Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Feb 20, 2016

By John Szabo MS
with notes from Sara d’Amato, Michael Godel, and even a travelling David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s Buyers Guide features a range of classic wines from both the old and the new world, including double alignment on an Alsatian pinot gris from a family with 500 years of winemaking experience, and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from 110 year-old vines that oozes concentration and class, and marathon ageability, for just $50. Chardonnay and pinot noir from Niagara and Northern California, textbook red and white Burgundy, traditional Brunello, and more, all get a nod this week. See my VINTAGES Preview from last week for some horizon expanding selections from the February 20th release, as well as the top picks from Australia, the main feature.

February is a busy time in the wine world. The Vancouver International Wine Festival kicks off on February 20th, one of the continent’s top wine shows, this year featuring Italy. With a total of 155 wineries participating, all with principals in attendance, you won’t want to miss it if you’re on the west coast. And in an important report from WineAlign founder Bryan McCaw, the pre-festival skiing at Whistler this year is also awesome.

In slightly warmer climes, David and Michael were down in California this week for the 20th annual Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and futures auction, along with about 700 wine professionals from around the world, so expect some news from the United States’ marquee appellation in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I’m somewhere in central Italy working through the latest vintages of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Sagrantino di Montefalco. A report on the “tre monti” is forthcoming, along with the latest on 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella from the preview tastings I attended in Verona two weeks ago. And if you’re still keen for more, read the background and portfolio reviews for two Sonoma County producers you’ll want to get to know: Flowers and Wind Gap/Pax Mahle wines.

Hopefully that will get you through to the first spring rays of March.

Buyer’s Guide to February 20th: Whites

Josef Chromy Sparkling 2010

Trimbach Réserve Pinot Gris 2012Trimbach 2012 Réserve Pinot Gris, Alsace, France ($23.95)
John Szabo – This is firm, tight and upright in the Trimbach house style, dry, subtle and precise, but also with some extra flesh and weight. The lightly tannic texture will require a few more years in bottle to fully resolve. This should be a beauty in 2-3 years, or hold another decade or more. Best 2018-2027.
Michael Godel – A visit to Alsace cannot be complete without a stop at Trimbach, the epicentre of rhythm in Ribeauvillé. The Trimbach aura is triggered by joie de vivre, in pulse, metre and cadence. This pinot gris celebrates what the house is all about. Stop in at VINTAGES and find out what their music is all about.

Josef Chromy 2010 Sparkling, Tasmania, Australia ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Winemaker Jeremy Dineen must be grinning from ear to ear with the thought of where this fizz will go, carrying so much wisdom in its autolysis and tazzy vernacular in its mousse.

Béjot 2013 Les Bouchots Montagny 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($27.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a tidy value in white burgundy, certainly not a grand wine, but a genuinely firm, fresh, minerally and complex expression, regionally accurate, with driving acids and crunchy fruit. This would be highly versatile at the table, and could be drunk now, or cellared a half dozen years. Best 2016-2022.

Flat Rock 2014 Unplugged Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($16.95)
John Szabo – Flat Rock’s Unplugged (unoaked) Chardonnay is a nicely tight and taught example, with riveting crunchy acids and tart apple-citrus flavours. Length and depth more than deliver in the price category. This is a versatile white for chilling and cracking on just about any occasion.

Le Clos Jordanne 2012 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($40.00)
David Lawrason – This is an impressive, mineral driven and multi-faceted chardonnay with very complex aromas of dried peach, lemon custard, creme brulee/marzipan, wood smoke and intentionally reductive/flinty notes. It has big flavours but a sense of narrowness, with mouthwatering acidity and minerality. The length is excellent.

Béjot Les Bouchots Montagny 1er Cru 2013 Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2014 Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2012 Rombauer Chardonnay 2014 Ilocki Podrumi Premium Grasevina 2013

Rombauer 2014 Chardonnay, Carneros, California, USA ($51.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Carneros region is a unique pocket of terroir found where San Pablo Bay meets the southern end of Napa and Sonoma valleys with cool, foggy influences that make it excellent for producing fresh chardonnays and elegant pinot noirs. Rombauer is a seasoned, 30-year old producer who specializes in Carneros chardonnay and consistently offers complex and dynamic examples that are hard to pass up.

Ilocki Podrumi 2013 Premium Grasevina, Croatia ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Such potential from Croatia found, packaged and articulated in this bottle. Classic furmint in grasevina clothing, right along the wire where pinot gris looks over towards chenin blanc and says “let’s spend the night together.”

Buyer’s Guide to February 20th: Reds

Raymond Usseglio Cuvée Impériale Châteauneuf du Pape 2012

Abbadia Ardenga Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Creekside Estate Queenston Road Pinot Noir 2014Creekside Estate 2014 Queenston Road Pinot Noir, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($18.95)
John Szabo – Good pinot under $20 is a rarity to be sure, so this is a happy discovery. Rob powers has crafted a pleasantly firm and grippy, dark fruit-led example with firm grippy tannins and pronounced acids from the relatively warm Queenston Road vineyard (site for fine syrah as well). I appreciate the honest rusticity here, and the genuine pinot character. Revisit this in 2-3 years. Best 2018-2022.

Abbadia Ardenga 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($49.95)
John Szabo – Ardenga’s vineyards are in a prime site on the north side of Montalcino, origin of some of the appellations most refined and elegant, perfumed expressions. This is traditionally styled Brunello from the great 2010 vintage, full of earthy, savoury, dusty and floral flavours, and with genuine concentration and depth. I love the terra cotta, warm brick, and classic herbal notes of authentic sangiovese, and the balanced, bright and lingering palate lovely, powerful yet elegant stuff all in all, best 2016-2026.

Raymond Usseglio 2012 Cuvée Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley, France ($57.95)
John Szabo – This is serious, ageworthy Châteauneuf du Pape, the flagship of Usseglio, made from vines planted in 1901 and 1902. Mostly grenache and 10% of other mixed varieties come together here to yield an aromatically closed but dense, slightly reductive, intense and heavily extracted old vine cuvee, with terrific length and depth. This has complexity and depth in spades, a great example, best after 4-6 years at least or hold till it’s 20th birthday sans soucis. Best 2020-2032.
Sara d’Amato – Domaine Raymond Usseglio has focused on sustainable and biodynamic wine production in Châteauneuf-du-pape since the ‘30s. The premium Cuvée Imperiale is 90% grenache from century-old vines and is wildly aromatic, traditional in style and has excellent potential for longevity.

La Ferme du Mont Côtes Jugunda Gigondas 2013

Pasolasmonjas 2011

Domaine Pavelot 2013 Aux Gravains, Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er CruDomaine Pavelot Aux Gravains Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru 2013, Burgundy, France ($59.95)
John Szabo – I’m a long time fan of the wines of Jean-marc and, increasingly, son Hugues Pavelot, one of the most consistent and fairly priced in Savigny. The 2013 aux gravains is a fine, sappy, genuinely concentrated, authentic red Burgundy, brimming with fleshy and pure cherry flavours, like biting into a fresh morello cherry, and succulent acids, and with excellent length. This will improve surely over the next 2-4 years and continue to hold into the mid-twenties without a stretch. Best 2018-2027.

Pasolasmonjas 2011, San Martín de Unx, Navarra, Spain
Michael Godel – Unencumbered and unadulterated garnacha, the way it needs to be, even from such a varietal outpost as Navarra. This is handled with spanish care and shows how the grape needs no support when left to shine like this. Tapas and pintxos come forth.

La Ferme du Mont Côtes Jugunda 2013 Gigondas, Rhône Valley, France ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Beautifully balanced and warming Gigondas with as much mellow garrigue as rabid fruit. This is so reliant and allegiant to appellation, reminiscent of what was produced in the golden years between 1998 and 2000.

La Posta Armando Bonarda 2014

D'arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2012

Cambria Julia’s Vineyard 2012 Pinot NoirCambria Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Certified Sustainable, Santa Maria Valley, California
Michael Godel – A very important Santa Maria Valley vineyard has gifted more verve in 2012 than even it usually has. No fruit bomb here but with time, could very well become the bomb.

D’Arenberg 2012 The Custodian Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Grenache has a unique expression when grown in South Australia and this is a spot-on example of the pleasure it can deliver. The palate offers sweetly flavoured fruit, ample body and soft, supple tannins without the impression of heat or heaviness.

La Posta 2014 Armando Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – La Posta is known for both value and savvy packaging. Bonarda makes an easy to appreciate wine with soft tannins and a great deal of plummy fruit. A widely appealing weeknight red that won’t break the bank.

Somm Fun & Fundraising

CAPS Team Canada FundrasierThe Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) Ontario chapter is hosting a fundraising event on Monday, February 29th to celebrate Canadian wine talent. Your support will help CAPS send a Team Canada delegation focused on promoting the participation of Canadian wine professionals in the World’s Best Sommelier Competition being held in Mendoza this April. Come out to see Terroni’s new event space on Adelaide, to taste and buy, bet on auction items and participate in activities with guest Sommeliers. Tickets are only $40 ($30 for CAPS members) – all to support your Canadian wine community. This event is open to the trade and the public. Hope to see you there. (You can find more info here:

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES February 20, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael Godel’s Picks
All Reviews
Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview: Sorting out Australia’s Present from the Past

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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