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Posts Tagged ‘California

Cabgamay Franc

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Santa Ynez Valley 2015, Cabernet Franc, Coquelicot Vineyard, Lo-Fi Wines ($44.95, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Franc from organically farmed vines in the Coquelicot vineyard (fluvial sandy loam and gravel) near Solvang. Manually harvested. The whole clusters – neither destemmed nor crushed – were placed in a vat, which was filled with carbon dioxide gas and covered. Once a day for 14 days, the free-run juice was pumped over, then the vat was covered and gassed again. When alcoholic fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) was complete, the wine was pressed into tanks, settled and racked into neutral barrels (85% in 228-litre French oak barriques, 15% in a 600-litre demi-muid) for eight months’ maturation. Underwent full malolactic fermentation. Racked twice prior to bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. A small shot of sulphur dioxide was added at bottling. 12.2% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Earthy, slightly jammy red fruit with hints of sandalwood and black olive. Dark-fruity and Asian-spicy in the piehole, the brighter colours darkened by an earthy substratum. Structured – if that’s the word for such a fuzzy wine – by smooth acidity and stealth tannins that make their presence felt only on the long, leathery/earthy finish. However original and interesting an interpretation of Cabernet Franc this may be, the QPR – as with so many California wines in Quebec – is seriously out of whack. (Buy again? Irrespective of price, sure.)

Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil 2015, Hurluberlu, Sébastien David ($27.30, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts. Vinified Beaujolais style – using carbonic maceration – and given a very short maturation in tanks, with bottling occurring early in the new year following harvest. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Red fruity, cedary and a little poopy. From a hot vintage so richer, rounder, more extracted and conventional, less “like health juice” than some earlier versions. Still refreshing due to its bright acidity, supple tannins and pure fruit. Good, ultradrinkable juice, just a little less special than before. The shapely clear glass bottle is a beaut, especially in magnums. (Buy again? Sure.)

Coteaux Bourguignons 2015, Gamay, Domaine Bouillot Salomon ($29.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in clayey-calcareous soil. Manually harvested. Non-interventionist wine-making with no added anything, including sulphur. Matured in stainless steel and cement tanks. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Attractive nose of slightly candied red berries, spice, cola and background barnyard. A bit spritzy (carafing would have eliminated the gas). Fleet, fresh, fruity and dry with bright verging on tart acidity and a rumbling mineral bass line. The longish finish brings an appetizing bitter note. Would be interesting to taste this alongside some cru Beaujolais; I suspect the difference in terroirs would be noticeable. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Yes and no

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Napa Valley 2014, Propriatary Red, Apriori ($27.65, 12413128)
Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Malbec (23%), Petite Sirah (10%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 30 days. Matured in neutral French oak barrels for 11 months. Bottled in July 2015. Reducing sugar: 2.8 g/l. 15% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinifera Séguin et Robillard.
Outgoing nose of sweet, slightly jammy fruit (mainly cassis), sweet spice and menthol. In the mouth, it’s full-bodied, round and soft. The forward ripe fruit and considerable extract are no surprise but it’s not a bomb, due in no small measure to the bright acidity. Fine though gritty tannins texture the mid-palate while notes of cocoa and matcha tea colour the sustained finish. Some vaprous overtoning aside, the alcohol is discreet. For the style, this is unexpectedly balanced and fresh but, then again, other than a grilled hunk of red meat, what could you pair it with? (Buy again? Fans of not-over-the-top California reds should make a beeline. I’ll wave at you from the Old World section.)

USA 2013, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, Mouton Noir Wines (US$18.00 in New Hampshire)
A blend of Syrah (69%), Merlot (19%), Cabernet Sauvignon (9%) and Tempranillo (9%) from various vineyards in southern Oregon and Washington state. Manually harvested. The destemmed grapes were given a short cold soak and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Matured in neutral oak for 10 months. 13.7% ABV.
The nose of chocolate-cherry cookie with hints of meat and plum vinegar set alarm bells ringing. Full-bodied and unnuanced and devolving from the get-go. The fruit – mostly plum and cherry but also showing a vegetal streak – is dominated by chocolate and vanilla. The minerals aim for graphite but end up ash. Low acidity and higher than necessary sugar keep things leaden. The finish is long, much too long. What a fatiguing wine! (Buy again? Life is too short.)

MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

November 1, 2016 at 15:29

The full Monterey?

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Central Coast 2013, Grenache, Clos de Gilroy, Bonny Doon Vineyard ($28.35, 12268557)
The front label says Monterey County but the grapes come from four vineyards, some of which are outside the county limits, and the winery’s spec sheet lists the AVA as Central Coast. In any case, this is a blend of Grenache (75%), Syrah (7%) and Mourvèdre (18%); if it contained any less Grenache, it couldn’t be labelled as a varietal. The grapes were manually harvested, gently destemmed and given a cold soak. The lots were fermented separately. Macerated, fermented and matured on the lees in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 14% ABV (14.4% per Quebec agent: Trialto.
Strawberry, black raspberry and a touch of plum, hints of sweet spice and pepper and a kirschy whiff of alcohol. In the piehole, it’s a heady middleweight. The texture is fluent, even silky. The flavours are dominated by fruit that’s ripe-sweet and solar in a way that European Grenaches seldom are (Monterey is at the same latitude as Algiers and Tunis). The alcohol is noticeable but not hot, except in the sense that it melds with wine’s black peppery heat. Bright acidity, pliable tannins and a clean finish round out the picture. A bit on the simple side but varietally correct and certainly easy to drink. Slightly chilled, it makes a fine barbecue wine. Bang for the buck is an issue: the wine makes a lot more sense at the US$15 it can be found for in the States than the C$28 and change charged here in Quebec. (Buy again? On sale maybe?)

Written by carswell

May 24, 2016 at 12:07

New Old World, old New World

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The last flight of the tasting ended up being an impromptu affair as both of the originally planned bottles – the Languedoc 2013, Terrasses du Larzac, Carlan, Mas Julien ($43.75, 12628516) and Côtes du Roussillon 2011, La Foun, Domaine Gauby ($123.00, 12300377) – were corked. Our replacements came from a nearby SAQ outlet and my cellar.

Campo de Borja 2013, Veraton, Bodegas Alto Moncayo ($34.00, 11668241)
100% Garnacha (aka Grenache) from vines between 30 and 50 years old and rooted in red clay and slate. Matured 17 months in French and American oak barrels (60% and 40% new respectively). Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 15.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Fast-morphing nose. Snapshots along the way: India ink, chocolate, oak, blueberry, oak, caramel, sweet spice, raspberry, oak, faint plum, coffee. Full-bodied and rich but surprisingly well balanced despite the alarming alcohol level. The fruit is dense bordering on bombish, the acidity bright and the tannins firm but unaggressive. Massively oaky at first though turning purer and cleaner with some air. Still, vanilla runs from entry to mid-palate and turns to mocha on the long finish. Thank Bacchus, it’s dry. Impressive in its way and delivering excellent QPR but not at all up my alley. (Buy again? Nope though if big oaky reds are your thing, make a beeline.)

Napa Valley 1990, Petite Sirah, York Creek, Ridge Vineyards (c. US$20 in the early ’90s, importation valise)
A blend of Petite Sirah (aka Durif, 86%) and Zinfandel (14%) from dry-farmed vines in the York Creek vineyard. Given extended fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Clarified by racking. Matured 14 months, during which time the wine was fined twice “to soften the firm tannins.” Bottled in May 1992. 13.9% ABV.
Popped and poured. Complex, evolving nose: slate, clay, red plum, “blue cheese,” leather, menthol, blueberry pie. Full-bodied if austere though built around a core of pure, plummy fruit. Beautifully structured: the tannins, once formidable and still sinewy, have softened some while sleek acidity brightens the dark flavours. Deep slate underlies the mid-palate, spice and wood overtone the long finish. Tasting double-blind, everyone guessed this was an Old World wine and no one suspected it was more than 10 years old. At or maybe just past peak; if you have any bottles of this, drink them soon. (Buy again? If only…)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

March 25, 2016 at 16:28

California Sparklin’

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In late February, Simon Thibaudeau, now with Le Marchand de Vin, led the group in an enjoyable overview of the agency’s portfolio. The wines were served double-blind to everyone but Simon. As is our wont, we started with a sparkler.

Anderson Valley 2007, Brut, L’Ermitage, Roederer Estate ($68.25, 11682810)
A Chadonnay (52%) and Pinot Noir (48%) from estate-grown grapes, this tête de cuvée is made only in exceptional years and only from free-run and first-press juice. Vinified using the traditional method. Dosage is done with reserve wine from the 2004 and 2005 vintages that was aged five years in French oak casks; the dosage accounts for 4% of the final wine. Reducing sugar: 13 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Yeasty, champagne-like nose of sour lemon, stone fruit, browning apple, “white miso” (as per another taster) and a whiff a sea spray. Richly textured and mouth-filling. The ripe fruit comes with a touch of honey though the wine is quite dry. A fine, persistent effervescence combines with the bright acidity to give the wine a welcome bit of bite, while a sourish undercurrent adds intrigue. Broad and very long. Drinking double-blind, I first thought this was Californian but finally guessed it was a very ripe champagne. In hindsight, the solar fruit and downplayed minerality should have tipped me that it wasn’t – though qualitatively, it’s on a champagne level. That said, as with so many California wines, the price seems high in comparison to its European counterparts. (Buy again? Setting aside QPR considerations, yes.)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

March 16, 2016 at 10:43

Old World and New

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Eloro 2012, Spaccaforno. Riofavara ($28.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Nero d’Avola with small amounts of other, unspecified local grape varieties, all from organically and semi-biodynamically farmed vines averaging 30 years old and grown in a four-hectare, limestone-soiled vineyard. The grapes are hand-picked, then destemmed and lightly pressed. Fermented on the skins and with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Matured at least six months in barrels (80% second-fill tonneaux, 20% third-fill barriques) and at least 10 months in bottle. Unfiltered. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Pepper, leather, violet, herbs, dark cherry and strawberry. Medium- to full-bodied. Bright fruit, bright acidity and tight but not rebarbative tannins, all in perfect balance. Long, smooth finish. Tastes solar yet is less dense, more buoyant than many Nero d’Avolas. Another beauty. Good QPR. (Buy again? Done!)

Crozes-Hermitage 2012, Terre d’éclat, Domaine de la Ville Rouge ($31.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Syrah from organically farmed vines averaging 35 years old. The estate is converting to biodynamic agriculture. Long maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts at around 28°C in temperature-controlled tanks and using daily pump-overs. Matured 12 months in barrels. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
The expected dark fruit, smoke and bacon along with unexpected “kefir yogurt” and “roasted acorn squash” (quoting other tasters). More medium- than full-bodied, with a smooth and velvety texture, fine tannins and lifting acidity. The cherry fruit has bacon overtones and slate underpinnings and the finish is long and meaty/gamy. The oak is discreet. Young – would probably have benefited from a few hours in the carafe – but still accessible and definitely enjoyable. (Buy again? Yes.)

Napa Valley 2011, Charbono, Tofanelli Family Vineyard ($49.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Charbono (aka Bonarda, Corbeau and Douce Noir) from organically farmed, unirrigated vines grown in a 1.5-hectare vineyard located in the Calistoga AVA. The grapes were hand-picked, destemmed, cold-soaked for four days and fermented with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs or pump-overs. Pressed directly into French oak barrels (25% new) and matured for 17 months with two rackings. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Chocolate-covered blackberries, pomegranate and a “hint of vanilla.” Mouth-filling and round, fruit-driven and soft-tannined but, despite the density and oaky finish, surprisingly fresh. Spice overtones and some stony minerals add welcome complexity. The velvety texture persists through the long finish. Definitely not a Cab or Zin but unmistakably Californian. (Buy again? A bottle for curiosity value.)

MWG October 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6

White and red ABCs

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Santa Barbara County 2013, Pinot Gris–Pinot Blanc, Au Bon Climat ($27.70, 12510690)
Pinot Gris (66%) from purchased grapes grown in the El Camino and Sierra Madre vineyards and Pinot Blanc (34%) from old vines grown in the estate’s Bien Nacido vineyard. Barrel-fermented. Underwent full malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in neutral barrels for six months. Reducing sugar: 1.7 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Smoky, slightly sour, vaguely mineral nose with yellow fruit evocative of ground cherry jam. Plump and a little lumbering in the mouth. Round, chewy and, reducing sugar levels be damned, coming across as off-dry. The impression of sweetness is countered by streaming acidity but reinforced by unignorable butterscotch flavours. Dries out a little on the long finish overtoned with white grapefruit pith. Might work better in the context of a meal, especially one featuring white meat, though even then the lack of refreshment would be a downside. (Buy again? No.)

Santa Barbara County 2013, Pinot Noir, Au Bon Climat ($31.50, 11604192)
A blend of Pinot Noir (95%, from six vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, two vineyards in the Los Alamos Valley and one vineyard in the Santa Rita appellation) and Mondeuse (5%, from the Bien Nacido vineyard). We kept most small lots of Pinot Noir separate for the first 6 months. Matured in oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Red berries, cola and sweet spice on the nose. A lactic note marks the palate. Fine tannins and fluent acidity give the fruit a semblance of structure but do nothing to counter its candied edge. Finishes clean and spicy if a little short. Supple and admirably un-Syrah-like for a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir but ultimately a bit cloying. That said, the wine will probably benefit from six months in the cellar. In the States, this can often be found for well under US$20, at which price its lack of éclat might be more forgivable. (Buy again? No.)

Technical information for these wines has been hard to find. They may have been made from organically farmed grapes. They may have been fermented with indigenous yeasts. They may or may not have been filtered or fined. Neither the ABC website nor the Quebec agent’s website are particularly helpful in this regard.

While members of the group, myself included, have enjoyed Au Bon Climat wines in the past, neither of these bottles pushed our buttons. Indeed, a couple of tasters declared that both wines’ “sweetness” (more properly termed their perceived sweetness, if the residual sugar figures are to be believed) made them difficult to drink. Even those who didn’t complain weren’t excited about them. A disappointment then.

MWG July 16th tasting: flight 3 of 6.

Written by carswell

September 18, 2015 at 12:17

I hate when this happens

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I pull an old bottle from my cellar. Thinking it’s probably over the hill and not something I’d want to chance sharing with friends, I open it one evening when I’m alone. The wine is glorious. And I’m the only person around to appreciate it.

In this case, the bottle is a Sonoma Mountains 1993, Cabernet Sauvignon, Laurel Glen, for which I paid a stiff $49.50 back in the day. The reason why was that it was said to be a sleeper, an underappreciated wine that could hold its own against better-known Cal Cabs costing two or three times as much. And you know what? It does.

Earlier in the day, I’d found a a beautiful veal rib steak sitting in my butcher’s display case. Looking for something I could, weather permitting, grill or, weather not, cook on the stovetop, I grabbed it.

Look in food-and-wine pairing books and you’ll often find that mature Bordeaux, in particular Médoc, is a recommended accompaniment for côtes de veau. And I was sure I had a cru bourgeois or two from the 1990s or early 2000s at home. Except when I looked, I didn’t. After hesitating over a 2002 Chinon, I went with this. And now, since there’s no one to share the experience with,  I regret it. Except the wine is so delicious, I don’t really.

Gorgeous Bordeauxish nose of cassis, cedar and cigar box along with notes of turned earth and slate. A joy in the mouth: the fruit sweet and vibrant, the texture satiny, the tannins resolved into velvet, the acidity bright and streaming. The long finish is remarkable for its  complex of savoury, minerally, tobacco/herby nuances. What’s more, the wine is dry and perfectly digeste, spritely, invigorating, with an alcohol level of 12.5%. Probably as good as it ever will be, though probably not declining for a few years more.

It’s the kind of wine that restores my faith in California. Except does anyone in California make wines like this any more?

Written by carswell

May 16, 2015 at 18:53

MWG October 2nd tasting: Garnacha v. Grenache

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Rioja 2010, Propiedad, Bodega Palacios Remondo ($36.00, 10256131)
100% Garnacha (aka Grenache) from 40- to 90-year-old vines. In previous vintages, the wine has been a blend; the 2010 is the first all-Grenache bottling. The grapes were manually harvested, sorted in the vineyard and again at the cellar and fully destemmed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts and maceration with regular punch-downs took place in 5,000-litre oak vats and lasted nearly a month. Matured 14 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% second-fill. Unfiltered and unfined. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les vins Horizon.
New Worldish nose: up-front plum and cherry, spicy notes (black pepper especially) and background vanilla. In the mouth, it’s a middleweight. Bright acidity and smooth tannins supplely structure the ripe-sweet fruit, while a slatey underlay adds depth. The oak-accented finish is heady, even a little flaring. Enjoyable in an uncomplicated – “one-dimensional” quoth one taster – fruit-forward way. Before the bottles were unveiled, another taster (tasting double-blind) who spends a lot of time in San Francisco declared this a Californian. And even I (tasting blind) was convinced it was the Bonny Doon. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Grenache 2012, Central Coast, Clos de Gilroy, Bonny Doon Vineyard ($28.30, 12268557)
Mostly biodynamically farmed Grenache (84%, from the Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield) with a little Syrah (11.5%, from the Alamo Creek Vineyard near Santa Maria) and Mouvèdre (4.5%, from very old vines in Oakley). Manually harvested and sorted. Mostly destemmed. The varieties were vinified separately. A cold soak of several days was followed by lengthy fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maceration in open vats with regular punch-downs. Matured in stainless steel tanks, then blended and bottled. Screwcapped. 14.4% ABV. Quebec agent: Trialto.
Fresh nose of crushed raspberry, white pepper and pastry cream over a subterranean bass line. Tighter and more structured than the Rioja, though also a middleweight. The satiny fruit is lifted by high acidity, framed by sleek tannins and grounded by dark minerals. Finishes cleanly on a heady, herb-scented note. An appealing mix of suave and gruff. Unfortunately, like so many California wines in Quebec, the QPR seems a little off. (Buy again? At $28.30, maybe. If it were $5 cheaper, sure.)

(Flight: 4/6)

Written by carswell

October 22, 2014 at 11:29

MWG June 12th tasting: A natural Riesling from far northern California

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Willow Creek 2010, Riesling, Hardesty Cellars ($36.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The coastal Willow Creek AVA is located in California’s Trinity River valley. This 100% Riesling is made from organically farmed grapes that were manually harvested and pressed directly into a 55-gallon stainless steel barrel. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured for nine months. The wine contains no added anything, including sulphites and is bottled unfiltered and unfined. Total production: 23 cases. 13.8% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Reductive nose with some yeast and browning apple eventually coming forward. A bit sprtizy. There’s the rich texture and hints of tropical fruit you expect in a California white but with Riesling’s racy acidity and minerality at its core. Residual sugar? A touch of sweetness on the attack but quite dry on the long finish. Seemed a little unsettled. A couple of post-tasting comments from MWG members: “I must try it with Indian food!” and, perhaps more tellingly, “I dug the Californian but keep forgetting it was a Riesling.” Quite good with cheese, especially an ash-covered goat cheese, which may explain why it’s on the wine lists of several of Montreal’s best restaurants and wine bars. (Buy again? Yes, for um research purposes.)

Written by carswell

June 26, 2014 at 13:00