Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ July 9 2011

This week’s release is interesting for a few things. Sure, there’s the theme: wines rated 90+, which features 28 wines that some reviewer somewhere rated 90 or above. It would be even more interesting to show what each reviewer thought of each wine. Bet there’d be some disagreements!

I encourage you to look beyond the scores for varietals or regions that you haven’t tried lately…or ever. To my surprise, I found 8 of My Picks among those top scoring wines. Goodies like Morgon (a cru Beaujolais), varietals that I've never heard of from Puglia and the Basque region, 2 Biodynamic wines, and a couple of New World Syrahs.  The other 4 are equally worthy of your consideration.

The rosés are disappointing this week, including a Bandol that comes in at 14.7% ABV! Try drinking that one out on the sunny patio; you’ll be gibbering in no time.


COOPER MOUNTAIN RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2008, Willamette Valley (Oregon); #510750; Price: $29.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Pinot Noir, blended from 2 different vineyards. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in French oak (5% new). Certified Biodynamic by Demeter. Classic match: grilled salmon on a cedar plank.

DOMAINE DUSEIGNEUR ANTARÈS 2007, AC Lirac (France); #213082; Price: $19.95; 14.0% ABV
This wine has a lot going for it. A blend of Grenache (at least 40%), Syrah and Mourvèdre, each vinified separately with natural yeasts after 3 to 4 weeks of maceration in concrete tanks. No oak aging. No fining or filtration. Certified Biodynamic. And it’s from 2007, a wonderful year in southern Rhone! I’m going to try it with grilled lamb chops.

Off the Beaten Track


R DE RIEUSSEC SEC 2007, AC Bordeaux (France); #100891; Price: $22.00; 13.0% ABV
A blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Rieussec, owned by Lafite-Rothschild, is better known for its Sauternes but they make this wine from grapes that remain unaffected by botrytis. 20% barrel-fermented. Try it with some grilled lemon chicken.

FERRATON PÈRE & FILS LA MATINIÈRE 2009, AC Crozes-Hermitage Blanc (France); #127720; Price: $19.95; 12.8% ABV
100% Marsanne. Fermentation in stainless steel. Aged 10 months on its lees. Marsanne typically has floral and almond aromas, with peach flavours. You don’t know about white wines from Northern Rhone? Here’s a great (and affordable) chance to try one!

LEONE DE CASTRIS MESSAPIA VERDECA 2009, IGT Salento (Puglia); #221879; Price: $14.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Verdeca. Verdeca? It’s an indigenous grape traditionally used to make vermouth. But it’s another example of an under-respected grape that’s showing good potential. The winemaker touts its floral nose, with citrus and tropical flavours. Fermented and aged on the lees for 3 months in stainless steel. Drink this summer with grilled seafood.

GURRUTXAGA TXAKOLI 2009, DO Bizkaiko Txakolina (Spain); #240333; Price: $18.95; 10.5% ABV
A blend of Hondarribi Zuri (60%), Mune Mahatsa (20%), and Txori Mahatsa (20%) – No, I’ve never heard of them. All indigenous grapes grown in the Basque Bizcaya region (known as Biscay in France) near the Atlantic Ocean. I must try it! Fermented in stainless steel. Usually fizzy…think Vinho Verde. Known for its minerality. Drink now as an aperitif or with light seafood. Clams, anyone?


Compare and contrast:  here are 2 New World Syrahs, one from a Mediterranean climate, the other from a Maritime climate.  Which Syrah do you prefer?

CONCHA Y TORO MARQUÉS DE CASA CONCHA SYRAH 2008, Maipo Valley (Chile); #19042; Price: $19.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah (96%) and Carmenère (4%). Hand picked. Aged 18 months in French oak. From the southern Maipo Valley, more famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but with an arid Mediterranean climate (just like the Rhone Valley), growing Syrah there makes a lot of sense.

LOMOND SYRAH 2008, WO Cape Agulhas (South Africa); #146464; Price: $19.95; 14.0% ABV
Grown just 8 km from the ocean in a cooler Maritime climate that yields a different expression of Syrah than does the one listed just above. Handpicked and hand-sorted. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for seven days, with 3 more days of maceration. Malolactic fermentation. Aged 12 months in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd use French oak barrels. Gelatine fining and filtration.

DOMINIQUE PIRON LES PIERRES MORGON 2009, AC Morgon (France); #231969; Price: $22.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Gamay Noir, a blend of 2 vineyards in the Morgon cru of Beaujolais. Manual harvest. 50% aged in a neutral (>3 years old) foudre for just a touch of oak. Morgon wines can age for considerable time (compared to other Beaujolais), even up to a decade in an excellent year such as 2009. Or just drink it now with some grilled merguez. For me, with the little cru Beaujolais that shows up at Vintages, this is the pick of the release.

JEAN-MAURICE RAFFAULT LES GALUCHES CHINON 2009, AC Chinon (France); #244798; Price: $16.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Cabernet Franc. No chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Maceration for 15 days. Aged in neutral oak casks (more than 10 years old) for 18 months. Fining with egg whites but no filtration.  Another region whose reds need more representation at Vintages.

RAMOS PINTO DUAS QUINTAS RESERVA 2007, DOC Douro (Portugal); #951301; Price: $21.95; 12.0% ABV (?)
A blend of Touriga Nacional (70%), Touriga Franca (25%), and Tinta Barroca (5%). Hand harvested from 2 different vineyards. Fermented in granite troughs and small stainless steel vats (a true mix of the old and the new of Douro). Malolactic fermentation in new and one-year-old barrels and hogshead casks (6,200-litre capacity), both French oak. Aged for 20 months. Fined with egg albumin. I’d put this down for a few years (2016?) to let the oakyness integrate into the wine. The winery website says the ABV is 15% but the LCBO says 12%. That’s a huge discrepancy, so there must be a misprint somewhere!

PLÉYADES RESERVA 2005, DO Cariñena (Spain); #214163; Price: $12.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Mazuelo (75%, aka Carignan), Garnacha (15%), and Syrah (10%). Fermented for 1 week, then maceration for 10 more days. Aged 12 months in American oak. From a woman winemaker (Ana Becoechea) working in a cooperative in northwestern Spain. A good match with any grilled meats, such as lamb or beef.

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