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Posts Tagged ‘Off the beaten path

Garage music

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Vermont 2016, House Music, La Garagista ($42.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
An ancestral method red sparkler made from a field blend of Marquette, Saint Croix, La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, and Frontenac Noir. Co-fermented with indigenous yeasts. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
Protean nose of red berries (and “blueberry pie” per one taster), earth, “good canola,” shoe cream and a not unattractive whiff of barnyard. Lightly fizzy and dry, smooth and fleet. The fruit is sweet-tart, the acidity bright, the slender tannins relegated to the background. A slatey vein extends into the lip-smacking finish. Fresh, juicy and well-neigh irresistible. (Buy again? Def.)

Vermont 2015, Damejeanne, La Garagista ($42.54, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Damejeannes are better known in English as demijohns or carboys, the glass vessels most of La Garagista’s wines are fermented and sometimes matured in. This is a blend of Marquette (90%) and La Crescent (10%). Fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts, matured one year. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
Wild red berries including cranberry, earthy notes of slate and beet, spice, an evanescent touch of volatile acidity and an orange-almond note reminiscent of the Vinu Jancu. Denser and rounder than its flightmate, a mouthful of sweet and sour-edged fruit that has me thinking of pomegranates, cherries and red plums, among other things. A mineral base provides foundation for a structure of lightly raspy acid and supple if sinewy tannins tannins. Long, clean, tart finish. (Buy again? Yep.)

Whatever else the assembled tasters thought about the La Garagista wines, everyone agreed they had an energy and a vibrancy – a closeness to the fruit and terroir – that are rare for any wine, let alone ones made from hybrid grapes grown in a harsh climate. The buzz around the table in the tasting room and the Vins Dame-Jeanne booth at the Salon des Quilles was palpable. People, myself included, were stoked about the wines themselves but also about realizing that truly exciting wines unlike any others can be made in our part of the world. Quebec vintners should take note.

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 5 of 6


Orange zeal

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Vermont 2015, Vinu Jancu, La Garagista ($45.76, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Vinu Jancu means “orange wine” in a Sicilian dialect. 100% La Crescent. Spontaneously fermented on the skins in glass demijohns. Overwintered on the lees. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.

Hazy bronze-orange. Effusive nose: floral, choco-orange, wax, tamarind, cinnamon, hints of caraway, “grappa” and honeycomb. Almost too intense on the attack, “like strong chestnut honey,” but mild-mannered more nuanced on the mid-palate. Fruity, even muscaty (the grape’s Muscat of Hamburg parentage comes through) but dry, with smooth acidity and faint tannins. Focus and you’ll find a mineral vein running throughout. The finish – “really pithy,” “like clementine pith” – lasts for minutes. Fascinating. Like nothing else I’ve encountered, orange or otherwise. (Buy again? A bottle to revisit and contemplate.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 4 of 6

Brianna split

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Located near the Killington ski resort, on the slopes of Mount Hunger in Barnard, Vermont, and run by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, La Garagista Farm + Winery traces its roots back to 1999, when the couple began farming to provide produce for Osteria Pane e Salute, their restaurant in nearby Woodstock. (The osteria closed in 2017 when the cooking operations were moved to Hart Tavernetta Forestiera + Bar à Vin on the winery grounds.) The estate also has two vineyards at the western edge of the state, overlooking Lake Champlain.

Experimental plantings aside, cold-hardy hybrids – crosses between vinifera grapes and native American species – are the only varieties grown: La Crescent, Marquette, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac, Brianna and St. Croix. When I asked Caleb if they winter-proofed the vines (for example, by burying them), he said no. When I asked whether that was a problem during the harsh cold spells we’ve had in recent winters, he said, “quite the opposite.” The vines had no trouble coping with the cold but the same couldn’t be said about insect and other pests, so the vines thrived the following summers.

Commercial wine- and cider-making is relatively new at the estate, the first vintage being the 2010. From the start, all farming has been organic and biodynamic. The fruit is picked by hand and crushed by foot. Fermentations are spontaneous, relying solely on indigenous yeasts and bacteria. Fermentation and maturation take place in glass demijohns and old barrels, though amphorae and cement eggs are on the couple’s wish list. Filtering and fining are avoided. Sulphur additions, if any, are minimal.

Production is tiny – only a few thousand bottles a year – though plans are to ramp that up to 10,000 or even 20,000. In Montreal, the latest arrival sold out in a flash and personal allocations were limited to a bottle or two, if that, of a given cuvée. Here, then, your best bet for trying La Garagista wines is to visit a wine bar or restaurant that focuses on natural wines. Alternatively, head south, where bottles can sometimes be found on store shelves and restaurant wine lists in Vermont, Boston and New York City.

Vermont 2016, Pétillant Naturel, Ci Confonde, La Garagista ($42.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Brianna. An ancestral method sparkler. Not disgorged. No added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
No head to speak of but a few lazy streams of tiny bubbles. Complex nose with notes of ham, lees, Belgian beer yeast, apple, lemon, white spice and “apricot buckwheat pastry.” Somewhat mead-like in the mouth. Very dry, with lightly souring acidity and a real mineral component. Flavours? Beeswax, drying hay and “passion fruit,” as one taster notes, though it’s by no means a fruity wine. Which isn’t to say it lacks intensity, especially as it breathes and warms. The effervescence mostly disappears by the time the finish rolls around. Chamomile and a hint of honey linger. (Buy again? Gladly, though not without wishing it were $10 cheaper.)

Vermont 2016, Loup d’Or, La Garagista ($42.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Brianna. Made in glass demijohns. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
The first glasses poured were clear pale yellow-green; due to the deposit, the last glasses were translucent beige verging on opaque tan. For that reason if no other, this is a wine to carafe before serving. And as my sludgy glass was that last one poured, I didn’t spend a lot of time being analytical about it. A complex nose once again: white grape skin, distant stone fruit, spice chest, flowers and a note one taster not disapprovingly describes as “tennis ball.” Fortunately, a neighbour lets me take a couple of sips from his glass, the first one poured. They reveal a textured white with plenty of extract to balance the fine-edged acidity, savoury fruit and mineral flavours set against a leesy backdrop and a satisfying finish. On the whole, an even more accomplished wine than the Ci Confonde and one I look forward to re-encountering in a more pristine state. (Buy again? Ditto, but such is the law of supply and demand.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 3 of 6

Nativi di Lazio

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Based in Cori, founded in 1947 and named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Cincinnato is a well-run cooperative that makes a wide range of red, white, sparkling and dessert wines from local varieties as well as grappa and olive oil. The 255 members farm 550 hectares, 100 of which are worked organically.

Lazio 2014, Cesanese, Arcatura, Cincinnato ($21.70, 13096689)
100% Cesanese from vines rooted in volcanic-clay soil. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and soft-pressed. Fermentation on the skins in temperature-controlled (24°C) tanks lasted around 11 days. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Half was matured in French oak barrels (first, second and third fill) for eight months and half in stainless steel tanks for nine months. Filtered before bottling. Aged in the bottle for six months before release. Reducing sugar: 4.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
The first bottle is corked. The backup has an intriguing nose of “buckwheat honey,” cocoa, sweet spices, background plum, “copper, like pennies” and, eventually, leafmould. In the mouth, it’s fluid, medium-bodied and super smooth. The ripe fruit, soft acidity and round tannins. Decent finish. A little overshadowed by its flightmate, though that could be due to its being popped and poured. (Buy again? Sure.)

Lazio 2013, Nero Buono, Ercole, Cincinnato ($23.25, 12557754)
100% Nero Buono, a teinturier (red-fleshed) grape, from 15- to 20-year-old vines rooted in volcanic-clay soil. The manually harvested grapes were destemmed and soft-pressed. Fermentation on the skins in temperature-controlled (23°C) stainless steel tanks lasted around 15 days. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured in French oak barrels (first, second and third fill) on the lees for 12 months and in the bottle for eight months. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 4.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Not carafed but allowed to breath for a couple of hours before serving. Dark – verging on black – in the glass. Extroverted nose of dark berries, “dried banana,” “old leather,” tobacco, “baking spices” and a hint of orange chocolate. Richer than the Cesanese. The intense core of fruit is overtoned with spice. Smooth acidity and velvety tannins are pretty sotto voce yet present enough to provide buoyancy and tone. The oak is obvious but not obnoxious. Orange chocolate returns on the credible finish. A bit New Worldish and far from deep, complex or subtle but authentic and likeable all the same. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

December 22, 2017 at 15:02

Antipodal Savagnins

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Côtes du Jura 2015, Savagnin, Les Sarres, Domaine Rijckaert ($29.95, 12951356)
The estate avoids herbicides and insecticides and limits its use of synthetic chemicals to treatments against mildew and odium. All the estate’s wines are made in barrels. 100% Savagnin from the Les Sarres vineyard located in Buvilly. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Underwent full malolactic fermentation. Matured two years on the lees in neutral French oak barrels with no stirring. Kept topped up, so not oxidized. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Slightly hazy pale electrum to the eye. Minerally nose of lemon and grapefruit with hints of potpourri and almond. In the mouth, it’s clean and tonic. The fruit (lemon, yellow plum) is sweet-seeming on the attack, though the wine is actually very dry. There’s a real mineral depth, including a shot of salinity. The bright acidity combines with a faint bitterness on the long finish to provide a bit of grip. Less electric than some Savagnins but still a fine example of what the grape can do. (Buy again? Sure.)

Adelaide Hills 2016, Skin n’ Bones White, BK Wines ($35.00, importation valise)
The South Australian estate was founded in 2007 by Brendon and Kristy Keys. This monovarietal is made using Savagnin from organically farmed 10-year-old vines rooted in limestone and sandstone over deep clay in Lobethal in the cool-climate Lenswood subregion. The grapes were manually harvested and fully destemmed but not crushed. Spent one month on the skins with twice-daily pump-overs, then was pressed and racked into neutral French oak barrels with regular stirring for nine months. Alcoholic and full malolactic fermentation were spontaneous. Total production: 200 cases. 11.8% ABV. Represented in western Canada by Calgary-based Crush Imports.
One-of-a-kind nose of “smoked fish,” “sushi” and “barbecued corn” (quoting other tasters) as well as dried apricot and, with time, green fruit (kiwi, melon) and herbal notes. Dry, fluid and layered. Nicely structured with pervasive but smooth acidity, a current of white minerals and ghostly tannins that last well into the long finish. Grape skins and apricot pit linger. As unusual and engaging as it is savoury and delicious. (Buy again? Gladly.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

November 10, 2017 at 13:31

Orange roughly

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Québec 2016, Julep, Domaine Négondos (c. $27.00)
This orange wine isn’t even mentioned on the winery’s website while on the wider Web you’ll find more information about the label than the wine itself. The label and name wryly refer to Montreal’s iconic Gibeau Orange Julep drive-in and its signature drink. 100% Seyval Blanc from the winery’s organically farmed vineyard in Mirabel in the lower Laurentians. Manually harvested. Macerated several weeks on the skins. After pressing, the juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Clarified by settling. Probably unfiltered and unfined and minimally sulphured. 11.5% ABV.

“Floral” by general agreement though there is little consensus on the type of flower (dandelion, I think). Hay stubble, stone fruit and citrus (including a little bergamot?) complicate the aromatic profile. In the mouth, it’s smooth, barely medium-bodied and super dry. The light nectarine, citrus and browning apple fruit is dusted with minerals, structured by sleek acidity and ghostly tannins. The evanescing savoury/earthy finish could be longer. Not very orange (if memory serves, the 2014 was significantly more so) but a very convincing expression of Seyval. (Buy again? Yes.)

I’ve contacted the winery for more technical information and will update this post when/if I receive it.

MWG July 27th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

October 4, 2017 at 11:29

My mother’s cousin’s kitchen…

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…or something like that.

Life – well, work – will prevent me from posting the next instalments of the July 27th MWG tasting for another day or two. In the meantime, a heads-up on a new arrival that’s disappearing fast.

Gaillac 2016, La Cuisine de ma mère… En vacances à Gaillac, Nicolas Grosbois ($20.50, 13349800)
Nicolas Grosbois is based in Chinon. In most vintages, his entry-level wine, a drink-now Cabernet Franc, is called La Cuisine de ma mère. In 2016, however, having lost nearly all his harvest to bad weather, he decided to source grapes elsewhere. The result is this vin plaisir from Gaillac, which in France appears to be marketed as La Cousine de ma mére and comes in a Burgundy bottle. Duras (25%), Merlot (25%), Braucol (aka Fer, 25%) and Syrah (25%) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Short maceration. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Barely sulphured. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Fun nose of black and sour cherry segueing to plum, slate, papier d’Arménie and dried wood. In the piehole, it’s medium-bodied and supple, packed with ripe-sweet fruit atop a gravelly substrate. Souring acidity adds intrigue, slender tannins turn a little raspy on the finish. Hints of stem, old wood, red licorice, incense and faint burnt caramel linger. Nothing profound but food-friendly and ultra-drinkable, like a lip-smacking Beaujolais with extra savour and a bit of torque. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

Here’s hoping Grosbois has a great 2017 vintage in Chinon but also continues making this Gaillac!

Written by carswell

September 19, 2017 at 10:38