Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 2nd, Part Two

New World Finds, Argentine Spotlight and Niagara’s Icewine Festival

By Sara d’Amato with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d’Amato

It is the beginning of a new year which means smaller VINTAGES releases wines with approximately 105 wines and spirits in the mix this weekend. In last week’s newsletter David Lawrason spoke about our lessened opportunities as media to cover the complete release. As we determine how we may reshape our coverage, by broadening our reporting on other outlets at which consumers can purchase wine in Ontario, you may find that a critic or two are absent from reviews. With that in mind, we have been vigilant on ensuring that at least one of us has analyzed each of the wines available in the VINTAGES release. Without further ado, herein you’ll find our top picks from the New World found on VINTAGES shelves this weekend.

Argentinian Feature

This week, Argentina takes center stage with a small but comprehensive feature from which we were able to pull a great deal of gems. For a thorough overview of the country’s changing landscape, don’t miss Michael Godel’s special report – A Masterclass Across Argentina.

WineAlign Exchange 


Argentinian Whites

Piattelli 2017 Reserve Torrontés, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A classic torrontés from the extreme high-altitude desert northern region of Cafayate with perfectly restrained floral character. Zesty and appealing with no shortage of freshness resulting in some visceral tension on the palate. The alcohol level is expectedly high, not uncommon for the grape variety, but it is very well integrated. A salty edge delightfully compliments the flavours of lime, sweet lemon and blossom that linger memorably.

Familia Schroeder Alpataco Chardonnay 2017, Patagonia, Argentina ($16.95)
Michael Godel –  Schroeder’s chardonnay is full of cool-climate personality, naturally sweet acidity and fruit out of which you can take a real, just-picked from the orchard bite. It’s chewy and yet never abandons the crisp quality that makes it so fresh and sporty. Tidy little value here. Wait until you taste the ’18.
David Lawrason – Very good value from the cooler, more southerly Patagonia region – showing more structure than expected at the price. It shows fairly generous, ripe melon-peach fruit with vague bready and spicy notes – plus some vanillin. It is medium-full bodied, quite firm and even mineral edged, with very good to excellent flavour-depth.

Piattelli Reserve Torrontés 2017  Familia Schroeder Alpataco Chardonnay 2017

Argentinian Reds

Catena 2016 Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina (450106) (19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A terrific value at under $20, this cabernet franc offers ripeness without wiping away the varietal characer. It has a distinctive note of bay leaf and cassis with savory Argentine flair. Generosly aromatic and at the same time fleshy on the palate. A widely appealing style with more freshness than expected that persists on the finish of very good length.
Michael Godel – In Mendoza cabernet franc has nicely adapted to high altitudes (900m+) and its prominence began spreading after 1990, especially in Luján de Cuyo where 34 per cent of the country’s vines are grown. San Carlos is Catena’s high mountain vines exploration and their savoury, cool and spicy franc is one of Argentina’s best values in the appellative category. Fruit stands out, firm and in charge.

El Enemigo Single Vineyard Bonarda La Esperanza 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($21.95) (629782)
David Lawrason – Bonarda is an Italian variety widely grown for bulk wine in the eastern, lower altitude parts of Mendoza, thus is usually treated as in a cheap, easy drinking red. This single vineyard example shows sterner and better stuff. It has a nicely expressive nose of jammy blueberry/plummy fruit with a hint of menthol and vanilla. It is medium-full bodied, dense and very smooth – almost cushy but not too sweet. The fruit depth and balance are excellent, so is the length.

Trapiche Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec 2014,  Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Mendoza (402941) ($42.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite delicious and well-structured single vineyard malbec from the highest altitude Gualtallary Vineyard in the northern section of the Uco Valley. Very ripe dark blackberry fruit is nicely fitted with oak spice, vanilla, garrigue and excellent minerality that really shows up in the finish. It is full bodied, fairly dense yet elegant with very fine tannin structure. The length is excellent to outstanding.
Michael Godel – If you were not aware of the project it is the house of Trapiche that works with and exults great growers’ fruit through their Terroir Series wines. Finca Ambrosia in Gualtallary in one of these farms that pinpoints soils and location for this particular malbec. The 2014 is ready to tell this particular story, of fruit so heady, tension so fine and the composure able to slowly render away over time. This has presence and length. Terrific malbec.

Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2016  El Enemigo Single Vineyard Bonarda La Esperanza 2014  Trapiche Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec 2014

Altocedro 2015 La Consulta Select Blend, La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from a small southern sub-region of the Uco Valley, the La Consulta malbec-dominant blend is pine resin-laced offering terrific integration of flavors at 4 years out. Aromatic, pure and unmanipulated in style, this highly gulpable red is also quite dry with a pleasant tannic grip. Additional complexity comes via the contribution of cabernet sauvignon (27%), tempranillo (22%) and syrah (9%). A highly memorable find.

Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Tupungato & La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Two sub-appellations within the Uco Valley are employed for this cabernet sauvignon assemblage. La Consulta and Tupungato are two of the hottest spots to grow and raise the grape variety and no one know this like Zuccardi. There is plenty of verdant savour and sweet spice (namely baking) to elevate the condition and the effect this has on the senses. It’s a perfectly tidy example to educate on the merits of Mendozan cabernet.

Altocedro La Consulta Select Blend 2015  Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

New World Reds

Josh Cellars 2015 Paso Robles Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, USA ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A solid level value from Josh Cellars Paso portfolio. A relatively non-interventionist approach is evident given the purity of fruit and the subtlety of the wood spice. Dry and nicely defined with vibrancy while maintaining very good intensity. Ready to drink now.

Marietta Armé 2015 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, USA ($37.95)
Sara d’Amato – A carefully crafted, notably sophisticated cabernet sourced from estate fruit grown throughout the Alexander Valley, the Yorkville Highlands and the McDowell Valleys. Blended with merlot, malbec and petit verdot, the flavours are complex and progressively layered. Notes of black licorice and pepper enhance the fruit while the acidity is vibrant and refreshing. Fine and subtle oak treatment along with the keenly balanced degree of alcohol make for a very drinkable style.

Antu Vina Montgras Santa Cruz Carmenere 2015, Peumo, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This captures the essential rather green nose of carmenere – reminding of a sappy pine cone, to which many other Canadians might also relate.  But there is also blackcurrant jam fruit, pepper, some chocolate and spice. It is medium-full bodied with a loose mid-palate then some fine tannic grip. Good density. A very typical and good carmenere.

Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2015   Marietta Armé Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2015  Antu Vina Montgras Santa Cruz Carmenere 2015

On Ice: The 2019 Niagara Icewine Festival

The new year began with one of Niagara’s most celebrated wine events, the three-weekend long Niagara Icewine Festival. As is the tradition, the glamorous Niagara Icewine Gala kicks off the festivities at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. Among ice sculptures, dessert towers, and a swinging band, this black-tie extravaganza showcased some of Niagara’s frostiest finds alongside winery chosen specialties. Michael Godel and I were fortunate to be in attendance this year and are pleased to share with you our highlights:

Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve 2016 Gewürztraminer Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Of all of Jackson-Triggs sweet offerings at the Gala, this one drew my attention due to its wildly compelling nose of honeysuckle, peppercorn and passionfruit. Gewüztraminer can be a challenging grape to transform into Icewine due to its naturally low acidity and its propensity to weaken while overwintering out of dormancy. This version showcased delectable tartness in the face of opulent texture.

Inniskillin 2017 Cabernet Franc Sparkling Icewine  ($119.95)
Sara d’Amato – Inniskillin’s Sparkling Icewine is an intriguing product that even non-Icewine drinkers can enjoy. The best of Icewines are balanced and avoid a notably cloying feeling on the palate from unchecked sugar. This equilibrium is much more difficult to achieve with red Icewines whose natural acidity is innately lower than a riesling, for example. Here come the bubbles in this equation whose lift and gentle effervesce present another element of refreshment on the palate. To achieve these bubbles, the wine is transferred to a pressurized tank partway through fermentation to capture a moderate amount of CO2. Wonderfully decadent stuff. (94)

Marynissen Vidal Icewine 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($44.95)
Michael Godel – Finding balance with vidal for Icewine takes great care and so you know things are looking up when the first thing you notice about Marynissen’s ’13 is the fineness of its acidity. It’s just lovely, with an exemplary teaching moment on why curves matter, of a roundness that shows an obsession with the circle as the perfect form. The acidity welcomes apricot, pineapple and caramel, lifts the fruit spirit into balance and harmony. It’s an architectural Ontario temple in Greek or Roman form with vidal on its frozen altar. Finishes with a free-flow of maple syrup.

Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($79.95)
Michael Godel – I recently tasted the equally excellent 2017 Vidal Gold Icewine and the logical conclusion is to award several stars to the vintage. Freezing temps early in December meant kept acidities and a crop that was picked in the same year it was raised. Expect the classic Inniskillin-Niagara Peninsula-Ontario triad of flowers, citrus and tropical fruit. Classic is the operative, longevity the conclusion. The way Icewine sipping should be.

Lundy Manor 2016 Cabernet Franc, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Ontario $27.95
Sara d’Amato – A gorgeously ripened cabernet franc offering both pep and a luxurious texture. Distinctively aromatic although not underripe. Carefully-crafted from hand-picked vines that have been cold soaked and undergone a long fermentation. (92)
Michael Godel –  There is always great expectation these days from Ontario cabernet franc and yet still a rare thing to see one walk through the magic door. Lundy’s is an 80 per cent Foxcroft meets (20) Edgerock Vineyard joint. The fruit brotherhood saw 18 months is 50 per cent new wood and the integration is seamless in a lightly touched cabernet franc. The barrel is never on your mind, or your palate. This is just exceptional work from winemakers Adam Kern and Chris Robinson.

Kacaba Silver Bridge Vineyard Syrah 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Just across Kacaba’s Silver Bailey Bridge is the Silver Bridge Vineyard, planted in 1997 which incidentally is Ontario’s oldest syrah. If the significance is lost it’s surely time to pay more attention to a varietal block that has survived 20 years of extreme weather. Though it was an above average vintage the ripening was two weeks late and so phenolics were also pushed above average, lifted by 6.3 per cent viognier. Kacaba and syrah. Do you know about this relationship? You should.

Lundy Manor Cabernet Franc 2016 Kacaba Silver Bridge Vineyard Syrah 2016

A Salute to Michele Bosc

Early this year we lost one of our own in the Niagara wine industry, Michele Bosc of Château des Charmes Estates. The wife of Paul Bosc Jr. and mother of son Alex. Over her tenure as the winery’s VP of Marketing & Administration, Michele became the warm, benevolent face of Château des Charmes, known for her generosity, her instant amiability and ability to reach out to a vast wine community. She was forward-thinking, innovative and brought renewed enthusiasm to the brand. To call Michele dedicated is an understatement. From hospital bed to at home convalescence, she continued to have an active social media presence and an unwavering promotion of Niagara wine and Château des Charmes brands. Michele Bosc was a genuine ambassador and will be missed.

Best Ontario Sommelier Competition and a Re-boot of Ontario’s Blind Wine Tasting Challenge

On April 14th of 2019, the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers will be hosting the biennial Best Ontario Sommelier Competition at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. Although the competition takes place at 1 PM, there will be wine related events all day long also open to the public including an International Wine and Food Fair commencing at 11 AM. A sparkling wine reception and a Gala Dinner with live music, cutting-edge wine and food! For tickets and registration:

On the same day, CAPS and international wine partners will be reviving the Ontario tradition of the Wine Tasting Challenge at 11AM. Amateurs and professionals alike will have the opportunity to compete anonymously for pride and great prizes to test their senses in a blind tasting. Three half hour sessions are available, but slots are filling up quickly. If you’d like to participate, register at the link above.

Stay tuned for upcoming news reporting on wine regions both emerging and established from across the globe. Check back here this weekend for our “Only One Picks” on shelves at VINTAGES February 2nd.



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.

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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview