Ten Picks from a Busy Week
Wine of the WeekNorman Hardie 2006 County Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County ($35, 89 points)The rainy harvest of 2006 was difficult for pinot noir in Ontario, causing dilution of flavour and a break down of the fruit. Norman Hardie’s solutions were to greatly thin the clusters and severely sort the grapes, reducing yields drastically. He has only 150 cases remaining of the final result—a light, elegant, focused and appealing pinot noir with typical county florality, cranberry/raspberry fruit and nicely inlaid oak spice and smoke. With a supple structure and fine tannin, it won’t cellar long beyond 2010 but is charming now. Most important is the potential it shows for county pinot noir. It’s available at the winery only, or order via the Web site.
There have been many tastings over recent days, but the vast majority of these wines are not actually on the shelf at the LCBO. These are either coming soon to the retailer or are available from wineries and agents by the case. Get some friends together to split them up. Here are some of the highlights.
SPARKLING & WHITES
Conde de Caralt Brut, Spain ($17.10, 90 points)Tested at the Airen portfolio tasting in Ottawa, this cava from within the Segura Viudas/Freixenet portfolio may be the best value bubbly of the year—a bright yellow-gold sparkler with surprising intensity, verve and length of finish for the money. Aromas of olive, hazelnut and fig are classic Mediterranean, and it is tightly packed with grippy, mouthwatering acidity on the palate. Consignment purchase from Airen Imports.
Governors Bay 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($21.75, 90 points)Also tasted in Ottawa, it has passed through Vintages, but this juicy, crisp Marlborough Sauvignon is still available from the agent and should hold very well for a couple of years. Sancerre-like with steely mineral, green apple, lime and pepper flavours. Squeaky clean with excellent length. Now available as a consignment purchase from Hobbs & Co.
Thirteenth Street 2006 Chardonnay Musqué, Niagara Peninsula ($19, 90 points)When the Thirteenth Street gang introduced new partners Doug Witty and John Mann during a media lunch at Kultura they also announced plans for a new winery with new plantings, which will bring production to 8,000 cases from 4,000. This full, fleshy intense white is much more like muscat than chardonnay. It’s unoaked (called Dechènè on the label), with great aromatics mindful of mandarin, grapefruit, spice and peach. Full bodied, dry and almost austere on the finish with a very spicy, peppery note. Excellent length. Coming February 15 to Vintages.
Thirteenth Street 2006 Funk Vineyard Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ($24, 90 points)Thirty old vines are really showing their stuff. This is a very cool, lean, mineral style of Riesling for which Niagara is becoming famous. Intense lime, grapefruit, petrol and stony aromas are set in a crisp, tart frame. Excellent length. I’ve experienced some dilution in 2006 Ontario Rieslings, but not in this one. Should age well past 2010.
Les Jamelles 2005 Mourvèdre, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France ($14.95, 88 points)Encountered during a wonderfully civilized through tasting in the east Toronto home of importers Tony and Nick Hirons, Les Jamelles varietals are often spied on Toronto restaurant lists because they offer licensees true value. If you see them priced over $40, know your being charged handsomely. From winemaker Catherine Delaunay, the lineup is clean, bright and perfectly varietal. This deeply coloured, slightly sinewy mourvèdre offers typical floral, blackberry/blueberry fruit with peppery, herbal and earthy notes. Good weight, density and even a touch of elegance, with typical mourvèdre tannin. Very good length. Best 2009 to 2012.
Salwey 2005 Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) Trocken, Baden, Germany ($24.94, 89 points, Vintages 43380) Also tasted with the Hirons, this dandy French oak-aged (barrique) pinot was scheduled for release at Vintages on September 1 but has been deferred to this Saturday’s release. It features a classic cool climate cranberry-beet-cherry fruit aroma that’s distinctively pinot, plus a generous, well-handled oak toast and spice. Mid-weight with firm acidity and slightly bitter tannin. Fruit goes to very good length. Best 2008 to 2011.
Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier 2005 Shiraz-Viognier, Australia ($25.95, 91 points, Vintages 18887)Importer Paul Matthews of Prevedello and Matthews poured this alongside rare roast beef at the annual Ontario Imported Wine, Beer and Spirits golf tourney. I had also tasted it prior to its July release in Vintages, but in this venue, with rich food, it really shone. This Franco-Australian joint venture shows perfect expression of French/Rhone styling on the nose with spice, pepper, mineral and less jamminess than you might expect from an Australian. The palate was rich, supple and drenched in perfectly ripened black cherry fruit with elegance to boot. Excellent length. Stocks are good in Vintages.
Bodegas Santa Ana 2005 Casa de Campo Malbec Reserva, Argentina ($12.95, 88 points)Maria Zarategui made her first export foray in Toronto with agent Philip Mirabelli, showing Bodegas Santa Ana’s wines to LCBO consultants then at a dinner at Crush Wine Bar on Tuesday. It’s a great value lineup from one of Argentina’s largest producers. I particularly liked their crackling fresh orange blossom-scented 2007 Torrontes and this lovely, creamy, elegant Malbec. It’s really quite amazing to see this kind of cherry-fruit ripeness, depth and finesse with touches of cedar and mocha complexity at this price. For now, it’s only available by private order from Noble Estates.
Franschhoek Anvil Road 2005 Merlot-Pinotage, South Africa ($15.99, 88 points)Encountered at the Hobbs portfolio tasting in Ottawa, this is big, beefy, blue-blooded Cape red packs all kind of complexity and power for the price. Not exactly a thing of chiseled grace, but if you like very ripe blackcurrant/blueberry, mincemeat, chocolate and earthy character in your reds, give it a try. Big but not overblown, thanks to the merlot component. Very good length.