Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Picks: Vintages Release -- November 27 2010

This week's theme from Vintages is “Our Finest Wines for Holiday Giving” so it’s jammed with all sorts of expensive stuff. Apparently the recession really is over.  (If it's not over for you, perhaps the appropriate choice is some Irish whiskey.)  If you’re looking for wines and spirits that will impress, then there are good choices. But if you look more closely, there’s some really great values in this release as well. And that’s our focus here.  Of my usual dozen, 4 wines are under $20 and -- unusually -- 4 wines are over $30 but nothing higher than $40.

Biodynamic & Organic

Two Ontario wines make the “organic cut” this week. Hooray! First up is a Biodynamic choice:

SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake; #193573; Price: $23.95; 12.8% ABV
Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) with some Merlot (14%) and Cabernet Franc (1%). Certified Biodynamic! Handpicked. Fermented with indigenous yeast in both oak and stainless steel. Aged 12 months in French and American oak. No fining, so good for vegetarians and vegans.

MALIVOIRE PINOT NOIR 2007, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula; #996777; Price: $39.95; 13.0% ABV
One of my favourite wineries in Niagara, with neat gravity-fed (no pumping) winemaking. This is from the famous, and hot, 2007 vintage. They separately fermented batches from different locations on the Bench in open-top oak containers. Extended post-fermentation skin contact. Malolactic fermentation.  Aged for 11 months in medium toast French oak barrels, 32% new and 68% neutral (neutral means more than 3 uses). Can be aged 5 more years…if you’re patient. Certified organic by Organic Crop Producers and Processors of Ontario.

Off the Beaten Track


Let’s start the whites with one of the famous names in BC wines:

BURROWING OWL CHARDONNAY 2008, VQA Okanagan Valley; #208694; Price: $32.95; 13.5% ABV
Burrowing Owl? Well, it’s about time. Pressed, then drained by gravity flow into stainless steel tanks. Left to settle for 24 hours, then barrel-fermented with select yeasts in 90% French oak, 10% American oak, 50% new, 50% one-year-old. Partial Malolactic fermentation. Aged on its lees in barrel for 9 months. The winemakers say they follow what they call the winemaker’s Hippocratic Oath: do no harm.

TORBRECK ROUSSANNE/MARSANNE/VIOGNIER 2008, Barossa Valley (Australia); #186478; Price: $19.95; 14.0% ABV
So here’s a classic Rhone Valley white blend…from Oz: Viognier (50%), Marsanne (40%), and Roussanne (10%). And really, if Shiraz works so brilliantly in Barossa, why not the white Rhone varietals? Handpicked. Viognier and Marsanne fermented in used oak barrels; Roussanne fermented in stainless steel; all slow-fermented using natural yeasts. Left on the spent yeasts for 7 months, then blended.


What’s good for the whites is good for the reds; we start with that same BC winemaker:

BURROWING OWL MERLOT 2007, VQA Okanagan Valley; #585737; Price: $39.95; 14.0% ABV
You’d be wise to pick up this one. Fermented on skins with select yeasts for 14 days in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation. Aged in a mixture of French, American, and Hungarian oak (one-third new). Fined using casein.

MACROSTIE PINOT NOIR 2007, Carneros (California); #674911; Price: $24.95; 14.2% ABV
The cool climate of Carneros, which spans both Napa and Sonoma, makes it an ideal place to grow the Heartbreak Grape. Cold-soaked for 3 days in open-top fermenters, followed by fermentation with cultured yeast. Aged ten months in French oak, 30% new. Very different from Burgundy, or Oregon, or New Zealand, an interesting style all the same with bigger fruit and sweet spice.

TRIVENTO GOLDEN RESERVE SYRAH 2007, Mendoza (Argentina); #178129; Price: $19.95; 14.9% ABV
100% Syrah. Handpicked. Fermented in stainless steel for 12 days. Malolactic fermentation. Aged for 12 months in both French oak (60%) and American oak (40%), then 12 months in bottle before release.

ROSSO DI CASANOVA DI NERI 2008, DOC Sant’Antimo (Tuscany); #204578; Price: $23.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Sangiovese Grosso (90%) and Colorino (10%). Fermented for 18 days (Sangiovese) and 9 days (Colorino). Aged 12 months in oak. Another gravity-fed winery. DOC Sant'Antimo is almost the same territory as Brunello di Montalcino but allows for wines that don’t fit Brunello's requirements.

QUINTA DO CÔA VINHO TINTO 2007, DOC Douro (Portugal); #182295; Price: $19.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and other indigenous varietals. Handpicked. Cold maceration for 48 hours. Fermented in stainless steel for 15 days, followed by Malolactic fermentation. Mostly aged in stainless steel but partially aged in both French and American oak. Filtered.

Three interesting wines from Spain, which ranks right up there among my favourite wine-producing countries. Even better, 3 different regions are represented: the classic Rioja in North-Central Spain, the new Castilla y Leon in western Spain, and the up-and-coming Calatayud in Aragon, just a little south-by-southeast of Rioja. (By the way, Vintages, Calatayud and Catalunya are not the same!)

BERONIA GRAN RESERVA 2001, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #940965; Price: $31.95; 14.0% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo (87%), Mazuelo (8%), and Graciano (5%). Aged 2 years in French and American oak and 3 years in bottle (as required to be Gran Reserva in Rioja).

BODEGA Y VIÑEDOS FERNÁNDEZ RIVERA DEHESA DE LA GRANJA 2004, Castilla y Leon (Spain); #192476; Price: $21.95; 14.3% ABV
100% Tempranillo. Aged 24 months in new American oak, then 12 months in the bottle. A “Vino de la Tierra” from the Toro region in western Spain.

DEL JALÓN ALTOS LAS PIZARRAS 2005, DO Calatayud (Spain); #194746; Price: $18.95; 13.6% ABV
100% Garnacha from vines between 70-100 years old, grown at 800 and 1,050 metres in slate vineyards. Handpicked and sorted. Cold-soaked for 4 days.  Fermentation started with wild yeasts, before inoculation with cultured yeasts. Malolactic fermentation. Aged in new French oak. Warning: the winemaker uses “heavyweight” bottles, so if reducing your carbon footprint is important, as it is for me, check the weight before you buy.  If you do take a pass on this one, here's a wine that was previously recommended and is making a return appearance in this release (click on the link to view my notes):

DOMAINE LA BOUSCADE OLD VINE CARIGNAN 2007, AC Minervois (France); #78758; Price: $16.95; 15.0% ABV

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