Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cantinian Reserva Malbec - Cab Sauv

"Writing about wine doesn't pay very well, but you have to like the benefit package!"

   A writer who is like a mentor to me said that once, very early in my career, and it's stuck with me. What he failed to mention was the amount of work that this was going to be... who knew that writing about wine would take effort?

   A few days ago a colleague of mine from Patagonia imports ( ) dropped off a few sample bottles for me to taste and potentially write about. Well, who I am to refuse a friend?

    Then I opened the first bottle, a $27 Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Cantinian vineyards ( )... normally I would be super-charged! I love Malbec, absolutely one of my favorite varietals; I adore the big, juicy red and black fruit notes, the sullen earthiness is can carry and unabashed self-ness when crafted with care.

   I opened the bottle, mouth watering, and poured some into a big Bordeaux glass to allow it a chance to breathe properly before I began guzzling. The glass was sending heady aromas in the air before I even lifted it, and I admit to getting a touch dizzy from the perfume. Then I tasted it.

   What a disappointment.

   Thin, sharp, unbalanced acids were aggressive to say the least and the concentration of flavors couldn't match the puissance of the fine bouquet. Perhaps I just didn't let it breathe enough? So fine, I let the bottle sit open all night, praying that the voracious fruit-flies camped out in my kitchen left my prize alone. They seemed as appalled by the poor vintage as I was... I came back around midnight for a last-effort at redemption but ended up leaving the 95% remaining in the bottle open overnight, more in sorrow then in any effort at further aeration. I had given up, the wine just didn't live up to it's hype.

   Then about 24 hours later I sat down to try and write something redeemable about it, some edge... I searched the Internet, scoured my secret sources for tidbits and even re-read some old notes on wines from the area. A few colleagues were around so I asked them to try it and give me their thoughts...

workers at Cantinian
   "Not bad; good expression of terroir"

   "Brilliant bouquet, lovely bright acids"

    "racy little number, should pair well with some slightly fatty grilled meats"

   Eh? What's this? Are they talking about the same wine?

   I put my nose to the glass again; a plethora of Mendoza trademarks aromas burst forth (with more finesse then the night before). A host of dark red berries, warm earth and savory wood-tones with a light cinnamon-spice finish marched through my olfactory. 

   Trepidatiously I tasted the garnet colored liquid; supple body, brilliantly alive acids, crisp and well-punctuated berry tones... this was a completely different wine.

   What did I learn? Never judge a book by it's cover, or a wine by it's opening notes when it's first poured into the glass. John Schreiner ( ) will always be inspirational to me, not just because he knows more about British Columbia wine then anyone else, but because he is always willing to keep a bottle of wine open for 3-5 days, "just to see what happens".

   Well John, I've truly learnt the lesson. This blend from only minutes outside Mendoza city is brilliantly transparent. If you want to taste a textbook example of "Mendoza-ness", then look no further... just give it a chance to breathe!

2009 Cantinian Reserva Malbec - Cabernet Sauvignon
$27 in BC, SPEC product (only speciality stores)
90 Points

blend:   70% Malbec, 30% Cab-Sauv
harvesting:   manual
organic:   certified organic as of 2012 (this vintage is not certified)
vine age:   up to 90 years; original plantings in 1923, youngest no less then 30 years
soils:   mineral-rich silt and sand with saline deposits
altitude:   950 metres
maceration:   total 39 days; gravity-fed fermentation tanks
maturation:   18 months in new French and American oak
  • visual:   clean; fully intense ruby core with slight cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; medium+ developing aromas of ripe black strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, dark plums, dark floral notes, wood-tones like cedar,  warm earth, spicy cinnamon finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, full (red currant) acids, medium+ (grippy) tannins, medium body, full alcohol (14.5% ABV) is quite hot, medium+ intense and developing flavors akin to the nose with more emphasis on red berry notes and a dark cocoa finish. Good balance and structure, good concentration
  • conclusion:   released early, this wine will show best in a few years or with a double decant through your aerator. Enjoy 2014-2020 and best enjoyed with food
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   whilst true that the zippy acids need fat, and a grilled Merguez sausage with eggplant tagine would cosy up to this just fine.. . also consider a Chef Kristof classic: bacon, tomato and aged cheddar sandwich. It has the fat to balance acids, the smokiness to enhance the Argentinian terroir... a lovely way to celebrate the lunch-hour!

the vista at Cantinian

   And so I stand before you, a humbled man.

   I made a snap decision based on literally thousands of wine-tastings, and I was wrong. I actually had the same thing happen with a brilliant Sonoma Pinot Noir  about a year and a half ago, and the sommelier who was with me and I still laugh about it, because we both ended up falling in love with the wine by the end of the night. 

   Wines are living entities; they are born of earth and sweat and sometimes even of love and respect for the place they come from. They sleep in bottles for months, or years, or decades waiting for someone to find them and appreciate them for what they are. Wines have personalities, presence, even the promise of something more... because wine can transport us from one place to another, from one time to another. Wine can ease our burdens, it can lift our sorrows and celebrate our victories. Wine, when it's done well, is a celebration of life.

   You doubt? The proof my friends, is in the glass.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summerhill winery, Kelowna, BC

You ever have one of those perfect days? The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the world is your oyster...
the view from Summerhill vineyard

   I was having one of those days just a few weeks back; I was driving back from the awe-inspiring Wine Summit at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, Alberta ( ) and the roads were absolutely clear. I had left first thing in the morning and was set to arrive at Kelowna's Summerhill Winery ( ) for lunch and a short interview with the winemaker Eric. If you're not familiar with this organic winery, you should take note: they are now the first certified bio-dynamic winery in British Columbia!

   So anyways, little did I know that I was going to meet a kindred spirit in Eric, enjoy a dozen wine samples with lunch and miss my evening class of the French Wine Scholar program in Vancouver. Ok, perhaps the extra wine made my afternoon snoozier then expected, and perhaps missing my class made my program more challenging then it already was, but I wouldn't have changed a thing.

   Eric is a very calm fellow; quite analytical in nature (seemingly) and genuinely approachable with a superbly dry sense of humor. Regardless that it was a summer day with the bottling line cranking out a new vintage full-throttle. Regardless that icewines were still fermenting and the executives clamouring for Eric to work some magic and get them into the bottle line. And regardless that this is Canada's most visited winery, which was filled to the brim with eager guests, Eric still took the time to welcome me into the inner sanctum of Summerhill's wine cellar gracefully. Of course, he may just have wanted to escape the early June 30+C heat as much as I did!

   We chatted for a bit as he led me through the cavern, about the growing conditions at the end of 2011. Everyone I've spoken to has talked about the challenges that Fall with inclement weather; too much moisture after near-drought and then low temperatures resulting in a shut-down of the vines. Summerhill was no exception to these conditions but, as a wise person I know one said:

   "Anyone can make great wine in a great year... you have to be an idiot some years not to make great wine. But the true professionals can make very good wine every year."

   Eric adapted to the challenging conditions in, I imagine, his calm and un-ruffled manner and he made icewine. Syrah icewine, Cab franc icewine, you name it - it became icewine (40 acres worth). We tasted some of those, and all were still actively fermenting.

2011 Riesling icewine
 92+ points
  • vibrant  golden straw core
  • bright citrus notes, bright summer floral, yellow grapefruit zest
  • stunning balance this is zip, zip, zippy! Ultra refreshing this is my kind of icewine with full acidity, candied lemon zest notes running rampant, great balance, structure  with a strong start and finish. Very good concentration

2011 Viognier  icewine
 91 points
  • murky in the glass (still fermenting)
  • on the nose medium concentration of rich floral and stonefruit... layer upon layer with minerality underneath
  • full acids, medium+ concentration focusing on nectarines and kumquats. A little lean right now but expect it to fill out as it matures

 2011 Zweigelt  icewine
 91+ points
  • also murky in the glass, rich ruby-purple tones
  • slightly sea-salt and traditional red berry aromas with a hint of warm earth
  • full acids balance the sugar high, bright fresh berries full of life, very inviting... it's not terribly complicated but triumphs in it's simplicity (as opposed to being monotonous). Good concentration, balance, structure

We then had a good chat about cultured yeasts vs wild yeasts and what they bring to the party. Eric loves that every yeast will develop it's own priorities in flavenoids in the wine... simply put, every yeast enhances different aspects. I had assumed that perhaps because Summerhill embraces organic and bio-dynamic principles, that they would be using wild yeasts, but Eric cautions about the volatility of doing this... he knows what he wants to develop from his vineyards and to achieve these goals is using over 25 cultured yeasts judicially.

2011 Merlot icewine
 90+ points
  • murky umber-ruby core
  • medium+ sugary fresh berry notes with light red floral
  • full acidity with those zip-zip-zippy acids balancing the fresh red berry flavors... excellent balance and concentration but a very linear flavor at present
2011 Syrah   icewine
 90+ points
  • same umber-ruby core
  • classic aromas of stewed and fresh plums, a touch of cocoa powder and blueberry
  • medium+ acids that are well balanced, inviting with a slightly spicy finish and a developed Irish shortbread characteristic

 And finally I came down off of the sugar-rush in time to taste some wine that was being bottled as we spoke. We spoke about how Eric perceives his Cab Franc needing American oak instead of French, and how he prefers not to fine his wines with eggwhite or gelatin (making it vegan-friendly).

2009 Cab Franc
 91+ points
  • almost 2 years in American appellation oak, 10% new. Coopered in BC
  • racked but not fined
  • medium+ to fully intense aromas; fresh red berries, rich savory earthiness, a little Kelowna sous-bois, touch of menthol-eucalyptus
  • medium+ red and black currant acids, medium+ chalky tannins, medium body, medium+ concentration of flavors red and black raspberries, old leather, a hint of red meat/roast beef. Excellent balance, structure, length

 We moved just a few feet further and Eric poured something bright and vibrantly purple into my glass... I being who I am, drank without asking any questions. "Wow" I say, "this is bright, and fresh, and lovely. What is it?"

  "Cab Sauv" responds Eric, completely stunning me. This wine drank like a young Gamay Noir; super lively and understated tannins. How could this be? It was because we were tasting it before the barrel aging and what a treat it was. I failed to take proper notes on that wine, but it did lead us into an engaging conversation about flavor profiles in different varietals. Eric commented several times on how the preference in tastes is different in every region of the world, and winemakers need the business-sense to pay attention to that as they develop what has come in from the vineyard. "Who's showing up to the party" is the way he likes to put it.

   Eric and I moved our party out onto Summerhill's large deck at the restaurant overlooking the lake. There we started a leisurely lunch accompanied by a bevvy of still and sparkling wines. A word to the wise, make the time to stop here for a bite to eat! Knowledgeable, friendly staff, organic and responsibly-harvested foods prepared with definite skill and, compared to Vancouver, incredibly reasonable prices.

2008 Zweigelt
 $35, 91+ points

  •  282 cases produced
  • traditional slightly herbaceous, fresh fruit with leathery undertones (French oak, nothing newer then 3 years old)
  • crisp yet approachable acidity that melds seamlessly with medium- chewy tannins... flavors very similar to the nose with the minerality that I love this varietal for. Excellent balance, structure and long length. Worth every penny

    I must give a nod to the chef because now when I listen to the recording from the early part of the meal, there are extended bouts of silence; punctuated only by the occasional sigh of contentment and clinking of silverware. Eric and I moved into a round of sparkling rosé, organic Pinot Noir and I found myself quite taken with the rosé; full of life it had deep savory tones and a richness far too often missing in North American versions.

   This lead us into yet another topic of conversation: oxidization in wines. I put forward the notion that the wine textbooks pre-1960 didn't talk about oxidization as much as they do now, and they certainly didn't talk about it with the same sense of wariness. Oxidization, to my knowledge, was once looked at as a winemakers tool that could be used to great effect and it seems to me as if the mainstream industry is losing that in an effort for "purity". Eric enlightened me as to how many judges in recent competitions are reporting more reductive qualities from Stelvin enclosure or screw-top then from cork... that the "perfect" enclosure is creating it's own host of issues in modern wines. Perhaps wine, as a living entity, needs oxygen... perhaps in some instances oxidization is a necessary and useful tool. There are alot of people in the wine industry who are actively exploring this concept.

   Speaking of exploring, Eric then chose a world-class sparkling Chardonnay for us to delve into as we ate:

2005 Cipes Gabriel sparkling Chardonnay 
$65, 94 points
*winner* Best International bottled-fermented Sparkling Wine, IWSC - London, England December 2009
  • dry; bright, crisp, fresh carrying strong minerality throughout the palate
  • tiny pearl-like bubbles; effervescent, rich/creamy mousse
  • vibrant lemon-lime zest acidity, long notes of ripe apricots and almost-ripe pineapple
  • stunning concentration and balanced my salmon entree perfectly, very long length on the palate and the structure is impeccable... truly Champagne quality for half the price

   I was stunned at the quality. I had tasted the Gabriel before at industry events, and always been impressed, but sitting in the sun with a bit of properly prepared food in front of me brought this wine into a new light. A true heavyweight contender in the international arena, it was sheer pleasure each and every drop.

   So then it begged the question: "What do you drink when you're not drinking your own wine Eric?"

   The answer was brilliantly simple: "Everything". Eric believes strongly (as the best businesspeople do) that he needs to know what his competition is up to and, without seeming trite, he says he "just loves wine".

   Bravo. So do we!

   And these days it seems like, more then just about anything else, what I'm loving about great wines whether they be a great $15 bottle or a great $150 bottle is the story they tell. Great wines have an immense capacity to open the senses to another place; they speak of the warmth of the sun, the way the slope rolls to the riverbank, the way someone hand-selected each cluster of grapes. Great wines speak of terroir; that inexplicable mix of land, grape and spirit (pun intended).

   Eric and I spoke of that at length, reminiscing over wineries and vintages we both knew where the winemaker and vineyard met in a moment of co-operation and told the story of where they were from. Pierre Henry-Gaget, the winemaker for Maison Louis Jadot, once told me that "Great wines are trying to tell a story. It is our job to listen."

   It occurred to me then, sitting with Eric von Krosigk, that I was with someone who truly understood that. And I also knew that I had figured this out several hours earlier at the beginning of the interview when I tried Eric's first wines and heard him talk about them. Here is a winery that understands, or perhaps they would say that they are starting to understand, their terroir. This is evidenced as much by the impeccable balance of their $20 white wines as by the rich layers in their $35 reds... there is as much local story to the award-winning sparkling wines (worth several times their cost) as there is to the dazzling array of icewines.

   Summerhill organic winery, the first certified bio-dynamic winery in BC, has a story and it's a good one. It's filled with hardwork and dedication to something bigger then themselves. Perhaps when you taste the wine, all you will taste is wine, but I can honestly say that it is some of the best wine of it's kind that I've had.

   The proof? In the vineyard, in the restaurant, in the staff and most definitely... in the glass my friends.

(left to right: Gabe Cipes, Ezra Cipes, Ari Cipes, Eric von Krosigk, Stephen Cipes)

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cazadores Anejo tequila

What do I know about tequila? I'm northern Albertan born, from a family of Irish farmers which is about as far removed from the state of Jalisco, Mexico and the art of growing agave as can be imagined.

   Or is it???

   Agave growing really is an art; just ask the jimador who spend up to 12 years raising the plants to produce only the sweetest nectar. These men and women will put the sweat of their brows (literally) into their craft day in and day out... watching, waiting and tending their flocks with care. And the artisans in this region have been honing their craft not for years, or decades, but for centuries leaning on a millennium.

   Yes indeed, when the Spaniards came across in the 1500's they found the locals already celebrating a history of at least 300 years of distillation with the agave plant. "Yikes" thought the Spaniards, "how can we make any money off of that?" and so they promptly outlawed the practice. Well, the years went by and the Spaniards began to see their stocks of Spanish brandy dwindling and then the local fire-water looked pretty good! Much as you can imagine, Spaniards then allowed the local distilling (which never really stopped) and took a vested interest in it. This led to better technical work, and even to the process of aging the distillate (modest as it may have been).

   It makes sense then, that the Mexican government would stand behind their cultural history and put forward laws in conjunction with the Consejo Regulador de Tequila.  These laws have been enacted to protect the Appellation of Tequila; the very spirit of the drink and the manner in which it is perceived world-wide. Those of you reading this with a basic wine-knowledge will recognize that these artisans are following in the footsteps of craftspeople from all corners of the globe, whether they be cheese-makers in England or wineries in New Zealand. "There can be no tequila without agave!" said one of the early pioneers in the industry.

   And so we get to the part in the story about Cazadores  distillery. Well these guys know what they're on about, and that's for sure. Ok, maybe some would call them a little nuts when they play Mozart to the tequila as it ferments. Err... play music to the drink? Heck yea, and they're not even the first to do it! I've known winemakers who play symphonies to their wine as they mature (a nod to Emiliana in Chile )

   Cazadores ( ) takes every step in production seriously whether it be the raising of the agave, the grinding of the plants to facilitate production of the spirit, or the maturation process. The company has decided upon American white oak for a sweeter style of matured tequila, and though the lightly charred barrels are good for 7 years or longer, Cazadores use them for only 4 to ensure a consistent level of flavor in each batch.

   So what is the end result of all this doting? Don't take my word for the finesse of this premium tequila at a seriously competitive price, the proof (as always) is in the glass my friends.

Cazadores tequila Anejo
$45.99, 92+ Points

spirit:   100% blue agave  tequila
region:   highlands of Los Altos in Jalisco, Mexico
distillation type:   stainless steel pot still
distillation times:  twice distilled
maturation type:   small American white oak barrels
ABV:   40%
  • visual:   immediate appeal and easy to see the American oak at play, this has light amber-pale straw coloring
  • nose:   light caramel and vanilla tones, soft floral aromas... reminiscent of Caribbean styled rum (due in part to the maturation process)
  • palate:   medium+ concentration of flavors very similar to the nose with more emphasis on ripe stonefruit and exotics (kumquat/pineapple), some florals and a strong carry-through of that vanilla tone. Alcohol is present but approachable, structure is good but the persistence is mediocre (the only short-fall)... 
  • conclusion:   a great way to get introduced to upper-tier tequila, this has structure, balance and finesse and the only thing limiting it from being a 95+ point spirit is the lack of persistence on the palate. Excellent value for $45!

    And so an end to my first tasting notes on tequila... it's funny how we can all end up with prejudices and writers are certainly no exception! A few years ago I never would have thought that I would be putting great tequilas into the same category as fine cognac or extra-aged rums but I was wrong. The premium and ultra-premium tequilas that I have tasted recently are smooth, supple, full of deep, rich and nuanced flavors. They are every bit as "sophisticated" as their counterparts from any part of the globe. France included.

As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hainle vineyards, Peachland, BC, Canada

I had a great conversation with friends today: it was my daughter's first birthday and so, naturally, we were sitting with glasses of wine and having a chat.

   The conversation turned to the topic of people who stick to their beliefs in the face of  adversity... People who inspire us through their fastidious attachment to what they believe is true and good and worthy of effort. And then they succeed. Despite (or because?) of the contrariness that surrounds them, they succeed where none believed possible. Examples abound! Sylvester Stallone and Rocky, finding diamonds in the Canadian Arctic (the geologist who did believe in Canadian diamonds was told by professors in university that his theory was "un-sound"), and there are even examples in the wine industry.

   Yes, the wine industry is scattered with more then its share of visionaries who believe in something beyond what most people do. I'm proud to say that I know one of those visionary winemakers and his name is Walter Huber and he owns/runs Hainle vineyards (

   This isn't the first time I've written about Hainle vineyards but, much as with many things in life, for me it keeps getting better everytime I go back.

   Let's be honest, Hainle vineyards doesn't get very much good press in British Columbia... I can't even say that I've seen any good press on them in Canada. But how can that be I wonder? Is it because there's nothing good to say?

    I could talk about Walter's fundamental belief in organics and bio-dynamic principles. I could talk about Walter's willingness, nay eagerness, to share his time and wine-samples with anyone of any level of wine-education who demonstrates passion and zeal for quality. I could even talk about Walter's continual self-education and relentless search for wine techniques both antique and modern that bring the best results to his wines (ask to see his rare books!).

   I could talk about all of these things and more, but they don't really matter. What matters to you, and to me, is what's in the glass. What matters is that wine gurus around the globe who know far more about viticulture and vinification then I may ever learn are singular in their praise for Walter's work with the diverse portfolio that is Hainle/Deep Creek vineyards.

   To wit, the Los Angeles International competition has awarded Hainle Zweigelt 100 points not once, but twice in the past 10 years. Twice, and yet the local media is silent on the subject. Here in BC the '07 Pinot Noir received 99 points last year at the second largest wine tasting in the province in Whistler. The first Canadian Pinot Noir to win 99 points, and no one wrote a word about it. Then a few months ago in March (2012) Walter was invited to Geneva to receive the CQE Gold Award (International Quality Wine) from the eponymous Century International Quality Era Award committee.

   I have heard it said that sometimes truly great people are appreciated abroad before they are ever appreciated at home. Perhaps I am too juvenile in the ways of the wine industry to say with any certainly which winemakers are or are not genuinely great... Perhaps.

   So don't take my word for it my friends, the proof (as always) is in the glass.

Hainle Vineyards / Deep Creek 2012 releases

2011 Riesling-Gewurztraminer
$20, 92-93 points
  • made with the Muller-Thurgau yeast from Pieroth winery in Germany ( ), this is a new level of early approachability for Hainle white wines
  • rich stonefruit and light summer floral bouquet
  • bit of residual sugar on the palate is balanced by superbly refreshing full acids which are incredibly well integrated in such a young wine

2011 Sauvignon Blanc
$25, 92 points

  • made with the same yeast strain
  •  nose displays a dizzying array of savory lemongrass/Asian herbaceousness
  • palate is marked by the trademark Hainle vineyards mineral backbone but is well-balanced by that savoriness... much as in the above example the acids are racy and vigorous and yet in an integrated and approachable manner 

2009 Old Vines Riesling
$25, 91 points
  • vines are now aged almost 40 years
  • different yeast / not the Muller-Thurgau
  • aromas are already developing into traditional petrol/waxy with crisp, clean fresh slatey mineral backbone
  • the palate follows suit with bright, fresh acids that cleanse.. approachable but still tasting a little young
  • would suit the fattier fishes at this point in it's life, or the rich Alsatian food that follows Germanic traditions (think curried bratwurst, schnitzels, raclette)

2009 Pinot Gris
 $20, 89-90 points
  • nose is displaying more lees-qualities at this point (almonds, toasty brioche) and soft summer floral qualities with an undercurrent of savoriness akin to Burgundian sous-bois or underbrush
  • trademark minerality is felt keenly on the palate with slightly softer acidity then I'm used to from this winery (medium instead of medium+ to full) this is a great wine to enjoy on it's own, whether it be on a patio or for an evening function
2009 Erenfelser
$27, 95 points
  •  I have to start off  by stating that this is one of the most unique examples of this varietal that I can remember ever having... Mrs AStudentOfWine loves Erenfelser and so I end up purchasing a fair share of them over the course of a year. Most examples of this varietal are fairly simple in nature and overwhelm with basic notes of jammy stonefruit and over-ripe exotic floral
  • this is a wine of different calibre! If you understand the difference between a beach towel and Irish linen, then you understand this wine. The nose is a filigree of never-ending stonefruit and floral qualities that almost trip over themselves in their dance with the Hainle mineral backbone and savory sous-bois
  • on the palate: crisp, clean, dry with a host of floral tones that ring from front to back and have a world-class persistence, great concentration... what a shame that Canadians prefer Erenfelser with residual sugar because they're missing out on a truly superb wine
2009 Gewurztraminer-Sauvignon Blanc
$20, 92 points+
1500 cases produced, sells out every year
  • rich straw color, bright flecks of silver and gold throughout
  • elegant rose-perfume, hints of spicey pepper tempered by warm hay and lemongrass
  • light residual sugar (off-dry), fully intense and deliciously crisp, clean, refreshing acids, utterly transparent full concentration of flavors that truly reflect the terroir  
  • versitile wine! food pairings with sushi, Thai, summer salads, fresh seafood

2011 Gewurztraminer
$20, 89 points
  • made with the Muller-Thurgau  yeast
  •  fairly straightforward nose which has an intense focus of stewed apricot/apricot compote
  • palate once again POPS with an intense and yet very approachable acidity, touch of residual sugar. Very refreshing, this is a great wine when you need to beat-the-heat!

2009 Pinot Noir
$45, 94+ points

   very exciting! Walter and I were discussing this vintage and he let me in on the fact that he kept this wine macerating for 6 weeks... 42 days is double what some wineries will spend on their Bordeaux-styled blends with Cabernet-Sauvignon, much less for a fragile grape like Pinot Noir. Crazy stuff! But Walter says that he uses this technique very specifically because he wants the depth of color, he wants the depth of flavor...
  • color is very deep almost Royal-purple
  • nose is fully intense bouquet  of black roses, irises, plums, distinct mineral background... almost like the great Morgon or Moulin-a-Vent  quality which is truly ironic as the greatest Gamay Noir describe how they take on Pinot Noir characteristics
  • palate is choc-a-bloc full of rich, meaty, chewy, fatty, unctuous tannins just aching for great food to sit beside, acidity is enthusiastic but well-behaved, concentration of flavors is full with the same notes as the bouquet  with the inclusion of fresh red berries to start. Excellent balance, stunning structure
   I need to finish this review with an observation; many people have vastly differing views on what a great Pinot Noir  ought to be... I've sat with world-class winemakers extolling the virtues of Oregon and Sonoma examples and then been inundated with scathing remarks from merchants saying that Sonoma doesn't make "real Pinot"... this may or may not be your cup of tea, but to me (and many others) this is a truly gifted example of what this varietal can be, but rarely is.

2008 Estate Pinot Noir (Hainle's Reserve)
$90, 99+ points
   To start I need to preface by sharing that Walter had the privilage of tasting Romanee-Conti next to his award winning 2007 Estate Pinot Noir just a short time ago. Walter believes that his '08 vintage demonstrates more of the Romanee-Conti nuances and is, in fact, a better wine then the '07 vintage that scored 99 points.
  • color is paler then the '09 (regular) Pinot Noir  with a trace amount of oxidization
  • a truly puissant  and yet extremely elegent bouquet; harmonious layers of sweeter bright red berries, soft roses and irises, light truffle-like notes, warm savory earth
  • on the palate crisp and clean with mineral tones singing right from the start, tight red berry acids (cherries, young plums), intense floral notes are balanced with some of the sweeter/candy notes felt in the nose... almost Morgon-like again, but the best of all Gamay. Concentration is through the roof, balance in impeccable and the structure is brilliant
   This is one of the finest wines I have ever had. 
  Truly, this is drinkable now, and sheer joy, but this will reward patient cellaring and because of the craftsmanship will have a fantastically long life of well over 20 years. Consider this wine an investment; you and I may never spend the $2000 for a bottle of Romanee-Conti, and this wine might very well (once again) score higher then that heavy-weight of Bourgogne.

2009 Z3 (Zweigelt, Baco Noir, Pinot Noir)
this is the third and last release of this blend
$ 27, 91-92 points
  • much darker pigmentation then usual; fully intense garnet core with slightest cherry rim. No oxidization
  • nose is full of traditional Z3 notes; big dark berries (blackberries, Saskatoon, black cherry), followed by Okanagan sous-bois  savoriness and lightly meaty-bacon notes
  • whilst normally not my thing, I found this blend to be lovely and a wonderful sipping wine on it's own! Big, rich chewy tannins that are approachable with medium, bright acids, medium+ concentration 
  • a natural pairing with venison due to the richness of the berry aromas and flavors, texture to the tannin structure and approachable acids which don't require much in the way of fattiness in the food to balance

2009 Baco Noir
$25, 90 points
  • traditionally dark pigmentation with no visible oxidization
  • aromas are deep, dark blueberry compote with Okanagan sous-bois
  • acidity is fresh and inviting; an excellent wine to start a meal or serve in the middle of a warm and lazy afternoon. The blueberry notes in the nose are quite dominant on the palate (in a good way)... a fresh alternative to Gamay Noir
 2008 Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon
 $55 (?), 93 points
  • comes from the vineyard in Osoyoos
  • medium+ garnet core with slight cherry/brick rim
  • bouquet is Bordeaux-like; rich red berries, savory earthiness, soft ripe red/black floral notes, delicate minerality, pencil/graphite edge, soft and mild cigar tobacco like Davidoff
  • acids are medium+, quite young and tight, already starting to integrate, tannins are the Hainle fleshy, chewy, meaty variety meriting a long cellaring... concentration is very good, excellent balance and structure
  • drinking best 2015++

 2009 Estate Zweigelt
$45(?),92 points
  • color is deep, dark fully concentrated purple/garnet core with no oxidization
  • traditional blueberry, Saskatoon aromas with a sweeter, more fruit-forward style... light background of sous-bois but you need to search for it a bit
  • moderate acids (fresh and inviting), moderate+ chewy tannins which are already integrating well, this is really a fruity little wine that wants to be served early in a meal or earlier in the evening... 
  • Walter has a firm belief that this wine pairs brilliantly with oysters (fresh or cooked) and I have tried this pairing and find it to be, absurdly, true! For this particular vintage I would pair off Oysters Rockefeller and watch the warm bacon notes bring similar notes from the wine into focus

2010 Pinot Noir Icewine
$45(?), 90+ points
  •  pale golden-amber core with orange rim
  • nose is a much richer floral to start; think of yellow roses just after the rain, savory winter spices like spice cookies, toffee
  • on the palate much more refreshing acidity, lower residual sugar, bright and fresh this is for people who think that they don't like Icewine because they're all too sweet... this should appeal to pastry chefs as they acidity will be quite versatile with desserts. Would also work well as a gelee or shaved-ice as a palate-cleanser in a formal meal because of the richness of the acid

 2011 Gewurztraminer-Icewine (Clare's vintage)
$45(?), 97 points++

   I must preface this review by stating that the name "Clare's Vintage" is only for myself and my family. You see, I regularly recommend to private clients that when offering a gift for someone who purchases a new home, or celebrates the birth of a child, that the gift of a bottle of icewine is perfect. Most new vintages of icewine will sell for under $100, and icewine is one of the wines most capable of great aging... in some cases for 100 years or longer. And? And the value keeps increasing with each passing year or decade. Some icewines at only 10 to 20 years old can be worth as much as $5000 or more in the right market. The best  can be worth 10 times that amount or more. This means that your friends can open the icewine you gave them at their mortgage-burning party and be savoring a wine worth far more then most of us would ever part with. In keeping with that idea I pre-purchased a case of the 2011 icewine from Hainle vineyards for my daughter Clare when she was born. I will give it to her when she turns 20 and if she wants me to auction it, it will pay for her university for several years.
  • rich amber color, liquid honey or rich hay, almost orange marmalade
  • bouquet  is almost beyond words; the aromas are about more then just ripe fruit/compote layers... almonds, winter spices with a hint of Thai chili, savory earth
  • on the palate, lots of residual sugar balanced by a lip-smacking acidity, showing great cohesion for still in barrel, fully intense apricot and grapefruit flavors, kumquat marmalade, candied orange peels, lemon zest, huge floral layers with an almost rosewater quality, Turkish delight... full concentration, amazing balance and structure, long long long length
   I consider myself fortunate that I met Walter Huber and Hainle vineyards early in my wine career... Walter is one of those vignerons  who is willing to take the time to talk with his clients. Walter doesn't get egotistical because his wines win awards around the world. Walter doesn't chose to share his time with people because of how much wine they're buying.

   Walter likes talking about wine with people who truly are passionate... he likes to share what he's learnt with those around him. To me, that makes him rather remarkable. And then, to taste his wines... well, as always, the proof is in the glass my friends.

As always I look forward to your comments and questions.

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

    Saturday, July 14, 2012

    Domaine de la Sionniere, Moulin-a-Vent

    Burgundy, and as a result Beaujolais, has an aspect to its personality that is both a true pleasure and a source of frustration to wine-lovers around the world.

       Burgundy has not only more AOCs then anywhere else in France, it also has perhaps a greater winemaker-density then anywhere else. Actually I take that back, there's no perhaps about it: with some famous plots of land having as many as 70 separate owners over only a few hectares, some owners controlling as little as a couple of rows of vines. No other wine-region is quite like Burgundy in that respect.

       But that's part of the charm, as I said. We grow fond of the small wineries who cherish each curve of the hill reaching for sunlight, each dip in the slope where water accumulates and each glade of trees with it's undeniable  aromas of "sous-bois" as they say.

       There should be a natural inclination towards superior quality in any wine made from such attention, such devotion bordering on affection. Well, there should be superior quality but invariably what results is just superior degrees of variation.

       One region where quality is rarely an issue is Moulin-a-Vent. Tucked into the north-east corner of Beaujolais and bordered by the Saone river racing towards the Mediterranean, Moulin-a-Vent is a pantheon of the region and its wines considered the greatest of Beaujolais. These are wines can age gracefully for 10, 15 and sometimes even 20 years reaching peaks of elegance usually only scaled by the mighty Pinot Noir of the (arguably) more distinguished neighbours to the north.

       How? Why? Some might say (and they would be right) that it's due in large part to the ancient and decomposing granitic topsoil... this topsoil is easy for the vines to penetrate in their youth and encourages them to dig deep. Down, down, down they go to the subsoil sometimes referred to as "gore" which is an accumulation of sand, clay, mica, schist and granite that give the wines their unmistakable mineral edge.

    old Manganese mine in Romaneche-Thorins
       And here, in the rural sprawl of vineyards sitting atop these soils, lies the sleepy commune of Romaneche-Thorins. It's small by anyone's standards (population around 800) but the locals are doing big things with Gamay Noir and have been doing so for centuries! One of the secrets to their success is a high concentration of Manganese found only in the local soils... there have even been mines dedicated to its extraction for over a hundred years.

       Now in come Estelle and Thomas Patenotre, owners of the Domaine de la Sionniere ( ). Thomas came to North American attention recently when in 2007 the owner of Domaine Diochon  wanted to retire, but had no heir for the prestigious property. Long-time employee (?) Thomas was offered the honor and, lucky for us, he accepted.

       And so Thomas has brought the ancestral methods of the region roaring back to life in not just one, but two separate properties in Moulin-a-Vent... this is where yields are intentionally kept minimal, vines are left to age to graceful puissance, and the Gamay grape that most often receives scorn in the New Age of wine connoisseurs is aged in oak barrels to promote long-life.

        You doubt that Gamay Noir can develop into something as sophisticated as the great Pinot Noirs  of Burgundy? The proof, as always, is in the glass my friends.

    2011 Domaine de la Sionniere , Romaneche-Thorins, Moulin-a-Vent
    12 Euro (FRA)
    20 pounds (ENG)
    $25+ USA (Kermit-Lynch wine merchants)
    $20+ CAD (Opimian Society
     90 Points

    varietal:      100% Gamay Noir a jus blanc
    soil:              decomposing granite and schist
    vine age:     between 40 and 60 years old
    vineyard:   13 HA
    training:    goblet
    harvesting  100% manual, hand-sorted
    maturation  up to 18 months in oak barrels
    •  visual:   clear; light ruby core with cherry rim
    • nose:   clean; moderate+ to fully intense and youthful aromas of candied red berries (think strawberry compote), a hint of sous-bois or underbrush, mineral tones and a leathery finish
    • palate:  clean; dry, moderate red currant acids, moderate+ to full chalky tannins, light body, moderate abv (13%), moderate+ concentration of youthful flavors; explosion of youthful currants, strong mineral undertones and the recent barrel aging is still unruly. Very good balance and structure with medium+ length
    • conclusion:   whilst a great wine, this is also terribly immature and so I may or may not being giving justice to the review... best consumed 2015-2021+
    • FOOD PAIRINGS:     a perky little wine for a friendly summer day, take this lightly chilled on your next picnic with charcuterie, soft cheese and fresh bread... 

    a summer day i n Romaneche-Thorins
       Most of my faithful readership know that I've been singing the praises of northern Beaujolais wines for most of the year. I have found that dollar-for-dollar, the wines from this region are truly competitive on a global level and I am hard-pressed to find their equal anywhere. Domaine de la Sionniere is a fine example; true enough this may be a fairly simple wine right now, but on a Sunday afternoon with your girl and a bit of sunshine, that may be just what the doctor ordered!

    As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Domaine Billard Pere et Fils, "Les Tavannes" Pommard

    I recently saw a photo of Jerome Billard tilling between the vines at one of his vineyard parcels. His son (about 5 years old) was on his lap and it was obvious from the photo that Jerome was explaining things to his son. Domaine Billard Pere et Fils ( ) ... I read the name on the bottle of wine and thought that it must be another antique winery with a dusty history; filled with remarkable lineages and a family tradition built upon generations.

    I didn't realize that it was the story of a man tilling the fields with his 5-year old; starting a new lineage, a new tradition with the newest generation.

    Jerome Billard came to purchase his property 15km south of Beaune in the village of Rochepot in 1999. With 17 HA to his name, Jerome had given himself a sizeable amount of work but passion and dedication (always key-words) gave him the energy to devote himself to creating a quality product.

    Principles of maximum intervention in the vineyard and minimum intervention in the winery were key to Jerome's early success, both with critics and the public. "Expressing the typicity of the terroir" is the way Jerome explains it.

    But what is Pommard, and thus, what is the terroir of Pommard?

    We can look at the statistics ( ) and come to some conclusions, but the essence of terroir is about much more then stats. It's about the people who work the land as much as the land itself... it's about the spirit of a place as much as the composition of the soil.

    Pomard is the second largest producer in volume after Beaune, but it's a small place... just over 10 square km it's a blip on the radar, a bump in the road when one drives the infamous Route des Grands Crus. Yes, almost a forgettable town with its single bell tower, and vineyards bereft of Grand Cru status. And a dwindling population.

    Pomard's population has dropped by a third in the past 50 years and now is just barely over 500. But this is where Jerome Billard came to start a new life with his wife. This was where he envisioned building a home and future for his family. No Grand Cru vineyards here, 'tis true, but a plethora of Premier Cru that are respected worldwide again for their craftsmanship.

    And perhaps Pomard is a bit like Jerome. Pomard was once one of the darlings of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and renown for quality long before the AOC system came into being in 1935, and before it itself received AOC status in 1937. Pomard was an easy to remember name for non-French speakers and for the French it spoke of value.

    But then the people began to leave.

    A new generation moving to the meccas of Rouen, Lyons, Marseilles and an aging population; not a recipe for success. Slowly, consistently, the work of decades began to erode. Consumer confidence waned and greener pastures were sought... then a renewal! There is a brushfire of excitement about Pommard wines again and if men like the Billards have anything to do with it, the brushfire will soon become a tempest.

    Doubt me? The truth, as always, is in the glass my friends.

    2010 Domaine Billard Pere et Fils, "Les Tavannes"
    Pommard, Bourgogne, France
    $50 USD, 
    n/a in Canada (except through the Opimian Society
    93 Points

    soil:               stony with clay-lime and calcareous deposits
    elevation:    between 250-400 metres
    vineyard:    0.22 HA, no use of pesticides/insecticides
    varietal:       100% Pinot Noir  
    maturation:   15 months in Futs (large barrels), of which one third is new oak
    • visual:   clear; light ruby core with cherry rim and slightest brickish tint, no sediment, bright
    • nose:   clean; medium+ to fully intense and youthful aromas; bright fresh red berry notes abound with strawberries, ripe raspberries, sweet summer rose-like floral notes
    • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ to full young raspberry acids, medium fine/soft well integrated tannins, light body, medium- to light abv (13%), medium intense and youthful flavors that mimick well the nose; red berry notes burst with flavor followed by clean mineral tones and the lightest spicy finish. Excellent balance and structure. Long length
    • conclusion:   enjoyable in its youth, this will reward another 12-24 months of aging... drink 2013-2016
    • FOOD PAIRINGS:   use the bright acidity to open a meal, or serve slightly chilled in the heat of the day... consider rillettes du porc  or confit du canard  served quite simply with fresh bread and seasonal fruit

        I can imagine my wife and I on one of those hilltops that overlook the village of Pommard... we would eat some of that rillettes and bread with a bottle of Jerome's wine and watch our daughter chase butterflies through the cherry trees.  Of course, it's a dream right now... but then again, so was Jerome's vision not so long ago.

    As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Chateau Rollan de By, Medoc, Cru Bourgeois

    Politics exist everywhere.

    There are school ground politics, workplace politics and even sexual politics... it seems as though we human beings just can't get enough of confusing and clouding our lives. Wine should be exempt, right?

    Perhaps should be free, but unfortunately it is not. Yes, even the world of wine there are politics aplenty, but that hasn't seemed to slow down the owner and visionary behind Chateau Rollan de By in Medoc, Bordeaux ( ).

    The Chateau was taken over by Jean Guyon in 1989 with only 2 hectares. Since then, Jean has developed a cracker-jack team and ruthlessly pursued finesse in the vineyard, cellar and bottle. All of this whilst dealing with years of evolution (or de-evolution depending on one's point-of-view) of the Cru Bourgeois system.

    Many websites and papers have dealt with the issue in far greater detail and depth then I care to repeat, so let me be brief: today if a winery in Bordeaux would like to be classified as Cru Bourgeois they must submit their wine to a blind tasting panel for judgement. Should the wine present itself with the appropriate level of quality, and the winery itself meets certain criteria, then the winery can label that vintage only as Cru Bourgeois... no longer reserving that title for the vineyard itself as is the case with the classified growths of Bordeaux.

    It sounds like a simple, reasonable and eminently logical system. And it is! The trouble for winemakers (and wine-drinkers) is that it took Bordeaux a grand total of 78 years to develop this system and there were more then a few hiccups along the way. I'm not going to point fingers or name names, but there were legislators who made decisions whilst pocketing funds as the owners or part-owners of vineyards as well.

    So here we all are, 20-something odd years after Jean took the reins at Rollan de By and it has swelled from 2 acres to a whopping total of 85 hectares under production at his 5 wineries. But size isn't everything... errr.... anyways, all any enthusiastic oenophile has to do is investigate the Grand Jury Europeen (follow this for a sample of their work  ) to see that Rollan de By is scoring high! How high you might ask? In the 2010 Wine Spectator it was listed as one of the top 100 wines alongside and higher then many wines costing double or triple the price.

    The proof?

    As always, in the glass my friends;

    2008 Chateau Rollan de By, Cru Bourgeois,
    Appellation Medoc Controlee, Bordeaux
    93 points

    soil:  clay-limestone
    vinification:   stainless steel, temperature controlled
    maturation:   new and used French oak
    awards:    also awarded gold at the Concours General Agricole de Paris 2010
    • visual:    fully intense/deep garnet core with no obvious bricking, no sediment
    • nose:     moderate+ intense and developing bouquet of red berries such as raspberry, strawberry, ripe blueberries, rich dark floral notes, warm earthy undertone, background light graphite, menthol/eucalyptus qualities
    • palate:   dry, moderate+ raspberry acids, moderate+ smooth/chewy tannin, moderate body, moderate+ abv (13%), moderate+ to fully intense and developing flavors that mimick well the nose; good emphasis from the Cabernet Sauvignon with a deliberate structure and overall impressive presence. Excellent balance and long length
    • conclusion:   still a babe, this wine will develop for years... enjoy 2015-2020+
    • FOOD PAIRINGS: I am a simple man, and have simple tastes; a wine likes this calls out for me to invite over a great friend and smoke a couple of brilliant cigars on the front stoop. If I really felt the need for food with this? Try a T-bone steak! A masculine wine this is (though still elegant like me) so enjoy it with some beef on the bone... richer flavors that way, trust me. Keep it simple.

    So whilst the weather in Medoc in 2008 wasn't exactly perfect (chaotic would be the word some would use), a sage colleague of mine told me recently: "Anyone can make great wine in a great year. Great winemakers always make good wine. Always"

    Jean Guyon, his superbly credentialed consultant Alain Reynaud and the entire team at Rollan de By should be patting themselves on the backs... 2008 was a great year for them and that says it all.

    As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

    The Post Hotel Wine Summit 2012

    The start of anything is exciting; the first day of school, the opening of a concert or the first time you see your child smile at you… all exciting, all moments of beauty.

    snow falling in May at the Post
    So how much more exciting could my first Post Hotel Wine Summit ( ) be? There are no words that can explain how I felt when I arrived (ok, just a few words then)! A list of top-level winemakers from around the globe that would make any serious wine-geek truly delirious (Louis Jadot, Ornellaia, Lewis Cellars and more, more, more) was just the start of a true experience.

    An experience that starts and ends with the Relais and Chateaux rated resort itself ( ), it's gifted staff of sommeliers, servers, housekeepers, cooks… you get the idea. But then again, perhaps you don’t. Myself, I’ve had a long career in this industry and have seen many claim to be devoted to quality… rarely have I had the pleasure of working beside people who genuinely cared so much. It is, refreshing.
    But what about the wines you ask …. Ah the wines.

    Day 1: Thursday

    We started with a bang! Almost literally!

    A traditional cowboy barbeque feast with a live band and plenty of high-quality, easy drinking wines. Ok, maybe not a traditional Albertan barbeque with that much wine instead of beer kegs, but everyone had a blast and we the sommeliers got to taste some brilliantly fresh vino.

    2009 Le Volte, Ornellaia

    • Bright fresh berry bouquet with light savory fungal undercurrent

    • Medium+ to Full acidity, cranberry and raspberry notes open the palate, fully intense chewy tannins… already approachable in its youth this wine will evolve gracefully for several years

    2009 Serre Nouve, Ornellaia

    • incredibly bright and fresh blueberry notes burst from the glass, deeper savory earthy characteristics found lurking beneath

    • medium+ red raspberry acids, fully intense chewy and grippy tannins, rich savory earthy notes from the nose very evident in the palate (driven by Cab Sauv). Excellent concentration and balance but still very young and deserving of more time

    2002 Louis Jadot Domaine de Heritiers, Les Boucherottes, 1er Cru

    • primal earthy, savory, gamey, musky aromas… full and intense, developed but still lots of life left in it

    • palate was marked by a decidedly well balanced and integrated crisp red currant acidity, moderate+ tannin structure which was firm and meaty, layered flavors of red and black berries/leathery earthy notes/red meat and wild game. A very masculine wine that was in its element paired with Alberta bbq

    2010 Ornellaia “Poggio alle Gazze”

    • lively little Sauv-Blanc, the nose is soft and inviting with warm hay notes, perky grapefruit and a subtle minerality

    • much the same on the palate; the moderate acids are balanced, the concentration is medium+, the flavors much the same as the nose… a good summer wine, there is enough in the glass to balance against seafood dishes but cheerful enough to enjoy solo

    2006 Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey, Savigny Les Beaunes, 1er Cru

    • super bright, fresh red cherry/raspberry/strawberry notes with a gentle mineral undertone… incredibly approachable

    • medium+ red raspberry acids, medium chewy tannins, an easy wine to enjoy on its own I think this wine really would come into its element paired with a simple afternoon of cured meats and cheeses and perhaps some fresh bread. Good concentration this is still evolving and will for several years

    2009 Louis Jadot Santenay, Clos de Malte

    • approachably fresh! medium+ intensity with a strong undertone of minerality (wet slate) with more young stonefruit and a wealth of summer floral hidden behind… the floral notes really start to open when the wine comes to cellar temp

    • bright and fresh! Medium+ lemon acids, medium concentration, good cohesion or balance this wine is easy to drink and is undemanding

    Day 2: Friday

    This is a marathon, not a sprint! The sommelier staff started our morning at 7am down in the cellar, surrounded by 30,000+ bottles of world class wine and more than a few dozen for the five of us to open, sniff, swirl and spit. Or, in the case of the Grand Cru from Burgundy, spitting was optional (and I declined the option).

    Granted it may not be right for everyone’s lifestyle, but I actually thoroughly enjoy the process, the cerebral art-form of analyzing a wine from bottle to glass to mouth. But then, I love wine (too much?). On today’s list was:

    2001 Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, 1er Cru, “Les Boudots”, Nuits-Saint-Georges

    • medium+ to fully intense bouquet of primal earthy tones, meaty, gamey/wild, musky… fruit tones are very secondary (red and black berries)

    • crisp and slightly brittle medium cranberry acids, medium- soft velvety tannins, medium+ intense red berry flavors still developing with savory musky/gamey notes being secondary. Very good concentration, great balance

    2003 Louis Jadot, Domaine des Heritiers Louis Jadot, Grand Cru, “Corton-Pougets”

    • very deep plum core with slightest bricking in rim

    • medium+ intense aromas starting with a pronounced dry, dusty mineral core followed briskly by worn leather, cigar box and then a secondary wave of darker berry aromas

    • on the palate the acidity is moderate+ raspberry with fully intense chalky, grippy tannins incredibly well integrated… fruit flavors burst with moderate+ to fully intense developing characteristics of layers of a variety of raspberries, different cherries and even wild strawberries and currants… minerality is felt most keenly as a strong undercurrent. In summation this wine is a contemplative wine and most worthy of one’s utmost attention
    Anthony Gismondi and Randy Lewis

    Lewis Cellars, “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2008

    • worthy of note that this wine has 2% Petit Verdot

    • color is deep, dark and delicious with no bricking, solid garnet core and generous sediment (fining and filtering is not done)

    • moderate+ developing fresh red berry bouquet with light red floral and a lovely spicy/peppery finish

    • medium black raspberry acids, fully intense chewy tannins (delightfully approachable in its youth), fully intense and developing fresh red berry flavors taking charge with excellent balance and structure… a truly Huge Wine, its achieves complexity even in its enormity.

    Louis Jadot, Chambolle-Musigny “Les Baudes”, Premier Cru, Cote des Nuits, 2007

    • color is deep, dark, rich and vibrant

    • nose is lush with fruit but also lovely floral quality followed by savory “sous-bois” or vegetal undergrowth

    • palate is very focused! Medium+ raspberry/currant acids, medium+ grippy tannins, light body but almost full concentration with savory/earthy/mineral qualities with the sous-bois coming to play near the end… stunning balance and length.

    • A truly excellent find for Premier Cru!

    Louis Jadot, Pulligny-Montrachet Clos de la Garenne “Domaine Duc de Magenta”, (white) 2009

    • Pale straw color

    • Aroma is rich in hay notes, ripening orchard fruit with clean slate minerality underneath

    • Palate is clean, bright and refreshing!

    Day 3: Saturday

    This is the big day that I drove about 800 kilometres for; today I will be attending the Maison Louis Jadot Technical Tasting which will prove to be even more intense then I could have anticipated. That lecture will be a forthcoming article unto itself. Let me just say that it was a privilege.
    I was also lucky enough to be at the Berncasteler Doctor tasting… one of the most prestigious wineries in Germany (and some would say even the world), we tasted Rieslings young and old but this one certainly stuck out for me!

    Dr. H. Thanisch, “Berncasteler Doctor”, Auslese, Riesling, Mosel 1959

    • Beautiful rich and luxurious, soft floral notes with lifted acids… the fresh fruit is starting to recede leaving the minerality behind; elegant in its simplicity. A hint of smokiness, a herbal side and even a touch of sea salt in the after taste

    • Absolutely no oxidization

    • We were told that 1959 was one of the “perfect” vintages, and worthy of note is that these vines are grown on original rootstock, Phylloxera-free

    Then after a quick lunch with chef extraordinaire Umberto Menghi came the vast Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Estate Tasting. This was an incredible event for everyone, but as much as my wife is from an Italian family, I really haven’t experienced that many Italian wines. Oh sure, I know a Barolo from a Nero D’Avola but considering there are more varietals cultivated in Italy than anywhere else in the world (over 2000 varietals) I really don’t know jack. That was about to change.

    Unfortunately there is only so much room in an article, and so I will conclude with two wines from our Gala Dinner. I started on familiar ground with a Barolo (thank god) and what a lovely expression of the style of wine it was as well;

    Michele Chiarlo, “Tortoniano” Barolo, Piedmonte 2001

    • Light rose petal/garnet core with substantially bricked rim

    • Medium+ developed nose (with room for growth) of dried rose petals, red and black raspberries, black strawberries… very focused

    • On the palate medium+ red and black currant acids, full chalky grippy youthful tannins, medium concentration of developed flavors with the dark raspberry note singing high, with more dark berries singing harmony and a crescendo of fading fresh red berries which descends to savory and earthy qualities

    • This wine is certainly moving to the mature part of its life, but still has lots of life left. Good concentration and excellent structure, this is a wine worth keeping and/or seeking out

    Then, I was then fortunate enough to open, decant and taste 18 bottles of the following;

    Maison Louis Jadot, Domaine Louis Jadot, Grand Cru, “Chambertin-Clos de Beze” 1990

    • Light garnet core with slightly brickish rim, slight amount of fine sediment present

    • Medium+ and obviously developed aromas starting with a bouquet of dried floral, savory earth, meaty gamey venison steak, stewed dark berries akin to raspberry chutney

    • On the palate medium+ black raspberry acids, medium+ firm yet elegant tannin structure, medium+ concentration of developed flavors with a great deal of concentration left! Red and black berries, leathery savory herbs, strong herbal presence, almost a baked earthy undercurrent

    • Delightful wine with lots of life left still, don’t feel you need to drink this wine now if you have some! Will not develop further but drinking 2012-2018 and potentially beyond

    And that, as some would say, was that… I came, I drank (more then I should), I spit (less then I should). About 40 hours of work in 3 days which was less than the General Manager worked, less than the owners, less than the Head Sommelier (a trouper). Really, we sommeliers had it easy!

    It was an exercise in diligence, a crash-course in humility. The owners of the Post Hotel are supposed millionaires in their own right, with secluded get-aways on the west coast of Vancouver Island and yet they were up and at work before I arrived in the wine cellar at 7am, and they were always on-hand long after I went to bed at midnight.

    Perhaps that is why they are millionaires, and perhaps that is why the Post Hotel and it's Wine Summit draw visitors and wine-makers from around the world. No, no perhaps about it... George and Andre haven't created the Post Hotel as an "Ode to Money", they have created a bastion-like refuge devoted to quality in wine, in food, and in the most real way; in people.

    Dr. H. Thanisch

    Evening Land

    Maison Louis Jadot

    Michele Chiarlo

    Tenuta dell’Ornellaia

    Lewis Cellars

    the Post Hotel welcome wagon

    Next years Wine Summit is only months away, you’d best reserve your room now! See you there!