More from VINTAGES April 13 Release, plus Portugal’s Dao Region

By David Lawrason

Tasting season is revving up here in mid-April, with event after event. This week we divide and conquer, with reports and picks from different tastings. Sara reports on The CAPS Best Ontario Sommelier Competition and I handle the Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting (below). But first we offer more recommendations from the April 13 release.

The WineAlign team has had some opportunity to taste a few April 13 releases not covered in the last week’s newsletter .

There is local spotlight on Niagara’s Flat Rock Cellars in this release. Founded in 1999 Flat Rock has a 20-year legacy of producing fine riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir – the varieties ideal for its cooler site high in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation. The style is pure, generous and approachable and with the recent hiring of 35-year Niagara veteran winemaker David Sheppard, I see no reason that the style will change. But the wines being presented are either re-releases or Vintages Essentials.

April 13th VINTAGES Releases Now On-Shelf


Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Vin de France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This would be my go-to “house” sauvignon if it were always available. A leading producer in Sancerre goes elsewhere to source sauvignon. Missing some Sancerre minerality, but generations of experience brought to bear in a great buy.

Yalumba Organic Viognier 2017, South Australia ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Yalumba is Australia’s specialist with this exotic warm climate white grape variety. It is full bodied, fleshy and intense flavours hit excellent length.

L’Avenir Far & Near Chenin Blanc 2018, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95)
David Lawrason. This is a straightforward, full fruited, un-oaked chenin blanc. Not complex but very expressive of the grape in a somewhat fleshy and warming style. Decent value.

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Vin De France  Yalumba Organic Viognier 2017, South Australia  L'Avenir Far & Near Chenin Blanc 2018, Wo Stellenbosch

PG Zaumau Tempranillo Blanco 2017, Rioja, Spain  ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Yes there is a white tempranillo grape!  This is a crisp almost crunchy aperitif or shellfish white with subtle lemon, almond and delicate spice on the nose, and almost salty presence on the palate.

Far Niente Chardonnay 2017, Napa Valley, California ($99.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very expensive classy, textbook Napa chardonnay that is full bodied yet quite elegant and refined, with all the aromatics staying nicely focused on the palate and extending to excellent length.

Kechris Kechribari Retsina, Greece ($8.95/500ml)
David Lawrason – If you haven’t tried retsina in years test yourself with this quite fine, and very inexpensive, example.  It has very intense, pure aromas of pine sap, cedar and spice.

PG Zaumau Tempranillo Blanco 2017, Doca Rioja, Spain  Far Niente Chardonnay 2017, Napa Valley  Kechris Kechribari Retsina, Greece (500ml)


Rocca Delle Macìe Campo Maccione Morellino Di Scansano  2017, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a nicely ripe, meatier coastal sangiovese with fairly intense aromas and flavours.  A bit coarse but very flavourful with considerable tannin. Should cellar well. Very good value.

Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2017, Rioja, Spain ($18.95)
David Lawrason – A good intro to Rioja from a leading modernist producer, capturing the softness and ease that Spain often delivers. Certainly pleasant overall, smooth, warm and easy on the tannins.

Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2015, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($26.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the finest syrahs of Chile. With unique blackcurrant leaf/boxwood aromas it shows impressive, linear structure – solid yet elegant with firm tannin. The focus and length are excellent

Rocca Delle Macìe Campo Maccione Morellino Di Scansano 2017, Docg   Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2017, Doca Rioja  Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2015, Do San Antonio Valley

FEATURE: Portugal: Drilling Dao

The annual Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting, held April 4th at the newly opened Artscape Daniels Launchpad on Queens’ Quay East in Toronto presented too many wines within too little time and space. And too few of the wines were actually in-market, a state of affairs exists at many tastings in Ontario, so that is not Portugal’s fault.

I have been attending this kind of fest for years, so I just keep my head down, elbows partially up, nose in the glass, and go for the good wines – available or not.  I found lots to like from certain producers, but it was impossible to visit even half of them in the time allotted.

I was hugely impressed with Lua Cheia Em Vinas Velha, a relatively new company making very precise, richly fruited reds from the Douro Valley, Dao, Alentejo and fine whites from Vinho Verde.  Represented by The Vine Agency in Ontario, they brand differently in each region with two labels in the Douro Valley – Lua Cheia and Andreza. Can’t wait for the arrival of the delicious unoaked Lua Cheia Old Vines Red 2017 at only $15.95.  The  Andreza Reserva 2015 is also a great deal at $16.95 in a more traditional style.  And from the Dao region, the Insurgente 2015 was one of the highlights of the day. Will it ever be here?

Lua Cheia Old Vines Red 2017, Doc Douro   Andreza Reserva 2015, Doc Douro

I am very fond of Dao reds and whites. The high altitude, pine forested, granite soiled region lies just south of the famed Douro Valley in northern Portugal. The neighbouring Douro reds can be stoic and hard; the Dao wines are more forgiving and elegant if not necessarily less tannic. I like the blackcurrant and evergreen nuances in the reds, and the solid structure of the white wines based on the Encruzado grape.

At the Grand Tasting I spent considerable time tasting Dao wines. They included a fine Quinta do Cabriz 2018 Rose coming to VINTAGES May 11; a new modern, export driven winery called Opta established, in 2013 (see below): Fonte de Ouro which is the Dao flagship of a large company called Boas Quintas, and the family owned Quinta do Mondego. I particularly liked the Mondego whites by winemaker Joana Cunha.

A couple of days after the tasting I went to the LCBOs Portugal Destination Store at Keele and St. Clair in west Toronto and purchased six Dao reds, plus the Herdade Da Pimenta 2013 from Vintages April 13 release.  Alas, three of the seven bottles I bought showed some cork taint issues. Yikes! That’s a huge problem for Portugal, where most of the world’s cork is grown.  Portugal needs to go screw cap, but who will dare challenge such an entrenched culture and business?

In any event, here are some recommended Dao wines that are currently available and decent value.

Casa De Mouraz Tinto 2014, Dao, ($20.95)
The best expression of Dao red currently in-market. All kinds of energy and woodsy flavour intensity in this medium-full bodied, nicely balanced and generous Dao. The length is excellent. Vintages

Herdade Da Pimenta Touriga Nacional/Touriga Franca/Alicante Bouschet 2013, Vinho Regional Alentejano   Casa De Mouraz Tinto 2014, Doc Dão

Meia Encosta Red 2016, Dao, Portugal ($11.75)
This a fine everyday value, easy drinking Dao that captures the currant and foresty essence. Available at the Portugal destination store but it should be available everywhere, always.

Opta Red 2015, Dao, Portugal ($15.95)
This is a decent value, catching some of the intensity and firmness of a good Dao. I wanted more complexity, structure and depth because I liked the classic blackcurrant flavours so much. Vintages

Grao Vasco 2017, Dao ($8.95)
Steve Thurlow – This is a pure lightweight red with a fragrant nose of raspberry and red cherry fruit with jammy and floral tones. It has mouthwatering acidity and just enough tannic grip.  LCBO General List

Quinta Do Mondego 2012, Dao ($17.95)
Now almost fully mature, this shows plenty of woodsy pine, leather and tobacco character around dark currant/pruny fruit. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense and softening. Limited stock at the LCBOs Portugal Destination Store. Represented by Terroir Imports.

Meia Encosta Red 2016, Dao   Opta Red 2015, Doc Dão   Grão Vasco 2017   Quinta Do Mondego 2012, Doc Dão

We return next Thursday with our first look at the April 27 Vintages release.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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