Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 27, 2017

A Wealth of Wines for the Weekend
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

This week’s VINTAGES release offers a wealth of wines that are regionally distinctive, widely appealing and priced for weeknight sipping. With warmer weather on the horizon, everyday pleasure wines are what I am seeking out. Our picks below include organic finds from the old world, benchmark sauvignon blanc and inspiring new world pinot noir among others.

It has been a busy month of travel for the WineAlign team. I write the newsletter this week from sunny Napa Valley where fellow WineAligner, Michael Godel and I are focusing our attention on the region’s historic vineyard site of To Kalon in Oakville. To Kalon’s status as the unofficial Cru of California is defined by its history of quality growth that dates back to the mid-1800s. We look forward to highlighting intriguing finds from past and present from this revered site in a future report.

To-Kalon Wines - Vintage poster

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend the week divided between the regions of Prosecco and Soave where I met up with John Szabo. John continues to spread the gospel of volcanic wines (#keepitsalty) to many of the world’s most important wine markets and distinctive terroirs. In Soave, his illuminating lecture contextualized the volcanic wines of Soave with those of global significance from Santorini to the Willamette. As mentioned in John’s last report, we will be sharing our thoughts on these salty, ageworthy and misunderstood wines in a future report.

Without further ado, our top finds available in-store this weekend:

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 27th:

Sparkling and White

Cygnus Organic Brut Nature Reserva Cava, Méthode Champenoise, Spain ($16.95)
Michael Godel – An oxidative three varietal Cava with plenty of traditional upside gives notes that are old-school champenoise like baking apple, toasted bread and wild ginger. It’s all citrus in flavour with good chewy persistence and fine acidity. If you think about it this is an elegant blanc de blancs like example with nice complexities of character.

Maycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, Chile ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Lovely vintage and cool-climate conditioning with A-plus exemplary effort from the Limarí specialist. The ripe and bright fruit is buoyed by classically rendered acidity that never relents. I really like the elegance and the way the wood is just a spice accent, not a cream churning machine. Not to be missed.

Cygnus Organic Brut Nature Reserva CavaMaycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2015Waimea Classic Riesling 2016Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Waimea Classic Riesling 2016, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Waimea’s Classic is a diurnal temperature fluctuation driven riesling, having developed tropical fruit flavours, naturally, in conjunction with natural acidity. The orchard is left behind for the warmer trees and cool nights in this utter Nelson beauty that dreams lightly of the Rheinhessen and can walk hand in hand with the old world any day. From only 44 hectares in all of New Zealand. This is a prize not to be missed.

Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Elgin, South Africa ($19.95)
Michael Godel – If elegance in sauvignon blanc is your South African desire then Elgin is the place to look and Paul Cluver the producer to seek. The elevation and diurnal temperature fluctuations bring a juicy fullness to this wine but also a type of acidity that circulates, surrounds and develops with the fruit. This is brilliant stuff and not to be passed over. Sancerre is watching.

Guy Saget 2015 Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – A negociant and wine producer, Guy Saget produces wine in over 30 different appellations throughout the Loire Valley. Regional accuracy and typicity is a hallmark of Saget and this Pouilly-Fumé, although from a slightly warmer vintage, offers an abundance of character along with refreshing minerality and acidity.

Luis Cañas 2015  Fermentado en Barrica Blanco, Rioja, Spain ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – An uncomplicated, widely appealing viura-based blend, great for impromptu backyard barbecues and weeknight sipping. Grapes are hand harvested from 50-year old viura and malvasia vines that see mostly French oak. Before bottling, the wine is aged on the lees for 4 months adding textural intrigue and a rather voluminous mouthfeel.

Guy Saget Pouilly Fumé 2015Luis Cañas Fermentado En Barrica Blanco 2015Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2015Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay 2014

Clos Henri 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand ($28.95)
David Lawrason – This property is owned by Henri Bourgeois, a prominent producer in Sancerre, France. And there is a French weave and restraint here that you should check out if you are tiring of full throttle NZ sauvignon blanc. The nose is quite ripe with capsicum, celery leaf, gooseberry and a touch of stoniness. It’s medium-full bodied, quite firm and dry with strong green flavours following to excellent length.

Cambria 2014 Benchbreak Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, California ($33.95)
David Lawrason – Cambria is a fine estate that has been producing chardonnay and pinot in the Pacific-cooled Santa Maria Valley since the 1970s. Owned by Julia and Katie Jackson, with the wine made by Denise Shurtleff, this manages more elegance than many. Expect complex, nicely woven aromas of pineapple, orange, hazelnut, toast and butterscotch. The acidity remains vital and poised amid all the intensity, and the alcohol too. The length is excellent to outstanding.

Global Red

Masi Toar 2013, Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – I am hearted to see the emergence of more good quality Valpolicella with little to no influence from dried grapes. Toar blends the rather rare, indigenous oseleta grape variety, a signature of Masi, with that of the corvina grown in volcanic Tufa. The result is a rich, intense but not heavy red with salty, savory and lightly smoky notes that compliment the fresh and abundant red and black fruit.
Michael Godel – Masi’s is more unique than most, a proprietary Valpolicella made with oselata and corvina, the former an ancient Veronese grape variety rediscovered and replanted by Masi in the 1980s after years of oblivion. As far as Classico Superiore is concerned this is a full-bodied, fantastically fruit juicy affair, with deep red berries, vanilla and equal shots of dark chocolate and espresso. The acidity is nicely ripe while the overall structure is carried around quite seamlessly. This is markedly large for Valpo but fashioned with great expertise.

Perrin 2015 Nature, Rhône, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – This organic Côtes-du-Rhône from Perrin seems to waver in quality but this incarnation is a solid value offering richness and peppery regional character with surprising length and vibrancy.

Masi Toar 2013Perrin Nature 2015Château Rahoul 2012

Château Rahoul 2012, Graves, Bordeaux, France ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – A member of the Dourthe family of Châteaux in Bordeaux for the past 5 years, the 2012 Rahoul is a blend dominated by merlot grown in the sandy-gravelly soils of southern Bordeaux.  I was particularly impressed with the wine’s generosity and graceful maturity.

Radford Dale Black Rock 2013, Wo Swartland ($29.95)
Michael Godel – From old bushvine vineyards scattered amongst the granite outcroppings of the Swartland, the blend combines Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier for full Rhône homage, if not necessarily effect or intent. Modern South Africa of ancient longing here on display is just the tip of the bare essentials, in ferments and blends, yet to come.

Sanford 2013 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California ($44.95)
David Lawrason – From a founding estate of the cool Pacific-washed Santa Rita Hills, this has a lovely, fragrant almost floral nose with fine raspberry/cherry fruit, gentle wood smoke, spice and fine meatiness. The same sense of elegance and refinement rides the palate, if just an ounce sweeter than it needs to be. Tannins are refined, alcohol is in check and it drinks with charm.

Radford Dale Black Rock 2013Sanford Pinot Noir 2013Jules Taylor Pinot Noir 2014Trenel Beaujolais Villages 2015

Jules Taylor 2014 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand ($25.95)
David Lawrason – This has a pretty, fairly lifted nose with delicate, sweet raspberry jam, red rose, cedar bough, vanillin and earthy notes. It’s medium weight, nicely balanced, warm and fresh with light tannin and delicious fruit on the palate. This is nicely composed, with fairly refined tannin and an evergreen finish. Excellent length. Tasted May 2017

Trenel 2015 Beaujolais Villages, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Founded in 1928 to focus on wines in southern Burgundy and Beaujolais, Trenel today collaborates with Chapoutier of the southern Rhone. This is quite deeply coloured gamay from a great vintage. Expect a ripe nose of blackberry jam, vague earth and spice. Nicely floral as well. It is mid-weight with firm acidity, minerality and poise and I love the tail end granitic minerality.


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.

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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2013