Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red Wine Long Weekend: Washington State and a Value Primitivo

This past weekend I had two red wines that were worth reviewing. One is from Washington State, a region that is poorly represented in Ontario. The other was a killer QPR (Quality Price Ratio) Primitivo from Southern Italy.

Before the review, just a little rant on poor representation at the LCBO. Two American regions that are really unappreciated are the wines from the North West (Washington State & Oregon). These two regions are making some spectacular wines, yet we are unable to buy them. There are some world class Pinot Noir being made in Oregon, as well as Chardonnay and even Syrah is making a push. In Washington, many red varietals are thriving like Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah. The wines from the Pacific North West are also well priced compared to the same varietal in California. I hope in the near future that I will see more wines from these two regions in the LCBO.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $19.95
- Dark ruby in colour. This Columbia Valley Cabernet had profound aromas of casiss, all spice, vanilla, and ripe dark fruit. Very oak dominate on the palate. Creamy texture and full body. Dark blackberries and plums try to escape, but oak dominates the finish. 87 Points

Oggi Primitivo 2011 $8.98
- My wife enjoys the Pinot Grigio and the price of this red is right for a summer time sipper! Primitivo is a close relative to Zinfandel, but this wine is more elegant and less jammy than it's California counterparts. Medium ruby in colour. A very inviting nose of red cherries, cedar, and raspberry. Great fruit on the palate with a pleasant and not "cheap" finish that you expect at this price point. Light and fresh with good tannin/acidity integration. Shows like a $15-18 wine. Great QPR for the summer. 88 Points 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five Rows Craft Wine 2013 release

Last year in April, on a cold windy day I took my sister and mother wine tasting in NOTL. That day we discovered Five Rows in St. Davids. A lovely small production winery. Fast forward one year later, we made another trek to Five Rows. This time my wife came with us and it was just as cold!

I have come to really respect what Wes Lowrey and Five Rows is doing. When they started the winery back in 2001 they were focused on small production. Today their production may be a bit larger, but they are aware of not getting too big. As they feel that it will effect the quality of their wines.  

This trip to Five Rows was my first time to try their whites. Small production also means selling out quickly, so I was happy to see what the whites were like. Five Rows produces three white varietals, Sauvignon Blan, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. We also tried their three reds as well Pinot Noir, Shiraz (Shiraz clone, but more Syrah like in character), and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Here is the low down and tasting notes.

Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2012
- It was light straw in colour. This was by far the most aromatic white of the tasting. Aromas of peach, citrus, and an interesting flinty note. The citrus and stone fruit continued on the palate. Really nice acidity (something that I found in all of the whites). A great palate cleanser! Reminded me of a Sancerre or Touraine Sauv Blanc. 88 points

Five Rows Pinot Gris 2012
- Light straw in colour. Had to really get my nose in the glass to get at the aromatics. Pear, apples, and almond came through. Apple and melon strike the palate. Good acidity with good length. A clear favourite with the ladies. 87 points

Five Rows Riesling 2012
- Pale straw. Strong aromas of citrus peal (lemon & lime) and floral notes. The citrus wave continues on the palate with crisp acidity that makes you want to come back for more. The Riesling haters in the group enjoyed this wine! Riesling is certainly a strength in Niagara! 88 points

Five Rows Pinot Noir 2010
- Pale ruby in colour. Aromas of fresh red fruit, cranberry, and coffee. This was quite a young wine and was tight on the palate. Red fruit and cedar on the palate. Good acidity with strong tannin's  One of the better 2010 Niagara Pinot's that I have tasted. I tend to favour the 2009 style of Niagara Pinot over the recent 2010 releases. It will be interesting to taste this wine in a few years and see how it integrates. 90 points

Five Rows Shiraz 2010
- Deep ruby in colour. Dark fruity, pepper spice, and game notes dominate the palate. Very elegant and great balance to this wine. A well structured wine that will develop into an interesting red in the future. I am really liking the N.Rhone Syrah play that is starting to take place in Niagara. 91 points

Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
- Deep ruby in colour. Dark fruit, hint of green pepper and all spice. A constant theme of the reds was "tight". All wines could benefit from decanting or cellaring for a year or two. Strong & fresh acidity on this Cabernet. Good acidity is a great indicator of a cellar worthy wine. 89 points 

Yet another great tasting at Five Rows. I tried to find out if they will ever expand and make a Cab Franc, all I got was that they have thought of making one. I'll look forward to that! 

Keep up the good work Wes and Lowrey family.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011

As the weather gets warmer, it spurs us to buy/drink more white wine. One of my go-to white wines of recent has been a very unusual grape varietal. When you think of summer whites you tend to think about fruity Sauvignon Blanc, crisp Riesling, or a full bodied Chardonnay. I enjoy all three of these varieties, but one grape that has had my attention of late is Viognier. This white grape is usually found in the South of France, but I am focusing my attention away from Viognier’s home and looking towards Chile.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011

Price: $8.95 (on sale till the end of the month)

This Chilean white is pale straw in colour. A very aromatic white. Tropical and stone fruits dominate the nose (pineapple & peaches) with a hind of floral notes, which are typical of Viognier. The tropical and stone fruits continue on the palate with fresh acidity and great length. A very enjoyable summer white! 88 points

Thursday, May 2, 2013

1855 Bordeaux Classification: Still Meaningfull?

Our society is obsessed with ranking. We desire to know who or what is the best of the best. There are countless publications and websites that focus on figuring out what universities, cars, athletes, and in this case, what wine is in a class of its own.

I understand why we as a society rank everything, but is it always required. Also with regards to certain rankings, are they relevant today? A great example is the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. Is this 150 plus year old classification meaningful today? Is it an effective ranking of quality claret in the Medoc? The quick answer is no, but there is some merit to the Classification of 1855.

Link: Full 1855 Bordeaux Classification

The big question that we should be asking ourselves is why are we following a classification that was created in 1855? In 158 years, a lot has changed in the Medoc. Chateaus have gone under new ownership, chateaus have purchased bigger plots of vineyards, new chateaus have been established and new vineyard and winemaking techniques have been used. Another glaring issue to the 1855 rankings is that it did not include the communes of St. Emilion, Pomerol, or the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes.

The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux took place while Napoleon III was in power of France. They established the rankings by looking at which wines were the most expensive to buy (single bottle), which they felt meant higher quality. The classification of 1855 ranked all of the chateaus in the Medoc into five groups, or in the case of Bordeaux, five “growths”. In the end, four chateaus were awarded “First Growth”. These were the best chateaus in Bordeaux which included Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, and Chateau Haut Brion. A fifth was added in 1973, when Chateau Mouton Rothschild was given the honour after years of petitioning. This was the only change to ever happen to the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux. Over time, these five First Growths have show that they belong at the top. They continuously produce outstanding wines, even in poor vintages. These First Growths deserve to be the best, but should they have company?

Top wine critics from around the world have discovered that there are non First Growth chateaus producing exceptional wines. In many reviews of past vintages, critics have used the term “First Growth like” to describe that a chateaus quality rivals the likes of Mouton, Lafite, Haut Brion etc. Of recent years left bank chateaus like Pontet Canet, La Mission Haut Brion, Leoville Barton, and Ducru Beaucaillou have wowed critics and wine lovers with their “First Growth like” quality. This “First Growth like” quality is also found in the right bank with Vieux Chateau Certan, Figeac, and Trotanoy to name a few (could also include the likes of Cheval Blanc & Petrus, who are considered First Growths). Sadly, for these chateaus, the classification of 1855 remains the same. This is bad news for the chateaus, but great news for the consumer. Prices for these “First Growth like” wines remain lower than the four figure amount that First Growths demand.

Should Bordeaux abolish the Classification of 1855, re-classify themselves, and included the chateaus of St. Emilion and Pomerol? Maybe, but it will not happen anytime soon. Or at least I cannot foresee it happening due to one large factor, re-classification would create too much drama in Bordeaux. If re-classificatoin occurred, there is a good chance that there will be disappointed chateaus, like a 2nd Growth being bumped down. A prime example is the newly classification of St. Emilion that has recently been established. Two chateaus in this region were awarded to the top class of Premier Grand Cru Classes A and joined the likes of Cheval Blanc and Ausone (Chateau Pavie & Chateau Angelus), but there were many other chateaus that felt like their were snubbed and now have their lawyers fighting their cause. Drama central!

Is the Bordeaux Classification of 1855 relevant today? No, not really. In a perfect world, all chateaus would be equal and there would be no ranking. I cannot recall any other wine regions that have a ranking classification like Bordeaux. If anything, the Classification of 1855 creates great debate around Bordeaux lovers. So, is Montrose better than Lynch Bages? Lascombes better than Palmer? In the classification rankings they are, but in the end you should have the final say.

The 5 First Growths of Bordeaux