Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 16th – Part Two

Critics on the road again, all you can taste and more smart buys

by Michael Godel

John & Michael in Tuscany

John & Michael in Tuscany

As you are reading this John and I have just wrapped up our first Anteprime di Toscane week together in Tuscany, having spent three days visiting estates in Chianti Classico and tasting through hundreds of wines based on the local sangiovese in Florence. We are now in Montalcino doing more of the intensive same, concentrating on that village’s other sangiovese, the Brunello of Montalcino. Two weeks ago while David and Sara were off on their own wine-wanderlust excursions in British Columbia (Canadian Culinary Championships/Canada’s Great Kitchen Party) and Verona, Italy (Anteprima Amarone), John and I were able to attend the rare and elusive VINTAGES media tasting. Why is this the new normal? Well, let me tell you.

As David mentioned in his Buyers’ Guide two weeks ago the VINTAGES media and communications department has decided to mix things up, reassess and change the way the media can taste wines scheduled for release. We now as a group only get a one day, all you can taste in six hours, over-saturated crack at the pre-release tastings and only when we don’t happen to be travelling the globe in search of great wines. Which incidentally, is a frequent exercise for us all. John and I probably tasted 60-plus wines each and yet there are probably a dozen or so that neither were able to get to. Rest assured the WineAlign message remains clear. As a group we will always make a point, for the benefit of our members, to taste and review as many wines as possible.

Which is why the travelling is so integral to programs like the WineAlign Exchange. When we visit producers and taste wines at collections and trade shows we always have WAX in mind and not a trip goes without a great discovery of something new, exciting and with wow potential for the boxes.

AdvertisementBeringer Luminus Chardonnay 2016

As for this coming Saturday’s February 16th, 2019 release, it was in last week’s VINTAGES Preview in which John extolled the virtues of Smart Buys, a theme that I have chosen to extend here into week number two. Part Two goes at a similar ilk and echelon of wines, at all price points, simply because they are well-made and in some cases extraordinary versions of space, time, grape variety (or blend) and place. I’ve got ten more shining examples of good, honest and worthy bottles right ahead.


Henry Of Pelham Estate Riesling 2017, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
Michael Godel – The vintage was a different one, more than most in Niagara and riesling might be the white grape affected most. The heat of September and October made for some long developed riesling ripeness and flavours. It really shows in this Pelham Estate rendition and who knows what sugar munched petrol will develop as a result. The year 2017 will be remembered for great riesling variance which is just what we should want from the great chameleon. This is lovely in its sweet herbal fragrance and lime-powered flavour. The great Short Hills Bench length tells us to seek out more and continue to learn.

Chavet & Fils La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou Salon Blanc 2017, AC Loire, France ($20.95)
Michael Godel – Should you be in the market for a different sort of sauvignon blanc, one that reeks of tradition and familial intensity then lay your money down. A mouthful of rocks and fruit is given some spirit by tincture in drops of vermouth and bitters. Real sauvignon energy, herbal pesto and a gift out of the Loire. Spicy finish to boot. Best showing for this wine in some time.

Domaine Naturaliste Floris Chardonnay 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia ($33.95)
Michael Godel – Floris may refer to a perfectionist or if you will, someone who bears witness to the commotion of the time. I pity the fool who is both but if Bruce Dukes is the Floris then it has served him well in producing an exceptional chardonnay from an equally excellent location in the Margaret River. This is a prudent pick by a New World wine buyer who knows the push-pull, ying-yang between cool and commercial, artisan and what sells. This is chardonnay that hits all the buttons and checks off all the boxes for all. There is reduction, spice, ripe fruit, high acidity and depth, all as an accumulation and reluctant dissipation. Crafty and concise.

Henry Of Pelham Estate Riesling 2017 Chavet & Fils La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou Salon Blanc 2017 Domaine Naturaliste Floris Chardonnay 2015

Domaine Sangouard Guyot Quintessence Pouilly Fuissé 2016, AC Bourgogne, France ($34.95)
Michael Godel – Pouilly-Fuissé can be some of the fleshiest and golden sun-worshipped chardonnay in all of Bourgogne and then it can do what this Guyot manages to do. Bring a little tight limestone lightning into the flesh and find irreparable balance. ‘Tis a generous PF with rocks and stones in the fossilized karst of its bones. Really structured, focused and precise.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Les Clous Meursault 2016, AC Bourgogne, France ($68.95)
Michael Godel – Bouchard’s Meursault Les Clous is indeed an AOC Village but again, who could not direct worthiness in the direction of the Premier Cru? This in fact goes one step further towards the right bank of the spectrum with an intensity of Bourgogne mineralité that exudes but also exceeds Meursault Villages. Les Clous is always shy and somewhat reserved, at least compared to Puligny, coiled in its construct and perpetually counterintuitive in its wide acceptance. The elemental lemon-ality and elementary alimentaire of its ultra-fine quality ingredients are all directed towards focus and composure. Such a special wine that demands its own designation.

Domaine Sangouard Guyot Quintessence Pouilly Fuissé 2016 Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Les Clous Meursault 2016


Domaine de la Croix Rouge Juliénas 2017, AP Beaujolais, France ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Now here is the exceptional scent of gamay on the high toned side of the spectrum. You can here it talk in a gravel affected raspy voice, taking about ripe red apples and the great plaisir of the Cru. Cinnamon and violet come by way of the clay. Julienas is so very open, elemental, fun and yet luxurious. This is go time for pure gamay delight.

Domaine Bersan Irancy Pinot Noir 2015, AC Bourgogne, France ($26.95)
Michael Godel – If you’ve never tasted pinot noir from Irancy you should and once you have you may never go back. There is a taut intensity about this village and in this case the sort of red to black cherry fruit that is richer and more getable than many. The price is reflective of the advanced, riper and prêt-à-porter/prêt-à-boire style but that is both prudent and fortuitous. Believe me when I say, Irancy are wines you need to try today.

Anthonij Rupert Optima 2013, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($27.95)
Michael Godel – Optima is always this wise and mature Bordeaux blend made up of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. Rooibos, currants and rich earth are the stars despite the lengthy barrel hibernation and the whole package takes its sweet time to develop. The consumer is a true beneficiary of so much pre-planning and storage. There is no stepping back in 2013 and Optima delivers the distinction of a well-orchestrated blend from L’Ormarins and the 17th century Huguenot Farm.

Les Croix Rouge Juliénas 2017 Domaine Bersan Irancy Pinot Noir 2015 Anthonij Rupert Optima 2013

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Bettino Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($28.95)
Michael Godel – This second CC Brolio label carries the name of Barone Bettino Ricasoli, inventor of the Chianti formula in 1872. The 2015 edition of the Iron Baron’s Chianti Classico is indubitably vintage driven with far softer feelings and expressions than we last saw in the grippy 2013. After tasting through a pile of such fresh, firm and intense ‘16s this first nose of ’15 is almost an apposite shock. The 2015 sangiovese are the blood of the decade, the lifeline, life-affirming and life giving Chianti Classico. Brolio’s Bettino is a pure and exemplary one to talk of such things. It delivers fruit and the defined nature of acidity that is a multi-purposed Annata drawn from a gathering off of multiple and variegated types of aisle in Chianti soils. Perfectly ready and in the zone.

Girard Petite Sirah 2014, Napa Valley, California ($44.95)
Michael Godel – Consistency is the motivation behind Girard’s unencumbered petite sirah, once again über ripe, cimmerian and hematic but with well heeded and managed tannins. This is both a chill to drink and a thrill to imagine the age worthy possibilities. The fruit is sourced from old vine plantings at Godward Vineyard in the Calistoga region as well as Julianna and Calla Lily vineyard in the Pope Valley region of Napa. Some of that old vine fruit is in fact zinfandel, once again noted and notable.

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Bettino Chianti Classico 2015 Girard Petite Sirah 2014

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the critics’ Only One pick this week. The team will return over the next two weeks with previews for the VINTAGES March 2nd release.

Good to go!


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
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview