Monday, April 15, 2013

Haywire Gamay Noir rose VS BS rose

A friend and colleague passed me a couple of bottles of rosé the other day...

It sounds like the start of a "wine-geek" joke right? No - seriously, she passed me these two bottles of rosé and at the time I almost thought she was joking! You have to understand, Vancouver in March is a dismal sight most days: only a few degrees above zero Celsius (translated to Fahrenheit is about 50), pouring rain, winds blustering either off the Bay or down from the local mountains that are still covered in snow.

And she gives me rosé.

But there's more to the story! It seems two winemaker colleagues/rivals have set up a bit of a challenge against each other, with the public as both accomplices and judges... Enter the contenders for Best Rosé of the Bunch:

in the left corner, weighing in at a hefty 13.7% ABV is the Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé ,

and in the right corner dancing lightly at 13.4% is the BIG BS!
(That's Bartier Scholefield Rosé to you my friends)

These scrappy wines, blushing with the bloom of youth (unlike their winemakers) promised tight competition as soon as I opened the bottles. I did my due diligence, and made my way through the murky waters of on-line research. In doing so I discovered that not only did these gifted (special?) winemakers want "we the people" to judge the battle, but wanted our response in verse.

In verse? This joke just gets more and more odd...

A battle between two sibling rosé, the outcome judged by the public - in verse.

Well there once was a wine from Haywire
  who liked to spend nights...
... nothing rhymes with Haywire.

Truth be told, when I actually got around to tasting the wines the weather had changed; the air had warmed by 10 degrees or so, the skies had opened to allow glorious sunlight to bathe my deck and the wind had stopped blustering (unlike Scholefield) and become a gentle murmur. In short, I had reached my ideal rosé time. And I was reminded of the many things that Spring brings; green grass growing, the scent of new flowers, my wife's allergies, and love. And if one thinks of love, one must think of Shakespeare. And when I thought of Shakespeare I knew I'd found my response to these "Two Gentlemen of Okanagan"

But soft! What light through yonder bottle breaks?
  It is the East, and BS is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill Haywire's envious moon
  who is already sick and pale with grief ,
that thou, her maid, are more fair then she:
  Be not her maid, since Haywire is envious (and rightfully so)
Her vestal livery is but pale salmon to your rose,
  And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my BS. Oh, it is my love!
  Oh that Michael Bartier knew it were!
He speaks and yet says nothing - no - that's David, what of that?
   The wine discourses, I will answer,
I am too bold - the wine speaks not to me:
  Two of the fairest stars in all Heaven (the Okanagan Valley DVA)
Having some business in the wine business, do entreat my eyes
  to sparkle at their mischief 'til new bottles can be opened.
With gladdened heart I'll rest awhile
and watch two loves battle for mine affections;
in the end, 'tis I and my friends who come out on top!

2010 Haywire Gamay Noir rosé
Okanagan Valley VQA
91 points
  • visual:   clear; pale salmon amber core with watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium+ youthful and developing aromas; slightly spicy earth tones, warm berry compote, lively floral notes reminiscent of great Viognier, crisp mineral undercurrant
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ raspberry/currant acid, light+ to medium body, medium+ alcohol (13.7%), medium+ intense youthful and developing flavors that mimick well the bouquet; the minerality sings with precision and is followed by a bountiful floral and fruit driven palate. Excellent balance and structure, medium+ length
  • conclusion:   truly a world-class rose, this wine is capable of holding it's own for several years but will not improve. Enjoy 2013-2016/7 
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   floral toned wine with lively acids and great structure are built for food, and in many people's opinion - seafood. But consider this flight of whimsy: 7-hour braised rabbit (or poultry for the less adventurous) with raz-el-hanout on fresh thyme infused quinoa, steamed kale tossed with roast chestnut butter and apricot glazed garden-carrots... as I said.. adventurous, but with purpose! Rabbit carries little flavor of it's own, but will cosy to Arabic spicy blends and that spice will enhance the natural spice in the wine. The fresh thyme does the same but through contrast. The kale cleans the palate whilst the quinoa and chestnut open the door to savory tones and the apricot enhances the floral. A hint of butter will off-set the medium acids - this wine begs not to be paired with cream which will seem cumbersome (also consider Italian pairings like tuna in olive oil!)

2010 Bartier-Scholefield rosé
Okanagan Valley VQA
92 points
  • visual:   clear; medium sanguine or "bleeding" rose core... like a poached peach. Watery rim with copper highlights
  • nose:    clean; medium intensity developing aromas of warm dusty earth, clay pottery, tight minerality, dry herbal tea, white flowers
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ to full (tight) red and black currant acid, medium- body, medium alcohol (13.4%), medium + intense and developing flavors that mimick the nose... immediate focus is drawn to the very precise minerality and tight young berry tones that dominate, warm earth is a background that develops on a consistent palate with a soft floral finish. Truly excellent balance and structure with long length
  • conclusion:   a stunning wine that is just coming into it's own; concentration, acidity, length, structure - a wine to enjoy for years! Savor 2013-2018 and possibly beyond
  • FOOD PAIRING:    big, bold, distinct flavors mean that I could pair this will very different fare then the previous wine. I would use this much like the Chateau Mussar rose; a heavily seasoned gigot d'agneau (leg of lamb) roast over wood with charred eggplant caviar dipping sauce, steamed collard greens (or beet tops), fried flat-bread and goat's milk feta. This wine has the structure and dimension to require fully intense food flavors to match - this will take some of the richest food you can imagine and bring it into balance. Gracefully.

And so all joking to one side, truly these two wines on their own are enough to open the eyes of the consumer. If you've said before that great rosé only comes from Tavel, Provence, Spain, Chile... then you need to try these.

If you've said that rosé is only for the hottest days of Summer, then you need to try these.

And if you've already found yourself saying to the computer screen "But I don't even like rosé!" then you simply must try these. For the price, you will open a new door in the expression of wine and the expression of BC.

How do I know this? Because I said all of these things before trying these wines. And now? Now I can't wait to try my next bottle.... there's a reason the blog is called "A Student of Wine" my friends!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tenute Silvio Nardi, 2011 Rosso di Montalcino DOC

Emilia Nardi famously said that her mission for her family's winery was "I want our wines to express the essence of every unique area of Tuscany known as Montalcino"
the view at the Nardi Estate
I sit at the dining room table of my family home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, and wonder what she must have been thinking when she said that. Did she imbue that statement with power- to drive her family's goals, or did her family's goals drive that statement to fuel her with it's power?

"... the essence of every unique area..." is a bold statement by any consideration, in any area. Here in Montalcino, one might consider it foolish, or even arrogant! A land that has been shaped not by years, but by millennia and not by families, but by generation upon generation upon generation. Nations have been built around it, and crumbled.

But the farmers are still here.

many thanks to
Agriculture is as much of a mainstay in this region as it was 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago. Though all of Italy can fit more then three times into my province in Canada, Italy's population is more then double our entire country. This region: Montalcino is not a large one by Italian standards. It's hilly, and thickly wooded... even now over 50% is peppered with woodlands (and uncultivated lands) which provide work and wild game. About 10% is turned to farmlands and less then that is devoted to the grape.

Though a (relatively) short drive to the beautifully preserved city of Siena, and from there it's a quick morning to get to Florence, Montalcino is as removed from city life as one is likely to encounter anywhere in Italy. It is a different pace of life here, and I imagine that must be what drew Silvio Nardi (Emilia's father) in 1950. As a father, I keenly understand the magnetic attraction to building a "better life" for my daughter.

Now Emilia is the one building: whilst it was Silvio who first advocated for the Brunello del Montalcino recognition in Italy (Brunello is the local name for Sangiovese), it is Emilia who now advocates for it on a global podium. Both father and daughter have increased the vineyard land whilst maintaining, and developing, wine quality. Emilia (and her brothers) and even introducing new technologies to this multi-generational winery and incorporating them with time-proven technique.

And how is this synergy playing out? The skills that are producing Brunello worth hundreds of dollars per bottle are showing well in the Rosso di Montalcino at a fraction of the cost:

2011 Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso di Montalcino
$20++ USD
$28     CAD (BC)
90 points
Canadian merchants:

vineyard:    Casale del Bosco
vineyard size:   2000 acres+
altitude:   790-1150 feet
soil:   sand, clay and marley-shale
maturation:   12 months Slavonian oak
*bottle fined

  • visual:    clear; garnet core with bright cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense youthful aromas of bright red raspberries, irises and dark rose petals, subtle mineral undertones and warm leather background
  • palate:    clean; dry, medium red currant acids, medium fine silty tannins, medium- body, medium- alcohol (14.5%), medium+ intense youthful flavors mimicking the nose; currant and raspberry tones abound carried by the structure of persistent minerals, soft floral background. Very good balance, good structure and medium+ length
  • conclusion:   whilst this wine has years of life left in it, I doubt it will develop appreciably with time. Enjoy now and for a few years! 2013-2017+
  • FOOD PAIRING:   the brightness of the wine, lightness of body, and approachable tannin all make me want to serve this mid-afternoon: the friends have come over, the deck is clean and the chairs are out... arugula and grilled ribeye pizza comes to mind, probably with some heirloom tomato and roasted corn-cilantro bruscetta and cured sausage and fresh local stonefruit... this wine (for the price) has a brilliant array of dimension. Allow yourself the pleasure of pairing different foods with it and discovering how versatile it truly is!

In this tucked away corner of Italy, where time seems to have slowed immeasurably  the Nardi family are forging a new future. Here in Montalcino (and who am I - IrishCanadian - to speak of Montalcino?) but here in Montalcino the wines have been praised for longer then Canada has been a recognized country. Here in Montalcino there is an always well-attended and thoroughly enthusiastic jazz and wine fest held beneath the shadow of a castle 700 years old. Here in Montalcino, the past puts it's imprint on everything in this lush valley of woodland, grapevine and olive tree.

But Emilia, her brothers, and their team are planting Petit Verdot, Merlot and Syrah. Here this young (by local terms) winemaking family is uniting technology and tradition. Here Emilia is pursuing directions like their intense soil composition testings of 1993 which identified 28 different soil types under 3000 acres of land (Tenute Silvio Nardi is Montalcino's sixth largest producer). They have tested, re-tested and re-re-tested clones to find the perfect match for the replanting effort of the last 90's which has resulted in the Nardi family interpretation of Brunello. Their audacity even extends to re-envisioning the traditional foudres or 5 ton immense oak barrels for maturation.... Emilia has visited France to ascertain what potential the barrique or 225L barrel may hold for their wines.

We none of us are beholden to our past to guide our future. A new generation is emerging from one of the truly ancestral wine regions of the world, and they emerge with new ideas and new visions. I'm looking at my glass of Nardi Rosso right now, and find the future to be full of promise.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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

winemap is courtesy of 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bodegas la Cartuja, Priorat DOC

Two men come together in Spain about a decade ago; Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata. Both men come from Sherry producing families and combined, they pool together over 100 years of generational wine experience. Each.

These men forge a new wine producing company; a company with the specific goal of producing wines that reflect the nuances of the multitude of terroir in Spain. These two build 18 different labels in a decade... each expressing something special to these ambitious entrepreneurs. 

I imagine they must have been told by more then one person that they were overly ambitious. "calm down guys" I bet friends told them... "take it easy". Maybe a particularly close friend, or family member, even said "Guys - this is just crazy". It's so easy, from the outside, to look and say "this cannot be done"

And what determination it takes then to do it. What steely self-belief to persevere through the doubters and nay-sayers. And Alberto and Patrick had an edge - that much I can sense. They had the wisdom of their parents, and grand-parents, and so on - saying that wine is only as much of an expression of the land as we let it be. As we let it be.

In an age where the tractor plays a formidable role in the development of new vineyards, an age where machine-harvested grapes are considered a normal part of business, where winemakers sometimes chase after scores rather then purity. In this age, some business people stand out.

soils of La Solana
In the east corner of Spain, in a (relatively) high-altitude valley of small towns that most people outside of Spain have never heard of, here Alberto and Patrick found the 29 HA estate of La Solana. The soils of this estate are comprised of a completely unique volcanic slate and sand which imparts a distinct "graphite" minerality. These soils are low in ph and poor in nutrients, resulting in a certain brightness in the wine. Combine that with southern exposures, allowing for ripeness - and cool evenings, preserving acidity... and what results is truly extraordinary. Especially for the price! 

The result is Bodegas la Cartuja; named as a nod to the wiry Carthusian monks who first planted vineyards in this place over 1000 years ago. The monks were given the land by men who thought it worthless and, perhaps, it was. But the monks had something that most men didn't have at that time. They had something that most men today are still lacking. The monks had faith. They had belief. And with belief my friends, anything is possible.

The proof? As always - in the glass!

2011 Bodegas la Cartuja, Priorat DOC, Spain
$15.99 USD++ (sold out)
91+ points
93 points Robert Parker
90 points International Wine Cellar

varietals:   70% garnacha, 30% carinena
soil:    volcanic slate and sand
altitude:   820 feet
maturation:   6 months in French oak 225L barrique and 300L barrels
production:   3000 cases
  • visual:   clear; full garnet core with slightest bright purplish-cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and youthful aromas of bright red raspberries and cherries, wet graphite, old leather, cigar box, lively dark floral tones
  • palate:   clean; dry, fully intense red raspberry acids, moderate+ intense fleshy tannin, moderate body, moderate alcohol (14,.5% ABV), fully intense and youthful flavors mimicking the nose, emphasis starts with bright red berry tones and finishes with hint of warm floral, minerality keenly felt throughout. Excellent balance and very good structure with long length
  • conclusion:   obviously made to be enjoyed young, this wine has the chops (concentration and structure) to last for years. Enjoy 2013-2020 and beyond
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   bright red berry tones pair beautifully off wild game/venison. With the lively acid and well integrated tannin, consider this for an appetizer course of beef/venison carpaccio on toasted Manitoba rye bread and quark/boursin cheese... because the venison is a leaner meat, and beef carpaccio tends to leanness as well, a touch of rich soft cheese add dimension to this dish!

Here in British Columbia, we think of ourselves as wine-savvy. We have more wine selection then most places, and we have more students-of-wine (sommeliers) per capita then almost any other region. Why then, after years of study, and thousands of tastings, am I just finding out that garnacha; that ultra-bright, ultra-fresh Saturday night Summer wine can become as big, bold and expressive as most right-bank Bordeaux blends dream of? 

Priorat is not my region of study. I've been fortunate enough to taste perhaps a few dozen examples from here. But this? This is something different. A wine retailing for under $20 USD upon release, competing (and beating) wines that sell for double, triple the price. But not "beating" for this isn't a boxing match. This is a lesson in poetry. This is an exercise in Tai Chi. This is wine, and for generations the families of Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata have been saying that their work in the vineyard is to allow the land to express itself through the grapes.

Perhaps, now, after our mad-rush to modernization, we are coming to the realization that we need to come back to place our grandparents left us. In the vineyard, with a plow and a horse, and chickens running underfoot. Alberto and Patrick didn't start this company as a charity- it's a business. If they can make money running a winery this way, then why can't everyone? And if they can make a living chasing their dreams, then why can't I?
view at La Solana

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

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