Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Posts Tagged ‘Importation valise

Asphalt and corn

leave a comment »

Bekaa Valley 2012, Musar Jeune, Château Musar ($25.80, 13210197)
A blend of Cinsault (50%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) from organically farmed vines grown on the western slope of the Beqaa Valley at around 1,000 metres above sea level. The jeune refers to the wine’s early drinking window, not the age of the vines. The varieties are vinified separately. Fermented in temperature-controlled (28°C) concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. After blending, the wine was matured three to four months in concrete vats. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Clove, plum, blackberry evolving into leather and earth. An asphalt note is very present. On the palate, the wine is medium- to full-bodied and fruit forward though fundamentally savoury, not deep but far from superficial. Round tannins and soft acidity give the wine a satiny texture. The fruit tends to mullberry and black cherry. Unfortunately, the asphalt is also present as a flavour and the notes of “nail polish remover” (a marker for ethyl acetate, popularly if inaccurately referred to as volatile acidity) are hard to ignore. A bottle opened the weekend before was far fresher, cleaner and more interesting, leading us to suspect this was an off bottle, a not uncommon occurrence with Musar wines. Still, after more than a decade’s absence, it’s great to have this storied estate back at the SAQ. (Buy again? Yes but keep your receipt in case your bottle is defective.)

Texas 2013, Merlot, Reserve, Becker Vineyards (c. $20.00, importation valise)
100% Merlot from various parcels; the winery is based in the Texas Hill Country AVA but the wine’s broader appellation may mean some of the grapes come from outside the viticultural area. The grapes were harvested over four weeks, cool-soaked for 10 days, fermented with selected yeasts and pressed. The wine was transferred to French and American oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation, with stirring several times a week. 13.8% ABV.
One of the oddest noses I’ve encountered in a red wine: rubber, “bacon,” “pâté chinois” and ash but, above all (and congrats to J. on pegging it), “canned corn.” In the mouth, it’s heading into full-bodied territory. There’s some red and black fruit if you look for it but the corn is unavoidable. Acidity is sufficient and the soft tannins gain some presence on the finish. Yet, even setting the corn aside, this is simple, vague (not identifiably a Merlot) and pretty much devoid of appeal except as a curiosity. (An off bottle? Maybe. Buy again? Nope.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

June 23, 2017 at 13:26

Revelatory

leave a comment »

MWG member Nick spent the holidays down under. While he didn’t make it to Clare Valley as originally planned, he did bring back a fascinating trio of new vintage, dry Clare Valley Rieslings, which he kindly shared with the group.

Clare Valley 2016, Riesling, Watervale, Gully View Vineyard, Koerner ($27.00, importation valise)
100% Riesling from 17-year-old vines rooted in the red clay and limestone soil of the Gullyview vineyard. Manually harvested in two passes a week apart. The first pass grapes were pressed immediately; the second pass grapes were given 24 hours of skin contact before pressing. In both cases, a small amount of sulphur was added to the press tray. The juice was cold-settled for about a week. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in ceramic eggs and stainless steel tanks lasted about three weeks. Matured five months on the fine lees. Bottled unfiltered and unfined but with a small squirt of sulphur dioxide. Vegan compatible. Screwcapped. 12% ABV.
Classic, open nose of white flowers, apple, lime, quartz, flint. A sleek textured mouthful of grapefruit and “apricot” that seems almost sweet upfront but proves quite dry. Chewing brings out the crisp acidity and plenty of minerals. Lime, green apple and spice notes and a lingering bitterness mark the finish. A delicious gush on opening, this had lost some of its oomph by the time we got around to it a hour or so later. (Buy again? At least another bottle for research purposes.)

Clare Valley 2016, Riesling, Watervale, Gullyview Vineyard, Adelina ($23.00, importation valise)
No, it’s not a typo; Koerner and Adelina do indeed spell the vineyard name differently. 100% Riesling from vines planted in 1977 and 2001 in red loamy clay over limestone. The grapes were manually harvested and whole cluster-pressed. The juice was cold-settled then fermented in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts. Fermentation was halted with around 5 g/l of sugar remaining. The wine was then clarified and bottled. Screwcapped. 11.5% ABV. Only about 2,400 bottles made.
Hazy and one of the least coloured wines I’ve seen. Complex nose of white gas, lemon-lime zest, “white lily,” minerals, rainwater and “ground cherry.” Light and fresh in the mouth, fruity yet dry, ethereal yet dimensional. Flavours tend to citrus, green apple and a chalky tutti-fruitiness one taster likens to “love hearts.” Turns savoury on the long, minerally finish. Full of energy and lots of fun. Excellent QPR. (Buy again? Yes.)

Clare Valley 2016, Riesling, Polish Hill, Grosset ($55.00, importaton valise)
The 36th vintage of this wine. 100% Riesling from organically farmed vines in the 8 ha Polish Hill vineyard. The soil is shallow shale and a thin crust of clay marl over slate. Yields are extremely low, giving the equivalent of two bottles per vine. The grapes were hand-picked. A small portion of whole clusters were set aside; the rest of the grapes were crushed and destemmed. The fruit was gently pressed and the free-run juice was chilled to near freezing and allowed to settle and clarify in a tank for five days. Low-temperature fermentation and maturation took place in stainless steel tanks. Blended just before bottling in July 2016. Vegan compatible. Screwcapped. 12.7% ABV. A few bottles of the excellent and more approachable 2012 ($50.00, 10956022) remain at the SAQ. Quebec agent (per the Grosset website): Elixirs.
Closed yet profound nose: lime, chalky quartz, eventually linden flower. Rich, racy, structured, deep and long. The fruit, minerals and acidity are in perfect taut balance. A bone-dry Riesling with every positive quality, including heft and presence. Needs time. Deserves a place alongside such giants as Ostertag’s Muenchberg and Nikolaihof’s Steiner Hund. (Buy again? Yes.)

aussie-riesliings

As usual, the wines were served double-blind. While the grape variety was soon deduced, no one guessed the provenance and several tasters were astounded to learn that Australia is producing such engaging, fleet and minerally whites. In short, to quote one taster, “a revelatory flight.”

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

March 3, 2017 at 12:35

Red redemption

leave a comment »

Prince Edward County 2010, Pinot Noir, Diana Block, Grange of Prince Edward ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir, the best lots from the Diana Block vineyard (the other lots go into the Estate and Select bottlings). The vines were planted in 2001 and 2002. Manually harvested and sorted. Alcoholic fermentation lasted 28 days. Matured 30 months in neutral French oak barrels. 13% ABV.
Showed some reductive funk at first, eliciting descriptors like “cherry-eucalyptus cough drops,” “putrescables after a couple of days” and “butterscotch” but soon comeing around. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and charming from the get-go. The cherry fruit is silky, the acidity bright, the tannins just firm enough. Minerals provide some depth. The barrels may be neutral but the oak seems a little laid-on, though not to the point of interfering with enjoyment. Could be longer. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Canada 2014, Pinot Noir, The Old Third ($43.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir from the estate’s organically farmed Cloisson vineyard in Prince Edward County. The vines were planted in the mid-2000s. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts, then racked into French oak barrels, a fraction of which were new, where it matured for about one year. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and minimally sulphured. 12.5% ABV.
Engaging nose of red berries, spice and clay. Unmistakably Pinot from the first sip but with a striking umami side. The fruit is ripe and rich, tethered by tartness, supported by lithe tannins, shot through with wood and limestone. The long finish brings a red peppery note one taster characterized as “paprika.” Simultaneously earthy and elegant, like a good Burgundy. Hasn’t quite coalesced though the in-glass evolution indicates it will. (Buy again? Yes.)

Prince Edward County 2014, Pinot Noir, County, Unfiltered, Norman Hardie ($45.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir. Given a six- to eight-day cold soak, then fermented seven days with indigenous yeasts and no more than two punch-downs a day. Macerated another week, more or less, with daily turning of the cap. Basket-pressed and transferred to French oak barrels for 10 months’ maturation. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with a tiny shot of sulphur. 10.9% (!) ABV.
Red berries (strawberry above all), spice, cola, mowed field, hints of tar and cedar – classic, wot? Fresh sweet fruit, glowing acidity, soft tannins, some mineral earthiness, a subtle infusion of oak and the body of a welterweight about sum it up. The most obviously Pinot Noir of the quartet. Lovely if a bit facile, at least at this stage, and the price does give one pause. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Prince Edward County 2014, Pinot Noir, Quatres Anges, Lighthall ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Pinot Noir from estate vineyards. Fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks and some French oak barrels. Matured on the lees in French oak barrels. And that is all the winery thinks you need to know… 12.5% ABV.
“Wet dog” and sap aromas give way to cherry with hints of smoke and spice. A delight in the mouth: medium-bodied and silky, fresh-fruited and brightly acidic with fine, structuring tannins and a surprising complexity involving discreet layers of minerals and oak and a faint green streak, more herbal than vegetal and most noticeable on the long, clean finish. Integrated, harmonious and ready to go. For drinking here and now, the winner of the quartet. (Buy again? Def.)

None of the wines was carafed beforehand and all showed better after 40 minutes in the glass. As usual, the tasting was double-blind to everyone except me and the “importer” (blind to us). Those in the dark quickly pegged the wines as Pinot Noir but were perplexed as to their origin, finally settling on “some fictional region between Loire and Jura and like, Jamaica.” Oddly, while there was some initial speculation about Oregon, no one suggested Prince Edward County and most were dumbfounded when the bottles were unveiled. All in all, a well-received flight and coming as quite the relief three weeks after the PEC Cab Franc and Zweigelt debacle.

MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

November 3, 2016 at 12:32

Yes and no

with 3 comments

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

Two Channing Daughters

leave a comment »

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

Written by carswell

October 25, 2016 at 11:42

World class

with 2 comments

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

Written by carswell

October 19, 2016 at 13:51

Sweet Greek

leave a comment »

Attiki 2013, Melias, Domaine Papagiannakos
The third vintage of this wine. 100% Malagousia from dry-farmed vines rooted in limestone soil. The north-facing vineyard is located at an elevation of 100 metres in southeast Attica, not far from the Athens International Airport. An amount of must equivalent to 40% of the final wine is boiled down to concentrate it and the sugar it contains. Successive doses of fermenting unboiled must are then added. 13% ABV. Residual sugar is quoted as pushing 120 g/l. The elegant, svelte bottle holds 500 ml.
Golden to the eye. Beguiling nose redolent of green grape, peach/apricot and a touch of light honey. Sweet but not saccharine or cloying. The pineappley fruit tastes pure, fresh, uncooked. Bright acidity balances the sugar and lightens the unctuous texture. Long. A charmer with real presence. (Buy again? If only!)

I’m cheating a little here. It had been a long day and, as the wine tasted identical to the one tasted at the winery in early July, I decided just to sit back and enjoy it and not write a tasting note. Instead, I’m using the note I wrote in Greece, which will soon reappear on this blog as part of a series of reports on the trip. Our bottle was a gift from Vassilis Papagiannakos, and I wasn’t the only person around the table grateful to him for it.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 8 of 8

Written by carswell

September 23, 2016 at 15:01