Question: What are your recommended winery visit ideas for my upcoming several day visit to Montalcino?
Answer: Lucky you Dave. The town of Montalcino in the Province of Siena in Tuscany is a wonderful place to visit and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004. Visited there several times, the first one way back in the late seventies. At that time there were less than 50 producers compared to 240+ now. The leaders then that I really enjoyed visiting were pioneer BIONDI SANTI at Il Greppo, EMILIO CONSTANTI, BARBI, and POGGIO ALLE MURA (now BANFI), Attended each April many VINITALY Fairs in Verona in the eighties after Brunello received their DOCG status in 1980 and met the principals of emerging favs of ALTESINO, COL D’ORCIA, and MASTROJANNI among others. Long time fan of ARGIANO who we use also for our top Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A couple of developing legends are worth seeking out – CASE BASSE property of SOLDERA (Gianfranco died in 2019) in La Tavernelle and CERBAIONA DI DIEGO MOLINARI. Don’t forget some major wine producers elsewhere in Italy who produce excellent Brunello: ANTINORI PIAN DELLE VIGNE, FRESCOBALDI CASTELGIOCONDO, and GAJA PIEVE SANTA RESTITUTA. My best tip would be to seek out the differences in the many different terroirs you will discover on your trip. Altitude is a major factor together with comparing the structured fresher style in the north to the riper fruit from the southern vineyards. Have fun exploring and comparing the marvellous 2015 & 2016 vintages!
The Annual Summer Paulee event by La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Sous-Commanderie de Vancouver BC was held on August 28, 2022 kindly hosted by Thomas O’Neill, Rajnee Pratap and sharp young son Nicolas at their spectacular “Sky Palace” successfully catered with a 7-course lunch by At Your Table Catering Executive Chef Kate Rice and her brigade. The pistachio with grilled apple for the sous vide long cooking of the duck confit was a nice pairing with the wines. This event is always such a popular one starting with an impressive themed Wine Tasting Reception sharing contributed bottles of members for tasting and discussion. The theme for 2022 was Puligny-Montrachet (repeat of theme reported here on August 29, 2016) with 35 different wines (including 2 Chevalier Grand Cru & 3 in Magnum format) available for tasting. Most members were sensibly sharing around their own bottle, trying a few other bottles for comparison, and pleasantly socializing. However, it has become a bit of a tradition over the years for your scribe to take advantage of this educational opportunity in attempting to taste all & spit most of the wines there and to comment, summarize, and all in good fun award best and worst wine contributions. My focus this time was to speak on how important the combination of Producer, Vintage, and Vineyard are together in the final result in the bottle.
(A) PRODUCER: A big variety of producers were presented led by the generally underrated bigger houses of Bouchard Pere, Champy, Drouhin, Faiveley, Louis Jadot, and Remoissenet that all showed well. At the other end were growers and relatively unknown producers like Bonnardot (simpler 2016 La Garenne), DEux Montille (2011 Les Champ Gain still bright), and Pascal Clement (fresh, lively 2017 Les Chalumeaux). Several highly respected smaller producers raised anticipation including Bruno Colin, Latour-Giraud (primarily in Meursault), Leflaive, Louis Carillon, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Paul Pernot, and Sauzet. The most bottles this time were from my previously recommended Henri Boillot who was a star of our 2016 P-M tasting with his 2007 & 2006 plus a superb 2006 Criots-Batard-Montrachet.
2019: Frost April 4/5 mainly St. Aubin, Chassagne & less affected in P-M tending to tropical style but more elegant than 2018.
2018: Hot & Dry but a bigger ripe crop forwardly drinking.
2017: Large crop with rather good balance. Perhaps the last vintage before major climate change is affecting the vineyards.
2016: Frost April 26/27 Meursault more than P-M but rains and rather inconsistent. Five wines served were variable.
2015: Hotter extracted powerful. Better year for the ripe reds
2014: Late June hail northern P-M & Meursault but wonderful acidity balance (Chablis the best in decades) with intensity plus age-worthy! 2013: Cooler year Variable from fresh to exotic to grey rot. Most wines with 6 bottles
2011: Lighter less alcohol with an easy ready style. Forwardly. Tied for most at 6 wines.
2010: Reduced crop of rich pure wines with deep minerality. Great year aging well. 3 wines.
2009: Hot year with creamy voluptuous styling.
2008: Colder year of higher acidity holding well.
2004: Mixed results from difficult growing season. Some less ripe floral notes with elegance. Ready.
1996: More sun than heat with good acidity. Always Pre-Mox concerns in 1996 & 1995.
This is a most important key to the terroir and potential greatness of the resulting wine. Those on the northern border like Referts (2019, 2009), Combettes (2013), and Champ Canet (2019, 2015, 2014, and 2011) tend towards adjoining Meursault typical styling with richer, hazelnuts, honey, nutty, oily, and round. But exceptions here as in Meursault Perrieres are more like P-M in structured minerality. Different as you go West with Chalumeux (2017), La Truffiere (2004) and Clos de La Garenne (2008). Even more so as you continue towards the western border adjoining St. Aubin with La Garenne (2016, 2013) and Champs-Gain (2016 & 3 producers of 2011). However as you head South the wines tend to be more elegant in Folatieres (2016, 2014, 2011) and Les Perrieres (2014, 2008) including as part of South Perrieres of Clos De La Mouchere (2016, 2013, 2010). As you go through Clavoillon (2011) and especially near the Grand Crus of Batard & Bienvenues adjoining Pucelles (2010) and Cailleret (2013) adjoining Montrachet some classy P-Ms are capable of being made here. With P-M generally you expect wines to show more almonds, minerals, savoury, stones, and tension than Meursault.
Didn’t hand out the Olympic Gold, Silver & Bronze this year. The two Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet both from Bouchard stood out with more depth and complex bouquet and flavours. 2015 is rich, softer, already enjoyable but so classy. 2004 special plot La Cabotte was a killer very fresh for 18 years with long impressive nuances. Wow.
On the other hand the worst showing three bottles were:
2015 Champ Canet Clos de la Jacquelotte Paul Pernot is usually a lovely lively P-M for this vintage but this bottle was corked. Bottle variation.
2011 Champ Canet Latour-Giraud this one showing a lot of Pre-Mox.
1996 Puligny AC showed too much aging with some oxidation.
The overall quality of P-M showed very impressively at this Paulee. Lots of lovely P-M to enjoy even in not the best vintages. My Top 11:
2019 Champ Canet Etienne Sauzet- Great producer & ripe rich 2019 2019 Les Referts Faiveley- Making better whites with perfect oak 2014 Les Perrieres PYCM- Brilliant wine rich no battonage MAG 2013 Clos de la Mouchere Henri Boillot- Also Les Perrieres + MAG 2013 Clos du Cailleret Jean Chartron- Monopole fav almost Chevalier 2011 Clavoillon Dom. Leflaive- Reductive Tight Structure Still young 2010 Les Pucelles Henri Boillot- Concentrated delicious Great vintage 2010 Clos de la Mouchere Henri Boillot- Intense Complex 2010 shines 2008 Les Perrieres Louis Carillon- Amazingly vibrant minerals Classic 2008 Clos de la Garenne Duc de Magenta Jadot- Super Surprise 2004 La Truffiere Bernard Morey- Mellow. Matured vs. in 2016 MAG
Some summary conclusions: Vineyards are showing their distinctiveness quite well. Perrieres (and Clos de la Mouchere) clearly of underappreciated top quality. Pucelles & Cailleret are definitely classy. Referts, Combettes, & Champ Canet are producing a richer styling. Henri Boillot is consistently producing outstanding bottles in this decade as well as the last one. Size matters with all 3 magnum formats stellar. Vintage is important in Burgundy. Grab some of those balanced 2020s just being released. 2014 & 2010 were previous vintage recommendations by your scribe that have proven their amazing worth with bottle age.
Answer: MUSELET is the word derived from the French “museler” (to muzzle) to describe that unique wire wrapped cage used on the top of a bottle of Sparkling wine (including Champagne) to restrain the pressure on the closure from the bubbly contents within.
We all know how Chardonnay is recognized as the #1 grape variety in adapting best to different growing places around the world. No one yet has reproductively cloned a true top Chablis from that unique region (with Kimmeridgian-aged limestone bedrock) but there now are great diverse Chardonnay wines produced globally from everywhere. Climate change is helping previously “cool climate” Canada for this variety and there are many exciting examples out currently. Ontario took the lead initially with a focus on their many limestone fissures ideal for growing Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir). Your scribe always enjoys the consistent Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos from Twenty Mile Bench and others. BC has improved by leaps and bounds over the last decade in finding ideal spots for growing Chardonnay often with soils containing some calcium carbonate. Long time followers of this Blog will recall the August 31, 2016 posting here on “BC Bottle Shock” with Steven Spurrier attending for the First Judgment of BC Tasting where a Chardonnay from BC couldn’t rank in the Top 5. Subsequently at the final Fifth Judgment of BC reported November 4, 2019 here BC Chardonnays took 3 of the top 5 placings led by #1 Meyer Family Tribute 2016. On August 16, 2022 our Vancouver Group of 8 annual dinner with spouses at Cactus Club Coal Harbour spotlighted eight BC Chardonnays all made from Okanagan Valley fruit that showed most impressively. Some brief notes as follows:
2019 SPEARHEAD SADDLE BLOCK CHARDONNAY: This is the Clone 95 from their own Home Vineyard in south east Kelowna hand harvested, whole bunch pressed and fermented & aged for 10 months in French oak (25% new) of casks & puncheons with partial malolactic. Like the fresh bright crisp restrained subtle delivery of this wine. Excellent.
2019 QUAILS’ GATE STEWART FAMILY RESERVE CHARDONNAY: Mainly Clone 95 of 23 year old vines on volcanic soils of Mt. Boucherie. Solid one for many past vintages showing here as riper, spicy, tropical, very Chardonnay varietal with lees & more oak, plus more alcohol (regular one only 12.5 abv). Recently QG is producing a more elegant example with their Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay.
2019 LA FRENZ RESERVE CHARDONNAY: Experienced Niva & Jeff Martin produced a very aromatic perfumed style, quite flowery and almost leaning more towards Gewurz than classic Chard on the nose. Good balance but in a leaner style perhaps not showing at its best today.
2018 CHABERTON BARREL AGED CHARDONNAY: Estate producer near Vancouver in Langley of real value has Valley Chardonnay unoaked but this one was aged 4 months in French & American oak. Smart of them to access top grapes for this choice from two quality growers in the Okanagan (Gehringer & Nk’Mip) which displays currently open “buttery vanilla pineapple popcorn” for enjoyable drinking Chardonnay.
2017 SPEARHEAD CLONE 95 CHARDONNAY (MAGNUM): From 2 sites of Home Vineyard & Naramata fermented & aged 10 months in smaller barriques and larger puncheons. So stylish rich creamy with oak well integrated plus preserved lemons forwardly drinking now even in magnum format.
2017 MEYER FAMILY MICRO CUVEE CHARDONNAY: Small production (110 cases) with winemaker Chris Carson personally selecting the most harmonious blend of only best fruit from the top barrels. Estate fruit from “Old Main Road” on Naramata Bench planted in all chardonnay in 1996 on North aspect alluvial soil over clay. Only use gentler first press juice started in stainless and completed in 100% French oak (22% new) sur lees for 11 months with no stirring (battonage). Unfined and unfiltered. Rich style but so elegant and balanced (7.2 total acidity) expressing amazing complexity. Delicious. Long finish with no heat (13.5 abv) Very well done indeed!
2016 MEYER FAMILY MCLEAN CREEK ROAD CHARDONNAY (MAGNUM): This one from their Home Estate in Okanagan Falls (further south than Naramata) planted in 1995 with unknown clones on steep gravel sandy loams soil. Cool long starting fermentation in stainless before transferred to finish in French oak (18% new) with 11 months lees and full malolactic. Shows exquisitely tonight very fresh in magnum format with citrus mineral notes lifted by fresh acidity. Exciting to monitor the aging of this remarkable beauty! World class quality.
2013 PRIVATA EX-NIHILO VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY: Now producing from Lake Country but this vintage used Okanagan Falls fruit. 60% barrel fermented in a majority of French oak sur lies for 8 months with bi-weekly stirring. Oldest and most mature of these with slight butterscotch notes. Older techniques used. Ready to drink. Some excellent food courses to match this wonderful line-up of surprisingly worthy top of the class Chardonnays. There were 3 other very expensive French wines also served at this dinner. However they didn’t steal the whole show as the 1990 Pol Roger Champagne in Magnum usually this vintage is really outstanding bubbles but was badly corked, 2005 Clos de Tart in Magnum a future showstopper star for sure but presently mostly only big powerful concentrated primary fruit needing more bottle development to shine brilliantly, and 1988 Chateau Coutet was a sweet charming marvellous finish to a fine memorable evening all around.
Question: I live in Ontario and enjoy good value red wine in the $25 range, especially cabernet sauvignons from Paso Robles. Any guidance to those?
Answer: Yes this Central Coast region is “hot” in both meanings of the word. Paso Robles is a marvelous place to visit and was originally focused mainly on the Zinfandel grape. However, it now has developed into a very diverse geographic region with growing success for many varieties including Bordeaux & Rhone blends using Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah/Grenache among others. There are so many producers to choose from though limited access to them in the Canadian marketplace. Suggest you use the helpful new LCBO.COM website to search for what Paso Robles cabernet sauvignons presently are available in your Government stores. Your scribe knows that Hope Family Wines Liberty School, Joseph Carr (Josh Cellars), and J. Lohr are among some popular current choices in Toronto. Good luck to you in your search for a softer peppery dark fruit style Cab or Bordeaux blend to enjoy with Summer BBQ and other flavourful foods.