Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ September 3 2011

As much as the last release was a feast, this one is more of a famine. Maybe because it’s Labour Day weekend and folks will be too busy partying to buy wine? Or perhaps it’s just me. The theme of the release is blends. I found them heavy in the Big Grape Varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz), which are not my focus.

And sometimes when I did find something interesting, the price pushed them off My Picks list. Just 10 wines made the cut.

Oh well, there are a couple of worthy blended wines from South Africa. (Some readers will have been alarmed, as I was, by the recent report from Human Rights Watch [Ripe with Abuse – Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries]. However, I could find no references to the wineries listed below or to their specific locations. There may be problems with some wine companies in South Africa but that doesn’t mean there are problems with all wine companies in South Africa.)

On the other hand, there are 2 relatively rare (for Ontario) Varietal wines that make an appearance: Alsatian Sylvaner and Austrian Blaufränkisch. Hooray for the letter “A”!


SAN MICHELE A TORRI 2009, DOCG Chianti Colli Fiorentini (Italy); #900258; Price: $15.00; 12.5% ABV
A blend of Sangiovese (80%), Canaiolo (15%), and Colorino (5%). Hand harvested. Fermented in steel vats with maceration for 15 days. Aged 30% in oak, 70% in concrete. Chianti for $15? Yes! Certified organic by the Consortium for the Control of Organic Products of Italy. Pizza, anyone?

Off the Beaten Track


STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008, Napa Valley (California); #243162; Price: $29.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of 78% Sauvignon Blanc (78%), Sauvignon Musque – a variation of Sauvignon Blanc – (17%) and Semillon (5%). Aged for 5 months, partially in neutral (4th and 5th use) French oak barrels (63%) and stainless steel tanks (37%). No Malolactic fermentation.  Drink now.

MOMO CHARDONNAY 2009, Marlborough (New Zealand); #247247; Price: $18.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Chardonnay from the southern island, a bit of a rarity. Cool climate, my favourite for Chardonnay. Hand harvested. Barrel fermented using wild yeast. Aged in the barrel on its lees for 11 months.

CAVE D'OBERNAI SYLVANER 2009, AC Alsace (France); #223883; Price: $13.95; 12.1% ABV
OK, I can’t tell you much about this particular wine. It’s here for my nostalgia for Alsace and the many years when I lived just across the river from Alsace in the Black Forest. One of my favourite summer sippers:  it’s the perfect aperitif: light-bodied, crisp acidity.


LAMADRID SINGLE VINEYARD RESERVA MALBEC 2008, Mendoza (Argentina); #234492; Price: $15.00; 14.0% ABV
100% Malbec from a single vineyard. Hand harvested. Cold maceration for 7 days, then fermented with indigenous yeast in concrete vats for 22 days. Spontaneous Malolactic fermentation in oak barrels for 30 days. Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels (50% second use, 50% third use). No filtering, no fining, so be sure to decant. A great match for any grilled meat.

A TO Z WINEWORKS CHEMIN DE TERRE 2006, Oregon; #234724; Price: $14.95; 13.0% ABV
A kitchen-sink blend of Merlot (44%), Cabernet Sauvignon (17.5%), Syrah (17.5%), Cabernet Franc (9%), Sangiovese (6%), Grenache (4%), and Pinot Noir (2%). Aged 18 months in French oak and 15 months in bottle before release. I’d match it to roast game.

LAMMERSHOEK ROULETTE 2006, WO Swartland (South Africa); #58164; Price: $23.95; 14.0% ABV
A “Southern Rhone” blend of Syrah (48%), Carignan (25%), Grenache (20%), Mourvèdre (5%), and Viognier (2%). Hand harvested. Separately fermented in open-topped concrete tanks. Malolactic fermentation and aging in older barrels. Blended, then more aging in concrete tanks. 

MULLINEUX SYRAH 2008, WO Swartland; #246553; Price: $28.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Syrah from 6 different vineyards. Hand harvested. After 4 days of maceration, fermented with indigenous yeasts for 7 days with further maceration for two weeks. Malolactic fermentation and aging in oak barrels (15% new) for 11 months. Unfiltered and unfined; it’s another candidate for decanting.

REBENFELD BLAUFRÄNKISCH 2007, AC Burgenland (Austria); #218420; Price: $15.95; 13.3% ABV
Blaufränkisch is a grape variety that’s indigenous to Burgenland, in eastern Austria, on the Hungarian border. Known for its high acidity and a spicy character. Couldn’t find much about this one (other than it’s fermented on the skins and undergoes Malolactic fermentation) but it gets a pass, simply because it’s so far off the beaten track. Try it with roast chicken.

TOCCHI 2004, DOCG Sagrantino di Montefalco (Italy); #174664; Price: $19.95; 14.4% ABV
A big wine made from Sagrantino grapes (indigenous to Umbria) that’s admittedly not to everyone’s taste…but I love it. Long maceration to make a dark wine with lots of healthy tannins. Malolactic fermentation. Aged 25 months in oak barrels, then 5 more months in bottle. This one will keep (and get better) for a few more years. A rib-eye steak is what you need with this wine!

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