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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 7th – Part One

South American Reds and Classic Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The main feature of the rather large March 7th VINTAGES release (135 products) is Tuscany, which David will lead next week. There are also mini-features on British Columbia, Kosher wines and St. Patrick’s Day (Irish Whiskey, naturally). But for this week we were drawn hors piste by a handful of compelling reds from South America, including a pair of Chilean wines that further bolster my case to consider this conservative country in a new light (See my January report entitled “Chile Into The Future”).

And considering that Sara d’Amato has just returned from judging the Argentina Wine Awards (the first wine awards judged by an all-female panel, to my knowledge) and additional travels around the country, and that David Lawrason is currently basking under the South American sun (on business, of course), the focus of this week’s report is not entirely whimsical.

As a bonus, Sara shares some still-vivid impressions from Argentina. We’ll also round out this week’s recommendations with the short list of top chardonnays and sauvignon blanc (and blends) from the March 7th lineup.

d’Amato on Argentina

An invitation to judge close to 700 wines at the Argentina Wine Awards with an all-star, all-female panel, followed by a cross-country discovery tour had me in the southern hemisphere for most of this month. A few very distilled thoughts on my experience:

1.     There is huge diversity of malbecs across the country. High elevations (where you’ll find the best) do not equate with cool, necessarily. Growers battle with the complications of high UV radiation, needing inventive canopy management to shade and protect their grapes, and specialized irrigation so that water does not immediately evaporate in the dry heat. What makes high elevation plantings special is the temperature difference between night and day – when the temperature drops six degrees per hour you can feel the night coming on, and can imagine the grapes shivering and almost feel the nervy tension being built in these wines. Most importantly, higher elevations offer soils with better drainage and low fertility (a good thing).

2.     Varieties other than malbec are on the rise. In fact, in a big surprise to all judges, none of the regional trophies this year were awarded to malbecs. Top prizes were awarded instead to bonarda, which is widely planted and has great potential to be the next “it” grape. Not only is bonarda easy to grow on the less “desirable” soils, it’s approachable, easy to drink and offers plenty of fruit and supple tannins. What else rocked my world: tannat, petit verdot, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc. And although I can’t imagine finding a pure tannat from Argentina on our shelves any time soon, its dark and surprisingly supple fruity goodness, uniquely expressed in Argentina, is worth demanding. Sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, unlike their fresh expressions in neighboring Chile, offered both depth and ripeness that proved balanced and appealing.

If you find yourself in southern Ontario, the last of the Colomé Reserva Malbec from a previous VINTAGES release is a gem worth seeking out. To put this in perspective, the higher elevation plantings of the Uco Valley in Mendoza are around 3,000 – 4,000 feet in elevation. At Colomé, in the northern region of Salta in the Upper Calchaquí Valleys, the plantings are well over 3,000 meters making them the highest elevation vineyards on earth. This is a malbec that will make you rethink malbec.

Readily available across the province is the Alamos 2013 Malbec. Affordably priced, this distinctive, reliable and solid quality malbec is produced in the higher elevations of Mendoza in the esteemed region of Vistaflores. A textbook malbec, finely crafted and a great value. For an introduction to bonarda, you’ll see my note below for the Zuccardi 2012 Serie A – which is being release in VINTAGES on March 7th.

The result of the AWA’s can be found here: http://www.winesofargentina.org/awa/edicion/2015/premiados/regional%20trophy. ~ Sara

 

VINTAGES March 7th Buyers Guide: South America

Emiliana 2012 Novas Gran Reserva Syrah-Mourvèdre, Cachapoal Valley (Colchagua Valley), Chile ($15.95)

Santa Carolina Specialties Dry Farming Carignan 2010 Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Syrah Mourvèdre 2012John Szabo – Under the direction of César Morales Navia, the Novas line of organic wines from Emiliana is among the best values in South America. This syrah-mourvèdre blend is an excellent example of the shift to grapes that are better suited to parts of Chile (Mediterranean) than the maritime Bordeaux varieties that have dominated the scene since the 19th century. It’s stylish and rich, generously flavoured and long on the finish, far outperforming many competitors in the price category.
David Lawrason - Great value yet again from this leading producer of organic wines. It feels very much like a rather rustic Rhone but with more fruit exuberance. A lot of depth and life for $16. Very good to excellent length.

Santa Carolina 2010 Specialties Dry Farming Carignan, Cauquenes Valley (Maule Valley), Chile ($17.95)

John Szabo - The Santa Carolina Specialties range is another perfect example of even the very large, entrenched rear guard companies of Chile (Santa Carolina was established in 1875) looking to craft wines more representative of the country’s potential rather than the marketing department’s wishes. Led by Andrés Caballero, the Santa Carolina team has sought out new terroirs “where grapes are in perfect balance with soil and climate. These wines speak of forgotten varieties, dry lands and endless root systems, old vineyards and small scale farmers”, according to official sources. In my view, this is a terrific wine made from 80 year-old dry-farmed carignan vines in the Cauquenes Valley (Maule) in Southern Chile, a bit wild and rustic, but that’s the beauty of old carignan, like a characterful, wrinkled face that has seen the passage of a great many years. Enjoy with a rare-grilled, well-aged umami-rich, bone-in ribeye.

Cuvelier Los Andes 2009 Grand Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($61.95)

John Szabo - Admittedly this is not the style of wine that I’m generally attracted to – the kind for which a fork and knife are as helpful as a glass – but this was so well done that it had to be mentioned. Fans of amarone and vintage port should line up for this 16.5% alcohol monster, a seriously dense and rich, ultra concentrated, smoky, wood-tinged, savoury red wine with massive structure and intensity. It would be hard to imagine stuffing more into a bottle of wine, or getting further in style from classic Bordeaux (from where the Cuvelier family hails and owns several château). This should also age magnificently.
David Lawrason - This 100% malbec is from one of the five French-owned estates in the magnificent desert compound in Vistaflores calles Clos de Los Siete.  Cuvelier is owned by Jean- Guy and Bertrand Cuvelier who are also the owners of Château Léoville- Poyferré and Château Le Crock in  Bordeaux. This is a very impressive, maturing rich, dense and elegant – very much in a French tone.

Zuccardi 2012 Serie A Bonarda, Santa Rosa, Mendoza, Argentina ($16.95)

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère 2012 Zuccardi Serie A Bonarda 2012 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Malbec 2009Sara d’Amato - Zuccardi is a true family affair and a big one that prides itself on innovation, finding unique sites and using cutting edge vinification.  The Serie A Bonarda is a great introduction to this seductive and ready-to-drink varietal that offers loads of fruit spice, gentle tannins and an impactful nature.
David Lawrason – The Zuccardi family has been growing bonarda in the eastern Santa Rosa region for decades, long before it became a trendy varietal. So they have a good supply of old vine stock. This nicely catches the fruity charm I am looking for from this grape – simple but exuberant, balanced and ready to drink.

Viña Tarapacá 2012 Gran Reserva Carmenère, Maipo Valley, Chile ($17.95)

David Lawrason - From a grand estate in middle Maipo this is a massive value in textbook carmenere!  The nose absolutely soars here with an up-draught of cassis, sappy evergreen, steak tartar and background oak. Powerful, deep and even for  carmenere lovers.

Buyer’s Guide March 7th: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (and blends)

Rodney Strong 2012 Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, USA ($22.95)

Cave Des Grands Crus Blancs Mâcon Vinzelles 2013 Château De Cruzeau Blanc 2009 Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2012John Szabo – I’m quite sure this is the first wine from Rodney Strong that I’ve ever added to the recommended list, but this is a happy departure from the over-wooded and overly sweet cuvées of the past. I appreciate the freshness and subtlety on offer without sacrificing the ripe fruit you’d expect from Sonoma chardonnay. This is balanced and pleasurable drinking at the right price.

Château De Cruzeau Blanc 2009,  AC Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France ($31.95)

John Szabo -  Each time I taste a wine of this quality I wonder why I don’t drink more great sauvignon-semillon blends. IN the context of all of the overpriced, oaky chardonnays of the world, this wine delivers terrific complexity and regional identity at an attractive price. ‘09 was, as you know, a ripe, highly celebrated vintage in Bordeaux and this is packed with flavor. Decant this before serving to maximize the enjoyment.

Cave Des Grands Crus Blancs 2013 Mâcon-Vinzelles, Burgundy, France ($17.95)

John Szabo - “We had a marvelous lunch from the hotel at Lyon, an excellent truffled roast chicken, delicious bread and white Macon wine.” I’m sure Hemingway was thinking of a wine like this when he wrote these words in A Moveable Feast, and no doubt actually drank several bottles of Mâcon with F. Scott Fitzgerald on picnics. This is simple but delicious country wine in the best sense, at a price that can only make upstart wineries with big loans to pay off cringe with envy.

M.Chapoutier Tournon 2013 Mathilda, Victoria, Australia ( $19.95)

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 M.Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda 2013David Lawrason -  Although not specified on the label this is either wholly or in very large part made from viognier, the only white to my knowledge in this Rhone producer’s Australian portfolio. It makes sense as viognier too is a Rhone varietal. This is an intense, quite powerful white that rings with authenticity.

Villa Maria 2014 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)

David Lawrason - Marlborough is known for its very assertive sauvignons but there is a school going for less bombast and more compact structure. That is the book on Villa Maria in general as a matter of fact. This crisp, tart and mouth-watering with excellent focus and length, and an echo of wet stone on the finish.

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

Touring Tuscany & Piedmont

Consider joining me next October in Tuscany and Piedmont for an insider’s deluxe gastronomy tour via Indus Travel. Only fluffy, unlumpy pillows and high thread count sheets, plus daily diet of white truffles, cooking classes, 5-star relaxation and of course, plenty of wine tastings. It will be memorable. Details: www.indus.travel/tour/tuscany-and-barolo-with-john-szabo

Tuscany and Barolo Tour with John Szabo MS

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES March 7, 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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 21st – Part Two

Euro Reds and Sundry Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week we wrap up recommendations from the February 21st Vintages release. Last Week David and Sara highlighted the best buys from Australia and the excellent 2012 vintage down under, along with other new world reds. This report features the best red wines from Europe and white wines from around the world. The WineAlign crü has, quite unintentionally, chosen to highlight a wide range of wines with no overlap – no alignment – so this is a fine opportunity for some discovery and comparison, and perhaps alignment with the critic whose top picks match your preferences. France, Italy, Spain and Portugal are well represented, as are Canada and the US, but you might be tempted to venture further to, say, Romania or Lebanon for something different (and inexpensive).

Buyers’ Guide: Euro Reds

Quinta Do Mondego 2009Lento Lamezia Riserva 2010Gérard Bertrand Saint Chinian Syrah/MourvèdreGérard Bertrand Saint Chinian Syrah/Mourvèdre 2011, Languedoc, France ($18.95)
John Szabo – The ever-reliable Gérard Bertrand delivers again, in this case a smoky and savoury, black pepper flavoured red blend from one of the Languedoc’s most distinctive terroirs. A successful and characterful wine all in all, ready to enjoy. Best 2015-2021.

Lento Lamezia Riserva 2010, Calabria, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo - Here’s an example of grapes perfectly adapted to their terroir: magliocco, greco nero and nerello are blended together to yield this attractively rustic wine, fully savoury and earthy in the typical southern Italian idiom, retaining crucial natural acids. This will appeal to fans of classic Italian country wines, honest and food friendly. Best 2015-2020.

Quinta Do Mondego 2009, Dão, Portugal ($19.95)
John Szabo - Named for the river that runs through the region, the Quinta do Mondego has engaged the talented Francisco Olazabal of the excellent Quinta Vale Dona Maria in the Douro to lend a hand with winemaking. This is another tidy little value from the Dão, fresh, firm and succulent, with a fine range of red and black fruit, floral and spice components. Best 2015-2020.

Cave Kouroum Petit Noir 2012, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon ($13.95)
John Szabo – This oddity is well worth a mention for intrepid discoverers. “Petit Noir” is a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache and carignan with a splash of cinsault from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, similar in style to, say, a southern Rhône red at a very attractive price. I appreciate the rustic grip and honest savoury-fruity profile without artifice or adjuncts.

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Côtes Du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2012, Rhone Valley, France ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato - The sundrenched southern Rhone wines of Cairanne have a charming, rustic appeal and the best examples, such as this, relay the beautiful aromas of Provence – those of thyme, rosemary and lavender. Due to the heat and the fact that the village is located in one of the sunniest places on earth, grenache dominates these wines with syrah and mourvedre playing secondary but important roles. The small, family-owned Domaine of Les Grand Bois is widely regarded as one of the finest properties of the southern village appellations.

Rotllán Torra 2010, Priorat, Spain ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato - Succulent and exquisitely balanced, this elegant assemblage is a fine example of a wine at its apex of harmony and drinkability. This carefully handpicked and long-macerated blend of grenache, mazuelo (carignan) and cabernet sauvignon with very fine tannins is an indisputably sophisticated find.

Cave Kouroum Petit Noir 2012Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Côtes Du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2012Rotllán Torra 2010Château La Bastide 2012Domaine Du Grapillon D'or Gigondas 2012Rocca Di Frassinello Poggio Alla Guardia 2010

Château La Bastide 2012, Corbières, Languedoc, France ($13.95)
David Lawrason - There is nothing extra special about the wine itself – it simply offers a balanced, correct version of a Languedoc red based on varieties like syrah and grenache. But the price made me sit up and take notice. It offers the kind of value that might tempt me to grab a case for those stay at home comfort food occasions.

Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2012, Rhone Valley, France ($32.95)
David Lawrason - Once again a sleek, rich Gigondas outperforms a Châteauneuf-du-Pape served side by side in Vintages tasting lab, both on quality, and on price (by a long shot). It’s packed with fruit, warm and engaging. The Chauvet family has owned this property since 1806, with Celine Chauvet now heading up the winemaking. This is 80% grenache, 20% syrah from 40 year old vines.

Rocca Di Frassinello Poggio Alla Guardia 2010, Maremma Tuscany ($17.95)
David Lawrason - Here’s a fine buy in a well-crafted, now maturing 2010 from the southern, warmer Maremma zone, specifically from a large, hillside estate owned in a joint venture by Castellare di Castellina of Chianti-fame, and Domain Baron De Rothschild-Lafite of Bordeaux. It is a nifty, well-balanced merlot, cabernet, sangiovese (15%) that has not had any oak ageing.

Buyers’ Guide: Sundry Whites

Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Clare Valley, South Australia ($25.95)
John Szabo – Although Australia was covered last week, mention should be made of this outstanding Clare Valley riesling. The Lodge Hill is Barry’s top site for the variety (also a superb shiraz), one of the highest points in the Clare Valley at over 400m on slate bedrock. This is arch classic, bone dry with terrific intensity, depth and length. Ample citrus-lime and green apple character leads the profile, while crunchy acids cleanse the finish. Best 2015-2025.

Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, Ontario Canada ($24.95)
John Szabo - This is the best appassimento style white wine I’ve come across from Ontario (made from grapes partially dried in a repurposed tobacco kiln). It brings to mind the opulence of late harvested but dry Savennières from the Loire, of a full bodied Alsatian pinot gris, to give but two references. As such, this dense and rich, viscous wine would be perfect with the cheese board or with poultry or pork dishes, especially with mushrooms.

Crama Girboiu Varancha Feteasca Regala Demisec 2012, Vrancea Hills, Romania ($13.95)
John Szabo – Don’t be afraid of the unpronounceable! Just think of this as a gently off-dry, clean, fresh, well-made wine, which it is. A fine value match for the cheese plate, or spicy green or yellow curies. And at $14, the risk is pretty low.

Gayda Viognier 2013Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010Crama Girboiu Varancha Feteasca Regala Demisec 2012Domaine Des Huards 2010 Romo Cour Cheverny, Loire, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato - Produced from 100% romorantin – the ageworthy grape that exclusively makes up the wines of the Cour-Cheverny appellation. This organic selection will certainly not prove widely appealing but is a great find for the adventurous wine lover. In terms of flavour, the grape is a cross between chenin blanc and semillon, highly structured with notes of beeswax, sour lemon and mineral. This example has a touch of pleasant funk and slight oxidation – weird, wonderful and highly compelling.

Gayda 2013 Viognier, Pays D’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato - As pleasurable as a perfectly ripened peach, this lush, easy drinking, gratifying viognier over-delivers for the price. One sip will make you feel like summer is just around the corner. Try with Thai-inspired ginger chicken.

Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($30.20)
David Lawrason - This took a platinum medal at the 2014 National Wine Awards, pushing Peller Estates over the top in the winery of the year sweepstakes. It’s a generously oaked example with wonderfully fragrant evergreen and spice, in the manner of white Bordeaux. Tremendous flavour depth here. An auspicious debut by winemaker Katie Dickenson.

Hartford Court Chardonnay 2012Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2013, Okanagan Valley ($21.95)
David Lawrason - Winemaker Nikki Callaway has taken the helm at Quails Gate, which is perhaps the reason why this chardonnay as such a lovely sense of brightness and balance. It is nothing dramatic or profound but it just has this even-handed fruit-oak sensibility that makes it ideal for sipping or bringing to the table.

Hartford Court Chardonnay 2012, Russian River Valley, California ($39.95)
David Lawrason - Hartford Court, (est. 1996) has long been a personal favourite, making pinot, chardonnay and zinfandel only from meticulous multi-cloned vineyards in the Russian River. This is a grand and very stylish chardonnay – sleek, poised and refined with great complexity and excellent to outstanding length.

Touring Tuscany & Piedmont

Consider joining me next October in Tuscany and Piedmont for an insider’s deluxe gastronomy tour via Indus Travel. Only fluffy, unlumpy pillows and high thread count sheets, plus daily diet of white truffles, cooking classes, 5-star relaxation and of course, plenty of wine tastings. It will be memorable. Details: www.indus.travel/tour/tuscany-and-barolo-with-john-szabo

Tuscany and Barolo Tour with John Szabo

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES February 7, 2015:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 21st – Part One

A Great Australian Vintage
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The most interesting aspect of VINTAGES feature on Australian wines on the February 21 release is that it is focused around a single vintage – 2012. This is a very welcome development because rarely in the past has VINTAGES talked about vintages in regions outside of Europe.

There is a deeply held view – perhaps even a cultural bias – within the Euro-centric wine establishment (in which, until now, I would have lumped the LCBO) that vintages don’t matter in the New World. Europe has been steeped for so long in the annual vintage assessment of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and perhaps Barolo, Tuscany and Rioja, that denial of vintage variation anywhere else is an off-handed way of saying that those wines cannot be as good or pedigreed, because, well, vintages don’t vary. That’s nonsense. Vintage variation occurs everywhere – no two years are ever the same. And this could be even more true now as erratic climate change sponsored events settle in. So it is high time that New World producers and pundits made much more of this variation so that we can all get the most out of experiencing their wines. Good on VINTAGES for swinging the bat this time out.

The cover of the VINTAGES magazine calls Australia’s 2012 “The Best Vintage in 20 Years”, but doesn’t quote any specific local sources. The claim does however line up with my experience in Australia in Jan 2014, where producers were falling over themselves in excitement. Part of this may have been a bit of a rebound reaction due to the fact that 2011 had been the wettest, coolest vintage in their lifetimes, with many wines showing some greenness. (Interestingly 2011 also produced many under-ripe reds in Chile, Argentina and California as well). But yes, as the magazine spells out on page 4, 2012 did indeed bring ideal conditions to Australia, a good balance of moisture and sunshine with moderated temperatures and no searing heat waves (whew!). Long and slow and even ripening is always the best formula for ripe and balanced wines, and if yields are also lower those wines should have better concentration. This was the case when a late spring frost lowered the yield in some areas.

The irony is that some of the wines in this release fail to make the case for the excellence of 2012. Mainly because the average $20 price point of wine landed in Canada is not going to deliver balance and depth as easily. Some are marketing driven brands attempting to adhere to a style rather than show the variation of place or vintage, and they are very ripe, high in alcohol and tending to confection. The examples I have highlighted below are essentially single-site wines that do begin to show the evenness and balance of this vintage. Above all Australia’s reds need tension and structure – that is the on-going struggle for quality in one of the world’s hottest regions.

Just before getting to my picks (which include some good buys from California), a note that Australia will be all the buzz later this month as the theme country of the Vancouver International Wine Festival which runs the week of February 20. Our B.C. Editor and recently appointed National Managing Editor Treve Ring has already published a two part perspective on Australia Today, that includes some of her picks from the hundreds that will be poured at the Festival, as well as wines she encountered in Australia recently that she “Wishes They Were Here”. She has also just edited and published a Valentine Day compendium of romantic picks from WineAligners in three provinces in Canada – all the while being in Argentina.

Australia

Heartland Directors' Cut Shiraz 2012

Yangarra 2012 ShirazYangarra Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($32.95)
David Lawrason – Once again a biodynamically grown wine tops my charts, its bio-ness being unbeknownst to me when I tasted it. This shiraz was grown at fairly high, cooler altitude near the South Lofty Ranges, which combined with balance of the vintage and healthy viticulture has given it real class.  The focus and length are excellent. Supple and balanced enough to drink now; should hold three years at least.

Heartland 2012 Directors’ Cut Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, South Australia ($35.95)
David Lawrason – Heartland is a project by highly regarded winemaker Ben Glaetzer and his team (which includes John Glaetzer who was the man behind the success of Wolf Blass in its formative years). Director’s Cut is 100% Langhorne Creek fruit – the same region that supplied the backbone of Wolf Blass’ award winning wines. There is a fair bit of oak showing here, but in the end this big shiraz pivots on good acidity and firm tannin. Impressive!

Bleasdale 2012 Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek, South Australia ($17.95).
David Lawrason –  Cabernet Sauvignon is the staple variety of this small cooler, maritime region on Lake Alexandria a stone’s throw from the Southern Ocean. Bleasdale was founded in the 19th C but a new viticultural regime introduced late last decade has resulted in wines with good tension and structure. Not huge depth here, but just fine for the price. And it’s unmistakably cab.

Dutschke 2012 80 Block St. Jakobi Vineyard Merlot, Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($23.95)
David Lawrason – Varietally labelled merlot is rare in Australia, but this comes from one of the oldest plantings in Barossa. It struck me as particularly well composed and balanced merlot; all rather understated but quite delicious. As good merlot should be.

Penny’s Hill 2012 Cracking Black Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato No, ‘cracking black’ does not, in fact, refer to shiraz’s distinctive notes of cracked black pepper but rather to the infertile, cracking, grey-black soil of the Bay of Biscay where this hand-picked shiraz is planted. This crackling soil severs the surplus root structure of the vines, lessening vigor and enhancing grape quality. As dynamic as the soil in which it is grown, this aromatic and compelling shiraz deserves attention.

Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Dutschke 80 Block St. Jakobi Vineyard Merlot 2012 Penny's Hill Cracking Black Shiraz 2012 Schild Estate GMS Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012

Schild Estate 2012 Grenache Mourvèdre Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – The grenache in this “GMS” is delightfully dominant giving the wine a crunchy saline texture, beautiful floral notes and plump red plum. Inspired by the blends of the Southern Rhone, this old-world-meets-new style is highly engaging. A Category Champion at WineAlign’s 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada.

Fowles 2012 Stone Dwellers Shiraz, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Cooler climate Australia is home to some dynamite shiraz that is exuberantly peppery and shows plenty of restraint, most notably in the alcohol department. If you normally stay far away from Aussie shiraz, give this one a try.

California Reds

 

Hartley-Ostini 2013 Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County ($28.95)
David Lawrason – I have always been a fan of well-made California pinot for its sheer drinkability. The problem of course is that high alcohol, sweetness and oak too often overwhelm the fruit. This nifty example from the company that starred in the Academy Award nominated wine flick “Sideways” manages to stay in fruit first focus.  A delightful, heart on its sleeve pinot – kinda like the movie.

Melville Estate 2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County ($49.95)
David Lawrason - And from the same region is southern California comes yet another intriguing pinot that goes for elegance and structure. Melville is a small estate-fruit only operation specializing in pinot. They have gone to the trouble of planting 16 different clones in an effort to build up complexity, and it works so well. Wonderful aromatics and silky texture.

Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir 2013 Melville Estate Pinot Noir 2012 Kunde Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Volker Eisele Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

 

Kunde Family 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley ($26.95)
David Lawrason – This does not have the depth and structure to hit 90 points, but it is an honest, fairly priced cabernet with typical blackcurrant fruit and just enough firmness to announce its cab-ness. Kunde is based on a large sustainably farmed property in the hills above the Valley of the Moon. I have been liking their recent offerings, and the value is peaking these days.

Volker Eisele 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($68.95)
David Lawrason – Collectors of California cabernet may want to make some room in the cellar for this powerful, complex well attenuated blend of cabernet and merlot (14%) grown in the Chiles Valley up in the eastern hills above Napa Valley. The Volker Eisele family has farmed the site organically for over 40 years. Aged 24 months in French oak, it has plenty of fruit support, cabernet complexity and excellent length.

And that’s it for this edition. Tune in next week as John Szabo leads off on the rest of this release with a look at Euro reds and a selection of whites.

Cheers,

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Feb 21st release:

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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Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

 

 

 

 

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 7th – Part Two

Righteous Reds from South of Zero
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

It’s Feburrrrr-ary in Ontario, so it doesn’t take too much encouragement to think about warmer climes; which VINTAGES invites us to do by grouping a handful of well-known producers into a South of the Equator mini-feature. And the selections, although few, are very good.

You may have noticed a trend so far in 2015 where John (the Vulcan) Szabo tackles Euro-featured wines (Italy last week), and I lead off with New World/Southern Hemisphere wines. It’s not quite by design, but it suits me fine because I love the energy and advancement of the southern zones. By chance more than design I have crossed the equator six times since January 2012; sixteen times in my career: and I will take two more trips over the line before April this year to South America and New Zealand. So one begins to get a real sense of what’s going on in the Southern Hemisphere. These nations are beyond the days of producing cookie-cutter jammy, hot and oaky red wines. There is exciting stuff afoot; they are on that journey of self-discovery that Europe completed long ago. Witness the Concha Y Toro Carmenère below that earned an aligned opinion from all three of us. But there were some Northern Hemisphere reds that also excited us.

South of the Equator

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo 2011 Peumo Vineyard Block 27 Carmenère, Cachapoal Valley ($29.95)

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Peumo Vineyard Block 27 Carmenère 2011David Lawrason - I have not rated this 95 like Wine & Spirits Magazine, but this is a textbook carmenère from a fine single vineyard. Chile is drilling down! Not only is it varietally and technically correct, it displays a sense of elegance as well. Really very fine!
John Szabo – Winemaker Ignacio Recabarren blends a splash of old vine cabernet sauvignon from Pirque (Maipo Valley) with this single block of terraced carmenère from Peumo to create this exceptional wine. 2011 was an unusually cool vintage, which for Chile simply means a great, long growing season. It shows in this lovely, crunchy, vibrant yet richly extracted wine, with terrific length and depth. I’d wait 2-3 years at least before drinking for maximum complexity.
Sara d’Amato – For six consistent years on the VINTAGES shelves, the Terrunyo, site-specific, carmenère proves to be one of Chile’s top examples of this highly aromatic varietal. With exceptional balance, of acids, tannin and fruit, here is a class act that can be enjoyed now with decanting or put on hold for another 3-4 years.

Katnook Estate 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Coonawarra, in my view, is one of the great pure cabernet sauvignon regions in the world. Its moderate, almost coastal climate perfectly ripens cab – not too green, not overripe. And the terra rosa soils pack in complexity and structure. Katnook has delivered a soaring cab here with a riot of blackcurrant, mint/menthol, graphite, white pepper and oak. Plus cabernet lead pencil and rubber eraser.

Fabre Montmayou 2011 Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, ($22.95)

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2011

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2013

David Lawrason – On recent travels to Argentina I really began to break Mendoza’s malbecs into sub-regional and stylistic chunks. This is a lush, rich and cuddly, wooded style from lower altitude vineyards (whereas the wine featured by John below is from higher altitude Uco). The other learning was that vintages matter in Argentina, and 2011 was one of the coolest on record, with this wine, despite its girth, showing a telltale tinge of greenness on the finish.

La Posta 2013 Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)
John Szabo
– Although the wood influence is still strong, beneath the oaky veneer is a wine of pleasant herbal, lavender, cracked black pepper and oregano-type flavours along with fresh dark fruit, characteristics often encountered in the cooler, high elevations of the Uco Valley (these vines are at over 900 meters in Altamira, La Consulta). This over-delivers on intensity and length for the money.
Sara d’Amato – A wine so easy to fall in love with (and perhaps to), due in part to the aromatic garrigue (notes of lavender, sage and dried brush) that are oh-so evocative of the blends of the southern Rhône. I can’t imagine that this appealing red for under $16 wouldn’t be an enormous hit with just about any crowd.

North of the Equator

Faiveley 2012 Mercurey, Burgundy, France ($24.95)

Domaine Beau Mistral Vieilles Vignes Rasteau Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012 Foris Pinot Noir 2011 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2012David Lawrason – This is a cool climate pinot-lovers pinot, a lean, spry example with almost crystalline cran-raspberry fruit nicely etched with oak spice. Mercurey is the lead village for reds in the Côte Chalonnaise. Its pinot may not always have the structure of peers from the Cote d’Or to the north, but watch it carefully for Burgundy value.
John Szabo – Quality at Faiveley’s historic Mercurey base has risen nicely in the last couple of vintages, and this 2012, although not transcendental, is delicious. I love the delicate, lacy tannins and crisp acids, the way classic pinot should always be.

Foris 2011 Pinot Noir Rogue Valley, Oregon, USA ($24.95)
John Szabo - From a vineyard initially established in 1974 (winery in 1986) in the remote Rogue Valley in the southwest corner of Oregon, this is a fine entry-level pinot. It has all of the vibrant berry fruit one hopes for without significant interference from wood, plus an intriguing savoury edge and juicy acids.

Domaine Beau Mistral  2012 Vieilles Vignes Rasteau, Rhône, France ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – Rasteau is an appellation to watch and one of the last villages in the southern Rhône to receive its own AOC status (in 2010). Formerly thought to be too hot to compete with the best south of Montelimar, there has been a recent shift away from the rustic styles of wine previously produced. The wines still have an appealing generosity and density but top examples, such as this, can also show lovely balance, elegant mineral character, notes of wild flower and a distinctive musky, peppery feature.

Finca La Cuesta 2011

Pinyolet Selección 2010

Château La Bienfaisance 2008Finca La Cuesta 2011 Bierzo, Castilla y Léon, Spain ($19.95)
John Szabo
– This is a part of Spain where things generally get interesting for fans of fruit and floral perfume on a balanced frame. This Bierzo, made by the established estate of Luna Berberide from old vines at up to 750 meters, smells like violets and blackberry, carried on the palate by the lively acids of mencía. A tasty value.

Pinyolet 2010 Selección, Montsant, Spain ($26.95)
David Lawrason - Pinyolet is the local name for the limestone soils of Montsant, an appellation in the shadow of its more famous neighbour Priorat. Both sit high in the arid hills of southern Catalonia, with Priorat’s best sites having steeper altitude and prominent slate soils that create wines with a tighter grain. I have always enjoyed Montsant’s more open-hearted yet still refined ambiance (thanks limestone), especially with garnacha involved.

Château La Bienfaisance 2008 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France ($31.95)
Sara d’Amato – Over the past ten years, there has been a concerted effort to craft very fine wines from high-cropped, low yielding vines at this estate. Produced from vines averaging 30 years, the 2008 Chateau La Bienfaisance is maturing slowly and gracefully. Drink now or hold another 4-5 years.


And for Valentine’s Day or Any Day

Rustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreRustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – This frothy, sophisticated Prosecco immediately floated my boat upon tasting this past month and I distinctly remember feeling the same way having also tasted it a year ago. A successful pioneer in the introduction of non-Champagne sparkling wines to the international market, Nino Franco made the world take note of Prosecco in the 1980s. Consistently elegant, the wine remains a top example of this affordable bubbly.

There was a nod to Valentine’s Day in this release, with a bouquet of sparklers on the docket, but we defer to a nationally posted article en route next week that will compile the romantic musings of WineAlign correspondents in three provinces, and recommend wines available country-wide. Meanwhile, Steve Thurlow has just posted the February edition of Top 20 under 20 Values at the LCBO.

For those of you in the Toronto area, I hope that I’ll see you at the Wynns’ Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting on Feb 19th where I’ll be co-hosting with winemaker Sue Hodder. Wynns is the Coonawarra region’s pre-eminent wine producer, with the largest holding of the region’s best and longest established vineyard sites. As I mentioned in a review above, Connawarra, in my view, is one of the great pure cabernet sauvignon regions in the world. This will be a great opportunity to try some.

Cheers,

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Feb 7th release:

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Feb 7th – Part One
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 7th – Part One

Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Sundry Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The spotlight this week shines on the native grapes of Italy, or at least a handful of them. Despite the promising billing of the thematic, the February 7th release will disappoint anyone hoping for a real chance to discover some of the more obscure, unique regional treasures of this implausibly wine-rich nation. Considering that Italy is home to more native wine grapes than any other country – a staggering one-quarter of the world’s known commercial varieties (anywhere from 377 to around 2,000, depending on who’s counting and how you define “native”) – the selection proffered by the LCBO is, well, dissatisfying to say the least.

There are some fine wines from already familiar friends like sangiovese and dolcetto which we’ve highlighted below in the Buyer’s Guide, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is a hopelessly corporate release, playing it ultra, ultra-safe. To build a feature around barely ten grapes, all of which Ontarians have seen countless times before, and from producers already well drilled on the LCBO shipping and payment process (there’s not a single new producer included in the feature) seems to me a huge opportunity lost. But it’s a reality of the monopoly world, you’ll say.

The selection in Ontario is of course much broader if you’re keen enough to search for wines in the private import/consignment program, where you’ll find an impressively comprehensive range of unique, native Italian grapes if you look hard enough. But you’ll have to buy them a case at a time. Otherwise, I’d suggest a stop at one of the more enlightened restaurants and wine bars across the province, where the chances of expanding your horizons are much greater.

Native Wine Grapes of ItalyFor anyone looking to learn about, if not taste, Italian wines, I couldn’t recommend more strongly the monumental, magnum opus by Italian-Canadian wine authority Ian D’Agata entitled Native Wine Grapes of Italy. D’Agata spent no fewer than thirteen years researching the work (not counting the other dozen and a half years that he’s been covering the world of wine for publications like Gambero Rosso, Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, The World of Fine Wine, Decanter and others), and has compiled the most complete, accurate and detailed work on Italy’s native grapes imaginable. Each of the hundreds of entries includes details on where the grape is found, its history, etymological origins, synonyms, and general style/flavor profile, and which specific wines to choose and why. Curious about pelaverga, timorasso or frappatto? You’ll find everything you need to know, and much more besides, in the book.

With the author’s permission, I’ve quoted some interesting tidbits on a few of the varieties mentioned below to give you a bit of the flavor of the work. Anyone seriously studying wine should have this classic reference book in their library.

Also in this week’s report is a collection of sundry whites, including some memorable wines from central Europe and a pair of west coast chardonnays.

Buyers Guide: Native Italian Wine Grapes

Volpaia 2011 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($27.95)

Feudi Salentini Luporano Primitivo Del Tarantino 2012Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011Volpaia Chianti Classico 2011D’Agata on Sangiovese: “One of the etymological possibilities includes a mythological reference to the blood of Jupiter (sanguis jovis), unsurprisingly given the wine’s longtime association with myths, symbols, and sacrifices to the Gods. Another possibility is that the monks in Santarcangelo di Romagna, at the foot of the Monte Giove near Rimini, chose the name sanguis jovis when forced to call the wine they made by a name other than vino”.

John Szabo - Admittedly I love the classic style of Volpaia, representing the finessed side of sangiovese, grown in some of the highest elevation vineyards in Tuscany. The 2011 is a wine for fans of lighter, more elegant Chianti Classico, which should really hit ideal drinking in another year or two, at which point succulent savoury flavours will lead the way.

Salcheto 2011 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy ($29.95)

John Szabo – 2011 was the first experiment with wild yeast fermentation at Salcheto, an organic estate. The result, as fine as past vintages, is an earthy, savoury vino nobile, still a year or two away from prime drinking, but with an attractive range of resinous herbal notes to encourage additional sips.
Sara d’Amato – This generous Tuscan red of the prugnolo gentile varietal (sangiovese) is concentrated, musky, compelling and organically produced. A well-known sustainable producer, Salcheto was named Gambero Rosso’s “Sustainable Winery of the Year” in 2014.

Feudi Salentini Luporano 2012 Primitivo Del Tarantino, Puglia, Italy ($17.95)

D’Agata on Primitivo: “Puglia is Primitivo’s home in Italy, and at 11,133 hectares it is one of the country’s ten most planted red varieties…. When very good, Primitivo is creamy-rich and heady, usually not shy in alcohol (16 percent is common) and awash with aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, strawberry jam, and plums macerated in alcohol”.

John Szabo – Like D’Agata’s description above, I often find primitivo to be overly sweet, alcoholic and raisined. This example, on the other hand, has rare balance and freshness. You might say it’s not “classic”, but I find it pleasant and highly drinkable. No fork and knife required.

Abbona 2013 Papà Celso Dogliani, Piemonte ($24.95)

Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006Resta Salice Salentino 2011Abbona Papà Celso 2013D’Agata on Dolcetto: “The Dolcetto di Dogliani… can also be the most powerful. This is because in the Dogliani area Dolcetto has always been viewed as the most important grape and the best sites have been reserved for it.”

John Szabo – Abbona’s dolcetto supports the above description of Dogliani’s more powerful versions. This is made from 50-60 year old vines in the Bricco di Doriolo, a prime hilltop sight. Fruit is ripe and in the dark berry plum spectrum, with considerable density and length on the palate.
David Lawrason – As I have always been a fan of fruit-first reds like gamay (Beaujolais) I have also had a soft spot for dolcetto. An eyebrow raises that it has hit $25, but not unexpected now that it has its own Dogliani appellation. This is a lovely fresh and fruity, and even substantial – estate grown old vine example from a producer I admire.
Sara d’Amato – A consistent over-performer, this dolcetto from the relatively recent Dogliani DOCG once again proves a terrific value. Exotic spice, violets and pepper dominate the soft, round palate. Although dolcetto’s name means, “the little sweet one”, it is rarely sweet but rather low in acid (making the wine feel less than dry) and high in tannins. Thankfully, in this example from Abbona, the tannins are rather supple, balanced and allow for immediate enjoyment.

Resta 2011 Salice Salentino, Puglia, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Italy’s deep south is a gamble, with all kinds of modern, soft, fruity/jammy pleasing but often not very interesting reds (as on this release). Then again there are gems from another era (or at least a traditional mindset) that are very complex, edgy and powerful. Go to school on this imperfect, slightly volatile classic. Great winter fare.

Beni Di Batasiolo 2006 Riserva Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Ok, this doesn’t have the heft and structure you might expect from great Barolo. But it has exact aromatics that are wonderfully complex, and I have often said that scents are what make Barolo really fascinating. And the fact that it is a mature wine, from a great vintage, at $40 makes it all the more appealing. Go to school here.

Ocone 2012 Flora Taburno Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, Italy ($18.95)

Eco Pecorino D'abruzzo Superiore 2013Michele Chiarlo Le Marne Gavi 2013Ocone Flora Falanghina 2012D’Agata on Falanghina: “Along with Aglianico, this is believed to be Campania’s oldest variety… Today we know that there are at least two genetically distinct Falanghinas, Falanghina Flegrea and Falanghina Beneventana… Falanghina Flegrea wines (especially those from Sannio where Falanghina Flegrea will ripen up to three weeks earlier), tend to be less complex but more fruity, with flavours and aromas of unripe peach, golden delicious apple, apricot kernel, and cherry pit.

John Szabo – I can’t say that Ocone’s version is particularly fruity, in fact it offers more organic oil, rock and earth than fruit flavour, but there’s a point of bitterness on the palate that is indeed reminiscent of cherry pit and apricot kernel. In any case the flavour intensity is impressive for the price category. Drink this at the table with white meats, pork and poultry, heavily herb-flavoured.
Sara d’Amato – Ocone is a certified organic winery practicing minimalist intervention with grapes from seriously old vines. Falaghina is the winery’s star white varietal, a grape almost exclusively planted in the southern, coastal region of Campania on the volcanic soils surrounding Mt. Vesuvius. This version shows off the varietal’s distinctive floral characteristic and has a good dose of succulent citrus balanced with a decadent, mouth-filling texture.

Michele Chiarlo 2013 Le Marne Gavi, Piedmont, Italy ($16.95)

D’Agata on cortese: “One romantic legend has it that the name of Cortese’s most famous wine, Gavi, derives from the golden-haired, beautiful, and gentle-natured Princess Gavia, daughter of Clodomiro, King of the Franks, who eloped to get married against the wishes of her family.” “Cortese wines, when well made, have many selling points: high acidity, real minerality, and even ageworthiness

John Szabo – Chiarlo’s version fits into the mould of pleasantly fresh and fruity, with balanced acids and light alcohol, for current enjoyment, chilled, without excessive contemplation.

Eco 2013 Pecorino d’Abruzzo Superiore, Abruzzo, Italy, $17.95
Sara d’Amato – An organically produced wine from Italy’s eastern coast – home to the fresh, exotically floral and mineral pecorino variety. Eco’s very characteristic interpretation is dry, zesty and lightly peppery with notes of jasmine and apple blossom.

Buyer’s Guide: Sundry Whites

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt RK Riesling 2008Weingut Zahel Riedencuvée Grüner Veltliner 2013Wieninger Nussberg Alte Reben Wiener Gemischter Satz 20122012 Wieninger Nussberg Alte Reben Wiener Gemischter Satz, Wien DAC, Austria ($37.00)
John Szabo – This may seem pricey for a wine you’ve likely never heard of, but it’s a marvellous old vines (“alte reben”) field blend (“gemischte satz”) from one of the greats of Viennese winegrowing. Nine different varieties, grown biodynamically in a stunning limestone vineyard overlooking downtown Vienna, converge to yield a powerful and complex wine with fleshy white and yellow fruit. Just picture yourself in Wieninger’s heurige as you sip – pleasure guaranteed. Wieninger on the ’12 vintage: “Unfortunately, there was a very small quantity due to the damages caused by hailstorms and hungry wild boars.“ Ahh, the perils of growing grapes in a major European capital…

Weingut Zahel 2013 Riedencuvée Grüner Veltliner, Wiener Lagen, Austria ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This wine slowly reeled me in. At first glance it presented the basics – a fresh, firm and balanced grüner. Then it hooked me with its very fine structure, depth and subtlety. If you have not yet ventured into Austrian grüner here is a very well-priced example you can’t afford not to try.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt 2008 RK Riesling, Mosel, Germany ($15.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the great estates of the Mosel, this is a clinic and fine value in a mature riesling. I really can’t believe it has landed here, six years later, at $16. So there is no excuse not to see why mature Mosel riesling is the darling of so many aficionados. It’s off dry but tender, elegant and impeccably balanced.

Girard Chardonnay 2012Caves Orsat Fendant 2013Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012Poplar Grove 2012 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, B.C. ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Poplar Grove has long been one of BC’s boutique wineries doing a better job of getting beyond BC’s borders. It has improved with new ownership in recent years, and importantly the quality consistency has evened out. This is a quite complex, well balanced and firm chardonnay.

Caves Orsat 2013 Fendant, Valais, Switzerland ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Fendant or chasselas is Switzerland’s second most planted grape variety after pinot noir. Although chasselas is found throughout Europe, it is most celebrated in Switzerland. An adaptable varietal, it is generally subtle and nuanced but in the best cases can exhibit a rich mouthfeel. This fresh version from Caves Orsat is nicely representative of a Swiss chasselas (rarely seen here on our shelves) and exhibits a creamy, delicate nature with a touch of white pepper spice.

Girard 2012 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – A slightly creamy but bright Russian River chardonnay that displays impressive refinement, balance and restraint. The Girard winery is currently owned by former Pump Room sommelier, Pat Roney, who is very much inspired by the cool climate chardonnays of Burgundy.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES February 7, 2015:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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!


AdvertisementStags' Leap Winery Chardonnay 2012

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 24th – Part Two

South America & Warming Winter Reds
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The most newsworthy story of the January 24 release was told last week as John Szabo and team parsed the fascinating release of Spanish reds, plus sundry global whites. South America is a secondary feature but the selection is too small and unremarkable to warrant an elaborate missive. This is not at all meant to convey that Chile and Argentina are undeserving. John’s great piece on Chile, on the heels of a similar essay by Anthony Gismondi, aired on WineAlign just a couple of weeks ago. And we are prepping something similar re Argentina following a fascinating trip there by Anthony and I in December. Sara d’Amato ventures there next month, along with Treve Ring, our Victoria-based Managing Editor.

Argentina was a revelation, indeed more than that. There is perhaps a winemaking revolution fermenting in Mendoza that could have profound effects on wine styles and attitudes in the New World. We will discuss what these trends are later. But it should come as no surprise when you take some of the most innovative, adventurous, successful and wealthy winemakers from France, Italy, Spain, California, yes Canada, Chile and Argentina itself, and give them a hospitable, viticultural haven like Argentina. Something exciting is bound to happen – and is happening. And it is happening in Chile as well. Now I am not saying that the current, small selection on this release are world beaters, but they are beginning to illuminate some of the trends underway.

South America

Luca 2012 Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($32.95)
David Lawrason – Having tasted extensively in Argentina in December (but not this wine oddly enough) I have a new appreciation for efforts – by various means – to sew more elegance into malbec. This is a prime example of the hugely important principle of higher elevation, marrying fruit from very high Gualtallery (1500metres) and fruit from older vines (avg. age 47 years) in moderately high La Consulta (1200metres) – both sub-regions of the Uco Valley. The result is a seamless, smooth, fruit-primed red without excess oak or alcohol. If you have not yet paid $30 for malbec – here’s a place to start.
Sara d’Amato – Although Luca’s appearance is domineering and its bottle weighty, the contents are unexpectedly elegant, pure and authentic. With a great breadth of flavours and generous palate, there is surprising lightness about this wine that comes from great balance. I look forward to visiting the Catena estate in just a few weeks.

Casas Del Bosque 2012 Gran Reserva Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($22.95)
David Lawrason – With syrah barely a generation old in Chile, it is still finding its footholds. More coastal regions like Casablanca seem to be prime real estate, especially if you like a briny, peppery northern Rhône edge. This one is from a single red clay/granite based site (like northern Rhône) in the westernmost edge of Casablanca closest to the ocean. I recall loving the Matetic syrah from a nearby precinct as well. Anyway, this a whopper but it has density and centre, and it will be awesome with a hearty, heavily sauced mid-winter roast.

Luca Malbec 2012 Casas Del Bosque Gran Reserva Syrah 2012 Falernia Reserva Carmenère 2012 Chakana Maipe Reserve Bonarda 2012

Falernia 2012 Reserva Carmenère, Elqui Valley, Chile ($17.95)
John Szabo – Falernia is a perennial favourite, and the Elquì Valley certainly distinctive. This is made in a quasi Amarone-style with grapes partially dried on the vine before harvest, which explains the lack of herbal-vegetal character typical for the grape, as well as the 15% alcohol declared on the label. If you’re after a heart-warming, plush winter red at a nice price, this fits the bill.
Sara d’Amato – Falernia is an innovative project founded in the late 80’s in Chile’s most northern wine region. This piece of otherworldly dessert, hot and arid, was terraformed into a lush wine growing area. Due to some drying on the vine, the finished product is even more dense and opulent than the norm – no vegetal character here.

Chakana 2012 Maipe Reserve Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Argentina is far from a one-trick malbec pony. In fact, it is only very recently that malbec surpassed bonarda as the most widely planted grape varietal in Argentina. Formerly used exclusively as a bulk wine production blender grape, there are many fine examples, such as this, of this deeply coloured, floral and succulent varietal wine.

Other New World Reds

Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Kurtz Family Boundary Row Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2010

Stoller 2012 Pinot NoirStoller Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA ($31.95)
John Szabo
- The Stoller family property dates back to 1943, with vineyards planted half a century later. Tightly spaced pinot grows in the volcanic red Jory soils of the Dundee Hills, farmed with environmental care, resulting in a ripe, balanced, savoury and more red fruit-flavoured example with a fine balance of succulent acids, light, fine-grained tannins and excellent length. I like the silky texture and the umami-laden finish.

Kurtz Family 2010 Boundary Row Grenache Shiraz Mataro, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($29.95)
David Lawrason – There is a Kurtz Family winery in Sonoma as well, but there is no mistaking this exciting red as pure-blooded Aussie – indeed Barossa. When I was in Barossa a year ago winemakers often enthused more about their GSM blends than their shiraz. Just get a load of the aromatics here – the captivating exuberance. Kurtz is one of the wineries in the Light Pass sub-region of Barossa, very near the town of Nuriootpa.

Rodney Strong 2012 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – I rarely recommend this VINTAGES favourite because, despite the characteristically high quality fruit used in this cabernet, it is often disappointingly overdressed. However, the 2012 vintage has a refreshingly transparent treatment, shows restraint, balance and purity of fruit – an excellent value.

Avondale Jonty's Ducks Pekin Red 2011

Nugan Estate Alcira Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Buehler 2012 Cabernet SauvignonBuehler Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California ($41.95)
David Lawrason - I have often chirped about lack of value in Napa cabernet, but here is a nifty exception very much worth $40. It hails from a small, family estate on the eastern slopes of the valley where faults and fissures have engineered three different soil types – sewing in surprising firmness and complexity. Eighteen months in 95% French oak (only 35% new) has added judicious layering.

Nugan Estate 2010 Alcira Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Coonawarra is a very special place for cabernet sauvignon – producing unique wines of great character and complexity. Menthol, iron, licorice and pepper play up the perfectly ripened black fruit in this glorious example.

Avondale 2011 Jonty’s Ducks Pekin Red, Paarl, South Africa ($14.95)
John Szabo
– John and Ginny Grieve, owners of Vital Health Foods, bought the 300 year-old Avondale farm in 1997 and set about converting it to organic/biodynamic culture (actually, they’ve invented their own system called BioLogic). The same balanced approach is taken in the winery. And the results? Well, everything I’ve tasted from Avondale has been worth a look. Jonty’s Ducks is a second label of sorts, a hell of a wine for $15, which blends about 2/3 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest of the Bordeaux grapes. It’s wholly satisfying and highly drinkable, either on its own for contemplation or with roasted meat preparations.

Euro Reds

Château Fortia 2012 Cuvée Du Baron Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Fortia is something of an institution with former owner Baron Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (1890-1967) being a pillar of the French wine industry and co-architect of the French appellation system instituted in 1937. His granddaughter and her husband now run the single 27.5 hectare block of vineyard that is festooned with the mini-boulder galets that make C de Pape, so remarkable. This fine offering is stuffed with flavours yet remarkably elegant and sensual. I have often been underwhelmed by the flagship appellation of the southern Rhône, but not this time.

J.M. Raffault 2011 Les Picasses Chinon, Loire, France ($19.95)
John Szabo
– The Les Picasses parcel sits on a rise overlooking the Vienne River, under which lies classic Loire tuffeau chalky bedrock (there’s an old tuffeau quarry practically underneath the vineyard). The result, in the hands of Raffault, is a fine and gravelly, firm and authentic Loire Valley cabernet franc here, neither green and herbaceous nor overripe – hitting the juste milieu.

Tenuta Rocca 2009 Ornati Langhe, Piedmont, Italy ($21.95)
John Szabo
– From a 15ha estate in the heart of Monforte in the quarter called Ornati, this is a stylish and savoury, earthy and zesty blend of almost equal parts nebbiolo, cabernet and barbera. It’s solid value in a surprisingly traditional style, despite the cabernet.

Château Fortia Cuvée Du Baron Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 J.M. Raffault Les Picasses Chinon 2011 Tenuta Rocca Ornati Langhe 2009

Before signing off a word on an upcoming piece. There seems to be no let up to new ventures in Ontario, and after having spent five days in Niagara last weekend I have a bushel of news to report – and some stunningly good wines to review. I was there to take in some icewine activities during the Icewine Festival and to unofficially co-host a group of visiting sommeliers from the UK, Hong Kong and Montreal. But my main purpose was to visit newer Niagara wineries after not having done so for a couple of years. My aim is to profile at least six new wineries, and have that published by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy your purchases from the January 24 release, and watch this space next week when John Szabo orchestrates a preview the February 7 release.

Cheers,

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Jan 24th release:

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 24th – Part One
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 24th – Part One

Learning Spanish and Winter Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

¿Hablas español? Either way, you’ll probably learn a few new words in this report, which covers the Spanish feature of the January 24th VINTAGES release. Although Spain may not be able to claim as many indigenous grapes as, say, neighboring Portugal or Italy, there’s a lot more to the country than just tempranillo and garnacha (as good as they can be). There’s a fine collection of oddities and uncommon varieties alongside the classics in the release, one of the most interesting Spanish features I can recall. So if you’re not sure what a graciano is, or if prieto picudo has yet to pass your lips, or if verdejo sounds just kinky enough to give it a go, read on. We’ve assembled ten Spanish wines for your consideration, with some alignment from the winealign crü as well as some solo recos where the love was not universal. So polish up your glass and your Spanish vocabulary and join us for a little fiesta a la española.

This week we’ve also included our top white picks from the release – I’ve called them “Winter Whites”, a marvelously vague theme that allowed us to include pretty much everything we enjoyed. Next week David will follow up with the top kit from South America and the rest of the best reds.

La Cruz Blanca, Jerez-1582

Buyers’ Guide to Spain

Duquesa De Valladolid 2013 Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Great value in a spiffy, polished white from a grape variety now fully risen to stardom in this appellation near the River Duero where calcareous soils paint the arid landscape a greyish tone. Is verdejo Spain’s best white grape? That’s a tussle with albariño, but I find verdejo more consistently hitting excitement.

Baron De Ley 2010 Varietales Graciano, DOCa Rioja, Spain ($21.95)
John Szabo – Graciano is a low-yielding, colour and aroma-packed variety happily making a comeback in Spain, mainly in Rioja and neighbouring Navarra. This example is crafted in the traditional style by traditionalist Baron de Ley, with a significant dose of American-oak/toasted coconut and damp cedar flavour alongside zesty-fresh red berry fruit. I bet once you’ve had a sip, you’ll want more.

Duquesa De Valladolid Verdejo 2013 Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010 Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009 Abelis Carthago William Selection Crianza 2011

Finca Los Alijares 2009 Graciano, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain ($17.95)
John Szabo - This version of graciano is a little further out there, with a wonderfully evolved, spicy, wild range of aromatics. Pure resinous bay leaf/ laurel tree, wet balsa wood, fresh earth and leather lead off, while the palate is pleasantly tart-astringent with a decidedly Old World texture that would be best served with some salt, fat and protein to soften. At the price it’s well worth the detour for some horizon expanding.
David Lawrason – Considered too beefy and rustic to go solo graciano is primarily a blender in Rioja. This departure certainly has heft, with solid acidity and buzz-saw tannin – I like the energy. Somewhat Priorat-like in the structure.

Abelis 2011 Carthago William Selection Crianza, DO Toro, Spain ($23.95)
John Szabo – Toro is downriver from Ribera Del Duero and thus warmer, where tempranillo takes on a riper profile. This is a particularly ambitious version from 45 year-old vines tipping in at 15.5% alcohol with an abundance of oak flavour, which will impress fans of big and bold at the price. Think higher-end Napa cabernet, for example.
David Lawrason – I spent 48 fascinating hours in Toro a few years ago, and was moved by the arid, powerful and picturesque landscape, and the way that power and ruggedness translated to its tempranillo-based reds. The biggest red of the Spanish feature, but proportioned at the same time.

Casa Castillo El Molar 2011

Bikandi Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva 2001

Dominio Dos Tares 2011 Estay Prieto PicudoDominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, Spain ($15.95)
John Szabo - Prieto Picudo is another rare red variety of central north-western Spain, somewhere, say, between mencía and tempranillo in style, which is to say naturally high in acid with relatively light tannins. This is a fine and savoury-juicy example, well balanced fleshy and fully satisfying for the money with broad appeal and terrific length, too.
David Lawrason – Another day, another new grape variety. Prieto picudo is a dark skinned grape localized near Leon in northwest Spain. This is a substantial red for the money; wearing a bit too much oak for some perhaps, but offering very good sense of richness and density, especially at $15.95.

Bikandi 2001 Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva, DOCa Rioja Spain ($26.95)
John Szabo - Here’s a fine value for those into mature wines but who don’t want to cellar them for a dozen years. Bikandi has done that for you in this mature, savoury, zesty, old school style Rioja, complete with cinnamon and cedar-tinged oak notes. I like the succulence and juiciness here – this is fine Rioja for current enjoyment, though no rush to dink it, either.
Sara d’Amato - Bright, vibrant and distinctive with still grippy tannins, this surprisingly youthful Rioja delivers an abundance of pleasure with many years ahead. Aged for a whopping 54 months in oak – first in new American barrels for optimum softening followed by a long period in French oak for developing harmony of flavours.

Casa Castillo 2011 El Molar, DO Jumilla Spain ($17.95)
John Szabo - A heart-warming, heady, 100% grenache from southern Spain, with a generous 15% alcohol, for those cold winter nights.

Macho Man 2012 Monastrell, DO Jumilla Spain ($18.95)
John Szabo - I honestly never thought I would ever recommend a wine called “Macho Man”. But I feel ok about it, since it’s not entirely true to its name. It’s rather more of a light-mid-weight man, freshly shaved, sprightly, with even a slightly tender side. In fact, it’s really not very macho at all. If the silly name and label still make you uncomfortable, ask that guy loitering outside the LCBO to buy it for you and just put a bag over it, or decant and quickly discard the bottle in your neighbour’s recycling bin.

Señorío De Sarría 2009 Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza, Navarra, Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From a grand agricultural estate in the Pyrenees foothills comes a  mazuelo (alias carignan) with a firm, rustic, almost hard-ass ambiance. Some true grit here; I would like to see it age even further. I like its drive.

Macho Man Monastrell 2012 Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009 Sueño Tempranillo 2011 Vinessens Sein 2011

Sueño 2011 Tempranillo, Ribera Del Júcar, Spain, ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato - Low cropped, 50-year old vines are used to produce this absolutely sensual tempranillo. Ribera del Jucar is one of Spain’s youngest DOs and tends to produce tempranillo with a remarkable degree of refinement and perfumed aromatics such as this great value.

Vinessens 2011 Sein, Alicante, Spain, ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato - This southeastern coastal region is home to some great value monastrell (aka mourvèdre) grown on its loose, sandy soils. This monastrell/syrah blend shows considerable purity of fruit, freshness and an enticing peppery quality.

Buyers’ Guide to Winter Whites

Bachelder 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay, AC Burgundy, France ($35.95)
John Szabo - A wine crafted in the typical Bachelder style, with evolved flavours from long elevage, yet retaining a good dose of fruit. Honeyed-wet stone flavours lead the profile, ample and mouth filing, with really quite exceptional length and depth overall. This is one of the more concentrated Bourgogne Blancs I’ve tasted from the typically light 2012 vintage.

Vignerons De Buxy 2010 Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru, AC Burgundy, France ($25.95)
John Szabo- A fine value from the Côte Châlonnaise from the reliable co-op of Buxy, savoury and succulent. The quality of the 2010 vintage shines here in spades, a year of balanced, minerally wines with genuine power and depth. A great entry point for classic Bourgogne fans.

Domaine Chatelaine 2013 Les Vignes De Saint-Laurent-l’Abbaye, AC Pouilly Fumé, France ($21.95)
John Szabo – The 12th generation now runs the family domaine, and this wine hails from an old Abbey vineyard planted since the 12th century. It’s a crisp, elegant, mineral and highly representative bottle of Pouilly-Fumé.

Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 Vignerons De Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2010 Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L'abbaye 2013 Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013

Porcupine Ridge 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95)
John Szabo – A tidy value here from Marc Kent (of Boekenhootskloof in Franshhoek) unmistakably South African with its wet hay and iodine flavours, and with depth, weight and complexity easily beyond the asking price.

Rosehall Run 2013 Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay, Prince Edward County, Ontario ($19.95)
David Lawrason - Hungry Point is the new name for the Cuvee County tier of estate grown wines at Rosehall Run. The entire area that juts into Lake Ontario was once called Hungry Point because its windswept stony soils were so poor for growing traditional food crops. Vines, on the other hand, thrive. The cooler vintage and absence of muffling oak have ignited the fruit here – all kinds of County energy and surprising depth of flavour.

Anselmann 2012 Edesheimer Ordensgut Weissburgunder Kabinett Trocken, Pfalz, Germany ($13.95)
David Lawrason - When travelling Germany two years ago I was most surprised and taken not by riesling, or pinot noir, but by weissburgunder, alias pinot blanc. It inspired me to focus much more attention on this grape from various parts of the world, and I continue to be impressed. This is a slim but intense example bursting with flavour, and excellent length. $13.95, are you kidding me?

Anselmann Edesheimer Ordensgut Weissburgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012 Château De Jurque Fantaisie Jurançon Sec 2012 Kellerei St. Magdalena Pinot Grigio 2013 Imako Vino Majestic Temjanika 2013

Château De Jurque 2012 Fantaisie Jurançon Sec, Southwest France, ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato - Produced on steep slopes of the foothills of the Pyrenees, this dry Jurancon is a typical blend of gros and petit manseng. Jurançon wines are reputed to have powers of virility, in fact, advertisers have long used the motto: “Manseng means Jurançon means Sex” – best to tuck this vibrant, earthy treat away for Valentine’s Day.

Kellerei St. Magdalena 2013 Pinot Grigio, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy, ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato - This ethereal beauty is not your typical, indistinct pinot grigio but one which offers a lofty texture, crunchy salinity, lush peach and floral notes and punctuated by a hint of delicate bergamot. Pretty, compelling and head-turning.

Imako 2013 Vino Majestic Temjanika, Republic Of Macedonia ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato - In the weird and wonderful category, this inexpensive delight is worth a try for the adventurous. The temjanika grape is a local clone of muscat blanc a petit grains common in the south of France. This very floral example is slightly off-dry with notes of tangerine, licorice and meringue – it should prove a delight with soft, creamy cheeses.

~

Touring Tuscany & Piedmont

Consider joining me next October in Tuscany and Piedmont for an insider’s deluxe gastronomy tour via Indus Travel. Only fluffy, unlumpy pillows and high thread count sheets, plus daily diet of white truffles, cooking classes, 5-star relaxation and of course, plenty of wine tastings. It will be memorable. Details: http://www.indus.travel/tour/tuscany-and-barolo-with-john-szabo

Tuscan Hilltop town- Orvieto-7861
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES January 24th, 2015:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 10th – Part Two

The New World Order
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Last week John and Sara cracked open the first VINTAGES release of 2015 by focusing on European or Old World wines. Which leaves the New World for me; and that’s just peachy. New World wines tend to get painted with one broad fruit-bomb brush (especially by Europeans), but given my own travels (at least twice to each of the five major countries since 2010), I can tell you that the New World is a fascinating and fast-moving arena of discovery, diversity and sub-regionalization. John’s recent excellent essay on what’s going in Chile, could be written about any New World wine country.

Please indulge me for a moment. Grab a pen, and list New World wine countries as they spring to mind. Waiting, waiting …. tum ti tum….rump a pum pum…….New World wine countries….

Okay, time’s up. What have you got? I would bet that you have listed five or six countries, and that the order in which you listed them probably goes something like: California (US), Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa. You may, as a Canuck, have put Ontario or BC in there somewhere – while most citizens of our planet would not. But what do they know?

Well, if your list does mirror the list above, in that general order, then you have just defined the New World pricing hierarchy.

Popularity, reputation and history – general top-of-mindedness – are the pillars of wine pricing. Just look back to Europe for proof – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Piedmont etc. Fame begets fortune. In the New World California has attained that status (thanks Napa), and Australia is not far behind (thanks Grange). Things begin to blur after that but New Zealand has vigorously marketed itself at a higher price point. Canada is paddling the same canoe, if still about three years upstream.

Then come South America and South Africa, which remain clearly at a lower overall price tier. I am not saying that these countries deserve to be there; I am saying that they are still there, despite proven capability to make good wines at almost any price point. The rest of the world just doesn’t yet know it or believe it.

So now I would like to redraw the list based on value. And it goes like this – South Africa, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and California. The complete inversion of the popularity list!

I totally understand if you are not convinced to go out and buy wines from a certain country just because we critics say it’s good value. You may have not had good experiences with their cheapest wines, or have sensed a regional style or flavour profile you don’t like, or heard negative things. Maybe your attitudes are coloured by cultural imagery. But our job as wine critics is to ignore all that and locate quality. Then when we find it at a good price we need to tell you about it. The rest is up to you.

And at this juncture in history I am most frequently finding the best value in South America and South Africa – at all price points. Here are some of the best wines and best values in VINTAGES January 10th release; which is billed in the catalogue as “The Smart Buys Issue”.

Whites

Mulderbosch 2012 Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Chenin blanc is the brightest light among South African whites, a specialty thanks to large and often old plantings that are being re-tooled to create premium wines. This is a tropical beauty.
Sara d’Amato – Yet another South African chenin stunner finds its way to the VINTAGES shelves. This is my top value pick in this release offering a terrific depth of flavour from old bush vines. A sustainable wine from an impressive producer.
John Szabo – Sourced almost exclusively from bush vines (Swartland, Malmesbury), many over 30 years old and all dry farmed, this is a bone dry chenin with great depth of flavour for the price. 20% barrel fermentation adds additional layers. It’s drinking now, but will be even better in a year or two.

Zuccardi Serie A 2013 Torrontés, Salta, Argentina ($15.95)
David Lawrason – During ten days in Argentina last month, I tasted dozens of torrontés – a highly aromatic muscat-crossed grape that has become that country’s signature white. The quality level was universally high, and no different here. Torrontés may never attain the complexity or finesse, or price, of top chardonnays or rieslings, but it is undeniably appealing, especially astride exuberant Asian cuisine.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2012 Zuccardi Serie A Torrontes 2013 Keint-He Voyageur Chardonnay 2012 Talley Vineyards Bishop's Peak Chardonnay 2013

Keint-He 2012 Voyageur Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.00)
John Szabo - Here’s a fine value from Prince Edward County-based Keint-He winery, but sourced from vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula (hence the “Voyageur” brand). It delivers more than sufficient limestone-minerality to keep the punters happy, and I like the tight but ripe acids and firm structure. This will please widely at the price.

Talley Vineyards 2013 Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato - Deliciously easy to drink but with restrained oak and alcohol which makes it also versatile with food.  Elegant with bright acids and savory dried herbs – a lovely example of Edna Valley’s long and moderate growing season (the longest in California). Keep this sophisticated find on hand for surprise guests.

Reds

Oak Bay Gamay Noir 2012

Momo 2012 Pinot NoirMomo Pinot Noir 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
David Lawrason – There are three of four decent, moderately priced New World pinots on this release. I like this for it’s extra somewhat savoury/foresty complexity.
Sara d’Amato – The length and complexity here surprised me in this upbeat pinot noir that brightens and unfolds in the glass. The Momo portfolio offers an accessible range of wines produced from three of Seresin’s biodynamic vineyards and offers some great value (hard to find in a pinot noir!)

Oak Bay 2012 Gamay Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – #GoGamayGo – an expression and hashtag that is rapidly gaining popularity among winos in the know. Find out what all the buzz is about with this gold medal award winner from the National Wine Awards of Canada
John Szabo - This NWAC gold medalist, is a crisp, fresh, light, infinitely drinkable gamay, the way nature intended it to be rendered into wine. Serve chilled for maximum enjoyment.

La Posta 2013 Armando Bonarda Mendoza, Argentina ($14.95)
John Szabo - Argentina’s “other” grape (originally from northern Italy where it’s known as croatina) this is well worth investigating at the price for a full, generous, fruity, and engaging wine with plenty of dark berry fruit and minimal oak influence. Decant before serving; best 2014-2020.

Rupert & Rothschild 2011 Classique, Western Cape, South Africa ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This was my highest scoring New World wine of this release, thanks to its fine sense of composition, focus and length. South Africa has been making Bordeaux-styled reds for generations and they have learned a thing or two. This joint venture with the Rothschilds of Bordeaux only adds to the experience bank.

Devil’s Corner 2013 Pinot Noir, Tamar Ridge, Tasmania, Australia, ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – This cool climate pinot noir taps into some old world flavours such as pepper, earth, red meat and sweet sweat. This intriguing conversation starter is a lovely package both inside and out.

La Posta Armando Bonarda 2013 Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2011 Devil's Corner Pinot Noir 2013 Concha Y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2012

Concha Y Toro 2012 Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Marchigue, Central Valley ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Cabernet remains Chile’s most important red grape, and again the experience of large and well established company pays off. This is a very nicely balanced, complete and typical Chilean cabernet that brings it all together at a good price. This hails from granite based red clay soils of the Palo Santo Vineyard, on the south bank of the Tinguiririca River. Marchigue is a sub-region of Colchagua

Featherstone 2012 Red Tail Merlot, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario  ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A substantive and riper than usual merlot from Featherstone – indicative of the hot, dry vintage in Niagara. Oh-so sensual, this appealing red boasts a voluptuous body and notes of wild flowers, plump plums and exotic spice.

And that’s a wrap for this edition. John returns next week with our first report on the January 24 release, while I will follow in with more detail on Chile & Argentina, the sub-feature on the 24th.

Cheers,

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Jan 10th release:

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 10th – Part One
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 10th – Part One

WineAlign: Past, Present and Future, & Smart Euro Wines
By John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

“Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” said Alfred Tennyson. At WineAlign, we have plenty of reasons to be happy about this past year, but even more to welcome the hopeful smiles of 2015. In 2014, over 1.5 million of you and your unique friends visited WineAlign and put your trust in us for recommendations. December alone saw nearly 3,500 new users join the WineAlign community, and close to 40,000 of you logged in, presumably to find great wines and spirits, which remains the raison d’être for our little slice of the World Wide Web. In 2014, 6.3 million pages flashed in front of users’ eyes, with the average session lasting 3 minutes and 26 seconds, a veritable three-day weekend in Internet time. For all of your trust, time and support, we are deeply grateful.

But we won’t be taking too many long weekends in 2015 to reflect on past success. On the contrary, we have big plans. We’ll be undertaking the massive migration to “responsive web design”, which, according to the masters of web land, means that WineAlign will perform magically on whatever electronic device you own now, or will ever own. It’ll be faster, sleeker, more efficient, shearing off precious time between you and your next memorable glass.

WineAlign Unique Visitors

We’re six years old now, as old as the eternal city in the cyber world, so it’s also high time for a little renovation. We’ll be refreshing the site with a more contemporary look; out with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and in with the urban landscape of the future. With the revitalization will come new features, not least of which will be individual pages for all of your favorite critics – you’ll find each of our latest reviews and recommendations, articles, micro posts, videos and photographs in one place, so we can get to know each other even better. We’re also streamlining our data input system to get more reviews onto the site. Soon, all of the additional thousands of wines the WineAlign team reviews on the road each year will find their way efficiently into the database. Many of these wines may not be currently available at your local shop, but we know that you travel, too, and the more the merrier as they say. We aim to be the number one reference resource for all things liquid and tasty not just in Canada but also internationally, and we have the crack team in place to achieve just that. We’d also love to hear any suggestions you have that could make WineAlign even more useful for you. (feedback@WineAlign.com)

So here’s to the past, present and future, on this, the threshold of the New Year 2015. May your cup runneth over with good wine.

VINTAGES 10th Buyers Guide: Smart Euro Wines

Of course, all of this development costs some serious dough, so we’ll be easing off the grand crus and looking for the smartest values for the next little while. That’s what the January 10th release is all about. Part One of the report this week covers the top smart buys from European soil (all under $25, many closer to $16), and next week we’ll look at the rest of the world. David was gathering vinous intel in Argentina in December and missed the media tasting, but he’ll be back next week as usual with all of his reviews from the follow-up tastings.

Euro Whites

Domaine Du Bois-Malinge 2013 Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie Ac, Loire, France ($13.95) John Szabo – A crisp and very dry, classically-styled Muscadet designed for the aperitif hour.

Rabl 2013 Kittmansberg Grüner Veltliner DAC Kamptal Austria ($14.95) John Szabo - A fine buy to keep around the house for casual sipping from the ever-reliable Rudi Rabl, crisp, dry and sprightly.

Domaine Bois Malinge Muscadet Sèvre Et Main 2013Rabl Kittmansberg Grüner Veltliner 2013Borgo Magredo Mosaic Pinot Grigio 2013Gunderloch Fritz's Riesling 2013

Borgo Magredo 2013 Mosaic Pinot Grigio, Friuli Grave, Italy, ($15.95) (72389) Sara d’Amato - A fresh and unadulterated pinot grigio from the gravelly soils of the aptly named “Grave del Friuli”. This innovative winery prides itself on decades of oenological research and cutting edge vinification tools, which it uses to produce appealing and modern wines while preserving purity of fruit – the essence of the terroir. This undressed example boasts lively acids and notable minerality.

Gunderloch 2013 Fritz’s Riesling, Qualitätswein, Germany, ($13.95) Sara d’Amato - Gunderloch’s unbelievably steep, red slate soils on the banks of the Rhein are almost entirely planted with naturally low-yielding riesling. Fritz Hasselbach, along with his wife Agnes manage the estate and are well-known ambassadors of the unique riesling grown on the “Roter Hang” between Nackenheim and Nierstein. Fritz’s riesling is upbeat and playful but delivers great impact for such a small price.

Euro Reds

Château Beauséjour Hostens 2010, AC Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($22.95) John Szabo - A complex, well-structured, succulent and savoury Bordeaux from the excellent 2010 vintage, with concentration and density well above the mean for the price. I like the range of dark fruit flavour, the integrated wood spice, the firm tannins and balanced acids. Solid stuff, and will be even better in 2-5 years.

Lafage Côté Sud 2010, IGP Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France ($14.95) John Szabo - Source of excellent value, characterful wines, the Roussillon delivers slightly savage, garrigue and blue fruit-flavoured wines, such as this example from Lafage. Across Jean-Marc Lafage’s sizable 160 hectare estate, average yields run about 20hl/ha, barely more than half the permitted yield in Grand Cru Burgundy, which accounts, in part, for the concentration on offer. Thankfully the pricing remains très Midi. For salty protein and snowfalls.

Ontañón 2010 Crianza Tempranillo/Garnacha DOCa Rioja Spain ($16.95) - John Szabo - Another fine, balanced, savoury and succulent wine from Ontañon, a reliable name in the Rioja constellation of producers. Best 2014-2020.

Château Beauséjour Hostens 2010 Lafage Côté Sud 2012 Ontañón Crianza 2010 Boutari Naoussa 2010 San Silvestro Brumo Nebbiolo d'Alba 2012

2010 Boutari Naoussa PDO Naoussa Greece ($13.95) John Szabo - An intriguing find for fans of traditional, old school, European wines at a super price. It’s not for pre-dinner sipping, mind you, but something to pull out with the roasts or braised meats. How refreshing it is to come across a wine that’s so decidedly non-fruity, fully focused savoury, earthy, sundried tomato flavours and much more; Boutari is back on track with this xynomavro classic in 2010. Best 2014-2020.

2012 San Silvestro Cantine Brumo Nebbiolo D’alba Doc, Piedmont, Italy ($15.95) John Szabo – A more than decent entry-level nebbiolo for fans of the grape. Best 2014-2018.

Saint Saturnin De Vergy 2012 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune, Burgundy, France, ($24.95) Sara d’Amato - Complex, aromatic and structurally sound, this well-priced Burgundy hits all the right marks. I imagine this classic, polished and stylish pinot to be a top seller in this release.

Maison Roche De Bellene 2012 Cuvée Réserve Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($21.95) Sara d’Amato - Roche de Bellene’s style tends to veer on the side of restrained and elegant with great finesse and this sophisticated buy is a case and point example. Both dinner party and cellar worthy – this class act exudes refinement and boasts deliciously distinctive pinot noir character.

Saint Saturnin De Vergy Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune 2012Maison Roche De Bellene Cuvée Réserve Bourgogne 2012Quercecchio Rosso Di Montalcino 2012Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008

Quercecchio 2012 Rosso Di Montalcino Tuscany, Italy, ($16.95) Sara d’Amato - Good Rosso di Montalcino such as this has characteristics of its big brother, Brunello, and this cheerful and complex example over-delivers. From Quercecchio’s historic estate, this succulent find is certainly a top value in this first release of the New Year.

Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008, Umbria, Italy, ($16.95) Sara d’Amato - A “super-Umbrian” blend of sangiovese, sagrantino, merlot and cabernet that has been given a great deal of attention. Wonderfully decadent, upfront, highly appealing and complex – a sure-fire hit.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES January 10th, 2015:

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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Niagara Chilled

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Champagne and Sparkling Report 2014

By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Admittedly, publishing this report on December 23rd reinforces the notion that sparkling wines are only suitable for celebration or special occasion, which is, of course, nonsense. I regularly pop corks anytime between January 1st and December 31st, often simply to celebrate that the sun has risen again, or that the atmosphere still contains oxygen (note that the views of this author are, in this rare case only, shared by the publisher of WineAlign and its entire editorial team). Yet the last couple of months of each year register over half of annual champagne and sparkling sales, so it’s also a sensible time to publish, if only to capture your attention.

So, following are a dozen occasions to buy and drink sparkling wine, in case you needed inspiration, along with a smart buy or two for each. Some occasions are holiday related, while others are applicable year-round. All wines are currently available in Ontario; those available in consignment will list the agent name and link to their profile page on WineAlign where you can access their contact info – these are the ones you’ll be buying by the 6 or 12 pack. The rest are in stock at the LCBO or are available through the local winery.

1. Lunch with the Girls

Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut Grange Of Prince Edward Sparkling Riesling 2013 Bottega Vino Dei Poeti ProseccoThere’s lots to talk about, so no time to fuss over precious wine. The Bottega Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco, Veneto, Italy ($13.95) delivers exactly what’s needed: a gentle, barely off-dry, lightly effervescent burst of happiness at a drink-another-bottle price. For those who prefer it a little sweeter, opt for the Grange Of Prince Edward 2013 Sparkling Riesling, Prince Edward County ($19.95), a medium-sweet, authentic riesling-flavoured bubbly from the Grange’s estate fruit.

On the other hand, if your girlfriends are free in the middle of the day and up for boozy lunches, there’s a good chance they work in hospitality, so you’ll want something a little more “important”. Cave Spring has quietly been making some of Ontario’s best bubbly, especially the refined 100% chardonnay Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut, VQA Niagara Escarpment ($29.95). It’s treated to three years on the lees for extra biscuitiness, without the calories.

2. To Take to the Big House Party

Nino Franco Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Belstar Brut, ProseccoWho knows whether you’ll be offered crystal stems or paper cups, if it’s a beer and cocktail crowd, or if a pack of rabid wine snobs may be lurking in the corner. But for all eventualities, the Belstar Prosecco, Veneto, Italy ($16.95) has you covered. It’s inexpensive but not available at the LCBO so you can make up any price you want, the package looks classy and expensive, and the wine inside is actually damned good. It’s a less frivolous version, on the drier side of brut, ideal for sipping and chatting, or washing down the smoked salmon canapés. Buy a case, you’ll need it. Available through 30-50 Imports, 12b/case.

3. To Crack When Friends Drop By (unexpectedly or not)

You know its gonna happen, so don’t be caught unawares. Nothing’s more welcoming to a long-lost friend, or better for neighbor relations, than the gesture of cracking a bottle of bubbly. But champagne’s too expensive for my freeloading acquaintances and noisy neighbors, so split the difference with the Nino Franco Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Italy ($21.95), a premium but affordable prosecco from one of the most lauded producers in the region. This is very dry and crisp, more stony than fruity  – you might call it a grown-up version.

4. Intimate Family Dinner

Josef Chromy Sparkling 2008 André Clouet Brut RoséTime to dig deeper and enjoy. The André Clouet Champagne Brut Rosé, France ($62.95) is just about the finest rosé champagne I’ve tasted this year, probably in several years, certainly for the price. It’ sumptuous and rich, generously proportioned and perfectly balanced. This classy latest shipment from small grower André Clouet was disgorged in April 2014, made from a 2010 base wine with the balance from 2009 and 2008, all from grand cru vineyards in Bouzy. Considering the oft-inflated price of the category this is very smart value. It’ll pass from aperitif to table with grace. 6/case; Groupe Soleil, Stephen Cohen, gsoleil@rogers.com

5. With Oysters

Tasmanians know a thing or two about both oysters (send up those Pacific Crassostrea gigas please) and sparkling. In fact, cool Tassie is currently the hottest source in Oz for sparkling wine grapes (and fine chardonnay and pinot in still versions, too). Josef Chromy makes a very bright 2008 Méthode Traditionnelle, Tasmania ($29.95), perfectly brisk, fresh and very dry, not to say ideal with those salty, iodine, cucumber-tinged Pacific bivalves. At the price, you can also throw in another dozen.

6. The Classy Brunch

Schramsberg Blanc De Blancs Brut 2011 Hinterland Ancestral 2014What better way to start the day? Act quickly to secure a few bottles of the 2014 Méthode Ancestrale, Prince Edward County ($25.00) from sparkling specialists Hinterland, a gamay based, lightly effervescent, off-dry bubbly with about 8% alcohol that sells out quickly each year. It’s like a pre-made raspberry mimosa, made in the original sparkling method, by bottling still-fermenting wine (well, back then it was accidental, now it’s on purpose). Available from the winery; order before December 24th for pre-New Year delivery.

When you move to the table, move on to the Schramsberg 2011 Blanc De Blancs Brut, North Coast Region, California ($51.95). Sometimes champagne seems over the top, but you needn’t give up on pleasure, and Schramsberg is a wine with quality and pedigree. It was founded by Jacob Schram in 1862, and lays claim to America’s first commercially produced, Chardonnay-based brut sparkling wine in 1965. Fruit from the cool and ideal 2011 sparkling vintage comes from vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino as well as Napa County, yielding a brisk and lively, citrus and green apple-flavoured bubbly. A quarter of the base wine is barrel fermented, adding a delicate touch of spice, while nearly two years on the lees broadens complexity further to give you hope for the rest of the day. Available through The Vine Agency, 6/case.

7. For Contemplative Sipping

Diebolt Vallois Prestige Brut Blanc De Blancs Louise Brison Champagne BrutFor moments more Beethoven than Mozart, the outstanding Louise Brison 2006 Champagne Brut “Tendresse” Blanc De Blancs ($64.00) will fill your mind with happy, or at least deep, thoughts. This small grower’s vineyards are in the very southern part of the region, closer to Chablis than Reims. Base wines are fermented and aged in barrel without malolactic, and wines are kept on the lees far longer than appellation requirements – this particular bottle was disgorged in September 2013, meaning over a half dozen years sur lattes. It’s a wonderfully mature, toasty, complex champagne, more like aged white Burgundy with fine bubbles, and terrific length and depth. Mature, vintage champagne from a great year, for $64? I’ll take a case of that, Mr. Le Caviste. Marcel Rethore: mrlecaviste@yahoo.ca.

8. To Impress Your Fancy-Pants, Champagne-Loving Friends

So your friends have had it all? I’d wager they haven’t tried Diebolt Vallois Prestige Brut Blanc De Blancs ($68.00), unless of course they travel regularly to Champagne. And even then, they’ll still appreciate this beautiful wine from the grand cru villages of Chouilly, Le Mesnil s/Oger and Cramant in the celebrated Côtes des Blancs. There’s pitch perfect equilibrium between creamy citrus, lightly toasted wheat bread, pear and apple, with a lovely streak of ripe acids and a saline, mineral finish. Seven grams of dosage gives this a drier edge. 6/case; Groupe Soleil, Stephen Cohen, gsoleil@rogers.com

9. To Gift to Someone you don’t know well

Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2009 Taittinger Brut Réserve ChampagneIf you’re not close to the recipient and want to be sure to impress, you need some brand recognition. Otherwise your “niche discovery” might be misperceived as a cheap substitute. Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne ($58.95) has just that, a well-respected name. And beyond that, the wine is also excellent: a classy, well balanced, chardonnay-based champagne that hits a balance between enough biscuity-brioche flavour to satisfy fans of developed champagne, while retaining enough fruit and freshness for those in search of vibrancy. In other words, I can’t see who wouldn’t enjoy this.

10. To Gift to Someone You Know Well

On the other hand, for someone you know well, and who more importantly will know that your intentions are pure, give the gift of both discovery and quality, from somewhere unexpected. Nova Scotia may not yet be known as the epicenter of top sparkling wine in North America, but Benjamin Bridge is doing their best to make it so. The Benjamin Bridge 2009 Brut, Gaspereau Valley, ($49.95) is not even their top wine, but it’s a tidy blend of over half L’Acadie Blanc, with ¼ chardonnay and the balanced filled in by seyval blanc, well worth discovering. Your friends will thank you.

11. To Sip During the Lead-Up To Midnight

Champagne Agrapart Terroir Blanc De Blanc Grand Cru Champagne Deutz Brut Classic ChampagneKeep it classic in the lead up to the countdown with a champagne that’s neither excessively aggressive nor overly mellow: Deutz Brut Classic Champagne ($54.95) fits the bill. It features sufficiently intriguing toasted wheat bread, dried fruit and honeyed character to keep your interest over several hours, while it’s also crisp, dry and sinewy enough not to tire the palate.

12. To Ring in The New Year

Increase the vibrational energy in the room to welcome the new year with Champagne Agrapart Terroirs Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru ($67.95), an uncompromising grower champagne regularly in my top picks, made in an extremely mineral style. It comes across as virtually brut zero despite almost 5 grams of sugar, though that all but disappears in a stream of crackling acids. It improves dramatically with aeration so I recommend the radical tack of carafing before serving, around 11:45pm (just do it gently so you don’t lose too much effervescence, and use a narrow decanter) to ensure maximum midnight merriment. 6/case; Groupe Soleil, Stephen Cohen, gsoleil@rogers.com

I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” - Lily Bollinger

Celebrate in Italy Next October

And while you’re thinking of celebrating, consider joining me next October in Tuscany and  Piedmont for an insider’s deluxe gastronomy tour via Indus Travel. Only fluffy, unlumpy pillows and high thread count sheets, plus daily diet of white truffles and extraordinary wine. It will be memorable. Details: http://www.indus.travel/tour/tuscany-and-barolo-with-john-szabo

Tuscany and Piedmont with John Szabo

 

That’s all for this year. We wish you the very happiest 2015 and thank you sincerely for putting your trust in us when it comes to the realm of drinks. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

Earlier Holiday Gift Guides:

David’s – 12 Reds for the Christmas Crunch
Sara’s – Wines for the Personalities on your List
Steve’s – On the Five Days of Christmas…


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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008