Monday, February 26, 2018

Six of the Best

Three of the Best -- Seguret
The wine I'm happily sipping today is Boutinot Les Six Cairanne and the name that sticks out for me is Les Six, The Six -- the newest handle for Toronto, the town where I live.

    Said to be coined by uber-rapper Drake and inspired by our phone codes --- 416 and 647 -- The Six still falls short for those of us who prefer Hogtown. The likeliest origin, however, is the six boroughs that amalgamated into one city in 1998: Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York, East York and Toronto.

    Meanwhile, Les Six on the Boutinot label recalls the ancient Rhone Valley viticulture tradition of blending six grape varieties -- Grenache Noir, Mourvedre and Syrah together with Carignan Noir, Counoise and Cinsault -- to make intense, spicy and rewarding dry red wines.

    Fermentation in large well-seasoned oak vats before 12 months maturation in wood has allowed the elements to fuse seamlessly with berry-nutty aromas and a savory palate with just a touch of oak. It's an elegant Rhone red with plenty of richness. 

    Les Six is not currently at the LCBO, which, however, does offer another fine Boutinot Rhone-Villages -- Les Coteaux Schisteux, $25, from the nearby village of Seguret, peppery-spicy, plum-raspberry and bay leaf scented, quietly powerful with fine red meats and aged cheeses. 

    More of a Two, this one's mostly old-vine Grenache with a little Syrah, from a rugged, east-facing single vineyard called Les Turcs.

    Both wines are Number One with me!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cool New Grape vs Global Warming

Erbamatta, the cool new super grape, still under the world's radar, may be the future for Italy's superb Franciacorta sparkling wines and for every other region staring down global warming

    Franciacorta is Italy's reply to Champagne, under the radar itself. It’s tiny, just 2,000 hectares in Brescia, Lombardy, almost in Switzerland. 18 million bottles a year vs 350m in Champagne and 500m in Prosecco!

    Traditionally Franciacorta, a sophisticated yet under-priced sparkler, uses the Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Pinot Blanc, and increasingly Erbamatta.

    The latter's main virtue, says Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, 18th generation owner of his stellar winery, is its super-high acidity. As global temperatures rise, so does grape sugar and therefore alcohol, while natural fruity acidity falls, a huge problem for sparkling wines.

    Straw-colored with a green tinge, Erbamatta is floral, chalky, earthy, lean and low in alcohol. The leading grower is Barone Pizzini with 4,000 vines, and others include Curbastro, Berlucchi, Ca’ del Bosco, Ferghettina, Vezzoli, Castello Bonomi and Ronco Calino have also planted the new variety.

    Granted top-level DOCG status in 1995, Franciacorta is made as painstakingly as Champagne, in the individual bottles. Prosecco, meanwhile, has its simpler second fermentation in steel tanks.

    The Franciacorta categories are: NV, non-vintage, which spends 18 months aging on its lees. Satèn (derived from the word satin) is 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc produced at lower pressure for a gentler, crémant-like sparkle, 24 months on its lees. Rosé has 25% Pinot Noir and also spends 24 months on its lees. Millesimato is made from a single vintage, and aged 30 months on its lees. Riserva, top of the quality pyramid, ages 60 months on its lees.


Thought for the day: Charles de Gaulle famously said: How can you govern a country like France with its 365 kinds of (fiercely) local cheeses? Meanwhile, Italy, a long and narrow country, is 70% mountains, making it historically difficult just to travel from village to village, therefore massively local in its agriculture, producing as a result a mind-boggling 400 varieties of beans alone, thousands of wines, cheeses, and delicious cuisines, each fiercely proud and independent. Just sayin'.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Best Of The February 17 Release

Coolest of all the cool-climate wines of the world is Chablis, bar none.  Vaucopins is the mini-terroir growing one of the best: Begue-Mathiot 2014, a flinty, austere and elegant premier cru that's well worth your attention.

    It's $33 and just the fuse waiting for a platter of creamy seafood stew with all the shellfish ingredients you can muster. The razor-like acidity is the catalyst for a gustatory explosion. 

    The ancient limestone deposits bequeathed by primeval oceans have blessed us with intensely mineral wines delivered to us through 20-year-old Chardonnay vines. Bless 'em! Snag them on-line via

    Likewise, on-line for the very different-style Chardonnay from Patz & Hall 2015 grown in California's Sonoma Coast. Upscale at $65, with half a forest of toasty new oak aging and full, rich ripeness of the Golden State. Some new leather notes among the Delicious apple, Anjou pear and Key lime complexity.

    For incredibly intense nutty-sweet, dried fruit and dried walnut taste sensations, there's Osborne's 10 RF Oloroso Medium Sherry, $17 on-line. A sipping sensation like few others, especially with fruit pie or my favorite St Agur cheese for dessert. A simply delightful change of pace and guaranteed de-stressor.

    For 30 bucks, again on-line at, is a rich, reliable and more-ish red, Tablas Creek Cote de Tablas 2015. Grown in the Adelaida district of Paso Robles, it's a concentration of blackberries, new leather, raspberries, black cherries and a whiff of shoe polish. Stunningly good!

    For fans of  more herbaceous vino pleasure, there's Nordesia Vermouth Red, $27 for a whole litre, a most elegant clove-citrus oriented aperitif all the way from Galicia, Spain's cool Atlantic northwest corner, on-line again.

Taste a little California history in this bottle named for the founder of Buena Vista winery in Sonoma County: The Count Founders Red 2014. The patriarch was flamboyant adventurer, author, innovator, proto-capitalist and viticulturist Agoston Haraszthy. Hungarian-born, he imported European vines to California where ironically they died of the phylloxera virus that later killed Europe's own vineyards. This visionary pioneered premium winemaking in Cali, dug the first wine cellars, built the first winery of stone. 
    This Zinfandel blend, $17 in stores, is typical Cali: ultra-fruity, smoky, easy-drinking and great with any barbecue fare.
        Fascinating Aussie blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and the more exotic Dolcetto, the junior grape in the Barolo regions of northwest Italy, Heartland Stickleback Red 2014 is pure South Australia value, $15 in stores: silky tannins, smoky-spick and ripe berry flavor profile, easy drinking and very affordable. Think slow-roasted lamb, ribs, BBQ  or aged cheeses.

    Speaking of Barolo, meet Sordo Gabutti 2012, a 100% Nebbiolo grape-based aristocrat to enjoy now or cellar for a decade. Sinewy is a good way to describe this mineral- leather, rare roast jus flavored work of art, $69 in stores, fair for a Barolo 

    There's wild strawberry, maraschino cherry, wild flowers and pipe tobacco, too. Paler red color intensity typical of the grape but it packs the power to give huge pleasure with the finest roast, steaks and stews.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Fun With The F-Words

They have fun with F-words making Fancy Farm Girl wines – Frivolous, Flamboyant, Fresh, even Frissonesque, as well as Vibrant, Opulent, Seductive and Sassy. All of which apply to the Fancy Farm Girl herself, Sue-Ann Staff, the talent behind the wines.

    She’s the fifth-generation grape grower/winemaker at 200-year-old Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery in Jordan, Ontario. As farm girls go, she’s the real deal!
    After enology studies at Guelph and Adelaide, she became Ontario Winemaker of the Year (first female, youngest ever) and short-listed for Top Women in Wine at the International Wine and Spirits Awards in London.

    Since 2008, she’s been vinifying award winning wines sourced almost exclusively from the family vineyards. 

    Whites like the 2015 Frivolous White sold in more than 270 LCBOs, a semi-dry 100% Riesling that has a marvellous Key lime acidity, the freshness of grapefruit zest and the cleansing feeling that’s a spa for your palate. $14.95.

    New arrivals this month are Frissonesque Sauvignon Blanc 2015 that’s all fresh-mown grass, rhubarb compote and gooseberry jam. The frisson comes from an electric streak of fruity acidity that makes you want another sip! $16.95. Perfect with seafood, warm salads, simple roast chicken.

    Flamboyant Red 2013 is a hearty Cab-Merlot Bordeaux style for everyday enjoyment, especially with casual BBQ fare, pizza, pasta, parmesan, and plump rare burgers, stews and ribs! Big fruitiness and a hint of new leather and black licorice. $14.95.

    They are sold in the century-old farmhouse, online and LCBO, represented by Churchill Cellars.; @Fancy_Farm_Girl, 905-562-1719 or you can fly in! This is Ontario's only winery with two grass strips for your single-engine airplane or helicopter.

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Vintages February 3 Recommendations

Dry, light and fruity in a glistening package, Bottega Gold Prosecco  is $27 worth of elegant sipping, calling forth ripe apple, pear and citrus notes and a zesty Key lime acidity.

    For something perfectly pink and bubbly with a French accent, there's Luc Belaire Rare Sparkling Rose, $40, that gets you an additional dimension of subtle fruit nuances. This time, it's fresh baked cherry pie with a dash of melon and raspberry coulis.

    Continuing in this unseasonably pink vein, there's Lapostolle Le Rose 2016 from Chile, one of the very best roses anywhere, for a bargain $18, dry, suave, food friendly and loaded with gorgeous strawberry and white pepper stoniness. Stock up now for spring! 

    Organic and biodynamic, seriously under-priced, Paarl South Africa's Jontys Ducks Pekin White 2015 is a versatile, food friendly everyday pleasure, round and stony with lime zest, Anjou pear and chalky limestone underpinnings. $16. Buy this by the case! 

    Speaking of zesty, this entry from Austria's Kamptal is electric! Kitmansberg Gruner Veltliner 2016, $17, will test all those people who say: "I just love really dry wines!" but actually prefer California-style residual sugar every time. In this case, think white grapefruit on steroids with limestone and granite underpinnings. Wonderful with grilled or pan-fried white fish, raw shellfish, and as an aperitif.

    If the term "toasty oak" turns you off, try the stony, steely, slightly flinty Chablis 2015 from J Moreau & Fils, $23. This northern outpost of Burgundy is rightly famed for its elegant aristocratic Chardonnay whites with their understated apple/pear nuances and legendary minerality.

    For a softer, more perfumed Chardonnay, from the south of France, Novellum 2016 is a steal at $18. Very different, easy-drinking, dry, fruitier with a hint of orchard fruit, especially white peach and scarcely any oak at all.

Among the most pleasurable red wines, Murphy-Goode Merlot 2013 is very well named.(Merlot-phobic Myles can just go Sideways!) Velvety, almost cuddly, mouth-coating and deliciously chewy (soft tannins), it leans towards black fruits and berries with a whiff of smokiness, $23. 

    Heftier by far, the brawny Mount Riley Syrah 2016 is smoky, tarry and mouth-filling, in a good way. Marlborough on New Zealand's South Island, it's really quite Rhone-like with crushed black pepper, roasted meat, ripe berry and old leather notes. Complex and intriguing, $19. 

    Overshadowed by the lordly Pinot Noir of Burgundy, the Gamay-driven reds just to the south rarely get their due. However, the Jean-Paul Dubost's Beaujolais-Villages Climat Le Tracot 2015 will not be denied. There's a hint of that classic Band-Aid aroma from the whole cluster fermentation followed by a superb coulis of ripe berry aromas and flavors. Silky tannins, drinking well now, $20.

From France's deep south in Corbieres, bordering the Med, Chateau Treviac 2015 gives big and hearty a good name, $17. Black currant, forest floor, leather, smoke and crushed black pepper call for big roasts, stews and steaks or burgers.

    Best of all but hard to find: Marchand de Gramont Vieilles Vignes Nuits-Saint-Georges 2015. Maybe the outstanding wine of the entire February 3 release. They say a great red Burgundy will cost you $250 -- $50 each for the first four crappy ones and another $50 for that ethereal bottle you're seeking. This is that bottle, and it's $59.95. aromas of crushed wild strawberries, damp earth, exotic spices, new leather and grated truffles! Online or in the flagship LCBO stores only. There's also an interesting red Bordeaux on offer there from crazy French actor Gerard Depardieu called Ma Verite, $49.95, that garnered an impressive 92 Parker points but our lab sample was untasteably corky. Dommage!

    For the plutocrats:  a superb and rare single vintage 1998 Armagnac from the leading producer, De Montal, seductive smoky citrus, dark honey, caramel and baking spices that should really be sold as an aphrodisiac. $143.95. Sorry!