This week’s Vintages release features wines from the Sonoma County region of California. This is a diverse region in climate and topography and is the source of exceptional wines that display ripe, dense fruit from the inland zones of the county and crisp cool-climate wines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the cooler coastal zones.
Wines of both types are offered in this release but not one made my value list. This is disappointing as I think we all need to better appreciate the quality and diversity of this varied region…a region that sits behind the shadow of its more famous, and less interesting, neighbour, Napa Valley. Prices were too high for the quality or the wines simply didn’t display what Sonoma is for me.
In the second theme we see the first salvo in the holiday season onslaught from the Vintages team: party wines. This selection is a curious. Some of the wines are light sippers; others are more serious wines which crave food. Let’s just face it: this theme is simply a marketing angle brought to you by the merchandising folks at Vintages. It’s simply another way to sell wine with some marketing spin. This sarcasm aside, several wines in this sub-feature get my nod.
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Cave Spring Chenin Blanc 2008
We have two wines made from this grape in my selection this week – unusual for Ontario we have one of the few made here, in this case from Cave Spring. This version is ready to drink. It has a honey nose with melon, citrus and lees also on the nose. The palate is dry – verging on off-dry – with crisp acid, lemon, honey, spice and minerals. It has a supple mouth feel and a long, mineral finish. Serve with sole fried in butter with toasted almonds.
Dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle
France, Loire – AOC Vouvray Marc Brédif 2009
Vouvray is made in an array of different styles from the Chenin Blanc grape. I recently taught a class on the wines of the Loire and one student asked “how does one know whether Vouvray will be dry or off-dry?” This was a very good question as often there is no indication of the sugar content on the label. In this case we have an off-dry version which is a good candidate for an A-B comparison with the Cave Spring Chenin Blanc, above. You will find plenty of Loire chalky minerals on the nose and palate along with honey, lemon, spice and ripe melon. A very fine example of off-dry Vouvray, this wine will accompany white fish dishes to a “T”.
Medium-dry, white wine – $20.95 per bottle
Italy, Tuscany – DOCG Chianti Classico Riserva Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda 2007
Here we have a very good value Riserva from a very old house. It is now hitting its stride with plenty of cherry, spice, wet earth on the nose and palate. The tannins show the classic dustiness of Sangiovese and the acid is bright and provides a slightly sour character with the red fruit. This wine will evolve further over the next 2 -3 years but can be enjoyed now with a plate of pasta in Bolognese sauce, or serve with a grilled rib steak.
Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Château de Beaucastel Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2009
Once a year, around this time, we are offered the currently available vintage of this wonderful value wine and each year at this time I typically put it on my must-buy list. Look for ripe dark fruit, garrigue, smoke, spice, loamy savoury elements on both the nose and the palate. The tannins are soft, the acidity is medium in weight, the body is medium-full. This is a concentrated, balanced wine with an overall elegance that is distinctive. This is a great wine to take to dinners over the holidays as a hostess gift – or buy a case and place in your cellar for the next 5 -7 years. Serve with cassoulet on a cold winter evening.
Extra dry, red wine – $29.95 per bottle (Party feature wine)
Portugal, Douro – DO Douro Meandro Do Vale Meäo 2008
This wine is a blend of several indigenous varieties, dominated by Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Franca. The result is a wine of exceptional complexity with berry fruit, spice, herbs, wet earth, smoked meat and violet aromas and flavors. There is fine structure, balance, precision and crispness in this wine – it will be a perfect match with roasts and grilled meats. You can enjoy this wine now but it will develop further, for the next 5 – 6 years.
Extra dry, red wine – $ 23.95 per bottle
The first runner-up this week is from this year’s winner (again) of Winery of the Year at the Canadian Wine Awards. It’s nice to see Ontario/Niagara getting this recognition.
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2010
Tawse continues to expand its line of wines, with a growing de-emphasis on oak maturation. I wouldn’t expect any oak in a Riesling and there isn’t any in this one – just expressive fruit. The wine is intense on the nose and palate with concentrated aromas of lime, Granny Smith apple, ripe melon and some modest honey. The palate is lean and juicy, with a flavor profile as promised on the nose. The wine displays exceptional sugar/acid balance and delivers a long, clean and crisp finish. I continue to be impressed by Niagara Riesling. This wine is a great value.
Medium- dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle (Party feature wine)
The second runner-up is the sister wine to the Coudoulet de Beaucastel red listed above.
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Château de Beaucastel Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc 2009
At a recent tasting dinner (see my next post) we enjoyed some white wines, one of which was a 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape white from Château de Beaucastel; this white is a close cousin of that noble cru at one-third the price. The Coudoulet Blanc is a blend dominated by Marsanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier and is eminently age-able for the next 5 -7 years. It has intense ripe tree-fruit aromas and flavours, apricot, apple, grapefruit and honey. The acid is crisp, the body is full and the finish is very long. Serve with a winter salad or a mushroom risotto.
Extra dry, white wine – $33.95 per bottle
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