Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Wine of the Week: Birichino Malvasia Bianca 2014

Having friends over for dinner sometimes can be a bit of a complexity for me when choosing a wine, especially for friends who are not ‘obsessive’ over it like I am. Some of these friends are the Ménage à Trois, Apothic Red type, which of course is totally fine because it’s wine after all. ( As a side note: drink whatever wine you choose, people! I will never put anyone down for wines that are not my preference. I am not a snob. I just guarantee you, training your palate is no different from training your mind or your body. You get better with practice.)  

At any rate , here is the dilemma for the wine advocate:  You have so many beautiful special bottles that would only warm your heart to share, but maybe not for those who cannot appreciate what it is.  They may appreciate the wine in and of itself…but not the meaning, the producer, the speciality, or the work that went into making it…. It’s not even about the cost. You save these bottles for your equally wine obsessive friends because you end up talking about that bottle for at least 45 minutes non stop.  That would bore the hell out of anyone who does not feel an interest or connection with wine. It’s okay, they’re just not that into it. To each his own, right?  What to serve instead? Something that will cater to all palates : A wine with crazy flavour, lively acidity and still enough plushness so satisfy both the aficionado and expert alike.  Birichino’s Malvasia Bianca 2014 should do just the trick, and for that, it is my wine of the week.

Disclaimer here: I had NO CLUE the men behind Birichino (John Locke and Alex Krause) once worked with the likes of Ostertag and Grahm until moments before this post was published.  It’s all I can muster to contain my excitement calmly and professionally……Can’t get over it. Never knew. No wonder I love what they make.  Although it is not my wine of the week, Birichino’s Grenache is absolutely gorgeous, available at the SAQ. They also produce a Vin Gris which I wish I could get my hands on….but sadly not available here yet. (*wink)

Birichino has the most beautiful labels for portfolio of wines.

“If we can do right by the vineyard sites we are fortunate to draw on, and manage to impart the wonderment and excitement we feel for what we do, we have succeeded.  We hope in some small measure what we produce will also add a little joy to the world.” -Locke & Krause

Well boys, you are bringing lots of joy my way, I dear say.  Keep it coming! 

Grapes are harvested at night to retain their freshness, with extended skin contact to enhance all the beautiful aromas and flavours the grape ( Malvasia Bianca ) has to offer.  Fermentation was slow with a temperature of 10 degrees C, and the wine was kept on its lees, being stirred every few weeks to allow for a wine with more complexity, texture and flavour.  Unfined. Unfiltered.

Medium gold in colour, the pretty aromas take hold of you instantly as you are transported to a garden full of white flowers and perfume, with fresh brioche baking somewhere close by. ( Not shitting you.)  The palate is plush with lychee, citrus and apricot, supported with a steely acidity and freshness. It is crisp, yet has plenty of concentrated fruit with a long enjoyable finish.  Drink now or within 2-3 years, but there ain’t no way you will wait that long.

Wine: Birichino Malvasia Bianco 2014
Grape: Malvasia Bianco
Alcohol: 12.5%
SAQ Code: 11073512
Price: $20
Agent: Trialto


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Wine of the Week: Geyerhof Rosensteig Grüner Vetliner 2012

One of my all time favourite white wine varieties is grüner vetliner.  I love the zest, the pepper, the energy this wine gives.  It can be very generous in aromatics - but not the in the way familiar to most average wine drinkers.  You won’t detect much tropical fruit, pretty flowers or lots of brioche.  In its own right, it is distinct and exciting…..It’s as though grüner has become the kind of the rebel or the high school outcast who’s finally getting the recognition it deserves for its unique qualities and characteristics.  Walk into any restaurant or wine bar in Montreal and you can almost guarantee that a grüner will be poked in there somewhere.  Austria’s signature wine grape is making quite the impression and you have the producers and winemakers to thank for that.  Attending an Austrian Masterclass in Melbourne a few years back, it was eye opening to taste through such clean, pristine and expressive wines.  California, Australia, and even parts of New Zealand are planting this variety with hopes that it will find a second home there, but for now I am supremely happy to be drinking my Austrian  2012 Geyerhof Rosensteig - a prime example of how charming Grüner can be. 

Geyerhof is a very small winery located in Niederösterreich and they focus on organic and biodynamic practices.  Much of the work they do is done manually, and this includes harvesting.  They only do whole bunch pressings and in the cellar they operate with as little intervention as possible.  

The vineyard Rosensteig grows on a conglomerate of Danube sediments mixed with sand. This allows  the minerality in the wine to shine. The vineyard is just beside the Danube, and can sometimes be quite windy.  However, this is on a positive note as the wind keeps the grapes healthy and retain freshness allowing for plenty of acidity. One very big advantage of being located in the Rosensteig is that it allows for very late harvesting without getting too much alcohol.  The result is a very ripe, but light wine.  

My wine of the week is the Weingut Geyerhof Rosensteig Grüner Vetliner 2012

Grapes are manually harvested before going through whole bunch pressing, and pre-filtration in stainless steel tanks.  Extended period of maturation on lees. 

Pale lemon in color, the nose gives way to fresh lemon zest, and white pepper with a kiss of cumin.  On the palate, the mouth watering acidity and minerality is rounded by juicy citrus and ripe pear, and that shadow of white pepper and arugula.  The medium finish is clean, bright and leaves you wanting just another sip. And then another…..

Wine and Producer: Weingut Geyerhof Rosensteig Grüner Vetliner 2012
Grape: Grüner Vetliner
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: $23.20
SAQ Code: 12676307
Agent: RéZin


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Wine of the Week: Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2013

I am not always comfortable meeting new people. Nervous, tense, awkwardly quiet in new social surroundings.  I lose most of my train of thought and what words that do manage to surface get somewhat tangled.  This was my experience meeting Randall Grahm at his office in Santa Cruz, California.  A year ago today, Jake and I flew into San Fransisco to scope out the vines in Sonoma, Napa, Santa Cruz and Monterey.  I was accompanied by my good friend Liane and her firecracker of a daughter, Elsie. (Sideways 2 : Revenge of the Moms.) We had an amazing time and we got to visit some incredible wineries like Copain, Corison, and Grgich but nothing topped my meeting with Bonny Doon’s leading man, Randall Grahm.  


I was immediately impressed by his height, his kindness and most certainly his mind.  He’s somewhat of a mad wine scientist, and I can’t help but feel a certain gratitude for not only being able to meet him in person, but also to realize how fortunate we are as consumers to be graced by the wine he makes, and how he contributes to viticulture/viniculture both in present and future.  

My meeting with him went fairly well and I was nowhere near as prepared as I should have been.  I was starstruck in a way. I don’t follow fashion, and I don’t swoon over celebrities, but instead, give me a good wine mag and pioneer winemaker and my brain turns to mush.  Since taking the WSET diploma, my confidence and knowledge has grown a bit.  So much so that if I had my time back, I know my conversation with him would have been slightly different. What is it that made you start making wine in the Santa Cruz area? How did it all begin?  How long did it take for the vines to start producing the fruit you needed to make a wine?  Do you think there is such a thing as an influence of terroir here?  Do you think we will see a shift in how California makes wine in the future? Why does your Cigare Blanc have a blend of roussanne and grenache blanc? What does the grenache add to the mix? Do you prefer this cuvée en bonbonne? What do you mean you put that in bonbonne? Can I see it?  What is the winemaking process behind your rosé?  Do you know I could drink it like water it’s so damn good?  What is this new project you keep talking about, but are not really talking about?  And so on….


You could immediately tell this was no ordinary man, let alone winemaker. He spoke eloquently and with careful thought.  He is a lover of French wine, in particular Burgundy’s pinot noir.   However, seeing similarities between the climate of Rhône and Central California, he chose to work mostly with varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Roussanne, and the like.  His portfolio of wines has expanded - and more recently contracted - in the past 33 years since taking over Bonny Doon, and like any other person who is passionate and driven by what they do - dreams and ambition never cease.  

I asked him if he had a notepad on his bedside table in case ideas/thoughts would pop into his head when he wakes in the morning.  He laughed quietly and said, “ No. That would imply that I sleep.” I had also posed the question of what sort of projects he had in mind for the future, but he was not too eager to share.  I probed a bit, but he wouldn’t bite and all I could get out of him was that he had some things in mind….things that he wasn’t too sure if he would be around to see the end result of…..  How mysterious.  Months later, I heard some news from a close friend of mine that finally made that conversation make sense.  

Randall Grahm has started a new, grand, seemingly impossible, major initiative:  to make the perfect wine of place in Californian terroir by breeding 10,000 different grape varieties, each genetically different from one another - and one day blending them to make a unique cuvée. Is that not the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?  A ‘Grand Cru of the New World’, for goodness sake!  But, does California even have terroir? Or perhaps it’s better to say that maybe a new grape will find a home there?  Grahm seems to think so, and after hiring fancy French soil experts to investigate, they found what seems to be the ideal location for his project just outside of San Juan Bautista in California’s Central Coast, a 400 acre estate called Popelouchum.  

Making a wine of place is not the only goal: he would like to perhaps find a variety that would be better resistant to disease and drought, which makes perfect sense, given these are serious struggles in California, especially with our changing climate.

An Indiegogo campaign was set up early last summer with a goal of reaching $150,000.  The goal was surpassed and it was an exciting time for everyone, even those who were supporting the endeavour.  People can still donate should they wish, and the perks that you get in return for your generosity are pretty fab. (I’ve included the link at end of the article.)


So as I sip on my Cigare Blanc, my mind goes back to California and I am reminded of my meeting with him.  Randall was super nice to our children - who were destroying his office as we tasted through a slew of wines - more than we deserved. 

He is humble, he is brilliant and and he never backs away from a compelling idea, however ambitious.  Being a strong believer of having grapes suited to the place, he wants to make wines that reflect this very thing.  Selling some of his well-known and successful brands like Cardinal Zin and Big House Red has given him a bit of financial leeway, but it is more the creative freedom that he was seeking.

He does not give himself nearly as much credit as he deserves. I remember asking him which of his wines were his personal favorite, but he shook his head and  said, “ Oh but no -  my wines are not that good.”  Obviously, not a great salesman for his own products, but I beg to differ.  There is nothing that I have tasted from his portfolio that I have not enjoyed;  Vin Gris de Cigare, A Proper Claret, Vin Gris de Cigare en Bonbonne (outstanding), Cuvée ‘R” Grenache (fireworks), and of course Le Cigare Blanc. (They have a version en Bonbonne too, and yes I now know what en Bonbonne means now - thank you, WSET.)


Intended as an homage to the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Bonny Doon 2013 Cigare Blanc comes from a single vineyard called Beeswax Vineyard, which is planted with 2/3 roussanne and 1/3 grenache blanc.  In recent years, they have grafted some of the roussanne over to picpoul, in the hopes of lowering the potential alcohol of the resulting wine and enhancing the acidity at the same time with a goal of wanting the most balanced, most interesting wine that the vineyard is capable of providing.

Fermented partially in very old barrels, and partially in stainless steel, the wine went through malolactic fermentation, sitting on lees for about 4 months, stirred weekly. Medium lemon in colour, the legs are slow and thick as you patiently wait for them to run down the glass.  Generous aromas of lemongrass and warm tangerine, mixed with delicate white flowers, and a layer of brioche.  Medium bodied with excellent concentrations of pear and yellow apple lined with some apricot and white pepper, beaming with a refreshing bright acidity.  Although the alcohol is high, it goes unnoticed as everything about this wine is in beautiful balance.  A soft fruit filled finish.  Drink now or within 5-6 years.  


Wine & Producer:  Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2013
Grapes: Rousanne (55%), Grenache Blanc (26%), Picpoul Blanc (19%)
Alcohol: 14.5%
SAQ Code: 10370267

Agent: Trialto Qc

Funding Campaign :