Monday, August 27, 2012

Pouilly-Fume, "Les Cris", Domaine A. Cailbourdin, Loire Valley, France

Let's pretend that you're in Paris; you decide to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city for an afternoon in the country and where better to go then the Loire Valley?? 

   You drive for about an hour or so due south and hit the metropolis of Orleans; famed for it's rich cuisine, crisp wines and beautiful women. Try, if you can, to stay in your car and follow the motorway east... the road follows the Loire river as it meanders east, quickly dipping it's way south. Soon you're heading due south and could easily cross the river for a bite to eat in Sancerre

   But let's say that today you decide not to cross the river. Just a kilometer off of the motorway, within a few hundred feet of the river, is the hamlet of Tracy-sur-Loire and it is here that we find the winery Domaine A. Cailbourdin ( ). A nicer place for a picnic you would be hard-pressed to find.

  The hillside rolls gently down, covered with a rich canopy of grapevines, interspersed with small thickets of forest. Pear trees are hanging heavy with fruit and the perfume of the cherry trees invites one to an afternoon of idolentry; some fresh bread and cured meats, a little block of chevre and a chilled bottle of local Sauvignon Blanc. For that indeed is what varietal is going into the wines of Puilly-Fume, and that is where you have found yourself. 

   And it was only a few decades ago that Alain Cailbourdin found himself in this same spot, looking at the same vines, deciding that it was here that he would build a future. Thus the inception of Domaine Cailbourdin, with some truly vielles vignes  or "aged vines" of 50+ years, and the more recently planting going back to 1980.
Alain Cailbourdin

   Alain built this winery on solid principles; one of the greatest being a respect for the land. In his own words "The art of the winemaking profession consists of giving the grapes every possible opportunity to reveal their qualities."

   Amen Alain!

   Of course, this isn't the first time that I've heard a winemaker say these words. But, in the Loire Valley and in Pouilly-Fume, these words take on a high degree of clarity.

   Some of you reading this will already know that the Fume  part of the name for this region comes from the smokey nuances given to the wines here from the high levels of Silex in the soil. This region produces 100% Sauvignon Blanc, almost 100% of which is fermented and matured in stainless steel. Why is this important? Because this, too, goes to demonstrate the regions strict adherence to allow the land to express itself fully through the varietal.

   But let's return to Alain's words and consider them carefully. Firstly he uses the word "art" most particularly. That could be a point of contention for many people as winemaking can be as much of a craft as an art and, to be brutally honest, we've all had examples that were terribly shy on craft. So then why use the word "art" for a $20 bottle of wine?

   I think that it must be because of the high level of skill used in Alain's vineyards every day to reach the point where the grapes can start to tell their story. One could say that it starts with the trellising (which came first, the trellis or the grape?). Alain has restored a traditional, yet rarely used, method known as Le Cordon de Royat  which is more labor intensive than Guyot simple, yet allows the vine more room for the grapes to expose themselves to sunlight. This allows for greater ripeness, and also reduces the risk of mildew issues.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes

   And should mildew become an issue, how do Alain and his son Loic deal with them? For a winery not certified as organic, the two spend a great deal of time talking about the natural rhythms and patterns of their vineyards; they speak of the care and attention paid to bud-growth in Spring, planting grasses betwixt the rows of vines, of careful canopy management in Spring and Summer... they speak like organic winemakers. They speak with bio-dynamic principles at work in their fields. And why such ardour?

   "because our vineyard constitutes not only our livelihood but our way of life from day to day; it is the heritage we hope to leave our children" says Alain.

   And well how does this families' effort translate into action? As always, the proof is in the glass:

2010 Pouilly-Fume "Les Cris"
$20+ USD
$32+ CAD (BC)
89-90 points 

*previous vintages have scored gold medals at the Concours D'Angers and the Concours Generale Agricole de Paris
*this winery has ranked in the top 150 producers of Sauvignon Blanc  in the world (
  • visual:   clear; pale straw core with light gold and green highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium intense youthful aromas thick with minerality, warm straw, baked apple... very fresh, crisp, clean and precise with the trademark smokey, almost peppery, finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, fully intense (yellow grapefruit) acid, moderate- ABV (13%), medium- body,  medium+ intense and youthful flavors mimicking the nose with more emphasis on citrus; lemons, limes, grapefruit, even tangerine are felt. The minerality is tight but opening delightfully. Very good balance, good structure and medium+ length 
  • conclusion: whilst already showing well, this still has room to develop. Drink 2012-2015 for best results
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   Sauv blanc is, of course, a natural for fish. Consider a somewhat fatty fish like trout, Artic Char, salmon and the preparation can be as simple as pan-frying with butter! When using a leaner fish and a lean wine like this, consider finishing a hint of cream, such as baked Great Northern Pike with butter-braised leeks, steamed new potatoes and grilled sweet peppers
Domaine Cailbourdin

   But now I've painted myself into a corner as-it-were! Here I was talking about technical matters to support a claim for artistry. Perhaps, then, that is where the art is found; in the technical routines that encapsulate this ancient craft. It is art: in calling each of Alain's four plots of land by it's own name (Boisfleury, Les Cris, Les Cornets, Triptyque), so that we can come to sense the differences in soil composition, in aspect and slope, but most of all in place. For it is Alain's wish and, as eonophiles, it is ours as well, that we will come to appreciate as much as he does the place that he calls home.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

a Master-level lecture on Burgundy by Pierre-Henry Gagey of Maison Louis Jadot

Faithful readers will remember that I was recently honored by being invited to  guest sommelier at the Post Hotel ( ) for their annual Wine Summit ( )

Pierre-Henry Gagey (thanks to
   I could go into detail again and again about the majesty of the setting; the backdrop of rugged Rocky Mountains still capped in snow at the end of May (it snowed twice during the 3 days I was there). I could recant tales of sitting indolently in the smoking lounge; enjoying a brilliantly well-kept Cohiba and sipping aged Gran Marnier whilst reading a new novel. I could even wax poetic about the brilliantly executed service in every department of that luxurious, yet truly comfortable, hotel.

   I could, but we'ld be here all day and I wouldn't get to talk about meeting Pierre-Henry Gagey, President of Maison Louis Jadot ( ).

   So the tiniest bit of back-story just for context; Maison Louis Jadot was a family owned and run winery from the mid 1800's until 1985. At that time the matriarch of the family decided to sell interest in the company to 3 major shareholders as she had no heir. These were the three daughters of the Kopf family, who had been instrumental in the continued development of Louis Jadot as a brand, especially in America. At this point Pierre's father was the incumbent Director of the winery and had a more then able assistant winemaker, and Pierre had just come on-board the year previous. Pierre had made his way in the world in a completely different industry before starting to follow in his father's footsteps but, in his own words, "it has brought me a perspective on the world of wine that I would not have had otherwise".

   Having had more then one career before turning to wine and wine-journalism, I can understand that on a profound level. I found I understood a lot more about Pierre and his thoughts on wine then I expected going into the lecture... I'm not sure what it was I had expected, but I'm certain I wasn't the only one surprised to genuinely like him so much!

   It was easy to like Pierre; quick-to-smile and rarely a negative word crossing his lips, his eyes full of mischief as he talks about tramping through the vineyards... the following is a recounting of that, as co-host Anthony Gismondi ( ) called it, "Master-class on Burgundy and Burgundian Wines".

  Mr Gismondi (Tony as he likes to be called) started by recanting a tale of his first visit to Maison Louis Jadot and what was supposed to be a modest sampling of vintages before the evening meal... the tasting started at about 7 pm with 30 white wines from different vineyard sites. Just when Tony thought that they were nearing the end and could move on to dinner (about 9 pm now) out comes Pierre with 30 different reds! Needless to say, dinner was a glimmer on the horizon not realized until very late in the evening.

   Pierre-Henry will tell you with genuine enthusiasm about his work; he is a Burgundian making wine in Burgundy. What's noteworthy about that you ask? Well, truth be told, flying winemakers are everywhere these days and Burgundy is not without it's fair share... Italians, Germans, Australians, Americans, people from across the globe have re-discovered their love for these wines and are coming to try their hand at crafting Burgundian elegance. But Pierre was born here, and loves to find ways to let this land tell it's own story.

   In his words "My family has been in Burgundy for many generations and this is what we have been doing. So making Burgundian wine is in our blood... I try not to think too much about it. I respect the grape and try to give to the people who drink our wine some of the landscape."

  Pierre then launched into a brief history of the region; speaking of the legacy of winemaking in Burgundy that stretches back over 2000 years. "Of course," he says, "back then we didn't know how to make wine! But we learned. We learned from our cousins in Italy who settled here. And we started with Pinot Noir, which is everything. Pinot Noir was one of the first grapes, and it is the base of everything."

   He then cautioned about the necessity in Burgundy to keep the varietal as pure as possible, and not get overzealous with mutations. Clones are a necessity, of course, when considering planting a Burgundian vine in another land. But in Burgundy, the vines have naturally selected themselves into something beautiful and respect must be given to that.

2009 Domaine J.A. Ferret, "Les Clos", Tet de Cru, Pouilly-Fuisse
$30 USD
this is from a 1 HA site; single vineyard

Pierre starts by praising the 2009 vintage as not only being a great vintage for Burgundy, but indeed for most of Europe. "You would have to be an idiot, not to make a great wine this year". But for Burgundy what makes a great vintage is (to Pierre) a great month of September. "You don't want to have too much sunshine because the Pinot Noir is a fragile creature and when it gets too much sunlight the sugars start to rise. The best is good sunlight, light breezes and low moisture: it allows the grape to maintain it's acidity while still developing flavors."
  • this was the first Domaine in the area to start bottling their own wines over 100 years ago. The estate has been owned and managed solely by women ever since and Pierre has been trying to purchase land in this area for over 20 years... he was unsuccessful until 2005 and is very excited to have this 13 HA addition to his portfolio. Maison Jadot has continued the traditions practiced here, and has hired a young 29-year old female vineyard manager to oversee production.
  • "this is very different from the Cote de Beaune" he continues, "this is very friendly, very inviting. Of course there is minerality; there is tension, precision, purity."
Mr Gismondi then posed the question to Pierre "How do you approach winemaking when you have, let's say, 5 sites all within a few kilometres of each other?"
Pierre's response: "The idea of Burgundy (as concerns wine) is that the  winemaker should always be in the background, never in front. And really, this is the concept of terroir. It is a combination of elements that are crafted by the winemaker... in Burgundy, yes, we could blend our wines (from different sites) together and we know that we would make great wine. We know this! But would lose our identity, we would lose why Burgundy is so unique."

2009 Mersault (blanc)
$55+ USD
  •  total production 6000 cases
  • produced from multiple growers and multiple sites (some quite famous)
  • Pierre reluctantly acknowledges that "this wine is as good, if not better, then anything that Maison Jadot is making from it's own vineyards..."
  • 10% new oak, fermentation in barrel. Different use of oak for 1er Cru (30%) and Grand Cru (up to 50%)
  •  malo-lactic fermentation (degradation in Pierre's words) is avoided, or slowed, by storing the wine in as cool of a cellar as possible. Pierre is staunchly against acidification of his wines
2009 Domaine Gagey, "Le Clos Blanc", 1er Cru, "Greves", Beaune
$60+ USD  
  • this planting was started by Pierre's grandfather with vine-cuttings from Montrachet
  • "we think that the pleasure in this wine is in it's subtlety, that it is discreet. But - precise!"
  • he continues by explaining why he thinks Burgundy can make such stunning examples of place: "we are lucky in Burgundy, because we have been studying our vineyards for 500 years... many places cannot say that but we can. it makes all the difference to know our soil like this"
2009 Domaine Duc de Magenta, 1er Cru, "Clos de la Garenne", Puligny-Montrachet
$70+ USD
  •  the family that produces this wine for Maison Jadot has a long relationship with the company and produces (2) wines for them, the other being Chassagne-Montrachet
  • 2 HA; single vineyard
  • Pierre was asked how much control Maison Jadot has over the producers: when they pick, at what ripeness, how careful is the sorting, etc. Pierre's response: "very little actually. It is a relationship of trust; some of these growers we have been working with for 30, 40 years. They understand our needs, our level of quality, and respect the trust we put in them."
2009 Domaine de Heritiers Louis Jadot, Grand Cru, "Corton-Charlemagne"
$90++ USD 
  • the largest of the 6 Grand Cru of Beaune at approximately 50 HA
  • this is from a 2.5 HA plot (southern exposure) that Maison Jadot bought almost 100 years ago
  • when asked as to what kind of "style" Maison Jadot is trying to create, Pierre responds: "when I'm asked about style I think of my friend who makes Champagne... we are not interested in style, we are looking for character which is more accurate for us.  The lees for example are very important; the lees feed the wine. So we keep some lees."
  • Pierre continues to speak of this particular wine "You can feel that this is different in the mouth; a little fuller, a different vibration. We don't have the words for this but we know that it is different and is on a different level."
    2009 Chateau des Jacques, "Clos du Grand Carquelin", Moulin-a-Vent
    $35++ USD
    • this was a great experience for me; to see a Bourgogne winemaker putting Beaujolais in the same portfolio tasting as Premier Cru Beaune and Grand Cru Chambertin. Loyal readers know of my personal love and professional respect for the great winemakers of Northern Beaujolais. I think they often get lumped-in with winemakers of another level of quality who produce "Beaujolais Nouveau"... which is not to say that all Beaujolais Nouveau is poor quality, but the great Nouveaus are rare. Whereas great quality Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent  abound!
    • Pierre is very excited about northern Beaujolais as well, in large part because "the Beaujolais area is having a very tough time. They are having a tough time because the quality has been mediocre over the past 30, 40 years. Which is a pity because the Gamay grape, grown on the granitic soil (which is very different from Burgundy clay and marl soil) can produce very good wine."
    • Pierre and his father came to this property in 1986 and recognized it's potential for greatness immediately. In Pierre's words "sometimes you just stand in a place and you know it has the potential to produce greatness"
    • Under previous ownership there had been two labels; the upper-echelon named "vielles vignes" or "old-vines". Pierre isn't interested in labels such as this (nor Reserve, Special Reserve, etc) even though the vine-age is now between 30 and 50 years old, and so with his father broke the vineyard down to 5 specific sites, each with their own characteristics including this site with a particularly high proportion of Manganese
    • at this point Pierre even invited the audience to "play a trick" on their friends: "take a bottle of 2009 Beaujolais and put it in your cellar for 5 years, easily, because 2009 was a great year for the Beaujolais area. 2011 is also a great vintage... then serve it blind for your friends and you will be surprised! Because what happens then to great Beaujolais is really spectacular; the Gamay disappears, leaving only great wine. The Gamay isn't important, it is Moulin-a-Vent that is important, it is Clos de Carquelin that we taste in this wine!"

    2006 Domaine des Heritiers Louis Jadot, 1er Cru, "Clos des Ursules" Beaune (rouge)
    $50+ USD (not widely available)

    • Pierre chose 2 separate vintages of red Burgundy specifically to showcase terroir and what vintage variation can do with that terroir. In Pierre-Henry's words, 2005 was a great year that often times overshadows 2006 (unfairly as the '06 often tastes better right now) and capable of great aging... drink your '06 now and save the '05!
    • this vineyard (2.5 HA) is the very first piece of property bought by Maison Jadot over 150 years ago. It is a monopole; meaning that there is only one owner (Maison Jadot in this case)
    • total production is about 800 cases/year
    • average vine age is 25 years
    2005 1er Cru, "Clos de la Commaraine" Pommard
    $50+ USD
    • rated 90 points by Allen Meadows (the Burghound)
    • Pierre launched into a dialogue about the "age-ability" of wines in response to a question from Anthony Gismondi about how long Maison Jadot wines could and should age: "any Maison Jadot can age for 10 years for sure, sometimes 15, 20, 30 years... we are drinking wines right now from 1904, 1911. But I get this question a lot; when should I drink this wine? It will not be better in 10 years, it will be different. Don't - forgive me Anthony - but don't listen too much to journalists! Trust your own palate!"
    • we were then educated by Pierre as to why he had chosen the opposing vintages: "clearly you can see why you should not drink the 2005! This is too young, and even though it is a different area... Pommard is always a little tighter, a little more tension. There are 3 great Premier Cru in Pommard. This is not so well known because only one proprietor... we do not own the vineyard, we have a long-term contract with the owner. And so even if this is not so easy to find, it is very good value"
    2007  Domaine Gagey, 1er Cru, "Les Baudes", Chambolle-Musigny (rouge)
    $100+ USD
    • 90 points from Stephan Tanzer, 16.5/20 from Jancis Robinson
    • located immediately below Les Bonnes Mares Grand Cru and considered rich and powerful expressions of the region
    • "when you hear the name Chambolle-Musigny you think elegance, delicacy, beauty! For us Chambolle-Musigny is a dream; the name itself has a certain sensualitie. These wines are sensual."
    • this is a small vineyard that Pierre's father bought in the 1990's and only produces 5 or 6 casks per year
    • this vintage was "a little more difficult"... up to 25% of the crop was lost to the sorting table but, as Tony stated so elegantly, "perhaps you (Pierre) suffer too much from the Maison Jadot condition of seeing your work as good, very good, and "could-be-better". This is such a good wine Pierre, I think you can relax." That was a comment that won resounding applause from the audience.

    2006 Grand Cru, "Griotte-Chambertin"
    • very small vineyard less then 5 HA, only 3 proprietor
    • to Pierre he can taste the impression of the local cherries, and not just the cherries, but the flesh of the cherries "and that is 2006; a great vintage for drinking now, but is also Griotte. I love this place"

    2009 Domaine Louis Jadot, Grand Cru, "Clos Vougeot"
    $150+++ USD
    • average vine age is 30 years
    • "2009 a great vintage; obviously a little young right now. Can be a little tough in the beginning! This young it is very tight. But the vintage is excellent."
    • "this (Clos Vougeot) is so important for Burgundy because so many great winemakers have come here "
    • "and you notice these spices in your mouth? We think these spices are typical of great Burgundy when they are young..."
    • Pierre had evidently finally realized that his 1.5 hour lecture had been running into overtime for quite awhile, and tried a summation: "Obviously now when you have heard us winemakers talk, you have heard our passion. And it is our hope that you will hear this and be filled with a kind of envy and want to come, yes, come to Burgundy. It is good to taste the wine, and good to come to the wine-cellar, but you are young and full of life! Come work in the vineyard for a day! Then you will know the true Burgundy!". Anthony Gismondi responded with the succinct "Just get out of your car."

    Pierre-Henry in Chicago
       Pierre is more then friendly, more then polite and well-spoken in several languages. Pierre is authentically passionate, and it's that passion that resonates though his audience and through his wines. By the end of our 90 minute lecture (which ran over by 30 minutes) I'm pretty sure that most of the room was enthralled. We were held captive by an unabashed love of Burgundy, and for what Burgundian soil can produce in it's wines; cool and steely Chablis,  delicate yet layered Cote de Nuits and the rich-fruit-bombs, full-of-earthy-perfume from Morgon and Moulin-a-Vents. Bourgogne (Burgundy) is as capable of greatness in it's wines as any other region.

      But not every region has champions like Pierre-Henry Gagey.

    As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    2007 Piesporter "goldtropfchen" Riesling spatlese weingut St URBANS-HOF

    Riesling; the longest-lived wine on the planet. Period. There is a barrel of Riesling in a German museum, which is still drinkable and tasted every 5 years by a panel of experts, from the mid-1600's.

       That's right, the wine is almost 400 years old.

       I thought an exclamation point at the end of that last statement would be overkill, but I'm sure you felt the implied emphasis! Riesling is a kind of "magical" varietal and no one is (arguably) better at working with this ancestral vine then the Germans. Baden, the Mosel, Pfalz or the Rheingau ; all of these areas and more, every part of Germany lends something different to it's wine. Some give a clean-slate minerality, others- ripeness of fruit, whilst some offer a baked-honey-utterly-lavish finish to the late-harvest wines that most of the world only dreams of.

       Yes, in Germany the mighty Riesling  becomes more then the sum of it's parts.

       And in Germany, depending on when in the picking season the grape is harvested, the sums of those parts will be given a different name. I suppose I should start by offering that these ingenious folks even have different names for varying levels of quality. Not given arbitrarily, all wines are given rigorous tasting and testing before judgement:
    1. Deutcher Tafelwein : basic table wine
    2. Deutcher Landwein :  a little better quality, from one of the specific 19 regions
    3. Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA):  here's where we start to find some good quality; region specific to only 13 areas... these wines start to speak about where they come from
    4. Prädikatswein :  the best quality; this is a new title replacing a much longer one that was easily confused with the third level (especially for non-German speakers)... although these can be dry, they almost always have a lip-smacking, dentist-(un)approved residual sugar. These wines tell a story, and tell it well.

    St Urbans-Hof slopes
       So alot of information to digest, but this article is going to focus on one  Prädikatswein in particular: the St Urbans-Hof Riesling Spatlese... always a thing of beauty, this particular vintage (2007) is a true gem. I truly am thankful to the friend and colleague who turned me on to this small band of artisans. 

       Of course, this isn't the first article I've written about the family run winery from the Mosel region ( ) and I imagine that it won't be my last. These wines are filled with depth, concentration, balance and offer good to excellent value at any price-point.

       You doubt my words? Fine with me, for the proof (as always) is in the glass my friends.

    2007 piesporter, goldtropfchen, Riesling-spatlese weingut 
    St Urbans-Hof (winery), Leinwen, Mosel, Germany
    $55 regular, on-sale at some speciality stores in BC for $39
    93 Points

    wine merchant in BC/Alberta:

    let me diverge from my normal style of article and talk about the label for a second, and the litany of words/names that appear.  

    piesporter :   name for the (small) wine-growing region around the village of Piesport on the north bank of the Mosel river. Approximately 69 HA
    goldtropfchen :   a term used to signify a this regions' top-level wine meaning "little drop of gold" 
    Riesling-spatlese :   these Rieslings almost always carry a richer currant of ripe fruit flavors; I often find stonefruit dominant in tasting notes, and because of a generally higher level of residual sugar often have a fuller body and higher alcohol 
    weingut :  meaning an estate which is growing grapes for wine, as opposed to purchasing their grapes, purchasing their juice, or growing their grapes for someone else's wine
    Leinwen : is the name of the small town and Mosel as stated earlier is the region
    • visual:   clear; ultra pale straw core with gold and silver highlights
    • nose:   clean; fully intense and developing aromas of warm hay, honey, ripe stonefruit and stewed apricots, a super-intense line of crisp/vibrant minerality is piercing and yet balances thr ripe fruit perfectly
    • palate:   clean; off-dry (64.7 grams sugar/L), full (yellow grapefruit) acids, moderate- body, moderate- alcohol (9% ABV), fully intense and developing flavors that mimick the nose with that strong current of minerality running rampant throughout... a strong spicy finish reminiscent of great Gewurztraminer. Excellent balance, very good structure and long length
    • conclusion:   already drinking well, this wine has the acidity and sugar levels to ensure a long life in the cellar, but will not develop appreciably. Drink 2012-2025
    • FOOD PAIRINGS:   use the sugars to best effect! Consider grilled lobster with fresh Thai basil coconut sauce on roasted peanut rice noodles and steamed gai-lan ... lobster loves Riesling  and a slightly spicy sauce will play well off the residual sugar in the wine. The mineral tones will embrace the earthy flavors from roasted nuts and the fresh vegetable will act as a little palate cleanser.

    looking DOWN the slopes at St Urbans-Hof

        So many names, so many descriptive words. The Germans seem determined to make something as simple as fermented grape-juice as complex as they can. But what are we talking about? What is wine?

       Wine is more then just the grapes, more then just the fermentation process, or the maturation. Wine is more even then the people that perform all these tasks and more. Wine is a sometimes magical process that allows the grapes to tell the story of the land and the people that they come from.

       Perhaps a simple concept, but not an easy task. St Urbans-Hof has managed to do just that; with the German concepts of name, name, naming I can start to understand that story a little better from the moment I pick up the bottle. I know where this wine is from, and a bit about the people who made it. They're proud of what they've done, to put their name on the label so prominently.

       And so they should be
    Nik Weis, current winemaker/proprietor

    As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Marquis Wine Cellars 2012 Media tasting

    Anyone who's been reading my wine articles for awhile knows that I hold Marquis Wine Cellar ( ) in the greatest esteem. To me, they represent the highest echelon of wine-merchants not only in Canada, but in any country I have ever been.

       John Clerides, owner, is a man who makes things happen. John isn't afraid to voice his opinion on wines, on politics or on the local hockey-team. John also isn't afraid to buck the trends and pursue his own path... whereas some merchants here will stock their shelves based off of Robert Parkers scores, John prefers to hire the best staff he can and sends them forth to all corners, sourcing new treasures for admirers of wines, not scores.

       Here is a list of fine wines that John and his brilliantly eloquent staff introduced at their second annual Media tasting at the shop recently:

    the whites
    n/v Domaine Renaudie, Touraine Sparkling, Loire Valley
    Chenin Blanc - Chardonnay  blend
    $24, 91 Points
    • nose is dry and dusty with rich minerality and light stonefruit qualities, almost a black pepper finish
    • palate is crisp, full (yellow grapefruit) acids, frothy mousse, palate mimicks the nose with medium+ concentration and good length
    • this wine is a great alternative to Prosecco or Cava for a similar price; well balanced and integrated acids, good structure and concentration this can be enjoyed on its own or with some rich foods. Think fresh BC salmon, butter poached scallops or a pasta with a light cream sauce and fresh peas!

    2008 Bruno Colin aligote , Burgundy
    $24, 89 Points
    • yes, this is the same Bruno Colin who produces beautiful Premier Cru Montrachet  and truly world-class Pinot-Noir
    •  ultra pale straw color with silver highlights
    •  rich bouquet leaning more towards the dried peach/apricot flavor with a strong savory herbaceous background and light summer floral notes
    •  tight, focused, lean, dry with moderate+ to full acids full of lemon and lime flavors but gets a little mono-syllabic... very good concentration just not alot of layering

    2010 Jardin Chardonnay, Stellenbosch, South Africa
    $20, 92 Points
    • very funky nose running rampant with a moderate+ concentration of youthful savory herb notes, wild grasses, rocky/granitic minerality. It almost smells like a Languedoc Chardonnay  with it's fresh pear aromas!
    • on the palate a super-inviting moderate+ lemon/lime acid, moderate- body, moderate+ concentration of kumquat marmalade and the savory herbs, still has the strong minerality underneath
    • maybe not everyone's cuppa-tea, but I find this totally over-delivers. Once again, an excellent find by Marquis staff

    2010 Domaine Baudry "3 Coteaux", Chenin Blanc, Chinon, Loire Valley
     $25  , 90+ Points
    • 100% Chenin Blanc blended from 3 different vineyard hillsides
    • ultra pale honey color
    • aromas of dry dusty minerality with a warm earth undercurrant, distinct black pepper finish
    • ultra bright, ultra fresh yellow and pink grapefruit acid gives way to straw notes, rich underlying minerality, quince jam. Great concentration!
    • good value, but I believe that part of the $25 price is because a white Chinon  is just so rare in the BC market
    • also important to note that this is an organic winery family-owned and run since the mid-1400's... these wines can age (yes the whites) for up to 50 years!

    2006 Bernard Gripa St Joseph,
    northern Rhone Valley
    $43, 94+ Points

    • Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier
    • lush, fully intense and developing bouquet  of layers upon layers of ripe summer flowers, succulent orchardfruit and honeyed stonefruit, gravelly goodness underneath
    • palate is awash in yummyness; full, vibrant, youthful acid fantastically well integrated and developing into a truly world-class wine
    • lots of room left for this wine to develop further; it represents the region superbly and will reward anyone with the patience to keep from stealing down to the cellar on a daily basis! A must-have for those of you who enjoy Chateau Mussar from Lebannon

    2004 Josko Gravner Breg Anfora, friuli Italy
    $120, 93-94 Points
    • blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Italico and Pinot Grigio
    • important to note the peachy/orange-blossom color
    • aged on the skins for up to 9 months! A unique technique for a white wine, creating unique aromas and flavor profiles
    • on the nose a savory floral quality I'm totally unfamiliar with, moderate concentration but ultra distinct. Now that I've smelled this, I will never confuse it with anything else, nor can I explain it in any other words
    • on the palate moderate+ acid, moderate- (grippy) tannin (yes tannins in a white), medium+ concentration of unique savory herbal-floral notes, excellent balance and structure with superbly long lasting flavor

    2010 Domaine Huards Rose, Cheverny, Loire Valley
    $23, 89 Points

    • soft floral, strawberry aromas
    • fun and unassuming, this well-put-together wine is full of delightful structure and nuance. This is a deeper, richer, fuller-bodied and drier version then we're used to from most New World wineries, but very much the norm in Old World producer. Good notes of young cherries, raspberries, some roses and cherry blossom

    After some truly inspired choices of whites, we were all looking forward to what John might have as a surprise in red wines... I genuinely believe no one could have predicted that someone in BC would be putting Greek wine next to Crozes-Hermitage, but John is a purveyor of goodness in the bottle, and seems indifferent to wine-prejudice. The wines ranged from great to excellent and the Greek wines were as good, if not better, then many I've tried in the States or Europe.

    the reds
    2010 Tetramythios Agiorgitiko, Greece
    $19, 89 Points
    • slightly funky, fresh and inviting herbal/fruity nose
    • moderate acids with a young cherry tinge, moderate chewy tannin structure, this wine has some good structure and is enjoyable right now
    • bright acids make this a natural pairing for lamb; roast, grilled, braised... the fat in lamb always calls out for "high-strung" acid and this wine will play the part perfectly!

    2010 Edgebaston Pepper Pot, Stellenbosch, South Africa
    $23, 92 Points
    • blend of Syrah/Shiraz, Mourvedre and Tennat
    • on the nose more of a cooked/stewed tomato, almost a cinnamon quality/warm spice
    • acids are well integrated but full intensity (read: mouth-watering), tannin structure comes in much stronger then it feels (because they're already so well integrated as well), great structure, flavor notes similar to the nose
    • this is really a food wine! This has style, this has grace... just looking for the right partner for an evening at home... consider this more an Osso Bucco or Beef Wellington wine as it has the structure to go the distance with your more full-bodied dishes. An excellent example in our marketplace of South African wine

    Yahn Chave and his son
    2007 Yahn Chave Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone Valley
    $38, 92+ Points
    • 100% Syrah
    • beautiful! rich and integrated cherry, cassis, leather, blackberry, savory earth aromas melding seemlessly
    • bright, fresh and inviting... medium+ acids, medium- tannins, lighter bodied style
    • would pair like a dream with some simple yet well-made charcutterie; think of a basket filled with salami, cured ham, chevre, fresh bread, some pickles and olives. This is the wine that you want in that basket. The only question is: Who are you going to share it with?

    2007 Amalie Robert Pinot Noir, Oregon
    $42, 92+ Points
    • if you like the lighter, more "classical" Burgundian style of Pinot Noir, then this is for you!
    • fresh, light+ to medium black currant/black berry acid, medium (rich and vigorous) tannin, everything in check, everything well-balanced with a good structure
    • this wine delivers Burgundy quality at half the price. Is it Burgundy? No. No, but it's got that "Burgundy feel" to it and would be a brilliant addition to anyone's cellar. Can age 5 to 7 years gracefully

    And just before we left, a little something sweet to send us on our way with a smile.

    2004 Domaine le Mont, Bonnezeaux, Loire Valley, 
    late-harvest chenin blanc 
    $37, 91 points
    • rich perfume of dried stonefruit (apricots), dried hay
    • bright and fresh without huge amounts of residual sugar, rich racy acid, strong concentration of those same apricot marmalade flavors without being flabby or heavy
    • I would consider this more for people who say that they don't like icewine or late-harvest but are looking for an after-dinner treat

    So John Clerides knows how to throw a party, and no doubt about it! We had great wine, succulent little morsels of food, and the room was abuzz with lively conversation. It's a relaxing thing, for a wine-writer, to know that I'm going to a function where I won't have to worry if the wines may or may not be corked. I don't have to worry about whether or not someone is trying to push a $12 wine on me for a $40 pricetag because they think they can get away with it.

       When I step into Marquis Wine Cellars, my shoulders relax; I'm in a very happy place. This was where I came before I knew what Chinon was, or before I knew how to understand when I was tasting minerality in a wine, this was my first adult foray into wine... now I'm lucky enough to be able to go in and discuss Sonoma Pinot Noir vs Willamette Valley. I get to go in and search for good back-vintages of moelleux Loire whites (which my wife adores).  In short, Marquis Wine Cellars has become a fixture in my wine-education and remains so to this day.

       True enough, I may not agree with every comment or suggestion from the staff and management, but folks this is wine: I'll gladly debate with John why I love great Sonoma Pinot Noir and he can't say that I'm wrong because it's all personal taste at a certain point! No one will agree with you on everything, especially not something as specific as wine, but we can all agree that this is a great place to buy it from!

    As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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