Tawse winery tasting

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During a recent family vacation in Niagara Falls, I had the chance to discover and drink many Canadians wines. After a family visit to Niagara Falls, I visited briefly Niagara on the lake.

Winemaking in Niagara goes back as early as the 17th century when European settlers started experimenting with native grapes.  By prohibition, there were more than 60 wineries.  The early days of the industry were focused on the native grape varieties, such as Niagara, Concord and Catawba, which produced musty and funky wines.

However, Ontario’s wine industry took off in the mid 70’s when the Canadian government deregulatized the industry. This brought a plethora of experimentation with new winemaking techniques and saw the introduction of European grape varieties.

Bordered by Lake Ontario on the north, the Niagara River on the east and the Welland River and Hamilton to the south and west, the Niagara Peninsula is the largest and most diverse Viticultural Area in Canada.  

The escarpment was formed over 200,000 years ago by several several glacial and interglacial events that defined the geology of the area. The area is blessed with different soil compositions that include diferents sand and silts and layers of sedimemtary rock. The area is particularly conducive to grow cool grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Riesling and Chardonnay. However, more than 30 varieties are grown.

Niagara Peninsula  enjoys a cool climate with important variations between diurnal and nocturnal temperatures.  The peninsula has 10 sub-regional appellations and more than 55% of Ontario wineries are found there. Here we find Tawse, Malivoire and Cave spring winery, the states that I visited during my vacation.

Tawse is a family-owned organic and biodynamic winery, voted best Canadian winery, three years in a row ( 2010, 2011, 2012). 

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Out of his love for Burgundy and terroir , Moray Tawse created a state of the art winery  A fervent advocate of terroir, he crafts wines that do best on the escarpment. The winery is state of the art, boutique style. I was under the impression that everything was done with the most meticolous care.

 Time was limited during my tasting, so i tasted a staff selection. Overall, I was impressed with the wines. I am sure in a blind tasting, these wines could have pass for Burgundy and Bordeaux.

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Chardonnay 2012 Beamsville Bench VQA

 On the nose, nice herbal undertones and quite mineral driven. On the palate, flavours remind me of almond biscuit, butterscotch and white orchard fruit. Full body, fresh,  and quite enveloping in your mouth. Oak well integrated. Elegant. In a Burgudian style.

Tawse 2012 Chardonnay Twenty mile bench VQA

Totally different from the previous one. Bright nose with confit orange peel, peach and pear jam accents, Flinty and refreshing with a good backbone. Balanced in the oak at the finale.

Tawse 2015 Riesling Vinemount Ridge VQA

 On the nose, baked apple character, quince,  and membrillo dessert with touches of  mango. Crisp and very refreshing. Perfect  roundness with a  zesty acidity. Racy and harmonious.

Reds

Tawse Pinot Noir 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Dark cherry with  cocoa, old spice. sun dried tomato. showing some lovely tertiary aromas: mushrooms such as shitakee and porcini with the highest quality. Structured and elegant with ripe tannins. A very earthy finale reminding me of smoked beef jerky. 

Tawse Cabernet Franc 2012 VQA  Creek Shores

 Textbook cabernet franc nose. Nuances of  bell pepper, black plums and cocoa. Lavish  french oak undertones.  On the mouth, superb polished texture with smooth and silky tannins. Amazing cashmere finale.

Tawse Meritage 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula

A  bordeaux in disguise. Blackcurrant fruit, dark cherry, rasperry, licorice and chinese plum sauce. On the mouth,  racy and austere with quite the muscular tannins.

 

Taste the unexpected: Norman Hardie wines

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Until today, Canadian wines were kind of mystery of me. I read many things on them but never took the time to taste them. It took a recently family vacation to shake my view about them.

My family vacation consisted on a trip to Toronto for my cousin’s wedding and sightseeing in Niagara Falls  and Sandbanks provincial park in Trenton. I also took advantage to visit a handful of selected estates that included Norman Hardie.

I have to admit that I knew very little about Norman Hardie wines. So i dreaded this visit because of the cloud of ambiguity that lay over my head. What I discovered was a very hip winery, with very down to earth staff. Actually, I felt that I was being received with open arms in a big extented family.

Located in the beautiful Prince Edward Country, the winery is 2 hours away from Toronto and 4-5 hours from Montreal. They have a nice tasting bar open during the summer season and they serve some succulent Pizzas. My wife who was my companion for this visit say that she felt in Tuscany at Norman Hardie.

Norman Hardie is originary from South Africa but moved to Toronto as a teen and headed to Dijon, to complete his sommelier certification. Before founding his winery, he did different work gigs including being a sommelier in The Four Seasons.

In his winery, Norman craft wines from selected sites in Niagara and Prince edward County. These special sites consisting of clay an limestone, allow him to make very special wines from cool climate.

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Megan, the sommelier at Norman Hardie, says that Norman works  with selected vine growers in Niagara. This allow him to have best grapes to make the best wines.  From time to time, he also enlist the help of his staff in matters of wine blending. I got the impression from Megan, that their wines are also so succesful because they are made as a unified team.

I also toured the facilities as well. It was a hub of eclectic energy. They used it both to make the wines and serve the customers in the tasting bar and restaurant. Its very happening with customers and wine staff mingling together. The winery is also very family oriented. There is a trampoline that children can use.

 

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Norman Hardie wines:

Reds:

Pinot Noir 2015 unfiltered. VQA Niagara Peninsula.

(Field blend of different niagara terroirs. Aged 9 months in french oak with natural occuring malolactic fermentation occuring and minimal sulphur at bottling)

Fascinating  nose. Full blown red fruit, spices, white and purple flowers. In  a crosspoint between new and old world. Sweet fruit with a velvety texture. Satiny tannis with a voloptous finale. 

Cabernet Franc 2015 unfiltered. VQA Niagara Peninsula

( 100 % Cabernet Franc fruit destemmed, natural yeast fermentation and aging in 225l barrels)

An inviting nose that brings to mind Cuban black tobacco cigarrillos, licorice, black cofee with an almost  smoky meaty aura to it. With aeration in the glass,  red and black currants fruits start to appear. On the mouth, very expressive with a  beautiful acidity and a ripe soft tannins. 

Cabernet Franc sans soufre 2015. VQA Niagara Peninsula

Unfined and on sulphur added at bottling for this natural cabernet franc)

This wine striked me for its purity of its fruit. Lovely fragance of leafy blackberries with dry meat extract. On the palate, this wine seduces with its alluring  earthiness and latino spice feeling. Fantastic acidity and quite digest to drink. Lingering aftertaste. 

 

Whites:

Riesling 2016 VQA Ontario

( Blend of Niagara nd Prince Edward Country fruit)

Very special nose. Pear, stone orchard white fruit, chalk and orange blossom water. It is an aromatic paradise.  Medium to full body. Elegant and very upbeat Very floral than fruity with a nice poetic finale. A hint of hydrocarbure finale.

Calcaire 2016 ( 45% chardonnay, 45% riesling, 10% pinot gris) VQA Ontario

( Less fermentation of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Fruit coming from diverse Ontario sites)

On the nose, pineapple flesh confit with crushed yellow flowers and a peculiar nuance of  wet rocks, Elegant, round and mineral driven. Overall a very profund wine.

Chardonnay 2015 sans soufree VQA Niagara Peninsula

( Blend of different mineral terroirs of the niagara escarpment. Stainless steel and large oak barrel aging. Wild yeast fermentation and  no fining and filtration)

Subtle toasty oak notes and very floral ( white peonies, jazmin, rosemary, ).Stunning aromatically. Gras Texture with a fresh acidity. Complex notes of smoked fennel and  white pepper. Quite an amazing wine.

 

Normand Hardie Pinot Gris 2016 VQA Prince Edward County

( 100% Prince Edward County grown. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for 8 months in neutral 500L french oak barrels. Full malolactic fermentation completed in the spring and bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulphur dose.)

A Pinot Gris more in common with its Friulian cousin rather than Alsace. Citric fruits, white flowers with a delicate pear character Round, polished and very subtle. Very elegant and harmonious.

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2014 VQA Prince Edward County

( Blend of Chardonnay grape from 5 different sites within 2 km of the winery. Fermentation in stainless steel and large 500 hl large oak barrels. No fining and filtration)

The specialty of the estate. Fantastic nose bringing to mind lemon cream curd, blanched almond and nectarine jam character, Round, very lineal yet full of vitality. On the mouth, more tropical fruit aromas such as coconut and passion fruit. A juxtaposition between old and new world.

Cuvee du Roche 2014 VQA Ontario

(A barrel selection of the most mineral driven sites from both the County and Niagara parcels of the winery. Fermentation using indigenous yeast beginning in stainless steel and finishing in 500L French Oak barrels. Aged 8 months, sulphur free, in barrel before being blended back into stainless. Bottled unfined and unfiltred with minimal sulphur.)

A magnificent example that shows the potential of the terroir of Niagara and Prince Edward County.Outstanding  nose of minerals, limestone, white fruits. Super elegant with a firm structure.

 

After the tasting, just a bit before lunch, it was time for Pizza. It was just the perfect timing as our table was ready as I finished my last wine. It could get quite busy to eat at Norman Hardie. They dont take reservations and you can get a table on a first come first basis. I expected to eat the pizza with great anticipation as i heard that they were quite legendary.

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Margherita with tomato and fior di latte, Brie cheese with funghi

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Sausage with confit onion and spicy peppers

We opted for 3 pizzas: Margherita, Brie with mushrooms and Sausage. Both the Brie and margherita were stunning with the Cabernet Sans Soufre bringing out the earthy notes of the variety. As well, I also enjoyed the sweet flavors of the sausage pizza complemeting the generosity of the Pinot Noir.

So overall, the visit at Norman Hardie beat expectations and proved that Canada can be at par with France in making world class fine wines.

Until next time.

Survival guide for vacation wines

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Far niente in Sandbank beach

In the summertime, you want to simplify your life. Nothing complicated. Vacation is on the air and so is the choice for simple but well executed meals in the company of friends and family. Here is a selection of summer wines to accompany your meals with your family and friends in your next family vacation. I myself and in a semi vacation mode. Just came back from a marvelous trip in Toronto. I was visiting family and made also a mini trip to Niagara and Prince Edward wine county regions. More this to come in the following weeks.

Here is a no brainer, cant fail wine selection for your summer libations. Keep this selection on mind when you are preparing your vacations to do list.

Have a good one!!!

White selections

Dopff & Irion Cuvee Rene Dopff Sylvaner 2016. ( Alsace, France) SAQ # 13190018. $13.95

 On the nose, anis, jazmin, and  white grapefruit aromas.  On the mouth, dry, crisp and mineral driven. Enjoy with grilled shrimps.

Domaine Paul Mas Cote Mas Blanc de Mediterranee Vin de France 2016 ( Languedoc, France). SAQ # 13289510. $11.45

Ripe yellow fruit, blanched almonds and wild fennel character. Structured yet very round in the mouth with a mediterranean profile character. Pair it with roasted fishe in the BBQ or oven

Stratus Riesling Moyer Rd RR1 2015 ( Niagara, Canada). SAQ # 13183432. $22.15

Pear flesh and  freshly cut limes with certain  lactic nuances ( plain yougurt) and indian chai spices. NaftalineOn the mouth, crisp, round-creamy, sublime texture. Citric fruit flavors ( pineapple, tangerines. ). Mineral driven finale.

Joseph Mellot Sancerre La Chatellenie 2015 ( Loire, France). SAQ # 12258842. $25.45

Delighful tropical  citrus fruits such as passion fruit, pineapple and kiwi with a touch of white nectarine. Medium to full body, crisp and very refreshing. Flavors bring to mind green apple with a zesty finale.

Vignoble du Reveur Pierres Sauvages 2013 ( Alsace, France). SAQ # 13211843. $19.40

Honey, with a complex spice character:nutmeg, cloves and white pepper. Structured with a complex  character.  Very long and caressing. Grilled some scallops with cream pasta and you will have an amazing meal with this wine.

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In Reds:

François Villard L’appel des Sereines 2015 ( Rhone, France). SAQ # 12292670. $19.85

Dark pepper, licorice with balsamic notes such as mint and heady meaty scents. Harmonious and polished with soft and easy going tannins. One of the best values in the Rhone in red at the moment

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir ( Central Valley, Chile). SAQ # 13284401. $11.10

 Well made Pinot from Chile. Delicious fruit notes of strawberry, cherry and black prunes. Simple yet delightful. What elese can you ask for $11.10. Versatile with pastas and grilled poultry dishes. 

Chanson Père & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2014 ( Burgndy, France). SAQ # 11598394. $24.45

Red berry puree, black licorice, smoke and dark blackberries. Lots of power and concentration with firm and silky tannins. Delicious with grilled filet mignon or smoked duck breast.

Domaine De Petit Roubié Syrah 2016 ( Languedoc, Rousillon). SAQ # 13065794. $26.45

 On the nose. seductive notes of Toasty oak, sandalwood and tapenade. Long and firm with a polished texture and tannins. The wine to bring with a charcoal BBQ in the park, 

 

Une évasion en Provence avec deux vins

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Je n’aime pas cette période de l’année. La météo à la fin de Juin est très erratique. Quelques jours, nous avons de la pluie et d’autres jours, nous avons le soleil. Pourquoi nous ne pouvons pas deux semaines consécutives de soleil, je me demande?

Ce qui est le  plus frustrant, c’est que le Festival de jazz de Montréal se déroule dans cet deux semaines. Je manque beaucoup de bons spectacles extérieurs en raison de la pluie stupide. En général, la pluie ne me dérange pas, mais quand la météo est comme ca, j’ai un problème:

En Provence, la région reçoit une quantité abondante de soleil par an. Si je ne me trompe pas, le chiffre se situe entre 2700 et 2900 heures par an. C’est pourquoi leurs vins sentent des vacances!!!

Ce climat favorable à la viticulture présente en toute saison des températures particulièrement douces. Les étés souvent caniculaires sont toutefois rafraîchis en bordure de mer par l’effet des brises marines. La fraîcheur hivernale est par contre accentuée par la présence de nombreux vents. Le mistral (vent violent typiquement méditerranéen) favorise néanmoins le bien être de la vigne par son pourvoir assainissant, évitant ainsi les maladies

Quand je regarde un videoclip comme ça, il me donne juste le goût d’échapper à cette terre.

 

Voici deux vins pour vous donner le vrai goût de la Provence:

Domaine Hauvette Jaspe 2011 ( Importation privée au Québec-Vini-Vins)

Le Domaine Hauvette est situé à Saint-Rémy de Provence. La propriétaire, Dominique Hauvette, élabore des vins à forte personnalité. Le domaine Hauvette travaille en agriculture biologique afin de mettre en bouteille des vins au plus proche de ce magnifique terroir. Depuis 2003, Dominique Hauvette a mis en place un mode de culture biodynamique et cultive ses vignes sur de très petits rendements.

Un magnifique blanc 100% roussanne. Exotique. Sur le nez, les arômes de liqueur Millefiore, le nougat, le miel. Avec le temps, d’agréables notes de fruits secs se développent aussi.Coriandre, beurre de noisette. Sur la bouche, riche et velouté. Très aromatique me rappelant des fleurs jaunes sauvages, du curcuma et du curry. Élégant avec une finale rappelant la confiture de coing. Magnifique avec des plats de fruits de mer au curry

Henri Milan Le Valois 2009. SAQ # 12775701, $24.75

 

Un mélange formidable de Grenache, Syrah et  Cinsault. Milan représente la Bourgogne de Provence, d’où la forme de la bouteille, plus clairement exprimée que dans ce vin.

2009 était un millésime  assez solaire, cela a donné un vin d’une belle fraicheur, et d’une finesse encore inégalée pour cette cuvée du Vallon.  Des fruits noirs savoureux, de la terre noire, de la truffe et un bouquet floral séduisant. Frais, ronde et digeste avec des nuances de réglisse et cassis. Tanins mûr avec une finale élégante. Un vin délicieux pour toutes sortes de viandes grillées.

 

 

Mavericks of Rousillon: Coume del Mas and associates ( White wines)

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Every wine region of the world gets a push from an outsider or a local within its borders. Italy has Alois Lageder, Spain has Clos Mogador from Rene Barbier. These individuals have the capacity to revitalize a wine region or bring a new fresh perspective.

Take for instance, Coume del Mas. The domain was adquired in 2001 by Philippe and Nathalie Gard. A few years later (2007), Andy Cook arrived from New Zealand to do a winemaking stage and stayed as the winemaker at Coume del Mas.

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Winemaker Andy Cook

In my latest press tasting, I was treated by a through tasting of the Coume del Mas domain, its sister domaine Mas Cristine and their negociant business: Tramontane. Andy Cook, lead us trough the tasting

Coume del Mas is located in the steep slopes around Banyuls sur Mer. Their vineyards yield the best of both worlds: richness of mountain fruit with freshness of the sea. They make many different cuvees under the umbrella of different appellation such as Banyuls, Collioure, Cotes du Rousillon and Cotes Catalanes. Coume del Mas yields are very low: under 20hl, per hectare. Here the problem is too much good of a good thing: lots of sun, with grapes getting deliciously overripe and walking the fine line of losing balance.

Just before the tasting started, Andy gave  us a tour of the facilities of Mas del Coume. The staff was bottling some of their wines. I can’t remember which ones, but Andy explained that due to lack of space, they were renting a mobile bottling line to do the task. Here is a little video that i took of the process:

 

 

In this post, I will discuss my favorite white wine picks. In a future one, the reds of course.

The most captivating wines of the tasting:

Folio 2016

Grenache gris 80%, grenache blanc 10% Vermentino 10%

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Folio has become a connoisseur wine among Rousillon cognoscenti. Mainly old vines planted from the 1960’s and barrel fermented.

Ripe and generous nose. Pear in confit with exotic tropical fruits and star anise. Rich and very stylish with and long mineral finale.

Tramontane and Mas Cristine

 Tramontane is the negociant business of Andy Cook in association with Philippe Gard. Basically, they make wines with their own fruit as well by their friends winegrowers.  These are very well made wines with a umbeatable price quality ratio.

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The line of wine gets its name from the Tramontane wind  in France. It isa  strong, dry cold wind from the northern Mediterranean or from the northwest (in lower Languedoc, Roussillon, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands). It is very similar to the mistral but it follows a different corridor; the tramontane gains speed as it passes between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, while the mistral continue down the Rhone Valley between the Alps and the Massif Central.

The tramontane is created by the difference of pressure between the cold air of a high pressure system over the Atlantic ocean or northwest Europe and a low pressure system over the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean. The high-pressure air flows south, gathering speed as moves downhill and is funnelled between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central.

Tramontane Macabeu 2016

Old vine Macabeu from the steep hills ( limestone and clay) of Alberes . Fruity and gormand with nuances of white nectarines and flowers. Quite elegant and digest with nuances of orange blossom water. Harmonious finale.

Tramontane Muscat Sec 2016

Muscat is a highly perfumed variety. It yields perfumed and structured wines. Generally, Muscat wines bring to mind floral, menthol notes with white and yellow fruits. In Rousillon, it is vinified as a dry style or as a fortified wine. On the nose, this muscat displays grapefruit aromas with light smoky hints.  On the mouth, ripe orange, quince and peach flavors balance with ra acidity and a vein of lovely mineral flavors. The dry, full finish lingers pleasantly.

Mas Cristine

Mas Cristine was created in the 19th century. The estate has a magnificent location close to the sea. The soils are a geologist’s dream: quartz, red argile, schists. The estate plants Syrah, Grenache, Rousanne, Marsanne and Muscat. The yields are quite low, never passing 25hl per hectare.

 

Le Grill du Mas Cristine  Blanc 2016

2016 was the second vintage of this new wine of Mas Cristine. An equal blend of Vermentino and Macabeu.  This wine evokes the freshness of the Mediterranean sea. Fresh and perfumed with nuances of citrus fruits, key lime pie and white nectarines. On the mouth, a pleasant oily texture with complex mineral flavours. Very long finale.

Mas Cristine Cotes du Rousillon Blanc 2016

This wine basically comes from a schist terroir of a medium altitude ( 250 meters) in the Alberes terroir.

Lovely and very expressive nose. A hint of vanilla bean with racy apricot and peach character. With time in the glass, notes of confit lemon and orange appear and the mind boggling minerality. On the mouth, it has a very grand structure enveloping the mouth and a long refreshing persistance in the finale.

Consolation Range

I also was charmed and very impressed by the Consolation line. This is a proyect by Philippe Gard and Andy Cook to reflect the expression of a specific set of grape varieties in the Rousillon terroir.

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Rock n’ Rolle 2015

Rolle or Vermentino is grown on Rousillon and is praised for its freshness and power. Grown in a unique pebbly parcel, this Vermentino display lots of tension an has an impressive structure. The yields for this wine are quite low, 25hl per hectare ( 2014 figures).  It has a great structure displaying exotic notes of citrus fruits. This wine only sees stainless steel and no oak. It is classified under the IGP Cotes Catalanes.

Filles de Mai 2015

Macabeu is one of the greatest white varieties of Rousillon. When is it vinified correctly, it yields transcendental wines displaying aromas of white fruits and a seducing floral side. This Macabeu comes from a clay, limestone terroir. Like the Rolle, the yiels are pretty low: 27hl per hectare. Fresh, digest, and very harmonious. Enticing aromas that bring to mind Macadimia, Brazil nuts with chamomille and white tea. Classified as IGP Cotes Catalanes as well.

Miranda Marsanne 2014

Being a fan of Northern Rhones whites, I have a soft spot for Marsanne. A tiny production  from the  parcels situated just below Mas Cristine, overlooking the Mediterranean.  A wine not for the faint hearted. Rich and powerful with heady scents of nougat, honey and apricot jam. Texture almost buttery due to the passage of the wine in french oak barrels. and the extremely low yields of the parcel. 22hl per hectare IGP Cotes Catalanes.

Stay tuned for the reds!!

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aperitivo, Quebec style!!!

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For St Jean Baptiste, why not drink something local, to celebrate Quebec National day. After all, it is not only a celebration of the French Canadian nation but also of our local products. Here is my modest selection of local products to animate the festivities:

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Domaine Lafrance Rouge Gorge Vermouth Blanc. SAQ # 13258246. $22.27, on sale from $24.75

Lovely aromatic on the nose. Cloves, anis, licorice. On the mouth, balanced, not too sweet, round with flavors bringing to mind chamomile oil, spearmint and green apple. To drink while preparing the BBQ.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Domaine St-Jacques Rosé 2016. SAQ #  11427544. $13,91, on sale from $15.45

On the nose, enticing aromas of cream soda with touches of raspberry confit and orange sorbet. Crisp and fresh with fruity aromas bringing to mind watermelon and nectarines. Subdued finale. Pair with salmon tartar, lobster rolls.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Coteau Rougemont Versant Rosé 2016. SAQ # 12644153. $!2.96, on sale from $14.40

A decent well made rose from Quebec. No brainer, with fruity red berries aromas. On the mouth, slight sweet with an impressive structure and medium to long finale. Pair it with chicken brochettes.

Have a good St-Jean and don’t forget to drink and eat local for the day!!

 

 

Under the spell of Provençal Rosè

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Provence lavender fields

Provence Apartment-reka.ch

I have never been to Provence. It is one of those places that I put on my bucket list of wish travels. Maybe one day, if i am fortunate enough, I will able to do a tour of the vineyards and drink on place their magnificent wines.

My connection with rose from Provence goes back with literature not by wine. You see, a few years ago, I started reading Peter Mayle, and right away felt in love with the Provencal lifestyle. Personally, it is a combination of both. Everytime, i take a sip of rose

The symbolism of rose from Provence is powerful among many wine drinkers. For many, it means a chic vacation wine. For foodies, an elegant rose for the table.  For artists, it represents the majestic colours of Provence. I take elements from the three above. No wonder Van Gogh moved to Arles and wanted to establish a colony of artists over there.

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Van Gogh- Le Semeur au soleil couchant

Situated in southeastern France, with its natural frontiers being the Rhône River to the west, Italy to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, Provence has an heterogeneous, yet primarily limestone terroir, with a climate that is sunny, hot, and dry, typical of the Mediterranean. The Mistral over there is intense across the region  which is positively viewed during the summer months. It also protects the vineyards from diseases caused from humidity.

Provence Rosé wines are made from red grapes such as cinsault, grenache, syrah, cabernet-sauvignon, carignan, tibouren, and mourvédre. These grapes have dark red skins and white flesh that can be presses, which releases a light juice that is coloured by the ruby skins. The must can remain with the skins anywhere from 2-20 hours before the fermentation process begins. Most rosé wines are made in stainless steel vats, rather than barrels. Here we are looking for freshness primarily.

Finally, the process  takes at least two of the must batches and they are  blended together  to make the wine. Vinification is done  from single grape varieties. For instance, a varying amount of syrah can be combined with  tibouren to make the wine. Overall, making rose is more complicated than vinifying a white or a red. One mistake in the process and the wine is completely ruined.

Provence Rose and food

Provencal roses are the best partners for lighter dishes during the summer season. Because of their acidity and floral nature, they complement well grilled fish dishes with herbs infusions.  I like them well with ricotta based pizzas with arugula for instance and steamed seafood preparations.

Their versatility is an asset in the table. Unlike many roses, their subtle flavor profile and elegance will bring and make shine the flavours of a dish.  For instance, a rose from Provence will make shine the sweet flavours in a scallop and strawberry tartare. The crispness of the wine would provide an elegant lightness coming from the mild decadence of the scallop.

A modest selection of Roses available in the Quebec market

Le Pive Gris 2016. SAQ #  11372766. $15.05

Fresh with bright citrus red fruit aromas. Herbal nuances  as well bringing to mind fresh basil, thyme, lavender and thyme. On the mouth, medium body, crisp with a nice acidity. Flavors bringing to mind  candied fruit such as watermelon and cantaloupe with a hint of green apple nuances. Ripe and sexy, it smells of holidays. Quite delightful. Worth very much the $$ paid

C’est la Vie Petit Bonheur 2016. SAQ #  13188807. $14.55

It smells the good weather on holidays. Citrus aromas bringing to mind pink grapefruit, oranges and red cherry. On the mouth, medium body with easy going floral and spice nuances. Persistent finale. Lots of happiness for $14.55.

Château Vignelaure Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé 2016. SAQ # 12374149. $24.50

 Nuances of a heavenly garden. Lavender, roses, violets. On the mouth, crisp, very elegant with a fine structure. Garrique scented ( rosemary and wild fennel). Bright red fruits. Pair ir with a seared salmon fillet and blood orange salad.

Château Gassier Le Pas du Moine Syrah-Grenache-Cinsault Côtes de Provence 2016. SAQ # 13287995. $23.80

 Alluring and complex bouquet. Enticing aromas of padron peppers, tomato leaf, anis, cantaloupe and tangerines Crisp with a mouth-watering acidity. Delicate tones of grapefruit, sicilian oranges. Long and harmonious. Drink the bottle and fall in love with Provence. Pair it with grilled shrimps and an  olive fougasse.

Château Revelette 2016. Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence  SAQ # 13212002. $19.50

Delicious nose. Nuances of lavender, garrique, verbena. zesty tangerine, watermelon and pink grapefruit. It actually smell the sea and vacation. On the mouth, crisp, refreshing with a salty mineral taste more complex floral nuances ( white flowers, roses, margarites, etc). Delicate red berries flavours, extremely aromatic with a beautiful harmony and elegance. Will be perfect with grilled halibut and baby tomato salad.

La Source Gabriel 2015 Cotes de Province. ( Private Import, Charton-Hobbs, $20.90)

This Rose offers aromas of flowers and fresh citrus fruit on the nose. On the palate,  it is bright with fresh flavors of exotic fruit and lime and displaying a wonderful balance. Elegant and complex, enjoy it  as an aperitif or pair with seafood, light salads or other summer fare.

 

F1 racing with a Rhone taste

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It is that time of that year again in Montreal, F1 weekend, so I thought to be more than appropriate to talk about the wines of  Dirk Vermeersch, former F1 Belgian car racer.

I met Mr. Vermeersch on my previous press trip to the Rhone Valley in April. Before that, I had no idea who he was. Dirk is one of those relentless individuals, who cannot sit idle for a long time, just like a rambling racing car waiting to take off at the start line.

In 1999, after a succesful career in racing, instead of retiring, Dirk established himself in the south of France. With his family, he created one of the largest Bed and Breakfast of Provence. By coincidence, there was a small plot of Carignan in the property. Little by little, Dirk started tending the vineyard and eventually became a full time winemaker.  From Provence, Dick worked his way up to the Rhone Valley. After that the rest is history,  he got his fame by regularly earning stars in  the guide hachette and Robert Parker.

Officially in the year 2000, Dirk founded the winery- Maison LePlan-Vermeersch. This is a stunning property of 24 hectares at the Suze la Rousse village in the Southern Rhone Valley.

The name consists of two parts. “Le Plan” which is  the name of area in Tulette where the first vineyards of 1.78 ha were planted with Carignan grape variety in 1961. “Vermeersch” is the family name of the owners, originally from Bruges in Flanders / Belgium.

He is completely organic and uses state of the art technology to make the best wines. The vineyards have an average age of 40 years which yield low yields., 25hl per hectare. everything is artisanal, even the picking which is done by hand.

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Although I think that his wines are not very representative of the Rhone Valley, I applaud his drive, enthusiasm and marketing. Dirk’s wines are a meeting point between California and the Rhone. Everything from his wine is haute couture: from the liquid, bottle, and label and cork design. Definitely, he has become a sort of marketing wine guy in the region.

Here are some of his wines that caught up my attention at Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône 2017.

Wine Tasting:

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LePlan-Vermeersch GT-Viognier 2016.

( 100 % Viognier,Destemmed, fermentation 50% in steel tanks, 50% in brand new French barrels, aging inox 3 months )

Very perfumed with notes of Madagascar vanilla bean, honey. On the mouth, racy and very long with expressive notes of apricot confit, and whole cloves.  Classic round structure of a Viognier. Very elegant.

grand terroir rosé

LePlan-Vermeersch GT-Rose 2016

( 100 % Grenache, 2 days maceration, destemmed, low temperature fermentation in steel tanks and 33% in barrels, aging in inox 3 months)

Powerful and brilliant with notes of ripe red currants, strawberry,  eucalyptus balm and asian spices. Amazing balance. More finesse than concentration.

Cotes du Rhone Villages Suze la Rousse

LePlan-Vermeersch Suze-La-Rousse Classic 2016

( Syrah 50% – Mourvedere 50%, Steel tanks, destemmed, aging in inox for 3 months)

Wood smoke, asphalt with dry and jammy black fruits. Intense in the mid palate, with bold tannins, yet with a very balanced approach.

grand terroir carignan

LePlan-Vermeersch GT-Carignan 2013

( 100% Carignan from a clay-calcareous, pudding (rolling) stones terroir. Aging in a mix of american and french wood for 12 months)

Very sensual wine. Nuances of wood with deep layers of red fruit ( raspberry, pomegranate and strawberry). Multi-nuances of animal and flower notes. Graphite and pencil shaving as well. On the mouth, polished texture, racy and quite long with firm tannins.

 

 

 

 

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the divine papal wine.

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The ex papal residence in Avignon

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the southern Rhône, comes  from the French for ‘the Pope’s residence’ and refers to a time period between 1309 and 1378 when the seat of the Papacy was based in Avignon.

Although legendary for allowing the use of up to 18 specified grape varieties, most of the red Châteauneuf is Grenache based which gives the wine  a deep colour, full structure, red and black fruit flavours, a plush texture and a generous high alcohol content.

Chateauneuf du Pape  is France’s first designated appellation. This is a sunny warm region with a rugged landscape – the soil is covered in big rocks, bigger than gravel but smaller than boulders, known locally as galet. This is critical in controling moisture evaporation from the soil. In addition, the rocks suck up the  heat during the day and send it  back to the vines  after the sundown, helping the  ripening process and imparting  them with the soft and lush richness the wine is renowned for.

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Galets. Source: Wine folly

If i go back to my early days of my wine career, my introduction to Chateauneuf du Pape was with La Fiole du Pape and Chateau de la Gardine. At the moment, I thougt that they were great bottles but with time i discovered other producers that were able to make speak more the terroir of Chateauneuf du Pape: Domaine du Vieux Lazaret, Clos de Papes,Domaine de Nalys,  and Château de Beaucastel. I have never tried a Chateau Rayas, they say is a mind blowing experience but also comes with a hefty price.

During my latest wine trip to the Rhone Valley for the Rhone wine fair, I had a chance to hook up with two of my favorite producers: Chateau Mont Redon and Domaine du Pegau.

I was quite lucky, since I was able to taste several vintages of both domaines back in the fair, which allowed me to get a character of both domaines.

Château Mont-Redon is very familiar for  those who are cognoscenti of the appellation and love Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  They are the owners of some of the best sites in the appellation.  Domaine Pegau has a long pedigree in the area as well.  The name Pegau (coming from a Provencal word for a wine jug found in the excavations of the 14th century in the Popes Palace in Avignon) was created in 1987, when Laurence Feraud after her wine studies went home to help her father Paul Feraud at the domain. The property is widely regarded as one of the leading producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The property consist  of eleven separate vineyard parcels scattered throughout the Courthézon,La Solitude and Bédarrides sector of the appellation.

Tasting Notes:

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Mont Redon Mini Vertical

2014

Piquillo pepper, red currants with chinese five spice, landing on a licorice and earth cloud. Fresh, digest and balanced with fine and firm tannins. Proyected maturity 10+

2013

More expressive than the 14, this vintage display leafy fieldberries with elegant nuances of rosemary and wild thyme. On the palate, it has a beautiful finesse, almost manicured with round and silky tannins. Proyected maturity 15+

2007

At 10 years, this Redon starts to enter the tertiary stage. Noble nuances of Porcini and Pied du Mort mushrooms. Mint and Lavender as well. On the mouth, despite the double digit age, the wine keeps a fresh poise maintaining the elegant and subtle character with precise tannins. Proyected maturity 5-10 years.

2006

A completely different wine than the 2007. This redon displays more evolved notes of brush undergrowth. Entincing notes of black truffle appears with mahogany wood and macerated herbs. On the mouth, it has more amplitude and it is heftier. Still quite an art beauty. Proyected maturity 5-10 years.

Domaine Pégau

2014

Roasted blackberries with strawberry jam. On the mouth, Powerful, austere and quite structured. Ample flavours of cherry in brandy, plums and blackberry fruit. The finale brings to mind dry sage and tobacco . Long lingering finish. Proyected maturity 10+ years

2013

Un vino bellisimo in this vintage. Charged  with dark, spicy red fruits and earthy, misterious animal nuances. On the mouth, a open style quite foward wine that you can enjoy drinking now but will keep as well. Proyected maturity 10-15 years

2012

On the nose, this Pegau display jam packed notes of crushed peppercorns, black raspberries, garrigue and kirsch. On the palate, the wine is full bodied, rich and lush, with sweet tannins that complement the plush  texture. Long and lingering finale. Proyected maturity 15+

Chateauneuf du Pape tasting back home.

Isabelle Ogier from Domaine de Nalys

Just before my trip to the Rhone, I had a chance to meet Isabelle Ogier, general manager of  Domaine de Nalys. Domaine de Nalys takes its name from the original founders of the estate who owned the property in the 1700’s. The domaine is located in the east of the Appellation, surrounded by vines at slight altitude with a splendid view of Mont Ventoux and the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Nalys took a direction in the realm of  the French Revolution when it was confiscated from its aristrocratic owners and sold to a group of local families.

In the 1950s, the winery when through change again when a doctor, Philippe Dufays, took over the property and began investing and experimenting with new winemaking techniques while building export connections. Following the death of his son, he sold the winery, which is now owned by French insurance company Groupama.

 

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Nalys Chateauneuf du Pape Classic Cuvee 2012

 Complex nose. Tar, Hoisin sauce, dry black fruit and  animal nuances such as dry blood and barnyard aromas. Structured, yet fresh despite the hefty tannins. Lovely tobacco leaf finale. With will be at its prime in a decade but will continue to age for another one

Nalys Chateauneuf du Pape Classic Cuvee 2013

 Richer than the 12. Jammy black fruit, violets and licorice. Spicier with iron and brown earth nuances Elegant with fine grained tannins. Flavors of maraschino cherry and a  very long finale. Will age wonderfully for a decade or two.

Nalys Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Chataigner 2013

Single vineyard wine  from old vines situated on poor sandy-textured soils of marine origin and a small part from “La Crau” vineyard with rounded pebbles.The blend is composed of 85% Grenache noir and of 15% Mourvèdre.

Tapenade with balsamic notes, intense nuances of black fruits. Fine palate. Silky with fine cashmere tannis. Very fresh. Spices that bring to paprika, criollo cacao beans and cofee.  Long and caressing in the mouth. A powerhouse with 30 decades of life ahead.

Nalys Chateauneuf du Pape La Reserve 2013

Intense and dark nose. Violets confit with Cofee, black cherry and cassis. Powerful. Spicy with expresso dark beans.Long and racy with lots of potential ahead .

Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône 2017-4/6. No great bottles, just great moments

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I can’t stop thinking about the Rhone, since I came back home. One of the highlights of my trip was the incredible supper that I had at the resto Le Mangevins, the day in the fair that we were at Hermitage. Nothing better than a great supper with some passionate wine colleagues and sharing some good tables and cracking a laugh or two. Here are some of the bottles that we share together on that magical evening.

Sketchy wine notes:

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David Reynaud Crozes-Hermitage 2015

Domaine les Bruyères is located  in Crozes-Hermitage at Beaumont-Monteux below the Hermitage hill in the Northern Rhone Valley.

The domaine is made up of 14.5 hectares in Crozes-Hermitage, and an additional 5.5 spreadin local villages amongst the Rhone hills. The vines grown in the domaine range between 20 – 50 years, of which the majority is biodynamic. Reynaud also has small plantations of Marsanne, Roussanne, Merlot and Viognier. The estate is 100 % biodynamic

Made from majority Marsanne with a little Roussanne. Aged mostly in cement egg with a third in  old and new barrel with a little lees stirring. Lovely, perfumed apricot with freshly picked peach nuances and a bounty of anis Full body and structured with spices and more floral nuances. Great and long mineral finish.

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Saint Peray 2013- Francois Villard

Francois Villard has established a solid reputation in the tiny Saint Peray appellation. The marsanne for this cuvee, grow in decomposed granite and argyle soils. This bottle that bear his name was aged 18 months in barrel.

An stellar white as well. Lavender, cloves, nutmeg, hazelnut and with lots of peach jam character. On the mouth, racy and mineral with an incredible freshness.  A finale that brings to mind roasted almonds

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Domaine du Chene Condrieu 2015

In 1985, Marc and Dominique Rouvière purchased a 5.5 hectare property in Chavanay in the center of Condrieu in the Northern Rhône, which they named Domaine du Chêne. They now own 16 hectares of vineyards with an average vine age of 35 years. They have three hectares of Viognier and seven hectares of Syrah in Saint Joseph

Stunning bouquet. Nectarines, with classy apricot touches  and nuances of  vanilla bean, Extremely exhuberant.  On the mouth, round and viscous with honey-lavender and creme brulee flavors. Very fresh finale.

 

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Dard and Ribo Crozes Hermitage, C’est le Printemps 2015

This was the star bottle of the evening. I got to now this producer by passionate wine fellow blogger from Finland, Sanna who wrote a wonderful piece on Dard and Ribo in her post: Gems of Northern Rhone, Part I: Dard and Ribo.

For additional information on this magical producer, please check it out the site of US importer, Louis Dressner. If I was on a desert island, I would bring a bottle of this wine with the novel: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, who recently passed away.

First impressions were of dark red wine, with stylized black pepper notes and raspberry sorbet that lingers in your nose finishing in a note feature in a musical black licorice note. Dont be fooled by the freshness of this wine, it has enough energy and vitality to stand in a decade in your cellar. A finale that brings to mind Tar, wild boar skin and an aftertaste that last for seconds. If you ever encounter this wine, buy by the magnum.

 

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Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille Saint Joseph 2014

The Clos de Cuminaille is one of the best terroirs of Saint-Joseph. It’s an east-facing, walled, single vineyard on Chavanay’s granite soils and each year it produces one of the most distinctive wines of the appellation.

When Gaillard bought this 3-hectare site, he passed on the opportunity to buy the now renowned La Turque vineyard in Côte-Rôtie, a site that he had helped to  plant. He simply believed the Clos de Cuminaille was the better site, which gives you an idea of why it yields such exciting wines.

Pure and enticing ripe black fruits. Violet confit and pipe tobacco. On the mouth, racy, elegant and very peppery. Amazing coca and coffee aftertaste. 

The food at Le Mangevins is quite amazing. Quite hidden in the town of Tain L’Hermitage, the resto offers simple yet well executed dishes. The resto is run by Keiko Yamada, and elegant Japanese chef whose elegant  techniques with premium  local ingredients make an explosion in your palate. The wine list is curated by her husband Vincent Dollat.  This is a wine lovers mine for Rhone lovers as the wine list feature many older Rhone vintages at very affordable prices.

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A lovely dish of seared scallops with oyster mushrooms and green peas cream.

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A succulent dish of seared lamb chomps with wild green asparagus in a wine reduction was also stunning with an Hermitage from Domaine Belle 2015