Everything Wine blog

Back Up The Truck! 99pt "Tuscan Amarone" for $60!

All technology looks like magic until you understand it. The act of turning grapes into wine pivots on the process of fermentation, a step that can happen spontaneously and looks exactly like a miracle when you can’t see the wee yeast beasties floating in the air that made it possible.  

Which isn’t to say that people didn’t use yeast, they did so obliviously all the time. The foam from fermenting beer was used to rise bread; crushed Roman grapes in an amphora eventually started to bubble in a way that resembled boiling – in fact the term fermentation comes from the Latin fevere: to boil. They knew the how but not the why, and wouldn’t truly understand until Louis Pasteur identified the mechanics of how yeast cells multiply in 1857. Until then: magic. 

The Renaissance-era Florentines were feeling mighty magical when they came up with a fix for inconsistent vintages in Tuscany. In the 1400s (when the world was cooler), using the crush-and-wait approach made your nascent wine vulnerable to the temperature swings of autumn, if you had a warm fall the yeasts would thrive and eat up all the yummy sugars, producing a drier wine (still a bit sweeter than today’s standards). A cool autumn made fermentation take way longer and could even make the yeasts go dormant, leaving elevated sugars in your accidentally sweet wine. To the entrepreneurial Florentines, who were making large coin exporting Chiantis to Europe with their new snazzy Sangiovese grape, this was a big marketing problem: how could your consumer trust your wine when they never knew how sweet it was gonna be? 

The fix they came up with was called the Governo method, and it would be used all over Tuscany and beyond until the advent of electricity. It goes like this: you do your regular vineyard harvest, but reserve a couple rows to let the fruit hang and ripen until it just about falls off the vine. You do your standard crush and ferment (but you don’t inoculate because you don’t know about yeast yet), but as the fermentation slows down (“stuck” in winemaker parlance) you pick and crush the remaining grapes (at this point semi-dried and hella sweet) and add the juice to the mix, reviving and strengthening the yeasts and resulting in a stronger, drier wine, lower in acid and consistent year after year. 

Modern Tuscan winemakers can control their ferments with a temperature dial, so the Governo method is nearly extinct, but there are a few renegade producers experimenting with it, particularly Andrea Valiani and his son Marco of Terrescure, a relatively young, upstart winery (although Andrea has been in the wine business his whole life). My “Back Up The Truck” wine today is their Lotto Unico 2016 Toscana IGT, a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that I’ve been calling the “Tuscan Amarone”. 

To be clear: there’s no such thing as Tuscan Amarone. Amarone is only found further north in Valpolicella near Verona (and the Tuscans would argue that the Governo method predates Amarone by centuries). It is a helpful shorthand, though, to describe this rustic beast, a throwback to pre-industrial styles of Italian wine mixing raisinated grapes into the heady brew of roasted plums, mocha and caramel apple. Because the ancient Governo process is by nature oxidative, there’s also a soft basalmic quality on the nose, before unfolding into a full body (but not as heavy as Amarone) and a two-minute finish. The dried grape addition puts the sweetness slightly above Amarone levels (15g/l compared to 12g/l), drier than many Californian reds but sweeter than most bone-dry modern Tuscan wines; on average, wines have never been drier than they are today, and Lotto Unico is a nostalgic homage to a different age when sweetness, not ubiquitous as it is today, was considered a luxury. 

This is a wine for the end of the evening or the beginning of one, on a patio, with or without food (although I could destroy a burger with this, and great, now I’m hungry), and it’s a way-cool glimpse into the history of winemaking and the styles of yesteryear. I wish I had more...

Terrescure Lotto Unico 2016, Toscana I.G.T. 99 points Luca Maroni, 8 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax 

Until next time, have a great weekend, stay safe, and Happy Drinking! 

 

POSTSCRIPT: I know that the word “sweet” is the opposite of a safe-word for many wine drinkers, so I just wanted to give some context as to the residual sugar levels of a few popular wines. The antiquated 00-0-1-2-etc. dryness scale describes the impression of sweetness, which can be slewed by glycerine, acids and tannins (Coca-Cola famously hides its 39 grams of sugar per can behind a hefty dose of phosphoric acid – Apothic Red can appear dry to some because it balances its 19g with stemmy tannins), it is much more helpful to show the actual sugar content: 

Tignanello: 0.75g/l
Chateau de Beaucastel: 4g/l
Purple Angel: 4g/l
Kendall Jackson Chardonnay: 7g/l
The Prisoner: 8g/l
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon: 9g/l
Belle Glos Pinot Noir: 10g/l
Masi Costasera Amarone: 10g/l
Brut Champagne: up to 12g/l
Lotto Unico: 15g/l
Apothic Red: 19g/l
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling: 44g/l
Taylor Fladgate Tawny 10yr Port: 112g/l
Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine: 225g/l 

Summer Saga VI: Only the Rhone-ly

I hope everyone has had a safe summer, full of friends, family, food and wine, and perhaps you’ve explored new pockets of our amazing province, since… you know. I also hope you’ve enjoyed these overlong emails as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Alas, our Summer Saga is coming to a close, but I’ll soon send a recap of all of the wines still in stock in case you missed them. This week, I present a brisk collection of wines from the Rhone Valley. To the juice: 

NORTHERN RHÔNE 

J.L. Chave “Farconnet” Hermitage 2015. There have been Chaves making wine on Hermitage hill since before the days of Christopher Columbus – in fact the Chaves could credibly change their last name to “Syrah” since they are the family with the longest proximity to that grape, which comprises the entirety of this bold 2015 Hermitage. Bucking the trend of bottling single-cru wines, Jean Louis Chave continues his namesake’s blending talents, here merging estate fruit with grapes purchased from lieu-dits all over the wee hill (Les Diognières, Les Greffieux, Péléat), constructing a robust (but quite glugable) Hermitage with heightened aromatics of dark berries and licorice over an understated but ever-present structure, a result of spending 2 years in old oak. Newcomers to Hermitage will appreciate the welcome mat, old dogs like me can’t but marvel at the sheer precision of the work. Selling at a reduced price, the previous price was over $100. 94 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $81.98 +tax 

Domaine Barge Côte Blonde Côte Rôtie 2016. The Côte Blonde has traditionally been the more elegant half of the wee Côte Rôtie AOC, tilted steeply over the village of Ampuis, where the Barge family has been weaving silk from that vineyard since 1860. Young Julien Barge has moved operations firmly into the Organic/Druid column, reducing sulphur and sprays and using whole cluster ferments of Syrah with 5% Viognier (which always punches above its percentage). Mediterranean savoury notes blend with subtle red fruits and plums, perched atop a medium-plus body and fine tannins. I’d like the acidity to integrate a bit better – a two or three years nap should accomplish this – but this is a stunningly pure example of Blonde, and should cellar accordingly for two decades quite easily. First time in BC for this Cru.  96 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $159.98 +tax. 

Tardieu-Laurent Vieille Vignes Côte Rôtie 2017. Only 350 6-packs made, I have two of them. A blend of the oldest vines from three Côte Brune crus: La Landonne, Lancement and Chavaroche, at least so says Tardieu-Laurent’s cryptic website, which gives the strong impression that they gave the wine to a hallucinating garden snail, then somehow google-translated his observations verbatim right on to the webpage. I would have translated your copy for a case of wine, guys! Heck, I’d have done it for just one bottle of this godly Syrah: almost Jamet-like in frame with a very un-Jamet-like fruit profile of rich cassis and herbs. Although not quite as wood-positive as he used to be, Michel Tardieu isn’t afraid of barrels and even the scaffold-y structure is softened and lifted by the modern élevage. Big and bold – a fantastic Syrah. 96 points Wine Spectator. 96 points Decanter, 2 6-packs available, $118.98 +tax

Guigal Condrieu 2016. If 3 dozen aromatic flowers sprang to life and started preparing you a fruit salad you’d probably freak out, but somehow when Guigal does it it’s ok? The Guigal family holds about 40% of the vineyards in the tiny region of Condrieu, normally this would seem kinda greedy but it’s forgivable when you consider that their family is responsible for saving the region – and indeed the Viognier grape itself – after the Germans tried to destroy the vineyards along their retreat in the final days of WW2 (I get that “erasing a grape variety” is low on a list of legit grievances against the Nazis, but still. Jerks.). Decadently constructed (about 1/3 stayed at Hotel Barrique with 2/3 in stainless) and ridiculously opulent, this Viognier fires tropical fruits out of a T-shirt Cannon with tangerine and melons crashing into pineapples and cream. A full, dry body, drinking beautifully now. 94 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $83.98 +tax.

SOUTHERN RHÔNE 

Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas 2016. Unlike many diversified Rhone wineries with thumbs in many pies, the Ay family – now run by seventh-generation Christophe and Anne-Sophie – only makes Gigondas, and unlike many local growers who step over each other to plant the highest vineyards above the town, Raspail-Ay works entirely on the hot valley floor, where they crank out naughty, boozy, truly outrageous Giggy year after year. This 2016 is barely constrained by the tight mineral structure, the fruit is open for business, happily swimming in chocolate lakes with cherry canoes pushed by herbal paddles. Floral notes surround the nose and the intensely concentrated body is actually a bit lighter than you’d expect, with an energetic finish. Good times. 95 points Vinous, 95 points Decanter, 2 cases available, $44.98 +tax 

Domaine le Colombier Vieille Vignes Vacqueyras 2015. I understand that anointing a wine the “Best Vacqueyras” can sound like giving an award for “World’s Best Beige”, but this 100-year-old vine, concrete-aged expression of the village (pronounced Vack-Ay-Rass) is heaps better than the output of many other villages too. Drinking like Southern-Rhone-by-way-of-Mendoza, there is a palpable energy coursing through the black fruits and gravel on the nose and body, followed by the expected herbal finish and unexpected exclamation point. The Moure family have specialized in Vacqueyras since the early 1960s and farm the town’s oldest vineyards (replanted just after Phylloxera), bottled here in, yes, the Best Vacqueyras (that I’ve found, at least). 94 points Robert Parker, 4 6-packs available, $40.98 +tax.  

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie 2014. 96 points James Suckling, 95 points Vinous, 8 bottles available, $165.98 +tax

Guigal La Landonne Cote Rotie 2014. 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 98 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $499.99 +tax 

Ferraton Lieu-dit Patou Cornas 2013. 94 points Wine Spectator, 10 bottles available, $69.98 +tax 

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2017. 95 points Wine Spectator, 95 points Decanter, 3 cases available, $89.99 +tax 

Chateau de Beaucastel “Hommage a Jacques Perrin” 2014. 96 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $425.99 +tax 

Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2017. 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Jeb Dunnuck, 2 cases available, $68.99 +tax 

Roger Sabon Reserve Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012. 94 points Wine Spectator, 2 cases available, $69.99 +tax 

Haute Marone Gigondas 2013. 91 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $49.99 +tax 

 

Until next time, Happy Drinking! 

Think inside the box: the benefits of boxed wines!

The idea of drinking wine from a box may bring up memories of your college years and it’s true, early boxed wine may have been predominantly appealing for its affordable reputation but it has come a long way in terms of quality and selection! Now, boxed wine is popular with enthusiasts and newbies alike!

Many of us view boxed wine as being of lesser quality compared to their glass bottled counterparts but in reality, both boxed wine and bottled wine have the potential to be high quality. A great example of high quality offerings are from Bota Box, a company that produces boxed wines exclusively, many of which have been recognized by the highly acclaimed magazine, Wine Enthusiast.

Early versions of boxed wines lacked the technology to keep rich flavours more often found in a bottle but now, a bib, a food grade polyethylene plastic (which holds the wine within the box) has no influence on the taste of the wine and is also the safest, most non-toxic plastic available.

This bib is airtight which means that an opened boxed wine can last up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator versus a bottle of wine which only has a shelf life of a few days. In addition to keeping the wine fresh for longer, these bibs and the boxes they come in are easier on the environment as they cost less energy to produce, can be recycled easier than glass, and cost less to ship. And we haven’t even talked about the value yet!

An average box of wine will give you the equivalent of 4 bottles and can be sold at a low price because expensive materials like glass and cork aren’t needed! Not to mention they definitely earn high scores in the convenience department! A large format box of wine is lighter than 4 bottles, is an ideal choice for camping, taking to beaches, or enjoying on a boating trip. Remove the wine from the outer box and store in a cooler for the ultimate in portability!

Have we convinced you yet?

For arguments sake, let’s look at typical negative attributes to boxed wine. One trait is that they don’t have the ageing potential as some bottled wines do; most red wines in a box can only be kept for up to 1 year unopened. While we definitely appreciate a beautiful fine wine that can be cellared for upwards of ten years, the majority of wine that we buy is meant to be enjoyed within a few days of purchase—no need to wait! Another point to be made is that there is far less of a selection of boxed wine than bottled wine; however, more and more high quality boxed wines are being produced every year and Everything Wine is determined to carry as many of them as possible so the choices are becoming greater!

So now it’s up to you – would you bring home a boxed wine from your next shopping trip? If you are looking for a place to start, we put together a list of ones we highly recommend:

Black Box Pinot Grigio 3L

Clean, light and straightforward, this medium- bodied wine has mild melon and apple flavours and a rather soft texture.

Apothic Red Blend 3L

Layers of dark fruit are complemented by hints of vanilla.

Hester Creek Cabernet Merlot 3L

Loaded with plum, currant and spicy notes.

Domaine de Chaberton White Blend 4L

A crisp dry wine with aromas of zesty citrus, and an intense palate of lemon, green apple and gooseberry.

Summer Saga III: CAB ATTACK!

I hope you've been enjoying Jul-vember! I for one am more than happy with the cooler summer for a couple reasons 1) I work in a fridge, pretty much, and can never quite acclimate to hot weather, and 2) Scottish people don't tan so much as rust.

I’ve been collecting a number of awesome Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines over the last few months, I present them to you here. We’ll go in a different order today and start with the US first, beginning with the unofficial cult wine of 2020:

CALIFORNIA

Leviathan 2018, Napa/Sonoma. What do you get when the former winemaker of Screaming Eagle assembles some of California’s best hillside fruit? Beats me ‘cause I can never keep it on the shelf. Leviathan, a Cab-based blend (Merlot and Syrah ride shotgun) from higher-altitude sites in Lake Country, Sonoma and Napa, has already been a runaway hit with California drinkers, it’s a deeply hued powder keg of dark berries beneath a floral veil of violets and vanilla bean; given the structure I’d say you can easily cellar this but no one has ever done that – it calls to you across the house like your kid’s Hallowe’en candy and you will invariably surrender. Winemaker Andy Erickson strikes the perfect balance between power and grace, most people who buy a bottle come back for a case. This spanky-new 2018 hasn’t been rated yet but the last vintage I had was rated 94 Parker. You’re going to start seeing this at all your wine-friends’ houses so you may as well bring it first to make it look like your idea. 3 Cases available, $67.98 +tax

Hoopes 2014, Napa. Lindsay Hoopes never intended to take over the family winery from her dad Spencer, she was busy working Homicide in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, but a family illness brought her back to the farm and she never left. I wouldn’t leave either, her family owns the oldest pre-phylloxera vineyard in Oakville, and the other contributing vineyards in Yountville combine to make Hoopes some of the best value for Valley Floor Cab in Napa. This 2014 – reduced about $30 from its previous price – wears its drought conditions on its sleeve, showing intense red fruits surrounded by chocolate and cigar box with a full body and spicy finish. Generous and rich (like Bruce Wayne), Hoopes always leaves you feeling better so you can probably write it off as therapy. 2 6-packs available, $98.98 +tax

Honig 2016, Napa. Michael Honig calls me every December to thank me for carrying his wines. I don’t mention that because it makes the wine taste any better (it’s certainly not why I continue to carry it, I’m not that needy), but it does give you a sense of how literally down to earth his family’s approach to winemaking is. The Honig estate in Rutherford is a kind of Eden, they keep bees, birds and pest-sniffing dogs and build habitat for owls and hawks, in addition to pioneering a new, carbon-capturing way of farming that, if widely implemented, could be the climate equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road (I won’t get into it here, for further details on Carbon Farming follow the link at the bottom or allow me to corner you at a party). Sourced from Rutherford and St. Helena, this 2016 Cab exudes fresh blackberry and candied raspberry with Ceylon tea and toasted coriander seeds. Drinking lusciously now but could hold a decade, great Napa value. 4 6-packs available, $76.98 +tax

Austin Hope 2018, Paso Robles. No ratings in yet for the latest vintage of Paso Robles’ rising star, but if past is prologue it should earn raves. The decidedly modern and maximalist approach to Cabernet Sauvignon that Mr. Hope takes (that he learned from apprenticing at Caymus) easily blows the doors off of an Escalade; the layers of ripe blackberry, nutmeg and cherry cola keep their fat intensity from front to back, leaving a lasting footprint with hints of mint and licorice. Not all hand grenades are harmful. Not yet rated, 4 6-packs available, $69.99 +tax

Caymus 2018, Napa. Brand new vintage! Since I’ve run out of new words to describe this perennial benchmark Napa Cab, I’m going to perform an interpretive dance with the help of my friend Yves providing descriptive narration:
“Ok, Jordan is on the ground hugging his knees, now he’s rising slowly, up, up, up… is he?… he’s being born! Now his arm is rising, he’s holding something invisible, what’s in his hands? Is that… I think it’s a wine glass? It Is! He’s taking a sip – oh, now he’s sad – oh, because the glass is empty, of course. He’s curling down, back towards the floor in deflation, how sad! Oh – he hears something, he’s lifting his glass – someone is pouring him Caymus, I believe? He’s taking a sip – oh look the lights have turned purple, cool! Oh, a loud thunder clap! He lurches backwards, like he’s been blown back – oh, he’s happy! He’s so happy! Now he’s spinning around – wow the music is fast now – now he’s jumping, no real pattern, he’s just bouncing everywhere… OMG look at all the puppies! Someone has let a bunch of puppies on stage and they’re rushing towards Jordan, so cute! Now he’s playing with the puppies and drinking Caymus, so happy, and the lights are going down, I think it’s over? I’m thirsty…”
2 cases available, $106.99 +tax

AUSTRALIA

Yarra Yering Red Wine No.1 2015, Yarra Valley. What a wondrous brew, this blend of two-thirds Cab with Merlot and Malbec from 50-year-old vines in the mysterious (to us) Yarra Valley. Winemaker (of the Year 2017) Sarah Crowe came to Yarra from the Hunter Valley, taking over this legendary house that almost single-handedly revived a wine region that hadn’t made wine since the 1920s. Several shades cooler than Barossa or McLaren Vale, the region makes Cabernet Sauvignon in a noticeably more herbaceous style – savoury herbs rather than mint – and this “Red Wine No.1” drinks like the improbable love child of Medoc and Sonoma, albeit with brighter fruit (it is Australia, after all). Mulberry and cherry vibes interlock with cassis and tobacco, dried herbs and vanilla; nice and round with present but balanced acidity and a loooong finish with eucalypt and blueberry. This is a real treat, guys. 99 points James Halliday, 18 bottles available, $91.98 +tax

FRANCE

Segla 2010, Margaux. The Second Wine to Bordeaux Second Growth Rauzan-Segla is classic Margaux, in that the lavender-hued nose of cloves and blueberry gives one the impression that the wine is softer than it is, before correcting that presumption with understated structure and power. Rauzan-Segla was cleaved off of a huge Russian-owned estate in the 1600s before getting classified in 1855, and is generally considered to be just under Palmer and Chateau Margaux in quality for that village. Now owned by Chanel, this 2010 Segla was blended by a winemaking team formerly of (First Growth) Chateau Latour before they retired in 2014. Two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cab Franc. 17/20 Jancis Robinson, 12 bottles available, $87.98 +tax

Croix de Beaucaillou 2010, Saint-Julien. The Second Wine to Bordeaux Second Growth Ducru-Beaucaillou stands apart from other Second Wines (although the term itself is nebulous and not quantifiable) in that it comes from its own vineyard with its own kick-ass black and gold label (designed by Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade), and is very much styled to be a Grand Vin in its own right, with a more pronounced oak treatment than many contemporaries. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Merlot from a hotter site further away from the water, this 2010 Croix is round and rich with plum, cassis and pencil shavings – standard sniffs, yes, but still outstanding – and is firmly in the Zone Of Awesome™ although another decade is more than doable. 17/20 Jancis Robinson, 94 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $163.98 +tax

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you.

Chateau Léoville Las Cases 2009, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. 99 points Robert Parker, 99 points James Suckling, 98 points Wine Spectator, 3 bottles available, $608.79

Blind Creek Collective “Consensus” 2014, Similkameen Valley, BC. 12 bottles available, $59.98

Quilceda Creek 2015, Columbia Valley, Washington State. 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 5 bottles available, $336.98

Cardinale 2012, Napa Valley, California. 98 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $404.98

Kathryn Hall, Napa Valley, each bottle $256.98
2012 97 points Robert Parker, 2 bottles available.
2013 96 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available
2014 97 points Jeb Dunnuck, 6 bottles available.
2015 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 3 bottles available

The link to the carbon-farming article:

https://slate.com/technology/2020/06/napa-wine-carbon-farming-greenwashing-climate-change.html 

 

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

Burrowing Owl – one of BC’s most prized wineries

Among the many reasons we are lucky to find ourselves living in British Columbia is the fact that we are located between 42 and 50 degrees latitude—why, you ask, would this positioning be so important? It turns out that many of the world’s finest wine grapes are grown in the sunny, dry hills of these mid-northern regions. Like Bordeaux or Tuscany, BC’s own Okanagan Valley is earning its position amongst the greats. Of the nearly 200 wineries dotted along Highway 97 between Lake Country to the North and Osoyoos to the South, lies one of our province’s most highly sought wines; Burrowing Owl.

Located between Oliver and Osoyoos on a south facing, sandy plateau just north of Osoyoos Lake, Burrowing Owl is situated in one of the most highly rated grape growing regions in the country. Since its first vintage in 1997, which concentrated on 4 grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, Burrowing Owl’s vineyards now grow 16 varieties—many of which have won international awards:

  • In 2018, the 2015 Syrah earned Gold at the Syrah du Monde International Competition in France
  • the 2014 Merlot took home Gold at the Wine Align National Awards of Canada in 2018
  • the 2014 Meritage placed Best of Class at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition

and the list goes on…

In addition to producing world class wines, Burrowing Owl is committed to protecting its surrounding environment. They donate 100% of the $5 tasting fee in the tasting room to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society, use solar panels to heat all the water used on the property, spray their grapes with environmentally friendly fertilizer, safely relocate any wildlife that visits the vineyards, and engage in many other environmentally focused initiatives.

Today, the winery combines state of the art technology with classic techniques to produce premium wines that the world and locals alike can’t get enough of.

Are you looking to get your hands on some of the province’s most accoladed wines? Find them here but don’t wait too long, Burrowing Owl wines tend to sell out quickly!

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