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!

Monday, January 15, 2018

To Hell With Burgundy -- Just Kidding!

Etienne Julien

It's pretty hard to not covet Burgundy wines.They're just so irresistibly damn good! 

    Even though the winemakers themselves sell their liquid heritage for a pretty penny, they're always quietly ballistic over the stratospheric prices achieved later by middlemen in the secondary market.That's where you and I come in. Way later. 

    To get the very top Burgundy wines you have to buy each bottle bundled together with ten or eleven distantly related siblings and even then you need to be an industry insider or a plutocrat. 

    Sure you can buy Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from around the world, and some of it's pretty fine, if that's good enough for you. Another way is to contact boutique importing agencies like CGU Fine Wines in Ontario. 

    Among their current offerings are an interesting Cremant de Bourgogne sparkler from Meursault made by Domaine Francois Mikulski coming this spring at around $30.Think Blanc de Blancs (i.e. pure Chardonnay) Champagne dry and toasty at half the price.

    In the red Pinot realm, Domaine Gerard Julien & Fils has a superb 2013 Cote de Nuits on offer at CGU for $50. Velvety and earthy with that magical Pinot 4th dimension that only comes from this sliver of limestone-flint terroir.

    Just to the south, in Beaujolais, is Domaine Labruyere, owner of a precious piece of Moulin-a-Vent that yields one of the best Crus Beaujolais anywhere, for under $30. Called Coeur de Terroirs, it's all black berries, violets, licorice, smoke and spice!

    Find out more at

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

It's A New Old Year

1943 is my favorite vintage -- even though I was a very small part of it. 

    The fabulous wine grapes of that vintage all the way across Europe were carefully picked by hard-working farm girls and their moms because all the brave and terrified young men that year were far, far away, fighting for freedom/defence/liberation/country/you name it. It was War. 

    That's the vintage when I was born. Along with George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Sharon Stone, Bobby Fischer, Arthur Ashe, Mick Jagger, Catherine Deneuve, Billie Jean King and Keith Richards. 

    It was a a good wine year, one of the best of World War II. I celebrate it every year with a wine of 1943 and a fine dinner with my old friend Alan Gardner, a man of the same vintage and British heritage (and same off the wall humor). 

    This year we enjoyed a palate cleanser of Billecart-Salmon Rose Champagne, impeccable as always. Then a precise and thrilling old Chardonnay, a mere 10-year-old Coche-Dury Burgundy 2007 with our lobster. Big guns followed with the roast leg of lamb and Yorkshire pudding: Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 1943, opening from tight chalky tannins into ethereal red and black berry fruit in the glass, then a 1943 vintage Port just now coming into its own. 

    It's a birthday tradition around here. May it long continue!