Monday, 20 June 2016

WOTW: Josmeyer Riesling Le Kottabe 2012

Protected by the Vosges Mountains, Alsace has some truly exciting and elegant wines to offer the world.  Historically, this region has literally been in a tug of war between Germany and France, in terms of who has had dibs on the land.  In terms of wine, it does share similarities to that of neighbouring Germany, but can also hold quite a bit of diversity at the same time, considering the grand cru grapes and the like.   

When I hear or taste Alsace, I immediately think of three of some of my favourite producers: Domaine Ostertag, Hugel, and of course Josmeyer.  You would be hard pressed to find a more eccentric, dynamic and….colourful domaine in the whole of Alsace.

Situated in Wintzenheim, and certified organic and biodynamic, Isabelle and Céline Meyer have been running the Josmeyer family domain since 1994 and 2004 respectively.  Their domain extends to about 28 hectares with plantings of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurtztraminer, to name a few, and has always been cultivated with respect for nature.

Their wines are expressive, bright and romantic.  They offer a range of blends, grand
crus, and even wines that are more specifically terroir driven.  They present wines that are beautiful inside and out, as their labels are quite distinct and oozing with such artistic flare.  ( All the labels of their wines are created by artists in Alsace.)  

“In creating these labels I brought one of my dreams to fruition: To transform the wine into an image and thereby illustrate to the consumer the style and character of what he would find in the bottle.. I often compare the work of the winemaker to that of an artist. The former works with a living and changing medium, then imprisoned in a bottle you have to open and taste to fully appreciate.” - Jean Meyer    

Riesling is a grape variety that can be dressed as sweet, semi sweet or bone dry.  I will let you guess which is my favourite, as my wine of the week is Josmeyer Riesling Le Kottabe 2013.  Delicate, round, playful, and bursting with flavour, this riesling is delivers a huge bang for its buck.  Kottabe gets its French name from the word "Cottabos", an ancient Greek drinking game played during the symposia whereby participants tossed the sediment of their wine into a basin (amorous liaisons often followed the culmination of the game).  - Domaine Josmeyer

The grapes were hand picked and whole-bunch pressed very slowly and gently in pneumatic presses over 5-8 hours to give a clean must and a beneficial amount of skin contact. Transferred to stainless steel, the juice then began a natural fermentation with its own natural yeast for one month. The fermentation was initially temperature controlled but  eventually allowed to proceed at its own pace to allow the wine to develop its own character and complexity. (Photo: Domaine Josmeyer)

Pale lemon in colour, this wine has pretty aromas of lemon lime, petrol and honey.  Medium bodied with a zesty, vibrant acidity and delicate flavours of pear and lemon.  It has a kind of chalky, tasty feel with mouth-watering, salty minerality.  All elements are in modest, truly balanced proportions. A delightful medium finish. Drink now or within the next four to five years.

Wine: Josmeyer Kottabe Riesling 2013
Grape: Riesling
Alcohol: 11.5%
SAQ Code: 12713032
Price: $29.55
Agent: Symbiose

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

WOTW: Birichino Besson Vineyard Central Coast Grenache 2013

I have a love affair with Grenache - when made well, the first sip kind of takes over my senses and I am lost for a moment..…swimming in layers of flavours that make my head spin.  I love the alluring ruby red colour, the bouquet of flowers, ripe crunchy sweet red fruit….. its body and weight and flavour …. how it dances so slow and soft on my palate.  It’s like that feeling you get just before you kiss someone and you know you about to fall in love…for the first time…all over again. 

Last week, I had very special date planned with such a wine -  a bottle of Besson Birichino Grenache 2013.  I have had this  wine before, and as I looked at the bottle and glass before me - I knew I was about to fall in love all over again. Before I knew it, it was half gone and I was all out of sorts with disappointment.  Because just like an amazing date -  time flies by, the night has ended and you are left feeling good, buzzed and perhaps just a little bit bad ass over the guilty pleasure from your evening. 

Grown all over the world from Spain to France to California and even Australia, this thin-skinned grape produces very rich, almost sweet tasting fruit with tannins that tantalize and tease you. It’s fresh and gritty and all about rustic elegance. (There are some really crap wines made from Grenache by the way, but this is not what this post is about.)

Birichino (meaning naughty/mischievous in Italian ) is led by John Locke and Alex Krause, a two-person company doing what they can with the space, equipment, and barrels they have.  No fancy winery hall with floor to ceiling glass windows in the tasting room; They truck all their own fruit, have a few hundred old barrels, and “ make wine in a space we share with a friend in an industrial park in a ghetto in the heart of Salinas”.  Yeah, I’d call that rustic.  

Having long term contracts, Krause and Locke have pretty much all the say, even when it comes to things like pruning, canopy management and dates for harvest.  Although they may not have come from winemaking families, these guys have worked with the likes of André Ostertag and Randall Grahm, and are now making their own beautiful wines in the Santa Cruz area of California.  

The Besson plot, in which this Grenache comes from, is a 10-acre vineyard located 2 km from the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains facing northwestward, roughly 3-4 degrees Celsius warmer - just a short distance further inland from the cool waters of Monterey Bay.  This, and the fact that it’s located in a more moderate climate helps retain the freshness and vibrancy of this wine. 

“We have the opportunity to do something unusual”, says Krause.  “ We make a Grenache that’s not baked heavy, or a jammy beast with raisined fruit.  It can keep some verve and freshness.  At Besson, the sandy decomposed granite soil with a little clay has a gentle north facing slope.  At the eastern edge, it’s rockier and later-ripening, but there are no galets to be seen, and no radiating back of heat during the night.  In fact, fog drifts over and rolls down the vineyard quite a bit at night….to the point where more often than not, we have October harvests.”  

The Besson Grenache vines are 103 years old, and being that the area is dry farmed, no irrigation, the roots are very deep, work hard and handle water stress quite well.  Krause has noticed that the last couple of vintages, the yields have gone down and with flowering earlier, means they harvest earlier as well.  “ Grenache is really prone to shatter, and especially in the past couple of vintages, we’ve seen yields drop dramatically, as these wise old vines reduce the load of fruit to meet the available resources.  What we got is fantastic, but there is very, very little.”
Photo: Birichino - old vine Grenache at Besson 

So Birichino’s Grenache seems to be playing hard to get, all the way from California. Figures…. No matter, as I will take what I can get.  I will keep my eyes peeled at SAQ shops, because not only is the Grenache and Malvasia Bianca available….I heard through the grapevine (pun intended) that the Vin Gris will be out in stores later this summer! So excited for this to be happening! 

I have a second date planned with Birichino, or better yet the Besson vineyard itself.  It’s a bit of a far stretched dream….but I see myself plopped down cross legged somewhere between the vines, drinking wine….and taking it all in.   The smell of dried brush, mesquite and chillies roasting on an oil-drum BBQ by the vineyard crew, with a little Douglass fir scenting the air in the late afternoon as the cool air comes over the mountains from Monterey Bay. Even the bugs don’t bother me. With the warmth of the sun on my face, and I where I am meant to be, for that moment. 

The Birichino Besson Grenache was made with the  inclusion of a small percentage (7%) of dried Grenache grapes , where they get picked in a single layer in champagne picking boxes for 'resting'.  The grapes are then dried with fans in the barn for 10 days, and fermented separately in 100% whole clusters.  Maceration lasts for 40 days and nights as the structure builds, and then at last, softens.  The rest of the Grenache grapes  were also fermented with native yeasts, with about 15% whole cluster in a combination of stainless and macro bins.  After fermentation, the finished wine was racked once after almost a full year in neutral barrels, and bottled unfiltered.  
Photo: Birichino - Grenache getting ready to dry in the barn

Medium ruby in colour with garnet hues, with the slightest look of grittiness.  The nose is highly scented with candied ripe cherries, flowers and pretty spice. The medium bodied wine has soft, abundant tannin, a  plump mouth feel yet vivid and fresh with a great depth of crunchy, almost sweet tasting red fruit.  The long finish goes from ripe cherries and blackberries to warm spice, to chocolate and then back to fruit again leaving a persistent elegant taste of pure goodness.  Drink now or within the next 3-4 years.

Wine: Birichino Besson Vineyard Central Coast Grenache 2013
Grape: Grenache
Alcohol: 14.9%
SAQ Code: 12486386
Price: $24.85
Agent: Trialto Qc

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

WOTW: Château La Tour de L'Evêque Blanc de Blancs 2014

Family legacies : spiritual, emotional and (more often than not) positive experiences/values that get passed down from parents to their children and grandchildren.  When a winery has a long history, deep roots, and a true passion and belief in what they do, you would be hard pressed not to find quality and love in what they produce.  

Since 1933 the Sumeire family has been making beautiful wines from their Château La Tour de l’Evêque and Château Le Tour Sainte Anne estates in Provence, France. Gabriel Sumeire bought his first wine estate in 1922, and as the plots and his reputation grew, he wanted his family to be sure the vines would be well taken care of long after he was gone.  His son Roger took the reins to expand the vineyards, and today his daughter Régine Sumeire continues with the family’s legacy of crafting excellent wines from both estates. The passion for making wine was passed down to her from both her father and grandfather, and it is the values, work ethic, and love for the vines that is the driving force behind her work today.  

Photo: EnRoute Air Canada

As I taste the Blancs des blancs, I think about the family’s dedication to their work.  A team of people who have to make countless decisions every day to do the best they can with any number of things that can be thrown at them every day.  I think about the relationship and the Sumeire family must have had with their father and how their part of their family values is pleasing people all around the world with their wine.  Isn’t that the one of the objectives of most winemakers? 

It is the perfect anytime wine.  It is lively and retains a lot of bright freshness but still has a silky mouthfeel with expressive fruit and underlying saltiness that is just so satisfying and appealing.    

Medium lemon on the glass, the wine has beautiful aromas of perfumed white flowers, citrus, and the sea. Its core is made of waxy honey and ripe pear.  The complexity creates a gorgeous bouquet of everything that is good in life in one glass.  Dry, bright acidity, light and airy on the palate, yet silky, and medium bodied.  The candied lemon, touch of honey and warm ripe pear balances well with the chalky and salty minerality. Persistent finish.  

It’s a little bit of everything together that makes this wine so good and balanced. Much like the Sumeire family and their team; each person puts their own drop of goodness into the mix and the result are quality wines made in a brilliant, ethical, and loving way.  

Please do take a look at their website and read more about this lovely family and their portfolio of wines.

Wine: Château la Tour de L'Evêque 2014 Blanc des Blancs
Grapes: Rolle (67%), Sémillion (33%)
Alcohol: 13.5%
SAQ Code: 00972604
Price: $21.00
Agent: Charton Hobbs