David Lawrason’s take on vintages: Oct. 15

By David Lawrason

Tuscany’s Brunello and Maremma  – Tuscany shares the spotlight with Piedmont on this release, and Vintages has done a good job assembling a fine cross section of very good to excellent wines from both Italian regions. Tuscany in particular has been front of mind lately, partially because of an article on the region coming up in Toronto Life’s November issue; but also because of two recent portfolio tastings by agents who import a lot of Italian wine.  Also, in the back of mind has been the realization that a number of good Brunellos have come through Vintages in recent months. Conduct a WineAlign Find Wine search on Brunello and you will see 16 currently in stock with 90 point or better ratings.

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino 2005 Brunello di Montalcino is Tuscany’s classic kingpin –  usually a rich, stately red made 100% from a small berried sangiovese clone simply called brunello. It is best drunk after a few years in bottle. Indeed its regulations require that basic Brunello not be released for 50 months after harvest, with “Riserva” and year later.  This accounts for 2006 being the latest vintage on the shelf, with many 2005s also available. This gives us the opportunity to drink properly matured, smooth and rich reds right off the shelf, and I am thoroughly enjoying that change of pace. SAN FELICE CAMPOGIOVANNI 2005 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO ($44.95) is another very fine example coming on October 15.  And if you want to buy directly from agents I suggest you go to the www.StemWineGroup.com to seek out stunning Brunellos from Siro Pacenti, Collemattoni and Valdicava. At www.ProfileWineGroup.com look for Brunellos and other Tuscan wines from Grevepesa, Poggio San Polo and Terrebianca. (Individual reviews are not on WineAlign as they were tasted in the less controlled and consistent setting of a trade show).
Poggio Verrano Chance 2005
The other Tuscan region to ping my radar in recent weeks is Maremma. The mapping gets a bit confusing here with Maremma being a relatively new and large region of southern Tuscan, including the coast. There are many individual appellations (like Bolgheri and Morellino di Scansano) within Maremma, but on a wine label Maremma denotes the broader regional IGT appellation. More importantly, this is the land of bright, modern, fruit driven reds more likely than not containing cabernet, merlot and perhaps syrah, with our without sangiovese involved. The area’s warmer climate creates quite soft, plush style that tilts toward California. And the kicker is that many are less expensive than more classic Tuscans or Californians. POGGIO VERRANO 2005 CHANCE, Maremma IGT, is fine example at $33.95. And if you are checking out Stem Wine Group for their Brunellos, inquire about Tenuta Monteti 2007 Caburnio at $20, and a terrific Morellino di Scansano called Heba, from La Fattoria Di Magliano – more expensive at about $25.

95 Point Reds
There are three reds on this release that I have pegged at 95 points, which for me is the threshold to “outstanding” – wines that go beyond purity, precision and sense of place into the realm of real sensual excitement. They make me gasp, or curse (in a good way) or evoke some kind of emotional response. (One response is usually frustration because they are very expensive). Anyway, I got very excited three times with this release.

One is again from Tuscany, and an iconic super-Tuscan made from merlot and sangiovese grown in the Montalcino region.  Luce is mostly famous for being one of the first super-Tuscans, and for being a joint venture between Mondavi and Frescobaldi, although now wholly owned by the latter.  LUCE DELLA VITE 2008 LUCE ($99.95) is not as immediately impressive as the two below, but nor is it ready to drink. What I find outstanding is the great sense of tension, finely woven complexity and refinement that is so emblematic of the very best Tuscan reds. I would love to open a few bottles of this toward 2020.

The finest wine, as expressed through complexity, integration and depth is CHÂTEAU TROPLONG MONDOT 2007 Saint-Émilion in Bordeaux, at $115.00. This property is golden at the moment, having being elevated to 1er Grand Cru Classe status in the most recent re-calibration of St. Emilion. I was at the property last year to witness for myself the care and detail that has gone into the vineyards and winery (located in the shadow of St. Emilion’s landmark water tower), and I am not at all surprised to see such a stylish wine emerge. Even better, it’s from an approachable vintage that makes it easy to enjoy now.

The most jaw-droppingly powerful 95-pointer is TWO HANDS SOPHIE’S GARDEN 2008 SHIRAZ, a single vineyard wine from the slightly cooler Padthaway region of South Australia. It is a whopper, with 16% alcohol, but this barely registers amid the avalanche of fruit. And despite 16 months in French barrels, that same amazing fruit all but buries the oak too.  And it’s a bargain actually at $46.00.
Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009

Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Pinots
Ontario pinot noir fans have been awaiting the release of the five 2009 vineyard bottlings from Le Clos Jordanne, founded as a Franco-Canuck joint venture to produce great Burgundy inspired pinot and chardonnay from organically tended, dense planted, low yield sites on Niagara’s Twenty Mile Bench near Jordan. The 2009 vintage was long, cool and dry – a very good pinot year. I was able to taste the entire range side by side at a media event, and found the wines to be very refined, nuanced and quite tart due to the acidity of the year.  I also found that tasting rushed and distracting so I was not ready to rate the wines. LE CLOS JORDANNE 2009 LE CLOS JORDANNE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR ($45) arrives on this release however, and I have had a couple of opportunities to sample. It is quite fine indeed with excellent length and some palate weight and richness to cover off the acidity. It needs about three years in the cellar.
Luigi Bosca Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Argentina’s Big Guns
Collectors of big reds can also dabble in Argentina with the release of several more expensive malbecs, cabernets and blends.  Argentina is best known for inexpensive, ubiquitous malbec, and most producers are quite anxious to show off their talents and vineyards with higher end reds, whether barrel selections or single vineyard “old vine” bottlings. Vintages has finally agreed to provide them the stage. But I was not knocked out here. There are some wines of impressive girth and length, but most tend to be rather blunt – lacking some elegance. And the one wine that did show real finesse and grace was corked (Familia Marguery 2005 Malbec). Ironically one of the finest Argentine reds isLUIGI BOSCA RESERVA 2008 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, a very well put together if not profound red being released at only $17.95.

Under $20 Bargains
So now that the collectors have had their turn, it’s time to simply point out some very good buys at that magic under $20 price point – Ideal wines for weekend drinking.  There is not a lot to say here about each of them that is not already included their respective WineAlign reviews.  At $16.95 BERNARD-MASSARD BRUT CUVÉE DE L’ÉCUSSON Méthode Traditionnelle is a great value in dry, crisp and elegant sparkling wine, and you will impress folks to no end with the fact that it comes from Luxembourg. Still in Europe MACULAN 2010 PINOT GRIGIO from Veneto clearly outshines and out-values other grigios from Italy’s northeast at only $13.95. I’d grab a mitt full to have on hand as an opener during casual Holiday functions. SPY VALLEY 2010 SAUVIGNON BLANC is a real lip-smacker at $15.95, from a winery that is on a real hot streak. I love the purity of both their sauvignon and pinot. And finally, I welcome the return of California’s Guenoc, a large winery but one hidden away in the hills of the north coast. GUENOC 2009 CABERNET SAUVIGNON is very good for only $17.95.
Bernard Massard Brut Cuvée De L'écusson Maculan Pinot Grigio 2010 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

With the harvest well along or complete in Ontario, some hard-working winery folk are already looking ahead to a post-harvest old country tradition called Wassail. The growers of Prince Edward County have turned this into a festival in recent years, and they invite you along, to find our more click here.

So You Think You Know Wine, Season 2
The first season of our blind tasting video series – So, You Think You Know Wine – was by all measure a great success. I have never received such positive feedback on a wine endeavour. Most of all viewers seemed to enjoy being educated while being comforted by the fact that everyone is fallible when it comes to the sport of blind tasting. Well, we are finishing off the edits for Season Two: The Tournament, which introduces more tasters and an elimination format. This could get ugly, but hopefully you will continue to be educated and entertained. Watch our season two preview here.

That’s it for this edition. See all my reviews for October 15th here.