Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 13, 2020

Wines for Outdoor Gatherings of Up to Ten People

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

If you have not been out in the parks during the recent streak of phenomenal weather, you must be the only person who hasn’t. I live and walk in Toronto’s west end, and I have never seen more people picnicking in High Park or along the banks of the Humber River near Old Mill. I took my dinner and beaker into the Park one night this week to talk shop with a buddy, and it was the best meeting in weeks. What was in my glass was a liquid of some sort that bore a remarkable resemblance to excellent New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

You will find the title of today’s column in one of Michael Godel’s always creative reviews, and I thought it was a very apt expression of what we are all going through as Ontario opens up. We really need to be outside, and we really need to socialize. And as it is well documented that this readership really likes wine one can assume wine will be shoehorned into any occasion, whether on a patio, deck, dock or in a garden, campground or park.

Discover the best of Chianti Classico

As we review some of the wines released at Vintages on June 13, I thought it was appropriate to have an eye out for wines you will want take outdoors and share in the company of your circle mates. Assuming your circle has radiated to ten adults, that amounts to 2.6 ounces per mate, so of course, everyone needs to show some largesse, and perhaps buy two bottles of any wine being served.

So one of the parameters for our selections this week is that wines that are cheapish and cheerful, although we include some collectibles as well.

The second consideration is that they be outdoor wines. That does not necessarily mean light and simple, but they should be fresh, fruity and chillable, even if red. Refreshment is not often discussed as a duty of wine, but it is certainly key outdoors on a sunny evening, and especially if picnicking where it will be stored in a cooler.

It should also be fairly intensely aromatic and flavoured as well to stand up to all that outdoor aromatic competition, like flower gardens, sunscreen, insect repellants, campfires and BBQs or maybe the distant reek of a wayward skunk. And by the way it also needs to deliver the goods from vessels that might not be Riedel stemware.

I don’t know about you but I am completely fed up with advertisers and governments lecturing the populace about social distancing and disinfecting.  So, I am only going to do that briefly, as there are important precautions around wine gatherings that make sense. No open spittoons. No sharing of glasses, and make sure your glass is marked as yours to avoid mix ups. And lastly the person who brought the wine should be the only one handling the bottle and pouring it.

So we hope you enjoy the following.  And we direct you to further in-depth reading. Michael Godel has penned a piece on the world’s largest tasting of Barbaresco at Focus on Barbaresco at Nebbiolo Prima 2020


Pazo de Villarei 2018 Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($18.95)
John Szabo – A perfectly lively and fresh, zesty and citrus-floral-driven albariño, well made and regionally representative. I like the lime and lime pith/zest flavour, the white flowers, and the crunchy, green acids. A perfect summer patio wine, attractively priced.
David Lawrason – This a lighthearted but not weak albarino from coastal northwest Spain. It shows exotic grapefruit, spearmint, ginger and peachy fruit in a fresh, lightly spritzed style with a slightly bitter grapefruit finish.  Ideal patio aperitif.
Sara d’Amato – My kind of summer white, this surprisingly rich but zesty albariño is notable enticing on the nose with elegant mineral notes, pear and tropical.  Guava bursts forth on the satisfying palate. Excellent value.

Craggy Range 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($27.95)
David Lawrason – One of the very best and classiest sauvignons of New Zealand will slice, elegantly through a summer evening. It is slender, juicy, a touch sweet yet punctuated by an almost salty tang on the finish. Excellent length. Asian inspired salads and seafood.

Tegernseerhof Federspiel Durnstein 2017 Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria ($30.95 – Note: LCBO lists this as Smaragd, however the sample tasted was Federspiel)
Michael Godel – The ideals of grüner veltliner are elevated by this Federspiel out of Dürnstein in the Wachau. You immediately intuit the high level qualities off the nose that doses you with a pulse of saline-dripping orchard fruit beneath a white pepper grind. Serious stuff to impress guests, outdoors, with great cooking, at the table, on the flagstone.
Sara d’Amato – Naturally spicy with a compelling intensity, this Federspiel wows at first sip. A textbook example of grape variety with mineral, almond and a touch of earth complimenting the delicate bottle aged character beginning to take hold. Somewhat oily in texture yet still refreshing. Can be paired with more substantial foods.
John Szabo – Be sure to give this wine some airtime – a quick carafing or generously proportioned stem – for maximum enjoyment, and it will stand up to a stiff breeze to be sure. Federspiel is the mid-level of ripeness in the Wachau’s classification, between steinfeder and smaragd; call it the goldilocks wine, for me just right, fresh and lively but also weighty enough to be taken seriously. Tegernseehof’s 2017 from vineyards around the village of Durnstein is a pure delight, a textbook Wachau grüner, complete with searing, non-fruity flavours and impressive density at a moderate 12.5% alcohol. Drink or hold into the mid-’20s comfortably.

J. Lohr 2017 October Night Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco Montery County, California, USA (34.95) (225375)
Sara d’Amato – Pleasantly surprised by this lush but vibrant chardonnay offering an appropriate level of spicy oak. Ripe apple and peach with nut and coconut in the mix on the palate. Refreshing with very good length.

Rosé and Sparkling Red

Masi 2019 Rosa dei Masi, IGT Rosato delle Venezie, Italy ($16.95)
John Szabo – Pure refosco rosé made with a small percentage of partially dried grapes, I like the cherry-cranberry pie and licorice flavours here, and the light, dusty drag on the palate along with the bitterness that accompanies it and brings freshness. I could see myself enjoying more than a glass or two on the terrace.

The Palm 2019 by Whispering Angel , Côteaux D’aix-en-Provence, France  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Actually released May 30 but only recently tasted, this has a very Floridian, pink flamingo-ish label but in a classy way. It is actually very nicely put together combining ease, elegance and freshness with a saline, mineral lick on the finish. Wear a straw hat.

Saint Aix 2019 Rosé, Côteaux D’aix En Provence, France ($25.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very well composed, dry and firm rose with classic, subtle aromas of rhubarb, red currant, white pepper and gentle herbs. It is lively, mineral and super fresh. It will go with any summer fare and might even steal the show.

Château d’Aquéria 2019 Tavel, Rhône Valley, France ($24.95)
Michael Godel – One of Tavels’s arch classic rosés, built sturdier than most and of a hue that stands out as being only from this very particular appellation. This is a sort that pairs well with Hemingway and protests, cerebral company and food that can stand up to the bold flavours it supplies.

Ermete Medici & Figli 2018 Concerto, DOC Lambrusco Reggiano, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Concerto was the first single-vineyard Lambrusco ever produced. Produced from the salomino so slice up some good Emilia-Romagna salumi and get down to business. Chug-chug sparkling wine.


Domaine La Décelle Réserve 2017 Valréas, Cotes de Rhone-Villages,
Michael Godel – Full-flavoured Côtes du Rhône-Villages and at such a notably inexpensive cost. Brings all the dotted I’s and crossed T’s to the table with fruit-wood-acid all in line. No real structure to speak of but highly suitable for the BBQ and up to 10 person gatherings.
David Lawrason – This is a supple, rounded and fairly juicy young Rhone with classic plummy/blueberry fruit, subtle florals and pepper. No great depth but it is an ideal mid-weight, mid-priced red that will take a light chill.  Glazed pork tenderloin.

OGV 2016 Old Garnacha Vines, Calatayud Spain ($16.95)
John Szabo – From old bush vines grown up to 1000m, this is a smashing value for fans of silky, rich, deep and spicy red wines. The depth of flavour on offer for $17 is truly impressive. Considering the supple, voluptuous texture, I’d suggest chilling lightly before serving to enhance the superripe red berry-strawberry fruit. I love the dusting of pepper and savoury herbs as well.  Tasted June 2020

Firriato Chiaramonte 2015 Nero d’Avola, Sicily, Italy ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Here is a quite delicious, juicy and slightly sour-edged young nero d’avola with a pronounced herbal/foresty note amid red currant and cherry fruit. It drinks with ease and freshness and some charm and I can see it chilled a little with a spice middle eastern recipe.

Valpantena Torre del Falasco 2017 Ripasso Valpolicella DOC, Veneto, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Crunchy red fruit makes this Ripasso styled Valpolicella a charming and also juicy specimen from which wood is less of a determining and decision influencing factor. This may be simple and even a bit loose but it’s well suited to warm days and even warmer nights.

Morambro Creek 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Padthaway, South Australia ($29.95)
David Lawrason – From a remote area of Padthaway in South Australia, comes a dark, dense yet balanced cabernet with the telltale, lifted menthol/eucalpytus trait of this region. I thought of fresh rosemary as well, and of course a grilled lamb.

Carmen 2018 Gran Reserva Syrah Single Vineyard, Colchagua Valley Chile ($16.95)
John Szabo – A solid syrah value here from Carmen and the Colchagua Valley south of Santiago, this is real and genuine wine, absent sweetness or excessive oak flavour, featuring balance and drinkability, refreshingly modern. I would happily drink this, a rustic BBQ menu on the table.

Borsao 2016 Berola, Campo De Borja, Spain ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Consistently patent red to capture Aragonese imagination. High-toned, bright and dark at the same time, rambunctious and gregarious, fruity, rocky, juicy and made to match all the tapas and snacks you can find. Terrific cocktail hour red wine.

Daou Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, USA ($30.95)
John Szabo
– Here’s a rich, polished, oak-dusted cabernet in the California style, and well-priced at that showing that generous fruit profile of Paso, the high ripeness (14.5% alcohol declared), and evident care in the vineyard and winery, with very good length and depth. Fans of bold but supple cabernets in a warm climate, new world style should consider this.
Sara d’Amato – A product of the Lebanese-born, French-inspired Daou brothers, this gently made cabernet sauvignon offers an abundance of carefully ripened black fruit. A touch of warm and vanilla on the lightly creamy palate that is cut by bright acidity and fine oak treatment. Almond and blackberry compote linger on the finish.


Paternoster 2015 Rotondo Aglianico del Vulture DOC, Basilicata, Italy ($39.95)
John Szabo – Rotundo is the step up to a single vineyard expression of aglianico in the Paternoster range, made from the 50 year-old vines planted around the modern winery in Barile. It’s “the most modern” of the aglianicos, aged in barriques, some of which are new, giving it a lightly toasted, cacao-inflected note to add to generously ripe fruit, without sacrificing the variety’s firmness and structure. This is still not yet at prime, another couple of years away from more yielding character, though it will surely remain a severe, volcanic expression, as it should from the spectacular slopes of Mount Vulture. Built for protein seared over fire.
Sara d’Amato – Intense, well made with plenty of mineral and salty. Less fruity and more structurally driven. Balanced, vibrant and mid-weight. Tannins have softened  enough for immediate enjoyment and the fruit is surprisingly unevolved.

Tyrrell’s Belford 2017 Semillon, Single Vineyard, Hunter Valley, South Australia ($46.95)
Michael Godel – A top varietal vintage for one thing and the well-draining sandy soils for another. Sémillon thrives in these conditions and so what comes from this awe-inspiring wine is exactly what you possibly wish for when selecting from Hunter Valley. This wine is über salty, elemental, aerified, verified mineral wine. So focused and precise. Mon dieu!
Sara d’Amato – Beginning to bust out of its shell, this still youthful semillon is coming into its own. Sourced from Tyrrell’s single vineyard Belford semillon planted in 1933. From an exceptional vintage, this highly expressive wine will continue to develop so stock up on a few bottles now.
John Szabo – Not for sipping this summer season, but tuck this away for future, and perhaps larger, gatherings to come. The Belford vineyard has typical sandy-alluvial soils, which, while unimpressive to look at, yield the Hunter’s best semillon. The 2017 is expectedly closed at the moment, having lost its flush of youth and now undergoing embryonic transformation into what will be become a glorious hot-buttered, honey slathered toasty beauty in about another 5-7 years. Really a superb and sophisticated wine. Best from 2020, or hold well into the ’30s – wines such as this age magnificently, and slowly.

Culmina 2014 Hypothesis, Golden Mile Bench, British Columbia ($49.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a big swarthy, cellar worthy, merlot-led blend from estate vines in the south Okanagan. The nose is ripe and rich with classic mulberry, plum, plus some tar, dried herbs and some cedary character – all very reminiscent of Bordeaux. Full bodied, dense and firm!

And that’s a wrap for this time. We’ll be back two weeks from now with a look at the June 27 release.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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