Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Wine of the Week: Closson Chase 2013 Chardonnay

Recently I have been introduced to some beautiful examples of wine that are made right here in my own backyard of Ontario and Quebec.  Bachelder, Pearl Morissette, Carone to throw out  few names..... But it when comes to Chardonnay, PEC's Closson Chase has got to be, hands down, the best I have had from Canada, and that goes for a few years running now.  

My pal Mr. B was the first to introduce me to CC's Chardonnay, just before my stint in Oz. After going to PEC for a long weekend, he came back with at least a case of the stuff and I was considered a good enough friend for him to give me a bottle.  He was very enthusiastic about the wine and swore to me I would fall in love with it.  Thank you B.... Forever grateful. I remember my first taste of it like it was yesterday. I was at my parents summer cabin where they use to fish lobster for a living. I had before me the freshest lobster one could ever dream of - and a bottle of Closson Chase 2010 Chardonnay. What a pairing - It left such an impression,          that I am still getting pleasure from that bottle of wine.

Fast forward to December 2015, and once again, the Chardonnay was accompanying snow crab that, "ahem" magically appeared before me.  I feel a connection between the wine and the food here: salty air, fresh fish and cool Canadian wine just seem to fit together.  

Founded in 1998, Closson Chase is located in Ontario's Prince Edward County - roughly a 4 hour drive west of Montreal.  They do not have a huge variety of wines to choose from, as they only make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but I believe this is key to the quality, beauty, and success of their wines. They do only 2 varietals, but damn they do it well.  The Closson Chase team know the land, the soil, the vines. At their vineyard in PEC, limestone bedrock with stony soil make up the appellation and vines produce low yields of grapes with excellent fruit concentration.  Their team is confident that the combination of the site, soil and grape varieties influence the style of their exciting wines.  In addition to its estate grown wines, they also produce wines with grapes sourced form the Niagara Peninsula, sub-appellation from Beamsville Bench. 

Pale gold in colour, the legs are thick and slow to run down the glass.  The nose displays medium fruit intensity of candied lemon, cream, and flirtatious honey.

On the palate the fruit is generous with ripe tangerine, sweet pineapple and cream from malolactic fermentation.  Oak definitely plays a role but marries well with the fruit, bright acidity and leaves a creamy thick mouthfeel.  The finish is long and light, a fine example of finesse and elegance.  Careful with the cork on this one -  it was a bit damp and fell apart 
when opened.


This is a beauty of a wine, and I am so excited and proud that it is made right here in Canada.  Up and coming Prince Edward County has some amazing wines to offer, and I am making sure that I pay them a visit this coming summer.  

Wine: Closson Chase Chardonnay 2013
Producer: Closson Chase
Grape: 100 % Chardonnay
Alcohol: 12.5 %
Price: Sold out at the Closson Chase winery.  Available by the case at Sélection Caviste : http://www.selectioncaviste.com/fr/
Buy Again: Absolutely!


Monday, 21 December 2015

Wine of the Week: Henry Marionnet - Première Vendange Rouge 2014

Christmas Day is approaching and I have arrived to yet another little snow covered northern town, not too far from Santaland,  to celebrate with the rest of my family. Wanting to set the mood for the holidays, I needed to break out a wine that I thought would please the palate of my family ( tough job - as they are not wine drinkers), and myself. Henry Marionnet Première Vendange Rouge 2014 it was, and it for sure made a nice accompaniment to the meal of baked ham and the mountain of other foods strewn across my grandmother’s table.  

The color had me doing a double take:  medium purple with ruby hues - it looked pretty seductive.  Not a bad start I’d say….

On the nose, plenty of pretty dark cherry bubble gum, blackberry jam and an added hint of pine tree needles.  Fitting for the holidays so far, no?!?

On the palate, there is loads and loads of blackberry fruit, dark cherries, and slight sweet spice, slight herbaceousness…this wine is lively.  The acidity is pleasant and tannins are there, but not distracting. However there is something a tad lacking for me - the fruit which is abundant and lovely at the beginning kind of fades mid way through the palate as does the medium finish. Don’t get me wrong - this is a good, clean, rustic wine. 

Reading all the reviews online, I cant help but wonder if I am the only person in history not to fall in love with it? Self doubt washes over me and I want to destroy my tasting note and go for a second slice of apple pie.  

This wine was made with no added sulphur or cultured yeast - minimal intervention - a fine natural wine sitting in front of me. Good, clean, and enjoyable but I am not over the moon about it.  

Then, I had a thought… this wine tasted familiar to me. Something I have had before. Reminded me of ….that Trousseau from Bornard, and the Lammershoek Pinotage…..and, “Oh yeah”…… my mind drifts.  

Why the hell do all these natural wines sort of taste the same? What is the commonality between them? Naturally occurring yeasts? All these examples are from different regions - where does terroir fit into this? It would be very difficult for me to taste and distinguish these wines blind without any preparation beforehand.  

I have had absolutely beautiful, amazing examples of natural wines before - my post from last week will support this statement….but at the same time, I have had wines that well…reminded me of the other natural wine that I had not too long ago.  It also reminded me of all the similar Californian cabs I used to drink when I first started getting into wine.  What the piss is up with that? It seems to me natural winemakers are doing exactly the same thing they blame the industrial wines for doing: formatting the taste.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for any winemaker, and that especially includes those who chose to take the organic/biodynamic route and let the grapes speak for themselves. ( The making of wine is a freaking miracle anyway….so there.)  It may or may not be considered more work depending on who you talk to….and there is a lot of risk involved. One vintage may be nowhere near the same as the next.  

Henry Marionnet is making wines on ungrafted vines in the Loire, which means they are very susceptible to the phylloxera louse which can pretty much easily destroy his vineyards.  I have another bottle of the Première Vendange and I look forward to opening it again to get a comparative tasting.  I have a lot of respect for his winemaking philosophy and I am eager to more of his examples in the future.  

Wine: Henry Marionnet Première Vendange Rouge 2014 
Producer: Henry Marionett
Grape: 100 % Gamay
Alcohol: 12.5 %
Price: $23.15
SAQ Code: 1251178
Buy Again:  Unless the second bottle I have gives a different impression, I don't think so.  

Monday, 14 December 2015

Parés Baltà

As a wine lover, one of the most rewarding feelings is discovering a new wine that I absolutely go crazy for.  It is easy to get enthused by something I haven't tried before, especially if it’s good.  However, every now and then, I get a sweet taste of something that stops me in my track  and I say, “ What is that?!”.  A good wine will make me happy. A very good wine does the same, but with an added, unexplainable sensual experience - a gratification and spark of something that simply resonates deep within me.  It is as if I am some way connected to that wine. This was my experience with Parés Baltà's Pink Cava. 

Following a recent WSET 4 exam, my study partners and I celebrated another unit out of the way by sharing some of our favourite bottles.  My pal David introduced the Cava, and assured us we would love it - and so we did. So much so, I bought a case to bring back with me to the north. ( I am a sucker for bubbles, and ever more so for pink bubbles.)  And do you know what made this wine taste even better?!? Meeting one of the producers, Joan Cusine Carol only a couple days later at La Grande Dégustation in Montreal.

His wines are as energetic and enthusiastic as he is.  This was immediately evident as he spoke  passionately and deeply about his work and the winemaking philosophy behind it. Parés Baltà is an organic/biodynamic run family affair.  Located  only 55 km south of Barcelona, the winery was established in 1790 and is now under management by Joan and his brother Josep.  The role of winemakers goes to Josep’s and Joan’s wives, Marta Casas and Elena Jiménez.   Once a pharmacist and chemical engineer respectively, their passion and love for wine led them to the vines and they are now completely involved in all projects Parés Baltà.

photo: Parés Baltà

With bees pollinating the vines, and sheep to fertilize the soil, the vineyards are certified biodynamic and wines organic. Making wine in this way does not feel like extra work for them, because it is the way it has always been and always will be.  It is their way of contributing to a healthier population and planet - not to mention how this is reflected in the quality of their wines. Pure, clean, and expressive - the samples I tasted at La Grande Dégustation were very exciting.  

My favourites:

Calcari - 100% Xarel-lo

Pale yellow in colour with bits of green tints.  The nose and palate displayed delicate citrus of lime and tangerine.  There were hints of white fruit such as pear and quince. The acidity is welcoming,refreshing and bright.  The burst of salty minerality leaves a lasting impression.( Calcari mean calcareous in Catalan)  

After a light maceration of four hours, the grapes are pressed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks for 21 days at average temperature of 16 degrees Celsius.  After fermentation , contact with lees for four months with a daily bâttonage.  

I had never tried Xarel-lo on its own before - it is a grape normally found as a blend in Cava from Spain.  I was certainly not disappointed and I am now on the look out for a bottle at the SAQ.  ( SAQ Code: 11377225 $19.25 )

Cava Pink Rosé

Grenache - 38%, Parellada - 32%, Maccabeu - 30%

Pale salmon in colour with a tinge of orange.  Bubbles are fast and persistent. 

The nose displays a medium intensity of wild raspberry and cream. Crushed stone and a touch of chorizo,  with a slight herbaceous note.  Complex, vibrant and intense.  

On the palate, the bubbles are persistent and playful.  Fun texture.   The raspberry and strawberry red fruit is framed by bright acidity and touch of spice.   Loads of minerality, crisp.  Offers lively energy with a clean, medium finish.  

Alcoholic fermentation at 16 degrees celsius in stainless steel tanks for two weeks.  Second fermentation in the bottle.  

Private Import: Trialto  $19.95

Every time I open a new bottle, there is always something new to discover. Could be bottle variation, could be me.  All I confidently say is that this is a beautiful example of what all Cava Rosé should be.  The influence of the Grenache is key in this wine and it  creates something truly unique and special.  

It certainly has personality… stock up folks.  

The wines of Parés Baltà are wonderful, especially for the price.  Behind all the hard work and ethics, behind their wine making…..is a family who has a love for what they do.  It is a story of passionate people tending to soil, the grapes, the wine and it is fortunate people like you and me who get to taste it. 

photo: Parés Baltà

Monday, 7 December 2015

Wine of the Week: Pol Roger Brut Réserve 2004

When I moved back to the Coast in August - I wanted to start a wine club. A club where people could taste some different wines, ask questions about it, socialize a bit and hang out. There isn't a whole lot happening in town, and this would be a great way for people to connect, while tasting some new wines. Give or take any week there about 10 people who show up on a  Friday night. It does not consist of getting drunk or talking about wine the whole time. We have some really cool conversations about travel, music, hunting.... 

Most everyone in the club had  never tried Champagne - and to be fair, I have not had many experiences myself besides the odd trade event here and there.  We all chipped in $10 and a few weeks later, we had a Pol Roger Brut 2004  in front of us. Being it was  most everyone's first experience trying Champagne, it was exciting to see everyone's reactions.  The texture of the wine seemed to be their favourite. They were also so surprised that they could actually detect the flavours and aromas of yeast, buttered toast and brioche. I may have enjoyed their reactions more than the wine.  I was well pleased with myself for helping them find the perfect bubbles. 

Coming from Côte de Blancs and Montagne de Reims, this was 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay.  The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation before the final blending. Secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle at 9*C, and riddling gets done by hand.  

Medium gold in colour, there are fine and persistent bubbles in the glass. On the nose, there are  rich and creamy notes of butter cake and fresh made bread, with refreshing  apple cider. Pinch of smoke. The palate features layers of elegant citrus, brioche and hazelnut which  is framed by a firm acidity.  The medium body and structure consisting of fine and long lasting bubbles dances on your palate leading to medium plus finish, taunting you to taste more. This is well balanced and easy to drink. Mouthwatering. 

Wine: Pol Roger Brut 2004
Producer: Pol Roger 
Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir (60%), Chardonnay (40%)
Alcohol: 12%
Price: $92.50
SAQ code :  11856103
Buy again: YES - if my wallet allowed it.