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Book Clubs, Food and Wine: July

Book Clubs, Food and Wine

A monthly blog

Jan Penhorwood, wine consultant at the Langley store.

Before learning about wine and entering the industry I worked as a librarian for 30 years. I have also been an avid reader (and book club member) for almost as long. My book club, perhaps a thinly veiled wine-drinking club featuring fiction, meets monthly. Each month a different member hosts & chooses the book and also prepares a full dinner with wine. But there are many different ways to run a book club. If by chance you are looking for book titles that feature wine or ideas for thematic books to pair with wines, I have some ideas for you in this monthly blog.

July

I am currently recommending John Lanchester’s novel “The Debt to Pleasure” (1996). A fabulous romp providing mystery and actual seasonal recipes along with an erudite history of food. Hilarious cookbook cum-memoir written by a brilliant, snobbish and eccentric man, Tarquin Winot, as he drives through France to his house in Provence. One of the most unreliable narrators you will ever encounter, Tarquin slowly reveals more and more of his sinister agenda as the book progresses.  Choose from one of the book’s seasonal menus, an egg curry or perhaps a herbed chicken. A Provence rosé would be perfect!

Cote du Provence rosés are available at various price points. I love Domaine Houchart ($19.99) a dry rosé with hints of grapefruit, apple and strawberry. There is a light blossom scent and a satisfying mineral taste. Or splurge on Whispering Angel ($39.99) with its hints of strawberry, cherry, blossom, orange peel and honey. If rosés are not to your taste, Provence offers other wines: some with hints of garrigue (the name given to the collection of wild herbs that grow everywhere - rosemary, lavender, juniper and thyme) from their soil; choose a French Sauvignon Blanc or a rich oaked red made with the Mourvèdre grape. Santé!

https://www.everythingwine.ca/houchart-provence-rose?___store=lg 

Summer Bonus Blog Post

Feel like starting a book club this summer? Or maybe just collecting a couple of great “summer beach reads” for 2022 and pairing them with some wine?

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

-Champagne

https://www.everythingwine.ca/moet-chandon-brut?___store=lg

 Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

-Sonoma Pinot Noir

https://www.everythingwine.ca/decoded-sonoma-coast-pinot-noir-750-ml?___store=lg

 The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand 

-French Sauvignon Blanc, maybe even a Sancerre!

https://www.everythingwine.ca/chateau-de-sancerre?___store=lg

Note: I usually obtain my books from the library. I do occasionally buy them, especially if I am sure I will reread them. I recently bought a Kindle but have not yet fully embraced it. My wines come from “Everything Wine” and most, but not all, are from the Langley store.

… August preview for those who love to plan ahead. Anything by author Ian McEwan.

Sulphites in wine

You Probably Aren’t Allergic to Sulphites, Don’t Hurt Me 

 

A good friend posted a video of an ad for this magic device that “removed sulphites” from wine and thus “prevented hangovers”. This is like suggesting you can prevent car crashes by removing the car doors. I have no clue whether this funnel-with-stuff-in-it can truly alter a wine’s chemical composition by quickly pouring wine through the magic wine hole, but it doesn’t matter. Sulphites don’t cause hangovers. Alcohol does. 

 

Ok, just…. No,…stop yelling at me. Yes, I know that sulphite allergies are real, yes I know that the reaction you had to that Chilean Cab was real, yes I know that the bottle said “contains sulphites” on it and you then logically declared war. All I’m saying is that there are MANY components in wine that you could react to, and - statistically speaking - sulphites probably aren’t the culprit.  

 

I’ll readily admit that sulphites have suffered from terrible PR. Out of all the allowable additives in wine, it’s the only thing the label warns you about (besides booze, more on that below), and it’s far from the worst thing you can do to a wine, in fact, it’s something that wine does to itself:  

The heroic yeast that turns (meh) grape juice into (yay) wine produces sulphites during fermentation to prevent other kinds of bacteria from joining the party and stealing all this awesome sugar it’s eating. You won’t find wine without sulphites because they are inextricably part of its Origin Story. You can find wine with no added sulphites, but you’d best drink it quick (or hope it wasn’t sitting long) lest you discover why they were added in the first place:  

 

In the 1600s, the Dutch – tired of buying great wine down in Bordeaux only to find it smelled like donkey once it got back to Holland – figured out that if you dropped a sulphur candle down into a barrel and let it burn a bit before filling it, the wine wouldn’t spoil. In this age, when we think of additives we picture an Autobot from The Matrix injecting robo-serum into frightened, screaming grapes (if you’re drinking Factory Wine this might be the case, who knows, the factories have no windows), but sulphites can be introduced quite naturally, and in small administrations can help keep the wine stable and ageable. Many organic wine certifiers allow some sulphites in organic winemaking; indeed many Natural or Low Intervention winemakers administer some sulphites because they want the wine you buy to taste like the wine they made. 

 

If you can eat dried fruit, store-bought jam, dried nuts, canned tomatoes or a plate of French fries without reaction, then sulphites aren’t your nemesis. Maybe you could be friends. Maybe you could swap recipes. Histamines in red wine, often blamed if not mentioned on the bottles, share a similarly unfair scarlet letter – some people react to them, but they’re far more prevalent in many of the foods we eat and if you don’t react to cheese, fish or meat (which contain 10 times the histamine count), then they aren’t your suspect either.  

 

Yes.. for sure I understand that I’m not really helping. There’s no easy answer to why people react to certain wines and not others. Wine is a living thing, and largely an accurate portrait of the place it was born into, including the potential allergens surrounding it. Since red wines use skin contact after crush, there’s more environmental character: the skins interacted with those surroundings for months. If you find a wine that causes no reaction, continue to drink it and from the estates surrounding it, and try if possible to stick to the same vintage, because different things can happen to that vineyard from year to year. 

 

Although sulphites and other things like yeast, acid and tannins can be problematic for some, the likely culprit is the reason we all came here to begin with: Alcohol. Alcohol sensitivity is a thing, the best way to handle it is to drink less and drink better. We can help. 

River District Piedmont Offer 2021

We don’t often see two whizz-bang vintages happen back-to-back (the 2009/2010 combo in Bordeaux and 2015/2016 in Tuscany come to mind) but that very abnormality has happened recently in Piedmont. We saw 2016 coming for miles: outstanding quality up and down the Italian peninsula (in most of Western Europe, truthfully), a classic, put-it-on-the-shelf-and-admire-it kind of vintage that produced exquisitely built, ageable wines, there was no doubt that these Barolos and Barbarescos would be crazy good. 2017, however, is more of a surprise: hotter than Adam Driver in a bad mood, 2017 had mixed results in the rest of Italy, stealing elegance in exchange for oomph, not always welcome in more finessed wines. As the Italian 2017s were released over the last two years, there was good reason to expect that the northern Italian Nebbiolos, always released a little later, would be flat and cooked. 

But then the 2017 Barolos and Barbarescos started to be released, and reviewers and collectors alike exclaimed a very green-eggs-and-ham-like “Saaaaaaaaaay!”. There’s a little more fruit present, but not over-ripeness or cooked notes, notably because growers have had to figure out how to cope with a hot year (they’re not as surprising anymore), and they’re way better at producing elegant, classic Nebbiolo despite the added challenge. Vinous’ Antonio Galloni says “the wines challenge preconceived ideas of what wines from hot years can be”, and although he and Parker slightly favour the 2016s, James Suckling actually favours the 2017 vintage. 

So, needless to say, I’ve been busy. I’ve been collecting small batches of 2016s and 2017s, and just like with Burgundy, I buy wide but not deep, so there’s often only a few bottles of each selection. Start your engines. 

Visit Jordan in the Vintages Room at our River District location.

  • 8570 River District Crossing
  • 604 416 1672
  • jcarrier@everythingwine.ca

We begin: 

Figli Luigi Oddero. Odderos have been Odderoing in Barolo since the 1800s, and were part of the first wave of producers to sell wines straight to consumers, rather than to their local church. Seeking a different path than his brother Giacomo, Luigi Oddero split with his family’s winery in 2006 to start this eponymous house, which was going great until he passed in 2010. His wife Lena and their two kids carried on his work, but without Luigi’s generational wisdom in the cellar they were lost, until Lena made the best decision possible: she hired Dante Scaglioni—a local who had worked for 25 years as the winemaker for the legendary Bruno Giacosa, and the fireworks went off. Neither firmly in the Trad nor Modern camp, Dante makes clean, precise wines using older methods (long ferments, old oak Botti). I have: 

Luigi Oddero Barbaresco Rombone 2016. From a 2 ½ hectare plot of 30yr-old vines in Rombone cru in Barbaresco’s Treisa region. Great purity of fruit: rose-covered strawberries and sweet cherries, held together by a firm but kind structure. Herbal and forest floor notes linger. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $99.98 +tax 

Luigi Oddero Barolo 2016. A gorgeous swirl of high-toned spices and deep red fruits, culled from several of the family’s holdings in various crus. Good tension between fruit and structure. Generous and fresh, a nice statement of vintage. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $106.98 +tax 

Luigi Oddero Barolo Rocche Rivera 2008. Blast from the past from a cru in a cru – adjacent to the Rocche di Castiglione in the Scaronne cru in the commune of Castiglione Faletto, Rocche Rivera boasts the best exposure in the whole cru. Built like a racehorse, it has only just entered the don’t-bite-me window and will remain here for two decades. Mentholated cherries, crushed stones and herbs. Conservate and elegant. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $193.98 +tax 

 

Pico Maccario. Long-time growers but recent winemakers (founded in 1997), Pico and Vitaliano Maccario’s first love was Barbera, but the brothers have grown their forward-looking winery in Mombaruzzo to include small releases of Nebbiolos as well. Quick ferments and modest barrel-aging in both Barrique and Botti make bold, direct wines of purpose. 

Pico Maccario “Tre Roveri” Nizza 2018. The Smart Italian Party Wine. 100% Barbera from their family’s vineyard in Nizza (the only DOCG where Barbera rules the roost). Loud and proud with unapologetic heft and oaky notes of vanilla supporting the spicy dark berries. Coffee and anise dance throughout. This Barbera never got pushed around in the schoolyard. Quite untraditional and outstanding, drinks like twice the price. Tre- Bicchieri (3 glasses = top score) Gambero Rosso, 5 6-packs available, $51.98 +tax 

Pico Maccario Barolo 2017. Nebbiolo mostly from the feisty commune of Serralunga d’Alba, bold and balanced with strong fruit and a surprising level of drinkability and concentration. Lavender and strawberry lead the nose, licorice and rich cherry glide from palate to finish. Well-integrated even this young, featuring high levels of Deliciosity™. Not yet rated, 3 6-packs available, $62.98 +tax 

 

Elio Sandri. I’ve never met Elio Sandri – I’m not sure I could, as he’s known to chase wine press off his property with a rake – but based on his wines I’m guessing I could outrun him because he’s probably too traditional to wear shoes. This is the Barolo of yore, vinified by basically waiting, with months-long whole-cluster ferments, minimal extraction and ancient oak. Tiny productions from the wee Perno cru and a haphazard approach to marketing and exports (and answering the phone) have only increased his legend; far more markets want his wines than get his wines, which is why it’s nearly miraculous that I can offer the following: 

Elio Sandri Barolo Perno 2016. A future epic. Earth and tobacco surround the bright cherry notes, with plum, olives and leather falling into place. A portal to the past that won’t open for another 5 years. Mint and cedar on the statuesque finish. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $111.98 +tax 

Elio Sandri Barolo Perno Riserva 2015. Roses and orange zest open the festivities, with violets and saline-tinged berries rounding out the middle and end. Unusually for a Sandri wine, this one is aaaaalmost there – it’s rounder than much of his work – but a couple more years would be ideal. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 95 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $123.98 +tax 

 

Domenico Clerico. An unabashed modernist, Domenico Clerico has caught flak for his use of Barriques and Burgundian casks, but his critics forget that when he inherited his family’s plots in 1977, his approach was traditional – it was only his decades-long relationship with the few vineyards he farmed that led him to micro-focus on the unique fruit footprints of each site, seeking clean, transparent Burgundian expressions of place. These 2016 Barolos are the last ones Domenico made before his passing in 2017. 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana 2016. From the Pajana vineyard in the Ginestra cru in Monforte d’Alba, named after an ancient path that bisects it, and planted by Domenico’s dad in 1971. Intense and concentrated with game, forest floor and blood orange underscoring the cassis and plums. Quite full, about 3 years out from paydirt. 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin 2016. Also in the Ginestra cru at the top of the hill, the east-facing vineyard named Ciabot Mentin (after the previous owner’s tool shed) produces a dynamic balance of grace and oomph. Densely structured but nearly in the drinking window, orange and mint give way to layers of cassis and violets – a huge body but a wonderfully elegant landing. 97+ points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Aeroplan Servaj 2016. His father, out of admiration and concern, called free-spirited young Domenico “little airplane”, a nickname that the adult Domenico gave to this west-facing vineyard in the Baudana cru of Serralunga d’Alba. A study of how richness and energy play off of each other, with lurking ferrous notes beneath the linear cherry and garrigue. More high-toned and savoury than his other Barolos, this gorgeous beast was Domenico’s definitive statement. 97+ points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 

 

Produttori del Barbaresco. Although Angelo Gaja is primarily responsible for initially putting Barbaresco in people’s minds, this superlative co-operative helped put Barbaresco on the map by putting it in people’s hands. Started in the 1890s, dissolved in 1930 because, you know, Fascism, then rebirthed in the 1950s, Produttori gathered enough quality growers together to export great Barbaresco to the wine-drinking world, creating an amazing first impression and cementing the village’s status as a worthy partner to Barolo. Avoiding the stratospheric price jumps of most of their contemporaries, Produttori is nonetheless considered a benchmark of traditional Barbaresco, farming choice plots in the best crus, such as: 

Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Riserva 2016. A south-west facing natural amphitheatre whose collected heat is tempered by the nearby Tanaro river. Slightly brandied cherry notes surrounded by tar and smoke, quite dense with broad shoulders, long anise-laced finish. Best in 5 years. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Produttori del Barbaresco Muncagota Riserva 2016. South-east facing, collecting the morning sun. Accordingly, Muncagota is more delicate on the nose (not the body, yowsers), with heightened floral aspects and characteristic mint vibes over the earth-driven iron and gravel notes. Full and bold on palate with considerable structure. 96 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Riserva 2016. A long hill with south-west exposure, known for softer structures and hidden power. A burst of licorice and eucalypt over a medium body of plums and salinity. 96 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

 

Michele Chiarlo. For four generations, the Chiarlos have been delicious pragmatists, farming all over the Langhe, never putting all their chips on one village or one grape, and focusing on balanced, terroir-correct, ultimately drinkable wines. Even in off-vintages (which these are not), they excel in putting a wine in your glass that will perfectly show the grape and region with no caveats (and no bells or whistles). We have: 

Michele Chiarlo “Palas” Barolo 2016. A multi-commune cuvée, with fruit from Monforte, Verduno, and La Morra. A drinker’s Barolo, with soft(ish) integrated tannins supporting the balsamic strawberry and vanilla notes. Not super pigmented but quite powerful, my colleagues and I tasted this blind and put it closer to $100 – wonderful value, exclusive to Everything Wine. 94 points James Suckling, 6 cases available, Reg price $59.99, Sale Price $54.99 +tax 

Michele Chiarlo “Cipressi” Nizza 2018. 100% Barbera from Chiarlo’s La Court estate in Nizza, using only the sunniest parcels. Sweet spices lift the fresh raspberry and blackberry compote over a full-bodied bed of violets. Less acidic than most Nizza, a soft landing with more lingering cinnamon and nutmeg. Not yet rated, 18 bottles available, $39.99 +tax 

 

GAJA. Angelo Gaja, besides revolutionizing and modernizing what was once an unknown, backwards wine village, put Barbaresco into world-wine-consciousness by sheer force of personality. Now semi-retired, the estate is run by his daughter Gaia (never thought of it before, but I’m grateful that my parents didn’t name me Jordan Giordan), but the family strengths live on in the wine and personality (Gaia is no fading flower). Global shipping awesomeness prevented me from grabbing more, but I’m grateful to have: 

GAJA “DaGromis” Barolo 2016. Back in 1995, Gaja acquired the vineyards adjacent to their Sperss and Contesia sites from the Gromis family (DaGromis literally means “at home with the Gromisses”), and they vinify each vineyard separately before ultimately blending them into this deeply rich cuvée with fresh overtones. Aged in Barriques for 2 ½  years, the nose shows intense orange and red grapefruit over cassis, crushed rocks and cinnamon. Racy and powerful. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $169.98 +tax 

 

Giacomo Fenocchio. When Claudio Fenocchio took over winemaking duties after his dad passed in 1989, he was the fifth Fenocchio to make wine in the Barolo commune of Monforte d’Alba, but the first to scale back his methods to adopt a non-interventionist approach (as much as one can in a colder climate), seeking to return to pre-industrial expressions of his ancient crus. He farms organically and favours long, spontaneous ferments, aging only in large, Slavonian casks, producing Barolos of precise terroir and purpose. The New York Times rated Fenocchio second place in a tasting of 2010 Barolos – coming behind only Elio Altare and ahead of Elio Grasso, Massolino, and Vietti, and his wines sell out quickly. I’m stoked to have: 

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Villero 2017. Hints of mint, white pepper and sandalwood float over the classic traditional Barolo notes of blood orange and morello cherry. A subterranean note of asphalt lurks with lavender on the finish. Ideal in 3 years. 97 points James Suckling, 2 6-packs available, $102.98 +tax 

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Bussia Riserva “90 di” 2015. Way cool, Barolo á la Druid. Fruit from the family’s holdings in the mighty Bussia cru is left to ferment with ambient yeasts after crush and then… nothing. They do nothing. Claudio leaves the juice alone for 90 days, no pump-overs, no punching the cap, just the ancient act of allowing the skins to fully influence the ensuing wine. Fruit leather and game notes hold the black cherry and juniper just above the earthy tannins, this is a complex Nebbiolo that, although inscrutable now, will grow into a layered, gorgeous Barolo. 6 bottles available, $163.98 +tax 

 

Musso. Although there was a Musso mayor of Barbaresco in the early 1600s, the family didn’t get into the wine game until 1929 when Sebastiano Musso started the winery that his father could only dream of – just in time to see the world economy crash and Fascism take hold. Wheeee!! Inch by inch the Mussos grew the operation until in 1966 the village got its DOC status and their wine saw export. Today Valter Musso and his sons tend to the estate, crossing traditional and modern methods to build big, beautiful Barbarescos like these: 

Musso Barbaresco Pora 2017. A full-throated expression of the Pora Cru, near the village of Barbaresco. Blue flowers and raspberries open to a full, generous brew of cinnamon, vanilla and cherry. Still youthful and tannic, but the fruit weight nearly balances. Not yet rated, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax 

Musso Barbaresco Pora Riserva 2015. Large and in charge. Mentholated espresso beans dance with drunken cherries holding orange peels like a whip. A strong argument to be made for this 2015 already being in the window. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Wine Spectator, $89.98 +tax 

 

Nada Fiorenzo. The Nada story is more like a cycle. Since Carlo Nada started the business by selling garage-brewed Nebbiolo to local restaurants, every subsequent Nada son swore off the wine biz and sought fame an fortune in nearby Torino, only to be disenchanted by the big city and return home to fall in love with the land anew. It’s like watching 3 Hallmark movies back to back. The Nada style is pragmatic, using long, wild ferments but employing a mixed media of barrels for aging (although 4th Gen Danilo Nada has been slowly steering away from Barriques). First time in BC, I have: 

Nada Fiorenzo Barbaresco Rombone 2016. The Rombone cru is the first site the Nada family ever vinified; they know that terroir like my kids know the Skip the Dishes site. An éclair of kirsch, fennel and herbs greets the nose, gliding towards a mid-weight, quite velvety palate. The acidity on the close speaks louder than the tannins right now, everything else is a go but I’d like to drink this in 2025. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $112.98 

 

Tenute Guardasole. This is where Nebbiolo goes skiing. Boasting the highest vines in Alta Piemonte, the subalpine town of Boca experiences drastic swings from day to night, and the steep slopes make it tough to farm here, which explains all the abandoned vineyards around the village (decades ago when Piemontese wine was dirt cheap, producers favoured moderate, flatter sites that could be farmed mechanically to save money). Marco Bui of Tenute Guardasole is one of a handful of winemakers who have begun rehabilitating those ancient vineyards, making gorgeous high-altitude reds like this: 

Guardasole Boca 2016. A burst of friendly energy. Dried flowers, tar and white pepper all surrounding the Tesseract. Clean, transparent and feisty, 80% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina, medium bodied and laser focused. The finish is still a bit feral, give this one 3 years at least. 95 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $84.98 +tax 

 

Poderi Marcarini. 6 generations strong, the Marcarini family is still doing what they do best: overserving me because their wines are so deceptively gulpable. Honest, contemporary Barolos are their calling card, “intervening” just enough to let the vineyard character shine through, using quick ferments but large casks that preserve purity of fruit. I have: 

Marcarini Barolo del Comune di La Morra 2017. New skin for the old ceremony. Only its third year on the market, this is a co-ferment of several crus with Tortonian soils within the La Morra commune. Gloriously floral and perfumed, with light cherry and forest floor serving a tangy body, full of orange peel and star anise. 95 points James Suckling, 10 bottles available, $66.99 +tax 

Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2017. From the rugged, southwest facing La Serra cru in Serralunga d’Alba. Strawberries rolled in ash with black tea and ferrous notes. A very serious customer. Linear in shape with great intensity and mineral components from front to back, built to withstand a plane crash, needs 4+ years. 97 points James Suckling, 5 bottles available, $84.99 +tax 

 

Francesco Rinaldi & Figli. The Rinaldi name in wine dates back to the 1870s, and in 1922, like many houses in Piedmont (and Burgundy), the family splintered into separate wineries: Giuseppe and Francesco. More traditional than a sharpened stick, current cellar master Luciano Rinaldi employs month-long ferments and exclusively large, old Slavonian casks. These wines became available in BC for the first time this year. 

Francesco Rinaldi Barolo Brunate 2016. Straddling the border of the Barolo and La Morra communes, the Brunate cru hides a lot of magnesium and potassium amongst its reams of limestone, building complex phenolic concentrations in this dark and dense Nebbiolo. All manner of green herbs trip up the rosewater, raspberry and cinnamon on the nose, with pomegranate and smoke in faint hints. Layered and in no hurry, medium bodied, almost in balance (the acidity is a little hey-how-ya-doin’ right now). 94 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $111.98 +tax 

Francesco Rinaldi Barolo 2007. From La Morra, Barolo and Castiglione Faletto communes. A spicy thread from front to back, black tea and worn wood are a platform for dried red fruits and dried blackberry, medium-bodied, intact finish – this could still go another decade without breaking a sweat. 6 bottles available, $197.98 +tax 

 

Poderi Colla. The first family to include cru names on a Barolo bottle in 1961, the Colla family – now headed by Tino Colla, practices mostly traditional winemaking, with a few modern tweaks for clarity of terroir. Tino is known for organizing a stratified harvest, with different altitudes being picked on widely different days, and then added to the ferment as they come in over several weeks – approximating the approach that Barolo houses had to use decades ago when there wasn’t enough money to pay pickers to get all the grapes at once. This allows the tannins from the first grapes to polymerize (bind to form solids) as the others are added, softening the profile a tad. I have: 

Poderi Colla Barbaresco Roncaglie 2016. Intense but not heavy, in fact it’s light enough to dance around the rhubarb, truffle and mint notes before dropping on the palate with a kaboom. Roncaglie is an amphitheatre-esque, south-facing steep hill that will likely go up in price and prestige once Vietti starts releasing the Barbarescos from their recently purchased plot there. Deliciously long finish, great value (for now). 95 points Vinous, 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 8 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

 

Cappellano. One of Barolo’s most renowned (and feared) traditionalists, Augusto Cappellano carries on his father Theobaldo’s commitment to terroir expression and minimal cellar interference, as well as his father’s tendency to shoo away wine reviewers who might possibly assign a numbered score to his wines. His wines reward patience, and they sleep like dragons. 

Cappellano “Otin Fiorin” Pie Rupestris 2016. This will cellar like wines 4 times its price. Quite Burgundian in nature, there are subtle hints of dried fruit, herbs and spices, but the finish is disjointed and spiky. Collectors will be highly rewarded for keeping this at least 10 years, but right now it drinks like a misunderstanding. Once integrated, the 2016 Rupestris will match power with delicacy and drink like a halo, this will be a remarkable Barolo. 6 bottles available, $151.98 +tax 

 

Azienda Agricola Azelia di Luigi Scavino. This famously innovative house celebrated its centennial with the release of their 2016s, which threatens to compromise their best-kept-secret-under-the-radar status. Organically farmed and using a pragmatic blend of old/new methods, The Scavino family (Luigi and his son Lorenzo) sources fruit from some of the regions best crus: 

Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2016. The first cru owned by the Scavino family, Bricco Fiasco (hill shaped like a flask, or fiasco) sits in the Castiglione Faletto commune, and the Azelia vines were planted by Luigi’s grandfather in 1940. Brilliant blue fruit with chalk and cassis notes, a medium-full body and a gorgeously floral finish. Aaaalllmost in the drinking window, 2 more years should do the trick. 96 points Wine Spectator, 96 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available, $169.99 

 

Cesare Bussolo. When he’s not working with cult Barolo producer Roberto Voerzio, Cesare Bussolo quietly makes a few cases of wine under his own label. Did I say quietly? No chance of that now, as Cesare’s wines have blown up in Europe with long waiting lists, and they make their first appearance in BC this year. Like his mentor Roberto, everything is done on a super small scale with ambient yeasts and small barrels. I can offer: 

Cesare Bussolo Barolo del Comune di La Morra 2017. Compact, vibrant fruit on the nose: cherries, roses, sage – this is built like a 1er Cru Volnay, medium-bodied and long. Elegant and super-fine tannins, everything is arguably in balance now, but there’s no doubt that it’ll improve in 4-5 years. Not submitted for review, 6 bottles available, $156.98 +tax 

 

Poderi Aldo Conterno. The Modernist Who Wouldn’t Be. When Aldo, the second son of Barolo legend Giacomo Conterno, came of age, he did what many young Italians did: he got as far away from Italy as possible. Seeing that a post-prohibition Napa Valley was ascendant, Aldo emigrated to the US to start a winery with a few uncles when – oopsy! – he was drafted into the Korean war, where he served two years before an honorable discharge. Finding himself back in Barolo wondering what happened, he joined his brother Giovanni at his ailing father’s estate, and was soon fighting with his family about how they made wine. Inspired by the modern moves that Angelo Gaja was making in Barbaresco (although let’s be real: a “Modern” technique in 1961 Langhe was cleaning your cellar a bit), Aldo struck out on his own to become the blasphemous “Modernist” of the family. But was he? He only really tweaked his family’s ancestral methods, his stuff was – and still is, after his 2021 passing and his sons in charge – pretty old school, as well as gorgeous and iconic. I have: 

Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2012. From 50-yr-old vines, this 2012 from the Cicala vineyard in the Bussia cru (in Monforte d’Alba commune – these really are Russian dolls) is just entering the zone. Leather is starting to move into the nose of nutmeg and mint, with ferrous tobacco notes and cherry holding strong. Lots of yums. 95 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $289.98 +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.  

Pelissero “The Long Now” (Nebbiolo/Barbera) 2015. 95 points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $65.98 +tax 

La Ca’ Nova Barbaresco Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina 2017. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $67.98 +tax 

La Ca’ Nova Barbaresco Montestefano 2017. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $67.98 +tax 

Coming Soon: Bordeaux and Rhone offers!! 

My Wine Journey

I started to have an interest in wine while I was working for the travel industry in Japan. I’ve been in love with Canada since I first visited this country as an English school student. I kept coming back, getting to know more and more about this beautiful country. The more I learned, the more I craved to learn more. I did not really know Canadian wine other than ice wine then. It was a long time ago, so maybe you understand Canadian wine is nothing more than ice wine back in the day.  

I enjoy drinking good wine, like everybody does. I was lucky enough to have had many opportunities to try great wines on some tours of Canada that I was on, but still I did not know what a great wine was truly back then. 

One day I had a chance to see all the beautiful scenery in BC at a destination seminar and learned about Osoyoos. I was familiar with the name Osoyoos since my favourite English teacher kept telling us how beautiful it was. The presentation was talking mainly about Nk'Mip creek. I was so attracted by the beauty of the winery and golf course at the resort that I made a mental note and put it on my bucket list to go there one day. (spoiler alert! Not yet happened!) I started to study Canadian wines more, but it was still from the Tourism industry point of view, not the wine industry one. 

Around that time, I found a (one and only) Canadian Wine only store in Japan. I don’t even remember how I found it. I visited there and asked questions and begged to stay at their store to learn more. The owner was really nice and let me stay and she taught me about wines and told me about WSET. I was like, “whaaaaaaat!?” You mean I don’t have to be a sommelier to learn all about wine!?

So, I started WSET in Japan. There were only two options in Japan for me location wise back then. It was a 3-month course and I passed Level 2 and started Level 3 when I knew I could not finish it because I decided to move to Canada, but I did not want to waste what I had already completed. I wanted to keep it going.

After I moved to Canada as a business school student, I did not have money to spend on the WSET course but was dreaming of one day getting a wine related job. So, I kept drinking wine, but it was so hard to keep up my wine knowledge. I needed to study again to get back a little confidence after I started to work at the store, Everything Wine, but here I am. With great support from the managers (seriously!) at my store, I work as a BC wine buyer and am having a blast! I get to learn about and try lots of BC wines! I get to talk about them and know how they are all connected economically, environmentally, and even politically. Through everybody’s incredible efforts in the BC wine industry, it is growing a lot. There’re many more wineries compared to even just a few years back. I’m enjoying learning many aspects of this beautiful province and the fantastic wines produced here.

My favourite BC wine is Desert Hills Gamay

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!!  

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