Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – April 28th

The Pacific Northwest, Germany and Much More
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo, Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

There are two themes in VINTAGES April 28 release: wines of the Pacific Northwest (including B.C.), and wines of Germany. Both are potentially exciting features and goodness knows both regions can make great wines, but the WineAlign team found the selections rather underwhelming on this occasion. It is the same old story of VINTAGES buying to a specific, moderated $18 to $25 price point that takes a lot of the more interesting wines out of consideration. The problem hits American wines hard, as they are already battling difficult exchange rates.

I was primed for the Pacific Northwest selection following the terrific Oregon wine event in Toronto in mid-April, brilliantly conceived and executed by Toronto’s own Will Predhomme (also a WineAlign National Wine Awards judge). An in-depth terroir-based trade seminar moderated by our John Szabo highlighted differences in Oregon sub-apps (many of which feature volcanic soils, of course). Fans of Prince Edward County pinots, for example, will love the pinots from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA that get maximum Pacific cooling influence through a break in the coastal hills called the Van Duser Gap.

There is no doubt that Oregon – that now boasts almost 700 wineries and over 30,000 acres under vine (numbers virtually the same as all of Canada) – has built up a strong cache of leading-edge if notably expensive wines. There are in particular some great pinots and chardonnays being made – and they are drilling deeply into terroir. But none of VINTAGES offerings really caught that buzz, except for the intriguing Osoyoos-Larose 2014 from B.C.

Likewise, Germany is also hotbed of next generation of innovation, precision, terroir wines and great value! Not just with classic rieslings, but with the pinot family of grape varieties originating in Burgundy, like pinot noir (spatburgunder), pinot gris (grauerburgunder) and pinot blanc (weissburgunder) that prosper in the warmer Pfalz and Baden regions. VINTAGES six-wine selection acknowledges this trend, but again the offerings – all under $20 – are competent but hardly compelling. And so, people will try and buy, and not be particularly blown away, and not likely to return to the “category”. How on earth does Germany get ahead? Certainly the LCBO general list selection scrapes the bottom of the vat, none making the cut in the last annual Toronto Life Eating and Drinking Guide I compile every autumn.

Last week in Part One, John assembled a collection of mineral driven wines in recognition of a new book called “Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils: The Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology”. There are some hot picks in case you missed them. This week we offer some recommendations from the Pacific Northwest, Germany and other wines that caught our fancy.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES April 28th

Pacific Northwest

Pearce-Predhomme 2016 Pinot Gris Yamhill-Newburg, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($28.40 – Consignment)
John Szabo – I failed to find any Pacific North West wines to recommend in this themed release, but this wine, available in consignment, is surely worth a mention. The combination of a French winemaker with 30 years experience in the US, and the vision of Will Predhomme, a sommelier who knows what Willamette Pinot Gris should taste like, and importer Nicholas Pearce who knows what the markets wants and needs, have come together to create one of the best examples I’ve tasted in some time. It’s bone dry and succulent, but also fleshy and generous, with signature aromas of ripe citrus (orange, tangerine), apples and delicate florality. It’s exactly the kind of wine I often reach for in my cellar for its versatility at the table – no wood but lots of substance, richness and acids. (12/cs, Nicholas Pearce Wines)

Primarius 2015 Pinot Noir, Oregon ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Try this multi-regional blend for an overview of the Oregon pinot style, if lacking some depth and precision for $30. It is nicely composed with good ripeness showing in the cherry fruit. There are vaguely herbal, forest notes as well, with subtle oak spice. It is medium-full bodied, nicely balanced with good acidity and slightly bitter tannin.

Pearce Predhomme Première Cuvée Pinot Gris 2016Primarius Pinot Noir 2015Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2014Airfield Estate Syrah 2014

Osoyoos-Larose 2014 Le Grand Vin, Okanagan Valley, B.C. ($44.35)
David Lawrason – I have had this several times since the fall of 2017 and have had different impressions. But it is highly structured, firm and complex. In October it showed good youthful fruit and some suppleness wit cool currant-raspberry fruit, very nicely placed oak spice and vanillin, plus graphite minerality common to wines of this style. In April 2018 it seemed less fruited and more savoury. In any case it a serious, deep, cellaring wine.

Airfield Estate Syrah 2014, Yakima Valley, Washington ($26.95)
Michael Godel – Nearly 50 years have flown past since Airfield first established vines in the Yakima Valley. This syrah is a child of silt-loam soils and while there is an impression of pepper and meaty char it’s quite fluid, sapid and almost saline. In the end it’s really just a tidy glass of well made Washington State wine.


Sander 2016 Pinot Blanc Trocken, Pfalz, Germany ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is understated but nicely balanced and well priced pinot blanc to give you a view into the style. It shows peach/apricot pit fruit and vaguely bready character on the nose. It is medium weight, dry (trocken), a bit fleshier (than German riesling) with some warmth and bready notes on the finish.

Sander Pinot Blanc Trocken 2016Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2014Weingut Tina Pfaffmann T No. 9 Riesling Trocken 2016Weingut Neiss That's Neiss White 2016

Dr. H. Thanisch Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr 2014 Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany ($40.95)
John Szabo – German riesling, especially from the Mosel, must be among the most minerally wines in the world – one look at the steep, rocky, pure slate-covered hillsides is enough to conjure up non-fruit flavours in even the most die-hard anti-mineralist. This is a magnificent example, pure wet rock covered in wildflower honey. Flavour intensity on the palate is exceptional, as are length and depth. Best 2018-2029.

Weingut Tina Pfaffmann T No. 9 Riesling Trocken 2016, Pfalz ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Terrific energy and vitality exudes with confidence from the trocken-designate riesling by Tina and Rolf Pfaffman. It’s lime juicy substantial with riveting fruit meeting acidity.

Weingut Neiss 2016 That’s Neiss White, Pfalz, Germany ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – A wildly aromatic blend of chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot blanc from a cool pocket in the relatively warm growing region of the Pfalz. Spicy and brimming with honeysuckle and rose along with a mouthfilling richness of fruit, it is highly enjoyable on its own or try with Moroccan spiced chicken.

Other Whites

Château Vignol 2016 Blanc, Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This mid-weight, very good value white uses all four white varieties authorized in Bordeaux – sauvignon blanc, sauvignon gris, semillon and muscadelle. Which brings some complexity. It has grapefruit, fresh herbs, anise and sub-tropical guava-like fruit on the nose. It’s a bit soft and warm with very good flavour intensity and length. Try it with recipes involving goats cheese.

Tbilvino 2016 Sachino Kakheti, Georgia ($12.95)
John Szabo – What a lovely, aromatic, pure rkatsitelli (the grape) from Georgia with more than a little flair and complexity for the money. The palate delivers some forward, grapey-apple flavours on a vaguely off-dry frame, with well-measured lees influence. More than decent length and depth. Sharp value, for current enjoyment.

Château Vignol Blanc 2016Tbilvino Sachino 2016Xanadu Chardonnay 2014Matthias Et Émile Roblin Origine Sancerre 2016

Xanadu 2014 Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia ($39.95)
David Lawrason – The cool, Indian Ocean influenced Margaret River region can make terrific chardonnays. This is very Burgundian in terms of aromatics with fairly generous complex aromas of hazelnut, poached pear, gentle peat smoke and spice. It is mid-weight, creamy, yet firmly underpinned and quite mineral on the finish.

Matthias et Émile Roblin 2016 Origine Sancerre, Loire, France ($33.95)

Sara d’Amato – Brothers Matthias and Émile’s project based on northern hillsides of Maimbray and Sury-en-Vaux in the Kimmeridgian Marls has been the focus of much acclaim since its inception in 2000 yet remains a small, quality minded collaboration. The “Origine” is the winery’s flagship Sancerre offering a highly satisfying bite and a generous dose of fruit. Aged close to 4 months on its lees, this sauvignon blanc is both substantial and yet deliciously nervy.

Other Reds

Tahora Medeiros Rosé 2017, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal ($12.95)
Michael Godel – This Rosé is a free-run juicy and saline blend, with some strawberry-rhubarb and sweet basil notes. The sugars are belied by that true saltiness for the wine to come into pretty genuine and value-added balance. Tastes likes rocks and stones at the finish.
John Szabo – Very pale pink in the Provençal style, this touriga nacional-led blend from the Alentejo is appealingly fruity and honeyed, fresh, soft, round and solidly flavoured. This is perfectly serviceable, well priced rosé. Crack and enjoy now.

Aliança 2014 Dão,  DOC Portugal ($12.95)
John Szabo – Simple, juicy but firm, easy drinking red here, and a solid little value at that. Blackberry and light herbal-leafy notes dominate. Chill lightly and drink. Tasted April 2018.

Tahora Medeiros Rosé 2017Aliança Dão 2014São Miguel Escolha Dos Enologos 2015

São Miguel Escolha 2015 Dos Enologos, Alentejo, Portugal ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – Winemakers Nuno Franco and Alexandre Revlas have each chosen their favourite vat of 2015 to blend together for this limited edition bottling. After a substantial maceration period, the wine saw nine months in French and American oak before release. Although generous and approachable, any oak flavour has been absorbed by the opulence of fruit and overtaken by the complex aromatics.  This balanced blend is almost equal parts alicante bouschet, touriga franca and touriga nacional and requires no wait.

Yering Station 2015 Village Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia ($24.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the original producers of the Yarra just northeast of Melbourne, this pale, maturing garnet shaded pinot has lovely, lifted nose of red cherry/strawberry fruit with a hint of mint, wood smoke and cola. It is smooth, sweet and sour with warming alcohol and fine tannin. Ready to roll.

Rockcliffe 2015 Third Reef Shiraz, Great Southern, Western Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This winery is based in Denmark, a small town in the deep southwest of Australia in a cool region where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet. It almost behaves more like a pinot than a shiraz, with lifted cranberry, pepper, finely minted herbals and a touch mineral on the nose. It is medium bodied (light for shiraz) warm, very spicy and minty, with soft tannin. The length and focus are excellent.

Yering Station Village Pinot Noir 2015Rockcliffe Third Reef Shiraz 2015Domaine D'en Ségur Cuvée Germain 2015

Domaine d’en Ségur Cuvée Germain 2015, Igp Côtes du Tarn ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Dark as a moonless midnight sky like Madiran or Cahors from this little known nook of southwest France in the Côtes du Tarn. Here is a dark berry, tour de tannic force of nature and elevated acidity from merlot and cabernet sauvignon. It’s so unlike Bordeaux but serious and intense. Gotta have some red meat with juices flowing to tame this beast, replete with double espresso and dark 80+ per cent chocolate.

Rocca Delle Macìe 2014 Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($23.95)
Michael Godel – Sergio Zingarelli’s is a Riserva of ease and balance, a wine that belies the vintage with ripe fruit supported by relatively copacetic acidity and tannin. The intention here is surely geared towards early gratification to imbibe while so many others gather their collective 2014, Chianti Classico Riserva thoughts.

Rocca Delle Macìe Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico 2014Ramirez De La Piscina Crianza 2013Quinta Das Carvalhas Touriga Nacional 2013

Ramirez De La Piscina 2013 Rioja, Crianza DOCa, Spain ($16.95)
John Szabo – Fine aromatics here off the top, maturing, fruity-herbal-spicy, with a modest level of oak influence; the palate is silky-firm, fresh, with very fine-grained tannins and very good length. I love the delicacy and gentle saltiness, and that extra measure of depth from a fine terroir and/or old vines. A very sharp value I must say. Tasted April 2018.

Quinta Das Carvalhas 2013 Tinto DOC Douro, Portugal ($17.95)
John Szabo – Lifted, ripe, floral, violet aromatics waft immediately out of the glass, next to small red, black and blue fruit. The palate is mid-weight and firm but not overtly tannic, with warming alcohol (14% declared) and very good length. This delivers plenty of regional character, complexity and appealing rusticity at the price. Nicely done; best 2018-2023.

That’s a wrap. Enjoy your release-day shopping.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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

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