Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – July 21st, 2018

Casual Wines for the Summer BBQ
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Thousands, perhaps millions, of us will be barbecuing this weekend. I will be joining hundreds in Niagara at two huge outdoor grill-fuelled events Friday and Saturday evenings at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C) – for which last minute tickets remain.

We Canadians have refined the art of BBQing. We take to it with passion, reverence and intensity. It is not the flavour nuances of BBQ that matter so much as the fact that we are eating outdoors during our precious summer months, or riskier shoulder seasons, or even the dead of winter as some boast of doing. It is a culture of dining outdoors, and the casualness of it all that brings us to the table. We can make any recipes work within. And thus, any wines as well.

Perhaps that is what lies behind VINTAGES diverse selection of wines in a promotion called Grill Factor – 18 Must Try BBQ Wines. The selection includes Chablis matched to fine herbed chicken; a Madiran and a Douro red matched to striploin and smoky chimichurri; St. Emilion matched to back ribs with chili rub; Niagara riesling alongside teriyaki salmon skewers and French rosé paired with grilled veggies.

Are any of these perfectly matched? Probably not. Do we really care? Nope.

About the only “rule” I would suggest is not opening your most expensive bottles where some of their complexity and nuance might be blown about by the breezes and layered with smoke.

If you are a diehard red meat eater, ready to chow down on umami-laden steaks, burgers and ribs slathered in sweet, smoky BBQ sauces have a look at the small selection of reds from California’s Lodi region that are also featured this release. The wines from this hot Central Valley sub-appellation inland from the Bay Area are quite thick and hot and can be rather sweet and soupy. But those sticky BBQ sauces will actually dial back their excess. There is one slightly more refined Lodi red below that we particularly like.

Alejandro Pesquera Crianza 2014

Elsewhere we found several very good buys, most of them what I would call casual wines, in lower price brackets, that might be purchased in quantity for larger BBQ gatherings.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES July 21st

Whites and Rosé

Santa Ema 2017 Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is a nicely polished, fresh and balanced sauvignon with pleasantly understated but correct and clean aromas of green apple, fresh tarragon and cut grass. It is medium weight, crisp and precise on the palate, with very good length. Summer salads.

Rustenberg Stellenbosch 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($14.95)
Michael Godel – Winemaker Murray Barlow represents the third generation of his family to make wine at Rustenberg wines on the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch. Here’s his spirited sauvignon blanc, lively, full of citrus energy and grounded by this note of basil pesto. There’s your pairing right there. Pick your pasta and go.

Santa Ema Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2017Rustenberg Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2017Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Wither Hills 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Wither Hills separates itself from the Marlborough wolfpack with a lean and focused sauvignon blanc that stills delivers “typical” notes but you really have to concentrate cuz they’re not going to jump out of a bush and bite you in the ass. Yes, sauvignon blanc, real and in the flesh.

Madfish 2017 Chardonnay, Western Australia ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a nicely harmonized, fleshy yet fresh unoaked chardonnay with reserved aromas of pineapple/guava, lactic and subtle herbal notes. No great depth or complexity but it drinks with ease and refreshes as it goes. Asian.

Madfish Chardonnay 2017Decoy Chardonnay 2016Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2017

Decoy 2016 Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California ($31.95)
David Lawrason – This is a bit more expensive than others in this selection, but it is quite delicious, textbook California chardonnay. It has a quite appealing if sweetish nose of banana cream pie, complete with graham cracker crust. Some vanilla in there too. It is medium-full bodied, quite elegant with nicely interlaced acidity and moderate alcohol. Quite composed and focused. Grilled shrimp.

Kir Yianni 2017 Akakies Rosé, Amyndeon, Greece ($12.95)
John Szabo – Cracking value here in a savoury, strawberry and wild herb-scented rosé from the xinomavro grape, with genuine intensity and complexity in a fully dry style. Sip while BBQueing, and carry on with it at the table.
Michael Godel – The tart, edgy and acid-fruity back and forth in this Rosé tells us what xinomavro can do when treated with blush respect this way. It’s nicely tangy and tart, ripe and fruitful, bloody easy to drink. Oh, and it’s $13 so there is everything to gain.


Apaltagua Envero 2015 Gran Reserva Carmenère Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite intense, lifted and almost zesty with carmenere’s blackcurrant, evergreen and slightly meaty notes front and centre. There is some smoky character as well. It is medium-full bodied, juicy and nicely intense. The length is very good to excellent. Grilled lamb!

Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva 2015Emiliana Coyam 2014Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Emiliana 2014 Coyam Los Robles Estate, DO Colchagua Valley, Chile ($29.95)
John Szabo – Another fine edition of this top-notch wine from Emiliana, organically and biodynamically farmed. I love the aromatics in the Chilean style, full of savoury, resinous herbs, blue, black and some red fruit, and minimal wood influence, while the palate is succulent with great acids and more than a touch of salinity on the back end to bring those grilled cuts of meat to life. Best 2018-2024.

Ernie Els 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa ($24.95)
Michael Godel – The Ernie Els varietal wines possess an uncanny consistency of ability to capture grape essence and to have them rise above territorial personality. This from Stellenbosch can run with Aussie cabernet sauvignon from Coonawarra and Margaret River any day of the week.
John Szabo – Here’s a classic, classy, cabernet here, fresh and lightly herbal in the cabernet idiom, with a good dose of fruit to measure up. The palate is properly firm and structured, with lots of fresh fruit and fine drive on the back end. Best 2018-2025.

Lange Twins 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This shows the ripeness, richness and heat of Lodi, and thankfully the expression is pure enough to show some charm, without any overt sweetness or barrel. The fruit is perfectly ripened, the structure is good and the length is very good to excellent.
Michael Godel – From the Lange twins here comes Lodi zinfandel we remember, hope for and love. There are grilled herbs and drying tannins, really extracted fruit and great energy. Great bite to the finish.

Lange Twins Old Vine Zinfandel 2015Millbrook Barking Owl Shiraz 2014

Millbrook 2014 Barking Owl Shiraz, Western Australia ($20.95)
David Lawrason – Barking owls are a real thing apparently in the vineyards of this Margaret River. This is a fairly straightforward, engaging, cooler clime shiraz with cranberry, menthol and peppery notes, plus a touch of charcoal. It is quite dense, smooth, juicy and appealing with some dusty, gritty tannin

San Claudio II 2013 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy ($27.95)
Michael Godel – Two years of Slavonian oak casks oughta do it I always say. In the case of this Vino Nobile that’s just about, if not perfectly right. The oak is very much a part and it’s in the texture that the barrel really aids and abets. This is quality sangiovese fruit, short of chocolate and mocha, lifted, nicely high-toned and really quite juicy.

San Claudio II 2013 Vino Nobile di MontepulcianoAlejandro Pesquera Crianza 2014Porca De Murça Reserva Tinto 2014

Alejandro Fernandez 2014 Pesquera Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain ($34.95)
John Szabo – Alejandro Fernandez’s Pesquera property, bought in 1972, pretty much put Ribera del Duero on the map. The style and philosophy have changed little in nearly half a century, with long ageing (18 months in American oak, 300l barrels) and bottle before release standard practices. The cool 2014 vintage shines through here in this herb-inflected wine, and flavour intensity and length are excellent. Tannic structure and sharp acids augur well for at least mid-term cellaring (2-4), though decanting and serving alongside the right salty protein could bring this to life now. Best 2020-2030.

Porca de Murça 2014 Reserva Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a nicely fresh, balanced and almost juicy Douro red that actually might work as a BBQ red. Many are more tannic and terse; this is quite lively with florals (violet), plum, spice and wood on the nose. There is a nice mid-palate richness as well.

And that’s it for this edition. Keep on grillin’ and sippin’.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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Lawrason’s Take
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