Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 8

8 12 2017

I feel like I was slightly prescient yesterday when I said that most of the bottle picks in the first week of Bricks Half-Bottle Wine Advent were straight out of a Classic Wine Regions textbook, as today we hit probably the 2nd most likely remaining appellation in France to get the call in a Wine Primer All-Stars competition:  Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  (If Bordeaux shows up anytime in the next 3 days, we will definitely have cracked the code.)  Chateauneuf is the jewel of the Southern Rhone, spiritual birthplace of the GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) blend, and purveyor of bold, brash, rich yet layered wines that are an Old World gateway drug for many a Cali Cab or Aussie Shiraz lover.  The area’s regal approachability arises out of a combination of extensive sunlight, scorching summer temperatures (over 30 degrees Celsius on average) and a whipping northern wind so famous that it has its own name (the mistral), which cools the grapes, prevents rot and allows for longer hang times and prolonged ripening.

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Tonight’s Chateauneuf representative is the 2012 Domaine Chante Cigale, a 100+ year-old winery that recently turned its winemaking duties over to someone barely out of his teens.  In 2002, with his father suffering from health problems, Alexandre Favier, freshly graduated from viticultural studies at the age of 20 (he started wine school when he was 15) took the reins and hasn’t looked back since.  The Domaine owns 40 hectares of vineyards, but they’re not in an orderly square surrounding the winery, instead plastered and scattered throughout FORTY-FIVE different plots all across Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Favier relies only on ambient native yeasts present in the cellar for fermentation and ages his wines in an oddly endearing array of almost every type and size of oak barrel possible (foudres, demi-muids, barriques, mostly pre-used) as well as concrete tanks.

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This cork deserves its own picture.  See below.

This particular Chante Cigale is the Domaine’s entry-level CNDP (if there is such a thing), keeping with the classic varietal mix of the region at 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault.  It is a deep ruby colour and immediately smells like something that has been preserved:  beef jerky, molasses, date, sunbaked earth, hickory and Sultana crackers, if these had been cooked down in an Instant Pot and then set on fire.  The wine’s hefty 15% alcohol is well-contained, but everything in its profile is stewed or baked, leaving it begging for a touch of primary freshness that never comes.  Malty, Port-y, fruitcake-y, it is neither thick nor heavy in body but constantly feels that way due to a dense sluggishness in its flavours.  Like a Wagyu beef burger left too long under the heat lamp before being served, the pedigree is there, but in execution it just hung on a bit too long.  As fellow PnP Advent author Ray Lamontagne puts it, “it’s like an old venison milkshake”.  There are no kind similes.

86+ points

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Cork Rating: 9/10 (What a monster. Coat of arms, complete with cicadas [singing grasshoppers, aka Chante Cigales – nice], killer intricacy and coverage; glorious.)

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KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 8

8 12 2017

The unofficial theme of the scotches (that is, Scotland-derived whiskies) from the 2017 calendar so far is giving unsung heroes their moments in the spotlight.  Like at least two other scotches in the 7 days before it — the two that led off Advent this year — this bottle comes from a little-known obscure distillery (in this case, Glentauchers in Speyside) whose substantial production forms the workhorse component of much-better-known blended whiskies (in this case, Ballantine’s) but who almost never gets to release a single malt under its own banner.  Glentauchers was founded in 1897, managed to produce until 1985 before being mothballed for 7 years, was then acquired by Chivas Brothers and has been churning out blend backbones ever since.  Its fleeting solo appearance comes courtesy of independent bottler extraordinaire Gordon & MacPhail, which has a whole range of Distillery Labels that sees them release a hidden-treasure distillery’s whisky under the distillery’s own logo and branding – very cool.  It is not my first Advent encounter with this range:  in fact, my very first KWM Whisky Advent Calendar bottle EVER was a Distillery Label bottling from the Linkwood distillery, followed shortly in the 2014 calendar by another DL bottling from Mortlach.  Neither of those, however, were 20-year malts.  This one is.

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Distilled in 1996 and then aged in sherry casks before being bottled last year in 2016, the Glentauchers has had plenty of time to mature and develop flavours, and it shows in a sweeping nose of carrot cake, wheat fields, tangerine, lemongrass and marzipan, as holidays-ready a set of smells as I can recall.  Luxurious and pure, it spreads out slowly, taking its time to unfurl before hitting on a distinctly prominent Amaretto note about halfway through the midpalate, a double-take hallmark flavour that just continues to emphasize itself even (especially?) after you swallow.  It’s so remarkably vivid.  Wild.  If I had to try to pull out other flavours:  Sap?  Cinnamon toast?  Banana bread?  Nope, forget it, it’s Amaretto all the way.  One of the most fun offerings in the calendar thus far without question.





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 7

7 12 2017

In the first sign of undeniable Advent progress, we have finished the first six-pack column of the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar crate and are heading into the second.  Hard to believe that Advent is already 25% over, apart from living 12 posts from 4 different people over the last 6 days and thinking about repeating that pattern 3 more times.  The folks who compiled this calendar obviously have a love of the classics, as the first week of half-bottles, apart from the inaugural Canadian-sparkling-Gamay curveball and the glorious interlude into Austrian Gruner on Day 3, has been like reading the chapter titles of a Top Wines of the World textbook:  Brunello, Beaujolais Cru, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Burgundy.  And if you look for the regional chapter title for pink wine, you will probably end up in Provence.  And if you end up in Provence, there is a greater likelihood you will find this wine than any other.

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Whispering Angel is a behemoth.  The Chateau d’Esclans estate was struggling when Bordelais Sacha Lichine bought it in 2006, inheriting vineyards in disrepair but featuring 80-90 year-old Grenache vines and a production with no market presence.  Lichine, looking out on the sunny French Riviera from his estate, identified a gap in the market:  heavy, sweeter white-Zinfandel-style rosé could not quench your beachfront thirst on a scorching day.  He conceived of rosé as a serious wine, made clean and light and dry, meant to disappear at resorts and in backyards with the drinkers scarcely noticing, pausing only to reach for the next bottle.  Whispering Angel, released the following vintage, went from 13,000 cases to over 375,000 cases of production within a decade.  If you’re counting at home, that’s 4.6 MILLION BOTTLES of the current 2016 vintage, sourced from a full 500 hectares of grapes from d’Esclans estate fruit as well as a swath of neighbouring vineyards.  To understand just how much of a thing it now is, you can now buy Whispering Angel gummy bears…that is, you could until they all sold out.

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Cork Rating:  5.5/10 (A perfectly cromulent cork.)

Whispering Angel has its formula down cold:  a blend of Grenache, Rolle (a.k.a. Vermentino – a white grape) and Cinsault, crushed and briefly macerated at very cool temperatures to prevent oxidation and preserve fresh flavours, fermented in stainless steel tanks and served icy cold, ideally on a yacht.  It succeeds, and continues to pull in critical acclaim despite becoming its own commercial empire, because the formula works:  it is both tremendously refreshing and carefully unobtrusive, thirst-quenching yet generally unmemorable.  It is a super pale farmed-salmon colour in the glass and delivers up citric aromas of lemon pulp, pink grapefruit and unripe peach, dusted with ginger and an herbal greenness like basil or chives and overlaid with a chalky minerality.  Its lithe, svelte body brings a splash of bracing freshness, like new snow, and ghostly notes of strawberry, tangerine, copper and lemon-lime, finishing tart thanks to straight lines of potent acidity.  It executes its mission to perfection and has spawned a thousand imitators, but for me the rosé category has lost a bit of its sense of interest as a result.

89- points

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KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 7

7 12 2017

By Tyler Derksen

One of the true joys of opening a new day on the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar is that you never know what you’re going to get (insert Forrest Gump joke here).  In all seriousness, Andrew Ferguson of KWM does a phenomenal job of sourcing interesting whisky from Scotland and abroad (something Peter rightfully lauded yesterday).  Even with all this in mind, I was thoroughly surprised to pull out today’s bottle and see that it is from the Netherlands!  That’s right folks: Dutch whisky.

Zuidam Distillers is a family-owned and -run distillery which makes gin, Genever (a traditional Dutch juniper liquor from which gin evolved), liqueurs and even rum in addition to its Millstone Whisky, with recipes created by father and son duo Fred and Patrick van Zuidam.  The distillery was started by Fred in 1975 and began as a very small operation, with a space of only 300 square meters and one copper still.  The business grew slowly, but now boasts of a 3600 square meter distillery and four new copper stills.  Zuidam, however, remains true to its Dutch roots and uses windmills to mill its malted barley.

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I love the little rubber stopper instead of a screw-top.

Today’s bottle was less than forthcoming in terms of detail, so I had to do some digging (which would have been far easier if I could read Dutch).  From what I can tell, this whisky appears to have been aged for three years in Oloroso sherry casks (OK, that last part I got from the bottle) which I believe were constructed of American oak.

The colour of the whisky is a stunning deep gold, looking almost like honey in the glass.  The influence of the sherry is evident on the nose, with scents of dried fruit, hazelnut, vanilla, old paper (think opening a 15-20 year old paperback book) and honey dominating.  The palate is bold and the flavours teased by the nose are certainly realized, along with oatmeal cookie and nutmeg.  Although the whisky is a pretty standard 46%, it can seem stronger and slightly viscous if tasted without water.  That said, I found that adding water dulled the palate, with the trade-off not being quite worth it.  If adding water, use very little.  The finish is dry with a hint of something almost rubbery.

Before today, if you had asked me to name whisky-producing countries, I’m not sure I would have come up with the Netherlands, but I will now.  This offering appears to be one of a number in Zuidam’s Millstone line of whisky, many of which are available at Kensington Wine Market (this one is $83) and I’d certainly be interested in trying more Dutch whisky to see how it compares.





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 6

6 12 2017

By Raymond Lamontagne

Some scenarios just have a way of falling into place, as if the cosmos itself simply knows what must occur from a karmic standpoint. Other times life is total cluster- … errr … bomb. This is fortunately one of the former occasions. After drawing my favorite white grape for my first blogging stint of the Bricks Wine Advent extravaganza, I have now landed my favorite red: the enigmatic, protean, finicky, and sometimes sublime Pinot Noir. Oh, Burgundy. Pinot reaches its loftiest heights here and yet detractors are quick to point out how many “horrible” Burgundies are routinely encountered. Yes, quality is massively variable in this (in)famous region. My view is that a word like horrible drastically overstates the case. A cheap Burgundy is often a pleasant sip, rather like how mediocre pizza is still pretty good hangover food. The allure of Pinot for many (myself included) is correlated with this metaphorical roll of the dice. Will the elegant red liquid in your large-bowled glass be superlatively sophisticated, characterized by a solid core of red or perhaps black fruit, yet earthy and herbaceous, redolent with what the French call “sous bois” or “forest floor”?  Or will it be rustic, crude, elemental and untamed, perhaps reeking of “animale”, another evocative French term that refers to aromas and flavors of funky wild game: well-cured meat with a slight seasoning of fur and bile. You will know this characteristic right away if like me you grew up around hunters and hunting. Or, just maybe, you’ll get a wine that splits the difference between refined and bucolic. These latter offerings can be marvelous from a complexity standpoint. If you do your research, and Burgundy requires more research than any other wine region, you should be able to divine what’s in your bottle. To a point. You might still be surprised.

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Well … What happened here?

Burgundy is about terroir. Unfortunately, making sense of a Burgundian wine label can be daunting (also looking at you, Italy). The only way to untangle the Gordian knot is to study up on the mess of subregions, domaines, villages, premier crus, grand crus, and climats, so that you have some schematic for how these concepts all fit together. Why? I suppose for academic interest. But perhaps more importantly, this will also enable you to gauge potential quality. Let me walk you through this label right here on Advent wine #6. “Vin de Bourgogne” means “wine of Burgundy”, a helpful starting point. “Vendanges” means “harvest” or vintage, right there above “2014”. The absence of the phrase “Bourgogne Rouge” or something similar means that this wine is not at the lowest quality tier. However, seeing “Bourgogne” in such large print is an important clue that you are not looking at a highly prestigious wine from a specific vineyard (a premier or grand cru). These titles speak for themselves, or so goes the logic. If you have managed to memorize the villages and crus, and a hardcore Burgundy lover WILL attempt to do so, you should notice that no such names appear here. At this point you can calibrate your expectations downward but hopefully still keep an open mind.  “Cote Chalonnaise” and the associated appellation text is the key to cracking this case. This is a regional appellation that covers more territory than a village or vineyard, but sitting one tier above generic Burgundy. Voila. You now have a rough indication of quality. I wish we were done. One can now deduce that “Vignerons de Buxy” is the wine producer, and it turns out that “Bussonnier” refers to a range or line of wines from said winemaker, a trade name I suppose, which one could learn only by researching the specific wine in question. An aside: It is rather uncommon to see Pinot Noir named on a Burgundy bottle. Another indirect quality indicator, perhaps? Or maybe just marketing due to the lingering aftershocks of the Sideways effect and the New World’s unmitigated success in selling varieties? Read the rest of this entry »





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 6

6 12 2017

No. 6 for Day #6 — I will give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and assume that was cleverly intentional.  I was ultra-pumped to pull the extended-name Hyde 1938 No. 6 Sherry Cask Finish Black Label Special Reserve Irish Whiskey (phew) out of the calendar tonight, for two reasons:  (1) after I have (politely) campaigned for years to get more global representation in the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, 2017 has seen FOUR different countries come out of cardboard box doors in six days; and (2) I absolutely adored the Hyde whiskey from the 2016 calendar, which almost made my top 3 overall from that year.

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Like that bottle (and all of Hyde’s lineup), this one sees time in two different kinds of barrels, starting out in bourbon casks before finishing in my nemesis, Oloroso sherry barrels, which lend salty kernel-y complexity to whiskies but also drive me to the point of near-insanity in their ubiquity.  Hyde’s mantra is “It’s all about the wood!” (actual promoted hashtag:  #itsallaboutthewood), which I would readily make fun of were it not for the fact that their website contains the best discussion of the details and effects of wooden barrel maturation I’ve ever seen.  When you walk the talk, I will grant you your double entendre slogan.

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Photo credit:  http://hydewhiskey.ie/the-wood/.  They take wood seriously.

Hyde Irish Whiskey is named after Ireland’s first president, Douglas Hyde, and this “1938” bottling is a tribute to his inauguration year, despite having nothing else at all to do with that calendar year.  It’s a special small release (only 5,000 bottles made, as well as at least 384 mini-Advent bottles) that intriguingly combines an 8 year-old grain whiskey with an 18 YEAR single malt whiskey to make a punching-above-its-weight power blend.  The result smells equally sweet and herbal, part honey and vanilla, part lemongrass and fresh leaves, part nutmeg and eucalyptus and creme caramel.  Fruit shows up in spades as soon as the whiskey hits your tongue, buoyant cantaloupe, kiwi and honeydew, backed by seaweed, Dixie Cup spoons and that same lingering trace of minty greenness.  This is really, really impressive, much more layered than your standard expectation of Irish whiskey and a steal at an $80ish retail price.  Keep the Irish coming!!





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!

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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.

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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!

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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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