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A global quartet of organic Pinot Noirs

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Patagonia 2015, Pinot Noir, Barda, Bodega Chacra ($29.65, 11517515)
Located in the Rio Negro region of northern Patagonia, the estate was founded by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the creator of Sassacaia. All its vines are ungrafted and biodynamically farmed. 100% Pinot Noir from the estate’s youngest vines, planted in 1990. Low-temperature fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in cement tanks. Matured 10 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve et Sélection/Trialto.
Classic nose of red berries, spice and a hint of vanilla caramel. Fruit forward but medium-bodied and balanced, with bright acidity, light tannins and a raw youthful astringency on the strong finish. Not what you’d call deep but easy enough to drink and something of a crowd-pleaser. (Buy again? If in the mood for a civilized New World Pinot, sure.)

Niagara Peninsula 2012, Pinot Noir, Réserve du Domaine, Domaine Queylus ($47.25, 12456494)
The estate is owned by a consortium of Quebecers (including Champlain Charest) and managed by Thomas Bachelder, who also serves as head winemaker. 100% organically farmed Pinot Noir from the Twenty Mile Bench and Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellations. The grapes were picked by hand, sorted and destemmed but not crushed. A short cold maceration was followed by fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The fermented wine stayed on its skins for several days, then was pressed. Matured 16 to 20 months in French old barrels, a third of which were new. 5,300 bottles made. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Philippe Dandurand.
Smoke and sweat then sandalwood with fruit and oak in the background. The palate is a suave mix of rich fruit, moderate tannins, sleek acidity and a minerally/tarry depth. Unfortunately, the oak becomes obvious on the finish, masking the beautiful fruit and robbing the wine of refreshment. While another year or two in the bottle may rectify that, for now I prefer the 2014 Tradition bottling ($31.00, 13276137), even without taking the Réserve’s somewhat wacky QPR into account. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Willamette Valley 2014, Pinot Noir, Red Cap, Montinore Estate ($29.50, 13186609)
100% biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from various vineyards. At least some of the manually harvested grapes were given a cold soak. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Spent ten months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, around 20% of which new. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Cranberry, black raspberry, spice and sawed wood. Medium-bodied. The texture is more velvety than silky, the fruit pure, the oak in the background. Round tannins frame while sleek acidity nips on the long finish. Not particularly deep but, hey, it’s under $30. Several in the group bought earlier vintages of this when it was a private import; opened last year, a 2011, like this a bit rustic in its youth, had evolved into a silky Pinot Noir with definite Burgundian qualities. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne 2015, Garance, Domaine Montanet-Thoden ($34.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The eight-hectare estate was founded in 1990 by Catherine Montanet (of Domaine de la Cadette) and Tom Thoden. The original vineyards were part of Cadette’s holdings that had a higher proportion of clay and thus produced distinctive wines. Cadette’s oenologist and Catherine’s son, Valentin, now makes the wines. 100% Pinot Noir from a organically farmed two-hectare plot of vines between 20 and 25 years old. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts takes place in temperature-controlled wood vats, initially with punch-downs and later with pump-overs. After about two weeks, the wine is pressed and transferred to large barrels until fermentation is finished. Matured in used 228-litre barriques (80%) and 114-litre feuillettes (20%). Unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially shy nose of red fruit and papier d’Arménie. Becomes more expressive with time in the glass, gaining red berry, leafmould, cola and spice notes. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, fluid and very dry. The tart red fruit is underlain with minerals, balanced by lithe tannins and lifting acidity. A faint, spicy bitterness lingers. Remarkably pure, this wine pushes all the Burgundy lover’s buttons, so it’s not surprising that local restaurateurs quickly snapped up the entire shipment. Accessible now but probably singing in one or two years. (Buy again? If only I could…)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 6 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 cream and the infidel

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Willamette Valley 2013, Pinot Noir, La Crema ($40.00, 12395652)
The second vintage of this wine from Jackson Family Wines’ new Oregon operation and the first made in its own facility. 100% Pinot Noir from estate and purchased grapes grown in eight vineyards. Manually harvested. The whole clusters were pressed and the juice cold-soaked for three days, then fermented in vats with thrice-daily punch-downs. The resulting wine was racked into French oak barrels (25% new) for eight months’ maturation. Residual sugar (per the winery): 3.0 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Attractive nose dominated by cedary red fruit (cherry, cranberry). What’s more, ça pinote. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and fairly dry. The ripe fruit is only a bit brambly and not at all jammy, nicely brightened by acidity and firmed by supple tannins. Earthy minerally undertones and savoury herb overtones add interest, while the oak is mercifully relegated to the background. Sweet spice notes – from the fruit as well as the oak, methinks – sound on the credible finish. Not a QPR winner – few West Coast wines are, alas – but not a rip-off either, not in either sense of the word. (Buy again? On sale maybe.)

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, Terrasses du Larzac, L’infidèle, Mas Cal Demoura ($33.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of organically farmed grapes, typically Syrah (30%), Mourvèdre (25%), Grenache (20%), Cinsault (15%) and Carignan (10%). Manually harvested. Destemmed. The parcels and grape varieties are vinified separately. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and macerated in temperature-controlled stainless steel and concrete tanks for 20-35 days with punch-downs and pump-overs. Matured 12 months, 80% in 500- and 600-litre barrels (15% new) and 20% in stainless steel tanks. After blending, the wine is matured seven months in stainless steel tanks. Cold-stabilized then bottled. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Savoury nose of plum, “black sesame” and leather with garrigue overtones. Full-bodied, broad and deep but not massive – quite elegant in fact. Firm tannins and smooth acidity structure the dry, velvety black fruit. Finishes long and on a licorice note. The wine’s balance makes it accessible now though it’s also quite primary; a few years in the cellar will bring added complexity. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

March 24, 2016 at 11:52

MWG July 17th tasting: Pinot Gris shoot-out

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Except for a pink singleton in the middle, the rest of the tasting was a series of two-bottle flights in which a New World wine was pitched against a similar and similarly priced Old World wine. First up were a couple of affordable Pinot Grises.

Pinot Gris 2012, Willamette Valley, Elk Cove Vineyards ($26.10, 11640011)
100% Pinot Gris from vines three to 27 years old grown in various northern Willamette Valley vineyards. Manually harvested, whole-cluster pressed. Fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Appealing nose of pear, chalk and wax. Fruity but not to excess, with bright acidity and a hint of residual sugar. A saline undercurrent threads into the long, dry finish. Pure and vibrant – an easy-drinker with no complexes. (Buy again? Sure.)

Alsace Pinot Gris 2012, Les Princes Abbés, Domaines Schlumberger ($22.85, 00913897)
100% Pinot Gris from estate grown grapes, mostly from the Schimberg lieu-dit. The grapes are manually harvested and pneumatically pressed. The must is clarified by settling, then fermented in large temperature-controlled barrels for one to four months. Maturation on the fine lees lasts six to eight months. 13.45% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins La Rochelle.
A more savoury nose: less fruity, more minerally, with hints of herbs and smoke. Smoother and drier on the palate, the texture slightly more viscous, the acid less bright. The wine’s weight notwithstanding, there’s not a lot of depth here. Clean, rainwatery finish. Not bad but, compared with the Elk Cove (not to mention Scheuller’s electrifying Pinot Grises), a bit of a wallflower. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Written by carswell

July 23, 2014 at 14:40

MWG July 18th tasting (2/5): Three pink Pinot Noirs

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Sancerre rosé 2012, La Louée, Sylvain Bailly ($22.00, 12052246)
100% Pinot Noir from vines averaging 15 to 30 years old. The grapes are pressed with no preceding maceration. The must is chilled and clarified by allowing large particles to settle out for 24 to 48 hours. Alcoholic fermentation lasts two weeks and takes place in temperature-controlled vats. The wine is matured on its fine lees, racked, cold stabilized and lightly filtered before being bottled in the spring following the harvest. 13.5% ABV.
Pale coppery pink. Minerals, cherry and peach on the nose. Fresh and light in the mouth, with a bell-like clarity: sweet and tangy strawberry, crushed minerals, bright acidity and a clean finish. A vin plaisir if ever there were one, a pure delight. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

Vireton Rosé 2012, Willamette Valley, Archery Summit (US$24.00, importation valise)
100% Pinot Noir from five estate-owned vineyards. A saignée method rosé: the still-pink juice is “bled” from the red wine vat after a short maceration on the skins. Fermented in neutral oak barrels. 13.5% ABV if I’m remembering correctly.
Bright pink bordering on scarlet. Cherry again but sterner and stonier with a hint of something green (watermelon rind? rhubarb?). Quite intense: mouth-filling fruit, coursing acidity (softened by a hint of residual sugar) and even some tannins. The finish is drier and a little less juicy – a good thing. Substantial enough to serve with grilled salmon or even Thanksgiving turkey. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Sancerre rosé 2012, Vincent Pinard ($30.00, 11804178)
100% organically farmed Pinot Noir from vines averaging ten years old. Manually harvested. The uncrushed grapes are pneumatically pressed. The resulting must is fermented and matured entirely in stainless steel tanks. 13% ABV.
Medium pink with a grey cast. Muted nose, mainly chalk and strawberry. Dry, clean and tasty enough but also a bit flat, even monotone and not remarkably fresh. In fact, the pleasure quotient is pretty low. Could well show better at the dining table but on its own and at that price… (Buy again? No.)

Written by carswell

August 5, 2013 at 16:27

Posted in Tasting notes

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MWG January 10th tasting (4/7): Two Pinot Noirs

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Beaune 2010, Lulunne, Château Genot-Boulanger ($36.50, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 40-year-old vines. The estate practises lutte raisonnée (manual weed control, organic fertilizers, etc.) and has been experimenting with organic “treatments” since 2007. The grapes are destemmed, macerated 15 to 20 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, pneumatically pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight to ten months in barrels, 20% new. 13% ABV.
Classic red Burgundy nose: red berries, beet, wood, background spice and forest floor and a whiff of barnyard. Medium-bodied. Fluid. Intensely flavoured with fine astringent tannins and bright acidity. Dry, especially on the finish. Pure, clean, droit. Accessible now but will probably benefit from a year or two in the cellar, though it’s not a long-keeper. Would be a good addition to a restaurant wine list. (Buy again? A bottle at this price; a case if it were $5–10 less.)

Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley, Montinore Estate ($30.25, La QV, 12 bottles/case)
100% biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from various vineyards. Spent ten months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, 20% new. 13% ABV.
Red berries, slate, faint flowers and, with time, spice. Supple and medium-bodied. Ripe but shy fruit, minerals and a little smoky wood. It’s more astringent than outright tannic and is marked by an acidic streak. Fresh, alive and not without appeal if not exactly full of charm, at least at this young stage. The farthest thing from the West Coast cherry Coke-style of Pinot Noir. More of a food wine (cedar-planked salmon!) than a tasting wine. A recently opened bottle of the 2010, which at this stage of its life tasted very similar to the 2011, had evolved into a fragrant, silky-fruited wine. (Buy again? A bit pricey but sure.)

Written by carswell

January 27, 2013 at 12:49

MWG March 2nd tasting: report (1/4)

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While the March 1st release was one of the weakest in Cellier‘s history, it wasn’t totally devoid of interest, as these three wines show.

Thomas Bachelder, the winemaker who got Le Clos Jordanne rolling, has struck out on his own. His latest project is to make Chardonnays and, eventually, Pinot Noirs in the three regions he’s worked in – Burgundy, Oregon and Ontario – all using the same recipe. What better way to illustrate regional differences? For the 2009 Chardonnays, the recipe involved, to the extent possible, organically farmed grapes, native yeasts and 16 months’ aging in mostly neutral barrels. (Much of my information comes from newspaper articles and other blogs, as Bachelder’s website is lacking in technical details.)

Chardonnay 2009, Bourgogne, Bachelder Bourgogne ($34.00, 11584620)
Grapes sourced from vineyards in Puligny, Beaune and Saint-Aubin and vinified at Alex Gambal’s facilities. Classic Burgundian nose of chalk, minerals, lemon and oats. Dense and winey texture (millésime oblige) but with enough acidity to keep the wine taut and bright. The dry fruit (mostly citrus and stone) is shot through with minerals, and a faint lactic note fades in and out. The finish is long. The wine seems to retreat as it breathes, probably a sign that it needs another year or two in the bottle. (Buy again? Yes, but…)

Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Bachelder Niagara ($33.75, 11584857)
Grapes from the Beamsville Bench, vinified at Southbrook. Lemon and tropical fruit. Rounder in the mouth – the fruit riper, the acid lower – than the other two wines. A hint of residual sugar adds to the New World feel. Minerals, such as they are, and a little spice emerge on the sustained finish. Friendly and likeable if, to my palate, less attention-worthy. Ready to go. (Buy again? Yes, but…)

Chardonnay 2009, Willamette Valley, Bachelder Oregon ($34.00, 11584814)
Vinified at Lemelson Vineyards. Closed nose: hints of coral and coconut. A mass of minerals surrounding a core of dense fruit (yellow and green apple above all). Lively acid. Quartzy finish with a whey – eventually butter – note. Perhaps the least immediately appealing of the three but also in ways the most intriguing. (Buy again? Yes, but…)

The wines were served blind. That several tasters unhesitatingly pegged the first as Burgundian attests to its typicity. All three had their partisans among the tasters, with fans of New World wines tending to coalesce around the Niagara even before it was unveiled.

Why the “yes, but…” then? In a word, price. For $35, a single loonie more, you can buy a bottle of Pattes Loup’s 2009 Chablis 1er cru Beauregard, a classier and far more enthralling Chardonnay. And tellingly, even without that benchmark in mind, when the tasters were asked what they’d be willing to pay for their favourite of the Bachelder Chards, most said $25.

Written by carswell

March 9, 2012 at 16:39

November 4th MWG tasting: report

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Notes on 15 wines from the November 4th Cellier release. Prices are in Canadian dollars and include sales taxes.


Mosel 2008, Riesling, Mönchhof ($17.45, 11334920)
Light breezy nose of white flowers, lime and minerals. Off-dry and a little spritzy. Medium acidity, pure fruit, rainwater finish. Pleasant though more grip would be welcome. Vin terrasse. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Pinot Gris 2008, Acrobat, Oregon, King Estate ($17.95, 11333767)
Wax and pear with dried herb and lactic notes. Fluid but unctuous with just-noticeable residual sugar. A little facile, though a mildly mineral/bitter/astringent substrate hints at deeper things. Enough acidity to keep things fresh. Fair finish. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Columbia Valley 2009, Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard, Efesté Wine ($21.50, 11334760)
7-Up and minerals on the nose. Lemon-lime, minerals and herbs on the palate. Nearly dry and what sugar there is is counterbalanced by acidity. Fruity finish. Requires vigorous chewing to show any depth. (Buy again? Probably not when Germans offer more bang for the buck.)

Central Otago 2009, Riesling, Target Gully, Mt. Difficulty ($25.60, 11334778)
Petrol, lime, tarragon and a hint of BO. A mouthful of minerals and yellow citrus with a dollop of residual sugar. Fair length. Could use more oomph, especially more acid, but clearly the most complete and dimensional wine in the flight. (Buy again? Probably not when Germans offer more bang for the buck.)


Chehalem Mountains 2006, Pinot Noir, Carabella Vineyard ($27.65, 11333791)
Sweet red berries, hints of forest floor. Sweet fruity attack, oaky mid-palate and bitter-edged finish. Bright acid. Lacks depth. Not unpleasant but unexceptional. (Buy again? Not when you can find better Burgundies for the same price.)

Willamette Valley 2007, Pinot Noir, 3 Vineyard, Chehalem Wines ($32.75, 11333783)
Not particularly appealing nose of spice, beet and oak. Medium-bodied. Oak-heavy choco-cherry with some herby mid-palate nuance. Hot finish. Yuk! (Buy again? No way.)

Langhe 2007, Nebbiolo, La Spinetta ($28.90, 11337979)
Ink, raspberry, cherry, minerals, tar, Asian spice. Dense but not heavy fruit, mineral underlay. Tight tannins. Fluid texture. Lingering bitter-edged finish. Needs a few years to knit together and smooth out. (Buy again? If looking for a modern-style Nebbiolo, yep.)

Barolo 2005, Albe, G. D. Vajra ($35.25, 11337944)
Nail polish, shoe leather, dried roses. Fluid but rich. Pure fruit and background oak. Tight tannins and bright acid. Earthy finish. Seems ready to go. Despite the wine’s interesting qualities, several of us wondered whether our bottle wasn’t defective (ethyl acetate), a disappointment as I’d been looking forward to tasting this bottling from a producer whose other wines I’ve often enjoyed. (Buy again? Another bottle to see if ours was off.)


Etna 2006, Rosso di Verzella, Benanti ($20.65, 11348459)
A blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio given about ten months in small casks. Wafting nose of dried black cherry, baked earth, rosemary. Round, smooth and savoury. Medium-bodied. Lively acid gives freshness. Round tannins provide structure. Soft, long finish. A charmer. (Buy again? If only I could…)

Valpolicella Superiore Classico 2007, Ripasso, Pojega, Guerrieri Rizzardi ($22.65, 11331681)
Blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella  and Molinara. Roasted red peppers, spice. Sweet plummy fruit enlivened by acid, underpinned by fine tannins. Rich, smooth and harmonious with a long, savoury finish and lingering impression of warmth (not heat).  A winner. (Buy again? Yes.)

Monferrato 2007, Pin, La Spinetta ($49.75, 11337987)
Blend of barrel-aged Nebbiolo (65%) and Barbera (35%). Exuberant nose of spice, leaf mould, wood and black cherry with a floral note. Pure fruit. Dense and plush. Good acid. Quite tannic. Long astringent finish. Needs time. Modern but in a good way. (Buy again? Price is the only thing holding me back.)


Valle de Colchagua 2008, Quatro, MontGras ($17.95, 11331737)
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Carmenère (20%), Malbec  (20%) and Syrah (15%). Spent 11 months in casks, 30% new. Nose of bacon, Keds, dried herbs and telltale tomato vine. Smooth on the palate, with ripe fruit and noticeable oak. Cocoa finish. Straightforward, balanced and pleasant if a little facile. Good QPR. (Buy again? Sure, if you like the style.)

Columbia Valley 2007, River’s Red, Three Rivers Winery ($19.90, 11336466)
A dog’s breakfast blend of Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Trempranillo. Fresh nose: cassis, herbs, green pepper, spice. Clean if somewhat candied fruit, smooth tannins, oaky finish. Simple but fun. (Buy again? Sure, if you like the style.)

Columbia Valley 2007, Cabernet Sauvignon, L’École N° 41 ($37.75, 10707093)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Spent 22 months in oak barrels, a third of them new. Cheese grains, cassis. Rich fruit, touch of residual sugar, oak in background. Good acid, light tannins that become more prominent with aeration. Shorter than expected for a wine in this price bracket. In fact, the wine overall seemed a bit one-dimensional and a little disjointed. Needs time? (Buy again? Only out of curiosity to see how it might develop.)

Yakima Valley 2006, Boushey Vineyard, Fidélitas Wines ($58.75, 11335421)
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Cabernet Franc. Spent 24 months in casks, half of them new. Cassis, black raspberry and fresh dill. Sweet fruit buttressed by rich tannins, freshened by acidity. Plush texture. Layers of flavour. Long. A complete wine. Quite impressive in its style. (Buy again? If in the market for a full-bore West Coast Bordeaux blend, sure.)

Written by carswell

November 28, 2010 at 16:37