The Patient Vintner: Bodega y Cavas de Weinert

24 05 2019

By Peter Vetsch

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

If I was to tell you that I was drinking the current release of a mid-tier offering from a well-regarded producer and from a name region, made from 70-110 year-old vines, and that the vintage date on the bottle was 2006, what would you guess the region was?  Rioja – maybe a Reserva offering from a traditional-minded producer?  Champagne, if you are extremely liberal with your definition of “mid-tier”?  Somewhere in Italy?  Portugal?  You would probably be most of the way through the global wine region Rolodex before you landed on Mendoza, Argentina, and once you did, you would probably immediately discard the possibility, knowing this to be the heart of bold, fruity, approachable Malbecs that are released and enjoyed in their youth.  Bodega y Cavas de Weinert, and its current-inventory $25 old-vine 2006 Malbec, will cause you to re-evaluate all of your presumptions; they are an anachronism in all the best ways.

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This classical estate actually has a rather recent history:  the winery dates back to 1890, but its current identity was tied to its acquisition by Brazilian Bernardo Weinert in 1975. Swiss winemaker Hubert Webber has been at the helm since 1996, when he was ensconced at the ripe old age of 27; his mission has been to craft wines from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines that avoid early showmanship and start to reveal themselves after a decade or more, as it is only then that the Bodega will release them to market.  Lengthy barrel aging (up to 5-6 years in large oak foudres in Weinert’s cool granite cellars), then further time in bottle pre-release, is the estate’s hallmark — Weinert follows the old-school Spanish model of only allowing his wines into the public sphere when they are deemed ready to drink, whether or not this follows the standard chronological vintage release playbook.  In other words, don’t necessarily assume that the 2007 will follow the 2006 as the next wine on the shelf.

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The relatively modest prices of the finished wines might be reflective of advantageous land and labour costs in Argentina, but they are not the result of any lack of care in the vineyard:  Weinert’s vineyards, located in Mendoza’s top subregion of Lujan de Cuyo, feature largely ungrafted own-rooted vines that are a minimum of 25 years old and are exclusively hand-harvested.  Fermentation takes place in cement tanks, and Weinert’s cellar boasts both the largest barrel in Argentina (44,000 L) and the oldest barrel in the world, each of which are a reminder that the goal of the Weinert wines’ extended time in barrel is not wood flavour transference (which increases the newer and smaller the barrel is), but gentle, lightly oxidative maturation.  I had the opportunity to taste a trio of Weinert offerings, all 12-13 years old (as is par for the course in this particular corner of Mendoza), to explore this wholly unique take on Argentinian viniculture.  Malbec first, as always. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: The Fladgate Partnership 2016 Vintage Port Release Tasting @ La Chaumiere

9 05 2018

By Dan Steeves & Raymond Lamontagne

Vintage Port, undoubtedly one of the crown jewels of the wine world, is celebrated as one of the Earth’s most complex and robust wines, one that has a superior ability to age and mature in bottle, often only fully revealing itself after several decades. Having never tasted a vintage Port with less than 10 years of age on it, we were very interested in the opportunity to preview the brand new 2016 Vintage Ports from The Fladgate Partnership (literally, they were just bottled a couple weeks ago for sampling purposes, well before what will be their commercial release).

The Fladgate Partnership includes three iconic Port houses: Croft, Taylor Fladgate, and Fonseca. Each house enjoys centuries of history producing Port, and between them they hold the most revered vineyards in the Douro, giving the Partnership the ability to make some of the best and most sought after Ports on the market. Croft, founded in 1588 and thus the oldest Port house in the world, possesses the Quinta da Roêda estate, which has been termed the “jewel of the Douro Valley”. Taylor Fladgate has three main estates: Quinta de Vargellas (well known as a pinnacle wine estate), and two Pinhão Valley estates (Quinta de Terra Feita and Quinta do Junco). Fonseca, the relative newcomer in the Fladgate trifecta at the fresh age of 203 (founded in 1815), also has three significant estates: Quinta do Panascal in the Távora Valley, and Quinta  de Cruzeiro and Quinta de Santa António, both located in the Pinhão Valley. It is these special estate vineyards, with their prime soil, ideal climate conditions, and significant plantings of decades-old vines, which contribute most to the style and personality of each House’s classic vintage Port. As we shall see, there are compelling genuine differences in house style.

Vintage Port is made only in the very best of years when the fruit is exceptional and the wines are determined to be monumental in character, showing early evidence of the ability to age that all great Ports should have. It is a house by house decision, made in the second spring following the harvest once the wines have undergone initial aging and blending. If the producer believes the wine has the characteristics of a great Vintage Port (and the regulating body agrees), they make a formal vintage declaration and begin preparations for bottling. For Fladgate, this declaration occurs on April 23rd and it historically happens roughly three times each decade. The last vintage declared for Fladgate was 2011, which followed 2009, 2007, 2003, and 2000. Taylor Fladgate has declared 32 Vintages from 1900-2016, whilst Croft has declared only 24 vintages in the same period.

Jorge Ramos, the export manager for The Fladgate Partnership, led us through a tasting of three vintages (2003, 2007, and the new 2016) from each of the Fladgate Partnership houses. The opportunity to taste various Vintage Ports from all three producers, side by side, really brought into stark relief the differences in their identities. From the luscious fruit flavours of Croft to the soft yet strong complexity of Taylor Fladgate and the muscular power of Fonseca, these were all stunningly delicious with their own personalities. We’ve summarized our tasting notes below by vintage year, in the manner they were tasted. First up, the 2003 vintage, which had a near perfect start to the growing season and periods of intense summer heat in August which allowed for perfect ripening of the fruit. Read the rest of this entry »





Canada’s Natural Wine Club: Cellar Direct

1 09 2015

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

FullSizeRender-118It was not like any other sample box I have received.  This two-bottle sample pack showed up in a container that could have easily fit a full case of wine with room to spare.  Puzzled, I broke into the box to discover the wine inside was surrounded on all sides by multiple inches of insulated styrofoam, like I was being shipped radioactive isotopes instead of a European red and white.  The bottles in the centre of the box were encased in even more styrofoam, and sitting in between them was a liqui-gel cryopack, like the kind you would use to keep your camping cooler cold.  After a multi-day, interprovincial Canada Post voyage, the icepack was still completely frozen.  And the wine?  Precisely at cellar temperature fresh off the delivery truck, a constant, perfect 13 degrees Celsius.  As it turns out, Cellar Direct doesn’t just ship their wines out in a way that ensures temperature stability; it also imports them in from producers in a rigidly temperature-controlled manner too.  They officially had my attention. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva

2 10 2013

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

I heart traditional Rioja.

I heart traditional Rioja.

The closest I’ve ever come to having a wine from my birth vintage (1980, by all accounts an absolutely terrible vintage everywhere, which explains why I can’t find any) was a bottle of 1981 Bodegas Montecillo Gran Reserva from Spain’s famed Rioja region, a bottle that I randomly stumbled upon with a friend at Co-op Crowfoot.  His birth year was 1982, so we decided that we’d split the difference and share the wine.  Montecillo is primarily a value-based producer whose wines steer clear from the ultra-expensive, but despite its non-insane price tag the 1981 was still gracefully present 32 years later, a shade past its peak consumption window but still a tremendously enjoyable drinking experience.  This longevity is partly due to Rioja’s traditional winemaking style and lengthy legally mandated aging periods:  for all wines designated as Gran Reservas, minimum 2 years aging in oak barrels and 5 years total aging is required before bottle release, and for Reservas, minimum 1 year oak aging and 3 years total aging is required.  This maturation process leaves the young wines exposed to air and leads to some flavour integration with the barrels themselves, resulting in finished wines that forego primary fruit flavours in favour of oak- and oxygen-induced secondary characteristics and complexity and that often have extraordinary staying power in the bottle.  While almost all wines are not meant to age, and while that maxim usually applies even more broadly to inexpensive wines, some traditional Rioja can be found on the shelves for bargain prices and can last for ages. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore

24 01 2013
Some of my favourite labels of all time.  Classic.

Some of my favourite labels of all time. Classic.

If there’s anything better than a good bottle of wine, it’s a good bottle of wine that you got on sale.  While this particular bottle usually retails for around $50, I was lucky enough to grab it on special for a shade under $30, which made me ultra-excited to open it and greatly reduced my chances of being disappointed with what was inside.  Not that there was much of a chance of that, given who made it.

Luciano Sandrone is a Barolo legend.  If you were going to make an All-Star team of producers from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, Sandrone would definitely be in the starting lineup. Ever since his first vintage in 1978, he has wowed the wine world with a slate of bottlings that are crafted in a more open, approachable manner than those made by the staunch traditionalists in the area but yet that remain elegant, complex and capable of aging and improving for a long time.  Most famous for his Barolos (Barolo is a subregion of Piedmont whose wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape), Sandrone also makes a Barbera (which is fantastic), a Dolcetto, a red blend and this Nebbiolo d’Alba.  Here’s a good rule of thumb for reading Italian wine labels:  if you see a label stating “_______ di _______” or “_______ d’_______”, odds are that the first word in the sequence will be the name of the grape and the last word will be the area where it’s from.  “Nebbiolo d’Alba” means “Nebbiolo from Alba”, which is the name of a Nebbiolo-growing region in Piedmont immediately adjacent to the great Barolo and the equally great Barbaresco appellations.  Since the soil and climate conditions in Nebbiolo d’Alba are similar to those in Barolo/Barbaresco, and since the same varietal is used to make the wine, Nebbiolo d’Alba can be a source of wines that give you a good sense of what Barolos and Barbarescos are all about but at a fraction of the price. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf-de-Pape

9 02 2012

Try to fit THAT in your wine rack -- I dare you.

Tonight’s review was supposed to be posted last night, but some insomniac infant adventures from the night before made me more or less comatose by dinnertime, so I had to take a PnP rain check.  However, all is quiet in the house now, so fresh off a better night’s rest and a ton of caffeine, it’s go time…although I’m still tired, so I’d better write quick.  This blatantly asymmetrical bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape was a generous Christmas gift from a good friend of mine (thanks Josh!) and a wine that I couldn’t bring myself to wait to open.  Considering the last time I opened a weirdly-shaped bottle of CNDP, it was a wholly depressing experience, I was fervently hoping for better luck this time…I’d hate to be permanently pulled out of the sway of a good marketing gimmick.  Fingers crossed!

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WSET Celebratory Wine Review: 2007 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah

6 02 2012

When people ask me what kind of wine I like, I'm going to pull out this pic.

Ever since I found out that I passed my WSET Advanced course last week, I’ve been wanting to break open something truly special to celebrate.  However, sickness intervened, so rather than crack a $100+ bottle and write stuff like “smells like nothing” and “my throat hurts” in a review, I decided to wait until the congestion clouds had cleared.  This weekend I pronounced myself fit to taste and rummaged through my cellar to find a suitable victory bottle, and as soon as I came to this one, I stopped thinking about any other.  However, it’s a bottle built for the long haul, so I was faced with the quandary that every wine lover about to pull the cork on an expensive bottle has had to face:  should I open the wine now so I can try it, or will I be undercutting its long-term potential by having it too early?  After getting some savvy advice from the amazingly-informed wine community on Twitter (thanks, @peterzachar and @nwtomlee!), I turned to Cayuse’s website for the final verdict.  On their FAQ page, there was a question that said:  “How soon can I open my wines?”  Cayuse’s answer?  “A Latin saying insists, ‘There are four reasons for drinking wine: the arrival of a friend; one’s present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.'”  I opened the wine.

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Wine Review: 2007 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon

28 11 2011

Can a flower vase be an appropriate decanter? I say yes.

If the name of this wine sounds familiar, it should:  the ’07 Freemark Abbey Cab from the Napa Valley was my ultimate victor in the modern-day Judgment of Paris blind tasting I took part in at Co-op Wine & Spirits a month ago.  Matched up against 9 other top Cabernets including a couple of First Growth Bordeaux (2002 Chateau Haut Brion and 2007 Chateau Mouton Rothschild) and some iconic Napa Cabs (2007 Ridge Monte Bello and 2002 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard”), by far the cheapest wine of the bunch (average bottle price of the 10 reds:  $277), this $47 little wine that could knocked both my tasting companion and I over and emerged the clear cut JoP winner for each of us.  As soon as the identities of the various wines were unveiled, I knew I had to get my hands on some — a reaction that probably would have been more subdued had the $928 Mouton Rothschild taken the title.  Thankfully for me (and all of you), the Freemark Abbey Cab is currently on sale at Highlander Wine & Spirits for just over $40, which is absolute robbery for a bottle of this quality from a premium region.  If you’re a Cali Cabernet fan, or if you’re not yet done your Christmas shopping, this is your winner.  Thank me later.

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Wine Review: Cameron Hughes Lot 179 (2007)

13 08 2011

I very much regret not writing this review last year (you know, before this blog even existed) so that people could have actually gone out and found this wine.  In the last 12 months I’ve probably bought upwards of 20 bottles of it both for myself and as gifts for others, due partly to its awesomeness and partly to its criminally cheap pricing; after cracking tonight’s bottle, I (tragically) only have 3 left.  It’s the closest my place has had to a house wine in 2010-2011…I’m definitely going to miss it when it’s gone.  Before I jump into the story of how it came to be, a huge shout out is owed to Tim from Highlander Wine & Spirits, who clued me into it on the very first night I met him — let’s just say he set the bar very high for himself right off the bat.

If this was Back to the Future, I would have told you to buy this already.

Cameron Hughes is based out of San Francisco, but he’s not your typical Californian wine producer.  Instead of owning a tract of land in Napa, growing grapes there and making them into wine, he’s a négociant, which means that he buys grapes, juice or even finished/partly-finished wine from other growers/producers and completes, packages and sells it under his own label.  Négociants are much more well known in European wine regions like Burgundy, France (Jadot and Leroy are big-name examples) than in the US, but Hughes is showing that the business model works just as well on this side of the Atlantic.  In many cases, Hughes buys excess grapes/juice from high-end Napa producers; they get quick cash in a capital-intensive industry and get rid of overflow product in a way that doesn’t devalue their own brand (Hughes is generally not permitted to reveal his sources), while Hughes gets high-quality raw materials for pennies on the dollar.  However, with Lot 179, the story is different:  what is in the bottle is actually the finished product of another winery that went out of business before its 2007 vintage was able to hit the market. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Boedecker Cellars Stewart Pinot Noir

3 08 2011

Just smell this wine once...then keep on smelling.

Oregon!  By now you know that Washington State, especially Washington State Syrah, has a big piece of my wine-loving heart, but my affections actually spread further across the Pacific Northwest, even though Oregon’s wine scene is considerably different from its northern neighbour’s.  Most of Washington’s wines are grown in the southeast part of the state, which is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range and is almost desert-like:  dry and hot during the day and quite a bit cooler at night.  The heat allows thicker-skinned, warmer-weather grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to ripen fully, while the nightly colder spells give the resulting wines a little restraint and keep them from becoming alcoholic fruit bombs.  Oregon is totally different, with a climate that more closely resembles what you’d expect from the northern Pacific coast (and I lived in Victoria BC for three years, so I know):  cooler, more continental, less sunny and quite a lot rainier.  The big powerful red grapes would struggle to ripen fully here, but their more delicate, thinner-skinned, colder-climate brethren absolutely thrive, especially Pinot Noir.  In my (only partially-informed) opinion and (fairly limited) experience, I would venture to say that Oregon has more promise as a Pinot Noir region than anywhere else on Earth other than Burgundy, France, the grape’s ancestral homeland — it’s better suited for the grape than established Pinot zones like California; more impressive than other up-and-coming areas like Central Otago, New Zealand or Yarra Valley/Mornington Peninsula, Australia; and more intriguing than long-time European growing zones like Germany or Austria.  Oregon has only been noticed as a serious wine region in the last 50 years, but its affinity for Pinot Noir has seen it gain an astronomical amount of international respect in a very short time.  It has since started branching out with some of the white grapes from Alsace, France (Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc), but Pinot Noir is its meal ticket and its justified claim to fame.  I’m not a huge Pinot fan, but (possibly because I don’t find myself drinking $150+ Burgundy all that often) Oregon’s renditions of the grape are probably my favourite. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Edward Sellers Syrah

23 06 2011

Better than a fancier, more expensive version of itself -- awesome!

Apologies in advance for the short-form review, but I haven’t gotten to the computer until now and I’m heading out of town tomorrow for the weekend, so faced with the Sophie’s Choice of not posting at all for almost a week or posting a lame point form review, I went with lameness over absenteeism.  This Syrah from the Paso Robles region (which is between San Jose and LA in southwest California) is mainly interesting because it’s the cheaper, less fancy, less package-focused (screwcap here vs. cork on the other bottle) version of the Edward Sellers “Le Thief”, which I reviewed way back in the infancy of PnP.  Granted, the Le Thief was a Syrah-based blend, and this is pure Syrah, but I got the impression that the Le Thief, pretentious name and all, was set up as a higher-end offering, while this Syrah was more the base model.  All of this is only important because I think this Syrah is a way better wine.  Condensed review…go! Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Mercer Columbia Valley Merlot

19 06 2011

Special delivery from the tasty factory.

Right after reviewing a wine (the 2007 Amavi Syrah) that was identical to one reviewed previously but for the vintage, tonight I’m tackling a wine that’s identical to a prior review but for the grape.  I reviewed the 2007 Mercer Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at the end of March, and tonight I stick with the same vintage (2007), the same producer (Mercer) and the same subregion (Columbia Valley in Washington State), but I’m subbing out one full-bodied red (Cab) for another (Merlot).  As I look back on my previous Mercer review, it strikes me how similarly these two wines have been put together; both are built to pop, pour and enjoy in the near term, with big accessible fruit and no hard edges, and both are ripe, friendly and easy to drink.  Both are also a direct shipment from the tasty factory — they’re absolutely delicous, the Merlot even more so than the Cab.  I bought this wine over the weekend from Highlander Wine & Spirits because it was crazily on sale:  half off normal retail price at $20!  It’s one of my rules in life not to turn down Washington State wine when it’s 50% off…I’m principled that way. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah

17 06 2011

Yes, I drank the whole bottle before remembering to take a picture. Shoot me.

This is a Pop & Pour first:  a review of a wine that has been previously featured on this site, just in a different vintage.  I have very fond memories of the 2005 Amavi Syrah from Walla Walla Valley in Washington State, which bears the eternal distinction of being PnP’s first 90+ point wine (92 points) and which delivered layer after layer of complex, savoury, intriguing goodness when I had it back in March.  Skip forward two harvests and you get to tonight’s wine, Amavi’s 2007 rendition of the same Syrah from the same region, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting to compare to its predecessor ever since I bought the bottle.  The ’07 had big shoes to fill (I still vividly remember the ’05 three months later), but it definitely delivered, albeit in a very different way than I expected. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett

5 06 2011

I will always be attached to this wine. Pure heaven.

As I hinted at yesterday, tonight’s wine is special to me.  It’s one of my “eureka” wines, one of those rare bottles that turned my general interest in wine into a huge passion and that continues to drive me to learn, read, taste and write about wine.  If you’re wondering why German Riesling is my favourite kind of wine, this bottle can take a lot of the credit.  The first time I had it was at a casual tasting that some friends and I organized a couple years ago.  I picked the wine as a curiosity, as something new to try en route to the more expensive and exciting big reds waiting at the end of the evening.  Instead, the first sip of this Riesling stopped time and drowned out everything else.  I couldn’t tell you what any of the other wines I had that night tasted like, but I remember this one intensely.  I haven’t had it again until tonight. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Cogno Barbera d’Alba Bricco Dei Merli

16 05 2011

So the label's beige, coral pink and orange? It HAS to be good!

I haven’t had a Barbera in awhile, but it’s one of my all-time favourite red grapes, so it’s high time to change that trend.  Barbera is mainly grown in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, which is much (much much) more famous for the Nebbiolo-based wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, which are some of Italy’s most prestigious and expensive.  While Nebbiolo is the show-dog grape of the region, Barbera is the lovable mutt who sleeps beside your bed at night; Nebbiolo is deep, complex, layered and pedigreed, while Barbera is rustic, juicy, fun and earthy.  Although Nebbiolo is what generates the most cash for winemakers in Piedmont, Barbera is what they drink at night.  Barbera is a great intro grape for those people who want to start learning what European wines are all about but have been used to the overt fruitiness of California and Australia:  it features ripe red fruit flavours that are eminently drinkable but also has the underlying flavours of the land and the ground common in the Old World, all thrown together with a bit of wildness, some colouring outside the lines.  All this, usually, for $15-$25 a bottle. Read the rest of this entry »








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