David’s VINTAGES Preview – Mar 16th, 2019

Wading Through a Shallower Pool, plus Ontario Finds

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

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

This week our picks are plucked from a narrower range of wines tasted.  VINTAGES has suspended media tastings for the March 16 and March 30 releases, while it reconfigures its offerings to the writers. The tastings resume for the April 13 release, presenting “a curated list of products that will be selected by our merchandising team based on criteria such as; distribution across the LCBO store network, product availability and alignment with business strategies”.

While we wait to see what that selection actually looks like in terms of number and breadth of wines presented, we are continuing to review as many wines as we can get our hands on through the wineries and their agents, and we hope to present other March 16 offerings next week as well.

We are also planning to expand the reach of these newsletters to other smart buys that are available on the LCBO General List, at Destination Collection stores, through LCBO Online, The Classics Catalogue, Agents’ Consignment, supermarkets and of course Ontario wineries.

In that light we are pleased to present this week some fine new releases from Ontario that Michael, Sara and I encountered at the annual trade tasting held by the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario in late February at the Royal Ontario Museum.  It was a great show and very well attended. It just felt as though Ontario wine had “arrived”. Click through for purchasing information.

Boschendal 1685 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

March 16th – Sparkling and Sweet

Antech 2015 Expression Brut Crémant De Limoux, Languedoc, France ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Great value here from the most famous sparkling wine region of southern France (and not far away as the crow flies from the cava vineyards of Spain). This has a very ripe, rich almost creamy nose with melon/guava fruit, biscuity character, hay and wildflowers. It is medium weight, just off-dry yet fresh and well balanced with good acidity. There is a wet cement finish that actually reminds of Spanish cava. The length is very good to excellent.
Michael Godel – The cépage is chardonnay, chenin blanc and mauzac for a very creamy Limoux sparkling with a notable leesy yogurt aroma. Plenty of lemon-lime citrus cuts through the clotted cream to bring about some fine complexity in a $20 fizz. The flavours follow suit and texture is ultimately a fine given. A slab of foie gras would really work well alongside the sharpness of this wine.

Monmarthe Secret De Famille Brut Champagne, 1er Cru, Champagne, France ($47.95)
Michael Godel – Toasty is one thing, sultry smouldering another and gingered a third. All these components launch from the get go in Monmarthe’s Brut at a Premier Cru cost that asks for nothing. Love how this tackles with energy and also walks that fine oxidative line. Really complex Champagne for a song is always a great thing. Drink 2019-2022.

Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro, Spain ($16.95/500ml)
David Lawrason – This is a re-release, not re-tasted, but gorgeous and highly memorable. This gold-amber sweet moscatel has an amazingly lifted, fine nose of orange, mint, ginger, pine and dried figs. It is full bodied, sweet, soft and rich with all the balance provided by the 15% alcohol warmth and viscosity. This is delicious and massive value in the sweet wine genre. Should be sublime with crème brûlée, or “hold the crème brûlée” and go it alone.

Antech Expression Brut Crémant De Limoux 2015  Monmarthe Secret De Famille Brut Champagne Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro

March 16 – Whites

Errázuriz Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Aconcagua Costa, Chile ($19.95)
John Szabo – From Errazuriz’s impressive Manzanar vineyard near the coast in the Aconcagua Valley, this hand harvested, 20% whole cluster-fermented sauvignon is led by pungent, nettle, green flavours with a subtle backbeat of passion fruit, tangerine and mango, and smoky jalapeño, a mixture of sunshine and relatively cool temperatures. The palate is fresh yet gentle, medium-bodied, well rounded; it should please widely.

Pieropan Soave Classico 2016, Doc Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – This is from one of my favorite Soave vintages of the last decade, which delivered wines with crackling acids, plenty of energy and verve, and lots of tart fruit. This also marks Leonildo Pieropan’s 50th vintage, a man with some experience in the field. I love the fresh green apple, and almond/cherry blossom aromatics, and the ethereal and lithe frame and lingering finish. A true pleasure to sip in the aperitif style.
Michael Godel – As juicy and forthright as Pieropan’s garganega has ever been with really purposeful acidity to back up every point it needs to make. If you’ve never gone Soave and find yourself in a glass of Pieropan you may never go back. Fruit, intensity and pure unadulterated joy. It’s what needs and more of it please, in life.

Errázuriz Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc 2017  

March 16th – Reds

Duncan Savage 2017 Untamed Shiraz, Swartland, South Africa ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Great value here in a delicious, bold and complex red that shows a very fine and complex nose of cracked black pepper, fresh rosemary, bacon bits and black cherry jam.  It is full bodied, rich and a touch sweet with some heat. Not quite the length that I expected from the intensity of the nose, but still very good and well within expectation of the price.
John Szabo – Celebrated winemaker Duncan Savage, formerly of Cape Point vineyards, has produced an excellent range of wines under his own label from fruit sourced across the western Cape since 2011. This is a proper, savoury-fruity, scorched earth and mineral-driven shiraz from the ultra-hot (chic) Swartland in the Cape winelands north of Stellenbosch, with no evident oak, juicy, succulent, balanced and fresh. The density, weight and complexity, are uncommonly good in this price category, as is the length. A superb value, which would make a great summer house pour during BBQ season. Best 2019-2023.
Michael Godel – Untamed comes from Duncan Savage, he who makes some iconic Western Cape wines such as Are We There Yet, Girl Next Door and Follow the Line. As Savage does, the fruit is dark and mysterious, rich and silky, highly meaningful. If you have any idea what Duncan Savage can do with grapes you’ll know that $17 is a steal for a wine like this, whether or not you taste it as tame, or untamed.

Sous La Montagne 2016 Dsm Vin D’altitude, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – The Roussillon is one of my go-to regions for value, yielding characterful wines, often from very old vines, for a song. This example from the foothills of the Pyrenees is made with Carignan, 41%, syrah 30%, grenache 23 and 6% lladoner pelut (a variation on grenache), of which about a quarter is whole bunch (stems and all in included in the fermentation tank), and aged exclusively in steel. It’s serious, dense and ripe, spicy and herbal, like a blast of wild Mediterranean garrigue, scorched earth, black licorice, black fruit, ripe, stewed/baked and some fresh – an excellent range – on a medium-full bodied frame with abundant, integrated tannins, ripe and suave, and very good to excellent length. Enjoy or hold into the mid-twenties.
Michael Godel – Vines at altitude in the Pyrenees of carignan, syrah, grenache and that other (hairy) grenache known as lldoner pelut here add up to a most luxe, lush and silky blend. Though the fruit is so up front, aromatic and getable it’s not without a supportive level supplied by acidity and fine building grains of structure. Quite the stylish red from Roussillon that would please any and all camps.

Alain Jaume 2015 Clos De Sixte Lirac, Rhone Valley, France ($26.95)
David Lawrason – This re-release is well worth grabbing if you missed it last time through. The nose is rich, plummy, floral (peony) a touch meaty and packed with the anise/garrigue I expect from the southern Rhone. It is medium-full bodied, smooth, warming and rich, if still a bit youthfully tannic. The length is excellent. Decant for an hour or age for a year or two.

Bastide Miraflors 2015 Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache, Côtes Du Roussillon, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – A classic Mediterranean blend (old vine grenache with syrah) with plenty of sappy, very ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit, bold and satisfying. There’s evident density and concentration, but more than just raisined fruit and alcohol – there’s also a nice lick of scorched earth-schist and wild herbal flavours to add complexity. This competes with many Southern Rhone wines at a very attractive price.

Duncan Savage Untamed Shiraz 2017   Sous La Montagne Dsm Vin D'altitude 2016   Alain Jaume Clos De Sixte Lirac 2015   Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015

Château Hourtou 2015 Côtes De Bourg, Bordeaux, France ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Nowadays I am much more interested in finding nifty buys from “petit chateaux” than I am in tasting way-too-expensive Bordeaux’s Grands Vins. This is a merlot-based blend from the modestly-priced right bank region of Bourg. It has a nicely ripe merlot nose thanks to the warm year, plus some complex woodsy, cedary character. It is medium weight, quite supple and smooth with some bitter, slightly green tannin. The length is very good to excellent.

Firriato 2015 Chiaramonte Nero D’avola, Terre Siciliane, Italy ($15.95)
John Szabo – I like the intriguing, nose here, herbal-medicinal, with ripe/stewed/dried black fruit, licorice and smoke – complex for a $16 dollar wine to be sure. The palate fans out, turning a bit soft with low tannins, though overall this hits the right spot for the price – complex, not texturally challenging, widely appealing in the savoury old world idiom. Best 2019-2022.

Wakefield 2015 Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra/Clare Valley, South Australia ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is a re-release re-tasted, with no change in commentary or score. Wakefield always amps the aromatics, almost to the point of wine-show stopping hyperbole. This is an extremely minty, cranberry-fruited, warm and tartish almost brittle red with light toast and oak. There is almost a saline character as well. Loads of flavour and effective. I would chill it a bit.

Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia  ($89.95)
David Lawrason – I have used this blockbuster a couple of times in my WSET classes through Fine Vintage Ltd, to the delight of the students. It has such an immediate, generous nose packed with black cherry/kirsch, pepper, oak vanillin, wild herbs/thyme/mint (not menthol), oak chocolate and some graphite. It is full bodied, dense, smooth and creamy with great internal combustion and such elegance for a big wine. This is profound, calm cool and electric. Very fine tannin. Outstanding length.

Château Hourtou Côtes De Bourg 2015   Firriato Chiaramonte Nero D'avola 2015   Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2015  

Ontario Finds – Taste Ontario

It was time for Ontario wine to shine last Monday at the Royal Ontario Museum presented by VQA Wines of Ontario. Approximately 50 wineries were present from across the province which is no shy turnout from the 180 wineries that populate Ontario producing 71% of Canada’s total wine volume, as reported by the Grape Growers of Ontario. There are currently over 160 of those wineries producing VQA wines in Ontario.

No style was omitted but there was a strong showing at Monday’s trade focused tasting of what Ontario does best: sparkling wine, riesling, chardonnay, gamay, pinot noir, syrah and cabernet franc. We have herein assembled some of the most striking finds of the event, most of which are sold winery direct. Click through for purchasing information.

Ontario Whites

The Grange Of Prince Edward County Crémant Traditional Sparkling, VQA Prince Edward County ($37)
Michael Godel – The year of picking is truly 2011, now bottled after 60 months on lees, though technicalities keep the vintage off of the label. Those who collect such thoughts may recall the great vintage for crafting grippy, tannic and exciting chardonnay. So with the gales of 2011 remembered this 50-50 chardonnay-pinot noir symbiosis speaks of that tension and at the end of this long journey the accumulation of texture is so good. Whip some anxiety into crema and what matters is the cumulative bijou; acidity, maturity, seasoning, reasoning, apples and honey.

Adamo 2017 David Lepp Vineyard Riesling, Niagara Lakeshore ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Adamo is situated in the Caledon Hills east of Orangeville but winemaker Shauna White is sourcing from prime Niagara sites as Adamo’s vineyards come on line. This has a gorgeous nose of honeysuckle, pear and lemon. Aromas remind me of fine riesling from Germany’s Rheinhessen regions. It is mid-weight, off dry with fine acidity and liveliness. Very good to excellent length.

Charles Baker 2017 B-Side Riesling, Twenty Mile Valley, Niagara, Ontario ($25)
Sara d’Amato – Although Charles Baker’s Picone Vineyard Riesling of 2015 was the star of his lineup, the new vintage of the lower priced, restaurant favourite of the B-Side riesling was an exciting “re-mix” (as he put it). A solid value, this taught but fleshy riesling is enhanced in roundness by some residual sugar that tastes barely-there on the palate in contrast with the freshness of acidity. Great riesling is about balance and this incarnation showcases that quality so very memorably.

Tawse 2017 Riesling Quarry Road Vineyard, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Canada ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A bright, refreshing incarnation sourced from the top quality riesling of the Quarry Road site high up on the Niagara Escarpment. Compelling flavours of pickled cauliflower, lime and mineral are aromatically pronounced. Very enticing with well-balanced sweetness that contributes to a more voluminous mouthfeel. There is some notable viscosity, but the bracing acidity carves it up nicely on the palate.

The Grange Of Prince Edward County Crémant Traditional Sparkling  Adamo 2017 David Lepp Vineyard Riesling   Charles Baker B Side Riesling 2017  Tawse Riesling Quarry Road Vineyard 2017

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2014, VQA Vinemount Ridge ($36.95)
Michael Godel – Paul Pender’s accomplishment with 2013 Quarry Road is by now the stuff of ground-breaking legend but now that he has struck near-perfect balance in back-to-back vintages we understand that he has found the way. Some older Quarry Road examples have shown the development of creamed corn but neither 2013 or 2014 will go down that road. The grain is too tight, the stony-mineral line too fine and the acidity built from a position of vineyard and design that the amalgamation of barrels only support, not define.

Megalomaniac 2017 My Way Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is a light to mid-weight, nicely balanced, almost tender chardonnay with complex and integrated oak toast. It has a slimmer feel than many in Niagara – almost Chablis-like, but with fine pointed oak. It has very good acidity, some minerality, very good focus and length. Really well balanced, and as new Megalomaniac winemaker Sebastian Jacquey has said “balance is everything”.
Michael Godel –  There’s a feeling of new understanding and as the patient winemaker Sébastien Jacquey is sure to point out, a new way of farming as well. My Way in 2017 does takes the barrel highway at a direction towards a vanilla, blanched nut and spice route, all without malolactic fermentation. Wood gives this chardonnay a very good position, but it starts with better fruit grown on one of the Escarpment benchs’ best vineyard exposition. Give it a year to settle in. The apple and peach fruit will speak that much clearer when the wood melts in.

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2014 Megalomaniac My Way Chardonnay 2017

Bachelder 2017 Les Villages Gamay, Twenty Mile Bench ($23.95)
David Lawrason -Thomas Bachelder is moving deftly into gamay, a grape that is well suited to Niagara, increasingly popular and well-priced. This a quite pale, lightweight, refined and almost elegant gamay, with some floral and slightly candied gamay fruit and straw character. There is a pleasant fruit sweetness on the palate, with very fine acid-tannin balance. The length is very good.

Southbrook 2017 Laundry Vineyard Gamay, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Ontario ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – This enticing gamay offers a great balance between high toned & floral and rich & earthy. Organic and vegan-friendly, this plump but zesty red is a significant illustration of the depth of character that can come of carefully raised Niagara-grown gamay.

Leaning Post 2016 Cabernet Franc, Wismer Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench, ($45)
David Lawrason – The first cabernet franc from Ilya Senchuk is from an excellent site and vintage. It is a very nicely made, balanced and complex cabernet franc with classic raspberry, tobacco, spice and generous oak vanillin. It is mid-weight with good density, fairly dusty, drying tannin, a certain creaminess and very good to excellent length Needs two years.

North 42 Degrees Cabernet Franc, Lake Erie North Shore, ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This vineyard was planted in 2007, and the winery opened in 2012, very near the Lake Erie shoreline in Harrow. This is a deeply coloured, very ripe, smooth and softer style of Ontario cab franc – typical of LENS. It shoes ripe raspberry fruit nicely accented by good oak vanillin, cedar and tobacco. Real richness on the palate, with considerable youthful tannin. Very good to excellent length.

 Southbrook Triomphe Gamay Laundry Vineyard 2017  Leaning Post 2016 Cabernet Franc    North 42 Degrees Cabernet Franc 2017

Cloudsley 2016 Pinot Noir Homestead Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench, ($50)
David Lawrason – It is pricy but also excellent, another strong outing by Adam Lowy, a pinot specialist who does nothing but pinot from selected blocks of old vines in Twenty Mile Bench. It is light to mid-weight, yet firm, compact and very well balanced with fine tannin. The nose combines sour cherry, raspberry, clove and fine toast, all well-integrated. Good palate intensity and excellent length.

Cloudsley Cellars 2015 Glen Elgin Vineyard Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Valley, Niagara, Ontario ($50)
Sara d’Amato – Both of Cloudsley’s 2015 single vineyard pinot noirs are sourced from top quality Wismer fruit in the Twenty Mile Valley both with distinct stylistic differences. The Glen Elgin fruit is grown on leaner soils with a higher limestone content resulting in more precision and acidity on the palate, greater tension without lacking notable concentration. Dried floral notes and red cherry skin are complimented on the palate with very fine, elegant oak spice.

Karlo Estates 2017 Lake on the Mountain Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County, Niagara, Ontario ($35)
Sara d’Amato – A great deal of depth was coaxed out of this purely PEC pinot noir due to spontaneous fermentation and enabled to be expressed through a light-handed wood treatment of 11 months in old French oak barrels. Flavours of crunchy dried leaf, tilled earth and tart cherries lingered persistently. Great value.

Cloudsley Cellars Homestead Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016   Cloudsley Cellars Glen Elgin Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016  Karlo Estates Pinot Noir Lake On The Mountain Wild Ferment 2017

Cave Spring Cellars 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Ontario, Canada ($39.95)
Sara d’Amato – The 2016 vintage was a stunning one for the winery’s Beamsville Bench fruit. If you don’t think of Cave Spring as an Ontario pinot player than this should prove a perspective-changing find. Rather stern and well-structured with flavours consistent of perfectly ripened fruit. Offering loads of textural appeal with grippy, chewy but not drying tannins and well-balanced acidity. The fruit is very clean and bright but with the concentration to last for another 4-5 years.

Keint He Pinot Noir Little Creek Vineyard Benway Block 2016, Prince Edward County ($55)
Michael Godel – The tenets of lithe and grace meet up at a carrefour where honesty and charming loiter, gather and exchange ideas. They are all interconnected parts of this special pinot noir. The oldest local pinot noir planting is everything and depending on which way you are travelling, also nothing at all. Top quality body politic sweetness of fruit melts effortlessly and so efficiently into the capitalism of structured power. It’s all so obvious.

Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($40)
Michael Godel – Estate fruit in front of the winery was hung as long as ever, well into November (as late as the 20th I believe). As a rule you really can’t over-ripen cabernet sauvignon in Ontario, even on the St. David’s Bench. Sharp and herbal, pointed towards an Amaro direction with sweet tannic grip aboard dark currant fruit. Could only have been misunderstood a month to a year ago so come back and revisit this full and bullish cabernet sauvignon as often as you may be afforded the opportunity.

Cave Spring Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir Estate  Keint He Pinot Noir Little Creek Vineyard Benway Block 2016 Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

That’s it for this edition. Check back with us next week for more March 16 reviews and some great writing and reviews based on John and Michael’ great Tuscan adventure.

David Lawrason

VP of Wine

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