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Hip hops

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Three India pale ales (IPAs) from one of Quebec’s most interesting mircobreweries.

IPA Anglaise, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
5.0% ABV.
Hazy tawny bronze with a frothy, off-white head, a mix of small and medium bubbles that are slow to disappear. The malty, hoppy nose shows some fruity esters. In the mouth, it’s very dry and so mildly effervescent it may surprise you. Smooth and malty on entry with dried apricot and citrus peel overtones that transition to faint butterscotch. Endless, intensely – though not harshly – hoppy finish. (Buy again? Sure.)

Imperial India, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
An imperial IPA. Dry-hopped with Amarillo (USA) and Nelson Sauvin (New Zealand). 8.6% ABV.
Hazy deep amber. A mostly fine-bubbled head slowly shrinks to a thin, persistent cap, leaving quite a bit of lace on the wall of the glass. Markedly estery nose of spice (cardamom), citrus (dried orange peel) and resin (spruce). A sip and it’s softly effervescent. Dry, rich and malty on the attack. Hints of papaya fruit leather and sweet spice fade as an intense, hoppy bitterness crescendos and lingers through the long, citrus-oiled finish. Not for the faint-hearted. (Buy again? When in the mood for an ale to contend with, yes.)

Black IPA, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
Centennial and Chinook hops, Harris Otter and crystal malts. 5.7% ABV.
Fine cappuccino-foam head and a stoutish nose of toasted grain, chocolate-covered raisins and espresso beans. Gently effervescent once again. Mildly flavoured and malty-sweet up front though the hops soon kick in, intensifying after you swallow, the bitterness lingering for minutes and eventually joined by a faint burnt Earl Gray tea note. Despite the dark colour − near black with a ruddy cast − more an IPA than a stout. Personality disorder aside, it’s a certifiably great sipper. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

I’ve long thought of myself as a hop lover but I’m not sure what to make of the recent trend at local microbreweries to produce super hoppy beers. While they definitely have character, they frequently taste unbalanced, out of whack, hops-dominated, bitter to a fault. Fortunately, that’s not the case here: all three IPAs have lots of malty sweetness and richness to counter the remarkably heavy hopping. That said, I still have a minor issue with them. Tastings aside, I usually don’t drink unless I’m eating and these beers’ full-bore bitterness is not food-friendly. What, other than a hunk of cheese, goes with them? Certainly not dishes that make you thirsty, for these are beers for sipping more than guzzling. Certainly not Indian or Mexican or other spicy food because the beers’ many positive qualities don’t include refreshment. Or maybe my palate’s not macho enough…

Written by carswell

March 28, 2014 at 20:42

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Props to Propolis

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Propolis, Saison multi-grains au miel, Brasserie Dunham ($7.99/750 ml at La Fromagerie Atwater)
Brewed from April through August. Ingredients: water, barley malt, wheat malts, oats, rye, hops, honey, spices, yeast. Unfiltered. Available only in 750 ml bottles. 5.2% ABV.
Hazy straw-gold. Abundant, creamy snow-white head. Fine effervescence with tiny bubbles. Complex nose: white flowers, crushed yellow fruit, wheat and oat with hints of lemon yogurt, honeycomb and spice. Light yet flavourful. The initial bready sweetness is quickly checked by a citric sourness and clean bitterness that last well into the finish and prompt another sip. The honey and spice are present as perfumes as much as flavours. Longer than many wines. Refreshing as befits a summer ale but far from facile. One of the best Quebec beers I’ve tasted in ages. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Written by carswell

July 10, 2013 at 23:47

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MWG December 14th tasting (3/4): Four Quebec reds

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Besides bubblies, the December tasting always includes a few off-the-beaten-track wines. This year, they came from Quebec.

Pinot Noir 2010, Venice, Vignoble Carone ($36.00, 11345258*†)
The winery is based in the Lanaudière region, about a hour’s drive north-northeast of Montreal. 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Landot Noir. Manually harvested. 12.5% ABV.
Oak, candied cherry, undergrowth, licorice, spice, faint vinyl. Medium-bodied and silky tannined with good acidity. Oak – in the form of sweet vanilla, coffee and smoke flavours – initially dominates the ripe fruit. Seemed better – by which I mean drier, less manipulated, more natural – on the finish than the entry. Not bad but not typical: no one around the table guessed it was a Pinot Noir. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Double Barrel 2009, Vignoble Carone ($55.00, 11506630†)
92% Cabernet Severnyi, 8% Sangiovese. Manually harvested as late as possible. Manually sorted, destemmed, crushed and given a 24-hour cold soak. Fermented in temperature-controlled tanks using Saccharomyces cerevisae yeast. Matured 12 months in new American oak barrels and four months In new French oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Tastes like it smells: ripe red and black fruit, some sweet spice and above all oak. Full-bodied, velvet-textured and richly extracted. Round tannins and sufficient acidity. Not heavy but also not refreshing. Showed oakier, sweeter and more monolithic than the bottle tasted in January 2012, possibly due to that bottle’s having been open for several hours and, with repeated pours, being well aerated. (Buy again? While I’d be curious to see what happens to this, arguably Quebec’s first ageable red, in five years or so, no.)

Solinou 2011, Les Pervenches ($15.00, La QV†, NLA)
Blend of Frontenac, Maréchal Foch and Zweigelt farmed biodynamically near Farnham, about an hour’s drive southeast of Montreal. Like many Beaujolais, made using carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV.
Fresh, bright, juicy, tart and, unfortunately, corked.

Bin 33, Vignoble Carone ($18.50, 11004550*†)
100% Frontenac. Manually harvested. 13% ABV.
Nose of red fruit and, of course, sweet oak along with hints of mineral and turned earth. The flavour profile includes crushed strawberry and not much else. Guessing here but the acid levels seem low and the residual sugar levels, well, not so low. Sweet-tart finish. Little depth or charm. (Buy again? No.)

*Also sold at the Marché des Saveurs (Jean-Talon Market).
Also sold at the winery.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind. Initial guesses as to their place of origin ranged wide and were limited to warm-climate regions: Australia, Greece, California, Mexico, South Africa, etc. Some guessed the first two were Shirazes. As a group, the Carone wines came across as designed to impress, albeit not in ways we found appealing. They also seemed to lack a sense of place (unidentifiable expression of terroir, cool climate, grape variety), to be wines made in the winery more than in the vineyard. The model appears to be New World; that would explain the bin reference, the big fruit, the heavy oak regime and the “I can’t believe it’s not Syrah” Pinot Noir (like some from California’s Santa Rita Hills). Whatever you think of the style, the winery is to be applauded for marching to its own beat, for pushing the envelope: what other Quebec winemaker is producing reds from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, wines that can be mistaken for Australian Shirazes? That its wines are antithetical to the MWG’s collective palate (as we’ve explained, “our tastes tend to Old World ‘natural’ wines”) and strike many of us as overpriced is irrelevant. Consumers will determine whether there’s a market for blockbuster Quebec reds or whether wines like Les Pervenches’s eminently quaffable Solinou are the way forward. My money’s on the latter.

Written by carswell

January 14, 2013 at 11:15

Double blind

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This evening the friendly wine advisors at my regular SAQ outlet were offering small, double blind tastes of a wine – the leftovers of a bottle they’d opened for a staff tasting earlier in the day – to geeks they thought might be interested. Apparently I fall into that category. With the glass came a series of questions: (1) Is it New World or Old? (2) What country is it from? (3) What grape varieties are involved? (4) How much does a bottle cost?

My tasting note (from memory): Dark, nearly opaque maroon. Nose of red and purple fruit, a little spice and a good dose of oak. Quite rich and round on the palate, though not heavy, with good acidity, ripe tannins, supple fruit and noticeable but not overwhelming oak. A bitter note appears on the longish finish.

I was at the store about ten minutes before closing and had wines to pick up for tomorrow’s tasting, so I didn’t have time for extended reflection. My answers: (1) Because it was fruit- and oak-driven but not gallumphing, either a New World wine made in an Old World style or an Old World wine made in a New World style. (2) Italy, maybe the Veneto, due to the medium weight and that lingering bitterness. (3) No idea. Merlot? Bonarda? (4) Guessing high because of the oak treatment, around $30. (The advisors said several others had guessed Italian and almost everyone had pegged it as costing $25 to $30.)

The wine? Double Barrel 2009, Carone Wines ($55.00, 11506630), a blend of Cabernet Severnyi (92%) and Sangiovese (8%) grown in Quebec’s Lanaudière region. The wine’s name refers to the oak regime: 12 months in new American oak barrels followed by four months in new French oak barrels. Cabernet Severnyi (aka Cabernet Severny) is a Russian-developed red grape variety that, according to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “was created by pollination of a hybrid of Galan × Vitis amurensis with a pollen mixture of other hybrid forms involving both the European vine species Vitis vinifera and the famously cold-hardy Mongolian vine species Vitis amurensis.” According to the wine’s data sheet, the grapes are manually harvested as late as possible, sorted and crushed, then cold-soaked for 24 hours. Fermentation is at controlled temperatures and uses Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast “isolated from the Montalcino region of Tuscany, Italy.” The fermented must is given prolonged maceration on the skins.

I’d actually noticed the wine on the shelf a few days earlier when scouring the outlet for wines for the tasting. I’d rolled my eyes at the massive bottle, the corny name (and in English – talk about adding insult to injury), the implied oak regime and the price, and guessed it would be undrinkable. Well, I was wrong. It’s still pretentiously and unecologically packaged, badly named and oakier than I like, but undrinkable it’s not. And if I and others valuated it at about half its MSRP, only the market will say whether it’s overpriced. Certainly it’s rare (only 1,000 bottles made) and unique (Quebec-grown Sangiovese?!). While I’d never buy a bottle for myself, if the theme of tomorrow’s tasting weren’t affordable wines, a bottle would probably have made its way into the lineup.

Written by carswell

January 11, 2012 at 22:48

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MWG sixth anniversary tasting: report

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December 8, 2011, was the Mo’ Wine Group’s sixth anniversary. We celebrated on the following day because it was a Friday and the evening risked being a long one. Hewing to tradition, the tasting featured several bubblies and some silliness.

A QUEBEC SPARKLER

Bubulle 2009, Méthode traditionnelle, Les Pervenches ($30.00, La QV)
Consistent with the bottle sampled earlier in the day. This was served double-blind to the group, with no information provided about origin, composition or cost. Everyone liked it. No one guessed it was made in Quebec and most pegged its price as being in the $30 to $40 range. (Buy again? Definitely.)

FOUR POL ROGERS

Champagne, Brut, Pure, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Pol Roger ($67.00, 11043487)
1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Undosed. Clean, pure, elegant: brioche, minerals, hint of lemon. Fine bead. Bone dry. Crisp fruit fades fast though a pleasing sourness and minerals linger. Enjoyable on its own but simple-seeming in retrospect. (Buy again? Probably not when it’s pushing $70.)

Champagne 2000, Brut, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Pol Roger ($88.50, 10663123)
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. Initial funkiness blew off leaving a classic champagne nose of browning apple, minerals, white meat, toast and eventually sesame. Pure fruit with a honeyed, oxidized note. Relatively high residual sugar, though far from sweet or even off-dry. Long, bready finish with a lingering sourness. Though I found myself longing for a little more complexity and depth, this generous and delicious wine was popular with many around the table. If I ever open another bottle, it’ll be to serve with something rich, like foie gras au torchon or sweetbreads in cream. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Champagne 2000, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Pol Roger ($94.75, 10663166)
100% Chardonnay, of course. A hint of rubber recedes leaving a refined nose of brioche, lemon and sour apple. Pure and clean, light and buoyant, multifaceted: a crystalline complexity. White-fruity on the attack, dry and minerally on the long finish. Elegance in a glass. In my mind’s palate, I kept “tasting” this for days after the event. (Buy again? If I’m feeling flush, yes.)

Champagne 1999, Brut, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, Pol Roger ($208.25, 00892166)
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Impossibly layered and complex nose: apple, lemon, brioche, minerals and so much more. Soft yet persistent effervescence. Smooth and rich from start to finish. Pure fruit. Just enough sweetness to round the acidity. Breadth, depth, length and any other dimension you might name. Nothing exaggerated, everything in place. A beautiful and complete wine. (Buy again? I should be so lucky.)

This was the first time the MWG tasted a flight of champagnes from a single producer. The wines were served double-blind and at least a couple of tasters detected a family resemblance between the two 2000s (I was impressed because I don’t think I would have). The resident champagne freak later declared it the most intellectual flight in the group’s history.

RED BURGS: TWO BY TWO, OLD AND NEW

Aloxe-Corton 1er cru 1996, Les Vercots, Tollot-Beaut & Fils ($48 in 1999)
Textbook red Burgundy nose: red berries, forest floor and beet along with a hint of alcohol. Silky texture. Fine balance between fruit and acid. Initially tight tannins quickly relaxed and smoothed out. Pure and lovely. Drink now. (Buy again? Moot now but I’m glad I did.)

Gevrey-Chambertin 2009, Sérafin Père & Fils ($65.25, 11472484)
Persimmon and cinnamon with hints of cola and red berries. Smooth on entry but falls flat: a little heavy on the fruit, a little light on the acidity. Plump tannins. Totally dry. Lingering oak flavours. Am not convinced it’s passing through a phase. (Buy again? No.)

Aloxe-Corton 1er cru 2009, Les Vercots, Tollot-Beaut & Fils ($61.50, 11473575)
Red berries, ground beef, milk chocolate, minerals. Tight tannins notwithstanding, the fruit is dominating structure for now. Still, it comes across as better balanced, more complete than the 2009 Sérafin. Good finish. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Gevrey-Chambertin 1996, Sérafin Père & Fils ($48.75 in 1999)
Initial stink giving way to a dark-fruited nose with ferny notes. Rich fruit, tight acid. Tertiary flavours (leather, old wood, leaf mould). Fair length. Pleasant but could be deeper. Drink now. (Buy again? Moot but it wasn’t up to my expectations.)

At a tasting earlier this year, Oliver Guyot told us he considered the somewhat snubbed 2008 a classic red Burgundy vintage and the much touted 2009 vintage over-hyped and full of atypical, fruit-forward wines not built for the long haul. Can’t say the 2008s and 2009s I’ve tasted to date have me thinking he’s wrong.

FOUR COUNTRIES, FOUR BIG REDS

Marilyn Merlot 2006, Napa Valley, Marilyn Wines ($26.80, 11341767)
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.9% abv. Closed nose. Hints of graphite, red fruit. Medium- to full-bodied but fluid and balanced with ripe tannins and an acid bite. Fruity but not heavy. Short on follow-through. Began cracking up after an hour or so in the glass. (Buy again? Only as a gag gift, albeit a drinkable one.) ***Flipper alert: this wine is retailing for US$75 on the Marilyn Wines website.***

VDP des Bouches-du-Rhône 2007, Domaine de Trévallon ($66.25, 00728162)
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah. 13% abv (hard to believe) [Edit: That’s the percentage according to SAQ.com but it’s probably for the 2006; I checked the label at a store today and it says 14%.]. Assault-by-strawberry-jam nose with a little dusty wood thrown in. Primary and monolithic. Palate so dominated by sweet fruit that it’s easy to miss the underlying structure. Long but not very appealing. Hardly budged during the two hours it was in my glass. The tail-end of the bottle showed a little better the next day: the strawberry no longer centre stage, some garrigue, cassis, ink and tobacco beginning to emerge, the acid and tannins more present. But still. (Buy again? No.)

Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Etichetta Bianca (“White Label”), Casanova di Neri ($55.75, 10961323)
100% Brunello (aka Sangiovese Grosso). 14.5% abv (not hard to believe). In 2005, this low-end bottling contains the fruit that would have gone into the high-end Cerretalto bottling, had one been made. (The 2004 Cerretalto retails for $229 at the SAQ.) Terra cotta, cherry, foliage, oak and a hint of minerals. Dense, sweet fruit. Enough acidity and tannins to save it from galumphingness but not enough to endow it with the brightness and drying finish that are the hallmarks of the best Sangioveses. Indeed, it doesn’t taste particularly Italian. Lingers long but ultimately cloys. May improve with age but, for now, it’s as unappetizing as a fruit-bomb Shiraz, a wine you wouldn’t want to serve with anything but a grilled steak, and even then… (Buy again? Nope.)

Rioja Gran Reserva 2004, Prado Enea, Bodegas Muga ($50.25, 11169670)
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. 14% abv. Closed nose. Next day: plum, black cherry, hints of leather, dried herbs and quartz, a bit vaporous. Balanced if a bit fruit-forward (cherry/black cherry). Glycerine-like texture. Not bone dry. Tannic astringency surges on the finish. Not particularly deep, at least at this stage. Needs time to transform into, let’s hope, a medium-bodied perfumy charmer. (Buy again? Maybe.)

A surprising and disappointing flight, as I had high expectations for the three European wines, all icons of one sort or another, and thought the Californian Merlot might have people gagging. Instead, the Merlot was far and away the most popular wine, a perfectly drinkable if anonymous red. Shockingly, anonymity was a characteristic of all these wines. The three Europeans didn’t offer up much in the way of varietal specifics and (the Muga excepted to some extent) tasted heavy, sweet, short on acid, high in alcohol, internationalized, geared to a Maryland-based wine reviewer’s palate. The Trévallon, a wine I’ve long been a fan of, was especially unfortunate: smelling and tasting of little but overripe fruit, sugar and alcohol. I was sure it had to be the Californian. Maybe all it needs is ten or 20 years in the bottle, but neither I nor anybody else at the tasting would be willing to take a chance.

The tasting done, the table was piled with an assortment of edibles, highlights of which were an outstanding venison and foie gras pâté en croûte from Boucherie de Paris and the Colli Trevigiani IGT 2007, Verduzzo, Villa di Maser ($23.50, Sublime vins & spiritueux), a powerful yet food-friendly white (bordering on bronze) that went especially well with the various cheeses.

Written by carswell

December 18, 2011 at 10:13

A bouquet of bubblies from La QV

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Notes from an informal tasting of some of the sparklers represented by La QV. The champagnes are sold at the SAQ; the others can be ordered through the agency.

Bubulle 2009, Méthode traditionnelle, Les Pervenches ($30.00, 12 bottles per case)
2/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Seyval. Made from biodyanmically farmed grapes grown near Farnham in the Eastern Townships. Produced using the champagne method and with zero dosage.  The owners have been making a few cases of sparkling wine for several years now (the 2008 was 100% Chardonnay) but this is the first vintage sold to the public. Only a half dozen or so cases have been released due to a purely aesthetic problem with the other bottles, namely the lees sticking to the side of the bottle instead of sliding into the neck for removal during disgorging. Encouraged by our and others’ assurances that such a superficial blemish wouldn’t prevent us from buying bottles, the winemaker said he may decide to offer the lees-streaked bottles for sale in the new year.

Crystal-clear with a slight green cast and a very fine bead. Appealing nose of brioche and lemon with subtle mineral and floral notes. Soft bubbles. Fruity but bone dry. Bright, clean and long with a gooseberry note (the Seyval?) coming out on the finish. Like the estate’s still Chardonnays, a delicious wine that can easily stand comparison with similarly priced wines from around the world. 12% abv.

Foule Bulles, Clos Saragnat ($15, 12 bottles per case)
This sparkling cider is made from fruit farmed organically near Frelighsburg. Several varieties of apple are pressed to make the base cider but fresh plum juice is used for the dosage. Rusty pink to the eye (due partly to the apple varieties and partly to intentional oxidation of the raw fruit). Nose of sweet apple and, yep, yellow plum. Fruity but with an appealing sourness. Fine bubbles. Long drying finish. 9% abv. As they say around here, original.

Vin mousseux de qualité 2004, Domaine de la Chappe ($22, 6 bottles per case)
Based in the Tonnerre AOC, located northeast of Chablis, Domaine de la Chappe has been organic-converting-to-biodynamic since the early naughts. Chardonnay (80%) and Pinot Noir (20%). Colour bordering on pale pink. Intriguing nose with hints of red berries and roasted coffee. Fine bubbles, soft effervescence. Flavourful with a woody edge. Good finish, with sourish fruit giving way to faint walnut flavours. Unusual and enjoyable.

Cava 2009, Brut nature, Cellers de Can Suriol del Castell de Grabuac ($20.75, 12 bottles per case)
Organically farmed Macabeu (30%), Xarel.lo (30%) and Parellada (30%).  Lemon zest and quartz. Fine bead. Fruity and floral on the attack yet very dry. Tastes “white.” Lingering bread flavours. Clean, elegant and refreshing. 11.5% abv.

Champagne, Grand cru, Blanc de Noirs, E. Barnaut ($46.25, 11152958)
100% sustainably farmed Pinot Noir. Brioche, white fruit, lemon, oxidized apple. Less dry than the preceding. Denser, too, but lifted by the bubbles and acid. Long. Not incredibly complex or deep but tasty and good QPR. 12.0% abv.

Champagne 1996, Brut, Fleury ($97.50, 11544062)
Biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir (80%) and Chardonnay (20%). Aged under cork – not the usual crown cap – before disgorgement to allow micro-oxygenation and encourage the development of a finer effervescence. Yellow-gold to the eye. Powerful, complex nose: oxidized apple, lemon, honey and more. Rich and deep on the palate, with layers of flavour. Astoundingly fruity and winey and far from bone dry yet in no way heavy thanks to the soft effervescence and coursing acidity. Long. Assertive yet seductive, a complete wine. 12.5% abv.

Written by carswell

December 12, 2011 at 13:12

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.)

Written by carswell

January 30, 2011 at 18:07