Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 25th, 2020

Classic Food & Wine Matches, Time for Icewine and WineAlign Updates

By Sara d’Amato with notes from Michael Godel and John Szabo MS

Welcome to January: blistering cold winds, unpredictable melts and a penny for your shovels. Whether you become a hibernating homebody at this time of year or are a snowy adventurer, you need to eat! As the thematics of the release this month are centered around food and wine, we’ve included our thoughts on food pairing matches that are likely to trigger your appetites. When it comes to food and wine pairings, simple wines are most versatile with food. Thus, uncomplicated, honest wines that won’t break the bank are most recommended from this smaller, post-holiday, VINTAGES release. We have also included a few more upscale gems to round out the selection. As an added bonus, we have included a few of our top Icewine picks from the annual gala that took place on January 10th.

(Jump straight to Icewine.)

We have been reflecting of late on how we can deliver the most accurate and helpful advice to you while maintaining your trust and our integrity. As a result of your comments and our own brainstorming, we have come up with two new items of analysis that you will begin to see on our website as of now. The first is the qualifier “NR” which will take the place of individual scores of 85 points and below. The “NR” signifies “not recommended”. The “NR” rating will be accompanied by a review that is both constructive and informative so that you are equipped with information to best make your own purchasing decisions.

Value ratings are now being included in addition to our scores. WineAlign scores reflect the quality of each wine and do not take into account their price. In the past, we have individually highlighted wines of good value in our reviews, but we are now incorporating a star value to wines based on price-quality ratio. Each reviewer will assess value individually and thus you will start seeing 1-5 stars given to each wine at the end of our reviews. As always, we are all ears to your comments and questions and look forward to your feedback for improvement.

Spanish Wine Tasting with Canadian Master Sommelier Élyse Lambert 

Food for Thought: Wine Finds that Whet our Palates

Buyers’ Guide January 25th:  Whites

Castel Firmian 2018 Pinot Grigio, Trentino, Italy ($16.95)
Michael Godel – A historic property supports the story behind a really solid, well-made and even complex pinot grigio at a really smart price. Packaging and quality meet at a twain where those who know and those who want to learn can both enjoy the spoils.
Food Pairing: Filetto di trota, fave novelle e zuppa di vongole (Trout fillet, fresh broad beans and clam chowder)

Friedrich Wilhelm 2017 Gymnasium Schiefer Feinherb Riesling, Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany ($20.95)
Sara d’Amato  – A fresh and appealing feinherb (off-dry style) of riesling. Very well-balanced, buoyant and nervy. The holy grail trio of salt, oil and minerality are all satisfyingly represented.
Food pairing: Thai shrimp red curry
John Szabo – This comes across as a little drier than the mean for the feinherb style, while displaying that lovely fruity-floral Mosel fragrance, and crunchy, ripe-balanced acids.
Food pairing: There’s little I wouldn’t drink this with, but for a treat try with a classic pan-seared trout in lemon beurre blanc, or white asparagus with Hollandaise (in season!).

Stella 2018  Bella Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River, Western Australia ($21.95)
Michael Godel – As aromatic stormy and pungent as it gets for Aussie sauvignon blanc and a dead ringer for some Marlborough. Picked early on acid structure for sure with a salty, lean and mineral leanness that belies pre-conceptual thought.
Food Pairing: Smoked Salmon tartine

Chatelain Les Charmes Pouilly Fumé 2017, Loire, France ($27.95)
Michael Godel – Such an herbal pesto should always make a buyer never beware and be so lucky to drink Pouilly-Fumé in such an ideal state. This is sauvignon blanc of place and perfectly proper handling. Fruit, herbs, acidity and length. Terrific execution.
Food Pairing: Seared scallops, asparagus, grapefruit and brown butter

Castel Firmian Pinot Grigio 2018  Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium Schiefer Feinherb Riesling 2017  Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc 2018  Chatelain Les Charmes Pouilly Fumé 2017

Domaine Séguinot 2018 Bordet Chablis, Bourgogne, France ($28.95)
Michael Godel – From the ineffable, pragmatic and all-around solid Chablis producer François Bordet. This tells a vintage story with great clarity. Full calcaire notability and anything but lean, though still properly salty and fine.
Food Pairing: Salad of ham, shrimp, tomato, arugula and délice de Bourgogne

Château Vitallis Vieilles Vignes Pouilly Fuissé 2017, Burgundy, France ($31.95)
Sara d’Amato – A classic representation of the emphatic and robust chardonnays of Pouilly-Fuissé, the guilty pleasure of Burgundy. Round, ripe and rich with a highly pleasurable degree of oak. A touch of sandalwood and vanilla with ripe peach and pear linger on the memorable finish.
Food pairing: baked Brie with a center of apricot purée

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand ($21.95)
John Szabo – Auntsfield’s is a perennial premium sauvignon favorite of mine from the Southern Valleys and its heavier clays (versus the alluvial gravels in most of the rest of Marlborough), yielding a less obviously aromatic/pungent style, but with terrific structure, intensity and depth. Best now and about 2025.
Food pairing: scallop ceviche or herb-roasted, lemon chicken.

De Angelis Offida Pecorino 2018, Marche, Italy ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato – A terrific value, this pecorino from Marche offers exuberant aromas and a generous flavour profile. Notes of lime, passion fruit and almond with a distinct note of honeysuckle. Easy drinking, refreshing and easy to pair.
Food pairing: keep it simple, garlic sautéed shrimp or fresh oysters
John Szabo – I love the earthy, wet hay and dried yellow fruit flavours of pecorino, a variety that had nearly disappeared by the 1960s. It’s back, and this version, with its medium-full bodied, fleshy, round palate and honeyed flavours would be brilliant alongside a local coniglio in porchetta (rabbit stuffed in rolled pork with herbs), or seafood risotto.

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2018  Château Vitallis Vieilles Vignes Pouilly Fuissé 2017  Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019  De Angelis Offida Pecorino 2018

Buyers’ Guide January 25th:  Reds

Alvides Tinto Roble Tempranillo 2016, Ribera Del Duero, Spain ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Nicely rendered and playful tempranillo with red fruit in waves and a line of acidity keeping the buoyancy and the food matching ability in nice alignment. Mid-weight and mildly tannic so drink early, even often.
Food Pairing: Homemade Sautéed Chorizo Sausage

Les Cailloux Châteauneuf Du Pape 2016, Rhône Valley, France ($65.95)
Michael Godel – A formidable example of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. Needs years to settle and allow the gloriously rich, ripe and grippy fruit to come to grips with the particular acidity and fine-grained tannin. All the parts are moving and grooving right now.
Food Pairing: Roast Muscovy breast of duck, faro, roasted vegetables and caramelized onions
Sara d’Amato – A very rich but zesty and peppery Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Lightly sunbaked with salty, ripe red fruit. Rose and sweet red currants, pink peppercorns enhance the fruit culminating in a sensual wine with intrigue, definition and complexity.
Food pairing: Shaved strip-loin steak over a crumble of roasted russet and parmesan punctuated by toasted garlic

Glenelly The Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Stellenbosch South Africa ($15.95)
John Szabo – I’ve tasted wines at twice the price with half the depth and complexity of this cabernet sauvignon from Stellenbosch, another in a long string of sharp values from the Cape Winelands. You won’t be surprised to learn that Glenelly is owned by May de Lencquesaing, former owner of Pichon Longueville – Comtesse de Lalande, a 2nd growth Pauillac. A wine not to be missed by fans of classic Bordeaux/cabernet.
Food pairing: best alongside oven-roasted rack of lamb, or more locally, kudo medallions in Rooibos reduction

Château Camplong Grande Réserve Corbières 2018, Languedoc, France ($13.95)
John Szabo – The best value wine I have come across in some time, to be bought by the case for everyday drinking with style.
Food pairing: roasted and grilled proteins, and earthy dishes, roasted root vegetables, BBQ, mushrooms, and the like
Sara d’Amato – A great value here from Camplong, this highly drinkable, full-bodied red hides its high alcohol well. Juicy, clean, easy to appreciate but not simple. Pleasing texture with a slight tannic grip offsets the lush fruit on the palate. Pepper, violets and cassis linger on the finish of good length.
Food pairing: Provençal rack of lamb crusted with dried rosemary and a Dijon rub

Alvides Tinto Roble Tempranillo 2016  Les Cailloux Châteauneuf Du Pape 2016  Glenelly The Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Château Camplong Grande Réserve Corbières 2018

Rodney Strong 2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA ($32.95)
Sara d’Amato – A very intense, young cabernet with firm tannins and a deliciously austere profile. The alcohol is very well-balanced, and it is laced with an appropriate degree of fine quality oak. Impressive focus and persistence.
Food pairing: Ribeye with a red wine braised mushroom sauce infused with rosemary

Gerard Brisson Les Charmes La Louve Morgon 2018, Beaujolais, France ($20.95)
John Szabo – The original cuvée of Domaine Gérard Brisson, La Louve hails from several plots in the Charmes lieu-dit of Morgon, vinified 100% with whole bunches. The 2018 is ripe and powerful in the context, an essence of pink granite, if such a flavour existed, firm-textured, succulent and saline.
Food pairing: In other words, it’s a charcuterie wine par excellence, or for more adventure, try with grilled octopus with chorizo-potato hash.

François Villard L’appel Des Sereines Syrah 2016, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – The sirens call, and Northern Rhône syrah drinkers rejoice! You’ll be hard pressed to find a wine that delivers more regional character at this price (or more in many cases). It’s an extreme example of peppery syrah, unmistakable in style/profile, succulent, zesty, infinitely drinkable, a gateway syrah if ever there was one.
Food Pairing: cassoulet, braised beef ribs or North African-spiced lamb stew.

Domaine Lafage Cayrol Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2016, Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc, France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Schist grown carignan from the western region of Roussillon offers impressive character and vibrancy. A touch austere but let it open up with air for an hour or two to fully appreciate. Edgy tannic character and an overall youthful nature with an authentic, unmanipulated and sophisticated swagger.
Food Pairing: pan-fried foie gras with a tart cassis coulis

Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  Gerard Brisson Les Charmes La Louve Morgon 2018  François Villard L'appel Des Sereines Syrah 2016  Domaine Lafage Cayrol Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2016

Time for Icewine!

Don Ziraldo toasts to Karl Kaiser and a legacy of Icewine.

Don Ziraldo toasts to Karl Kaiser and a legacy of Icewine.

Niagara’s annual Icewine Festival kicked off with a star-studded, black tie gala at the Fallsview Casino on January 10th and Michael, John and I were there to partake. Icewine has seemingly been subjected to a less than glossy reputation with “Canada’s most re-gifted wine” as a tagline. Yet, this weekend was a fervent indication that locals are eager to embrace our Icewine legacy.  Dressed to the nines, in celebration of Canada’s most significant wine export, the ballroom was brimming with enthusiasts. With over 36 million dollars in valued export globally in 2018, according to the Canadian Vintners Association, Canada’s Icewine scene is no small game. Leading the charge in valued export partners are: China, followed by the US with South Korea in third place. If you are keen to taste what the world is so fussed about, then be sure to pick up an Icewine Discovery Pass in order to partake in the festivities up until to January  26th.  We love Icewine too and have included top picks and best in show:

Nomad at Hinterbrook 2015 Riesling Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($74.95)
Sara d’Amato – A nervy riesling with buoyancy from acidity and impactful varietal character. Notes of lime, blossom, just a hint of petrol and bruléed grapefruit. Playful and unctuous at once.

Ferox Estate Winery Dornfelder Icewine 2016, Niagara, Ontario ($100.00)
Sara d’Amato – A rarity icewine made from the deeply coloured dornfelder grape variety, a nugget of German grape growing heritage. Not inexpensive but certainly a stand-out with an explosive flavour profile brimming with black cherry, black pepper spice, licorice and wet stone.

Creekside Vidal Icewine 2015, Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Ontario ($30.00)
Sara d’Amato – Vidal typically produces a lusher expression of Icewine and that voluptuousness is certainly not lacking here. It does have far more freshness and definition than one would expect giving it a more sophisticated flair. Well-priced and memorable.

Malivoire 2018 Gewüztraminer Icewine, Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Ontario ($39.95)
Sara d’Amato – This mid-January pick had a chance to fully develop on the vines resulting in unctuous flavours of ginger, papaya and honey-baked apple. An enveloping treat that is begging for an accompaniment of ripe, runny cheeses.

Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2018, Niagara, Ontario ($100.25)
Sara d’Amato – A stand-out in the category of red Icewines. Having taken full advantage of the high-acid retention nature of cabernet sauvignon, the wine is not cloying nor pandering. Great purity of fruit on offer as well as a lingering, sensual finish. (Here’s a full report on the most recent releases of Inniskillin.)

Nomad At Hinterbrook Riesling Icewine 2015  Ferox Estate Winery Dornfelder Icewine 2016  Creekside Vidal Icewine 2015 (200ml)  Malivoire Gewurztraminer Icewine 2018  Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2018

I hope you’ve found a match this week and be sure to comment on the results of your own food and wine matches below or on Instagram using the hashtag #WineAlign. Stay-tuned for a flurry of travel pieces from our globe-trotting correspondents including Michael Godel’s report on The Rise of Vinho Verde.



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.
John’s Top Picks
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommeliers Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview