Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – Nov 11th, 2017

Climate change, a strong new world contingent, Canadian gold, and a California wildfire fundraiser

By Michael Godel with notes from David Lawrason

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

The WineAlign team have been on the road of late and while that’s not exactly shocking news to our readers we do have all sorts of news to report on, from across the country and abroad. David has once again been travelling from coast to coast with Gold Medal Plates, the vinous and culinary roadshow founded in 2003. It is a Canadian institution. The primary goal of the GMP galas are to “celebrate Canadian excellence in food, wine, athletic achievement and entertainment.” The tour makes stops in 11 Canadian cities and raises funds for the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support Olympic athletes. Net proceeds are donated to support high performance programs such as Own The Podium. On November 16th David brings GMP to Toronto. The night will be a host to athletes, 800 guests and wondrous culinary creations by 10 sacrosanct chefs. Sara, John and I will be judging with David while spending the evening with Canadian Olympic medallists and recording artists. The once a year fundraiser is a chance to taste and judge the sagacious efforts by some of Ontario’s most venerated winemakers.

On a much more sobering note we continue to think about our neighbours in California and all they have struggled through as a result of the mass sweeping fires through wine country, towns and cities in the northern parts of the state. A very important fundraiser will be held on December 4th at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto from 6:00-9:00pm. This incredible evening is in support of our industry friends and colleagues who have lost their homes, lives, businesses and properties as a result of the California Wildfires. The industry has banded together and says the California Wine Institute’s Paula Oreskovich, “we are going to put on ONE INCREDIBLE CALIFORNIA EVENT!!” Are you kidding me Paula!

California Wildfire Grand Tasting Fundraiser

No, she is not. Paula is very serious about helping California rebuild, The California Wildfire Grand Tasting Fundraiser will be an all-inclusive, walk around wine tasting event where wine lovers have an elite opportunity to sample premium and super-premium wines from the Golden State. The California wildfires have had a devastating impact on the communities in the beautiful North Coast wine region, affecting many of our industry friends and colleagues. All of us watched the natural disaster unfolding with great shock and sadness.  Many in the industry have been impacted by the fires through loss of lives, homes, businesses and personal property. As Northern California rebuilds, and community efforts and support flow in through donations and volunteering, we are reminded of the determination and resiliency of Golden State wine country. There are several fund-raising projects already underway in the U.S. However, we in Canada want to help and support the overall efforts to assist residents recovering from the most devastating wildfires in the state’s history. For information please click here.

In September and October John and I made two Italian pilgrimages, first to Tuscany and then to the vineyard planted shores of Lago di Gardo in northern Italy. I have spent quite a bit of time in Chianti Classico over the past two years and the occupation of study, investigation and discovery into the intricacies and multiplicities of the region’s sangiovese prepossess a lifelong infatuation. If the cumulative is a factor of compulsive obsession so be it and while decades of learning are left to attack, I feel like I’m getting closer to the varietal truth. Look for all 2019 bottles labeled Chianti Classico Gran Selezione to be filled with juice that is 100 per cent sangiovese. You heard it here. Around Lago di Garda we were immersed into the world of corvina and the Veneto wines it makes, in Rosato (called Chiaretto) and the reds of Bardolino. Look for reports on these regions in the coming weeks. Back in July I dove into barbera with the wines of Barbera D’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato. For my report on that please travel over to this WineAlign page, here.

As for this coming Saturday’s VINTAGES release, with John having covered Old World wines it’s now time to flip continents and hemispheres to concentrate on New World wines. Speaking of climate change, it is both curious and disturbing what these past eight months have delivered around the world. Hurricanes and wildfires have ravaged the southern, eastern and western parts of the United States and the Caribbean, but also British Columbia on our own west coast. In many wine regions of western Europe a dry winter was followed by a spring frost and scorching summer temperatures. Quantities are drastically down in 2017 and in areas where no rain relief occurred in September the harvest is a disaster. Here in Ontario we had an unseasonably cool and wet summer followed by well, summer in September and October. Ask any farmer, in Chianti Classico, Bardolino, Monferrato or Ontario and you will be told the same thing again and again. Climate change is the new global warming and it is very, very real.

With our minds in such a state of California preoccupation there can be no surprise that many of our New World recommendations come from this impressively strong contingent. The first VINTAGES November release is always chock full of California, from delicious purple juice to well-established, archetypal and expensive wines made by the region’s most famous heavy-hitters. With another approaching holiday season there is an expectation and a demand that these wines show up on LCBO shelves. In talking with Product Consultants you are left with no doubt. Consumers are already asking and wanting to know what day these wines will arrive.

Australia is consistently and increasingly one of the greater go to destinations for end of the calendar year, high-end (especially) reds though David’s sticky suggestion is also a perennial favourite. We explore Argentina, British Columbia and of course Ontario to round out our New World picks.

November 11th VINTAGES Buyers Guide:

Canadian Gold

Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2015, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($18.95)
Michael Godel – A terrifically ripe, sweet fruit scented and fleshy vintage for Cave Spring’s estate chardonnay raises the Beamsville bar and the cool climate condition once again. Pour this for any sort of chardonnay lover anywhere in the world and they will all be duly impressed.

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Nadja was a Platinum Award Winner at the National Wine Awards in 2017. Nadja’s non-linear structure is grounded in Twenty Mile Bench riesling reality. She is an elite varietal wine in 2016 and I don’t recall the last one with so much up front zest fervency and writhing aromatic gait.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling, Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley ($30.95)
Michael Godel – When the non-vintage Sparkling is completely reminiscent of recently tasted vintage-dated bottles from the same house, that’s a good thing. Matt Mavety’s Brut is all Blue Mountain and here almost a hyperbole of the R.D. bottles, with exaggerated gingery and bronzing to golds notes and tones. The acidity is spot on. Delicious stuff.

Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2015Flat Rock Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2016Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($34.95)
Michael Godel – Time makes a difference so here the extended lees age (six months further, to 60) takes Riddled to another level. A whole lot of biscuit warmth, sody saleratus, gingersnap, tart Ida Red apple, breadth and a smile-inducing creamy palate. Think Grower’s Champagne with Ontario heart and soul, dedication and purpose.

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($43.95)
David Lawrason – One the best chardonnays on this release from anywhere in the world. It seems to be entering prime, with an open, lovely, ripe and complex nose of baked apple, honeysuckle, cashew butter, peat smoke and fine spice. It is quite full bodied, smooth and generous on the palate. It has a luxurious air.
Michael Godel – Some of the Okanagan Valley’s great chardonnay fruit is found on its eastern shore and makes its way into this Quail’s Gate Reserve. The story and place go back 60 plus years and wait if you can’t nose it in this top North American chardonnay. Forget comparisons, competitions and blind judgements but pull anything you want from Sonoma and watch this raise eyebrows and turn heads. The variegations are numerous and in replay. Richness, bite, energy, spirit and firm conceit. The barrel is everywhere and nowhere.

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2010Quails' Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015

Goin’ to California

La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2015, Sonoma County ($39.95)
Michael Godel – This next La Crema amalgamates a terrific trinity; vintage, Russian River Valley and precision-laser ripe fruit but it is the fineness of acidity and a stone-flinty strike that freezes it in real time. Just creamy enough to call it Sonoma chardonnay but with more firm intent and melting in tart orchard spirit. The work put in matches the investment for the sort of return that screams sell, sell, sell but the encouraging mantra should be buy, buy, buy.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2014, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County ($64.95)
Michael Godel – With each vintage Ridge continues to cement a legacy, work to develop the cumulative tenets that represent Lytton Springs and to cement consistency, but namely structure above all else. The phenolic ripeness is always realized, even and especially in these drought years and yet this third of three straight has determined the most ripeness without any compromise to acidity. Special addendum by herbs and implosive intensity weave a tale of many characters and their discourse talks the Lytton Springs talk. The tale will unfold to be told up to two decades from now and continue to listen they and all of us will.

Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast ($49.95)
David Lawrason – What a delicious pinot – full, rich yet elegant that feels like is going to be a bit sweet and jammy, but comes off with restraint (within the California theme). It shows lovely aromas with generous ripe cherry, cedar bough, spice, gentle toast and lifted florality. Lovely palate too – smooth, rich yet not jammy or sweet.

La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2015Ridge Lytton Springs 2014Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Pinot Noir 2014

Shafer Merlot 2014, Napa Valley ($79.95)
Michael Godel – Let’s face it. This is the time of year to release wines like the Shafer merlot and the time to condone such activity. When an icon and I don’t really care if you hate the word, but when such a wine comes to market and it takes care of varietal business, then better words are spoken. Shafer’s is the real deal; ripe and rich as ever, full-throttle in body and culture, with an omnipresent Bordelais savour, tobacco smoke airiness and fully present tannins. The acidity is at its best in 2014 and the finish dry as the proverbial Napa Valley desert.

Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley ($79.95)
David Lawrason – This has more lift and tension than many Napa cabs. It sports a very lifted, fragrant and pretty nose of blackcurrant jam, fine cedar bough, licorice and fudge. It is dense, focused and firm – almost juicy with some heat burning through on the finish. The length is excellent to outstanding.
Michael Godel – Jumps with immediacy and solicits attention, instantly intoxicating.The wood takes control on the palate, with the spice cabinet emptied directly onto the slabs of flesh ready for smoking. The flavours are all berry and venison with that gritty, chalky tannic structure tying everything together. Near massive wine in need of time.

Shafer Merlot 2014Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Southern Accents

Monterra Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Sometimes you just gotta love the Adelaide Hills and their Santenay like pinot noir. Touches of beautiful volatility, deep earth and wild black cherry get together in the clay for a proper pinot sit in. Dried herbs and charred flesh share grill space with nettles and bursting pellets of acidity, all engulfed in a smoky purple haze. Really nice, big and purposeful, but nice. Terrific work from Viticulturalist Dave Gartelmann and winemaker Mike Farmilo.

Trapiche Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec 2012, Mendoza ($39.95)
David Lawrason – This is a single vineyard malbec from Guatallery, the highest altitude region of Mendoza. What a gorgeous nose with dense blackberry, chocolate, licorice and spice!  It is full bodied, dense, firm and highly structured with excellent length. Great acidity here, and depth too, with some minerality.  Great value. This wine will impress for another decade.

Monterra Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015Trapiche Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec 2012

De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2014, Riverina, New South Wales (375ml) ($29.95)
David Lawrason – one of the most famous botrytis-affected, Sauternes-like wines outside of Sauternes shows a brilliant, piquant nose of dried apricot/guava, honey, salt water toffee, fresh herbs and ginger. It is full bodied, sweet but nicely balanced with good acidity and excellent length. That same bracing but not too strong saltiness rings on the finish. Delicious, and great value in the dessert wine spectrum.

D’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2013, Mclaren Vale ($54.95)
Michael Godel – The ink of a Dead Arm is always written with great thickness and skill but here in 2013, well something wholly and truly other has been painted in. Acidity is just fantastic while tannins are nicely grainy. Where the line should be drawn as to when to consume is not readily apparent because one never knows until the ink is dry on the finish. Begin the search somewhere between five and seven years down the line.

De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2014D'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2013Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013

Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013, Barossa ($99.95)
David Lawrason – If you are going to spend $100 on Aussie red put your money here. It is harvested from vines apparently planted in 1894!!!. It has a great nose – so lifted and complex with well integrated, classic blackcurrant/blueberry jam, toast, cedar, dried mint and graphite. It is full bodied, very dense, a touch sweeter than expected (but not confected/sugary). The concentration and length are outstanding.
Michael Godel – With fruit off of vines nearly 120 years old this Command connects three centuries so pause to think, dream and wish upon a shiraz star. Everything about this $100, screwcap enclosed big boy of the Barossa Valley is prodigiously designed. Let the flavours develop and rise from the depths of a joint American and French well. In the end Elderton hopes that your wish will be their command.

Well, I for one am exhausted and ready to head out in search of some of these fine wines. David and John will be back with you for the November 25th release and until then, stay warm, stay safe and enjoy a glass.

Good to go!


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.

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

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