North Fork of Long Island 2014, Rosso Fresco, Channing Daughters (US$20.00 at the winery)
Always a blend, though the grapes and percentages change from vintage to vintage. The 2014 is 39% Merlot, 21% Dornfelder, 16% Syrah 3% Lagrein, 3% Teroldego and 1% Blaufränkisch. The grapes are hand-picked, destemmed and crushed by foot. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and regular punch-downs. Matured eight months is old oak barrels. Filtered but not fined.
Red berries, graphite and a hint of barnyard. Medium-bodied. Structured more by bright acidity than the supple tannins, the juicy fruit slow fades to old wood and minerals. Overtones of sweet spice and “salted plum” linger into the finish, which seems anchored by a not unpleasant bitterness. Simple but not facile, and really quite drinkable. (Buy again? Yes, especially at the US$14 it goes for in some New York City wine shops.)
The Hamptons 2013, Blaufränkisch, Sylvanus Vineyard, Channing Daughters (US$26.00 at the winery)
A 75-25 blend of Blaufränkisch and Dornfelder from vines planted in 1999. The grapes are picked by hand, destemmed and crushed by foot. Fermented with regular punch-downs. Matured 12 months in old hogsheads, puncheons and barriques made from French and Slovenian oak. Gravity-bottled without fining or filtration. 12% ABV.
“Smells like a permanent” says one taster. “Aubergine” and “rotting leaves” add others. I also get blackberry tea, sawed wood, graphite and eventually spice. In the mouth, it’s richer, rounder and more dimensional than the Rosso Fresco. Bone dry, with sleek acidity and medium if chewy tannins. The fruit has noticeable dark cherry and mineral components, especially iron, like you sometimes get in red meat. A radicchio-like bitter streak appears on the finish. Savoury, even earthy and a bit unsmiling, this would probably be better with food. At C$33.75, the QPR seems a little off compared with its Austrian counterparts. (Buy again? Another bottle to try at the dining table.)
MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 3 of 6
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2012, Clisson, Famille Lieubeau ($24.95, 12923021)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from organically farmed vines averaging 30 years old and rooted in granite soil in various parcels in the Clisson commune. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in temperature-controlled (20°C) tanks and lasted three weeks. Matured 24 months in tanks on its lees. Reducing sugar: 1.3 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Société Clément.
“Shrimp shells” (per another taster), lemon, apple, limestone and, eventually, peat and “celery salt” notes. Rich and round, dry and tart, subdued but revealing layers of flavour. The pure fruit is dusted with minerals while the credible finish has a saline edge and a faint hint of honey or caramel. Very likeable. (Buy again? Yes.)
Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu 2014, Clos de la Butte, Domaine de l’Aujardière/Éric Chevalier ($19.05, 12886831)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from 50-year-old vines planted in serpentinite, eclogite and quartz in the La Butte lieu-dit. The grapes are pneumatically pressed and the must transffered into glass-lined tanks. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight to 10 months on the lees with regular stirring. Unracked and unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 1.3 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Similar nose to the Clisson’s but deeper, the shells more oyster-like and showing a distinct white pepper note. Even smoother and rounder on the palate though equally layered and minerally. Crisp acidity keeps things fresh and lively. Hints of butter and caramel colour the long finish. The most middle-of-the-road of the trio, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Great QPR. (Buy again? Yes.)
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2014, Le Breil, Complémen’Terre ($30.25, private import, 12 bottles/case, NLA)
Founded in 2013 in Le Pallet, the winery is owned and operated by Marion Pescheux and Manuel Landron, son of legendary Muscadet producer Jo Landron. The couple works according to the lunar calendar. 100% Melon de Bourgogne from organically farmed vines rooted in orthogneiss and quartz. Manually harvested. After pressing, the juice is clarified by settling and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured on the fine lines for eight months. Nothing added except, when deemed necessary, a shot of sulphur (35 mg/l maximum). 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lemon and minerals with hints of butter and eventually pale berries. In the mouth, it’s less rich and more rainwatery than its flightmates. On an equal footing with fired minerals, the subdued fruit is buoyed by soft acidity.. A thread of bitterness spools into the saline finish. Long and elegant if a bit inscrutable. Would love to revisit in a couple of years. (Buy again? If feeling flush, yes.)
MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 2 of 6
Golden Russet Cider 2014, Cuvée Yquelon, The Old Third ($21.00 at the winery)
Made from Golden Russet apples from an orchard near the winery. The fruit is hand picked and sorted. This being a traditional method sparkler, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Manually riddled and disgorged. Closed with a cork. 9.5% ABV.
Yeasty nose with some lime and chalk though, surprisingly, only a hint of apple. The effervescence is subdued to the eye, soft and fine in the mouth. Dry and winey, with wafting flavours of underripe pear and “guava” (quoting another taster), ground ginger notes, bright but smooth acidity and a faint tannic bitterness on the sustained finish. Tasting double-blind, several at the table thought this was a wine, not a cider, and it’s easy to see why. (Buy again? Definitely.)
MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 1 of 6
In early July, a group of seven Montreal wine and food geeks, including me, travelled to Greece to visit six wineries in as many regions in seven days. The trip was arranged and paid for by the wineries concerned with assistance from the European Union and the Greek government; I offer all of them – especially the wineries – my warmest thanks.
In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be posting reports here on the estates visited and many wines tasted and on where we stayed, where and what we ate and what we saw on my other blog, where a first post offers a few travel tips.
Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine 2014, Granite, Domaine de l’Écu ($23.55, 10282873)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from organically and biodynamically farmed vines 45 to 55 years old growing in stony topsoil and mica granite subsoil. Manually harvested. The winery is gravity fed, so no pumping occurs. Pneumatically pressed. The unclarified must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Sulphuring is limited to 25 mg added between alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in underground concrete tanks for 15 to 18 months. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Raisonnance.
Outgoing nose for a young Écu: lemon fruit and pith, chamomile, minerals, faintest hints of wax, honey and almond essence. In the mouth, it’s fruitier than usual: silky, complex and wonderfully pure, acid bright and bone dry, with real mineral depth and overtones of peach and fresh herbs. The long, long flinty, iodiney finish leaves a white peppery afterbite. This will only improve with a few years in the cellar but, in contrast to most vintages, is beguiling young. Perfect, of course, with raw oysters and moules marinières but has the wherewithal to accompany fine fish and, even, sushi and stinky cheeses. Or see what the winemaker has to say about possible pairings. (Buy again? Imperatively.)
Emilia Rosso 2014, Trebbiolo, La Stoppa ($23.10, 11896501)
A blend of Barbera (60%) and Bonarda (40%) from organically farmed three- to 20-year-old vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured five months in stainless steel. Unfiltered and unfined. A small squirt of sulphur dioxide is added at bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Some barnyardy funk on opening but also mulberry, raspberry candies, old wood, earth and hints of game and papier d’Arménie. As is sometimes the case with this cuvée, there’s a bit of spritz that mostly dissipates, especially if the wine is carafed. That aside, it’s medium-bodied and very dry, full of tangy fruit, tart acidity and medium tannins with a nice rasp and an appealing astringency that lingers through the minerally finish. Virtually begs for casual fare – think pizza, sausages, grilled pork – and can handle tomato with aplomb. Just don’t serve it too warm. A return to form after the verging on off-dry 2013, this has some of the rustic appeal of the much missed Gutturnio, which cuvée it replaces. (Buy again? In multiples.)
Preparing this note for posting has my mouth watering, so much did I enjoy the wine. Several friends have also expressed delight with the 2014 (“back to being eminently quaffable” to quote one of them). All of which gives the lie to another local blogger’s claim that (translating here and below) “No one could like this. Undrinkable!”, something said blogger knows is untrue as he goes on to cherry-pick Cellartracker comments in support of his position while ignoring the majority of favourable reviews appearing alongside them. (Not that I place stock in scores, but the Cellartracker average is 89 points for the 2013 and 2014 and 87 points for the 2012. Wine Spectator reportedly rated it 89 points. Hardly undrinkable.)
Maybe the wine’s not to the blogger’s taste. Fine: de gustibus non disputandum est. Maybe he doesn’t “get” natural wines. Maybe he is unaware that wines from this area and nearby parts of Piedmont sometimes have – and are prized for – the funky, fizzy qualities he objects to. Maybe his particular bottle was actually defective, a possibility that doesn’t appear to have occurred to him. Or maybe his declaring not just his bottle but every bottle to be a “foul horse,” his suggesting that the winemaker, agent and SAQ were asleep at the switch, his screaming in all caps that the wine should “be withdrawn at once” point to another agenda.
Notwithstanding such irresponsible reporting, the 2014 Trebbiolo has been selling well and is already in low supply at or long gone from stores like the Laurier and Beaubien Sélections, whose customers tend to be more clued-in than others. If you look, you’ll find bottles here and there on the island in addition to the 60 or so on SAQ.com. And if it’s the kind of wine that pushes your buttons, look you should.
Mosel 2015, Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett, Mönchhof ($25.90, 11034804)
100% Riesling from ungrafted, dry-farmed vines between 60 and 100 years old in the original part of the Würzgarten vineyard (red slate) in the municipality of Ürzig. Manually harvested. Fermentation with selected yeasts in stainless steel and neutral German oak vats lasts four weeks. Matured four to six months in stainless steel tanks and neutral German oak barrels. Filtered before bottling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: > 60 g/l. 8.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Green apple, lime/grapefruit, mown meadow, slate, lemon yogurt, hints of yellow stone fruit. Sweet on the attack, then the acidity kicks in. Chockablock with pure, ripe fruit. Endowed with a mineral backbone. Shows fair depth and some spice at the back of the palate. Finish is subdued but quite long. Well balanced despite the hot vintage. Ageable at least a decade, maybe two, during which time it will deepen, gain complexity and lose sweetness. For now, while almost too sweet to drink as an aperitif, it comes into its own alongside food, in my case a fairly faithful replica of Nigel Slater’s apples, potatoes and bacon recipe finished with crème fraîche, mustard and tarragon, a dish I’ll be making – and pairing with German Riesling – again. (Buy again? Yes.)