Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rewarding Reds + A Great Bubbly

High end bubbles

Beautiful dry wines for beautiful dry summer weather -- one of Portugal's best reds and three of Canada's finest, a white, a bubbly and a red.

Esporao Reserva Red 2017 is rich, distinctive, elegant and fabulous value at $26.95 made from handpicked Cabernet Sauvignon grapes carefully aged for a year in American and French oak barrels for smoky-toasty dark chocolate, vanilla, black fruit and new leather nuances.

From Alentejo, the breadbasket of south-central Portugal, with its rolling hills of wheat, olive trees and the famous cork oaks. One mature tree provides sufficient bark for 4,000 wine corks. 

The Esporao also includes native grapes like Bouschet, Aragonez and Trincadeira that contribute deep blue-black color and smooth notes of blueberry, mocha and crushed black pepper.  It's artfully made and artistically illustrated with an original label by Portuguese painter Antonio Poppe.

Since its launch in 1985 this wine has been adorned by a different artist each year. Serve it confidently with BBQ ribs, roast lamb, smoked meats or spicy chicken.

The Canadian trio are from our friends at Chateau des Charmes in Niagara: the 2016  Blancs de Blanc Sparkling made in the manner of Champagne; the Beaujolais-like Gamay Noir Droit 2018; and the Chardonnay 2017 from the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard. All available from the winery online now and the first two also at Vintages stores as of June 12. Prices are, respectively, $34.95, $19.95 and $24.95.

The sparkler, just like the still white, is 100% Chardonnay grapes and the Gamay is Canada's first native Vinifera (European) grape variety, born in the St David's Bench vineyard and it's a red wine of easy, fruity unoaked pleasure with nuances of raspberry and cherry, hints of black tea and banana, wet earth and violets.

Fruity unoaked pleasure
The sparkler is handcrafted with its second fermentation to create the bubbles in the bottle, just like Dom Perignon. The bead or stream of bubbles in the glass is as fine as a top Champagne, sign of a high-class wine. On the palate, it's pure elegance with delicate apple, pear, limestone profile and a crisp, satisfying clarity of tree fruit flavors. 

On a sad note, we mourn the loss of Alejandro Fernandez, Spain's pioneer of great red Tempranillo, especially his signature Pesquera from the Ribera del Duero region of his homeland. RIP




Saturday, July 18, 2020

California Pinot That Thinks It's A Burgundy

And that's a good thing! Let me introduce you to Coastal Vines California Pinot Noir, definitely not the fruit bomb you might expect from the sunny Golden State. Not that there aren't many majestic Pinots from thereabouts, of course! But many tend to be great for the first sips and not so great with food.

This little Coastal guy, meanwhile, is a real crowd-pleaser.

By that, I mean it's food friendly and refreshing, even after the first couple of elegant gulps. Only snag is you have to call The Small Winemakers Collection in T.O. at 416 463 7178 and it will cost you $18.10 a bottle X 12 for a case. Delivery is free, though. I quote the LCBO here because they are dead on: blackberry, cherry, cola and leather. Soft vanilla tones from the oak blend perfectly with the intense fruit core and soft tannins, providing complexity and balance and leading to a lingering finish.
I would simply add that tasted blind you would think this was a village Burgundy.
Meanwhile, there's a great little beauty from Argentina by the name of Toro Centenario, not to be confused with the giant-killer from Spain called Toro Bravo! That's good, too, especially for the price. The South American star is from Argentina's signature red grape, the magnificent Malbec. They're both in the same phenomenal low price range, though. 
The Toro Bravo Tempranillo Merlot, from Valencia in southern Spain is $8.15 and the South American gem, from Mendoza, is full-bodied and smooth for $8.60. Both at the LCBO and moving fast!

But, back to the Malbec, the LCBO describes this as showing "black fruit, plum and smoke with notes of herb and spice. Rich and smooth with balanced acidity and notes of dark berry, smoke and earth. Great with grilled or BBQ lamb, beef or ribs." Couldn't have said it better myself! Hard to go wrong with any of these bargains!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Green light for three great reds

It's great to have a wine named after you and it's even better when it's a terrific vintage: such is the case for Pinot Noir Cuvee Michele 2018 by Chateau des Charmes.
Honoring the memory of the dearly loved wife of Paul-Andre Bosc, it's a collectible. Selected by the CdC patriarch, Burgundy-trained Paul Sr., it was one of Michele's personal favorites.
Deep colored and brimming with black plum fruit and dark chocolate, this Pinot has a freshness and vibrancy, combined with silky tannins, that's a joy now and will be a pleasure for another five years. $16.95
It joins the newly released superb white Aligote Cuvee Michele 2018 on the shelves, $15.95, and $1 from the sale of every bottle of both these wines is donated to the Camp Kerry Society.  Aligote, crisp, citrusy and refreshing, is my wife's favorite and one of mine, too.
Paul Sr., of course, is a much revered ground-breaker for today's superb Ontario wines, through his skill and determination in fostering the cultivation of Europe's finest wine grapes in our own challenging terroir. Canada's first native vinifera vine was born in his St David's Bench Vineyard. It's called Gamay Noir Droit, a clone Paul selected for the vine's unique upright (droit) posture and the wine's lovely spicy/smoky black cherry flavor intensity, unoaked, silky, alluring. $19.95.
Our third super red comes from further afield: from the steep, rugged slopes of the Douro Valley in Portugal. It's called Cabral Reserva, $13.95, and it's a crowd-pleaser.
Made from the same grapes as traditional Port but by normal red wine methods and no fortification: it's a top-notch dry red you'll be happy to serve a crowd or hoard for yourself!
The back story is the fabulous grapes: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Sousao, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cao. Quite a mouthful there! The result is super-dark color, deeply rich aromas and flavors of black olive, ripe black plum and smooth tannins. There's 15 months of aging in French barrels that helps add complex aromas of eucalyptus, mint and vanilla. Tailormade for duck confit or any wild game.
It'll soon be spring. Honest!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Last gasp for you late Valentiners!

Image for Ca' Del Sette Appassionante 2016 from LCBOThe ruby red color of love, silky smoothness of skin and the heady sweetness of passion! It's all there in this gorgeous supple beauty from Verona, home of star-crossed Romeo and Juliet.

Apassionante 2016 is a Rosso Veneto IGT, a just off-dry fruity red blend of Merlot and Cabernet to set your pulse racing. Made from late-harvest, partially dried grapes for maximum intensity and rich in cherry, berry, cocoa, fig, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, hazel and dark plum pleasures.

All of this is yours for $19.95 from the ancient Ca' Del Sette Vini winery, five generations old, yet modern in its thinking..

Hold hands together by moonlight over ravioli or tortelli with ragu, tender balsamic pork loin, Gorgonzola gnocchi or lamb or duck magret with a glass of this in hand. Gotta love it!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fall: When Leaves And Wine Change Color

“The first duty of wine is to be red. The second is to be a Burgundy” wrote English author Alec Waugh in In Praise of Wine, in 1959. He must have been writing specifically about the wine of Autumn.
If it's a Burgundy, though, it might as well be a really good one, like any 2017 vintage from top producer Bouchard Pere et Fils. A wonderful, generous vintage that made everyone happy. Even grumpy old farmers, known for their "four kinds of weather" -- too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry!
One of the top tipples being offered here is the Grand Cru Le Corton, named for the most famous wine hill in the Golden Slope.  A mere $199 a bottle, from Woodman Wines and Spirits, who invited the elegant and knowledgeable Luc Bouchard to town to very modestly explain why he's so proud of this vintage.
It's a fact that average temperatures in Burgundy, like many wine regions, have been rising for centuries and he was asked how that might affect the delicate finesse of his wines. "We have ways of countering the hotter summers," he said. "We can harvest earlier, for example, and prune the vines differently for more shade. So, no need to worry about the traditional profile of present and future wines." That would be an ethereal, super food-friendly style with haunting notes of cassis, raspberries, strawberries, forest floor and violets. It's by far the best Pinot Noir wine in the world.
Closer to the realm of affordability, I really like the Beaune du Chateau, $66, a wine the firm has been offering since 1907, made from the grapes of 17 of the finest plots in Beaune. It's carefully barrel-aged in the ancient Chateau, a medieval fortress with cool stone walls so thick they contain an intimate salon where I had dinner in good company some years ago.
The legend about how it costs $250 to find a really great Burgundy is that you spend $50 each on the first four OK bottles of this hallowed Pinot Noir and the fifth one really blows your mind! The trick is always to follow a great and reliable name, like Bouchard.
Other affordable Premier Cru reds from Bouchard include Clos de la Mousse, Beaune Greves Vigne de l'Enfant Jesus, Pommard, Savigny-les-Beaune and Volnay Caillerets.
Last but not least, the village wines include Aloxe, Chambolle, Cote de Nuits, Monthelie, Santenay, and Vosne. For more info, call Jason Woodman at 416.767.5114.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wine, Wit, and Summer -- May They All Be Dry!

Most people (quite proudly) talk dry but drink off-dry. The acid test ('scuse the pun) is their shocked facial expression after a palate-cleansing sip of, say, Muscadet, Chablis, Gruner Veltliner, or Spain's lovely Albariño
No cloaking oak or cleverly included residual sugar. Just really dry wines here. 
Let's start with thirst-quenchingly delicious Pazo San Mauro 2018 Albariño from Galicia, the lush top-left corner of Spain that looks more like the Emerald Isle. It's a tiny 16th Century winery that housed the family of King Sancho I.
The original building still overlooks the vines, the Miño River and Portugal in the hazy middle-distance. 
The salty Atlantic air calls for fresh seafood and crisp, aromatic Albariño like this, the local specialty, wines bursting with lemon, pineapple, minerality, and floral aromatics. This Pazo San Mauro is bone-dry and irresistible, $26.99. Call Michelle at Lifford Wines & Spirits, 416 779 4101.
You can hold the lime zest with your next drink, it comes with its own, built in! Winzer Krems Gruner Veltliner 2017 white wine from the beautiful region of Kremstal, famed for this, the most elegant signature grape variety of Austria. Think chalk and white pepper with a notion of Bosc pear peel, lime zest and seafood-friendly acidity. Delicious as apero or with light end-of-summer dishes. It's in Vintages now at a more than fair $15.95 (Austrian wines tend to be a little pricy!) 
Vinified totally in stainless steel (zero oak barrels!) and reflecting its region's ancient limestone seabed deposits (packed with stone-age fossils), here's a truly crisp and ultra-elegant Chardonnay naked as the day it was born. Very unusual in that so many Chards are raised in new and smoky, charry barrels! That's a different breed, altogether. Instead, this little darling from Jean Bouchard is a Petit-Chablis 2017 from northern Burgundy for $23.95, citric, mineral, incredibly pure and refreshing, at Vintages.
Image for Château des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2015 from LCBOMany people still (incorrectly) think that all Rieslings are sweet. Back to the early days of wine awareness. Meanwhile, there are some absolutely fabulous dry versions, there for the asking; such as the Chateau des Charmes Estate Bottled 2015 Riesling Old Vines, an absolute stunner, and dry, too! Flinty dry and full of aromatic lime-citrus, persimmon, saline, mineral notes. It's just amazingly well balanced, unoaked and dry, like a perfect piano etude. Really well done. $18.95 at Vintages.
                                     Stay dry!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

La Bella Sedàra, The Beautiful Sicilian

La Bella Sedàra was originally the irresistible, ambitious Angelica Sedàra, the belle of Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) directed by Luchino Visconti, played in the movie by the divine Claudia Cardinale. 

It's also a beautiful Sicilian red wine made by Donnafugata -- and a great way to put a smile in your day!

The label also shows the lovely Contessa Entellina winery in the heart of western Sicily, where vines and olives are an integral part of the landscape.

The outstanding Donnafugata family winery owned by brother and sister Antonio and Jose Rallo literally grows a whole treasure house of vines on its 667 acres here: native Sicilian varieties like Ansonica, Catarratto, Grecanico, Grillo and Nero d’Avola – and Italian and international vines such as Fiano, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Alicante Bouchet, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Pinot Nero.

The lovely fresh, fruity Sedàra 2016, $18.95 at the LCBO, made from Nero d'Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, is cherry and plum-scented with subtle notes of baking spices, mocha, berries and black pepper -- the result of oak-free wine-making to achieve a perfect lightness and charm.

Just to the north of Sicily, on mainland Italy, in Puglia, you'll find a refreshingly aromatic bone-dry white wine with the most confusing name: Zìn

Except that this Zìn, unlike Zinfandel, is made from the Fiano grape, a native of Campania and actually a rarity in Puglia.

It's $13.95 at the LCBO and quite delicious with floral and orchard fruit notes, pleasant herbal notes and a touch of minerality -- perfect apero wine or to accompany seafood and shellfish or pasta with white sauces.

Full name is Produttori Vini Manduria Zin Fiano 2017 IGT Salento, quite a mouthful and, by the way, Zìn is the local dialect for sea urchin as you'll see on the label. PVM also produces Primitivo red wine, the ancestor of California's fruity signature Zinfandel.