Lawrason’s Take on Vintages Sept 14 Release

Spotlight Ontario, Petit Verdot, Off-Beat Whites and Red Classics

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

This somewhat shortened edition of Lawrason’s Take is written amid the excitement of the first WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. A crew of twelve core judges has assembled to spend five days tasting through over 1000 wines that are priced under $50 and sold somewhere in Canada. With the wines grouped in under $15, $15 to $25, and $25 to $50 categories – we are searching for “value at all costs”. And I must say that as we near the midway point of the judging I am quite heartened by the quality we are encountering, especially under $15. You will be hearing much more about the results in the near future.

Spotlight on Ontario

With harvest underway mid-September is a very exciting time in Ontario wine country. The LCBO is celebrating with a promotion called SHINE {ON} that brings several new Ontario wines to the shelves through the General List and Vintages. And VINTAGES magazine features comments from some top international critics as well as local sommeliers and restaurateurs. I have very little to add to all this, except to say that WineAlign is your place to go for a more objective look at who is doing what well in Ontario. We have multiple reviews on hundreds of Ontario wines that are both at the LCBO and not at the LCBO. And of course we have the just-announced the complete list of medal winners from The National Wine Awards of Canada.

Three Ontario favourites from VINTAGES release:

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2011Flat Rock Riesling 2012Flat Rock 2012 Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench $16.95 – Flat Rock makes very generous, fruit driven and sometimes almost too easy wines. But this new riesling shines bright indeed, with terrific freshness, crispness and balance – in fact I prefer it to the more expensive, serious 2012 Nadjas riesling. It is a Bench classic.

Bachelder 2011 Niagara Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95). Thomas Bachelder, the former winemaker at Le Clos Jordanne, has gone solo to specialize in chardonnay – from Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy. And he is very good at his craft. This “basic” edition joins VINTAGES Essentials list so it should be around whenever you want it. It is not the deepest, most complex chardonnay that he makes, but it does have a sense of poise and clarity that is a Bachelder hallmark.

The Foreign Affair 2011 The Conspiracy, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95). This is a cabernet sauvignon/cab franc blend make from dried grapes – the appassimento technique for which Foreign Affair has become well known. It has worked very well in this cooler vintage. The wine nicely maintains acidity and freshness yet delivers quite rich and complex flavours that deliver bright berry/currant fruit and cabernet’s savoury elements. It is not “heavy”.

Petit Verdot Rising

Emiliana Novas Petit Verdot 2011Ceravolo Petit Verdot 2009You may have noticed this grape variety popping up more often lately – usually in so-called Bordeaux blends, where it brings both aromatic and acid lift to the equation.  But as a later ripener that needs plenty of warmth it is also showing up more often as a single variety in regions that are warm enough to do the job. And when good winemaking is applied the results can be very exciting indeed. I love the nose of ripe petit verdot, and the two on this release are huge bargains.

Emiliana 2011 Novas Petit Verdot, Colchagua Valley, Chile  ($15.95) is a stunning value, rating over 90 points. I have been very impressed by this leading “green” winery of late, and this organically grown PV from Colchagua, the heartland for rich Chilean reds, is very classy indeed. The grape’s natural acidity works very well to buoy the rich flavours.

Ceravolo 2009 Petit Verdot, Adelaide Plains, South Australia ($21.95). This small winery based on “terra rosa” soils in the Adelaide Plains has impressive track record with Petit Verdot. This is a dark, rich yet balanced example with terrific aromatic lift and complexity.

Off-Beat Whites

Gloria Alvarinho Vinho Branco 2012Ciù Ciù Merlettaie Pecorino OffidaCiù Ciù 2011 Merlettaie Pecorino Offida, Marches, Italy ($16.95). If Verdicchio, the main white wine of the Adriatic Marches region is obscure, a pecorino from the small appellation of Offida is off-the-charts obscure. But this is a great buy from a small organic winery. It’s a firm, structured and complex white not unlike some white Burgundy.

Gloria 2012 Alvarinho Vinho Branco, Vinho Regional Minho, Portugal ($15.95). The whites of Portugal’s Vinho Verde region in the Minho continue to surprise and impress. They have evolved well beyond the point of being simple, thin, spritzed “green” wines.  This single variety alvahrino (the albarino of Spain) packs terrific complexity and structure.

Minor French Classics

There are several Bordeaux on this release but I regret that in my two “passes” through Vintages lab I encountered very few of them. But I have written recently about the 2009s that continue to show up, and there are more this time round. Elsewhere from France there two wines that are very well priced, and classics in their own right.

Collin Bourisset Douce Folie Saint Amour 2011Alain Jaume Grande Garrigue Vacqueyras 2010Collin Bourisset 2011 Douce Folie Saint-Amour, Beaujolais ($19.95). There are actually two wines on the Sept 14 release from this venerable producer (est 1821) and both are very good. I have picked out the Saint Amour because it is less often seen and it offers a lovely sense of charm and finesse. This small AOC borders Macon and has more limestone in the soil than the granite based cru appellations to the south.

Alain Jaume & Fils 2010 Grande Garrigue Vacqueyras ($24.95). The hits keep on coming from this vintage, and this appellation. By nature the grenache-based blends of Vacqueyras are big, rich and ripe (and loaded with peppery “garrigue” character). But the 2010 vintage has brought a great sense of structure to the mix.

New World Classics

Amisfield Pinot Noir 2009Jim Barry The Mcrae Wood Shiraz 2008Jim Barry 2008 The Mcrae Wood Shiraz, Clare Valley, South Australia ($59.95). To tune up for the release of this terrific 2008 shiraz I recently opened a bottle of 2006 from my cellar. It was drinking beautifully – rich yet very refined – with years of life still ahead. Being a smaller family owned winery (part of Australia’s First Families of Wine group) Jim Barry may be off the radar compared to some, but make sure you put this one into your cellar if you love classic Aussie shiraz.

Amisfield 2009 Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand ($36.95). This is an exuberant pinot packing all the power I have come to expect from Otago, but still showing brightness and even some charm. This small, modern winery – with a terrific restaurant – is located near Queenstown, but sources its fruit from various sub-regions.

And that is it for this shortened edition. Back to tasting room at the World Wine Awards.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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