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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 8th, Part One

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

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

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

Buyers’ Guide for August 8th 2015: Loire Valley

Domaine Bonnard Sancerre Rouge 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buyers Guide for August 8th 2015: Smart Whites

Wegeler Sweet Riesling 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From VINTAGES August 8th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

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


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Season 5, Table 12 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

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

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

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

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

Table 12

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

Score Card:

Advancing to the Semi Finals are:

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

Group 2: John Szabo, Jennifer Huether and David Lawrason

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

Score Card

Table 12

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

Sara d’Amato

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

Sara d'Amato

Bill Zacharkiw

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

Bill Zacharkiw

Will Predhomme

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

will

 

The Scoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wines of Argentina – Wine Tasting and BBQ

Toronto, July 29th – The Consulate General of Argentina and Wines of Argentina invite you to:

An Argentine Wine Jam & BBQ!

Wines of Argentina

Located in the Southern Cone of the American Continent, with a population of 42 million inhabitants and a territory that is four times larger than France, Argentina is one of the world’s nature reserves. Privileged with outstanding natural richness and extraordinarily diverse landscapes, Argentina boasts high mountains and plains, lush vegetation and extreme deserts, forests and steppes, glaciers and waterfalls.

This wealth of natural ecosystems includes vast grapegrowing regions stretching at the foot of the Andean strip, to the West of the country, from latitude 22° south to latitude 42° south. The cultivated area covers more than 538,071 acres. Argentina’s vineyards are at varying altitudes with some as high as 3000 meters.

It is in this context, and in the course of five centuries, that Argentina has developed such an extraordinary wine industry. The altitude, the wide range of temperatures, the local know-how, the new technologies and a deeply-rooted popular wine culture lend their wines their unique identity and quality.

 

Purchase Tickets here

Wines of Argentina

 

Experience this unique environment for the creation of great wines

Join us to taste exciting wines from 20+ wineries from Argentina. Enjoy succulent bites and an ‘asado’ style BBQ. All set to the great tunes from BELLOSOUND

Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2105

Time: 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Place: Snell Hall, St. James Cathedral Centre, 65 Church St., Toronto, ON M5C 2E9

Price: $65 (plus applicable fees) – Save $5.00 with Promo code: WINEALIGN

 

Purchase Tickets here

“Think Argentina is all about malbec? Here’s your chance to discover the diversity of this vast country not only within the varied, new sub-regions that produce malbec but also the unique expression of both indigenous and international varieties. With some of the world’s most elevated vineyards and arid climates, it is no wonder that Argentina is home to some of the most unique and appealing wines in the world. Although only recently declared, wine has been long been the national beverage of Argentina – a country which has an impressively long history of wine consumption. Learn about some of the world’s most iconic wine personalities who have pushed boundaries, built communities and risked it all to forge new ground.” – Sara d’Amato, WineAlign

Las_compuertas-Mendoza


Afternoon Trade Sessions

The Evolution of Argentina – A Trade tasting for professionals

A tasting of wines from the ‘new’ Argentina showcasing wines from 20+ wineries, some new to market.

Wednesday, July 29 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Snell Hall, St. James Cathedral Centre, 65 Church St., Toronto, ON M5C 2E9

Open to Media and Trade Professionals – by invitation only – please register here prior to attending.

Wines of Argentina Masterclass:  The Evolution of Argentina

Innovation in the vineyard and the winery. Moderated by Sara d’Amato, Sommelier and WineAlign Critic, and Marcelo Pelleriti, winemaker at Monteviejo.

Rock Talks: Terroir developments
Altitude: It Never Mattered More!
Varietal & style trends: What’s next?

Wednesday, July 29 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The Lecture Room, St. James Cathedral Centre, 65 Church St., Toronto, ON M5C 2E9

Limited seating – Open to Media and Trade Professionals – by invitation only – please register here prior to attending.

 

Spread the word.

Web:              www.winesofargentine.org
Facebook:   Wines of Argentina
Twitter:        @winesofarg

Please Drink Responsibly


An Argentine Wine Jam and BBQ

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Season 5, Table 10 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

A Proper Pinot Noir (aka Blind Taster’s Treat)

The oh-so serious sport of wine tasting is receiving a major reality check in Season 5 of WineAlign’s “So, You Think You Know Wine?”. Without any clues, host Seán Cullen takes each table through the swirling, sniffing, and gurgling ritual of wine tasting – asking them to correctly identify the grape, country, region, vintage, and price of the wine.

Table 10 brings together Sara d’Amato, Véronique Rivest, Brad Royale and chef Chris McDonald. Véronique has her heart set on pinot noir from the very first sniff and leads off with that strong suggestion. Then, for the others, it comes down to a contest of vintage, country and region. The one thing they all agree on is that this is a lovely wine.

Click here to watch Table 10 or read on to learn more about the contestants and the scoring method.

Score Card:

Tensions are mounting as the scores have now been released. ONLY the top six will advance to the playoffs. Here’s a look at how the contestants are doing so far, not including today’s episode.

Score up to Table 9

Table 10

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

Sara d’Amato

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

Sara d'Amato

Brad Royale

Brad has been involved in retail and restaurant management for fifteen years and he is now the Wine Director for Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts. He has won multiple awards for his wine programs. In 2012 Brad launched his own wine label, Kitten Swish…it’s delicious.

Brad Royale

Véronique Rivest

Véronique won second place at the prestigious Sommelier du Monde Competition in 2013, in fact, she is the first woman ever to have made it to the podium. She is a wine columnist for Ottawa’s Le Droit newspaper and Radio-Canada and she has just opened her own wine bar in Gatineau, Quebec called Soif.

 

Véronique Rivest

Chris McDonald

Chris has worked in Toronto restaurants for 40 years. He started out as a busboy and quickly traveled up the ranks eventually becoming chef and owner of two of Toronto’s most loved restaurants – Avalon and Cava.  He’s now taking a well-deserved break before he starts his next adventure.

Chris McDonald

The Scoring

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

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

Let the games begin! Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch table 8.

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

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

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

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

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


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Balderson Cheese

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27 – Part Two

Canada is Bigger than Canada Day
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

As VINTAGES releases its token selection of new Canadian wines this week ahead of Canada Day – all ten of them among 120 new releases – John, Sara, Michael and I plus other WineAlign critics are in Niagara judging over 1400 Canadian wines at the National Wine Awards of Canada. I have never been one to overplay patriotism as a reason to drink Canadian wine, firmly believing that quality must be the driver of its success. These annual awards are a significant tool to that end, helping winemakers benchmark themselves, and providing consumers with the names of those wines that stand out. We will certainly be displaying the winners in the weeks ahead. Your inbox will be buzzing with the news.

But I am disappointed that VINTAGES, during Canada’s national week, has not greatly bumped up its Canadian representation. Why not devote an entire release to Canadian wine? There are certainly enough very good wines out there from B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Well here’s why it’s not happening. The LCBO has a template that prescribes how many wines, from which countries/regions, get released every two weeks. And it’s really all about store/shelf management – keeping the same number of SKUs in the same locations within the same stores week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Arguably it is for the shopping ease and familiarity of consumers, but it’s more for the convenience of unionized staff. Heaven forbid they would have to create a new, enticing display of 100 great new Canadian wines on Canada Day. Much easier to plaster big very expensive posters in the window and call that a promotion.

I am not blaming any individual within the LCBO, except perhaps its leadership. The LCBO’s intrinsic and historic inflexibility is one reason that the Canadian wine industry – and those of all other countries in fact – are crying for some form of privatization. A model that will allow at least a tripling of SKUs sold within a network of stores that includes supermarkets, cold beer and wine stores, fine wine stores and regionally dedicated shops (these all exist elsewhere in Canada). A network that will allow the elasticity required to manage the ebb and flow of a product so wonderfully diverse as wine.

This summer I am more hopeful than ever. We are on the eve of major change in Ontario. By September ex-TD Bank chairman Ed Clark, mandated by Kathleen Wynn’s Liberals, is supposed to propose how wine in supermarkets might work. Which of course will be a welcome start when it finally does come about. But as listed above, supermarkets are only one piece of a much more diverse template that is required.

The Ontario wine industry itself is strongly in favour of independent wine shops selling both Ontario and imported wine. This a bold and crucial stance, because as I said, patriotism should not be the only reason that we buy Canadian wine. It must compete head to head in a fair retail environment, and at least some of Ontario’s winemakers have figured that out – often those that do best in the National Wine Awards.

My greatest hope is that Ed Clark also believes this. That he beats back the howls of the vested interests who seek advantage for themselves over what makes sense for the industry at large and the consumers it serves. Wine in supermarkets is a huge first step, but independent stores must soon follow.

As an interim step the existing private retail licenses granted to the large Ontario wineries before 1988 must be re-distributed among the many interests selling Canadian and imported wines. Ontario’s international trade partners cannot, and will not, disagree. When it is proven to work – which it will – many more licenses need to be made available. As many as the market demands. And Ontario will finally join the rest of the globe in terms of natural wine retailing. We are still, as we speak, an anomaly on this planet. And we are widely ridiculed.

We ask you to celebrate Canada Day with a bottle of Canadian wine, but in the true spirit of Canadian globalism, if you decide that a wine from France, Chile or New Zealand is what you want in the moment then do so without guilt. Canada welcomes all. Canada is bigger than Canada Day. Every person contributing to wine production somewhere in the world matters too.

Here are our picks from the June 27th release, plus a couple of recently tasted Canadian selections from VINTAGES Essentials

Canadian Wines

Vieni Estates 2012 Foch Vintage Reserve Ontario Canada ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Canada’s wine industry began with hybrids like marechal foch, and a few remaining old vine versions garner an almost cult-like following (eight were entered in this year’s wine awards). This deep, gnarly, rustic red explains their curious durability.
John Szabo – This is one of the best hybrid wines I’ve come across in long-term memory, great for the back yard or cottage with is smoky, forest floor, resinous herbs and dried plum flavours.

Calamus 2013 Steely Unoaked Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($14.95)

David Lawrason – Unoaked chardonnay is often boring, giving us no reason not to drink pinot grigio instead (which can also be boring). This is a nicely fresh, quite fulsome unoaked chardonnay with ripe pear, florals and honey. Calamus has re-designed its labels and found some new energy  in its wines of late.

Vieni Foch Vintage Reserve 2012 Calamus Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 Sperling Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2013 Malivoire Musqué Spritz 201413th Street Cabernet Merlot 2012

Sperling 2013 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley ($28.95)

David Lawrason – Born and raised on the family’s vineyard in East Kelowna, Anne Sperling is better known in Ontario as the veteran winemaker at Southbrook and formerly Malivoire. She also commutes home to BC to tend Sperling Vineyards. This is a quite delicate, off-dryish gewurz  from estate vines well positioned on a south-facing hill overlooking west Kelowna and the lake.

Malivoire 2014 Musqué Spritz Beamsville Bench, ($19.95)

John Szabo – Lively, fresh, off-dry, and yes, spritzy, Malivoire’s 2014 Musqué Spritz is an infinitely drinkable, aperitif-friendly white that goes down with alarming ease. A great wine to have around the house for the summer, for those impromptu afternoon occasions.

13th Street 2012 Cabernet Merlot, Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

David Lawrason – The 2012 vintage is perhaps the best all ‘round vintage Niagara has seen to date. Having been dealt nicely ripened fruit, JP Colas has delivered a quite lifted complex cab/merlot blend with notes of slightly stewed raspberry currant, herbs, leather, grilled red pepper and fresh herbs.

Culmina 2012 Hypothesis, Okanagan Valley ($39.95)

David Lawason – Since departing Jackson-Triggs when the label was sold to US-based Constellation Brands, Donald Triggs and his family have been carving out an ambitious new vineyard project on the benches of the south Okanagan’s Golden Mile. This is a very serious, sculpted, deep merlot-based red.
Sara d’Amato – From the recently delimited, sub-appellation of Golden Mile Bench, this BC Bordeaux blend has the complexity of left bank Bordeaux but the appealing, generous nature of a new world. Youthful and spicy but with excellent structure for mid to long term cellaring.

Culmina Hypothesis 2012 Malivoire Chardonnay 2012 Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2013 Queylus Reserve Du Domaine Merlot Cabernet Franc 2010

Malivoire 2012 Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

John Szabo – Made from essentially all Beamsville Bench fruit, Malivoire’s 2012 is a typically ripe and flowery, gently oaked, lively and well-balanced chardonnay. Acids are crisp and lively, and fruit is in the ripe orchard spectrum. Lovely wine, well priced.

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95)

John Szabo – Cave Spring’s 2013 riesling is just off-dry but balanced, lively and vibrant, with arch-typical riesling profile – as reliable as they come.

Queylus 2010 Reserve du Domaine Merlot Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($39.95)

Sara d’Amato – A head turning Bordeaux blend from the hands of one of Canada’s most celebrated consultant winemakers, Thomas Bachelder. From rose and violets to blackcurrants and plums, this fleshy but structured palate is swoon-worthy.

International Reds

Finca Sophenia 2013 Reserve Malbec, Tupungato, Mendoza ($17.95)

David Lawrason – This is a very pretty, floral and lifted malbec that doesn’t succumb to oak from the high country at the north end of Mendoza’a Uco Valley.

Château Pey De Pont 2010, Médoc, Bordeaux $21.95

David Lawrason – The 2010 vintage continues to deliver great value among the petits chateaux. With well layered currants, spice, herbs, vanilla and a hint of maturing leather, this is ready to roll and should hold over the next three to five years.

Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec 2013 Château Pey De Pont 2010 Gran Passione Rosso 2013 Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux La Tour Sarrasine Gigondas 2012

Gran Passione 2013 Rosso, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)

David Lawrason – Lots here for $16! This is a very smooth, ripe and easy going ripasso with very good density. It has a nicely lifted nose of plum/cherry fruit, chocolate, some underlying meatiness and herbs.

Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux 2012 La Tour Sarrasine Gigondas, Rhône France ($28.95)

John Szabo – A complete southern Rhône package here, classy and compelling, drinking well now, but should also hold a decade in the cellar quite comfortably. Best 2015-2025.

Il Molino Di Grace 2007 Il Margone Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany. Italy ($34.95)

John Szabo – There’s a lot of wine here for the money; this drinks up there with Brunello costing twice as much. I love the fully mature, earthy, mushroom and wet clay/wood- oxidative feel. There’s a touch of funk here to be sure, but it melds seamlessly with the rest of the ensemble. Best 2015-2022.

Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux La Tour Sarrasine Gigondas 2012 Il Molino Di Grace Il Margone Riserva Chianti Classico 2007 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah 2012 Sileni The Triangle Merlot 2013

2012 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah AC Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France ($18.95)

John Szabo – Here’s a fine value, lively and authentic syrah, floral and very pretty, with elegant tannins and vibrant acids. Very classy, and really well priced.  Best 2015-2020.
Sara d’Amato – Costieres de Nimes’ milder climate sandwiched between the southern Rhone and the Languedoc provides a haven for finicky syrah, allowing it to express itself in all its peppery and floral glory. An excellent value that has crowd-pleasing appeal.

Sileni 2013 The Triangle Merlot, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – Since the late 90s, Sileni has been producing a wide range of wines in the milder climate of Hawke’s Bay. This standout merlot shows terrific concentration and fruit but with a nervy acidic backbone that makes it versatile with food.

Ermete Medici & Figli Concerto 2013And for Something Special on the Patio This Summer…..

Medici Ermete & Figli 2013 Arte E Concerto Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna  Italy ($19.95)

John Szabo – A long-time standard-bearer for Lambrusco, Medici Ermete’s Concerto, made from the Salamino member of the vast lambrusco family of grapes, is a deeply-coloured, very fruity and engaging wine, essentially dry (10 grams of residual sugar) and light-mid weight on the palate (11.5% alcohol). I like the dark berry flavours, the floral and peppery notes reminiscent of syrah done in carbonic maceration. Decent length. Perfect for the charcuterie board (is it a coincidence that the grape is named salamino, after the salami-like shape of its bunches?).

From VINTAGES June 27th, 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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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

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Argentina Part I : Rewarding Freshness

by Treve Ring, Sara d’Amato & Rhys PenderJune 22, 2015

 

Over the past seven months, five of our WineAlign contributors travelled to Argentina. We are all familiar with the Canadian wine industry’s version of Argentina wines, based on what we see on our shelves and tables. That said, we realize we’re tasting through a filter shaped by trends, markets and, often, laziness. So each of us journeyed south to discover for ourselves what was really happening, beyond what our importers and our borders allow entry. What we found was enlightening, affirming and interesting, enough so that we want to share our discoveries with you. If you’re not seeing these wines and themes on your shelves, ask for them. Seek them out. The only way to change the flow is to be in the know.In the first of our two-part series, we cast an appreciative, closer look at the fresher, brighter wines being produced in Argentina. Sara d’Amato saw very well the results of this trend as a judge at the 2015 Argentina Wine Awards, especially within the iconic and omnipresent malbecs. Diving deeper, Rhys Pender, MW trumpets the country’s new found freshness through their greater use of altitude and lesser use of oak. ~ TR

 

Canucks in Argentina

 

Sara d’Amato
Judging the “Empowerment of Women” Argentina Wine Awards of 2015

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Earlier this year, I was invited to judge the best of Argentina’s wines over a week’s stay in Mendoza followed by a whirlwind tour of the country’s extensively spread-out wine regions. Beyond the obvious lure of the offer, what was most intriguing was the topic of the awards: “The Empowerment of Women in Wine”. For the past nine years, the Argentina Wine Awards have chosen a yearly theme. For example, a previous year’s theme involved exclusively Masters of Wine as judges and another year, a panel made up entirely of journalists. This year, women were to exclusively make up the judging panel, an opportunity I could not pass up.

For ten years now I’ve been judging wine competitions and I am often the sole woman on any individual panel, partially due to the fact there are far fewer women in the industry than men. However, the tide is rapidly changing, especially in North America. Here in Ontario, the enrolment in the Niagara College Wine & Viticulture program this year is 17 women to 17 men.

Tasked with the challenge of choosing the best wines of Argentina, I think we women of the jury were also hoping to find some insights into women and wine, and to explore the age-old question of whether women taste differently than men.

We were aided by a guest judge from the Argentinian industry on each of our panels. Some were winemakers and winery owners such as the influential and formidable Susana Balbo and Laura Catena and others were top sommeliers such as Flavia Rizzuto at CAVE in Buenos Aires. Our ability to pick up on regional subtleties was largely due to the guidance of these very talented and in-the-know locals.

The Empowerment of Women in Wine

As for the jury, I would be remiss not to mention the names of each of the 12 members of the international jury as they make up some of the most important voices in the industry today. I was joined by two highly accomplished fellow Canadians: Barbara Philip MW, European Portfolio Manager for the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) and Shari Mogk Edwards, Vice President Sales, Products and Merchandising LCBO; from the UK, Jancis Robinson MW herself led the charge and from Germany, Felicity Carter, Editor of one of Europe’s most influential wine publications, Meininger’s; from Finland, Essi Avelan, who is easily the world’s foremost expert on sparkling wine; from the US, Christy Canterbury MW, writing for top publications such as Decanter, TimAtkin and Wine Enthusiast along with Senior Editor of Wine Enthusiast, Susan Kostrzewa; from Asia, Megumi Nishida, Tokyo’s leading female wine voice, writer and importer along with Annette Scarfe MW from Singapore; from South America, Suzana Barelli, leading Sommelier from San Paolo, Brazil and winemaker Cecilia Torres Salinas of Chile. Needless to say, I was in excellent company.

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Jane Hunt MW, Sara d’Amato & Jancis Robinson MW

We had five days in which to carefully examine 700 wines, an exacting, stamina-testing and very difficult assignment. As you can imagine, malbec was center stage and with judging as many big red wines as we did in the day, palate fatigue presents a challenge – hence the need for big lunches and capping the wines to 60-90 daily.

When all was said and done, the Awards were announced at an energy-charged evening ceremony and more than a few trends manifested themselves:


Malbec and Medals

IMG_0042Malbec is Argentina’s highest card and it is played throughout the country’s vast regions. The grape’s most esteemed expression is that of the high altitude Uco Valley in Mendoza. Over the course of the week, our panel learned to discern characteristics of these high altitude plantings that expressed the best vibrancy, sometimes a leaner profile and peppery, wild flower aromatics. Indeed, many of our highest scoring wines came from this region. One of our top finds was from the Tupungato region of the west Uco Valley from Rigolas winery. The project is being consulted on by Paul Hobbs who is a prolific advisor in Mendoza outside of his own project of Vina Cobos. The Quinto malbec took home top honors with a memorably aromatic richness of fruit and exceptional balance.

Surprisingly, not one single malbec was awarded a “regional trophy”, given to the highest scoring wine of a particular region. Other varietals like petit verdot and cabernet franc along with red blends were given top billing. The malbecs were incredibly varied mainly based on the multitude of sub-regions in which they are produced. Not until very recently have these sub-regions been listed on the label and we are already beginning to see them in Canada. Many more smaller producers rather than large conglomerates received awards, with leaner, drier more aromatic styles of malbec favoured.

The results beg the question, did these dramatic differences from previous years have anything to do with “the female palate” or did they have more to do with stylistic changes related to producers and changing tastes worldwide? Did the fact that this year proved the lowest scoring year in terms of gold medals awarded have anything to do with a more “discerning female palate”? They certainly could but I would tend to weight the changing worldwide styles and preferences of critics and consumers just as heavily or more than any differences due to the sex of the tasters.

The only true difference I can state as to our female judging is that, as master organizer Jane Hunt MW of the Argentina Wine Awards can attest, the women of the jury were able to achieve consensus more rapidly than previous years, were more decisive and diplomatic with each other, were able to stay focused and were more cohesive in their scores.

Tannat

What made us most excited? A real shocker to many of us: tannat. Outside of France, it is rare to find enough of this grape produced in a single varietal to make up a whole flight of wines. These examples should have been tough and mean but instead were generous, aromatic and appealing and still characteristically forceful. What a difference in expression here! A top, gold medal example came from the northern reaches of Argentinian wine producing country, from the small, high altitude dessert valley of Cafayate in the vineyards of El Porvenir de Cafayate. At these altitudes of well over 2,000 meters, the UV index is high but the diurnal temperature shift is extreme with frigid nights contributing to the preservation of acids. In this region, cabernet sauvignon also is divinely expressed but so little is produced in comparison with the rest of the country that few will find their way abroad.

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Bonarda

Argentina’s workhorse grape, bonarda, has only recently been usurped by malbec as Argentina’s most planted varietal. It is a vigorous varietal that can take a great deal of sunlight. Top examples can be produced with little effort. Not surprisingly, these wines are often of great value, fruity, approachable and easy to appreciate although often lacking in complexity. From the Santa Rosa region of eastern Mendoza, densely packed by an extraordinary number of wineries and plantings, our top bonarda, Guarda from winery SinFin, finds its home. SinFin is a mid-size, family-owned boutique producer focused on high quality production that was well recognized in this year’s competition. At a lower elevation of 700 meters, such as this example, bonarda thrives in the heat and sunlight offering generous fruit for a relatively small price.

Torrontés

Torrontés proved to be a much smaller category than expected. Many of the top examples come from the smaller northern producing regions of Salta and Cafayate. At those extreme elevations, torrontés not only has impressive aromatics but also more acidity and often more subtlety. The Mendozian examples often lacked character and were sometimes manipulated with oak to add flavour and richness at the expense of delicacy and purity of fruit.

Sparkling

Finally, the value in sparkling wine could not be overlooked. With close to 80 wineries now producing sparkling wine in Argentina and big hitters such as Moet & Chandon in the picture, Argentina’s quickly burgeoning bubbles continued to take us by surprise. Although we found that in some cases, the sweetness levels were questionable even in the Brut Nature or Extra Brut categories, many fine, honest examples did exist such as the top scoring Brut Nature from Trivento winery from Mendoza’s Uco Valley.

So at the end of the day, do we women taste differently? Although the variables were too great to come to any sort of fact-based conclusion, I do believe that our diplomatic approach to tasting in groups of women was unique and that our commitment to finding balance and freshness in wine was unwavering. In the end, I was much less interested in the answer than I was to begin with. Although the results may have been surprising to some, I think most would agree that the strong, experienced and dynamic group of judges were able to pull, from the multitude of entries, the finest examples from across the country, regardless of the sex of the tasters.


Rhys Pender, MW
Argentina’s New Found Finesse

IMG_0172Finesse and Argentina are not words that have traditionally been used together. In fact, Argentinian wine shot to popularity in Canada because of the fact that its wines were full bodied, rich and red at a time when big body, big alcohol, big oak and jammy big ripeness was what consumers were looking for. However, times have changed in Canada and elsewhere, and big is no longer better. Argentinian winemakers are looking to find a new, lighter, elegant side to their wines, and they are having some success.

It is not necessarily an easy task to make lighter, more refreshing wines in what is a warm to hot climate. Picking early may result in lower alcohol but if the tannins and flavours are not ripe the resulting wine will not be any good. There needs to be a balance and the Argentines need to find that sweet spot of keeping their naturally generous fruit flavours without being over the top.

The number one way that Argentina is finding success is by going up, up in altitude or to wherever the cooler weather naturally keeps more acidity and slows down ripening. Hot spots right now are the Uco Valley and Luján de Cuyo, sub-regions of Mendoza, Pedernal in San Juan and new areas being explored far to the north at staggering altitudes in Salta province around Cafayate and Molinos. The cooler temperatures allow the grapes to be harvested while ripe but with lower alcohol levels and the flavours are less jammy and more elegant. Combine this with mineral soils in some areas and the wines are much fresher. Argentinian appellations can be confusing but if you see any of the above mentioned names on the label you should be looking at the more restrained side of the country’s offerings.

Another big trend that is encouraging to see and one that is having a big impact on the wines is the use of oak, or the non-use of oak to be exact. Many producers reported pulling back and using both less oak as well as larger and older barrels to avoid overpowering the wines and allowing the bright, vibrant fruit to show through. Wines such as Trapiche Pure are testament to the success of this shining new style.

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Many have questioned if there is such a thing as Argentina beyond big, ripe, rustic malbec. Based on my travels and tasting, it certainly seems there is. Smart producers are figuring out how not to throw out the baby with the bath water, by keeping the fruit ripeness that comes naturally but stopping it from being too much. The wines, as a result, are fresher, more finessed and infinitely more drinkable than ever before.

~

Next month: In Part II of this series, David Lawrason shines a light on cabernet franc’s ascension, while Anthony Gismondi takes us on a latitudinal tour of Argentina, spotlighting locations along the way. I will take a look at wines that may be outside of your current viewfinder, like Argentine sparkling.

Salud!
Treve Ring


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Wines of Argentina - Wine Jam & BBQ

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Buy The Case: Treasury Wine Estates

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario

BuyTheCaseLOGOimage

Each month we will taste wines submitted by one importing agent. WineAlign core critics will independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews will be posted to WineAlign. We will then independently recommend wines to appear in our Buy The Case report. Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.

These recommended wines can only be purchased by the case from importers registered in the LCBO’s Consignment Program. They are ‘already landed and stocked’ wines that can be delivered directly to your restaurant, home or office. For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.

June – Treasury Wine Estates

Treasury Wine Estates is a global wine company with a large portfolio including some of the world’s most recognised wine brands. Names like Penfolds, Stags’ Leap Winery, Etude, Wynns and Wolf Blass are regularly found in the LCBO and VINTAGES, but in addition many others are available through their consignment program. Four WineAlign critics sat down in late May to taste a dozen Treasury submissions. Here are our recommendations, grouped loosely under reasons why we would buy the wine by the case.

Click on the wine name or bottle image to see full reviews by the WineAlign team. Prices shown below are retail and do not include taxes (licensee prices may be less). Treasury has submitted their agency profile with more details below.

Restaurant Pours by the Glass

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($22.95)

Etude Pinot Gris 2013 Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011Steve Thurlow – A very typical Chianti with mild aromas and a soft midweight fruity palate that will work well with a wide variety of meat and cheese dishes. It is supple and smooth on the palate but there is just the right amount of acidity for freshness and some firm tannin for grip. It finishes dry with good to very good length. Best with food.
Michael Godel – This Tuscan offers the best of both worlds, in two ways. First, this is Sangiovese made by an old wine making family steeped in tradition under the conglomerate ownership of a very large wine company that supports with modern infrastructure. Second, the wine is rich, modern and approachable with accents that reek of old world style. Sometimes wine with a foot each in the past and the present is a very good thing. Ideal for the licensee in need of wines with broad, immediate and accessible appeal.

Cellaring Wine or Gifting Wine

Etude 2013 Pinot Gris, Carneros, California ($39.95)

John Szabo – Etude is one of the classier operations in Carneros, always focused on elegance and refinement. This is a wine to buy a case of, keep a few bottles for yourself, and give the rest away to your close, wine-savvy friends with a nudge and a wink (they wouldn’t likely spend $40 on a bottle of California pinot gris, which means they would miss out on this lovely wine, perfect at the table with anything lightly spiced and aromatic herb-infused). You’ll become their go-to wine source, if you weren’t already.
Michael Godel – If not the first to do so, this Carneros offers a rare comparison in the way it intimates with near pitch-perfect exactitude the kind of Pinot Gris experience that comes from a similarly priced, lieu-dit, ‘premier cru’ Alsatian. Etude’s stylish PG should be considered a case buy without hesitation, to enjoy once a year for the next dozen. Or, convince a wine geek friend or two to split the case with you.

Function Wines or Personal House Wines

Chateau St. Jean 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Usa ($19.95)

Colores Del Sol Malbec 2012 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012John Szabo – This is a smart option when a foolproof, widely appealing wine is required, like those larger functions (with decent budgets) with important but unknown guests that you need to impress. This has the star power of both California and cabernet sauvignon, coupled to name brand recognition amongst those in the know, for a powerful and attractive combination.
Sara d’Amato – A touch pricey for an everyday house wine but one to stock up on for when barbecued steak is on the menu. There is an impressive amount of substance and depth here and without sweetness or the use excessive oak.
Steve Thurlow – This is a pretty cabernet with some nice floral tones to the cassis fruit and oak spice. The midweight palate is soft and juicy and dry with some mild tannin on the finish. Good to very good length. Good value for an appealing Californian cabernet.
Michael Godel – Having first tasted this at dinner with winemaker Margo Van Staaveren, what stood out so profoundly was this simple, ‘entry-level’ California Cabernet Sauvignon’s ability to mimic and transition to Chateau St. Jean’s more expensive and increasingly complex Cabernets. At this price you can pour at will to crowds large and small.

Seasonal Wines

Colores del Sol 2012 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($11.95)

John Szabo – A perfectly serviceable, soft and fruity, easy drinking malbec, which fulfills the party or BBQ wine role nicely. At this price you can serve generously, while your guests will think you spent more on this fashionable bottle, as Argentine Malbec continues to garner recognition and sales.
Steve Thurlow – This is a soft somewhat overripe malbec with some high toned aromas on top of the blueberry fruit with peppermint and honey. The palate is soft and fruity with some tannin showing up on the finish. Good to very good length. Try with burgers or grilled sausage.

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012 Devil's Lair Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Six Packs Please

Devil’s Lair Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Margaret River, Australia, $49.95

Sara d’Amato – Dry, full-bodied and most importantly balanced, this fleshy cabernet from Devil’s Lair has preserved an impressive amount of acidity contributing to a solid, age-worthy wine. What is most compelling, however, is the wine’s savory, floral nose with notes of mint, black fruit and purple flower. Available in an easy to swallow 6-pack case.

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia ($29.95)

Sara d’Amato – Beautifully developed, this cool climate pinot noir from select parcels throughout the Yarra Valley delivers a round, appropriately rich and appealing palate with impressive complexity. Offered in a 6-pack case, it will be easy to find friends who are willing to split.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. 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!

This report was sponsored by the Treasury Wine Estates. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Treasury has provided the following agency profile with more details on their consignment program and delivery options.

~

Consignment at Treasury Wine Estates:

Treasury Wine EstatesWe are passionate about providing our clientele with the very best wines and service in the industry. We provide daytime delivery to your residence or office within the Greater Toronto Area. This service is completely complimentary, regardless of the volume purchased. We strive to ensure that all orders are delivered within five business days.

Our consignment program has been designed to make the procurement of our fine wines simple and bespoke. Wines can also be delivered to an LCBO store of your choice at no additional cost.  This service usually takes two to four weeks however, could take longer based on the geographical location of the clientele’s LCBO of choice. The cases arrive pre-paid and we simply email an invoice or credit card slip in advance. The store will then call to notify you when the requested wine has arrived.

Throughout the process, your personal consignment concierge is only a phone call or email away if there are any questions.

Phone: 905-337-6217  |  Mobile: 416-358-0177

leslie.gray@tweglobal.com  | orders.consignment@tweglobal.com


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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.

FATHER’S DAY PICKS

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.

Reds

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.

Rosé

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!


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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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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011


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Ontario Wine Report – May 2015

Prince Edward County
by David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

In the wake of two major Prince Edward County tastings in recent weeks (County in the City in Toronto and WineAlign’s trip to Terroir in Picton) I offer thoughts, opinions and reviews on the “state of the County”. Having followed the County from the days in the late 90s when vineyards were first being planted – and before wine was made – I have a perspective that is historical, sentimental and critical (as wine critics are supposed to have). It’s a tough balancing act, but in the end I am writing about what’s in the bottle for those who are buying it. This year at Terroir I encountered everything from great highs to significant lows, but overall the playing field is evening out, prices are moderating a bit, and the palette of wine styles and varieties is broadening and becoming more colourful.

New Wineries

The official Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association touring map for 2015 lists 34 wineries. But not everyone joins associations, so there are at least three others to my knowledge that are not on the official touring map. There are four new wineries this year (within the past 12 months or so) – Broken Stone, Darius, Trail and Traynor. I see real potential in three, and I have not yet tasted Darius.

Traynor Family Vineyard has a great locale at the junction of Loyalist Parkway and Danforth Road just south of Hillier. Mike Traynor has been “in the game” in Ontario wine for over a decade. He began and trained at the former Willow Heights in Niagara, then moved out to make wine at the ambitious but short-lived Oak Heights in the Northumberland Hills northeast of Cobourg. He purchased his current acreage in Hillier in 2008 and opened late last year. A Niagara-bred sauvignon blanc was a hit at Terroir, but I also really liked a deft un-oaked chardonnay. Pinot Gris was good too, altho’ a bit sweet thanks to a stuck ferment. Good potential here; he will be joining the club with County fruit soon enough.

Broken Stone occupies an excellent site on Closson Road between Old Third and Closson Chase. Tim and Micheline Kuepfer have been planting their dream for over five years while holding down day jobs and residence in the GTA. They are focusing on chardonnay and pinot noir and the first releases show classic County lightness and minerality. No formal reviews yet after a quick encounter at Terroir.

Trail Estate has opened on Benway Road in the Hillier area, just south of Hinterland and Grange. It is owned by the Sproll family, with winemaker Dan Tweyman at the helm. Their own vineyards are very young, so everything so far is from Niagara fruit. Very modern, bright, squeaky clean winemaking here – liked their gewürztraminer. I will be watching them grow and move into County fruit with interest.

The Charmat Sparkling Trend

The bubbly gold rush is on. With Huff, Hinterland and Grange having proven there is great potential with traditional, more expensive ‘champenois’ method sparklers, the next wave is to produce bubbly that is simpler and less expensive. Everyone is jumping in. And County fruit – with its snappy acidity and aromatic fragrance – is the perfect ingredient for these simpler wines. Hinterland (the County’s sparkling wine specialist) is the incubator of the trend. From their barn at Closson Road and Benway they are equally (proudly) marketing sparklers from the traditional, charmat and ‘ancestral’ methods. The latter is bubbly produced by one fermentation with trapped CO2. And they have sub-contracted most of the sparkling charmat method wine production in the County. At the Terroir tasting on a hot May afternoon, the charmats proved popular including Lighthall Progression and a rose called the Fence, By Chadsey’s Cairns PTO, Huff’s Janine and Rosehall Run Pixie.

Vicki Samaras from Hinterland speaking sparkling to our tour group

Vicki Samaras from Hinterland speaking sparkling to the WineAlign tour group

 

The Rise of Riesling
(by Sara d’Amato)

If you have been to the County, you will have heard the analogy of the climate and soil types to that of Burgundy. Given the similarities, it is not surprising that premium vinifera growing is largely focused on chardonnay and pinot noir. However, riesling is beginning to make a play on the scene. The County’s crumbly limestone bedrock suits the varietal quite nicely but its need for slow ripening can be a challenge in a short growing season. In years past, most of the riesling produced was from small plantings of younger vines and thus was often blended with Niagara fruit – a region with an excellent track record with the grape.

My observations this time around on our recent trip to Terroir was that 100% County riesling is less of a rarity and more of a burgeoning new wine style. What had me curious was a misleading advert in the Toronto Star this past week from pec.on.ca claiming that Prince Edward County was home to more than 10,000 acres of riesling. Certainly, a comma was misplaced as that number is about 10 times less. Norman Hardie was kind enough to offer a tank sample of his very first 100% County riesling harvested in 2014 which I found quite riveting. However, as I mentioned, this is less of a rarity now as I discovered that several other producers were on the same wavelength. Examples certainly worth exploring include Chadsey’s Cairn (ahead in the riesling game), Half-Moon Bay and Sugarbush among others. These versions are light, lively and elegant – traits common to the County’s cooler climate

Other New and/or Singular Wines & Grape Varieties

It’s solidly established that pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and cabernet franc are the core County varietals, but every year Terroir turns out to be a testing ground for other ideas.

Traynor Family VineyardThe late Richard Karlo of Karlo Estates was famous as a quester after new wines, with his faith in the new Minnesota hybrid called Frontenac gris being well known. He also made a quite successful Sangiovese 2013, with a gentle nod to Tuscany in its mid-weight, currant and herbal style. WineAlign will be dedicating the 2015 National Wine Awards to Richard Karlo.

Del-Gatto Winery out past Waupoos on the Cressy Peninsula is also doing work with more obscure hybrids like leon millot and geisenheim (which Waupoos has also made) and they have combined it nicely with seyval blanc and chardonnay in a snappy blend called Dragonfly. Heidi Del-gatto also revealed they have made 12 cases of pinotage (South Africa’s famous crossing of cinsault and pinot noir) but it was not being poured at Terroir.

New Traynor Family has created Alta Red, a blend Saint Laurent and Marquette, the latter being another new Minnesota hybrid gaining converts in the coolest parts of the province.

I also took the opportunity re-visit By Chadsey Cairns 2013 Chenin Blanc, a classic Loire Valley white grape that could be more widely planted in the County.

The Annoying On-Going VQA Conundrum

Last year, for the first time, the Terroir Festival gained ‘farmers market’ status allowing wineries to sell bottles from their stands. The program continued this year. The hitch however is that farmers’ markets can only sell VQA wines, and there are many non-VQA wines being made in the County.

There are several reasons that a wine may not be submitted to or pass the VQA process, and all are somewhat controversial in their own right. But the most controversial for the County and other emerging regions in eastern and northern Ontario is that some wines are ineligible because they contain varieties not on the VQA list of authorized grapes. The list was created in the late 80s to screen out many “inferior’ varieties or those deemed unsuitable for Ontario’s climate; but we have learned a lot since then and many new cool climate varieties have emerged that can work in the province. VQA says it is reviewing the list, but it is taking a very long time.

So in the meantime, at Terroir there was a roped-off area in which the wineries with non-VQA wines were not allowed to sell direct. (And that’s just one of the financial penalties paid by non VQA wines). VQA was originally designed as a quality control and appellation guarantee mechanism, but it is become attached to all kinds of financial and distribution incentives or dis-incentives. In my view VQA should be a pure appellation system, and unhitched from financial consideration.

Twelve Highly Recommended County Wines

Based largely on tastings for the media at County in the City, here are twelve of the most highly recommended 100% PEC wines and yes many are from the most well established and experienced producers. Click to read my reviews and those by John Szabo, Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel.

Whites

Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2013

Rosehall Run J C R Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2014

Closson Chase Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard 2013

Huff Estates Pinot Gris 2013

Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2012

Keint He Portage Chardonnay 2013

Reds

Keint He Portage Pinot Noir 2013

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2013

Lighthall Pinot Noir 2013

The Grange Of Prince Edward County Diana Block Pinot Noir 2010

Huff Estates South Bay Merlot 2012

Rosehall Run Syrah Cuvée County “The Swinger” 2012

Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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!


The National Wine Awards of Canada

NWAC15 croppedThe National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC), held annually in June, is only open to wines grown and produced in Canada. The goal of ‘The Nationals’ is to expose Canadian wine drinkers to the best in Canadian wines. There is no restriction on price, leaving each winery the opportunity to compete with and against the best wines in the country. More importantly, as barriers to ship wines across the country come down, the combination of winning recognition at The Nationals and WineAlign’s ability to display the results alongside your key retail outlets, from the winery direct to across the country, makes it the only competition with enduring post competition sales opportunities.

The 2015 tastings will take place from June 23 to 27 in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Registration is now open. Click here for more information and to register.


Canadian Wineries on WineAlign

It’s easy to explore Canadian wines & wineries on WineAlign. From the menu bar simply choose Wine >> Wineries.  You can select by region or winery name, or use our interactive map. We are adding new wineries all the time, so please let us know if we are missing your favourite.

Canadian Wineries

You can also click on the winery name on any wine page (or as in David’s Links above) to be taken directly to the winery’s profile page where you can see more wines and reviews. Just remember to set your filters to “All Sources” and “Show wines with zero inventory” as winery wines are not linked to retail inventory.

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008