Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 20th, 2021

Cheers to Near Future Family Gatherings

By David Lawrason, with notes from John, Michael & Sara

One of the themes of this VINTAGES release is wines for family gatherings. I don’t know what makes a wine a family gathering wine but like most folks these days I sure look forward to the idea of a family gathering.

I am living isolated with two adult sons (who don’t fancy wine) but I have seven wine loving brothers and sisters, almost as many in-laws, and an impressive gaggle of nephews and nieces who would normally noisily gather for special occasions like Easter. And guess who supplies the wine? It won’t happen this Easter, but I am expecting most of my siblings will be vaccinated by the end of April, so the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming a rising sun.

Here is hoping that you are able to gather at least a sprinkling of your family over the next couple of weeks as well, and that your numbers also swell in Phase Two. And further hoping that spring weather lives up to all our giddy expectations so we can gather even more outdoors. Off to a good start this past week in Ontario and way better than last spring, if you recall, when the weather during the first wave was downright mean.

There is another VINTAGES release on Easter weekend (April 3) but unfortunately we will not have tasted those wines in time to recommend them. So, we have attached some food pairing and general enjoyment guidance to the batch of reviews below, whether specifically for Easter or not, and you can go out and purchase them anytime.


VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide March 20th: Whites

Umani Ronchi Centovie Colli Aprutini Pecorino 2017, Abruzzi, Italy
$24.95, Noble Estates
John Szabo – Pecorino is the grape, a rare specialty of central-eastern Italy, and well worth a look I’d say for chardonnay fans looking to branch out. The fairly rich and broad palate with mostly yellow-fleshed orchard fruit and citrus zest – lemon and grapefruit – flavours will be comfortingly familiar, as will the creamy texture further bolstered by leesy-yeasty notes. Oak influence is absent, but flavour intensity and salinity are very high. For butternut squash soup, roast chicken or black cod, or turkey roulade.
David Lawrason From a leading Adriatic producer comes a bright, clean understated white from the rising star pecorino grape. It is not a highly aromatic variety but it brings a certain sophistication. It is medium bodied, smooth and fleshy with good acidity and warming alcohol. An interesting chardonnay alternative for creamy white pasta dishes.

Gabriel Meffre Saint Vincent Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2019, Rhône, France
$16.95, Trajectory Beverage Partners
Sara d’Amato – An impactful wine for the price, this blend of viognier, grenache blanc and rousanne offers plenty of fresh minerality and wide appeal. Seemingly unoaked with a complex tapestry of fruit. White Côtes du Rhône is still a rare treat – not to be missed.

Alain Geoffroy Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2018, Bourgogne, France
$40.95, Ex-Cellars Wine Services
John Szabo – This is a real holiday treat for white wine lovers, for that, say, plate of oysters prior to the lamb course. This is flat-out gorgeous Chablis, full of wet chalk and green apple, and with really very remarkable density of flavour, especially on what is a relatively light frame (13% alcohol declared). The finish goes on and on and on. Top notch stuff to be sure, there’s just so much wine here for the money.
Sara d’Amato – Windy, frost prone and with poor soils, the challenging growing conditions of Beauroy are responsible for some sensational chardonnay such as this absolutely classic Chablis, vibrant, chalky and lightly oily. Authentic, balanced and notably sophisticated.

Domaine Charly Nicolle Per Aspera Chablis 2018, Bourgogne, France
$29.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – “Per aspera ad astra,” from rough roads to the stars. A concentration of Kimmeridgian rock and plenty of salt-addled fruit that gives and gives. Phenomenal value. A glass, a Gougère and an afternoon off.

Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2019, Short Hills Bench, Ontario
$19.95, Family Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – Generous fruit emits with aromatic texture, creative pungency and unctuous clarity. All the tenets of righteous riesling personality are captured by this ’19 and my goodness it has to be one of the Speck Brothers (Estate) best. Must pour, deck apéritif, next week.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide March 6th: Reds

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Télégramme Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2018, Rhone Valley, France
$63.95, John Hanna & Sons
John Szabo – Celebrated Rhône producer Vieux Télégramme’s 2nd wine is a genuinely classy wine, savoury and well-balanced, with fine, firm, gritty tannins, marvellously complex and complete. I particularly admire the comfort and ease on the palate, dense and complex without recourse to excessive ripeness or exaggerated concentration. Length and depth, too, are excellent. For the roast warmed earth. Real poise and charm here yet seriously good stuff that will age very well.
David Lawrason If you have ever sent or received a telegram it is probably time for your vaccination. This is rich, easy and elegant, effortlessly combining plum-berry jam, red rose, fine brown spice, pepper and warmed earth. Real poise and charm here and seriously good stuff.

Masi Riserva di Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2015, Veneto, Italy
$69.95, Authentic Wine & Spirits Merchants
John Szabo – This is a fine vintage for Masi’s standard-bearing Amarone Riserva, with maturing, flavours in the classic genre, well-measured and balanced. The palate is broad and thick, mouth filling and mouth-coating, with genuine concentration and length. While certainly tasty now, this will continue to improve in the cellar over the next decade and hold well beyond. For the cheese course (hard, well-aged).

Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2017, Tuscany, Italy
$23.95, Profile Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – Signore Lapo was the first to employ “Chianti Classico” on a wine label. That was in December 1398. Despite the heat challenge of ’17 there is fine and succulent acidity in support. Drink this with your nearest holiday and besides, at this Riserva price you can’t afford not to.
David Lawrason A well priced Chianti Classico to enchant newcomers and satisfy the cognoscenti. From an important modernist producer with historic roots, it generously displays complex and classic aromas set in a supple, yet structured frame typical of many 2017s, and this house. It will range widely with poultry, pasta and red meats, priced for mid-weight enjoyment and/or larger gatherings where two or more bottles are required.

Monte Zovo Ca’linverno Veronese Rosso 2015, Veneto, Italy
$22.95, HHD Imports
David Lawrason Here’s a smooth, almost buff and elegant Veneto red that approaches Amarone in ambiance but not in price. It is a compote of red cherry, berry fruit with maturing leather, subtle truffle, cedar and spice. The length and complexity are excellent. Try it with Italian seasoned pork tenderloin or ham, or mushroom risotto.
Michael Godel – Dual-appassimento so to speak, meaning a late October pick brings in already semi-dried grapes and then the laying down in boxes further accentuates the style. West of Valpolicella and looking down to Lake Garda. This Veronese is quite akin to Bardolino but with as much pizzazz and vitality as the best examples from that appellation. Truly fun to drink and one of the better food wines from the area.

Castello di Ama San Lorenzo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$57.95, Halpern Enterprises
Michael Godel – San Lorenzo will gift all that Ama has to offer with respect to sangiovese for the 2016 vintage. Far from a tumult of tannin sacrifices nothing to pleasure and so this is your upcoming holiday big roast or just for the splurge of “it” red.

Remelluri Reserva 2013, Rioja, Spain
$44.95, Noble Estates
David Lawrason This is a very fine Rioja, with wonderful textural elegance, a firm core and excellent length. The nose is not highly aromatic at this stage but it is complex with tightly wound and complex cedar, spice, vanillin and ripe blackberry fruit. Into the cellar with as many bottles as you can afford. And if opening for a family meal give two hours aeration. Open it when you put the lamb roast in the oven.
Sara d’Amato – The vibrant, ageworthy style of the 2013 vintage is exemplified in this classic Rioja from Remelluri which allows tempranillo center stage but is complimented by garnacha, graciano, viura and Malvasia blended from the Rioja Alvesa and Alta regions. Naturally spicy, peppery and salty, with fruit has been pleasantly cured by age.

Rio Madre Graciano 2019, DOCa Rioja, Spain
$17.95, Christopher Stewart Wine & Spirits
Michael Godel – Rare and elusive varietal graciano from Rioja is a most charming, gracious and curious beast. So unique as a solo artist as compared to some others in Europe, say colorino in Chianti Classico or Montepulciano. Perfect for Easter tapas. Use your imagination.

Marani Kondoli Vineyards Saperavi 2017, Kakheti Valley, Georgia
$24.95, United Stars
David Lawrason The best saperavi I have yet encountered, amid a minor invasion of Georgian reds so far in 2021. It offers plummy/blackberry fruit, florality and wood spice, peppery syrah-like finish, but ties it all together better than most examples.  I picture this with hearty, exotic with stews or braised roasts on a cool rainy spring evening.

Kaiken Ultra Las Rocas Malbec 2018, Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95, Trajectory Beverage Partners
John Szabo – This is a well-priced, satisfying red for the holiday table, richly fruity, plump and dark, widely appealing overall. It’s produced at Chilean Aurelio Montes’s Argentine outpost in the Uco Valley, one of the more attractive vintages of this wine that I can remember. Lamb or brisket.

Château Langlais 2015, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France
$36.95, Vineter
Sara d’Amato – A taught, upbeat and flavourful right bank blend with a great deal of character. An optimally preserved wine from the excellent 2015 vintage that requires no further aging but with enough fresh fruit to hold out another 3-4 years.

Pulenta Estate I I I Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
$29.95, Loyal Imports
Sara d’Amato – Agrelo is known for its distinctively aromatic and concentrated cabernet sauvignon which is beautifully illustrated in this generous but refined incarnation from Pulenta. There is an unmistakable Bordelaise quality to this red which may surprise some. Elegant despite its girth.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide March 6th: Rosé & Sherry

Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Noir Rosé 2019, Baden, Germany
$15.95, HHD Imports
David Lawrason From the slopes of the dormant Kaisersthul volcano, where pinot noir reigns supreme, this is such a bright, fresh, lively and classic rose. It is off-dry, braced by firm acidity, minerality and a lovely pomegranate bitterness. The flavour intensity and focus are particularly good. Chill well and enjoy as a sipper on the patio.

Sánchez Romate Fino Perdido Sherry, Spain
$19.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
John Szabo – And now for something completely different: this “lost” (perdido) fino sherry is a particularly mature, deeply coloured example with developing, nutty-oxidative characteristics, accurately described as a “fino-amontillado”, about 8 years old on average and having lost its veil of yeast (flor) for the latter part of the solera ageing process. Complexity is exceptional, especially at this price, while the palate is beguilingly saline and succulent, saliva-inducing in an extreme way. Length and depth are also really quite extraordinary. Fully dry, tangy and impressive overall; glorious value. Would be exceptional with baked or cured ham (jamón), or gefilte fish.

And that’s a wrap for this round. Stay tuned for the April 3 Release newsletter on April 8. Tune in that same day for the next embarrassing but so much fun round of Think You Know Wine.  And may your Easter bring you comfort and contentment.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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Lawrason’s Take
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