Saturday, April 23, 2011

Naramata Bench Tasting, April 2010

Imagine a ballroom filled with wine; red wine, white wine, rose, sparkling wine, fruit wine... the list is endless.

   Imagine then, that your job is to taste all of those wines. Yes, you've been paid to taste wine and wow - it sucks to be you doesn't it?

   Well sometimes it actually isn't all fun. I was at a trade tasting last year where all of the wines (with some very limited exceptions) very thin, green tannins, poorly balanced... you get the idea. Tasting a hundred or more wines like that in a row isn't fun, isn't exciting, but becomes a long a tedious day where all you can think of is how good a crisp clean beer is going to be at the end.

   Better then digging ditches for a living though.

   And then there are days like Thursday 21st April 2011. A day that will live in my memory for quite some time with the richness of flavors and nuanced approaches that many winemakers from the Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley DVA have taken with their (mostly) 2010 crop. A truly stunning display of BC fruit and well worth the time of anyone who appreciates a well crafted wine. There are of course some "stars of the show"...

Red Rooster 2009 Chardonnay
$17 CAD   ***** BUY THIS NOW *****
** winner GOLD 2011 Chardonnay du Monde **
  • nose:   clean; big buttery grilled pineapple and exotic fruit
  • palate: crisp vibrant acids with stunningly lush body, great structure and long length on the palate
  • conclusion:   an absolute star for the money - I was stunned at the quality and value-for-money. Buy as much as you can because this will sell out quickly and I'm imagining it will have a reasonably long life in your cellar (if you can keep yourself from drinking it all)

Kettle Valley 2009 Viognier
$24 CAD   **** EXCELLENT VALUE ****
  • nose:   clean; rich bouquet of ripe stonefruit and florals
  • palate:   clean; crisp yellow grapefruit acids with brilliantly executed balance, very good structure and medium+ length
  • conclusion:   this wine still has some development left in the bottle and will be drinking well 2011-2014/15

Nicol Vineyards 2009 Gewurztraminer
$17 CAD    ***Very Good Value ***
  • nose:   clean; rich developed floral notes with ripe stonefruit and a long finish of orange blossom
  • palate:   clean; lively yellow and pink grapefruit acids, Great balance and structure, medium length
  • conclusion:   the concentration of flavor wasn't a match for the nuanced aromas, but still a great value for under $20. Drink 2011 to 2013/14

LFNG 2009 Pinot Gris
* SILVER Medal Winner, LA County Fair 2010

** SILVER Medal Winner, San Francisco International Wine Competition 2010
*** 90 Points - John Schreiner - On the palate, there are layers of flavours of ripe pears, melons and apples, with rich weight on the palate, yet with a crisp finish.
  • nose:   clean; full and developing bouquet of rich florals and ripe stonefruit, soft orchardfruit
  • palate:   clean; beautifully vibrant pink grapefruit acids with a light mineral background and tons of uplifted "Springtime" flavors... Spring in a bottle. Excellent balance and structure with long length

Black Widow 2010 Pinot Gris
$20 CAD   ***** BUY THIS NOW *****
  • nose:   clean; fully intense developing bouquet of layers of perfumed flowers, apricots, peaches, nectarine compote
  • palate:   clean; crisp and extremely well balanced grapefruit/lime acids with a long, layered length to the flavors and superb structure. Truly, one of the best BC Pinot Gris I've had in years

Perseus *(Right Bank Bordeaux Blend)
$unknown (barrel sample)     ***** BUY THIS WHEN AVAILABLE *****  
  • nose:   clean; rich developing aromas of currant and cassis, red and black raspberries, light leathery undertones with slight red meatiness... smells like St Emilion styled Bordeaux blendings (Merlot driven)
  • palate:   clean; palate mimicks the nose superbly with long rich developing flavors, superb balance and structure and an incredibly long length. An absolute star of the show for me - I was speechless, which happens far less then Mrs AStudentofWine would like <>

    Wow. Definitely not a tough job on Thursday... I ran into several colleagues including John Schreiner, who agreed with me that the Naramata Bench 2010 release of white wines is already one of the best showings in recent years... brilliantly developed aromas and well balanced flavors with the structure to support them.

Well done Naramata Winemakers~!

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!      SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Calafate Reserva Pinot Noir, Patagonia, Argentina

Bordering Chile, the province of Neuquen in Argentina is still a relatively unexplored place for westerners.

   Even Argentinians  are newcomers to the region; the capital city of Neuquen (so named, as with the province, for the river Neuquen that runs through it) only had about 5000 citizens in the 1930's. Today that same city boasts over 285,000 people... a petroleum boom is one of the main reasons for the immense development in the region.

   And newer still is the interest in viticulture in this area of Patagonia. Neuquen has a relatively arid climate (depending on the part one speaks of), and with it's elevation also has a fairly short growing season. Something certainly of concern if one wanted to grow Malbec as is done in the neighbouring region of Mendoza, but imminently suited to the growth of Pinot Noir. And this is exactly what the Canadian winemaker Pascal Marchand came here for.

Pascal Marchand
   Pascal Marchand has been "cutting his chops" on the proving grounds of Burgundy since 1983, and now consults with winemakers the world over. His Burgundian style is keenly felt in the Calafate Reserva, and in his owns words "rightfully so". Pascal talks about how the Burgundian techniques, more then any other he has had the chance to truly incorporate, truly allow for expression of terroir.
The approach we have in Burgundy is the best way to reveal the expression of the different terroirs, and therefore in each one of these areas you make wines that express their origins
   With the cooler climate that Neuquen has (in comparison to Mendoza) I can understand Pascal's drive to utilize techniques that suit the land. It would certainly seem that he has found that.

2008 Calafate Reserva Pinot Noir
Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina
Bodega Universo Austral

14% ABV, $17 CAD   *** VERY GOOD VALUE ***
  • visual:   clean; light to moderate ruby core with cherry-brick rim
  • nose:   clean; moderately intense and developing aromas of red raspberry, light blackberry, old leather, light savory herbs, mild exotic spices, mild cocoa
    palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ vibrant red currant acids, moderate- slightly grippy tannins, moderate alcohol, moderate- to light bodied, moderately intense and developing flavors mimicking the nose... red berry flavors are crisp and lively and hit the palate quickly, leaving the darker more develop flavors to linger. Good balance and very good structure with medium length
  • conclusion:   drinking well above it's pricepoint - this wine will do well now until late 2012 and possibly beyond. The concentration of flavors isn't strong enough for me to want to hold onto it though - and the flavors will not improve with age
  • PAIRINGS:   a rich beouf bourguignon with wild mushrooms will do well - especially with a generous amount of wild mushrooms which will help the mild fungal notes in the wine that want to come out and balance the fruit
Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tabali Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, DO Limari Valley, Chile

250 kilometers north of Santiago lies the wine region known as the D.O. Limari Valley, home to the El Molle people.

Limari Valley, Chile
   A hardy people, it was this indigenous people who taught modern winemakers how to produce fine wines @ 30 degrees latitude south (the same latitude as Cairo): plant in the ravines where there is shade from the sun and residual moisture. The Limari river brings run-off from the northern glaciers, but the Limari Valley itself is bordered by the Atacama desert; the driest place on Earth. Not what one could consider as a "prime" location for growing grapes.

   And yet they do. Most of the plantings in this valley began in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and only recently has the Chilean wine industry started to realize the potential of this special place. One of the most important factors is the proximity to the Pacific Ocean, less then 30 km away and bringing fresh, moist, moderating breezes. Vina Tabali ( has recently pushed that boundary and has new planting only 13 km from the ocean, on steep terraced vineyards - something that excites their chief winemaker Phillipe Muller as he compares the terracing to the terrain of Bordeaux.

   As to whether Pinot Noir will ever rise to the great heights here that Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc have risen to in Bordeaux - only time will truly tell. Asides from the obvious climatic impact that occurs being at this latitude and being so close to a desert, there is also the impact of soil type: the Limari Valley is home to a rare soil for Chile. Due to tectonic activity, former seabeds have been risen and the soil here is dominated by fossils and shells, rich chalk deposits overlaying fractured limestone. In comparison to other parts of the world, one would expect it to be a natural pairing with Chardonnay and perhaps Chenin Blanc, and indeed, Chardonnay is a star in the region as is Syrah. Perhaps Pinot Noir may only be a curiosity in this region, but an incredibly interesting "take" on the heart-break grape and I'm very glad I had the opportunity to taste Vina Tabali's handiwork.

2009 Tabali Reserva Especial Pinot Noir
D.O. Limari Valley, Chile
13.5% ABV, $24 CAD  ** GOOD VALUE**

soil:   rich chalk deposits over fractured limestone with gravel and sand topsoil
work:   all work from picking to sorting is 100% manual
aging:   12 months in 100% French oak
  • visual:   clean; light ruby-garnet core with slightly oxidized cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense developed bouquet of wild herbs (lavander grows nearby), gamey meat, new leather, rare roast beef, white truffle mushroom notes, candied fennel seed, plum compote, slight peppery finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, full red currant acids, moderate+ slightly green and grippy tannins, moderate alcohol, moderate- body, moderate+ intense developed flavors mimicking the nose with a substantial amount of tart red berries hitting the palate immediately - followed by deeper fungal, beefy, herbaceous notes. Very good balance and structure, medium (-) length
  • conclusion:   wine is drinking well now to late 2012... concentration of flavor isn't enough that I would want to keep it past that. Will not develop further.
  • PAIRINGS:   Serve this with your more subtle red meats... beef tenderloin is a classic, but if you don't want to spend that much money then consider a good cut of pork from a local supplier. Pork schnitzel with caramelized onions and fresh thyme would be great - the light fat in the pork with the moderate acids, the onions play off the fruit and the thyme will enhance the light herbaceous qualities
As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mid-Tier wines of Spain; a comparative

"Well what is mid-tier wine?" I asked myself.

   At this point in my life (and career) I have come to agree with most of my more learned colleagues in the line of thinking that almost anything can be mid-tiered, depending on one's point-of-view. I know people who have a rather ridiculous salary who consider $50 to $150 to be mid-tier and I know people who who never even consider paying over $30 a bottle. To each their own, I'm not here to debate the finer or lesser points of either - but merely to speak from my own experience. In my fiscal reality, $20 to $35 is mid-tier... anything over $50 is definitely becoming high end and something I would drink rarely (perhaps once or twice a month), and anything under $20 to me is entry level... perhaps I've met a few entry level wines that deliver far and above their price-point, and perhaps I've had a $100 bottle (or three) where I wondered who it was that came up with the over-inflated price.

   But, as usual, I digress.

   Mid-tier wines; $20 to $35, all from Spain. All available in Canada.

   For those of you who have never had a comparative tasting, whether it be with friends or colleagues, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a brilliant exercise and just plain old fun~! We sat the six of us, half sommelier trained and half neophytes, all passionate about wine, and talked about the bottle we had brought to the group... we learned from each other not only technical aspects of wine, but how each persons' palate may draw different notes from a wine; both in aroma and flavor. I was absolutely silent (a rarity - ask Mrs AStudentofWine) when the "least learned" of the group found a wine that spoke to her and she rattled off a plethora of tasting notes that Anthony Gismondi would have been impressed by.

   As I said, it was a great learning experience, and who wouldn't have fun cracking open a half-dozen bottles of wine with some friends old and new?

2008 Barco de Piedra, Pescqura del Duero
Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
13.5% ABV, $27 CAD   ** VERY GOOD VALUE **
100% Temperanillo

aged:    5 months in (85%) French oak (15%) American oak
  • visual:   clean; garnet core with cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate- intense and developing aromas of worn leather, drying black cherry, rhubarb, light cassis background
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ slightly grippy tannins, moderate alcohol, moderate body, moderate+ intense developing flavors mimicking the nose with Burgundian qualities. Good body and structure, medium length.
  • conclusion: drinking well now to 2013
  • PAIRINGS:   pair with Beef Bourguignon just as with a Burgundian Pinot Noir - I found many similarities in the construction, but that's just my interpretation

2007 Juan Gil
Jumilla, Spain

100% Monastrell
terroir:   shallow chalky soil on a bed of limestone
climate:   continental
aged:   12 months French oak
  • visual:   clean; garnet core with cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ developing bouquet of each red and black berries, light eucalyptus, light vanilla, slight brine minerality, soft black florals like irises, distinct spicy anise on the mid and end notes
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ to fully intense red and black currant acids, fully intense slightly grippy tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, fully intense youthful flavors which mimick the nose well (predominately red fruit). Excellent balance and structure, long length
  • conclusion:   Too young to drink well - this will peak 2013 to 2018 and perhaps longer
  • PAIRINGS:   this wine cries out for venison prepared in just about any way imaginable; consider a flank finished with bourbon demi served with wild mushroom ravioli (to play earthy notes off the black florals in the wine)
2005 Los 800
Priorat, Cataluyna, Spain
14% ABV, $26  **VERY GOOD VALUE **

45% Garnacha, 35% Carignan, 10% Cab Sauv, 10% Syrah
soil:   black slate and quartz with mica
  • visual:   clean; light garnet core with large cherry-brick rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of baked earth, dried cassis, dried black florals, savory black licorice (root), slight star anise, spicy black peppercorn finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, full red currant acids, moderate velvety tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ body, moderate+ intense and developed flavors mimicking the nose with a distinct tart plum quality and crispy mineral backbone. Good balance, excellent structure and medium+ length
  • conclusion:   drinking as well as it ever will - enjoy now to 2013(14)
  • PAIRINGS:   with the intense acids it is a perfect appero... use it to wake up the palate or be daring for main course and serve it old, old school with a roast beef and oyster stuffing~!

2008 Atteca "old vines" Garnacha
Bodegas Zabrin, DO Catalayud
14.5% ABV, $30 CAD  *** EXCELLENT VALUE ***

100% Garnacha/Grenache

vines:   80 to 120 years of age
yield:   less then 1 ton per HA
  • visual:   clean; moderate+ garnet core with light cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of rich florals, red and black berries especially blackberry, red and black raspberry, cherry compote, background of rich coffee and green peppercorns
  • palate:   clean; dry, full raspberry acids, light+ to moderate slightly grippy tannins, moderate- alcohol, moderate- (light+) body, moderately intense and developed flavors much the same as the nose but dampened. Excellent balance and structure with medium- length
  • conclusion:   even though there are some red berry notes, this wine is already slowing down and getting ready to die... enjoy now to 2013 max as the concentration is slipping
  • PAIRINGS:   oddly enough - enjoy it as a Sherry~! try this with a rich beef consomme and savor the balance the fatty beef flavors will give to the overachieving acids in the wine

2005 Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon
Penedes district, Catalonia
13.5% ABV, $26 CAD **** BUY THIS NOW ****
(Liquor Control Board of Ontario)

85% single estate Cabernet Sauvignon and (15%) Cabernet Franc
vines:    planted 1969, the first Cab Sauv in Spain; 300 m elevation, south facing
aging:   25 months French oak
medals:   Silver @ Decanter awards 2010
  • visual:   clear; light cherry core with large cherry rim and the barest hint of brick
  • nose:    clean; fully intense developing bouquet of rich wood, blackberries, red and black raspberries, clean barnyard... very Haut-Medoc (Bordeaux) styled nose in my (humble) opinion
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ chalky tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ body, moderate+ developing flavors mimicking well the nose. Excellent balance and structure and very long length
  • conclusion:   this wine is a steal at under $30 CAD.. if you find it (there are only about 8 cases in all of Ontario as I write this), then buy as much as you can. This drinks well now, but will improve over the next few years. Consume 2013-2018 (and can keep beyond I'm guessing)
  • PAIRINGS:   buy the best beef tenderloin you can (free range), roll it in the best coffee you can buy, then sear it into carpaccio... serve it with grilled bread and a white truffle aioli and be transported to another world
   By far one of the best tastings I've been to in the past 6 to 12 months, and certainly one of the most enjoyable... what are you waiting for, go crack open a bottle of wine with your friends~!

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Castillo de Almansa Reserva by Bodegas Piqueras

Between the high central plain of La Mancha and the Mediterranean sea, lies the Almansa D.O. (Denominacion di Origin) of Spain. It is in this place of transition that we find the town of Almansa; the home to Bodegas Piqueras winery ( ) and the Castillo de Almansa wine, named for the famous castle or castillo of the region.

Almansa DO, Spain
   Bodegas Piqueras is a recent addition to Spanish winemaking by Old World standards, having been founded in 1915 by Mario Bonete, with the first bottled wine not being released until 1961. Mario's son, Juan Pablo, studied oenology and followed in his father's footstep's becoming his successor with the assistance of his brother Angel. The goal of Juan Pablo and Angel in their own words, is to produce eminent wines in limited quantities.

   By some standards, they are succeeding. In 2010, the Castillo de Almansa Valcante 2008 was a gold medal recipient at the Selections Mondiale du Vin in Quebec City, Canada. A prestigious award by anyone's standards, Juan Pablo and Angel moved on to receive 2 gold medals in Germany that year for the 2008 Valcante again and the 2007 red blend (Castillo de Almansa). A great year for the young winemakers.

2007 Castillo de Almansa Reserva by Bodegas Piqueras, S.A.
Almansa DO, Spain

soil:         basically calcareous
altitude :   700 metres
varietals :  70% Temperanillo (aka Cincibel, Tinta Roriz), 30% Monastrell and Garnacha Tintorera
  • visual:   clean; deep garnet core with light cherry/brick rim
  • nose:   clean; moderately intense and youthful aromas showing some development; red cherry, red raspberry, candied strawberries, old worn leather, light vanilla florality, end notes of deep exotic floral and savory spices (star anise)
  • palate:   clean; dry, fully intense red currant acids, moderate+ intense slightly grippy tannins, moderate alcohol, moderate body, moderate+ intense and developing flavors mimicking the nose well, with the addition of light tobacco notes and stewed plums. Very good balance and structure, medium length on the palate
  • conclusion:   drinking incredibly well for a $13 wine -this can be enjoyed 2011 to 2014 due to it's concentration of flavor and lively acids. Will not improve appreciably with time.
  • PAIRINGS:   grilled steak with Pequillo sauce - a smoked pepper from the Navarra region of Spain - it would work against the berry acidity and emphasize through contrast

Castillo de Almansa
   And so Juan Pablo and brother Angel have returned to their 190 hectares of vineyards (just under 500 acres) that they manage themselves and the almost 500 hectares they have contracted to them from other growers. All of the production is within the Almansa DO, and creates about 800,000 litres of wine (over 1 million bottles per year) in over 7 blends and single varietals sold in 17 countries.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

2008 Vintage
$14 CAD (BC) spec listing
88+ points

Still an excellent value, this wine constantly overdelivers on value! This is a wine that sells at Tuesday night prices, but offers Friday night dinner dimension; rich red berry and old leather bouquet, terrifically well balanced and lively acid, chewy fine tannins, alcohol that is kept well in check... drink this now, drink this often. It pairs with a myriad of food choices, but tonight I'm enjoying just with some grilled sausage, bread and humus. 


Sunday, April 10, 2011

D'Arenberg "The Footbolt" Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia

Chester d'Arenberg Osborn

Chester Osborn, winemaker and viticulturist at D'arenberg winery, says:

   "It is my aim to never make a wine that looks sterile...I want to see it all in my wines; I want a wine that has edges of all sorts of complexities such as spices, meats, compost and forest floors etc… "

   I'm used to hearing words like that from wineries that charge upwards of $30 to $50 and beyond - but recently I'm hearing more and more winemakers with modest prices saying the same thing. They seek to express their terroir with all of it's nuances, quirks and "flaws". I say "flaws" because some people look at compost and forest floors and think: "how could a consumer ever want to have that in their Shiraz?"

   How could I not want that, if that's exactly what your land is trying to impart on the wine?

   D'Arenberg winery ( ) is in the McLaren Vale of South Australia. A robust 180 acres under vine, d'Arenberg has plantings aging back to 1912 in the case of their Shiraz. They have a versatile and complex portfolio including GSM blends, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling wines, Fortified and so on... an impressive amount of work for one man to lead the entire winemaking and viticulture team. Chester seems to be doing it with his own inimitable style and winning awards and consumer loyalty as he goes.

d'Arenberg in Spring
   D'Arenberg wines are now sold in over 60 countries around the world - not bad for a mid-sized (by Australian standards) winery. The winery was recently (2010) awarded the Winery of the Year title from , one of the largest wine retailers in the world. If that wasn't enough, they also recognized the d'Arenberg Stumpjump Shiraz as being the Wine of the Year. At the McLaren  Vale wine show, the winery also won 3 (count 'em three) gold medals and the trophy for Best McLaren Vale pre-release wine. Then in Jim Halliday's Australian Wine Companion 2011, ( ) , the d'Arenberg Deadarm Shiraz earned 94 points - placing it as a permanent fixture in the Australian wine icon constellation.

2006 "The Footbolt" Shiraz, d'Arenberg winery
McLaren Vale, South Australia
14.5% ABV, $24 CAD   ** EXCELLENT VALUE **
soil :              primarily ironstone and chalky rock with a thin covering of clay loam
maturation :    20 months new and old American and French oak
  • visual:   clean; fully intense plummy garnet core with slight cherry-brick rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense developed nose of candied blackberry compote, worn leather, dried dark flowers, dried black cherries, soft and yet rich dark coffee nuances, finish of light cinnamon
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ chalky tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, moderate+ intense and developed flavors mimicking the nose well... hints of very dark chocolate and black plums. Very good balance and structure, medium+ length on the palate
  • conclusion:   drinks very well now to 2013 due to vibrant acids and good concentration of flavors
  • PAIRINGS:   at the D'Arrys restaurant at the winery - they have a breaded lamb chop which I think would pair perfectly... use some savory herbs like wild thyme and rosemary and they will play delightfully off the dried fruit and coffee flavors in the wine

Joseph Rowe Osborn
   An impressive pedigree for a winery started by a man (Joseph Rowe Osborn) who abstained from drinking, and then his son Frank who sold his racehorses to start the d'Arenberg legacy. D'Arenberg was Frank's mother's maiden name, and he took the name for his winery to honor his mother, just as Frank's son D'Arry then named this wine "The Footbolt" for his father's most prized and successful racehorse. Now in it's fourth generation as a family business, Chester seems more then capable of giving respect to all the generations that came before him and yet still pushing off and driving the winery in his own direction.... a toast then:

   "to respecting where we came from, and daring to go where we dream"

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Macon-Chanes "Serreudieres", Dominique Cornin, Burgundy

Ray Isle, the managing editor of Wine and Spirits magazine ( ), once said, "So what if they (biodynamic winemakers) also think burying cow horns full of manure will help them channel new life forces from the cosmos?"

Cornin winery, winter

   Do I think he was saying that because biodynamic practices add nothing to the product, or because whether one chooses to believe in the mystical aspects of this winemaking or not - the proof is in the bottle? A touchy subject, one that is being debated fairly heatedly in most areas of the winemaking world.

   With approximately 475 wineries worldwide being certified biodynamic by the Demeter Association ( ) Dominique Cornin and his son Romain have achieved something unique at their winery in the Macon-Villages appellation of Bourgogne (Burgundy). They are one of a very small, very powerful movement in the wine industry.

Dominique Cornin
     Dominque learnt winemaking from his father, who learned it from his father, all working the same land. Dominique will tell you that his grandfather passed away when his father was only 16 years old, and he believes that it is because they were the first generation to work the land using chemicals. Chemicals, to both Dominique and Romain, are not only dangerous - they are un-necessary.

   The proof is in the bottle. The Cornin winery ( ) only produces 12,000 bottles per year of the Macon-Chanes "serreudieres", and it manages to find it's way into markets as far away as Alberta, Canada. It has been written up be Decanter magazine, Le Point, and La Revue du Vin du France and continues to receive attention wherever it is sold.

Cornin winery, spring

   But is the attention due to biodynamics? The Cornin winery only received it's certification as an organic winery in 2009, although they follow most of the biodynamic practices. Does following the lunar cycle for harvesting really influence flavor concentrations? At the end of the day, I believe that what influences flavor more then anything else is the vignerons dedication to allowing the land speak in it's own voice. Dominique and Romain have that dedication and refuse to allow anything (even lunar cycles) get in between that expression of self and the bottle. Time will truly tell us if it was the Cornin's hardwork, or their belief system, that truly brought such elegance and finesse to our tables.

2008 Macon-Chanes "serreudieres", Cornin winery
Chaintre village, appellation Macon-Villages controlee, Burgundy, France

13% ABV, $20 USD   $25 CAD   ** EXCELLENT VALUE **

soil:         limestone, some clay
varietal:   100% Chardonnay
vines:       planted 1990, 1998
maturation:   concrete tanks, no oak

  • visual:   clean; pale amber gold core with watery rim
  • nose:    clean; moderate+ intense and developing aromas of stonefruit, honeysuckle, calcareous minerality, ripened gala apples, light almondy finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (lemon zest) acids, moderate alcohol, light+ body, moderately intense and developing flavors; mimicking the nose well with that pronounced minerality that runs through the palate from start to finish. Excellent balance and structure, medium length on the palate
  • conclusion:   drinking incredibly well now through 2012/13. Great concentration of flavors and the acids are quite lively
  • PAIRINGS:   poulet au quarante gousse d'ail - a whole roast of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic! It may seem like overkill, but trust me that this Macon has enough where-withal to stand up to the buttery, roasted power of garlic. Not into garlic? chevre risotto with smoked duck - a little cheese to play off the acids, a little smoke to enhance the non-oaked Chardonnay
   Let me conclude with Dominique's own words:

     Our wines are like siblings. They all share Chardonnay origins- they are similar, yet each has its own personality. Our wines are like you, like me- sometimes reserved or shy, sometimes flirtatious, high-spirited or laughing. They evolve and mature but never lie. They are authentic, in short, alive. Over vintages and time, they unveil their multiple facets. Love them simply for who they are and they will give back tenfold.

Bravo says I. As always, I look welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hochar Pere et Fils, Rose, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

"I seek only to translate what nature has intended."
     --- Serge Hochar

   In the 1930's, Gaston Hochar began Chateau Musar ( ) in a 17th century castle overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Ghazir, Lebanon. I don't know if he could have imagined at the time, how much he and his family would impact the entire wine industry.

   In 1959 Gaston's son Serge Hochar finished his oenology degree in Bordeaux, France and returned home to enter the family business whilst Serge's brother Ronald took over the marketing and finance departments in 1962. It was a time of strife in Lebanon, but as one Lebanese friend told me: "Lebanon has always known strife". Once again, little did they know.

   1975 was the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War, during which approximately 250,000 civilians died and over a million were injured. My friend was actually smuggled out of the country by family, and has never returned. But during this time of extreme duress, the Hochar family continued to live their passion in the vineyards of the Bekaa Valley. Passion and hard work will inevitably lead down the bumpy road of success, and in 1979 at the Bristol Wine Fair (England), Chateau Musar was named the "discovery of the fair", and only 5 years later Serge was named Decanter Magazine's first ever Man of the Year.

   And all of this came about because Gaston Hochar, Serge's father, had an extended stay in France that started a hobby... the hobby of enjoying wine. Hobby turned to passion, passion turned to business, and wine lovers the world over are just as passionate in their enjoyment of the Hochar family's work.

2004 Hochar Pere et Fils, Rose
Ghazir, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

13% ABV,   $24 CAD   ** EXCELLENT VALUE **

saignee (free run method) of Cinsault and Grenache
bottled 3 months after harvest, released after 1 year

altitude:   1000 metres
yield:       35 hl/ha
soil:         gravel with limestone base

  • visual:   clean with slight sediment; light cherry-brick core with the slightest watery rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, red currant and cassis, rich floral nuances throughout
  • palate:   clean; dry, fully intense (red and black currant) acids, moderate alcohol, light body, fully intense and developed flavors; all of the aromas with light strawberry, crabapple and stoney minerality. Good balance and excellent structure. Medium to long length on the palate
  • conclusions:   this wine is drinking superbly now. Enjoy now to 2013 without issue
  • PAIRINGS:   racy acids call for fat and this wine needs lots of it. This wine was made for bold flavors, and I`m thinking roast leg of lamb with savory herbs would be a natural pairing... as an appero I had this the other night with dolmades which are grape leaves stuffed with rice and kept in olive oil
   To quote the Chateau Musar website:

   Speaking about the wines of Château Musar, Serge Hochar says "the harmony of nature is better than anything we could ever create. I believe it should be a priority to seek to drink what is 'true' rather than what is 'good' ". When speaking about quality in wine he adds "I once produced a wine that was technically perfect but it lacked the charms of imperfection".

   I love the richness of this wine, and I love the richness that is Chateau Musar`s dedication to let the land speak in it`s own voice.

Musar winery, courtesy Lebanon government

As always, your comments and questions are more then welcome.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!