariages les plus intéressants se déclinaient en une autre couleur. Mes coups de cœur de la soirée : Savatiano 2011 et Retsina du Domaine Papagiannakos. Deux vins blancs. Et il ne s’agit pas d’exceptions.

Il y a maintenant quelques années que je multiplie les essais d’accords entre les viandes rouges grillées et les vins blancs et je continue d’être surprise par les résultats. Mon meilleur match jusqu’à présent demeure l’Assyrtiko Estate du Domaine Argyros, servi avec des côtelettes d’agneau et du steak de veau grillé. Un pur régal!

Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2013 Papagiannakos Savatiano 2014En gros, si je prends la peine de vous dire ça c’est que la semaine dernière encore, j’étais dans une succursale de la SAQ et j’ai entendu des amies débattre du choix de vin pour accompagner le repas sur le barbecue. L’une ayant envie de boire du blanc; l’autre arguant que « du blanc avec des steaks, ça n’avait pas d’allure ».

Et pourquoi pas? Soit, on chante toujours les louanges des tanins pour soutenir les protéines d’une viande saignante, mais aucun accord classique ne devrait nous contraindre à boire un vin dont on n’a pas soif.

Bref, si tout comme moi, le retour des journées chaudes vous donne plus envie de vin blanc que de rouge tannique, je vous incite à faire confiance à votre instinct. Les vins blancs sont souvent beaucoup plus solides et beaucoup plus polyvalents qu’on ne le croirait.

Défiez donc les conventions, écoutez votre soif. 

Soif de blanc

Introduits pour la plupart dans la dernière promotion Cellier, une série de bons vins blancs d’été qui feront votre bonheur à table ou à l’apéritif. 

À vue de nez, on pourrait craindre un excès de soufre dans ce vin de Monacesca di Cifola, mais il n’en est rien. Le Verdicchio di Matelica 2012 offre plutôt une expression minérale, qui rappelle la nature volcanique des sols de la région. Un vin blanc de caractère, arrondi par un léger reste de sucre qui atténue son caractère tranchant.

Sur un mode un peu moins minéral et un peu plus nourri que la moyenne de l’appellation Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2012, La Staffa Rincrocca de Riccardo Baldi est à la fois sec et friand, bien mûr, mais harmonieux. À servir frais, mais pas froid.

Poursuivons dans la minéralité avec un très bon Riesling 2013, Mosel de Mönchhof. Léger comme une plume (9 % d’alcool) et plein de vitalité, il donne l’impression de croquer dans une pomme verte bien juteuse. 

La Monacesca Verdicchio Di Matelica 2012La Staffa Rincrocca Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico 2012Mönchhof Mosel Qualitätswein Riesling 2013Schreckbichl Colterenzio Pinot Grigio 2012Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris 2013La Moussière Sancerre 2014

Co-op fondée en 1960 par une trentaine de vignerons italiens, Colterenzio regroupe aujourd’hui plus de 300 producteurs et 300 hectares de vignes, dont elle tire le Pinot Grigio 2013 Südtirol Alto Adige. Un pinot grigio plus substantiel que la moyenne, pas exubérant, mais passe-partout et idéal à l’apéritif. 

Nettement plus ample et généreusement nourri par le soleil de la Californie, le Pinot gris – Pinot blanc 2013 Santa Barbara de Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) présente une attaque en bouche franche et nerveuse, mais aussi une texture onctueuse qui se mariera à ravir avec des côtelettes de porc grillées.

Dans un tout autre registre, infiniment plus subtil, complexe et nuancé, La Moussière 2014 est un pur régal. Bien plus que du sauvignon blanc, plutôt une expression pure et racée du terroir de Sancerre. L’effet de la biodynamie? Peut-être bien, affirmait Alphonse Mellot, de passage à Montréal il y a quelques semaines pour présenter une verticale de la cuvée emblématique du domaine. « Ces 15 dernières années en biodynamie nous ont permis de gagner en pureté et en profondeur et de développer ce côté salin qui fait saliver. » De 2014 à 2000, tous les vins dégustés avaient en commun une solide assise en bouche, une certaine intensité contenue et un équilibre exemplaire. Le 2000, étonnamment jeune, n’accusait pas la moindre fatigue. Mon conseil : achetez-en six bouteilles pour la cave. Votre patiente sera récompensée.

Un peu de couleur, quand même

En plus de contribuer au succès de Bellavista à titre d’oenologue, Mattia Vezzola veille sur Costaripa, la propriété qu’avait fondée son grand-père sur les rives du lac de Garde, où il élabore quelques vins effervescents, ainsi que le RosaMara 2014 Valtènesi (19,95 $), un savoureux rosé, composé de groppello, de sangiovese, de marzemino et de barbera.

On retiendra aussi le Rosé 2014 de la gamme Chartier, Créateur d’Harmonies. Fruit d’un assemblage de cinsault et de grenache, coloré, mais parfaitement sec, avec de bons goûts de fruits qu’une amertume élégante rehausse en finale.

Encore plus abordable, le Château La Lieue rosé 2014 (16,90 $) est d’une qualité irréprochable cette année encore. Issu de l’agriculture biologique, léger comme une plume, mais loin d’être faible en saveurs.

Costaripa Rosamara 2014Chartier Créateur D'harmonies Le Rosé 2014Château La Lieue Coteaux Varois En Provence 2014Domaine Ruet La Fontenelle Chiroubles 2013Affinato In Carati Scavino Barbera d'Alba 2012Bela Voda Vin Rouge 2012

Enfin, dans le dernier Cellier, les inconditionnels de vins rouges voudront aussi mettre la main sur le Chiroubles 2013 La Fontenelle du Domaine Ruet. De style plus charnu que la plupart des vins de Chiroubles, mais non moins savoureux et digeste. 

De la maison Paolo Scavino, le Barbera d’Alba 2012, Affinato in Cara (26,05 $) est un excellent vin rouge de facture moderne, ample et riche de goûts de fruits mûrs; pas très corsé, mais plein de vivacité et assez long en bouche.

Envie d’exotisme, il vous faut absolument goûter le Tikves Bela Voda 2012, de Macédoine. Fruit d’un assemblage de plavec et de vranec, un croisement entre deux vieilles variétés dalmatiennes. Bonne mâche tannique, grain assez ferme, enrobé d’une chair fruitée mûre qui plaira à la fois aux amateurs de vins européens et du Nouveau monde.


Présentation dela fonction CELLIER

Nouvel arrivage CELLIERAfin de vous guider encore mieux dans vous achats et faciliter vos emplettes, nous avons ajouté une fonction spéciale au site Chacun son vin pour nos membres Privilège.

Chaque fois que la SAQ met en vente ces nouveaux arrivages, vous n’aurez qu’à visiter notre site et cliquer sur l’onglet «Vin» puis sur «Nouvel arrivage CELLIER», dans le menu déroulant. Aussi simple que cela !

Vous pourrez ainsi lire mes notes de dégustation sur tous les vins du CELLIER, en un seul et même endroit.


Nadia Fournier

Cellier 04 juin et 11 juin

Note de la rédaction: Cet accès exclusif, ainsi que la possibilité de lire dès leur publication tous les commentaires de dégustation publiés sur Chacun son Vin, est offert à nos membres Privilège pour la somme de 40 $ par année. (Les membres inscrits bénéficiant d’un accès gratuit doivent, pour leur part, attendre 60 jours avant de pouvoir accéder à tout notre contenu.)

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 13 – Part Two

Best Bets for Dad and More of the Pink Stuff
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Although Father’s Day is the official kick-off of barbecue season, if you’re a true Canadian, you never really stopped. But surely the return of heat requires you to kick it up a notch in the refreshment category. As the rosés continue to roll out, (and they will stop, soon) we can’t get enough of their appealing, food friendly nature and their thirst-quenching properties. Once again, the majority of our picks come from the world’s most reputed pink destination, that of the south of France. The region is now producing roughly 8% of the world’s rosés which have become top priority as global demand rapidly increases. I’ll be returning to this southern destination in the next few weeks and look forward to reporting on ever-changing trends, unique finds and new ways to beat the heat.

Our Father’s Day picks encompass our most exciting finds outside of the Italian subset that was covered by John Szabo in last week’s report. A very international selection, there is sure to be something to be found for just about any personality and gifter’s price range. One of the strongest and highest scoring categories this week are the wines from Spain and Portugal so keep an eye out for great value in this growing section. David Lawrason has just returned from both of these sunny destinations and you will surely hear more from him on this subject shortly.


Whites and Sweet

Quinta Do Alqueve 2013 Tradicional, Tejo, Portugal ($14.95)

Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier 2013 Quinta Do Alqueve Tradicional White 2013David Lawrason – I have just returned from Portugal where I was very impressed by the quality improvement of white wines. This beauty from a smallish family estate in Tejo (formerly Ribatejo) 40kms northeast of Lisbon explains why things are getting so interesting. It is made from local varieties – 90% fernao pires, 10% arinto grapes that were grown at low yield and hand sorted before fermentation. It reminds a bit of viognier but more compact, subdued and nuanced somehow. Very classy white at a great price.

Laurent Miquel 2013 Nord Sud Viognier, Vin De Pays d’Oc, France ($14.95)

Sara d’Amato – A great value summer white that will stand up to at least 3/4 of what you put on the barbeque. Love the ripe, fleshy appeal of this viognier which has a refreshing backbone of vibrant acids.

Loveblock 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)

David Lawrason – It’s priced a bit above the norm for Marlborough sauvignon, but the quality is there. Erica and Kim Crawford’s Loveblock property overlooks the Awatere Valley, and uses some Awatere fruit (along with Waihopai fruit) in this wine, which provides a more compact, firm frame than we often see from Marlborough. There are also intriguing fresh herb/green notes on the nose (dill, green pepper) along with lime and green apple. Its balance is the key to my recommendation.

Max Ferd. Richter 2013 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany ($21.95)

Patricius 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú 2003 Leyda Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2013John Szabo – I suppose I’ll never tire of recommending (and drinking) the gems from the Mosel, especially from these top vineyards that have been celebrated for about 2000 years. For me, wines like these are the white equivalents of classified Médoc or grand cru red Burgundy, only, double check the price. That’s right, only here are legendary vineyards given away for $22. Best 2015-2028.
Sara d’Amato – What a find! Think your dad doesn’t like riesling? Think again – this racy gem is sure to win him over and the price is too good to be true. This centuries’ old top site produces some of the most dynamic and exhilarating rieslings on earth.

Leyda 2014 Garuma Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile ($19.95)

John Szabo – A bright, punchy, crunchy Chilean sauvignon from the genuinely cool but sunny Leyda Valley. There’s plenty of vibrancy and a nice mix of citrus and passion fruit flavours with lingering acidic tang.

Patricius 2003 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú, Hungary ($39.95)

John Szabo – This is the best tokaji to come into VINTAGES for as long as I can remember, and in fact one of the best sweet wines as well, even more astonishing considering the price. It’s a furmint-based, botrytis-affected wine from one of the leading producers in the region, which delivers the complexity that can only come with great wine and a dozen years in the cellar – three in barrel and the rest in bottle (a recent release). This is really pretty, fragrant and delicate, infinitely drinkable, rich but far from heavy or cloying. Try it with duck à l’orange or pork belly, and learn what all the fuss over tokaji in the last 500 years is about. Best 2015-2033.


Cara Nord 2013 Conca De Barbera, Catalonia, Spain ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Huge value here – an aromatic explosion, followed by a nervy, mouthwatering palate and excellent length. It’s a blend of grenache, syrah and 20% garrut (mourvèdre) the Rhône varieties also widely used throughout Catalonia, culminating as it were in some of the great wines of Priorat. Conca de Barbera neighbours Priorat to the northwest on the other side of the Montsant mountain range, a flatter terrain with limestone based soils instead of Priorat’s unique slate. Winemaker Tomas Cusine – who also makes Montsant DO red – is fashioning a reputation for dynamic, expressive wines, and this certainly explains his success.

Roux Père & Fils 2010 Vougeot Les Petits Vougeots 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($74.95)

Sara d’Amato – A wine with wonderful finesse, elegance and class. Attention fans of classical music – although the wine is much too complex to find an adequate food pairing, it would match wonderfully with the restrained but twinkly and complex nature of a Mozart concerto.

Cara Nord 2013 Roux Père & Fils Vougeot Les Petits Vougeots 1er Cru 2010 Burning Kiln M 1 Merlot 2013 Catapereiro Escolha 2012

Burning Kiln 2013 M 1 Merlot, Kiln Dried, Ontario, Canada ($34.95)

Sara d’Amato – Have a dad who likes big, bold and impactful wines? Surprise him with this tobacco kiln-dried merlot made in a rich appasimento style from the emerging Ontario region of South Coast, Norfolk County. I was impressed with the presence and structure of the wine which is surprisingly not showy or overdone. Excellent with just about anything a barbecue can handle.

Catapereiro 2012 Escolha, Vinho Regional Tejo, Portugal ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – There is such a wealth of extravagant and voluminous Portuguese and Spanish selections in this release that it was hard to find only one to put forth. Due to the excellent price/quality ratio of the Catapereiro, it wins out as the sinful find of the day.

Ninquén 2013 Antu Chilean Mountain Vineyard Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($17.95)

John Szabo – Ninquén’s Antu, from a rare volcanic mid-valley hillside site in Colchagua offers not just weight and depth, but freshness as well. For the money it’s a substantial wine, and with another 2-3 years in the cellar should evolve into an even more complex and balanced expression. Best 2015-2021.

Montebuena 2012 Cuvée KPF DOCa Rioja, Spain ($14.95)

John Szabo – Just plain tasty and lively little wine from Rioja, with real vibrancy, fresh fruit and integrated herbal spice, offering much more complexity and enjoyment than one usually finds in the price category. Serve lightly chilled and drink it up, with pleasure.

Ninquén Antu Chilean Mountain Vineyard Syrah 2013 Montebuena Cuvée K P F 2012 Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2012 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010

Two Hands 2012 Bella’s Garden Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia ($63.95)

David Lawrason – Come to papa for Father’s Day! This is an extraordinarily delicious red – powerful, seamless and oozing fruit. Yet so nicely nuanced, almost silky and balanced at the same time. There are six wines in Two Hand’s “Garden” series. This is sourced from several Barossa sites, open top fermented, aged 18 months in French oak (many Barossa shiraz are in American) and bottled without fining or filtration.

Wynns 2010 John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia ($99.95)

David Lawrason – This In-Store Discovery will not be in wide distribution but is worth tracking down – a wine I rated outstanding at 95 points. I cannot think of a much more exciting and exacting expression of cabernet sauvignon, let alone Australian cabernet sauvignon. Read my tasting note for all the descriptors, but I will say here that the BLICE quality measurement elements (balance, length, intensity, complexity and expression) line up almost perfectly. Be prepared to cellar it for a while. It really is a bit too firm to fully enjoy now but I am betting it will let go by 2018 and live much longer.


Domaine De Triennes 2014 Rosé IGP Méditerranée, Provence, France ($17.95)

John Szabo – Both of my rosé picks from this release are from Provence – there’s simply nowhere else on earth that does it as consistently, and as tastily, as the South of France. This is a confident rosé, not trying too hard to please. Classically pale, essentially dry, herbal and fruity with a generous helping of complexity.

Carte Noire 2014 Rosé Côtes de Provence, France ($17.95)

John Szabo – Another arch-classic Provençal rosé, discreet, dry, light, and flavourful.

Domaine De Triennes Rosé 2014 Carte Noire Rosé 2014 Château D'aquéria Tavel Rosé 2014 Monte Zovo Bardolino Chiaretto 2014

Château D’Aquéria 2014 Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France ($21.95) (319368)

Sara d’Amato – From the world HQ of rosé, Tavel, comes the inevitable return of Château d’Aquéria on the shelves of VINTAGES. Although the quality wavers from vintage to vintage, this incarnation is in top form and well worth the penny for serious fans of the pink.

Monte Zovo 2014 Bardolino Chiaretto, Veneto, Italy ($13.95)

Sara d’Amato – On a much more playful note, this Bardolino Chiaretto, made in northeastern Italy from similar grapes that make up the wines of Valpolicella, is like a bite of cold watermelon on a hot summer’s day. Albeit dry, it provides an abundance of refreshing and inexpensive pleasure that is simply delightful.

John Szabo will be back next week reporting on our top picks from the June 27th release. Until then, stay refreshed.

Cin, Cin!


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES June 13th, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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!

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 30 – Part One

Pinot Noir’s New World and Ontario Whites
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Nowadays I am having a barrel of fun tasting and tracking pinot noir’s global gallop. The selection coming May 30 to VINTAGES in Ontario is a clinic on the state of affairs.

When I starting following pinot noir in the mid 80s it was an almost monastic, local grape variety turning out occasionally brilliant wines on a slope called the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, France. With over 400 years of experience they had pretty much figured out that this thin-skinned, nervous and unpredictable grape variety had a knack for showing its place or origin. To taste a line-up of pinots from Burgundy from the same vintage and same producer but different appellations – a horizontal tasting – is still the most important thing an inquisitive wine fan can do for him or herself. It is an indelible lesson on terroir.

For most of the past 30 years the wine world has tended to believe that Burgundy – because it was the first and sometimes brilliant – was the only place where pinot noir could possibly be interesting and of high quality. But of course that is not true. A grape that can show terroir in one place can show terroir anywhere. And what we are now enjoying is the rooting of pinot noir in distinctive terroirs around the world.

The only unifier is a certain preferred climate where it is fairly cool through latitude, altitude or proximity to maritime influence to preserve essential acid tension and fruit purity. The pinot vine can actually grow in different soil types, where it will render different textural nuances, and although styles may vary, quality need not. That is in the hands of the winemakers, and pinot winemakers are among the most serious in the world.

I have been paying a lot of attention to New World pinot through my career – it being a focus of my first extended wine travel in 1984, in California. Yes California, where it was supposed to be too hot for pinot. But go tell that to Josh Jensen who had established Calera, Dick Graff at Chalone, the Carneros pioneers at Acacia and Saintsbury, Jim Clendenen at Sanford in Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz Mountains men like Martin Ray who planted pinot in the sixties. Even Tim Mondavi, back in his exuberant youth was enthralled by California pinot, and we opened a few together in 1984. My personal taste affair with good California pinot has continued ever since, as long as sweetness and confection do not interfere.

Most recently my attention has shifted to New Zealand, which I have visited three times in two years. I think it is the most exciting pinot region outside of Burgundy. Pinot noir is the country’s most important red variety and it grows very well in the cooler southern half of the country. There are many terroirs here, and I have gone over-length in a recent article published here to outline what I think are 24 pinot noir appellations. But I am equally intrigued by pinots in other southern hemisphere locales in the past five years, and how they show their origin. And of course I have written a lot about pinot in Canada. Even Germany, the world’s third largest producer of pinot noir (Spatburgunder) could be considered a “newish world” for pinot.

Beyond the terroir hunting, what I like most about New World pinot is a certain fruit lift, exuberance and drinkability. Great Burgundy can be ethereal, and I have had some NW pinots that get close to that as well. But what I enjoy just as much is simply drinking a fresh, yet complex and generous pinot noir. And that is what this VINTAGES collection offers. They are interesting enough to be discussed, yet generous enough to be enjoyed, ideally with a light chill, from a large, fine rimmed glass, on the deck before, during and after dinner.

Here are our picks, and interestingly almost every pinot in the release has been “picked” by one or more of us. Such is the individuality of pinot, and in a weird way, its greatest strength.

The Pinots

Auntsfield 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand ($29.95)

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Pinot Noir 2013 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012David Lawrason – I am delighted to see Southern Valleys on the label! This is a large “unofficial” but increasingly obvious sub-district of Marlborough where pinots are growing on gravel/clay soils. There are very exciting terroir-driven pinots in the five southern valleys that each might one day have their own appellation – Fairhall, Ben Morven, Omaka, Brancott, Waihopi. This is lovely, very expressive pinot from a cooler year, although still showing considerable ripeness.
Sara d’Amato – David Herd, one of New Zealand’s forefather’s of wine, was responsible for planting the first of Auntsfield’s grapes in 1873. Needless to say, Auntsfield is one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries and produces a masterful pinot noir.
John Szabo – The Cowley family now runs Auntsfield, an established regional leader in the Southern Valleys sub-region widely acknowledge as the best spot for pinot noir in Marlborough. This is a wine of pure pleasure, not massive structure, well balanced, juicy and succulent. I love the immediate drinkability; serve with a light chill. Best 2015-2020.

Rosehall Run 2013 Hungry Point Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County, Ontario ($24.95)

David Lawrason – Being a County pinot this is a light weight among others in this release, but it does have great aromatic lift and cool climate pinot cranberry-sour cherry fruit. It is not as deep as Dan Sullivan’s more expensive JCR pinot, but there is great piquancy and charm here. County to its roots.
Sara d’Amato – Every time I taste this pinot noir (now for the third time) that is quickly coming into its own, it becomes more and more enjoyable. It is produced on the legendary “Hungry Point” site which surrounds Rosehall Run and is formerly known for its inability to produce sustenance. It is now a premium, nutrient-poor growing site for coaxing out only the most concentrated flavours from the berries.

Argyle 2012 Artisan Series Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($44.95)

John Szabo – Although Argyle started off in the late 1980s as a dedicated sparkling wine producer (launched by Brian Croser of Petaluma fame and Bollinger champagne, among others), it was quickly realized that fine table pinot noir could also be produced in the region. This Reserve is made from Argyle’s top lots in the Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs and their predominantly volcanic-Jory soils, yielding a perfumed, lightly floral, silky-textured pinot, well-tuned to this ripe vintage. Best 2015-2020.
David Lawrason – This nicely defines Oregon’s pinot place, a cross-hatching of ripeness and tension. Look for pretty aromas of fresh red cherry jam, spice, herbs and light toast. There is elevated youthful tannin, so I would give it a year or two – and it should last admirably for five.

Argyle Artisan Series Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2012 Saint Clair Premium Pinot Noir 2013 O'Leary Walker Pinot Noir 2012

Montes 2012 Limited Selection Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($14.95)

David Lawrason – Pinot Noir in Chile is a relatively recent endeavour, and not yet considered a whole-hearted success. But Chilean pinot is developing a signature that echoes its cabernets and carmeneres reds, showing lifted blackcurrant, fragrant rosemary like herbaceousness derived from its local “garrigue” called boldos. This is ultra-fresh, juicy and lively. And very well priced.

Saint Clair 2013 Premium Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – I was instantly enamored by this juicy and succulent Marlborough pinot noir offering plenty of verve and a very pleasant note of red currant jelly. This consistently good value producer is most known in Ontario for their sauvignon blanc and it is no surprise that their pinot noir is of equal and perhaps better quality.

O’Leary Walker 2012 Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The western edge of the forest clad hills above the city of Adelaide offer the best pinot noir conditions in all of South Australia. O’Leary Walker is based in the Clare Valley two hours away but the family has Adelaide Hills holdings with vines planted in the 90s. Very lifted aromatics here and it is fresh and juicy with considerable tannin.

Frei Brothers Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Jekel Pinot Noir 2012 Migration Pinot Noir 2013

Frei Brothers 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, USA ($27.95)

John Szabo – This nicely captures the approachable nature of RRV pinot without slipping into excesses of fruit, oak or ripeness. I like the punchy and edgy nature, with balanced fruit and alcohol, herbal and earthy character playing nicely to all preference camps. Best 2015-2020.

Jekel 2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California  ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – Bill Jekel is well regarded as an influential and boundary-pushing producer who was instrumental in the creation of a Monterey AVA. If you enjoy this both substantial and elegant pinot, the Jekel riesling is also one to watch for.

Migration 2013 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, USA ($44.95)

David Lawrason – Migration is the Sonoma wing of the Duckhorn flock. And it has the lovely raspberry and florality that I love in Russian River pinot, with just a touch of evergreen foresty character. It’s delicate, fruity and well balanced.

Ontario Whites

Hidden Bench 2013 Estate Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($23.95)

Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 Redstone Limestone Vineyard South Riesling 2012 Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2013John Szabo – One of the province’s top riesling producers, Hidden Bench regularly delivers quality far above the average, proving there’s no substitute for meticulous farming. The 2013 estate bottling is clean, pure, crisp, dry and firmly structured, and even though this is the “mere” estate blend, it could easily sit among the top single vineyard bottlings in the region.
David Lawrason – This is a very complete and complex riesling; a dandy statement to riesling’s prowess on the Beamsville Bench.

Redstone 2012 Limestone Vineyard South Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)

David Lawrason – Redstone is a Tawse owned property that will begin to make its mark in the summer of 2015 when it opens, complete with a restaurant. This riesling comes from the Limestone Vineyard over near Flat Rock on Twenty Mile Bench. The ripe 2012 vintage has provided generous peach, honey and petrol character.

Lailey 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula Canada, Ontario ($14.95)

John Szabo – Unoaked chardonnay is rarely a category that excites, but Derek Barnett has managed to coax an unusual amount of flavour out of this 2013. It’s vaguely nutty and creamy, but still lively and crisp and genuinely dry, and altogether more “serious” than the price would imply. In other words, it’s a great buy for serious Tuesday night sipping.

Other Whites and Rosé

Château De Sancerre 2013 Sancerre, Loire Valley, France ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The only ‘chateau’ in Sancerre is owned by Marnier-Lapostolle, the company that produces Grand Marnier liqueur, and also owns Casa Lapostolle in Chile. This is a beautifully refined, delicate and fresh sauvignon to reserve for delicate seafood occasions.

Maison Roche De Bellene 2012 Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy, France ($20.95)

Sara d’Amato – Tremendous value alert! This entry level Burgundy is anything but simple exhibiting a leesy texture, fresh acids and delicately integrated oak. Although this chardonnay would certainly prove versatile with food, I recommend sipping on its own, barely below room temperature.

Château De Sancerre 2013 Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Gewurztraminer 2010 Castello Di Ama Rosato 2014

Domaines Schlumberger 2010 Kessler Gewurztraminer, Alsace Grand Cru, France ($33.95)

John Szabo – Gewurztraminer is the most planted grape in this 28ha grand cru in the village of Guebwiller, and Schlumberger its most emblematic producer. The pink sandstone seems tailor-made to produce a terrifically rich, exotically ripe and plush, opulent style, such as this. The 2010 vintage also yielded wines with brilliant acids, which in this case beautifully balance the considerable residual sugar. A textbook lesson in Alsatian GW. Best 2015-2022.

Castello Di Ama 2014 Rosato, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)

Sara d’Amato – Lending some credibility to the rosé category, the famed Chianti Classico producer, Castello di Ama, has put forth an undeniably sophisticated blend of merlot and sangiovese. Sourced from high-quality, low-yielding old vines, this rosé was certainly not a mere afterthought, as are many commercial pink wines.


That is enough for this week, and what a busy week it has been at WineAlign. We have published an Ontario Wine Report update on Prince Edward County, and have released our 7th instalment of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”. (We get better folks!). We are also ramping up for the National Wine Awards of Canada that are just a month away in Niagara Falls. We are pleased to announce that Jamie Goode will be joining us again from the UK. British Columbia wineries are rapidly reaching their shipping deadline and the response has been excellent, so now it’s time for Ontario wineries to ante-up and register their wines. In recent years the medal performance of B.C. and Ontario has nicely evened out.

John will be here next week covering the substantial southern Rhône Valley collection on the May 30 release.

Until then.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 30, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
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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