John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – March 3rd, 2018

Best Wines North of the Equator
By John Szabo, MS, with notes from David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Last week David covered the main theme of the March 3rd release, “South of the Equator”, so this week I’ll pick it up with the best of the rest from the northern hemisphere.

Top picks include grand cru-worthy Chablis at non-grand cru pricing, a superb value Roussillon red that has more expensive southern Rhone producers quivering in their vigneron coveralls, and a monumental 2012 Amarone best forgotten in the cellar and rediscovered in 20 or 30 years to celebrate a wedding anniversary, birth, or any other noteworthy occurrence in that year.

Combine my picks with those from my WineAlign colleagues and you’ve got yourself a hefty shopping list for Saturday.


William Hill North Coast Chardonnay 2016


Buyers Guide to VINTAGES March 3rd:

Best Whites North of the Equator

Domaine Pinson Frères 2015 Mont de Milieu Chablis 1er Cru, AC Burgundy, France ($52.95)

John Szabo – Considering the acute shortage of Chablis in this vintage, I’m delighted to see this extraordinary example, easily grand cru quality, at such a relatively reasonable price – the equivalent from the Cote d’Or would run easily into triple digits. Its delivers complexity and depth, not to mention class, in spades, and a palate saturated with flavour in the expected range, if a touch more oak-influenced than many Chablis. But there’s more than enough fruit depth to match and ensure future integration. An exceptional wine, best 2020-2035.
Michael Godel – Pinson’s Mont de Mileu takes the left bank Premier Cru and intensifies its capabilities.The level of impression from kimmeridgian rock and excellent exposure is combined with great precision and balance for one remarkable expression of Chablis Premier Cru. So crisp, clear, clean and focused, this will drink beautifully for a decade or more.

Domaine Pinson Frères Mont De Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2015Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2016Tawse Limestone Ridge North Estate Bottled Riesling 2015

Hidden Bench Estate 2016 Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($29.95)
Michael Godel – If you’ve never had the pleasure of a moment alone with a Hidden Bench chardonnay it is here where you’ve come to the right place, vintage and bottle for which to begin the relationship. As full, flavourful and generous of cool-climate chardonnay spirit as it has ever shown, the 2016 Estate work is pure, unbridled and effortless genius. Spend $10 more on Bench chardonnay like this and you’ll be drinking properly every time out.
David Lawrason – From a leading Niagara estate, this is a poised, fine modern cool climate chardonnay with good bones/structure. Expect generous, complex aromas of ripe pear/pineapple, peat smoke, spice and hazelnut. Some subtle vanillin as well. It is medium-full bodied, fairly rich and focused, with excellent length.

Tawse 2015 Limestone Ridge North Estate Bottled Riesling, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($24.25)
Michael Godel – Here is a riesling that excites, oscillates between tart and sweet, sour and ripe. Improves the more you spend time. Built upon a solid foundation of acidity and structure. The Ontario (Escarpment) stylistic is a given and a blessing.

Kellerei St. Magdalena 2016 Pinot Grigio DOC Südtirol – Alto Adige, Italy ($17.95)
John Szabo – The St. Magdalena cooperative, one of the best in northern Italy, continues to impress across pretty much their entire range. This pinot grigio is well above the quality mean, fragrant, ripe, floral and engaging, with balanced and creamy acids, and flavours that run through ripe citrus (orange, tangerine), and into the white and yellow fleshed orchard spectrum. Fine length, too, for current enjoyment.

Kellerei St. Magdalena Pinot Grigio 2016Pighin Sauvignon Blanc 2016Mulleri Soffio Vermentino di Sardegna 2016

Pighin 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, DOC Grave del Friuli, Italy ($17.95)
John Szabo – This sauvignon encapsulates nicely the typical style from this corner of Europe (southern Austria, northeastern Italy and Slovenia), with its fragrant-herbal, fresh tarragon, chervil and basil aromatics, and dashes of lemon and lime to add interest and relief. Sharp value.

Mulleri Soffio Vermentino di Sardegna 2016, Sardinia, Italy ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Off the southwestern coast of Italy, Sardinia is home to some of the most aromatic, spine-tingling expressions of vermentino. One whiff will whisk you off to a seaside tavern where the confluence of wind, salty air and sunshine produce one of the world’s most food friendly white wines. This example offers a similar perfume to that of coastal sauvignon blanc but is a touch richer and less acidic on the palate. A compelling and highly memorable find perfect for seasonal dishes involving artichokes, asparagus and white fleshed fish.

Casa Ferreirinha 2015 Vinha Grande Branco, Douro. Portugal ($16.95)
David Lawrason – The whites of Portugal continue to surprise. Here’s a very fine, quite elegant white with generous, complex aromas of pineapple, fresh herbs and subtle wood spice. It is medium-full bodied, fleshy yet nicely cohesive and battened down, with a certain stoniness I often find in Douro wines. Way beyond its price.

Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Branco 2015Château La Rose Sarron 2015Carol Shelton Coquille Blanc 2015

Château La Rose Sarron 2015, Graves, Bordeaux, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – The gravelly, quartz laced soils of Graves are a particularly special place for sauvignon et semillon and under the guidance of the independently owned Château la Rose Sarron, an impressive degree of character is coaxed out of these varieties. Sustainably produced, this generously fruity white shows only a hint of flavour from its fermentation and maturation in oak. It is mineral driven, has an appealing salinity and a complexity far beyond the mean for this price.

Carol Shelton 2015 Coquille Blanc, Paso Robles, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Paso Robles is a warmer enclave for the production of white Mediterranean blends in California. This includes viognier, roussanne and marsanne with some barrel works. It stands up nicely, with lifted peach, spearmint, a hint of clove and evergreen. It is full bodied, fleshy, dry and warm. Rich, complex with rather hot alcohol.  Excellent length.

Best Reds North of the Equator

Masi 2012 Campolongo di Torbe Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, Italy ($120.95)
John Szabo – Looking for a wine to cellar long term to celebrate a special event in 2012? This is it. Masi’s exceptional single vineyard Campolongo di Torbe really shines in the excellent, ripe and generous 2012 vintage, offering a dense, very dark, impenetrable colour. Aromatics are likewise intense, penetrating and spicy, if far from evolved, while the palate delivers a massive mouthful, structured but not hard, expansive, dark fruit-flavoured, and without obvious raisined character. It’s one seriously concentrated and complete wine, a decade at least away from pure enjoyment, but so majestically crafted and balanced with tremendous depth, one of the best vintages yet from this vineyard. Best 2027-2042+.

Marchesi di Barolo 2015 Peiragal Barbera d’Alba, Piemonte, Italy ($34.95)
Michael Godel – Pieragal has firm grip, fine fruit and great structure. Everything moves with synchronicity and balance, taking the fruit along for a spirited and soulful ride. This sings and smiles with confidence and beauty. Love, emotion and happiness in barbera.

Masi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Campolongo Di Torbe 2012Marchesi Di Barolo Peiragal Barbera D'alba 2015Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

Donatella Cinelli Colombini 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($64.95)
Michael Godel – Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s ’12 presents a step up in character provided by the soil in her most masculine expression, if there is indeed such a thing from this house. The fruit is currently secondary and not the most obvious for 2012 as a whole, though it is for the house. The palate is typically rendered by Donatella, creamy and fluid, liquid mineral ruby and carried by a fineness of tannin all the way to the finish.

Silvio Nardi 2012 Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara, Tuscany, Italy ($109.95)
Michael Godel – In opposition to the Poggio Doria, Nardi’s second Vigna delivers a complete about face turn around to see the other side of the moon, this time the landscape where Brunello is found in the Manachiara. This is a fine-grained, tight coiling, re-coiling and fanning out across the moonscape sangiovese. The wood is very much in charge, with baking spices and cool, sapid and savoury edges. It needs time.

Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2012Carpineto Chianti Classico 2015Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône 2015

Carpineto 2015 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a delicious, lighter weight well balanced and authentic Chianti with focused and nicely ripe nose of raspberry/red currant, typical Chianti twigginess, a touch of pepper and well handled oak spice. It is mid-weight, firm and well balanced. Give it two years.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2015 Côtes du Rhône 2015, Rhône, France ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – The hyped up vintage of 2015 in the southern Rhône does seem to be living up to its expected stature and here is one of those illustrative examples. Due to intermittent periods of cool temperatures and the unusual constant threat of rain, the southern Rhône experienced temperatures that were often cooler than their northern counterparts. The result was a slower, more evening ripening for those producers willing to hold out and one which was unusually “fresh” for those not willing to brave the threats. Either way, wines such as Perrin’s Coudoulet, sourced from a vineyard across the road from that of the revered Beaucastel, show remarkable purity, expressiveness and impressive refinement.

Bastide Miraflors 2015 Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache, AP Côtes du Roussillon, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Here’s yet another sharp value from the Mediterranean, and Domaine Lafage in the Roussillon in particular, whose wines are utterly over-represented on my top buys lists. This is a custom cuvee created for Eric Solomon of European cellars, a blend of old vine grenache with syrah, given a long, six-week maceration before ageing 12 months in concrete (Grenache) and 600L French oak demi-muids (Syrah). And Solomon has done a bang-up job, creating a wine with plenty of sappy, very ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit, bold and satisfying, with evident density and old vine concentration. There’s a nice lick of scorched earth-schist and wild herbal flavours to add complexity. This competes with countless Southern Rhone wines at a very attractive price. Best 2018-2025.
Sara d’Amato – One of the top values in this release goes to a consumer and critic favourite that has shown consistent quality over the past five years of it has graced the shelves of VINTAGES. The 2015 is a re-release, having come through once already this summer, and it shows no signs of fading. The majority of the blend is syrah aged in large barrels with an addition of 30% grenache matured in concrete tanks.

Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015Casa Dea Pinot Noir 2013The Hess Collection 19 Block Mountain Cuvée 2015

Casa-Dea 2013 Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – A wonderfully representative Prince Edward County pinot noir offering delicacy and a great deal of character. Slightly lifted and offering a pleasant degree of volatility, Casa Dea’s 2013 is light and still nervy but not tart having benefited from some softening evolution. It offers surprising length, complexity and is brimming with comforting flavours of raspberry jam, perky cherry and cedar. Excellent value.

The Hess Collection 2015 19 Block Mountain Cuvée Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California ($54.95)
John Szabo – This wine stood out for the value it offers in the premium Napa cabernet category, and from lower-yielding mountain fruit at that, grown high up on Mount Veeder. It’s deep, inky-black and clearly ultra-ripe, heading into notably candied fruit, like sweet blueberry pie filling, while the palate is dense, full, concentrated, inflected by milk and bitter chocolate flavours. For fans of Napa Valley, you can’t really go wrong with this wine at the price – it’s hedonistic and satisfying all at once. Best 2018-2027.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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.

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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview