Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Aug 5th, 2017

The August Chill Out
By David Lawrason with notes from Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The Civic Holiday weekend is perhaps the most civil of all our three-day, long weekend extravaganzas. No chest-thumping Canada Day imperative. No May 2/4 pent-up release. No Labour Day end-of-season gloom. No family co-ordination around Thanksgiving thankfulness. Other than a five second nod (in Toronto) to John Graves Simcoe as Upper Canada’s first lieutenant governor and slavery abolitionist, there is no good reason to do anything but relax and enjoy an outdoor meal or two. (In Ottawa they give the same nod to Colonel By). By heavens, even the blackflies and mozzies are at rest by now.

Here at WineAlign it is time to turn up the music (check out Radio Paradise on-line) and relax too. We have been full-on with travel and discovery recently, with articles on Austria’s Wachau, Italy’s Brunello di Montalcino and Soave, and Portugal’s Vinho Verde. And of course there was the roll out of the WineAlign National Wine Awards results. That was great fun by the way, generating some of highest traffic we have ever seen at WineAlign. It makes me very happy that so many Canadians are embracing Canadian wine!

National Wine Awards of Canada

With VINTAGES August 5th release Michael Godel and I have two missions: To put forward some fragrant, summery, outside-the-box whites that might lift and grace your afternoon and early evening on the deck or dock, and then to propose some reds that will weigh in with grilled red meats.

And it is no co-incidence that Argentina – which likes to claim it invented flamed meat – looms as a VINTAGES feature.

I am not going to dissect Argentina again. Our writers have been there often in recent years. I will only say, as a result of VINTAGES selection, and my own tastings in Argentina (and neighbouring Uruguay) earlier this year, that this nation is moving very fast to weave a more intricate wine tapestry. Sure, as a warm climate big red specialist there is an Argentine template. But diversification of vineyards, altitudes and grape varieties is beginning to show up in our glasses.

I will comment however that when it comes to Argentina, VINTAGES is buying in a very narrow price-quality retail range of $18 to $22. There are some good buys therein, and they compare well internationally. But just so you know what VINTAGES offers is not the whole story. If you’re really keen on Argentine wines you might visit the LCBO’s Argentina destination store at 15830 Bayview Ave in Aurora where you will find many wines not available anywhere else.

And if drinking any of the following outdoors during the dog days of August, have an ice cooler handy for the whites. And the reds!

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES Aug 5th

Fragrant Summery Whites

Redstone 2013 Limestone Vineyard South Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This bristling riesling has earned a Platinum Medal at the 2017 National Wine Awards. The acidity is racy, tart and mouth-watering – a great foil to the off-dry sweetness. Excellent length and great value! …
Michael Godel – Juicier and more lime flesh than the north block of the same vineyard, with forceful and exceptional acidity. For right now and for great pleasure this is the Ontario riesling to chill down and make the most of summer.

El Esteco 2015 Ciclos Torrontés, Calchaqui Valley, Argentina ($16.95)
David Lawrason – It’s dead easy to make flamboyant, fragrant torrontés – that’s just what this grape gives. It is more difficult to make a still pure but more refined version, which is the mission at El Esteco, a classic house founded in 1896 at 1800 metres in the northern region of Cafayate. This is a citrus grove of flavours set in mid-weight, dry, very fresh, slightly mineral and elegant package. Classy.

Redstone Riesling Limestone Vineyard South 2013El Esteco Ciclos Torrontés 2015Tbilvino Tsinandali Dry White 2015

Tbilvino Tsinandali 2015 Dry White, Kakheti, Georgia ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Here is something different and agreeable to bring it along to a summer soiree. Tsinandali is a blend of two varieties – rkatsiteli and mtsvane – grown in the eastern district of Kaheti. This is a nicely, bright, clean and fresh white with vaguely floral aromas plus apple/pear fruit. It is light bodied with very lively, tart-edged, fresh acidity.

Lantides 2014 Ancient Varietal Moschofilero, Peloponnese, Greece ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This seems a bit more aromatic and definitive than many moschofilero bottlings, with quite lifted muscaty lavender, licorice and tangerine. It is mid-weight, very bright, fresh and quite intensely flavoured, with very good to excellent length. Mindful of fine Alsatian muscat.

Robert Mondavi 2014 Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Partial barrel fermentation and perhaps a smidge of semillon in the blend has created a heftier yet very firmly balanced white to take to the summer table with grilled seafood. Complex, ripe aromas of guava/gooseberry, lime, anise, wax and vague spice are all nicely woven. Quiet and in control.
Michael Godel – Mondavi has spent decades elevating and differentiating sauvignon blanc. The name fumé blanc and Mondavi are synonymous with one another, not just for Oakville, Napa Valley and California but anywhere and everywhere. Great vineyards, i.e. To Kalon produce great sauvignon blanc and the rest is history.

Lantides Ancient Varietal Moschofilero 2014Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2014Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc 2015

Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc 2015, Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France ($16.95)
Michael Godel – If you are thinking of narrowing it down to one white wine this summer this north-south Rhône blend must surely make the short list. It’s a developing story of evolution in a glass; fruit ripeness, grape tannin, sapid spice, balance by extract and through elastic length. Acidity ties it all together but never speaks out of turn. Reminds us that wine must taste delicious to be enjoyed.

Grilling Reds

Bodega Garzón 2014 Tannat, Uruguay ($19.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the most spectacular new wineries in the world, comes a very energetic, modern take on tannat, one of the planet’s toughest, most tannic varieties. Famed consultant Alberto Antonini, who also makes wine in Italy and Argentina (and consults in BC at Haywire) is behind the winemaking side of the project. This has all kinds of intensity and meat cleaving cut.
Michael Godel – Here flies essential varietal tannat from Uruguay as far as the crow will take it and we thank the bird for delivering some product here in Ontario. The dark berry fruit is made severe by smoke and tannin but the fruits are of the spicy, juicy and tart currant variety, from red to black. This is a most noteworthy and balanced red with some natural sweetness to balance out the tonic and bitters.

Viñalba 2014 Reserva Malbec/Touriga Nacional, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Touriga nacional is Portugal’s signature grape, and a worthy experiment in Argentina. And here they imported a Portuguese winemaker to put this together with Malbec. It is full bodied, fairly dense, smooth and sour-edged. I like the tension the touriga brings. Impressive!

Bodega Garzón Tannat 2014Viñalba 2014 Reserva Malbec Touriga NacionalGran Lurton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Bodega Piedra Negra 2013 Gran Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($24.95)
David Lawrason – The Lurton family of Bordeaux were among the Euro-pioneers in Argentina. This single vineyard cabernet sauvignon sports a lifted, very complex nose that orchestrates blackcurrant, cedar, fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary) and fine oak mocha and some graphite. It is full bodied but carries a sense of vibrancy and elegance as well. Serious cab at a good price.

Zuccardi 2015 Serie A Bonarda, Santa Rosa, Mendoza, Argentina ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very generous, fruity, rather sleek and tart-edged red from a grape variety originally grown in northern Italy. And indeed it has some Italian character and tension. But also nicely ripe sour red plum/raspberry fruit, rosemary/bay leaf herbality and some oak spice. Lots here for $17.

Cape Barren 2013 Native Goose Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($21.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a soft, jammy, very approachable red for BBQ ribs. This has a generous, sweet jammy, pie-filling nose of wild berries, plum, light menthol, cedar and pipe tobacco. It is medium-full bodied, fairly soft, warm and jammy. Tannin is negligible making it chillable and easy to drink.

Zuccardi Series A Bonarda 2015Cape Barren Native Goose G S M 2013Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva 2007

Viña Olabarri 2007 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Olabarri’s is history in a bottle, Rioja as it was and how it still can be. The oak does not hide nor does it make any apology for its wildly aromatic profile; full-on vanilla, lavender and a bit of coconut. The 2007 vintage is beautifully clean and pure. Such honest Rioja for a song is a thing of beauty.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Next week John returns with picks from the south of France on the August 19 release, and Sara files a special report from the southern Rhone. I will return in two weeks with picks from a small South African release and others. Meantime, check out the newly minted WineAlign Exchange that will deliver great mixed cases of wines selected by a panel of WineAlign critics.

And oh yes, chill.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Carpineto Chianti Classico 2015