Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 22

22 12 2017

By Dan Steeves

It’s hard to believe that we are so close to Christmas Day, which means the end of the Advent calendar is also quickly approaching. It has been such a great experience trying so many new wines and being able to share some information and tasting thoughts on Pop & Pour. I didn’t originally think that enjoying (and reviewing) a split bottle every day for 24 days would take much effort, but I must admit it’s harder than you might think! That said, each time I’ve unwrapped a bottle to reveal the treasure contained within, I am overcome with excitement and eagerness to dive in and try it, as was the case again this evening!

Day 22… So close to the end!

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think when I unwrapped the top of the bottle to see an alien face on the top of a screw cap. With such graphics, is this some gimmicky bottle of wine? Further unwrapping showed a 2010 vintage with an old-looking label with the title Le Cigare Volant, which, from my rusty French, I knew translated to The Flying Cigar. A quick turn of the bottle discloses that the wine is a southern Rhone blend (think Chateauneuf-du-Pape) from Santa Cruz, California, and produced by Bonny Doon Vineyard, a name I have heard of before but never tasted any of their wines. Also included on the back label was an explanation of the name of the wine which is an interesting and surprising story. In 1954, a law was passed in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region banning unknown alien aircraft known as flying saucers (or, in France, flying cigars) in the area and stating that any such craft landing within the area will be held in custody. Yes, this is an actual law in Chateauneuf-du-Pape! Ok, everything is starting to make sense now, and it definitely has my attention.

A name incorporating UFOs and an alien screw cap is pretty awesome!

Bonny Doon Vineyard was started in 1983 by founder Randall Grahm and is known for pioneering the use of Rhone varietals in California. After purchasing land in the Santa Cruz mountains, Grahm originally sought to follow a dream for creating great Pinot Noir but quickly found Rhone varietals to be much better suited for the area, and the inaugural vintage of the now-flagship blend, Le Cigare Volant (1984), was released in 1986. The winery has embraced biodynamic farming practices and been transparent in labelling the ingredients on every bottle of wine since the mid 2000s, when the winery focused on producing more terroir driven wines. Grapes are grown, or sourced, from regions where achieving optimal ripeness is a struggle each year, allowing the grapes to produce deep flavours while maintaining their acidity. This viticultural approach, combined with non-interventionist winemaking, creates a more pure wine, giving a sense of place or terroir. Read the rest of this entry »

Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 17

17 12 2017

By Dan Steeves

Day 17 of the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar brings us back to Italy for a taste from the iconic region of Chianti Classico, located south of Florence in central Tuscany. For me, Chianti is synonymous with pizza and rich pastas and is my go-to wine for such fare. It can be quaffable yet complex and its strong acidity makes it easy to pair with a lot of different foods, especially most of my favourite Italian dishes.

One of the many sub-zones located within the greater Chianti region, Chianti Classico has a long history of winemaking going back thousands of years; the region was officially delimited back in 1716. At the time, it was known solely as Chianti, and as popularity of the wine increased in the early 20th century, the region had to expand to further adjacent towns to meet demand. In 1932, “Classico” was added to wines made within the original delimited Chianti area and in 1984 it was established as its own DOCG. Chianti Classico is generally known as a higher quality wine compared to its neighbouring Chianti wines due in part to the more strict rules on its production, including longer aging (minimum 1 year vs 3 months), grape varietal content (Classico must have a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and no white grapes are permitted), and higher alcohol (minimum 12% vs 11.5%). Further quality tiers also exist in Chianti Classico with Riserva and Gran Selezione wines. Riserva wines must be aged for a minimum of 2 years, while Gran Selezione wines must be aged a minimum of 2.5 years, are comprised of the best fruit from the estate’s own vineyards, and have to be approved through a tasting panel to ensure they meet the strict quality threshold.

Tonight’s wine, the 2014 Félsina Berardenga Chianti Classico, comes from a relatively young producer which started in 1966 and whose vineyards are located on the southeastern edge of the Chianti Classico border at Castelnuovo Berardenga. All of Félsina’s Chianti Classico wines are made with 100% Sangiovese and throughout the years they have worked to ensure the best possible matches between various Sangiovese clones and the terroir of their lands. Out of the 600 hectares of land held by Félsina, only just 15% is under vine with the remainder farmed for other crops (olives, grains, fruits, etc) as they believe strongly in maintaining biodiversity on their land. This passion and respect for the land carries through to their wines, which showcase rich and dense flavours with an elegant structure.

The wine has a medium ruby colour with a fairly deep core, more than what you might expect for a Chianti (Classico). With a medium intensity, the wine comes out of the gates with an assortment of fruit aromas including plum, raspberry, dried dark cherry, and red licorice. The fruit isn’t overbearing though, and is layered over a strong core of developing notes of wet stone minerality, leather, clove, a light medicinal aroma and uncooked pie dough. This beautiful nose is equally matched on the palate, which shows much more earthy flavours of dried leaves, leather, clove, tomato leaf, vanilla, and walnut. The cherry and plum fruit come through on the tongue as well, but more the skin of the fruit than the flesh. Structurally the wine is solid with strong acidity, fleshy tannins, and a finish that provokes you to fill up your glass and take another serving of spaghetti.

89+ points

The easily recognizable black rooster seal of Chianti Classico. If you don’t know the story behind it, check out this previous post on Pop & Pour here.

Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 13

13 12 2017

By Dan Steeves

We are now officially into the second half of the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar! It’s been a fun ride so far with some fantastic wines, which for the most part (10 of 12 bottles) have all been from Old World wine regions. Tonight, we go back to the New World (perhaps New World wines will have a larger influence in the second half of the calendar?) with a wine from Sonoma County, California: the 2015 Schug Carneros Estate Winery Pinot Noir.

Day 13 wine was not an unlucky one!

Los Carneros AVA (commonly referred to as just Carneros) spans across the southern part of both Sonoma and Napa counties just north of San Pablo Bay. The region has low hills and relatively low elevation and is known for its moderate climate that is heavily influenced by cool winds blowing in from the Bay. The stress from the cool, windy conditions draws out the growing season which promotes crisp acidity and flavour development in the fruit and makes it an ideal location for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and for sparkling wine production. The region is so well suited for sparkling wine production that a number of famous Champagne houses (Moet & Chandon – Domaine Chandon, Taittinger – Domaine Carneros, and GH Mumm – Mumm Napa) have set up operations in Carneros for producing high quality sparkling wines.

The Schug Winery is a family run operation, started by Walter Schug and his wife Gertrud in 1980, and is now headed by their son Alex Schug although all of their children are involved in the operation. Walter and Gertrud moved to California from Germany in 1961 to start working in the developing California wine industry. In 1966 a position working with the northern California portfolio for E&J Gallo allowed Walter to forge relationships with hundreds of growers in the region and gain insight to the prime vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. This experience was sought by Joseph Phelps in 1973 and Walter started a 10 year tenure as VP and winemaker for the new winery (next time you see a bottle of Insignia or Backus vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, you now know who was behind it). In 1980, Joseph Phelps ceased production of Pinot Noir but made an arrangement with Walter that he could continue to produce it under his own private label while still the winemaker at Joseph Phelps. A few years later, Schug went out on his own, and in 1989 purchased land in the Carneros appellation and started the Carneros Estate which runs today.


2015 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir – WS Tribute Vintage – Remembering founder Walter Schug who passed away in 2015.

The 2015 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir has a medium ruby colour and a pronounced nose of cherry, raspberry, bramble, and cranberry along with nutmeg, vanilla, and slight smoky and medicinal aromas. The wine shows its cool climate upbringing with its crisp and earthy aromas, and it is a delight to take in all the scents. On the palate, the wine attacks immediately with a spicy character and nicely balanced crisp acidity and silky tannins. Flavours of dark cherry, cranberry, currant, leaf, tree bark, and clove persist with a rather long finish. I am a big fan of cool climate New World Pinot Noir and this wine most certainly does not disappoint! At the $30 price point it offers tremendous value for a highly regarded region like Carneros and a winery with deep roots in the development of the regional wine industry.

90 Points


“Bliss” by Charles O’Rear 1996

P.S.  If you’ve ever used a PC, there should be a 100% chance you recognize the above picture. The picture of a relaxing green field with the rolling hills on a beautiful sunny blue sky day, which was a default background for Windows XP. The photo, aptly named “Bliss”, was taken on film in 1996 by Charles O’Rear while driving through Carneros. There are no vines in the picture, as they were all ripped out a few years prior due to a Phylloxera outbreak, but this area is now once again under vine.

Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 5

5 12 2017

By Dan Steeves

As a loyal reader and follower of Pop & Pour for the past few years, it is a great honour to have the privilege to contribute to the blog today! I am often reminded of how great the wine community is in YYC; how generous people are, and how so many people enjoy talking, experiencing, and sharing wine with each other. Today marks my first attempt at wine blogging, and I’m hoping the community goes easy on me!


The streak of great wines continues on Day 5 of the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar with a delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Spy Valley Wines, based in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc is the heart of the New Zealand wine industry and the Marlborough region (located at the North end of the South Island) is where the majority of it hails from.  A combination of close proximity to the ocean, protective mountain ranges, high diurnal temperature variation (temperature change between day and night), and plenty of sunlight, all provide the Marlborough vineyards a long ripening time and help preserve the flavours and acidity in the grapes. When it comes to New World SB, there is no doubt that New Zealand is at the top of the podium.

Spy Valley Wines is a relative newcomer in the wine world, choosing to cultivate land in the Waihopai and Wairau valleys of Marlborough back in 1993. The winery gets its name due to its close proximity to an actual spy base (an international satellite communications monitoring facility) and they take their clandestine efforts seriously. It may not be noticeable at first (which is the whole point) but see if you can locate and decipher the secret codes found on the bottle and closure. You won’t need an enigma machine but you might want to use this website for help.


Sleek and simple design with integrated Morse code on the label and screw cap! 🙂

Upon opening this wine and taking the first sniff, it is no secret what the wine is and where it is from. The wine has a clean nose with intense aromas of lime, grapefruit, melon, lychee, grass, and the telltale bell pepper. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is known for having bright and fresh citrus and tropical aromas as well as a green herbaceous side and this wine displays both, just as it should. On the palate, the wine has crisp acidity that gives a little zing on the tip of your tongue and shows flavours of lemon, lime, grapefruit pith, and green bell pepper. The wine displays a slight creamy texture, perhaps due to the 8% of the wine that is barrel fermented, but it is still light on its toes like a stealthy agent on duty.

88 points

Thanks to Bricks for introducing me to a beautiful wine. Another successful day of the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar completed!


3-isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine – aka Pyrazines – the compound responsible for the bell pepper aroma in wines can be found in many Bordeaux wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, etc.) and is detectable in very low concentrations


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