Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Picks: Vintages Release -- April 17

Here’s my shopping list for the Vintages Release on April 17. Lots going on in this release. The main theme is the wines of Veneto, so there’s a selection of the usual suspects: Soave, Valpolicella, Ripasso, and Amarone. More interesting is the selection of Biodynamic and organic wines…and there’s a focus on a Tasmanian producer, Josef Chromy. Very interesting things happening in the cool climate of Tasmania.

What am I looking for? Three things.
Organic: wines certified biodynamic or organic
Off the Beaten Track: lesser-known or underappreciated traditional varietals, unusual blends, or underappreciated regions
Value: good wines at less than $30

And I try to keep the list to a dozen, which means less focus on Veneto...and apologies to Mr. Chromy.

Let’s start with the Biodynamic wines…

MARCEL DEISS PINOT D'ALSACE 2004, AC Alsace (France); #165365; Price: $17.95; 13.0% ABV
A top Alsatian producer. Bit of an odd duck, this is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Beurot (what the Burgundians used to call Pinot Gris), and Pinot Noir. Alsace, Pinot X 3, Biodynamic…what’s not to love? 
[UPDATE, May 14:  M. Deiss claims that Pinot Beurot and Pinot Gris are two distinct varietals.  Although I cannot find any other reference that agrees with him -- they all say that they are the same grape -- he works with both varietals and should know if there's a difference!  A case for the DNA fingerprint squad?  In the meantime, Pinot x 4!]

THE HEDONIST SHIRAZ 2006, McLaren Vale (Australia); #90191; Price: $21.95; 14.0% ABV
The winemaker, Walter Clappis, says that he uses “a minimalistic approach to winemaking, believing that good wines are “made in the vineyard.” Exactly. 25% fermented in new French Oak. Aged in 70% in new French Oak and 30% in one year old American Oak for 18 months.

L'ANTICO DI BURCHINO VIGNA CASANOVA CHIANTI 2007, DOCG Chianti; #160457; Price: $14.95; 12.0% ABV
A blend of Sangiovese (70%), Ciliegiolo (20%), and Canaiolo (10%). Ciliegiolo is a parent of Sangiovese, used to soften the rough character that some Sangiovese can have. The winemaker, who gets the grapes from a local Biodynamic grower, describes the aroma as clean, which is a frequent descriptor for Biodynamic wines.

Now organic…

MIGUEL TORRES NEROLA 2008, DO Catalunya (Spain); #680678; Price: $16.95; 12.5% ABV
Ah, Don Miguel… a very reliable producer! A blend of Xarel-lo (a traditional Catalan varietal) and Garnacha Blanca. Torres says it’s their “first wine scrupulously made with ecological agricultural methods”. Well, good on ‘em!

BONTERRA SYRAH 2006, Mendocino County (California); #573709; Price: $19.95; 14.0% ABV
Organic since 1987. A blend of Syrah (97%), Petit Sirah (2%) and Grenache (1%), sourced from 3 vineyards, 2/3 of which is certified Biodynamic. Aged 18 months in French and American Oak, 42% in new barrels, 21% in once-used barrels, 22% in twice-used barrels and 15% in barrels already used 3+ times.

STERLING VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Mendocino County (California); #161240; Price: $16.95; 13.0% ABV
Newest entrant in Sterling’s organic line. Certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers, the grapes are free from artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemicals. Could they update their website to include this wine?!

ADALIA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2006, DOC Valpolicella (Italy); #164616; Price: $14.95; 13.0% ABV
The Adalia line is the “second” low-profile wine from Marinella Camerani, an organic producer. That makes it my pick among the Veneto offering.

Off the Beaten Track

HENRY OF PELHAM PINOT BLANC 2009, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula (Ontario); #618827; Price: $15.00; 12.5% ABV
Fresh, light, crisp acidity. No oak. One of my favourite “Alsatian” varietals for spring/summer.

ZOLO UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2009, Mendoza (Argentina); #144717; Price: $12.95; 13.8% ABV
The producer is Fincas Patagonicas (Patagonian Farms) but the vineyard is further north in Mendoza. I keep my eye out for unoaked chardonnay, well, because chardonnay can be a great experience without the layer of oak. Look for tree and tropical fruit.

TSELEPOS MOSCHOFILERO 2009, AOQS Mantinia (Peloponnese, Greece); #724583; Price: $18.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Moscophilero, pink-skinned grape. Skin contact for 8 hours, so the wine will have a pink hue. Most often compared to Muscat.

CHAKANA BONARDA 2009, Mendoza (Argentina); #3525; Price: $13.95; 13.5% ABV
Bonarda: a grape with an identity crisis. There are three different Italian grapes known as Bonarda. But Argentina's Bonarda is now thought to be another varietal called Charbono, native to Savoie in France. Or maybe not. And it even may be that not all Argentine Bonardas are the same grape. Need to get the DNA analysts on this case! In the meantime, let’s drink it now.

DOMAINE BOUDAU LE CLOS 2008, AC Cotes du Roussillon (France); #149989; Price: $16.95; 15.2% ABV
A blend of handpicked Grenache (70%), Syrah (20%), and Carignan (10%). Located in Rivesaltes, an area more famous for sweet wines, but the dry reds are worth a taste.  Domaine Boudau is rated as one of the best regional producers by La Revue du Vin de France, particularly for the quality/price. 

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