Tagged with 'Jordan Carrier Everything Wine'

Planet Pinot II

A few amazing Pinots have crossed my path of late from all points on the compass, some for drinking, some for burying, we begin: 

AUSTRALIA 

By Farr Farrside Pinot Noir 2015, Moorabool Valley, Victoria. Proof that colour intensity is not an indication of power, this unassuming, transparent Pinot from just south of Melbourne can repel bullets whilst smelling like a corsage. Taking over from his dad Gary Farr, son Nick Farr (Winemaker of the Year 2020, Gourmet Traveller) worked at Au Bon Climat, Cristom and Dujac before taking the reins back home, and the south facing (north for normal people) Farrside vineyard allows him the kind of late-harvest hang-time he experienced abroad, giving full phenolic ripeness without all the extra booze (pretty rare down under). Handsomely structured, this 2015 shows predominant violets over black cherries, soil and gravel, with a beautiful, red-fruited lift on the firm finish. Delicious now, this Pinot has the legs to cellar 5+ further years, although I’ve never let one live long enough to observe what it tuns into because me thirsty and it yummy. 94 points Robert Parker, 94 points James Suckling, 18 bottles available, $94.98 +tax 

FRANCE 

Jean-Claude Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru Morgeot 2018, Burgundy. A rare Pinot from Chassagne, although historically this village grew much more Pinot than Chardonnay, replanting only last century when the whites from the adjacent Montrachet Grand Crus started commanding bonkers prices. The Pinot that remains – like this gorgeous 2018 from Ramonet – trends more supple and savoury, and less aggressively structured than the limestone-rooted Pinots from the Côtes de Nuits further north. The warmer 2018 vintage gives us lots of blue and red fruits to balance the flowers and herbs, with a hint of blood orange lurking beneath, and the medium-full body coasts lithely until the tight finish closes the store. Needs time, but not as much as the 2017. Ready in 3 years, singing in 5. Not yet rated, 6 bottles available, $145.98 +tax 

GERMANY 

Rudolf Fürst Spatburgunder Centgrafenberg GG 2018, Franken. Perhaps in an effort to dispel the stereotypes of stern Germans barking instructions at you, the German Pinots I’ve presented here thus far (from Rheinhessen and Ahr, largely) have been gentle, generous beasts that could easily be mistaken for bearded, surfing Russian River Pinots. Not today, Fraulein. Not only does Herr Fürst shout orders at you, he does it with leather and chains on, showing no trace of empathy behind the rigid structure, but the hard truth is that if you show patience and, yes, follow the orders, life is better. The red berries will emerge with grace and power. The frame that currently has a stepdad-turned-down-for-a-bank-loan vibe will soften and integrate, and this stoic Pinot from one of Franken’s top Grand Crus will sing like a mature Vougeot. A statuesque wine, a true future cellar star. 96 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $153.98 +tax 

NEW ZEALAND 

Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2017, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago. Sourced from the oldest plots of the postcard-from-Asgard picturesque Rippon Vineyard, this is the cuvee that winemaker Nick Mills calls the “voice of the vineyard”. If that’s the case, this voice is both irresistibly seductive and singing in an alien tongue, because it’s going to take a little time to understand it. The cooler 2017 vintage dialed up the jasmine, rose and sage notes but dialed down the fruit beneath a stony, schist-influenced minerality; when the fruit wakes back up in a couple years the bouquet will be simply stunning. A silky, understated palate and medium body precede a peppery finish – this is probably the best vintage so far – if this were Burgundy it’d have the same cellaring window but cost 4 times as much. 99 points James Suckling, 2 cases available, $78.98 +tax 

SOUTH AFRICA 

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2020, Hemel-en Aarde Valley, Walker Bay. Although widely known for Chardonnay, Hamilton Russell’s Pinot is an understated, elegant affair with both feet planted firmly in Burgundy. Although more austere than the Chard, there is abundant fresh red fruit everywhere you look – in fact “fresh” is the operating principle here, lifting everything up from front to back. A fairly rich palate flows into a mineral, saline finish with a baking spice and a fair grip: unlike the accessible Chard, the Pinot needs a nap to fully develop, but 2 years should integrate the back end nicely. More Burgundian that the Ramonet Chassagne. Not yet rated, 3 6-packs available, $81.98 

USA 

Lingua Franca AVNI Pinot Noir 2016, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Although it boasts the lowest price on the towering Lingua Franca totem, it’s misleading to call AVNI an “entry-level” offering. Meaning “mother earth”, AVNI is a geologically based bottling of only hillside, volcanic soil fruit, both from the Lingua Franca estate and their neighbor. David Honig, Larry Stone MW and Burgundy’s Dominique Lafond continue to cement Lingua Franca’s position as Essential Oregon, and I was lucky to pick up a few cases of this slightly older vintage: lovely blueberries and plums laced with cinnamon, a silky, medium body, and a citrus-infused finish that is only now coming into balance. This is singing now, guys, grab it while you can ‘cuz we won’t see this vintage again. 4 cases available, $68.98 +tax 

Bergstrom “Cumberland Reserve” Pinot Noir 2018, Willamette Valley, Oregon. In the rush to express Willamette terroir, the “House Style” blend of crus is becoming a rare animal in Oregon, but the Bergstrom family’s “Cumberland” cuvée (named after the street they grew up on) remains one of the best examples. Ripe and substantial while leaving a light footprint, bright red fruits beam out around spicy blasts of matcha and tobacco, and the good intensity follows from front to back. Drinking now, quite deliciously. 94 points Robert Parker, 94 points Wine Spectator, #37 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 12 bottles available, $83.98 +tax 

Piro Pinot Noir Presqu’ile Vineyard 2017, Santa Maria Valley, California. This guy is going to be huge. Called “one of the most promising young American winemakers” by Vinous, Marc Piro still works at Au Bon Climat and Qupé but began using those connections to buy his own premium fruit from the valley’s best sites, and judging by how quickly it sold out in Vancouver (I think I have the last 3 6-packs of this), the reaction is electric. Marc’s Pinots balance an almost overwhelming amount of fruit weight on the head of a pin: the generous nose and palate, full of roses, forest floor, sage and lavender, lift waaay up on the juicy, rustic finish. Quite a fresh, airborne vibe on the tail end, like Californian opulence on an Oregonian structure, pretty but serious. Don’t take your eyes off this dude. 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $79.98 +tax 

Three Sticks Pinot Noir 2019, Sonoma Coast, California. Pretty easy to craft an amazing Sonoma Pinot when you own a lot of the best vineyards. Bill Price owns Classic Wines LLC, the proprietor of iconic Sonoma terroirs such as Durell, Wilson, Dupont, One Sky and Gap’s Crown (he also owns pieces of Kosta Browne, Buccella and Kistler, but probably just to collect Air Miles), and all of those vineyards contribute to this whizz-bang 2019 cuvée that shows high tones of pink grapefruit and violets atop low tones of dry chocolate and oregano. Light-bodied but high-intensity, fresh and clean. First time in BC. 97 points Decanter, 95 points Wine Spectator, 4 6-packs available, $78.98 +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. 

Au Bon Climat “La Bauge Au-Dessus” Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Barbara, California. 93 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $63.98 +tax 

Hartford Court Land’s Edge Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, Sonoma, California. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 12 bottles available, $71.98 +tax 

Penner Ash Pinot Noir 2017, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 3 cases available, $59.99 +tax 

WALT “La Brisa” Pinot Noir 2016, Sonoma Coast, California. 2 cases available, $64.98 +tax 

Blank Canvas Pinot Noir 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand. 95 points Vinous, 95 points Bob Campbell, $48.98 +tax 

Hermit Ram “Zealandia” Pinot Noir 2019, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 12 bottles available, $46.98 +tax 

Stay tuned for BIG Spanish, Tuscan and Burgundy offerings in the coming weeks!! 

Until next time, Happy Drinking!!  

Deckbusters!

It’s time for a slate of amazing wines for outdoor sipping (or outdoor gulping, I don’t know what kind of day you’ve had), this time in both reds and whites. I didn’t plan on including white wines in a Deckbusters email, but nor did I imagine that my own deck would reach 42C, so here we are, adaptable and thirsty. We begin with the Reds. 

REDS 

Kathryn Hall “Darwin” Syrah 2014, Napa Valley, USA. Ok ok yes, you’re not used to Syrah from Napa and yes, the only dude who reviewed it was Wilfred Wong (wine.com) and he’s weird, but if I’ve built up any trust with you, believe me when I tell you that this is INSANE value – it’s basically Shafer Relentless with less grip and far less price. Prizing power over subtlety, I had presumed that this bruiser earned its name in honour of all the other Syrahs it had to kill to achieve species dominance, but in fact it’s named for the northern Australian town where Kathryn Hall’s private plane had to make an emergency landing (winemakers: they’re just like us!). She and her husband Craig were so taken with the Shirazes they tasted that night that they resolved to pay tribute when they returned home with this gorgeously floral, opaque Syrah that burns villages and slays all enemies. Violets and blackberries rule the roost, with cassis, black pepper and pencil shavings leading towards a classically tempered body and a surprisingly elegant, long finish. Nothing but purple smiles when I tried it - a joyful find. 94 points Wilfred “Weirdo” Wong, 5 cases available, $59.99 +tax 

Comando G “La Bruja de Rozas” 2019, Sierra de Gredos, Spain. A returning champion to these pages, an elegant, fresh, eminently drinkable Garnacha from the hills surrounding Madrid. At the front of the pack of young winemakers seeking to redefine Garnacha for a new generation, Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia treat the grape more like a Pinot Noir, prizing acidity and beauty over the oxidatively rustic styles Spain has been flooding the world with for decades. Quite floral and herbal on the nose, Bruja starts to show gamey, mineral notes on palate, reflecting the sandy, granitic soils in the vineyard. Medium bodied and perfectly balanced, this can handle most of what your grill throws at you. 93 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $52.98 +tax. 

Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2018, Cotes-du-Rhône, France. Another returning champion, this time representing the superlative 2018 Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintage (and only 2 Parky-points lower than their Grand Vin). Essentially a geographically inconvenienced Chateauneuf-du-Pape sitting across the street (and outside the appellation) from Chateau Beaucastel, the 2018 Coudoulet is a Prince wearing the King’s clothes: denser and darker than usual (more Mourvèdre in the mix than other years), showing bright red fruits, sage and white pepper before tumbling into a medium-full body with great freshness and a long, satisfyingly grippy finish. I’ve long gone on and on about the value of Coudoulet, nothing has changed. 93 points Robert Parker, 93 points Decanter, 3 cases available, Reg Price $39.98, Sale Price $37.98 +tax 

Finca Ygay Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2016, Rioja, Spain. Enjoying quite a moment right now (the top wine from this house won Wine of the Year last year), Ygay builds on their momentum with this iconic 2016 Reserva, boasting its best scores in well over a decade. Sourced from a single estate at the bottom edge of Rioja Alta, this Tempranillo (with drinking buddies Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha) shows intense red and black fruit over a bed of crushed rocks (I can see someone blind tasting this as a Supertuscan). Full and generous in the mouth, the finish tightens up nicely with good acidity and fine tannins before lingering elegantly for well over a minute. Great now, great in 5 years. 95 points Guis Proensa*, 94 points Robert Parker, 4 cases available, $49.98 +tax 

 

WHITES 

Wittmann Westhofener Riesling Trocken 2018, Rheinhessen, Germany. There is so much Riesling Hesitancy in the world today that I’ve largely abandoned the argument. If you’ve decided not to get a Riesling for yourself then there’s nothing I can say to change your mind, but I implore you: think of the sausages. Right now, all over this province, defenceless sausages are being grilled with no access to proper wine pairings – in fact, cases of grilled sausages being paired with Yellow Tail are dangerously on the rise. You can help by grabbing one of these sublimely delicious offerings from the Wittmann family, who’ve farmed around the old market town of Westhofen since 1663. The nose is an aromatic blast of tropical fruit and pastry, but the palate and finish are dry and focused, expertly suited to cut the fat of those helpless sausages. This is crackerjack stuff for the price, and pairs with Bratwurst like a key in a lock. 95 points James Suckling, 4 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax 

Sartori Marani 2018, Veronese Bianco, Italy. Returning in fine form, the unofficial White Amarone from the esteemed Amarone house Sartori shows the strength of the 2018 vintage in its long, persistent finish, full of minerality and glycerine. Holy cow, this wine is a lot. Garganega grapes from the Soave appellation (but declassified because of the process) are dried like Amarone grapes for a couple months before pressing, concentrating everything to produce a luscious, honeyed nose of peaches, melon and jasmine. A large footprint in the mouth, indeed, but not inelegant, with a balanced body and the aforementioned eternal finish. No ratings found. 4 6-packs available, $39.98 +tax 

Domaine Delaporte Sancerre Les Monts Damnés 2018, Loire Valley, France. There is, of course, nothing wrong with simple, linear Sancerre, but this ain’t that. Sourced from arguably the best vineyard in Sancerre, Delaporte’s take on Les Monts Damnes (the “damned hills”, to give you a feel for the amount of direct sun it gets) is a round but piercing blast of citrus and stones, softened with herbal and apple notes. It still starts and finishes with beautifully crisp austerity, it just has a nice fat middle: if Sancerre is a snake, the Les Monts Damnes is a snake that just ate a racoon. Brilliant stuff, doesn’t need food. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $76.98 +tax 

Venusa Bianco 2018, Mazzorbo, Venice, Italy. A millennium ago, the wines that the Venetian empire used to ship around the Mediterranean were actually grown right in Venice, in fact the area where the Piazza San Marco sits today used to be a vineyard, likely growing the ancient white grape Dorona di Venezia. Tourism, rising waters and urban growth pushed viticulture out to just a handful of islands in the Venetian lagoon, but as recently as 60 years ago Dorona was grown on Mazzorbo, Burano and Torcello, otherwise known as Native Venice. The flood of 1966 put the nail in the coffin of Venetian viticulture, and Dorona became nearly extinct. I say nearly because the Bisol family (Prosecco makers) discovered some Dorona in a private garden in 2002 and replanted it in their ancient walled vineyard on Mazzorbo (connected to the more populous Burano by a footbridge). The variety is perfectly suited for the salty, silty soils of the lagoon, which stress the vines and produce a wine – called Venusa – with an ethereal minerality aside the stone fruits and quince that dance lithely on the nose and palate. The short period of skin contact adds both golden pigment and some citrus rind astringency on the finish, wickedly unique, I’ve never quite had anything like this. If you only take one chance this year on a new, strange white wine, it should obviously be this. Not rated (production is too small). 4 6-packs available, $107.98 +tax 

Toscanarama Part One

It’s proving to be a bonkers year for Tuscan wines, as we anticipate the arrival of the stellar 2018 IGTs and the 2016 Brunellos (best year since 2010), among others. I’ll offer them in tidy little groupings as they arrive, and you will want them so if you need room you should probably go to your cellar and get busy. That stuff ain’t gonna drink itself. I’ll help. We begin with Part One: 

Le Potazzine 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Look for this stunning achievement by the Gianetti family to get buckets of love at year’s end when everyone compiles their lists: Potazzine has always been one of Montalcino’s most elegant offerings, but Gigliola Gianetti’s 2016 blend of two sites – one high and one low lying – has crossed into Vosne-Romanée territory. This is, improbably, a statue made of silk, showing lavender, cinnamon and anise amongst the blueberries, raspberries, and the distinctly Tuscan sensation of cherries sun-drying on a hot stone. Given the softer touch this will come around sooner than other bruiser Brunellos of the same vintage, but I reckon that an additional 2 year will get us to the sweet spot. Beauty and grace. 99 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 6-packs available, $153.98 +tax 

Altesino Riserva 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. And now the beast. I had the pleasure of trying this ballistic missile a couple years ago when I visited the winery, it was rightly served last in the flight because any other Sangiovese that follows this will taste like Bud Light – this is the maximum Sangiovese that you can Sangiovese. The hotter, dryer 2012 growing season added more heft and power to an already totemistic wine, like adding a half-dozen oxen on top of a tank, but it’s not all muscle, the seductive nose reminds me of ripe cherries drizzled with balsamic, held in a baseball glove. It’s like when the Coyote is irresistibly drawn to the come-hithering Girl Coyote only to find that she’s actually a dynamite stick with lipstick on.  Herbs and nutmeg round off the finish – this is so nearly perfect but I bet one more year will move the experience into nirvana. 98 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $154.98 +tax 

Argiano Vigna del Suolo 2015, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. This tête-de-cuvée from southern-lying Argiano, sourced from the oldest plot of their estate (planted in 1965) used to be classified as an IGT but is now a Brunello proper. Kind of like Brunello by way of Pauillac, the French and Slovenian oak aging has braced the opulent cherry, game, smoke and coffee notes in a noble frame of graphite, pine and spice. Although Argiano sits in the hot south, the Suolo lieu-dit is the highest in the estate, and you can tell: there is a freshness to the nose and finish – much more than their normale Brunellos – and the affair is framed on both sides by herbs and violets. A gorgeous experience but best delayed – I’d start to think about drinking this after 2025. 97 points Decanter, 96 points Wine Spectator, one 3-pack available, $289.98 +tax 

Fontodi Flaccianello delle Pieve 2017, Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT. The rare Sangiovese practiced in the art of Jiu Jitsu: all the aspects of the Saharan 2017 that made it a challenging vintage for many Tuscan producers seem to have only strengthened Flaccianello, which seems to draw power from its neighbours’ tears. There is dark magic afoot here: jet-black cherries with blackberries stirred by licorice in a dark chocolate bowl, ferrous notes help the tannic structure contain it all and the finish is laced with plums, chalk and sage. A few critics – including Parker – have called Flaccianello the standout wine of the vintage. 97 points Vinous, 96 points Robert Parker, 5 6-packs available, $165.99 +tax 

Capezzana “Villa di Capezzana” 2016, Carmignano DOCG. A charismatic, racy red from the Medici’s resort town, and the first DOCG to allow Cabernet Sauvignon. This has always been one of my go-to bottles for Tuscan value, basically Tignanello for a third of the price (“Tiglet”?). 80/20 Sangiovese/Cabernet from the sleepy village of Carmignano, just northwest of Florence, brimming with tangible minerality, dark fruits and floral hints, all on top of a structured-but-drinkable frame with gravel notes and ripe cherry on the spicy finish. Drinks like a classic, great balance of fruit and tension. 96 points Decanter, 94 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $47.98 +tax 

Petrolo Galatrona 2016, Toscana IGT. The folks who tend the Galatrona vineyard in the Valdarno region of eastern Tuscany have pulled off a neat trick: they taught Merlot how to swordfight. Long considered an aspirational member of the Masseto Cadets, the last few years have seen the site produce power-pills of heroic might and beauty, like this nearly-perfect 2016 that sees the trinity of blackberry, blueberry and plum fit together like Voltron to slay space dragons. Floral notes at the front and back, a substantial body and frame that shows iron and tobacco. A classic Merlot from Lucia Bazzocchi Sanjust and her son Luca, best after 2024. 98 points Robert Parker, 98 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $188.98 +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. 

Rocca di Montegrossi San Marcellino Gran Selezione 2015, Chianti Classico DOCG. 96 points Vinous, 2 6-packs available, $71.98 +tax 

Supremus 2015, Toscana IGT 95 points James Suckling, 6 cases available, $49.99 +tax 

Tenuta di Trinoro “Le Cupole” 2017, Toscana IGT 93 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $64.98 +tax 

Gianni Brunelli 2015, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Decanter, 2 6-packs available, $118.98 +tax 

Piaggia Riserva 2016, Carmignano DOCG. Wine of the Year, Gambero Rosso 1 6-pack available, $65.98 +tax 

Ornellaia 2017, Bolgheri DOC. 97 points Vinous, 96 points Robert Parker, 1 wooden 6-pack available, $259.99 +tax 

La Serena 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 96 points Wine Spectator, 2 6-packs available, $119.98 +tax 

Until next time, Happy Drinking!! 

Pinot Trio

Today I’ve got three wildly different but outstanding expressions of Pinot Noir that you’re going want to build a Pinot Fort out of. Two of them have amazing ratings and one doesn’t submit but is just as awesome (and has developed a cult following). We begin: 

Blank Canvas Upton Downs Pinot Noir 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand. Such a serious, savoury Pinot, considering the price and place. The Upton Downs vineyard sits on the top of a white cliff overlooking the Awatere river, where the limestone underneath challenges the vines to produce concentrated, clearly frustrated berries, given their disposition on the nose. There is bright fruit (cherries primarily with apple and strawberry) as well as sweet floral notes (lavender and rose), but they take a backseat to the inexplicably herbaceous, spicy vibe that shows you different green herbs every 20 minutes. Quite entertaining to watch this evolve in the glass, it’s like checking the Magic 8 Ball for random messages every so often. There’s enough fruit weight on palate to balance the savoury intro, however, before building up to a surprisingly structured finish. I don’t mean to affect such astonishment but forty-dollar Marlborough Pinot doesn’t do this. Given the architecture I’d say you have a decade’s worth of cellar life, maybe more. A remarkable Pinot despite – or rather because of – the furrowed brow. 95 points Vinous, 95 points Bob Campbell, 24 bottles available, $42.98 +tax 

Zena Crown “Slope” Pinot Noir 2017, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette, Oregon. Long a top cru of wineries like Beaux Freres, Penner Ash and Soter, the Zena Crown vineyard started bottling their own juice a couple years ago, causing everyone to go nuts. Since the site takes the brunt of the cool Pacific wind coming through the Van Duzer Corridor, phenolic ripeness happens slowly, and the vineyard is usually one of the last to be harvested, giving deep, elegant and balanced fruit. The “Slope” plot is the sunniest, most south-facing area, and the muscular Pinot from there can handle a good amount of new French oak (60%, quite high for Oregon), but lest you fret that Slope slides too far south, think again: there is vibrant cherry, rhubarb, apple and green tea on the nose before swirling into an energetic tension between bitter chocolate and fat mushrooms and a lifted, graceful finish – this is real, legit Oregon, only more so. The buzz has been substantial, enflamed by the fact that they only make about 500 6-packs, and further enflamed by the fact that I took all four cases that came into BC (laughs sinisterly, twirls moustache). Let the games begin. 95 points Wine Spectator, 4 6-packs available, $107.98 +tax 

The Hermit Ram “Zealandia” Pinot Noir 2019, North Canterbury, New Zealand. Even though this purple sparkplug is never submitted for ratings, it is actually the most popular Pinot on this list, even after a dramatic left turn in winemaking and style (winemaker/druid Theo Coles switched from whole-cluster to destemmed and everyone just went with it). Made with minimal intervention or sulphur (and a low 12.5% abv) and aged only in amphora (!!!), Zealandia resides in the spirit realm of “natural wines”, showcasing racy acidity on the nose amongst the sour cherry, violet, cranberry, and saline notes, but displays none of the funk or freak of the more feral examples of the category. On palate the acid is edgy but not sharp, almost citric in nature, and finishes fresh, clean, and brighter than a math whiz. I love this “Burgundy + X-ray” style (similar to a light Mercurey) but it won’t appeal to everyone, although Vancouver restaurants have snapped up most of this because it’s a nearly perfect food wine. These 3 cases are all I’ll have for two years: the underreported 2020 Canterbury vintage was ravaged by hail and frost and only 90 litres were produced; since this winery is seldom sold outside of New Zealand we’ll not see it again soon. 3 cases available, $44.98 +tax 

Until next time, Happy Drinking! 

Hooray for Chardonnay Spring 2021

A collection of Chardonnays today from several points on the globe but with extra focus on the US and Italy. We begin: 

FRANCE 

Anne Gros Bourgogne Blanc 2019, Burgundy. Behold the wisest spell to escape the wand of the She-Wizard. To avoid confusion, this isn’t the same as the $70 Bourgogne Blanc of Anne’s that I offered back in October. This stunning Chardonnay – a blend of parcels from the Côte de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits – finds Anne wearing her rare Négocient hat, purchasing fruit from her biggest fans and working her magic for a civilized bottle price. All grapes should be so lucky; this is the grapey version of finding the Golden Ticket in the Wonka bar. Fresh pear, Golden Delicious apples and chalk on the nose, a gorgeous melange of chamomile, rainwater and lime on palate. Chablis seems to be the north star, here – I’m quite sure I’d flag it as such were I blind tasted on this, the crisp acidity can see through walls and focuses the finish like a magnifying glass. Outstanding value, a great introduction to Anne’s oeuvre, will make your deck shine like a grail. 3 6-packs available, $51.98 +tax 

ARGENTINA 

Bodegas Chacras “Mainqué” Chardonnay 2018, Patagonia. Meursault’s Jean-Marc Roulot made this pure, focused Chardonnay to answer the question: What if you tried to make a white Burgundy on Hoth? The tempestuous landscape in South America’s southern, wild point (the indigenous population, first thought by Magellan to be giants, were dubbed the Patagon) throws all manner of curveballs at a humble grape-grower: dramatic temperature shifts, hail and heat waves, and yet Roulot manages to wrest some sort of elegance out of chaos every year. Aged in both oak and concrete, this 2018 experienced partial malolactic fermentation (they never control it, they just roll with what happens), so there’s a balance between brioche and brioche-with-a-laser-sword laying just underneath the Granny Smith, pears and jasmine on this expressive nose. The medium-full body brings tension, salinity and more brioche in case you didn’t get enough brioche. A lovely collection of opposites that’s so different each vintage. 97 points James Suckling, 12 bottles available, $71.98 +tax 

SOUTH AFRICA 

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2019, Hemel-en-Aarde. We weren’t supposed to get any of the miniscule-but-glorious 2019 vintage from Anthony Hamilton Russell: the tragic South African fires in early 2019, though less world-famous than Australia’s subsequent blazes, made life miserable and curtailed viticulture dramatically. The production was so small they thought they could only serve local markets for that year, but then (gestures broadly at everything). South Africa imposed an outright ban on alcohol sales, and while that really sucks for them it means more yummy HR for Jordan, so let’s rinse off that guilt with some good Chardonnay. Although usually destemmed, Russell crushed from whole bunches for this vintage to avoid the risk of smoke taint and employed the least amount of malolactic fermentation ever (only 10%), resulting in the most elegant and bright Chardonnay he’s ever produced, light on its feet without sacrificing the embracing intensity he’s known for. Limeade and candied pears line the crushed rocks on the fragrant nose, ending with just a hint of lemon danish and peach. 95 points Tim Atkins, 93 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $67.98 +tax 

ITALY 

Antinori Cervaro della Sala 2017, Umbria. The Antinori’s flagship white wine is a relatively young enterprise, seeing as the family started winemaking in the 12th century (I think my ancestors had contemporaneously discovered the Pointed Stick). The inaugural 1985 vintage could have been spread on toast to make an open-faced oak sandwich, but the ensuing decades have seen Cervaro evolve into an elegant, layered and powerful expression of warm-climate Chardonnay (with about 8% contribution from the local Grechetto grape). The Saharan 2017 vintage gave a nitro-boost to the wine’s weight and intensity, but the balanced élèvage (a portion spends 6 months in French oak, the rest in stainless) turned out a Chardonnay with a foot on two continents: the nose swims with the rich apples, pralines, stones and vanilla of Sonoma while the body holds that essential tension and agility of modern Beaune. This 2017 commands your attention so thoroughly, you might not even look at your phone for a couple minutes. 99 points James Suckling, 3 6-packs available, $79.98 +tax 

Gaja Rossj-Bass Chardonnay 2018, Langhe. Since Angelo Gaja is one of the fathers of modern Piedmont and Rossana (Rossj for short) is his daughter, I guess Rossj is… modern Piedmont? Figuring that out might take some time and a couple glasses of this luminous Chardonnay, grown in lower-lying (Bass) vineyards in Barbaresco and Barolo. Melon and white flowers bathed in honey – it’s quite a lovely, sweet nose – flow into a surprisingly structured frame and an almost Sancerre-ish, bracing finish. Not sure if this wine has made it into BC before, this is the first time I’ve seen it. Not yet rated. 2 6-packs available, $128.98 +tax 

Cantina Toblino Trentodoc “Antares” Brut Nature 2016, Trentino. From a snappy little organic co-operative in Trentino comes a brilliant shooting star of sparkling Chardonnay and a possible energy source to power cities of the future (diodes not included). From vines grown on the south-facing hills of Valle dei Laghi, the Chardonnay goes through the Traditional Method (can’t call it the Champagne Method because if you do, French spirits will visit as you sleep to turn all your snacks into cigarettes), spending 36 months on the lees after secondary fermentation. Full disclosure: I’m not always on board with the whole Brut Nature movement (no final “dosage” of sugar before bottling), I find that the more extreme cases are out of balance - just balls of acid that Somms dare each other to drink to see who cries first – but Antares Brut Nature is beautifully balanced and super-fab. Pastry notes are met by lemon meringue and river stones, gorgeous citrus and savoury saline mouthfeel, the finish is energetically zippy and zingy with persistent bubbles. Not often available outside of Italy, Antares is only rated locally: 4 Stars Vinibuoni d’Italia, 2 6-packs available, $55.98 +tax 

USA 

Hartford Court Chardonnay 2018, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. I hope Don Hartford doesn’t travel with armed guards ‘cause if I met him I’d just hug him without saying hello first. Giving Don good vibes would be reciprocal: for nearly 3 decades his wines have quietly showcased Sonoma’s generous, positive disposition without falling into lushness or simplicity – these are real, classic wines with great structure and length, they just have various fruits and spices falling out of their pockets and they feel that you should have some too. If ever a wine could be called “optimistic” this entry-level (!) Russian River Chardonnay would be a prime candidate, exuding honeysuckle, brioche, cream, apple, peach and pepper notes before unfolding into a rich, full texture-fest, lifting up at the end with a touch of grapefruit. Great minerality on all levels, too. The premium buyers in this company periodically get together to blind taste wines; this one blew us away and we valued it at twice the price (this new price has actually come down from near $60). #44 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 cases available, $46.98 +tax 

WALT Chardonnay 2018, Sonoma Coast. Decadence liquified. This is the perfectly normal thing that happens when a pear and a vanilla milkshake love each other very much. Made by Napa’s Kathryn Hall from the Bob’s Ranch and Sangiacomo vineyards, the opulent nose – no need to compare apples to oranges ‘cause this has both – leads into a medium-bodied palate that shines a bit brighter than the nose suggests, just enough to boost the length of the creamy, pear-laced finish. Quite beautiful, in a confected, naughty way, and underrated in my opinion. 92 points Wine Enthusiast, 2 cases available, $61.98 

Arnot-Roberts Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, Santa Cruz Mountains. The Simon and Garfunkel of single-vineyard California Négoce wines have outdone themselves with this cabin-in-the-woods style Chardonnay that I’d never blindly identify (blindentify?) as Californian. The Trout Gulch vineyard lies in the heavily forested southern Santa Cruz mountains, the whole area looks like the Slocan valley or western Kootenays, and if you’re thinking “I’ve never seen any wines from Castlegar”, bingo. The site is at the edge of the ripening window, sitting 4 miles from the ocean at 600ft and regularly beset by fog; climate change has made recent vintages more reliable than when Bernard Turgeon planted the vineyard in 1980, but there’s perennially a chance you won’t get a usable harvest. The years the vineyard gives you, however, are racing powder kegs of energy and density, like a Chablis that cloned itself and then ate that clone. Citrus and flowers rule the roost, with a robust, saline mid-palate and long, chalky finish. Refreshing now but I’d like to check back in 5 years to see what happens. 95 points Vinous, 2 6-packs available, $99.98 +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. 

Nicolas Catena Zapata “White Stones” Chardonnay 2017, Mendoza, Argentina. 98 points James Suckling, 1 3-pack available, $133.98 +tax 

Nicolas Catena Zapata “White Bones” Chardonnay 2017, Mendoza, Argentina. 99 points James Suckling, 2 3-packs available, $156.98 +tax 

Shaw + Smith “M3” Chardonnay 2019, Adelaide Hills, Australia. 96 points Decanter, 96 points James Suckling, 12 bottles available, $56.98 

Ridge Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains, California. 95 points Decanter, 8 bottles available, $95.98 +tax 

Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2015, Burgundy, France. 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 

Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2016, Burgundy, France. 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

1 2 3 4 5 ... 8 >