Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Part 2 – March 31st, 2018

Family Traditions, Old Wines & the Old World, and Upcoming Events
by Sara d’Amato with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

We may find ourselves all over the globe tasting, but we WineAlign critics are primed to share our best local finds with you this week. Last week David Lawrason explored the latest releases from Sonoma and top finds from the new world. This time around we will take a look at the “Old Wines” VINTAGES release feature as well as our best old world picks. I have just returned from Burgundy and was fortunate enough to have tasted over 700 wines from north to south as part of the Grands Jours de Bourgogne program. A full report of latest vintages and current trends in the region is to follow. My colleague John Szabo has been globetrotting from the ProWein trade fair in Dusseldorf to New York as a presenter in the Volcanic Wines symposium. Standby for an update on all things volcanic! Michael Godel and I have recently returned from the Grand Cuvée Tasting gala in Niagara in celebration of Ontario wine and look forward to sharing some of our most memorable finds. Finally, if you would like to partake in the multitude of wine events happening across Toronto in the upcoming months, we have listed plenty to keep you busy at the end of this article.

Old Wines and the Importance of Provenance

The Old Wines feature brings together wines from across the globe – there is neither a regional nor horizontal vintage theme. This mishmash has some serious gems of which to pay attention mixed in with wines to approach with caution. It is important to beware that with age, bottle variation tends to increase due to continued exposure to the elements and changes in location. Therefore, our reviews should be considered with appropriate discretion.

Bottle variation is an issue that Sommeliers and wine professionals deal with frequently, especially when older wine is involved. Although natural cork closures are a factor, every one being as different as a snowflake, there are other issues that can effect individual bottles or lots. Storage and shipping conditions have perhaps the most significant effect on the condition of bottles. Conditions such as exposure to heat and length of time left standing, or even exposure to sunlight, can result in changes that vary in severity. Provenance is thus key in the valuation of well-travelled wines.

Rodney Strong 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Companies like eProvenance, provide a service to shippers and wine producers, along with valuable research, to monitor quality levels from point of departure to receipt of product.  The company has developed a technology to monitor and analyze the conditions during shipment and storage of wine, with a particular focus on temperature. A proprietary algorithm was created to provide clients with a score determining the level of damage to the wine over the course of its journey. Director of Marketing for eProvenance, Louise Domenitz, says that their clients take commitment to quality quite seriously and use this data to protect their brand. The system reinforces and supports good practices and behavior with respect to the shipment of wine as it is able to detect movement outside the range of what are considered optimum conditions.

The company has collected significant data since 2007 when the first generation of their technology came to the market.  Temperature and humidity are monitored in transit and tracked via GPS. A 2016 study conducted jointly by eProvenance and the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de champagne showed significant changes to Champagnes that were exposed to temperatures above 25-30 degrees Celsius of heat for as little as 1-2 weeks, as reported by MW Christy Canterbury in WBM. Some of the resulting issues involved: aromatic oxidation, a dissipation of protective SO2, a more rapid colour maturation (from purple to brown) and upward cork movement. Continued study of international shipping suggests that best practices include: positioning the shipments below deck and strategically placed in a central location, using more expensive reefer containers as opposed to dry containers as well as establishing storage parameters with stores once the product has been received.

Something you can do when shopping: feel the temperature of the bottle of wine before you purchase. Look where it has been placed on the shelf and how close it is to a light source. I have noticed at several LCBO stores in which bottles are warm when coming from upper shelves nearest to a source of light. We know that light can damage a bottle but heat can have a more immediate effect. The use of LED lights in your own cellar can reduce the heat exposure factor. You will find all of our picks from this weekend’s VINTAGES “Old Wine” feature below.

Family Traditions

This upcoming holiday weekend had us all thinking at WineAlign about our own familial traditions when we get together with loved ones. Whether you celebrate, Easter, Passover, the spring Equinox, Ram Navami, Vaisakhi, a multitude of other traditions at this time of year, or just use the holiday weekend to get together as a family, no two traditions are alike and because of this, we have each contributed a wine suggestion that relates to our own traditions. Perhaps you’ll find some commonalities or inspiration. Use the comments section to share your own traditions and thoughts.

What seems to be common to most traditions is that a meal is shared, and if you’re lucky, great wine as well.  Recipes passed down through generations are most memorable to me. Although I was raised in a very secular household, my ancestry is split between Eastern European (Polish) and Southern European (Italian). Traditions passed down, rooted in Catholicism, are now observed by our family in an unhallowed fashion. Mixed and mingled and surely distorted, our own family traditions emerged.

The aromas of my Polish grandmother’s borscht soup are particularly memorable as was her perfectly shaped lamb cake known as baranek. She would decorate it with a bow about its neck and it was always a shock to me as a child when we sliced it clean through for dessert. Coloured eggs, pisanki, were also an important part of our tradition. Particularly prized to my grandparents were the ażurki, fresh eggs whose contents were blown out and then engraved with the point of a sharp knife into delicate patterns that looked like doilies. Or that of the drapanki, that were beautifully coloured eggs in the most intricate patterns – both of which were displayed with care the day before. The end of the night involved a sweet, spiced, fruity wine (usually cherry or apricot) known as “nalewka” served in small, engraved crystal glassware.

My father’s Italian side brought with it the tradition of artichokes, a springtime delight which I look forward to with great anticipation to this day. This is a Roman tradition, an elevated veggie interpretation of carciofi alla romana, a roasted lamb dish with an artichoke accompaniment. He steams the artichokes just to tenderness and we dip the petals in a rich and zesty hollandaise sauce before scraping the fleshy meat off with our teeth.  As my relatives hail from the south, I plan on re-creating a traditional Easter dish known as the “Casatiello” this year. It originates in Naples and is a savory cake that involves whole, hardboiled eggs, sausage, salami and cheese. Here is a link to the recipe. Easter wine pairings have often been simple but tasty: Orvieto, Grillo or Soave in whites or Dolcetto or Montepulciano in reds.

Here we share with you pairings that relate to our own traditions and family gatherings:

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES March 31st

Family Traditions

Albino Piona 2016 Bardolino, DOC Veneto, Italy ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – The wild botanical aromatics in this Bardolino from corvina induce a sensory frenzy. Certainly a wine that will surprise your guests with its freshness and compatibility with just about any dish. I recommend serving it as an aperitif that will surely induce conversation. Otherwise, pair with grilled radicchio or your favourite festive starter.
Michael Godel – Albino Piona’s corvina based Bardolino comes from a wild ferment and the lowest of fermentation temperatures. It’s all spice, sage and garriga with the classic red fruits beneath, subtle in a pinot nero way, not your typical Bardolino but a deserving winner of awards. Reeks of fresh spring flowers, lilac and then roses.

Albino Piona Bardolino 2016Pierre Sparr Altenbourg Riesling 2015

Pierre Sparr 2015 Altenbourg Riesling, Alsace, France ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very well made, well priced, fairly rich riesling that will match nicely to a wide range of lighter dinner options (ham and scalloped potatos?).  The nose is quite complex if soft with green peach notes, vague florals, peppery spice and a touch of honey. It is medium weight, fleshy, just off-dry with some alcohol heat and punch on the finish.

Alejandro Fernández 2008 Dehesa La Granja, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, Spain ($20.95)
David Lawrason – This nicely refined, generous and tasty red is very good value for a ten year old, so buy two or three bottles for the family gathering. The mature flavours of cedar, caraway/rye bread, leather and dried cherry fruit, will match nicely to roast beef or lamb. It is full bodied, fairly fleshy yet sturdy.

Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2008 Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2016

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2016, Bourgogne, France ($29.95)
Michael Godel – A large (or small) family gathering requires a wine that works with everything and that is Chablis. Two things are immediately apparent. The fruit forward, fleshy and generous nature of this Chablis made from 2016 was an act of great fortune, with so many natural disasters eliminating half (or more) of production. What was made was of high quality (thanks to the saving grace of a gorgeous summer) and such minuscule quantity that prices just had to rise. I for one support these dedicated and persevering farmers. Louis Moreau’s ’16 drinks like Premier Cru without a specified Climat.

Old Wines

Roche de Bellene 2009 Les Charrons Meursault, Burgundy, France ($82.95)
Sara d’Amato – Meursault produces more white wine than all the communes of the Côtes du Beaune put together. This region, populated by an immense amount of growers, is a sea of discovery whose quality can vary more than one might expect. In the midst of this diversity stands the well-preserved Les Charrons of Roche de Bellene. This tight, mineral driven style shows only slight oxidation, blossoming with flavours of toasted macadamia, apple blossom and citrus fruit.

Poggio Sant’enrico 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy $62.95)
David Lawrason – This has real class and depth, and is drinking at prime, partially due to the excellent 2007 vintage. It is full-bodied, sturdy with complex, intriguing aromas of truffle, leather, prune/dried blueberry/acai fruit, herbs and a touch of lavender. Lovely density, structure and palate texture.
Sara d’Amato – A perfectly matured sangiovese with impressive spunk and character along with an expansive mouthfeel. A classic example of this most excellent vintage sure to induce a contemplative state of mind.
Michael Godel – Another estate with a record of success when it comes to aging their wines, Carpineto’s sangiovese from the Vigneto Poggio Sant-Enrico has and will continue to develop with another 10 years in bottle. It’s clearly a 10 year-old wine as per the mix of dried fig fruit and chocolate-espresso notes but the acidity is really special. Quite rich and viscous sangiovese of a high-level barrel upbringing but the sapidity is off the charts. Greater interest lays ahead.

Roche De Bellene Les Charrons Meursault 2009Poggio Sant'Enrico Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Weinert 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina ($25.95)
David Lawrason – Weinert is the most traditional of Argentina’s major producers – prizing texture and mature complexity ahead of fruit brightness. The nose swims in very complex licorice, cedar, truffle, earth, leather and dried fig/sundried tomato fruit. Very complex. It is full bodied, smooth with melted tannin and all kinds of generosity.

Palacio del Burgo 2010 Reserva, Rioja. Spain ($28.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a great buy in a fully mature, quite elegant and finely structured Rioja with old school aromas of dried fruits/prune, coconut, saddle leather, cedar and spice. Exotic and complex. Very finely balanced, with some heat, and excellent length.

Palacio Del Burgo Reserva 2010Merryvale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Merryvale 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($99.95)
Michael Godel – Here is a fascinating look at a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon that predates both the cool challenge of 2011 and the droughts of the vintages that followed. The oak restraint, sheer pleasantry of tonality and calm respite from shaken intensity combine for a classic, classy and regal expression of Napa Valley. This is aging ever so gracefully and offers up pre-varietal and regional pleasure.

Old World

Mallory & Benjamin Talmard 2016 Mâcon Uchizy, Burgundy, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy is best known for good value and its premium wines of Pouilly-Fuissé. Outside of that village, less attention and certainly less love is given to the wines which can vary a great deal in their level of quality. Particularly worth highlighting is the expressive and effortlessly drinkable Mâcon-Uchizy from Mallory & Benjamin. Balanced and sophisticated, this undervalued chardonnay delivers a great deal of charm and satisfaction.

Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon Uchizy 2016Clairmont Classique Crozes Hermitage 2015

Clairmont 2015 Classique Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – This dynamic Crozes-Hermitage has elicited triple scores in the 90s from us at WineAlign and is priced at under $20. This large appellation offers premium syrah at value prices and this example from Clairmont is exuberantly peppery and garrigue inflected, resulting in a complex and terroir-driven wine.
Michael Godel – This is a highly floral syrah that comes at you with a gentle but forceful attack. Fruit is up front with a meaty bite and chew while tannins are fine-grained, chalky and capable of some real-time, take your time slow development. All in for $20. Value is only eclipsed by its modernity and it all seems too good to be true.

Tikves 2015 Vranec Special Selection, Macedonia ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Rich, fleshy and deeply coloured with a full-bodied profile sure to wow at this price. Originating from the country of Macedonia, better known as the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and not the province of northern Greece, this friendly find is sure to spark some curiosity.. Not burdened by the trappings of inexpensive oak, the character of this Eastern European grape variety is allowed full, wild expression.

Tikves Vranec Special Selection 2015Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2015

Mazzei Fonterutoli 2015 Chianti Classico, DOCG Chianti Classico, Italy ($23.95)
Michael Godel – Fonterutoli’s Annata may just be the most definitive Mazzei of them all. Pressed to deliver all that the generous vintage could ever want to give, the CC also brings terrific acidity and shavings of fresh cocoa, but also a deep delve into the Castellina in Chianti clay. It’s not so much a rare thing as it is a nod of acknowledgement that brings such an Annata to glass.

Industry News

Cuvée Grand Tasting

In non-old world news, a very special annual event took place this past weekend in Niagara Falls: the Grand Tasting Cuvée Gala, organized by Brock University’s Cool climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), with the support of VQA Wine Country Ontario. Over 800 consumers, media and sommeliers from across the province attended the 30th anniversary of the event. Michael Godel and I were in attendance to witness all of the excitement. Highlighted wines from the event can be found on WineAlign with the tag: Cuvée Grand Tasting 2018

The evening honours those who contribute to the $4.4 billon Ontario grape and wine industry. Those honoured included the much deserving winemaker of Cave Spring Cellars, Angelo Pavan, who was awarded the inaugural Winemaker of Excellence Award. The Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence was bestowed upon Sue-Ann Staff, a rare fifth-generation grower and producer in her own right who has helped Ontario gain international exposure for wines of quality. The Vineyard of Excellence title was awarded to Albrecht Seeger whose history of growing in Niagara-on-the-Lakes goes back an astonishing 8 generations. Most importantly, the Cuvée Legacy Fund awarded scholarships to 4 promising students primed to lead an important upcoming generation of wine producers in the Province.

Contest of the Best Sommelier of the Americas

The best sommeliers from across the Americas have been invited to compete over the week of May 21st in Montreal. This is the first time that this competition is to be held in Canada and the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers has been preparing for almost two years now in order to host the event. The winner of the competition will go on to represent the Americas in 2019 at the World’s Best Sommelier Competition in Belgium. The competition is organized under the auspices of the International Sommelier Association (ASI) and the Pan-American Sommelier Alliance (APAS).

Canada will be bringing forth two competitors, both hailing from Quebec: Carl Villeneuve Lepage and Master Sommelier Pier-Alexis Soulière. The week will be filled with wine events open to the trade and public. More information on the events and tickets can be found here:

Other Upcoming Events

The Ontario Craft Wine Conference & Trade Show (OCWC) presented by the Wine Council of Ontario will take place on Tuesday, April 24 at Beanfield Centre in Toronto. This is the first industry event of its kind for Ontario’s independently owned small and medium-sized wineries.  In addition to education sessions led by industry leaders, a trade show populated by over 50 industry suppliers will take place.

Not to be missed! County in the City, presented by WineAlign returns on Thursday April 12th at 5:00 PM at the Berkeley Church in Toronto featuring the wines of Prince Edward County. Tickets and further information can be obtained here. We hope to see you there!

Finally, the Taste Oregon Consumer event will be returning to Toronto on Tuesday, April 10th and will feature 35 wineries, 170 wines as well as innovative food vendors. Tickets and more information can be obtained here.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!


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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Try & Buy Prince Edward County Wines