John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Nov 24, 2018

Best of the New World, Including Washington State; Plus Special Beaujolais Report

By John Szabo, MS, with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

It felt a bit this week like panning for gold: lots of rocks amongst the nuggets, not so much rush. The New World selections from the November 24th release are largely overpriced and ordinary, with the notable exceptions the WineAlign crü has sifted out for you below. Washington State, the mini theme, bucked the trend, with daring and atypical, mostly successful wines. Kudos to the LCBO on that; top picks below. And finally, it’s also Beaujolais Nouveau season. The selection is predictably poor, though if you insist, I have one option for you. But honestly, if you want real Beaujolais, read my recently-published special report for some background on why it is truly an exciting region, and sip on the buyer’s guide of serious (non-nouveau) stuff. David covers the Old World next week.

Brindisi Rosso DOP


November 24th Buyer’s Guide: Nouveau/Novello

The year’s annual Nouveau/Novello release was predictably pedestrian, a motley collection simple, grapey wines rushed to market like a gooey, under-baked muffin. The best of the lot is the Joseph Drouhin 2018 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau ($17.95), a wine with adequate structure and depth, though hardly a sharp value – it’s also the most expensive of the bunch. But if you really want to join the dwindling number of worldwide Nouveau partiers on the Third Thursday of November (sorry, that was yesterday), this is your best bet.

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2018

November 24th Buyer’s Guide: Washington State

Hedges Family Estate Red 2013, Red Mountain, Washington, USA ($38.95)
John Szabo – I’m a big fan of the edgy, atypically elegant and refined Washington State wines of Hedges, here delivering a high-toned, red fruit-driven Bordeaux blend. The palate is vibrant and succulent to be sure – I love the juiciness, the fine-grained, light tannins, dusty and grippy, and the long finish. Original stuff, best 2018-2023.
David Lawrason – This is a solid, complex and compact red that oozes New World opulence but in a nicely contained somewhat Euro fashion. The nose is complex and generous with blackcurrants, leafy/herbal notes, cedar and well fitted meatiness. It is quite full bodied, well balanced and firm with excellent length. Could almost be a Tuscan.

Powers Ava Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Rattlesnake Hills ($24.95)
John Szabo – Solid balance and depth on offer in this mid-weight, fruity, properly oaked/aged cabernet, a food friendly wine. Drink or hold short term.

Lone Birch Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Yakima Valley ($19.95)
John Szabo – I like the generally herbal side of cooler Yakima Valley cabernet, here on full display in an appealing, zesty, light, easy-drinking style. Tannins are light and acids are bright. Drink short term, and chill for greater pleasure.

Hedges Family Estate Red 2013 Powers Ava Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Lone Birch Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

November 24th Buyer’s Guide: New World White

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($36.95)
John Szabo – Baker’s 2015 Picone Vineyard riesling, from old vines on top of the Niagara Escarpment, is evolving well now, just beginning to develop some petrol/kerosene alongside ripe yellow fruit, appealing and inviting. The palate is sharply delineated and firmly structured, with palpable extract and very good length. A very fine vintage for this wine to be sure. Best 2018-2027.
Michael Godel – This 2015 will arrive and move out of town a bit earlier than most. Citrus never had it so good in Picone and aridity is a five letter word. That word is not yet written but should see to utterance and put to paper in a year or so. For now this needs some fat in your diet, like pork belly or some particularly sharp charcuterie.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand ($26.95)
John Szabo – True to the Dog Point house style, this atypical sauvignon impresses with its intriguing flinty, sulphide-driven profile, of evidently above average intensity and depth. The palate has a very appealing salinity, excellent depth and length, with everything nicely proportioned. Drink or hold; decant if drinking now. Best 2018-2024.

Soumah Chardonnay 2017, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia ($27.95)
John Szabo – A lean, flinty, sharp, tightly wound, post-modern chardonnay here in expected fashion from irreverent Soumah, complete with minimal wood and tangy acids. Fruit spans a decent range from citrus through green apple to pineapple, and I like the salty acids and very good length. Tidy. Best 2018-2023.
Michael Godel – This speaks to some old vines fruit I would think, with lean to fleshy meanderings that ride the wave of all things chardonnay. No it’s not chenin blanc but it displays a cool climate version of how the modern world treats these grapes, whether it be Australia or South Africa. Lively examples they are, like this, with endless waves of dry extract and grape tannin.

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2015 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Soumah Chardonnay 2017

Megalomaniac Bubblehead Sparkling Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($34.95)
David Lawrason – A pleasant surprise here from a Niagara house not known for its sparkling wine. So I am assuming the reason is the hiring of winemaker Sebastien Jacquey, formerly of Le Clos Jordanne. This 100% pinot noir,  pale salmon-copper shaded bubbly shows a moderately generous, fairly complex nose of dried cherry/currant fruit, straw and vaguely nutty character. It is firm, grippy dry and fairly intense on the palate. Well balanced with excellent length.

Southbrook Vineyards Organic Triomphe Riesling 2016, Niagara Peninsula ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Very good value in a dry riesling made more in an Alsatian style then Germanic. It shows a very generous, complex nose of petrol, honey, yellow plum, beeswax and spice. It is full bodied, dry, bold and quite intense, with great focus and length.

Flat Rock Riddled Sparkling 2011, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($34.95)
Michael Godel – In terms of what to buy, drink and celebrate with from locally raised secondary in bottle fermented grapes this Riddled from a just spot on fizz vintage should be up there at the top of the lists. It’s vibrant, juicy, lemon-lime fortified, pith and tonic edged and just about everything else you might want from your bubbles. Lap it up.

Megalomaniac Bubblehead Sparkling Rosé Southbrook Vineyards Organic Triomphe Riesling 2016 Flat Rock Riddled Sparkling 2011

November 24th Buyer’s Guide: New World Red

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz 2016, South Australia ($23.95)
John Szabo – Another fine, perfumed, lifted shiraz from the reliable house of Wynns’, a pleasure to sniff. It’s genuine wine, in an elegant and delicate, supple, complex, succulent and juicy style with terrific tension, and considering the price, an exceptional value. Best 2018-2028.
Michael Godel – Once again Wynn’s shows they know beyond cabernet sauvignon and while the fruit may not be a repeat of 2015 it is closer than no cigar. There is more wood notability here, with some vanilla and graphite but the fruit is up to the barrel task. Still a wine of impressive balance with fine and demanding tannins following up on some great energy up the middle. Another mid-range ager from winemaker Sue Hodder and the most excellent Coonawarra, terra rosa soil provider.
David Lawrason – Love the definition on the nose which is very Coonawarra if not entirely shiraz-like. Nods to cabernet as well.  Expect a lifted, almost piquant blackcurrant, mint/menthol, pepper, cordite and vanilla.  It is dense, bright, firm and polished – love the edge and tension.  Tannins remain firm so give it a year or two. The length and focus are excellent.

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2015 Unfiltered, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($44.95)
John Szabo – Hidden Bench has really nailed this Bordeaux blend in 2015. It offers deep colour, and evidently concentrated, ripe, dark fruit aromatics, with beautifully integrated oak and superb, succulent acids. Tannins are chaining up nicely, reaching nearly a supple, polymerized whole, though I’d say it’s not yet near prime drinking. I like the firm acids, the stately structure, the subtle wood, and ultimately the length and depth. Classy wine, best 2020-2027.

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2015, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, USA ($49.95) John Szabo – A cracking 2015 here from DDO, fresh, vibrant, cherry and raspberry-driven off the top, a refined and classy pinot from the Dundee Hills with silky tannins and intoxicating spiciness. The palate is very fine, yet not without structure; this should continue to evolve nicely over the next few years, even if it’s quite tidy now. Best 2018-2025.

Elk Cove Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($36.95)
Michael Godel – Certainly showing some development now two years after it was first released through VINTAGES but the nose it more than intriguing. Now emitting this lovely afternoon waft of roses and other dried flowers the Cove is just beginning to show its best (at least in terms of a mature and complex pinot noir). It’s also six dollars cheaper than 18 months ago so take advantage of this opportunity to dive into the recent past of the Willamette Valley.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz 2016  Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2015  Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2015 Elk Cove Pinot Noir 2013

The Chocolate Block 2016, Syrah WO Swartland, South Africa ($39.95)
John Szabo –Having moved entirely to fruit from the Swartland, a land of extremes, this wine has only gained in quality, complexity and character. This 2016 is dense, rich, fullish, and firm, chocolaty as advertised, with real depth and tension, not to mention flavour intensity. I like the acid balance, the ripe but firm tannins, and the harmonized oak on the back end. Quality wine, best 2018-2028.

Alamos Selección Malbec 2015, La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Good value and ready drinking in a quite ripe, smooth and fairly dense malbec.  Lovely mulberry-blueberry fruit on the nose with violet, some fresh sage and thyme. It is full bodied, open-knit, hinting at sweetness and some alcohol heat. Not very elegant but proportions are quite good. Alamos has been impressing me of late.

Sonvida Malbec 2015,  Paraje Altamira, Mendoza  ($29.95)
David Lawrason – From a single vineyard in the higher altitude Altamira sub-region of the southern Uco Valley, this is a quite rich yet lively malbec; deeply coloured with lifted floral, blueberry/blackberry fruit plus slightly meaty, herbal notes. The composure is very good given its size. There is decent acidity and tension with firm tannin. And the length is excellent.

Zuccardi Zeta 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($44.95)
Michael Godel – There is a real get togetherness in Seb Zuccardi’s José, a malbec of three calcareous terroirs with five percent cabernet sauvignon. You can feel the white savour running through like three lightning strikes, one from the Uco Valley and the others out of Paraje Altamira and Gualtallary. The smoothest and most velvet glove of texture ties the whole ensemble together and there is no doubt that great fruit from top sites filled this bottle.

The Chocolate Block 2016 Alamos Selección Malbec 2015 Sonvida Malbec 2015 Zuccardi Zeta 2014

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

John Szabo, MS

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
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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