Showing posts with label white-wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label white-wine. Show all posts

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  • Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Michel Gassier Château de Nages JT White 2015 (Rhône) - Wine Review



wine review is a lovely organic white wine from Rhône that most recently came to LCBO VINTAGES on and is still readily available across Ontario.

It is produced by Château de Nages, a winery in Costières de Nîmes, within the southern Rhône Valley that I had the pleasure of visiting in May 2018. In fact, I recall tasting this delicious wine when I visited the winery.

For the Gassier family, the story of Château de Nages begins when Joseph Torrès, Michel Gassier's great grandfather, purchased the southern Rhone estate during World War II. Upon Joseph's passing, his son-in-law, Alfred Gassier inherits the property while remaining in Algeria with his wife. However, his four children reconstruct their lives in France with his eldest son, Jean Gassier, arriving first and restoring the badly neglected farm. Alfred's second son, Roger Gassier, arrives soon thereafter and revives Château de Nages, eventually passing along the magnificent vineyard and exceptional winery to his son, the highly-acclaimed winemaker Michel Gassier.

The JT White is dedicated to visionary founder Joseph Torrès and uses Roussanne and Viognier grapes that come from their very best parcels in the extreme north of the appellation where the terroir consists of grès (rolled pebbles) from the Rhône River over red clay soils rich in iron. There is also some Grenache Blanc in the blend, and all of the grapes were grown according to certified organic farming techniques, with a particular attention to soil health. The fruit was manually harvested and underwent natural yeast fermentation in French oak barrels, followed by some lees ageing prior to blending and bottling.

Having tasted this particular vintage on at least three separate occasions over the last few years, I am curious to see where this barrel-fermented white wine is in its evolution. Let's see how it is tasting tonight...

Michel Gassier Château de Nages JT White 2015 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

MICHEL GASSIER CHÂTEAU DE NAGES JT WHITE 2015 - AC Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (#485854) (XD) - $26.95
This barrel-fermented blend of 64% Roussanne, 20% Viognier, and 16% Grenache Blanc pours a medium yellow gold and has medium+ intensity aromatics featuring rich and complex notes of lemony, waxy, paraffin, butter, and pear with touches of saline. It's full-bodied on the rich palate with buttery, pear, lemon, herb, slightly smoky wood, and leesy flavours followed by touches of saline. It's nicely textured with very good acidity, but also shows some heat on the mid-palate. Long, smoky finish with touches of saline, lemon, and pear. Enjoy now, nicely chilled. Score: 90 pts


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  • Sunday, May 24, 2020

Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2018 (Veneto) - Wine Review

Following up on the delicious Villa Sandi Prosecco Il Fresco that I enjoyed recently, wine review is a Pinot Grigio from the same producer. Like the Prosecco, this is a General List wine and widely available at LCBO outlets across Ontario. It can be purchased in-store or online for pick-up or delivery.

Villa Sandi is a family-owned and operated winery situated in a Palladian style mansion that dates back to 1622 in the Province of Treviso, Veneto, in northeastern Italy. For many generations, the Moretti Polegato family, which owns Villa Sandi, have been devoted to wine culture. Today, Giancarlo Moretti Polegato proudly carries on the family tradition with his fondness and knowledge of the wine world. Being located in the region proudly known for its Prosecco, Villa Sandi is one of the regions leading producers of Prosecco sparkling wine, however, their portfolio also includes some still wines like this Pinot Grigio.

The grapes for this white wine come from two of Villa Sandi's five estates - the Crocetta del Montello Estate in the Veneto region, and the Spilimbergo Estate located in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, thus designating this wine as a delle Venezie. The Crocetta del Montello Estate vineyards are in close proximity to the Piave River with soils containing pebbles, stone, sand and some clay which help produce grapes with freshness and pleasant acidity. The Spilimbergo Estate vineyards are located in a flat area of the Fruili Grave and are composed mainly of stone and gravel soils which produce grapes with complexity and rich, fruity aromatics.

Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2018 (86 pts)

Tasting Note:

VILLA SANDI PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE 2018 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#580324) (XD) - $12.75
Screw cap. Clean, fresh stone fruit aromas with grapefruit, citrus, white floral, and whiffs of mineral. The light-to-medium bodied palate is ripe and honeyed, yet dry, with grapefruit, melon, peach, and lemon citrus flavours. It has gentle acidity and hints of mineral on the mid-palate with a slightly viscous texture. Some bitter, grapefruit pith, and lemon peel notes linger on the finish, with very good length. Score: 86 pts


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  • Thursday, April 30, 2020

Nativ Greco di Tufo 2018 (Campania) - Wine Review

After enjoying the excellent 2013 Nativ Bicento a couple of years ago, for wine review I am delighted to try a Greco di Tufo from the same producer. This lovely white wine from Campania is a new arrival in LCBO VINTAGES on .

Nativ was founded in 2008 in the heart of Irpinia, within the town and comune in Paternopoli, Campania, by internationally renowned oenologist Dr. Mario Ercolino, and food science specialist Dr. Roberta Pirone. The goal was to produce wines of excellence from grapes that are typical of the region and territory. The wines should also exhibit of a sense of place. Each Nativ wine has a unique and unequivocal character, as it is produced through innovative winemaking methods, in the respect of tradition, always paying attention to keep the organoleptic structure of the grape unaltered.

Greco di Tufo is a clone of Greco Bianco and produced from ancient Greek vines called "Aminea Gemina". It was brought to Campania by the Pelagians, an ancient people from Thessaly in Greece. The name Tufo refers not only to one of the villages from which the wine comes from, but also the type of rock - which is made of ash ejected during an eruption and then compacts - that the village was built on. In Italy, this varietal was initially cultivated in the province of Naples and later introduced in some areas of the province of Avellino, in particular Tufo, whose sulphur-rich soil was particularly suitable for the cultivation of this grape variety.

Nativ Greco di Tufo 2018 (90+ pts)

Tasting Note:

NATIV GRECO DI TUFO 2018 - DOCG, Campania, Italy (#13640) (D) - $23.95
This Greco di Tufo was grown at an altitude of 450 metres above sea-level, on soils derived from the decomposition of clay rocks over thousands of years and are highly rich in calcium. Delicate, elegant nose is minerally off the top with honeyed citrus, yellow stone fruit, and whiffs of herb and smoke. It is medium+ bodied on the finely textured, off-dry palate with lively, citrusy acids that keeps the sweetness in check. Lovely aroma replays of honeyed citrus, yellow fruit, and flinty minerality on the flavour profile. Fine mineral and citrus notes linger on the persistent, dry finish, with excellent length. Recommended buy. Score: 90+ pts


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  • Monday, April 27, 2020

J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay 2018 (California) - Wine Review

white wine review is this popular California Chardonnay. It is a VINTAGES Essentials product - which means that it is always available in the VINTAGES section at LCBO outlets across Ontario. It is also available via online ordering at LCBO.com for delivery or pick-up at your local store.

In the late 1960's, Jerry Lohr embarked on a career change by seeking California grape growing regions for his first vineyard, eventually settling in the Central Coast. Founder of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Mr. Lohr was one of a handful of early pioneers in the region, and among the first the realize the potential of Monterey and Paso Robles for producing high quality grapes and superb wines. In the early 1970's, he chose Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco (meaning "Dry Creek") district for its cool, windy climate and rocky soils ideally suited for Chardonnay. In 1972 and 1973, he planted his first vineyard - 280 acres in Arroyo Seco, near Greenfield.

Today, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines is still family-owned and operated, with Jerry very much still involved with his children and co-owners Steve, Cynthia, and Lawrence. J. Lohr now includes more than 1,400 acres of cool-climate estate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands regions of Monterey County, 2,700 acres of vineyards in Paso Robles, and over 30 acres in Napa Valley.

This Chardonnay is crafted from grapes grown in the Arroyo Seco AVA, in the middle of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County, California. The grapes were grown primarily on Elder loam soils that cover a base of Riverstones - also called Greenfield Potatoes - which were deposited over thousands of years by the Arroyo Seco River. These stones limit soil depth from one to four feet, although roots are found at greater depths. This unique combination of sandy loam and cobblestone soil keeps the vines' vegetative growth and fruit in balance.

The 2018 vintage in Arroyo Seco was characterized by a cool spring with foggy mornings and evenings, and daytime highs in the 80's Fahrenheit (27°C) throughout the summer. Harvest began on October 4th, which was later than recent vintages, and was completed on November 8. This wine was barrel-fermented and aged for 7 to 9 months in new to fifth-fill American, Hungarian, and French oak barrels. The final blend of the 2018 Riverstone Chardonnay is comprised of nine Chardonnay clones, each adding complexity by adding its own flavour, texture, and acidity.

J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay 2018 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

J. LOHR RIVERSTONE CHARDONNAY 2018 - Arroyo Seco Monterey, California, USA (#258699) (XD) - $19.95
Ripe, medium intensity nose of pineapple, banana, nectarine, and mango with some sweet vanilla and spice aromas. It is medium-full bodied and somewhat warming on the rich, sweet-ish palate with pineapple, banana, ripe apple, sweet vanilla, clove spice, and touches of buttery flavours supported by fresh, juicy acidity. Very good length on the finish with buttery, vanilla, and wood spice notes. Fans of California Chardonnay will like this. Serve well-chilled. Score: 87 pts


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  • Friday, April 24, 2020

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2012 (Niagara) - Wine Review (Bottle 2)

wine review is a lovely organic and biodynamic Chardonnay from Niagara-on-the-Lake's Southbrook Vineyards. I last enjoyed the 2012 Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay in and wrote that it should evolve nicely over the next 5-6 years.

The story of Southbrook Vineyards begins in 1941 when William Redelmeier (current owner Bill Redelmeier's grandfather) purchased Don Head Farms on fertile lands north of Toronto. In 1991, with an appreciation of gourmet foods and fine wines, the Redelmeiers created a boutique winery and made their first cases of wine using the region's finest grape varietals.

After much success, an opportunity arose in 2005 thanks to Ann Sperling to acquire a 74-acre parcel of land in the warm Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake that was complete with 36 acres of ideally planted, well-selected varieties and top-notch clones. At that time, Bill commenced the creation of a fully biodynamic, organic and environmentally responsible winemaking operation with Ann beginning winemaking at the new facility just a year later, in 2006.

Southbrook Vineyards has evolved into one of Canada’s most innovative and forward-thinking vineyards and wineries. They believe in the importance of organic and biodynamic viticulture and have great respect for the soil, water and ecosystems upon which great wine, and our planet, rely on.

This vegan-friendly white wine is from Southbrook's top-of-the-line Poetica collection of wines that are only made only in the best vintages and in limited quantities to ensure the highest of quality. Only 222 cases of this lovely 2012 Poetica Chardonnay were produced.

While this vintage is long gone from shelves, the 2016 vintage is available for online ordering at the LCBO. In addition, the 2016 Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay is also available at the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake via curbside pickup or delivery with free shipping across Canada until May 1, 2020. Let's see how the 2012 is tasting tonight...

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2012 (92 pts)

Tasting Note:

SOUTHBROOK POETICA CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#366500) (XD) - $49.95
Bottle 353 of 2,664. Pours a medium-deep yellow gold colour that seemed to get darker in the glass. Mature, slightly oxidized aromas of almond, nut, biscuity, lemon, and waxy notes elegantly lift out of the glass. It is full-bodied on the rich, creamy palate with lovely beeswax flavours plus almond, nut and biscuit. Comes off a touch warming, while acids are still quite juicy and well-balanced. Savoury, earthy, and honeyed with touches of lemon and saline mineral on the long, long finish. Drink now. Score: 92 pts

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2012 (92 pts) Back Label


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  • Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand) - Wine Review

To celebrate , white wine review is this lovely Sustainably Crafted Sauvignon Blanc that I picked up while visiting the winery in New Zealand in March. More about my fabulous trip visiting wineries in New Zealand is coming soon, so stay tuned!

Spy Valley Wines was founded in the 1990's by Bryan and Jan Johnson in Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, and was named after its proximity to the international satellite communications monitoring station - a spy base - located just down the road. With a passion for the land, they established 180 hectares of estate vineyards on land considered too hard, too dry and too unfertile for wine and have become one of New Zealand’s most successful family-run wineries. The Johnson family chose the Spy Valley terroir back in 1993 for its stony, free draining riverbed terrain, with terraced vines enjoying both rocky riverside gravels and deeper clay and silt soils.

Today, Spy Valley’s commitment remains to the land and to the people who tend it as they are simply farmers at heart, nurturing soil and vine to cultivate the complexities in their wines. They are also focused on sustainability, which will ensure their guardianship of the land for generations to come.

The environment at Spy Valley has been one of the many secrets to their success. Since the beginning, Spy Valley Wines has been accredited under the New Zealand Sustainable Winegrowing initiative which promotes economically and environmentally sustainable vineyard management. Some of these initiatives include promoting biodiversity in and around the vineyards, using organic matter and compost to replace nutrients in the soils, minimising irrigation (2/3 of the vineyards are irrigation free), reducing energy use, and using low-toxic, environmentally-friendly products in the winery and vineyard.

Spy Valley abides by the principles to reduce, reuse and recycle throughout the winery. It is interesting to know that they crush their own bottles (which are made out of 96% recycled glass), providing them with a fine dust which they mulch and distribute below the grapevines to enhance light reflection.

This grapes for this Sustainably Crafted Sauvignon Blanc were grown in three places. The Waihopai Valley that has alluvial stony silt loams that are very well drained, the Mid Wairau Valley that has varying depths of alluvial silt loam over gravel and is well-drained, and from the Lower Wairau Valley which has deep alluvial silt deposits over gravel. All of the grapes were harvested in the cool mornings throughout the month of March and vinified in small vineyard batches until the final blending. It was predominantly fermented in stainless steel tanks, with several blocks fermented in barrels. The 2019 vintage was a very dry and warm growing season, bringing with it small yields with great fruit concentration.

This white wine always appears in LCBO VINTAGES (at least) once a year. The 2018 vintage showed up last Fall and small quantities are still available, while the 2019 vintage will arrive in LCBO VINTAGES in October later this year.

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

SPY VALLEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#686675) (XD) - $18.25
Screw cap. This Sustainably Crafted Sauvignon Blanc has a fresh, intense, yet restrained aromatics offering passion fruit, guava, lemon/lime citrus, gooseberry, nettle, and tropical fruit aromas with just a touch of leesy character. It is medium-full bodied on the richly concentrated and slightly creamy palate with very nice replays of passion fruit, guava, lime, and tart citrus flavours that are supported by fresh, vibrant acidity. Some tartness with mineral, citrus, and passion fruit notes linger on the finish, with very good length. Score: 89 pts


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  • Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (New Zealand) - Wine Review

Following up on the delicious 2019 Yealands Sauvignon Blanc that I enjoyed late last year, tonight I am trying the 2018 vintage to see how it is holding up two years from vintage.

With the 2018 edition of this white wine, Yealands celebrated its 10th year of operations. Back in 2008, founder Peter Yealands set out to become one of the world’s most sustainable wine producers. He determined that the only way to craft truly beautiful, award-winning wines was in partnership with nature - a philosophy that holds true today and forms the basis of their approach to winemaking.

Peter Yealands is a third generation Marlborough native and his trademark "can do" attitude is the stuff of legend. The former founder had an irrepressible imagination, inexhaustible energy, and an unswerving passion for the land. He also had a career of leading-edge innovation across many industries. At the winery, they installed a large solar panel array on their winery roof, as well as bailed and burned their vine prunings to heat their water. The vision is to push boundaries, think innovatively and produce some of the most exceptional, and sustainable, wines around.

While this vintage is long gone from LCBO shelves, the latest vintage is the 2019 edition with its new label is widely available at LCBO outlets across Ontario. Let's see how the 2018 is tasting tonight...

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

YEALANDS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#277731) (XD) - $16.95
Screw cap and vegan-friendly, this NZ Sauvignon Blanc has an elegant, restrained nose of guava and passionfruit aromas followed by some lemon citrus, mint, and thyme notes. It's medium-bodied with bracing acidity that freshens the palate. Ripe and tart with flavours of lemon/lime citrus, guava, and gooseberry, with touches of pear and thyme. Well-balanced with touches of mineral on the mid-palate and very good length on the juicy, lip-smacking finish. Score: 89 pts


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  • Sunday, April 12, 2020

Johanneshof Cellars Gewürztraminer 2019 (New Zealand) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Gewürztraminer that I picked up from the winery in Marlborough during my recent trip to New Zealand - just before all of the COVID-19 restrictions came into place here in Canada. More about my visit to Marlborough and other New Zealand winegrowing regions is coming soon, so stay tuned.

Johanneshof Cellars is an artisan boutique winery located in the mountainous locality of Koromiko, about 20 km north of Blenheim. It was established in 1991 by Edel Everling and Warwick Foley, two winemakers who were from opposites part of the globe.

Edel Everling, M.Sc.Oenology, grew up in Rheingau, Germany, in a winemaking family that had been making wine on both sides of her family for five generations. From an early age, Edel was helping in the vineyards overlooking the river Rhine, where vines grow on very steep slopes. The knowledge she gained here was beneficial when she met Warwick in New Zealand and helped him establish Marlborough's first steep hillside vineyard in 1977. Edel continued her travels and finished her degree in viticulture and oenology at Geisenheim University in Germany. She also worked at the world-renowned Wine Research Institute of Geisenheim in the Department of Grape Breeding and Grafting under the leadership of well-respected wine scientist Prof. Dr. Helmut Becker, which gave her an in-depth insight into vine growing and crafting wines from a scientific angle. Further knowledge was gained by working at different wineries and a distillery.

Warwick Foley is a 5th generation New Zealander and grew up on the property where Johanneshof Cellars resides. As a teenager, he planted one of the first vineyards in Marlborough on their steep hillside land in Koromiko in 1977, just four years after the first commercial grapes were introduced to Marlborough. This vineyard consisted of mainly Riesling, but was re-planted to Pinot Noir and named "Maybern Vineyard" in honour of Warwick's parents May and Bernhard. Warwick met Edel in the early 1980's while learning about winemaking and working at New Zealand's first wine research station in Te Kauwhata, near Hamilton. He took up viticulture and winemaking training in Germany, followed by working at various wineries in Rheingau and Baden.

Upon returning to New Zealand, Edel and Warwick combined European wine traditions with modern technology and founded one of Marlborough's pioneering artisan wineries to produce a collection of outstanding fine wines from New Zealand, such as this Gewürztraminer.

Johanneshof Cellars is renowned for producing multi-award winning table wines, classic Methode Traditionnelle sparkling wines, and some outstanding spirits such as Brandy and Grappa. They are part of New Zealand Winegrowers, an accredited member of New Zealand Sustainable Winegrowing, and a founding member of Methode Marlborough.

Unfortunately, the lovely wines from Johanneshof Cellars are currently not available in Ontario - or anywhere Canada for that matter. However, they are seeking representation and would love to have their wines in our market. If any Agents read this, you can inquire directly with the winery or reach out to me and I can connect you with Edel and Warwick.

Johanneshof Cellars Gewürztraminer 2019 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

JOHANNESHOF CELLARS GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2019 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (D) - $31 NZD
Screw cap. This hand-harvested Gewürztraminer has a gorgeous, intense, focused, and very pure nose of lychee, rose floral, lemon citrus, and musky spice aromas. The concentrated, full-ish palate is off-dry with lovely lychee, floral and spice replays with touches of marzipan on the mid-palate. Bracing acids are juicy and keep things nicely balanced. More rose and lychee notes complete the dry finish, with excellent length. Top NZ Gewürztraminer! Score: 91 pts


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  • Thursday, April 9, 2020

Pascual Toso Chardonnay 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is the companion white wine to the 2017 Pascual Toso Malbec red wine that I enjoyed last week. Like the Malbec, this Chardonnay from Argentina is widely available at LCBO outlets across Ontario.

Pascual Toso was established in 1890 and the Estate line of wines are an expression of their passion, commitment to quality, and terroir of Barrancas. The Estate wines come from specially selected vines that are 15 to 25 years old, on high trellises, and watered by a drip irrigation system which allows them to manage the flow of water to obtain the best results. The portfolio of the Estate line of wines includes the varietals Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes.

Pascual Toso Chardonnay 2018 (86 pts)

Tasting Note:

PASCUAL TOSO CHARDONNAY 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#634808) (XD) - $12.95
The fragrant smoky, toasty nose gives way to buttery, ripe apple, pear, and honey aromas. It's full-bodied on the ripe palate with buttery, ripe apple, pear, toasty oak flavours, along with hints of vanilla. It has food-friendly acidity, a toasty mid-palate, and very good length on the buttery, vanilla, and apple flavoured finish. Score: 86 pts


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  • Wednesday, March 25, 2020

13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling 2019 (Niagara) - Wine Review

For wine review, I have this lovely Riesling from Niagara that I was first introduced to when the 2011 13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling showed up in LCBO VINTAGES nearly 6 year ago to the day. I have tasted this wine on a few occasions since that time, and it has always been delicious.

13th Street Winery was founded by 1998 and purchased in 2008 by the current owners who have deep roots within the Niagara community - John & June Mann and Doug & Karen Whitty. The winery evolved from a desire to create exceptional wines that reflect the unique terroir of Niagara, while also providing a place for guests to congregate, escape, relax, discover, experience and learn.

The grapes for this lovely Riesling come from a vineyard named after June Mann, one of the owners of 13th Street. June's Vineyard sits at the base of the Niagara Escarpment, located on 5th Avenue, west of Seventh Street Louth, and has a distinctive terroir with significant quantities of decomposed yellow limestone amongst the clay loam soils. The Riesling vines were planted in 1999 with Alsatian clone 49, and combined with the soils on the site impart a stony minerality on top of the ripe fruit and flowery tones that come from this particular clonal variant of Riesling.

The 2019 vintage began slow and wet, but was quite warm during the summer months, allowing for full phenolic maturity. The quality of the grapes was very good to excellent with high acidity and concentrated flavours.

This delicious white wine makes regular appearances to VINTAGES and this latest edition will also be on shelves across Ontario very soon as it arrives as part of the upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release.

13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling 2019 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

13TH STREET JUNE'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2019 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#147512) (D) - $19.95
Screw cap. Fresh, fragrant and pretty with floral aromas surrounding notes lime citrus, white peach, and whiffs of limestone minerality. It's medium-dry on the concentrated, slightly fleshy palate with honeyed, orange citrus, peach, and tangy lime flavours lifted by racy acidity. Chalky textured with touches of minerality on the mid-palate. Very good length on the long, tangy, minerally, and slightly dry finish. Enjoy over the next 5-6 years. Score: 90 pts


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  • Monday, March 16, 2020

Lakeview Cellars Fumé Blanc 2017 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is a yummy Fumé Blanc (i.e. Sauvignon Blanc) from Niagara. The French term "fumé" translates to "smoke", and is derived from a thick layer of fog that would cover the Loire Valley in France. In the new world, as they do at Lakeview Cellars, a wine brand of Lakeview Wine Co., which itself is a division of Niagara's Diamond Estates, they add some mild oak aging to an already delicious Sauvignon Blanc to add some complexity, depth, and smoky characters.

The grapes for Lakeview Cellars wines are sourced from their best vineyards in the Niagara Region, which are kissed by Lake Ontario's offshore breeze. Having tasted many delicious wines from Lakeview Cellars over the years, their reputation is based on their commitment to producing premium VQA wines at affordable prices.

This delicious white wine is only available through their winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake - which is still open for business at the time of this writing. However, due to heightened concerns about COVID-19, I would recommend you shop online through their web store (which is open 24/7) as they are offering free shipping on all orders over $50 this month with promo code MARCH.

Lakeview Cellars Fumé Blanc 2017 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

LAKEVIEW CELLARS FUMÉ BLANC 2017 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $22.95
Screw cap. Ripe tropical fruit and melon aromas are layered over lime zest and subtle smoky characters. It is medium-full bodied on the ripe palate with more tropical fruit flavours like melon and pineapple, plus some leesy notes. The mild oak aging adds some pleasing smoky notes on the mid-palate, along with a very good mouthfeel, all supported juicy, balanced acidity. It's nicely balanced throughout with very good length on the lime citrus and tropical fruit flavoured finish with hints of smoke. Score: 88 pts


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  • Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lakeview Cellars Morgan Vineyard Kerner 2018 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is a nice white wine from Niagara that is crafted from the aromatic Kerner grape varietal. I enjoyed the 2017 Lakeview Cellars Morgan Vineyard Kerner back in 2018 and am delighted to see Lakeview Wine Co. make this wine again due to popular demand.

Lakeview Cellars was established in 1991 and built a worldwide reputation as a leading producer of premium wines and is now part of the Diamond Estates Wine & Spirits Ltd. organization. With a passion for creating high quality wines, Lakeview Cellars wines are produced in limited quantities and only from vintages that their winemakers deem fit to bear the Lakeview label.

While the previous vintage of this wine showed up in LCBO VINTAGES in August 2018, the current vintage is available exclusively at the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and through their online web store.

Lakeview Cellars Morgan Vineyard Kerner 2018 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

LAKEVIEW CELLARS MORGAN VINEYARD KERNER 2018 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#443614) (D) - $19.95
From the Morgan Vineyard within the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation, the 20+ year old vines are planted on sandy soils. Screw cap. Generous aromas of floral, honeysuckle, orange blossom, and peach waft out of the glass, all of which come through nicely on the balanced, off-dry palate. Racy acids and spice notes keep things fresh on the mid-weighted palate. Adding further interest on the mid-palate are some grapefruit and herbally notes. Clean, crisp, and juicy on the finish, with very good length. Score: 88 pts


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  • Monday, March 9, 2020

Wines of Argentina Masterclass

Tastes of Argentina masterclass on wine

In , I had the pleasure of attending a Tastes of Argentina masterclass to explore the climatic and cultural factors shaping today's wines from Argentina. The event was hosted by The Consulate of Argentina, represented by Maria de los Angeles Arrieta, Deputy Consul General Trade Commissioner from Consulate General of Argentina, and leading the masterclass was Christopher Waters, Dip. WSET.

Elizabeth Luzza, Christopher Waters, and Maria de los Angeles Arrieta

Argentina is the 2nd largest country in South America and 8th largest country in the world. The winegrowing regions in Argentina are located approximately between 30° to 50° latitude - the sweet-spot for grape-growing in the Southern Hemisphere, and within the same latitude range as other major wine regions in the South Hemisphere such as Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. There are six major factors that make the wines of Argentina unique and compelling.

We begin with the first factor - altitude. The vineyards in Argentina are planted within a range at the low-end of 1,000 ft. (300 m) all the way up to 10,000 ft. (3,000 m) above sea level. These high altitudes help create a variety of terroirs and microclimates that distinguish Argentina from the rest of the world. It was interesting to learn that even though vines are planted at high altitudes, many of the vineyards are located on plateaus and not on steep slopes. Planting on plateaus allows for easier monitoring during the grape-growing season as well as harvests that are less labour intensive. The highest vineyards are located in the cooler climate Salta region in northern Argentina, falling under the Winkler I index and are some of the coolest vineyards on the planet.

Terroir is the second major factor. Being one the largest countries in the world, spanning nearly 3,800 kilometres from north to south, the terroir is quite diverse due to wide-ranging altitudes and latitudes. With vineyards across large areas, it is only natural to see variability in soils. The presence of the Andes mountains and rainfall regime are also key factors that affect the terroir. All of these factors contribute to the great diversity of terroirs in Argentina.

The third major factor that makes the wines of Argentina unique is the climate - which is dry and continental. Argentina is very unique in that its traditional wine regions are located in high-altitude valleys, far from the oceans, making Argentina one of the few continental viticultural areas in the world. Moreover, because the Andes mountain range is to the west of Argentina, the cold winds and rain are essentially blocked, leaving only hot and dry winds to flow through the vines. This dryness of the climate helps maintain vineyard health almost completely naturally, which contributes to the production of organic wines.

Poor (or low fertility) soils make for better wine, and the low fertility soils in Argentina are fairly young and nutrient-deprived, with low organic matter, leading to desirable restricted vine growth. Poor soils also help promote natural development of the grape with genuinely distinct flavours.

Argentina also has great water purity, with the main source of irrigation in mountain valleys coming from meltwater in the Andes. This pure, snowmelt water from the mountains is free from any contaminants.

The final factor that makes Argentine wine unique is the new generation of winemakers. The first vitis vinifera wines were produced by the Spanish settlers in 1551. In 1853, the first School of Agriculture was formed and the wine industry subsequently expanded nationwide. The modernization of the wine industry in Argentina began in the 1990’s with local and foreign investments in the search for new markets to export Argentinian wine.

Today, a new generation of agricultural engineers, oenologists, and winemakers is taking the lead and breaking new ground when it comes to producing quality wines. Sebastian Zuccardi, Laura Catena, Luis Reginato, and Alejandro Vigil are just some of the people making exceptional wines in Argentina. With the help of technology applied to the study of soils and climate, new Geographical Indications (GIs) were discovered. Similar to systems used in other winegrowing regions, GIs indicate the origin of the grape and its differential attributes.

Together, the six factors of altitude, terroir, climate, soil, water, and the new generation of winemakers combine to give Argentina it’s unique habitat for creating cutting edge wines.

Tastes of Argentina masterclass on wine

Malbec is usually the first wine that comes to mind when thinking of Argentine wine. It is not surprising given that Malbec is the most widely planted and most important vitis vinifera varietal in Argentina. However, other varieties are becoming more prevalent. In addition to tasting some fine Malbec wines at this masterclass, the 12-wine structured tasting also featured wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Torrontés, and Cabernet Franc that are thriving in Argentina and gaining recognition across the globe. Tasting notes of my favourite wines from this wine tasting are provided below. Most of the wines are currently available or coming soon to the LCBO, or otherwise can be ordered via the Agent.

Tasting Notes:

CATENA ZAPATA WHITE BONES ADRIANNA VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2016 - Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#514844) (XD) - $125
A super premium Chardonnay with a clean, medium+ intensity nose of pear, apple, orchard fruit and some limestone mineral, earthy, leesy, and buttery characters, all of which show up beautifully on the nicely balanced, medium-full bodied palate. There's some structure to the fruit, along with a touch of bitterness. Earthy-mineral elements linger on the long, juicy finish. Agent: Noble Estates. Score: 93 pts

Catena Zapata White Bones Adrianna Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 (93 pts)El Esteco 1945 Old Vines Torrontés 2018 (92 pts)

EL ESTECO 1945 OLD VINES TORRONTÉS 2018 - Calchaquí Valley, Argentina (#010695) (XD) - $25.95
From vines planted in 1945, the lovely, highly aromatic nose jumps out of the glass with clean, floral and herbal aromas, along with hints of lemon citrus, white grapefruit, and salty mineral notes adding complexity. There's very good fruit on the medium-bodied palate with tension between the fruit and acids. Very nice aroma replays on the flavour profile. Excellent length on the long, earthy and minerally finish. Agent: Vins Dandurand. Score: 92 pts

EL ENEMIGO CABERNET FRANC 2015 - Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#011813) (XD) - $23.95
From a specific plot of the Adrianna Vineyard in Gualtallary, the medium-high intensity nose delivers classic Cabernet Franc herbaceous, tobacco, and dark berry aromas along with some vanilla spice notes. It is medium+ bodied with very nice aromas replays on the flavour profile, plus some dark currant, dark cherry, and smoky notes adding complexity. Acids are crunchy, while tannins are smooth and refined. Long, balanced finish and should drink well over the next 5-6 years. Coming to LCBO VINTAGES Mar. 7, 2020. Agent: Noble Estates. Score: 89 pts

El Enemigo Cabernet Franc 2015 (89 pts)Trapiche Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (89 pts)

TRAPICHE MEDALLA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2016 - Lujan de Cuyo & Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina (#568865) (XD) - $19.95
Subtle nose of currant, cassis, and minerals with some earthy spice tones. It's full-bodied with structured tannins that are well-integrated and very approachable. It has very nice aroma replays on the flavour profile with more spice, currant, cassis, and dark berry flavours, lifted by bright acidity and crunchy fruit. Pleasing notes of dark berry, cherry with hints of floral linger on the finish. Arrived in LCBO VINTAGES Feb. 8, 2020. Agent: Vins Dandurand. Score: 89 pts

BODEGA DEL ARTE CLAROSCURO MALBEC 2017 - Tunuyan, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (XD) - $18.95
Although I seemed to be among the very few, this was my favourite of the Malbecs. The subtle nose gives off aromas of currant, cassis, mineral, and hints of earthy spice, while the full-bodied, crunchy palate has structured tannins that are well-integrated and quite approachable. It has also has very nice aroma replays with lovely spice, currant, cassis, and dark berry notes, supported by bright acidity. Appealing notes of dark berry, cherry, and hints of floral linger on the long finish. Available via Abcon. Score: 89 pts

Bodega del Arte Claroscuro Malbec 2017 (89 pts)Dona Paula 1350 Red Terroir Blend 2015 (89 pts)

DONA PAULA 1350 RED TERROIR BLEND 2015 - Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#568956) (XD) - $20.75
This blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Malbec, and 5% Casavecchi has a medium-high, fairly complex nose that is Cab Franc dominant with red and black fruits, oak spice, and herbaceous notes. It is full-bodied and structured with a touch grippy and tight tannins, and nice aroma replays on the flavour profile. It has juicy acids and very good finish length. Best after 2-3 years of ageing. Agent: Select Wines & Spirits. Score: 89 pts


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  • Monday, February 10, 2020

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (New Zealand) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand that will be arriving in LCBO VINTAGES on .

It is produced by the legendary Kevin Judd at Greywacke - his Marlborough label on the South Island of New Zealand. Greywacke is the fulfillment of a long-held dream, a name adopted by Kevin and his wife Kimberley for their first Marlborough vineyard located in Rapaura which has a high prevalence of rounded greywacke stones in the soils of the vineyard. I am excited to be visiting New Zealand later this month and will be meeting up with Kevin at Greywacke and hope to see these stones in person. Stay tuned.

The grapes for this Sauvignon Blanc were sourced from various prime vineyard sites in Marlborough's Southern Valleys, the central Wairau Plains (specifically in Woodbourne, Renwick, and Rapaura), and a spectacular river terrace site in the upper Awatere Valley. Soil types vary from the young alluvial soils of Rapaura, Renwick and the upper Awatere, which contain high proportions of New Zealand’s ubiquitous greywacke river stones, to the older and denser clay-loams of the Southern Valleys.

The previous three vintages of the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc that I tasted have all been amazing, high-quality wines - and perhaps not really surprising given who is behind these wines - so, I fully expect this latest vintage to also be delicious! The 2018 vintage was very warm and humid, but also very wet, resulting in a challenging year that promises to deliver quality wines. Let's see how the 2018 is tasting tonight...

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

GREYWACKE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#164228) (XD) - $24.95
Screw cap. Ripe, medium-high intensity nose delivers guava, kiwi, passion fruit, tropical fruit, gooseberry, and citrus aromas with a fine mineral underpinning. It is medium-bodied with good weight to the fruit and slightly creamy textured. Zesty citrus, ripe kiwi, guava, and passion fruit flavours with touches of spice and floral are lifted by the fresh, vibrant acidity. Fine mineral and lime zest notes linger on the long, crisp finish, with excellent length. Lovely, as always. Score: 91 pts


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  • Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lakeview Cellars Serenity Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (Niagara) - Wine Review

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, plus today's tragic news of Kobe Bryant, so for wine review I feel like having some serenity now with this Sauvignon Blanc from Niagara.

Serenity is that feeling created by quiet conversations, easy smiles, magical moments with friends or simply your personal oasis - and is exactly what this delicious white wine was created to be part of.

The Serenity collection of wines, which also includes the Serenity Baco Noir, is a new addition to the Lakeview Cellars brand. These wines are produced by Lakeview Wine Co., a division of Diamond Estates Wine & Spirits Ltd. in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Winemaker Scott McGregor says that he enjoys crafting these premium and approachable Serenity Wines. He also mentions that this Sauvignon Blanc would be a great patio wine.

Given that it is January in Toronto, I have no doubt that this will be a hit on patios come Spring, but I will pass on the patio for now and move indoors to my serene spot on the couch, bundled up with warm slippers.

This white wine is widely available at LCBO outlets across Ontario, as well as at the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake or by shopping online.

Lakeview Cellars Serenity Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

LAKEVIEW CELLARS SERENITY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#688549) (D) - $16.95
Screw cap. Fragrant nose of gooseberry, green, grassy, and lime zest aromas. It's medium+ bodied with good fruit concentration and gooseberry, kiwi, tropical fruit, and lime citrus flavours supported by bracing acidity. Good length on the finish. Serve well-chilled. Score: 87 pts


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  • Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Rhône Wine Tour 2018 - Lirac & Tavel (Day 4)

Tavel Round Pebbles
The of our wine tour through the southern Rhône Valley took us through Lirac and Tavel AOCs. This day followed visits to Luberon and Ventoux, Cairanne, and Costières de Nîmes earlier in the week.

Tavel is located on the right bank of Rhône River. It achieved AOC status since 1937 and was actually the second to establish Cru status, right after the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This southern Rhône Valley Cru is also unique in that it is the only Cru where all appellation wines must be rosé wine.

Vines have been cultivated in Tavel since the 5th century BC, first planted by the Greeks and then expanded by the Romans. The name "Villa Tavellis" first appeared in 13th century writings, eventually becoming Tavel. From 1737, a royal edict made it illegal to add foreign wines to those from Tavel and winemakers were also required to mark their barrels with "C.d.R." (Côte du Rhône), thus setting the precedent for what would become the AOC. In 1902, Tavel vineyard owners and winemakers formed a union to build the reputation of their rose wines. This eventually led to winemakers from Tavel petitioning the Gard to officially define the production area and become an AOC in 1937.

The soils in Tavel are mainly composed of alluvial, sandy, marly limestone, and crystalline & gravelly limestone, while the climate is Mediterranean where the sun and mistral winds are dominant. Nine grapes are permitted in Tavel, and no more than 60% of one varietal can be included in the final blend. Thus, all Tavel wines are blends, with Grenache often being the base. Traditionally, Tavel wines typically have a darker red colour due to the longer maceration times, where the grape skins have more contact with the must and creating wines that are more powerful and even somewhat tannic. However, there is a trend currently towards lighter rosés from Tavel due to the success of the lighter styles from Provence.

The introduction to Tavel actually began , during a lovely dinner at the Michelin-starred Entre Vigne & Garrigue with Thomas Giubbi of Vignobles & Compagnie, and Guillaume Demoulin of Château Trinquevedel. We tasted some of their latest Tavel wines, as well as got to try a 2014 Tavel that showed how well Tavel wines can age.

Entre Vigne & Garrigue Dinner
Vignobles & Compagnie was formed in 1963 when the growers of the department of the Gard came together with the aim of promoting Rhône Valley wines. The cellar, which was strategically located near the Pont du Gard, was also created at this time, is still in use today, and recently gained Heritage Status. The company has changed hands over the years, with Jean-Marie Berteau taking over the reins in 1972 and remaining in charge for 34 years. It was during this period that site underwent modernization and experienced major economic growth. In 1990, the Taillan Group took over activities and formed partnerships with local winegrowers. In 2011, Thomas Giubbi became the Managing Director at Vignobles & Compagnie and worked on grape supply to improve the quality of the wines, a task he continues to work on as he forges partnerships with many vineyards across the southern Rhône Valley. Vignobles & Compagnie is committed to working alongside its partner winegrowers to support, develop, and secure the future of these family estates by providing assistance in the vineyard, vinification, and the ageing process. The also help these estates market their wines. Thomas and his team are working towards exporting their wines to Ontario.

New Tavel Coat of Arms
Guillaume Demoulin is the 4th generation of his family to farm the vineyards at Château Trinquevedel. His great-grandfather, Eugène, founded the 13th century estate in 1936 and began to the revive the site that was overrun with wild weeds. By 1960, the grapes were finally producing wine worthy of bottling. Today, there are 32 hectares of estate vineyards located in the hills Montagne Noire and planted to varietals such as Grenache, Cinsault, and Clairette. Soils consist primarily of sand and quartzite rounded stones. Wines are crafted to show typicity and quality of the Cru while using traditional and innovative wine growing techniques, while also respecting the environment.

In addition to the roles at their respective company's, Thomas and Guillaume are also co-presidents of the Syndicat Viticole de l’Appellation Tavel winemakers association. Among their more recent activities is the introduction of a new, modernized coat of arms that will be embossed on the neck of Tavel wines. This was a 2-year project that will finally be realized beginning with the 2018 vintage.

Entre Vigne & Garrigue is a small, family-owned bed & breakfast and restaurant created in a charming 17th century stone farmhouse located in the Rhône Valley countryside. The surroundings were quite serene and peaceful. The gourmet dinner was lovely and included a cheese cart like I've never seen before!

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Cheese Plate with Tavel

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Cheese CartEntre Vigne & Garrigue - Dessert

Vincent de Bez, Château d’Aqueria
After a restful night, it was another early start, with more wet weather as we toured Tavel and Lirac. The first stop of the day was at the historic Tavel producer Château d’Aqueria. The fascinating history of Château d’Aqueria begins in 1595, when Louis Joseph d’Aqueria purchased the area of Tavel known as "Puy Sablonneux" from the monks at the Abbey in Villeneuve les Avignon. His son, Robert d'Aqueria, built a home that was transformed in the 18th century into the Château as it stands today. The estate has changed hands many times since the 18th century, all the while maintaining winegrowing activities because the terroir is very suitable for winegrowing. The estate has been in the same family for three generations now, when Jean Olivier purchased the estate 1919, and his son-in-law Paul de Bez began managing the estate in 1943, followed by his grandsons Bruno and Vincent de Bez, who today continue to run the estate.

Château d’Aqueria Tanks

Today, there are 60+ ha of vineyards surrounding the Château with light, sandy-clayey soils that are ideal for the production of rose's, while the limestone scree soils on their property just east of the Château in Lirac help produce white wines with outstanding fruit and depth. Château d’Aqueria practices organic fertilization and is High Environmental Value (HVE) certified, a system that promotes biodiversity and an environmentally-friendly agricultural approach involving pesticides, fertilization and water resource management. We met up with Vincent who gave us a tour of the facility, followed by a tasting of some of their latest wines. More wet weather lingered in the area, so we did not get a tour of the vineyards. However, Vincent told us we could drive to one of their nearby vineyards and it was amazingly littered with thousands (!) of rounded pebbles that allow the vines to grow in the best possible conditions thanks to the natural soil filter.

Domaine Coudoulis
The next stop was at Domaine Coudoulis, a winery in Lirac located on a terrace overlooking the village of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres. The family-owned and -operated estate winery was purchased by Bernard Callet in 1996 because he knew the site had fabulous soil. After 10 years of observing and learning about the site, Bernard called upon Patrick Hilaire, a man who had worked on some of the most famous vineyards, to create terroir-driven wines worthy of the Domaine. As Bernard explained, the vineyards have existed on this site since the 1960's on old terroir with its alluvial terraces that are rich in round pebbles - similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Since that time, the building was rebuilt in 2011 into a modern facility with large concrete vats for fermentation and ageing, all the while transitioning their 25 hectares of vineyards to organic winemaking. Unfortunately, they do not make any rosés - as the rosé wines from this site are too dark compared to the current trend of light coloured rosés. They also currently do not make any white wines. However, there are plans to make some white wines as they planted some Grenache Blanc in 2017. Thus, after tasting their fine selection of red wines we took a tour of their modern winemaking facility and barrel cellar. We'll have to check back in a few years to see how Domaine Coudoulis fared with their Grenache Blanc.

Domaine Coudoulis Tanks

Domaine Coudoulis Production Area

Lunch was in the heart of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres at Restaurant Le Papet and we were joined by Edouard Guerin, Director of Wines and Vineyards at Ogier, and Stéphane Soulier, Sales Manager at Les Vignerons de Tavel.

Edouard Guerin, Ogier
The story of Ogier begins with Ogier the Dane, an eccentric man who went off to fight in Basque country around 800 A.D. and on his way back home stopped in Massif Central. His stop became permanent and the Ogier name spread throughout the Rhône Valley. Antoine Ogier is a distant descendant of Ogier the Dane and he acquired an old cooperage in 1859. The main winery is in Chateauneu-du-Pape, where an old cooperage was converted into maturation cellars and is the largest in the Rhône Valley with its walls bearing witness to a history dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1995 with the arrival of Didier Couturier, the winery undergoes renewal, establishing relationships with winegrowers, and giving rise to the Ogier style - purity of fruit, freshness, and depth. During this time, a precision approach from vine to winemaking with a minimal interventionalist approach becomes the Ogier hallmark. Edouard was personable, friendly and showed plenty of passion for wine during lunch. I hope our paths cross again someday as the wines from Ogier were lovely. The Lirac Blanc and Tavel wines, one of each, we tasted from Ogier during lunch were fresh and delicious, especially the unreleased-at-the-time Lirac Blanc that ended up being one of my favourite wines of the day.

Lunch at Restaurant Le Papet, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres

The cooperative cellar Les Vignerons de Tavel was founded in 1937, one year after the birth of AOP Tavel, when a few winemakers from decided to unite. France's first cooperative was inaugurated by the President of France, Albert Lebrun, in 1938 and was declared to be part of France's national heritage in 2013. Just weeks after my visit to Rhône, the cooperatives Les Vignerons de Tavel merged with the Cave des Vins de Cru in Lirac to become Cave des Vignerons de Tavel and Lirac that now represents 90 vine growers, 880 hectares of vines, and 35,000 hectolitres of production within AOC Tavel and Lirac, and other southern Rhône Valley appellations.

Rodolphe de Pins, Château de Montfaucon
After lunch, we navigated the narrow streets of the village of Montfaucon, on the right bank of the Rhône River in Lirac, to visit the historic Château de Montfaucon. The first inhabitants of the exceptional Montfaucon rocky hill located across Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be traced back to the pre-historic era. In the 11th century, the castle's first watchtower was built as the Rhône River was a border between the French Kingdom and the Holy Roman German Empire. After the castle was extended in the Middle Ages, the King of France gave title to the first Baron of Montfaucon to the powerful Laudun family in 1420. 100 years later, a winery is built at the bottom of the Château and wine was made here until 1936, when it was converted to a barrel cellar for ageing. Between 1936 and 1995, even though the family cultivated the vines, the grapes were sold to a cooperative.

Current owner, Rodolphe de Pins, took over the family estate in 1995, rebuilt the winery, and began producing wine. His ancestors, the de Pertuis family, acquired the castle in 1766 and Joseph Gabriel de Pertuis became the Baron de Montfaucon. Joseph's son, Eugene, had a son named Louis who would become Baron Louis de Montfaucon. As they discovered with old wine labels with the name "1829 Vin de Monsieur le Baron de Montfaucon", they found that both Eugene and Louis were amateurs in wine. Baron Louis restored the Château and left the estate upon his death in 1910 to his young niece, Madeleine, since he never married or had children. When Madeleine married, she became Comtesse de Pins. She is also Rodolphe's grandmother.

Château de Montfaucon
Today, Château de Montfaucon has more than 60 ha of vines, including a recent purchase of a 7 ha Cru Lirac vineyard that has a plot containing 140-year-old Clairette vines. The vineyards of Château de Montfaucon have a diversity of soils - calcareous pebbelstone on silty sandy soil, soil with clay, and sandy soil - and exposures. Rodolphe has a natural approach to winemaking with minimal intervention, allowing the fruit to express its flavours. He also likes to make wines that have elegance, finesse, and complexity, while also being enjoyable and easy to drink.

White wines make up 10% of the production at Château de Montfaucon and all of the wines we tasted in the 500 year old cellar with Rodolphe were delicious, including a lovely back-vintage 2012 Clairette and 2011 Lirac white cuvée. Unfortunately, once again due to the rain, we were not able to see any of the vineyards. Rodolphe also invited us for a quick visit to his home - the Château (i.e. the real castle) located some minutes walking distance from the Domaine that was perched atop the village of Montfaucon, but the rains and lack of time would not allow it. All in all, this was a very fine visit that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Lirac.

Lirac is located just north of Tavel and sits across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, sharing many of the same characteristics as its famous neighbour. The area is very Mediterranean with plenty of sunshine and Mistral winds. Moreover, many of the vineyards in Lirac are laid out in terraces on hillsides among garrigue scrubland. There are three main soil types - limestone plateaus that covered with red clay and pebbles, ancient alluvial terraces made up of quartz pebbles and red clay atop a bed of sand, and sand laced with small pebbles. Due to soil diversity, many different grapes thrive here. Lirac achieved Cru status in 1947, making it the third oldest Rhône Valley Cru. At the time, it was known for producing easy drinking rose. Today, however, only 3% of the appellation's production is devoted to rosé (and 10% to white wines.)

The history of winemaking in Lirac goes back more than two thousand years. The small, nearby town of Roquemaure and its port became quite prosperous and powerful as it exported the wines of Cote du Rhône to Paris, England, and Holland. In the 16th century, the wines from Lirac gained a reputation for high quality wines that were served in the royal courts of France and abroad. In 1727, Lirac wines were the first from Rhône to be branded as C.d.R. to certify their origin, thus making Lirac Cru the original appellation. As mentioned earlier, the C.d.R. branding was applied to Tavel in 1737, and was later given to all wines from Côtes du Rhône.

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine
The final winery visit of the day was in the heart of Tavel at Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine. The Lafond family has a rather long history of wine growing that began in 1780 with Pascal Odoyer, the governor of Tavel, was one of the first wine growers in his village and also the great-uncle of Jean-Pierre Lafond. In 1948, Valéry Taulier, the grandfather of current owner Pascal Lafond built the first private cellar of Tavel and contributed greatly to the growth of the Tavel appellation. In 1970, Jean-Pierre Lafond, Valéry Taulier’s son-in-law and a lover of race horses names his wine estate "Roc-Epine" in memory of the famous race horse, and Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine was born. In 1978, Pascal and his father Jean-Pierre Lafond begin bottling their own wines. Fast forward to 2009, they begin organic certification and eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical products, while only using copper and sulphite to protect the vineyards from the disease. In 2012, they received their organic certification and an emphasis to produce wine in the vineyard was strengthened. In 2015, the next generation of the Lafond family begins work at the winery with the arrival of Jean-Baptiste Lafond, Pascal's son, after he completed his BTS Viticulture-Oenology studies in Beaune. In addition to Tavel wines, they also produce Lirac appellation wines. In total, 3 hectares of vines are devoted white grape varieties, while 23 hectares are planted with red varietals, with soils consisting of mainly white rocks, sandy soil, and pebbles (alluvial soil). In terms of whites and rosé wines, they had a Lirac Blanc and two Tavel Rosés, and all three were delicious.

Frédéric Grasset, Château de Ségriès
A fine day of wine tasting in Lirac and Tavel concluded at Entre Vigne & Garrigue, where Frédéric Grasset of Château de Ségriès joined us for dinner and to present his wines. Frédéric is the son-in-law of owner Henri de Lanzac. In 1994, Henri purchased the domain that included a partly ruined mansion from the 17th century that belonged to the noble Regis de Gatimel family since 1804. This makes Château de Ségriès one of the oldest estates in Lirac. Three generations of the family work at the Château, including the 75-year-old Henri. His son, Laurent, is the viticulturist and winemaker, while his daughter Anna, wife of Frédéric, also works at the winery. Together, they manage 58 ha of old vines averaging 80 years of age on mainly clay-limestone soils. Only a small portion of this acreage is devoted to AOP Lirac white wines, while 11 ha in a single vineyard in Tavel. Château de Ségriès only makes one Lirac Blanc and one Tavel wine, so it was nice to try the two most recent vintages of each wine during dinner.

Château de Ségriès

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Appetizer

Looking back on this day, Tavel was everything I expected it to be - traditionally deeply coloured, fruity and dry, high quality rose wines, with some having slightly tannic and structured characters that some might even call light red wines, while others were made in the more trendier Provençal style that is pale coloured and fresh. Tavel can be enjoyed on its own or paired with salad, poultry, or hearty fish.

Lirac, on the other hand, was an eye-opener for me. It is one of the least known Crus, and even I didn't know much about it before arriving. Lirac appellation white wines are made primarily with varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc, and sometimes includes Marsanne, Viognier, or Picpoul. The white wines were fresh and clean, with some minerality and structure, and could be aged for a number of years. All-in-all, I was very impressed with the white wines from Lirac.

Overall, I was very happy with my visit to the Southern Rhône Valley. I learned many new things over the four days while also meeting some fine individuals who are shaping the future of the wines from Luberon, Ventoux, Cairanne, Costières de Nîmes, Tavel, and Lirac.

Tasting Notes:

VIGNOBLES & COMPAGNIE DOMAINE MÉJAN LES MUSES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
Blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah, and 2% Clairette from sandy soil, clay, and rolled pebbles, alluvial deposits. Medium+ intensity nose offers red fruit, red cherry, strawberry, and herbal aromas. The medium+ bodied palate is spicy with fresh acids and pleasing red berried aroma replays. Lightly tannic, dry, with some structure, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Vignobles & Compagnie Domaine Méjan Les Muses Tavel 2017 (88 pts)Vignobles & Compagnie Réserve des Chastelles Tavel 2017 (89 pts)

VIGNOBLES & COMPAGNIE RÉSERVE DES CHASTELLES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
Grenache and Syrah blend from gravel, clay and quartz pebbles soils. Medium-high intensity nose with plenty of red fruits - currant, strawberry, cherry and some red pepper nuances. It is full-bodied, dry and structured on the palate with candied red berry flavours. There's some tannic structure and the finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A

CHÂTEAU TRINQUEVEDEL TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#729947) (XD) - 12.5 €
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Mourvèdre, this has fruity medium+ intensity aromas of rhubarb and strawberry. It is medium-full bodied, dry and spicy on the palate with fresh acids and nice aroma replays joined by hints of orange. Structured with some tannins. Very good finish length. Score: 89 pts

Château Trinquevedel Tavel 2017 (89 pts)Château Trinquevedel Les Vignes d'Eugène Tavel 2014 (89+ pts)

CHÂTEAU TRINQUEVEDEL LES VIGNES D'EUGÈNE TAVEL 2014 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 15 €
Blend of Grenache, Clairette and Syrah from 80-85 year old vines and one-third oak aged, this has a subtle orange, red berry and spice nose with touches of floral. It is medium-full bodied and nicely integrated on the palate with balanced acids, and pretty rose floral and cherry characters. Somewhat structured and the finish length is very good. Holding up quite well at this age. Score: 89+ pts

Agent: Barrel Select (ON)

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
40% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourboulenc, 16% Clairette, 12% Roussanne, and 7% Viognier from limestone scree soils. Open, fragrant and fresh with herbally, lemony, and anise aromas. Medium-bodied with a slightly oily texture. Nice aroma replays on the palate plus notable anise, fennel, and pear notes. There's some structure a nice chalky mineral mid-palate. Shows finesse on the finish, with excellent length. Score: 89 pts

Château d'Aqueria Lirac Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Château d'Aqueria Tavel 2017 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA TAVEL 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#319368) (XD) - $23.95
45% Grenache, 20% Clairette, 15% Cinsault, 8% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 4% Bourboulenc, and 2% Picpoul from sandy clayey hillsides. The subtle nose is fruity and a touch candied, offering red berry, cherry, currant, and citrus aromas. It's medium-full bodied with nicely balanced citrusy aroma replays. Acids are very good. The long finish is crisp and spicy with a fine mineral note. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Noble Estates Wine & Spirits (ON), LBV International (QC)

Domaine Coudoulis Evidence Lirac 2016 (89 pts)

DOMAINE COUDOULIS EVIDENCE LIRAC 2016 - AP, Rhône, France (XD) - 9 €
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (15%), Carignan, and Cinsault. Medium-high intensity nose is meaty with floral, dark cherry, blackberry, licorice, and black spice aromas. The spicy medium+ bodied palate has nice dark cherry/berry and oak spice notes. Well-structured with refined tannins. Nicely balanced overall with good acidity. Finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Azureau Wines & Spirits (ON)

OGIER LOU CAMINÉ LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
First vintage of this wine. Blend of Clairette and Grenache Blanc from 5 to 80 year-old vines that was barrel-fermented and barrel-aged. It has medium-high intensity aromas that are clean and elegant with mineral, lemon/lime, herbs and anise notes, all of which come through on the medium+ bodied palate with hints of saline minerality. Acids are fresh and the finish length is excellent. Score: 90 pts

Ogier Lou Caminé Lirac Blanc 2017 (90 pts)Ogier Etamines Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

OGIER ETAMINES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
Pretty, medium-high intensity nose of strawberry, spice, currant, and cherry aromas. It is medium-full bodied with spicy aroma replays on the palate, fresh acids, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Select Wines (ON), Sélect Vins AdVini (QC)

Domaine du Vieil Aven Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE DU VIEIL AVEN TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - $18.70
Medium+ intensity nose is spicy with red currant, cherry, and strawberry aromas. The palate is full-ish with gentle tannins and juicy acids that support the nicely dry aroma replays. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Louis Roche (QC)

Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE DES CARTERESSES TAVEL ROSÉ 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#739474) (XD) - $18.95
The medium-high intensity nose is fresh has ripe aromas of strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with a rounded mouthfeel. Touch candied cherry flavour, plus aroma replays on the flavour profile. Juicy acids, smooth tannins, and very good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Dionysus Wines & Spirits (ON), Vin Conseil (QC)

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON COMTESSE MADELEINE LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 13.5 €
Just bottled. Blend of Marsanne (40%), Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Viognier. Medium-high intensity aromas are fresh and ripe with white and yellow florals, and key lime pie. On the medium-bodied palate, it has nice, ripe aroma replays supported by bright and lively acids. Anise, herbs, and lime notes linger on the long finish. Barrel-fermented and aged, yet oak is very subtle. Should drink well for at least half a dozen years. Score: 89 pts

Château de Montfaucon Comtesse Madeleine Lirac Blanc 2016 (89 pts)Château de Montfaucon Vin de Madame La Comtesse Lirac Blanc 2012 (91 pts)

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON VIN DE MADAME LA COMTESSE LIRAC BLANC 2012 - AP, Rhône, France (XD)
Limited production. 100% Clairette barrel-fermented from a small 1.3 acre vineyard first planted in 1870 - one of the oldest in Rhône Valley. Complex, medium-high intensity nose is exotic and a touch oxidative with nutty, pear and fennel aromas. Spicy palate is still showing freshness with very nice aroma replays and some mineral notes adding complexity. Shows finesse on the long, intense finish. 2012 was the first vintage of this wine. Score: 91 pts

Agent: Nicholas Pearce Wines (ON)

DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (XD) - 10 €
This blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne, and 20% Viognier that has medium+ intensity aromas of fennel, anise, lemony citrus, and herbs. Acids are fresh and bright on the medium-bodied palate with nice aroma replays on the flavour profile. Clean and crisp with hints of mineral on the long finish. Score: 88+ pts

Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine Lirac Blanc 2017 (88+ pts)Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE TAVEL 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#950709) (XD) - 10 €
60% Grenache with equal parts Syrah and Cinsault. Medium-high intensity nose is pretty with freshly picked, ripe strawberry, rhubarb, and cherry aromas. The medium+ bodied palate is fleshy, a touch candied, but dry, with nice aroma replays. It has juicy acids, a spicy mid-palate, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Hobbs & Co. (ON)

CHÂTEAU SÉGRIÈS LIRAC BLANC 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
A blend of 50% Clairette, 30% Ugni Blanc, 10% Roussanne, 5% Bourboulenc, and 5% Picpoul that is 30% barrel-fermented. Subtle herbs, fennel, and lemon aromas. It is medium-full bodied and creamy with nice pear and herbals flavours. Crunchy fruit with fresh acidity. Finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Château Ségriès Lirac Blanc 2015 (89 pts)Château Ségriès Tavel 2016 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU SÉGRIÈS TAVEL 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
Blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, and 10% Clairette. Medium+ intensity nose offers cherry, strawberry, and currant aromas, with much of the same on the spicy, full-bodied palate. It has some tannic structure, while acids and finish length are both very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A


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