Brett happens

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January 13th MWG tasting: report

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FLIGHT 1: FOUR TABLE WINES FROM LES VENTS D’ANGE

Cuvée Valérie 2009, Vignoble Les Vents d’Ange ($15, Sublime Vins et Spiritueux)
100% Kay Gray. Floral, citrusy nose, extroverted in a Sauvignon Blanc kind of way. Bright and clean on the palate, with an acidic bite on the finish. Refreshing. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cuvée Catherine 2009, Vignoble Les Vents d’Ange ($15.50, Sublime Vins et Spiritueux)
50% Kay Gray, 50% Prairie Star. More restrained nose: hints of white flowers, spice and musk grapes. Rounder and smoother on the palate than the Valérie, a fact due not only to the less acidic Prairie Star but also to the higher residual sugar. White fruit with a suggestion of something green (fennel? bok choy?). Soft, buttery, minerally finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Cuvée Marie-Rose 2008, Vignoble Les Vents d’Ange ($13, Sublime Vins et Spiritueux)
And now for something completely different. 100% Montreal Blues (aka St. Theresa and Flambeau), a Concord-type black table grape. Candied apple, sour plum, a hint of foxiness and an oxidized note, a little like a rancio Banyuls. Intensely fruity yet surprisingly, even shockingly dry. Acidic, clean but abrupt finish. (Buy again? Doubtful.)

Cuvée Alexandria 2008, Vignoble Les Vents d’Ange ($15.50, Sublime Vins et Spiritueux)
70% Montreal Blues, 30% St. Croix. Oak chips added during fermentation. Spice and candied raspberry with subtle wood. Medium-bodied, brightly acidic. Straightforward fruit flavours, a suggestion of oak, a bit more than a suggestion of residual sugar. Light, raspy tannins and a tingly finish. (Buy again? Probably not.)

A relatively new arrival on the Quebec winemaking scene (first vintage was 2006), Vignoble Les Vents d’Ange is located in St-Joseph-du-Lac just east of Oka. In deference to the climate, the winery works exclusively with hardy hybrid cultivars developed by Wisconsin grape breeder Elmer Swenson. I first encountered the wines in November at the Quebec wine and cheese expo, where I found their straightforwardness and lack of pretension refreshing. This time around, the dry whites were exactly as I remembered them (my two sets of tasting notes use many of the same descriptors) while the rosé and red didn’t show nearly as well; this may have something to do with the fact that our bottles were uncorked only minutes before serving while the bottles at the expo had been open for a while.

FLIGHT 2: THREE AFFORDABLE AUSTRIAN RIESLINGS

Riesling Federspiel Terrassen 2009, Domäne Wachau ($18.35, 11034775)
Lime with a hint of lanolin. Clean, pure and intense: heading into racy territory. Biting finish somewhat rounded by residual sugar. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Riesling Kamptal Trocken 2009, Domaene Gobelsburg ($18.35, 10790309)
Minerals. Slight tingle, almost a fizz. Bracing acidity balanced by pure if lean fruit. Came across as very dry when chilled. Long, fieldstone finish. (Buy again. Yes.)

Riesling Kamptal 2008, Steinhaus, Weingut Rabl ($20.95, 10790341)
Stony with an initial spice-box note (curry?). Smoother, slightly sweeter and a little more complex than the other two. Acidic finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

All three wines, especially the Wachau and Rabl, seemed to gain weight and sweetness as they warmed in the glass. Few of us thought this was a good thing; keep the bottles in the fridge or ice bucket when not pouring.

FLIGHT 3: TWO BOTTLINGS OF LAPIERRE’S 2009 MORGON

Morgon 2009, Domaine Marcel Lapierre ($26.80, 11305344)
The “SAQ” bottling: lightly sulphured and filtered. 100% organically farmed Gamay. Slightly clearer and more limpid. Pure fruit. Showing a bit harsher with a little less depth and character. Not as complete though still lovely. Tasting blind, three of the 12 people present chose this as the “Nature.” (Buy again? Moot. September’s initial release of 1,800 bottles sold out in six hours; a recent, less hyped restocking vanished almost as fast, though a few stragglers remain in St-Jean de Matha and other remote outlets.)

Morgon 2009, “Nature,” Domaine Marcel Lapierre ($27.55, Rézin–NLA)
The winemaker’s regular bottling: unfiltered and unsulphured. 100% organically farmed Gamay. A little cloudier. More complex nose: minerals, peony, spice and a bit of funk. More faceted and serious. Longer too. Acid, fruit and light tannins in perfect balance. Pure, lovely, caressing. Nine of the 12 tasters identified this as the “Nature.” (Buy again? If only I could.)

The late lamented Marcel provides some background in a short video made during his visit to Quebec last spring.

The differences between the two bottlings became increasingly apparent as the wines breathed. When I returned to my glasses after the tasting was over (about two hours after the bottles were opened), the SAQ bottling had lost presence and gained harshness while the “Nature” bottling was still chugging sweetly along.

FLIGHT 4: TWO ORGANIC SYRAH-GRENACHE BLENDS

Côtes du Vivarais 2007, Domaine Gallety ($23.70, 00918615)
Earlier vintages have been a 50-50 blend of biodynamically farmed Syrah and Grenache; I assume the 2007 is too. Slightly candied nose initially marked by alcohol (15.9%!) and volatile acidity; the latter eventually blew off, leaving plum, red meat and beef jerky. An intense mouthful of spicy baked fruit and tannins. Long, hot, garrigue-scented finish. Dry but somewhat port-like, the heat only partially balanced by the fruit. May improve with time though it will never become refreshing. (Buy again? Nope.)

Coteaux du Languedoc 2007, Cuvée 5 920 km, Terrenum ($23.25, Réserve et Sélection)
Organically farmed Syrah (65%) and Grenache (35%). Aged five months in new French oak casks. 1,800 bottles made. An altogether earthier nose than the Gallety’s: garrigue, black raspberry and a whiff of barnyard. Very dry, less tannic, somewhat lighter-bodied, with livelier acid: overall more digeste. Plum and spice flavours gain a faint bitter tarriness on the nicely sustained finish. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Vivarais is a relatively new (created in 1999) and obscure appellation that straddles the Ardèche river and, at one point, touches the west bank of the Rhône. Kermit Lynch, among others, claim the Gallety estate is the missing link between the northern and southern Rhône regions. Terrenum is a négociant operation run by Montrealer Simon Thibaudeau.

FLIGHT 5: FOUR FIVE SUB-SUPERTUSCANS

Toscana IGT 2008, Maremma, Mongrana, Querciabella ($19.90, 11192183)
Organically farmed Sangiovese (50%), Merlot (25%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%); a fraction of the wine sees three months in casks. The 2008 is the fourth vintage. Cassis and pencil lead, gaining a candied note and a hint of volatility as it breathed. Medium-bodied. Fluid. Structured, the tannins drying on the finish, but not particularly deep. Fruit sweeter and spicier than in the same house’s Chiantis. Good if a little one-dimensional and anonymous. (Buy again? Eh.)

Bolgheri 2007, Villa Donoratico, Argentiera ($27.25, 10845074)
Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Cabernet Franc (25%) and Merlot (10%); aged 12 months in new and one-year French oak barrels. Freshly ground beef, green pepper, cassis and ash. Smooth, round. Tannins seem fruit-cloaked, in the background. Oak a little too present for now. Good structure and length. Decent enough but lacking charm. (Buy again? No.)

Bolgheri 2008, Le Serre Nuove, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia ($59, 10223574)
The second wine of Ornellaia. Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Cabernet Franc (9%) and Petit Verdot (6%). Aged 18 months in a mix of new and year-old oak casks. Nose dominated by sweet oak (vanilla, toast, chocolate), albeit very classy oak; Bordeauxish cassis, graphite and cedar are also present, though you have to look for them. Far too oaky on first taste. With time, the wood receded slightly and you could see the makings of an elegant, structured and balanced wine. Obviously needs another five years or so to mature. That said, I’m left wondering whether it will ever taste Italian. (Buy again? No.)

Maremma Toscana IGT 2005, Sesà, I Vigneti di Poggio Foco ($39.50, 10538728)
Organically farmed Merlot (50%), Cabernet Franc (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) with the remainder made up of other, unspecified grape varieties. Spent 18 months in new French oak barrels. Lovely fresh nose of cassis and graphite yet more Langhe- than Bordeaux-like. Smooth and fluid texture. More medium- than full-bodied. Tobacco and cedar – but oddly little oak – scent the fruit. Good structure and acidity. Ripe tannins turn a little drying on the long finish. Many tasters’ wine of the night.  (Buy again? Sure.)

Bolgheri Superiore 2007, Sapaio, Podere Sapaio ($47.50, 10860805)
Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (30%) with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Spent 18 months in oak casks. Complex and engaging nose: black cherry, red meat, ink, slate, wood, fresh-turned earth, grass/herbs, hint of kirsch (14.5%). Rich and dense, big and muscular but not galumphing. Sweet fruit on entry with a swelling bitter undercurrent. Velvety tannins, showing some astringency on finish. As the wine breathed, the oak became more apparent.  Long, liqueurish (Chambord?) finish. A sun-drenched Cabernet, bordering on New Worldish yet retaining its Italian accent. Will likely improve over the next five to eight years. Made a credible pairing for a grilled rib eye sliced and drizzled with garlic- and rosemary-infused olive oil. (Buy again? Not my style but recommendable all the same.)

Popular with SAQ wine advisors and local critics, the Sapaio has a reputation for punching above its weight. I’d originally planned to include it in the tasting but inadvertently left it at home, leading to its last-minute replacement by Le Serre Nuove.

FLIGHT 6: A KAY GRAY ICE WINE

Cuvée Blanche 2008, Vin de glace, Vignobles Les Vents d’Ange ($35/375 ml, Sublime Vins et Spiritueux)
100% Kay Gray. Apple butter and honey nose with a hint of spice and vanilla. Sweet but not saccharine. Acidic enough to avoid syrupiness. Not particularly complex flavour profile. Long, honeyed finish with a cheesy note. (Buy again? Maybe.)

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Written by carswell

January 30, 2011 at 18:07

One Response

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  1. […] it worth $28? The answer’s not as obvious as it was for the 2009 and 2010 but I’m inclined to give the estate the benefit of the doubt, especially this […]


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