Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – September 30, 2017

Thanksgiving Pairs, Global Reds and Canada’s Best Sommelier
By Sara d’Amato with notes from the team

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Instead of focusing this fall column on the annual turkey and wine pairing dilemma, I though it may be more worthwhile to turn the tables and make perfect pairs of wine for your festive fare. This upcoming VINTAGES release offers a very mini Thanksgiving feature as well as an “All in the Family” grouping of wines from well-known family-owned producers such as Cave Spring Cellars, Famille Perrin and Torres. This is a cutesy way to build a feature based on longstanding consumer favourites of good quality, but there is very little in this grouping you haven’t seen before. Regardless, there are plenty of gems to be found and we’ve sourced the best from across the globe in an attempt to make holiday entertaining that much easier.

When choosing wine for dinner gatherings, we generally think about the individual merits of wines rather than how they may compliment or follow each other. Here are a few pairs that would make a statement side-by-side at your table this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Sets

Local families

Showcase local wines from family-owned wineries this Thanksgiving as you celebrate with your own kin. Although both of these wines can stand on their own, they offer complimentary weight and flavours. Cave Spring Cellars 2015 Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué ($16.95) is consistently widely appealing with ethereal weight, a bouquet of fresh blossoms on the nose and a balanced palate. Due to such balance, it will compliment everything from spinach salads to gravy drizzled poultry. To counter the light, freshness of the Musqué, I propose Henry of Pelham’s 2012 Estate Cabernet/Merlot ($24.95) blend. It has a few years on the former but still offers an abundance of fruit and power, tannins that have become silken and memorable length.With food, think hearty roasted vegetables with sea salt or Korean-style short ribs.

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2015Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2012

Organic Duo

We could all benefit from a lesson on environmental responsibility from New Zealand whose land under vine is 90% sustainably farmed. Although not certified as organic, the wines of te Pā may very well be. This family run winery treats their piece of land on which their ancestors have thrived since the 14th century with deep respect. The Te Pa 2015 Pinot Gris ($17.95)fermented with Alsatian yeasts is mid-weight with a touch of balanced sweetness and some toasty richness from lees ageing. To compliment this richly concentrated white, try the Torres 2015 Habitat ($19.95) red blend of garnacha and syrah, new to VINTAGES. Lively and spicy, the wine has enough freshness to pair with a wide range of festive foods. John Szabo adds that the Torres Habitat is “a clean and ripe, grapey, garnacha-syrah blend, with juicy-reductive flavours, and dark, jammy palate thick with fruit extract. Just pure fruity fun, to be enjoyed over the next year or so.”

Airy and expressive, Torres’ Habitat contrasts perfectly with the viscous pinot gris.

Te Pa Pinot Gris 2015Torres Habitat Garnacha/Syrah Organic 2015

Smoky & Exotic

Here are two statement-making wines rife with intrigue that may just upstage your cuisine. The Hidden Bench 2015 Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard ($19.45) has been a long-time favourite of mine due to its compelling flavours of gun smoke, pithy bitterness and fleshy peach. Pair this with a wine with equal presence and charm of which your guests will likely been unaware. Thymiopoulos 2015 Young Vines Xinomavro ($17.95) is a riveting lighter version of this varietal that exhibits great intensity and longevity. The closest approximation would be that of young Langhe nebbiolo. The Young Vines was also a hit with Michael Godel who contributes: Here is the Naoussa xinomavro that everyone should know and love, enjoy with reckless, gulpable abandon and put seriousness aside. From 2015, a “3000 per cent better vintage than ’14” says Apostolos Thymiopoulos with a smile of relief and bounce back determination. The last thing you need to know is how lithe and ethereal this is, like pinot noir, in Naoussa, with xinomavro.

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard 2015 Thymiopoulos Young Vines Xinomavro 2015

Global Reds

Cirro 2013 Pinot Noir, New Zealand ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – The name “Cirro” refers to the wispy clouds that blow over the Wairau Valley leaving feathery tails formed by ice crystals. This delicate pinot noir is reminiscent of those ethereal clouds with its long finish and elegant progression of flavours. A lovely cool climate expression that is certainly worth the price.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($45.95)
Sara d’Amato – It is rare to find such a floral and peppery cabernet sauvignon from such a warm climate as the southern Okanagan. The longer growing season in this vintage seems to have allowed the fruit to mature in very balanced fashion expressing cabernet’s more tender and elegant side. Underbrush and dried herbal notes add complex and spicy intrigue to the palate.

Yalumba 2014 The Strapper GSM, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($19.95)
Michael Godel – In the parlance of our times, the gathering of grenache, shiraz and mataro (mourvedre) in Australia equates to heavy interest and great expectation. The Strapper is indeed a thorough, thoroughly engaging thoroughbred of a GSM, heady, mineral-trotting and savoury. Ripeness is its virtue and strapping its personality. A reminder of how the Rhône can show up in a Barossa body.
John Szabo – Here’s a lovely, ripe and fleshy, generously proportioned Barossa Valley GSM from valley pioneers Yalumba, delivering ample strawberry pie and wild herbal flavours on a rich and alcohol-infused backdrop. This wine delivers on all levels in the price category, so very satisfying and delicious, as well as nicely balanced for such a strapping, large-scale wine. Best 2017-2024.

Accornero Giulin 2013 Barbera Del Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Barbera’s exceptional acidity is the driving force with ripe Monferrato fruit from an unusual but open for well-designed vintage and lastly, but most importantly a thoughtful amount of wood to finish the wine. In the end it’s flat out juicy, appropriate, authentic and proper stuff.

Cirro Pinot Noir 2013Burrowing Owl Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Yalumba The Strapper Gsm 2014Accornero Giulin Barbera Del Monferrato 2013

Mitolo 2014 Angela Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, South Australia ($32.95)
Michael Godel – Angela is a tribute to the family matriarch, a shiraz with a deep inhalant of fruit sourced from Sandra’s Block and grown by the Lopresti family. It’s nothing if not perfectly classic McLaren Vale, deep, dark and handsome. The seamlessness of taste, texture and really fine acidity is a departure and a welcome sensation. This will range nicely into the middle of the next decade.

Benjamin Leroux 2014 Savigny Les Beaune, Burgundy, France ($48.95)
Michael Godel – Leroux’s label mentioned no specific lieu-dit from the Savigny-Les-Beaunes climat but it certainly drinks as though it is drawn from a very special block. The fruit is markedly dark and richly proportioned with a sense of grip and power but it is also fine in finesse and purity. When one says it has it all going on and Bourgogne Villages is the subject matter than there is truly something to talk about.

Château Marsac 2010 Seguineau Margaux, Bordeaux, France ($59.95)
Michael Godel – Fresh flowers and tobacco but refined, restrained and beautifully demurred so this is the fine, unheard of Margaux. The weight falls into a mid or welter category but power does build and finesse then delivers an acidity to tannin continuum that speaks a line of fine claret clarity. The secondary notes will only add to the mystery after two to three years time.

Terra D’uro 2012 Finca La Rana, Toro, Spain ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a good value, buxom 100% tempranillo grown in the hot interior region of Toro on the Duero River. It has nicely complete, complex, compact nose of ripe cherry, oak spice, herbs and some tarry character. It is full bodied, quite dense, warm and firm, with some minerality.

Mitolo Angela Shiraz 2014Benjamin Leroux Savigny Les Beaune 2014Château Marsac Seguineau Margaux 2010Terra D'uro Finca La Rana 2012

KWV 2014 The Mentors Canvas, Coastal Region, South Africa ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Great value in an mongrel blend of shiraz, mourvedre, petit verdot, tempranillo and a splash of white viognier. It has an impressive, complex, lively nose of plum, blueberry, florals, wet stone, dried herbs and earth. Really well structured with excellent length. For the cellar; best 2020 to 2025+.

Château Ampélia 2015, AC Côtes de Bordeaux Castillon, Bordeaux, France ($23.95)
John Szabo This is the sort of sleeper Bordeaux from a fine vintage that you could forget in the cellar and come back to in a decade and be very happily surprised. It’s ripe and generous, fleshy and appropriately oaked, dark fruit and spice-flavoured. The palate delivers substantial intensity and length in the category. Solid value. Best 2017-2027.

Montes 2014 Purple Angel, Colchagua Valley Colchagua Valley, Chile ($59.95)
John Szabo – Montes’ iconic purple Angel, a carmenere-based blend (with 8% petit verdot in this vintage) is customarily ripe and plush, though still herbal-vegetal-tinged in the varietal idiom, with exceptional depth and length. Structure, too, is significant, firm and tannic, supported by marked acids and high fruit extract. It’s an example of carmenere in an extreme, thick, chewy, cut-with-a-knife style, and impressive as such. I’d like to see this after another 3-5 years minimum in the cellar; best after 2024 though – this is built for the long term. Best 2024-2034.

Kwv The Mentors Canvas 2014Château Ampelia 2015Purple Angel Carmenère 2014

Canada’s New Best Sommelier

Ever wonder what it takes to become Canada’s Best Sommelier? Carl Villeneuve Lepage of Toqué in Montreal needs to wonder no more as he was awarded the title two weeks ago in Vancouver. Nine competitors from across the country rose to the occasion after successfully achieving this title in their respective provinces. Of the nine, three were shortlisted after a written theory exam and blind tasting.

WineAlign’s own John Szabo MS was on hand to judge the competition along with Veronique Rivest of Soif and Pascaline Lepeltier MS from New York and former Best Sommelier of the World finalist. Friends of WineAlign and judges of the Canadian Wine Awards DJ Kearney and Michelle Bouchard were instrumental in organizing the competition.

The finalists were subject to a grueling on stage exam, in front of a live audience and viewing parties in major cities across the country streaming the competition. The competitors were grilled on wine and food pairings, given minutes to identify errors in wine lists and were subject to timed blind tastings, among the many challenges.

For the first time ever, the Best Sommelier of the Americas will take place in Canada, in May of 2018 in Québec. Villeneuve-Lepage will represent Canada at the competition and if successful, at the Best Sommelier of the World competition in Belgium in 2019. In second and third place respectively, were Quebec born Pier Alexis Souliere of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California and Ontario’s own Steve Robinson of Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa.

Stay tuned next week for John Szabo’s Tuscan picks after he and Michael Godel return from a week under the sun.


Sara d’Amato

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selection
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview