Lawrason’s Take on Vintages January 18 Release
The Class of Spain, Plus Hand-Picked French and New World Reds
We are still dealing with a VINTAGES tasting schedule bumped off the rails by the holidays, so this shortened report covers just over half of the January 18 Release. I will taste and post notes on the remainder in the days ahead, including all the white wines; but as we dig deeper into winter there can’t be enough good, well-priced red. The Jan 18 selection overall is patchy – particularly among New World reds it seems (I am getting so annoyed at candied California zins like the Predator), but I have dug up some gems. And I highly recommend a serious look at the Spanish reds.
Classy Spanish Reds
Spanish wine is often represented as a haphazard quilt of quaint, comfy, sun-soaked reds that are overripe, over-oaked and under exposed. So I was pleasantly surprised to find such a solid collection of focused, refined and even scholarly reds on this release. Someone chose well; but they did so by focusing on the three most important fine wine regions of Spain – Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat (not necessarily in that order). I was particularly impressed by the selection from Priorat, and the low prices that have been wrung from this cult-ified region. It gained its notoriety in the 90s when a band of young turks launched small batch wines priced among the most expensive in the land; but I sense that commercial reality is now in play in Priorat. In fact this whole group is very fairly priced for the quality that is delivered, and even though I have not highlighted any Riojas below there are some good buys. And then there are the more generous, less cerebral wines of Ribera, which offer warm-hearted values.
Clos Gebrat 2010 Priorat CG+ ($20.95). This is from Cooperative Vinícola del Priorat, 125 member co-op sourcing from over 300 vineyards based on the region’s slate soils that give Priorat is tautness and refinement. That it is a co-op wine explains its lower price, but it is well made and excellent value.
Planets De Prior Pons 2009 Priorat ($24.95). Prior Pons is a small, family owned winery of about 10 hectares growing the typical trio of grenache, carignan and cabernet, with some of the carignan planted in 1946. The winery is an old stone priory building in the village of La Vilella Alta (pop 141)
Ébano 2008 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($21.95). This is a very fine, quite supple tempranillo (called tinta fina in Ribera) from the modern Bodegas Ebano with 43 hectares, much of it being old bush wines. Winemaker Christina Mantilla is one of the pioneering and most awarded women winemakers in Spain, also making white wine at a sister property in Rias Baixas.
Grifoll Declara 2006 Tossals Montsant ($28.95) is from an appellation that neighbours Priorat, sharing its hot climate if not the same slate soil structure. This is a fully mature, traditional and quite particular style for fans of traditional Euro wines. Great depth here!
Château Gazin 2010 Pomerol, Bordeaux ($129.85). At this price it is not mentioned here because it is a bargain; but it is a great wine from a very strong vintage, and we alert you that 2010 heavy hitters from Bordeaux are arriving. Gazin is a 26 hectare property in prime territory on Pomerol’s famed plateau.
Clos Teddi 2011 Patrimonio Tradition, Corsica ($23.95). My personal ‘discovery’ of the release is a fine, fragrant, lightweight red from an obscure appellation in Corsica. Marie-Brigitte Poli’s father Joseph founded the property in 1970 in granite based soils. The grapes here are obscure too – a blend of aromatic, native niellucciu and workhorse hot climate grenache. Yields are kept low, always a good sign that quality is top of mind.
Château Trillol 2008 Grenach/Syrah Corbières, Languedoc ($17.95) is great value in a traditional syrah, grenache, carignan blend from a property that sits at high altitude in the foothills of the Pyrenees. There is a certain elegant touch here that may stem from the fact that the property is in the hands of the Sichel family that also owns famed Chateau Palmer and Angludet in the Margaux region of Bordeaux.
Dentelles De Camille Cairanne 2010, Côtes Du Rhône Villages ($24.95). We may be seeing the last of the 2010 Rhônes in VINTAGES, so don’t miss this beauty from Cairanne, an appellation overshadowed by Gigondas and Vacqueyras but sharing a position against the landmark Dentelles rock formations.
New World Reds
Rosewood 2011 Merlot, Niagara Escarpment ($22.00). If Bench vineyards in a cooler vintage like 2011 can yield this kind of ripeness, merlot may be here to stay in Niagara. This is certainly on the lighter side, yet nicely made and quite elegant. I should also mention it will soon be available for home delivery, in less than case quantities, through www.winerytohome.com.
Norton 2010 Reserva Malbec, Mendoza ($17.95). I was most impressed by the authentic Argentine feel of this malbec, which I understood better when I met winemaker Jorge Riccitelli last fall. He is a big hearty, friendly man who also exudes some sophistication. This wine doesn’t try to dress up too much in floral, fruity finery like so many of the “new wave” malbecs – one still senses some down-to-earthiness at its core.
J. Lohr 2011 South Ridge Syrah, Paso Robles, California ($19.95). J. Lohr is much better known for its hugely popular Seven Oaks Cabernet, but it’s worth remembering the winery is actually located in Paso Robles, the best-known syrah land in California, and South Ridge is a specific sloping limestone and gravel site. It is rich and very ripe syrah with classic peppery, smoked meat character.
Wynns 2012 Coonawarra Estate Shiraz Coonawarra, South Australia ($22.95) is a very rich, polished effort by the very talented Sue Hodder, who has joined many other winemakers in praising the 2012 vintage in Australia through the roof. The fruit displayed here is astounding!
And that is a wrap for this time. Please tune into WineAlign to check out my newly arriving reviews on other wines in the January release. We are in the midst of a publishing flurry with my special report on Icewine, plus an in-depth look at Alsace by John Szabo, coming very soon. BC members are now reading our four BC critics’ picks of some of their favourite post-Holiday value wines.
Those in the Toronto area may want to act quickly to get a seat at an upcoming WineAlign tasting and four course dinner at Rosewater with winemaker Josh Hammond from New Zealand’s Villa Maria. In my mind this is one of the most overlooked larger wineries in the country, making wines of fine poise and sensibility.
Until next time,
VP of Wine
Editors Note: You can find David Lawrason’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!
From the January 18, 2014 Vintages release: