Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 24

24 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

Another year, another Advent, another calendar complete, and another December blogging marathon brought to the finish line.  After 24 days and 24 different half-bottles, I am left partly eager to again regain access to my own cellar and my own agency in terms of nightly wine selections, but mostly impressed at the tremendous range and consistent quality of the 2019 Bricks Advent Calendar.  For my money, this third edition of Bricks’ December crate was by far the best to date, with no bottle (other than the one impacted by the Chateauneuf-du-Pape curse, a mystic force beyond mortal defences) a disappointment and all of them compellingly showcasing their varietal and region with admirable typicity, all for a price tag averaging a shade under $20 per split.  That’s not an easy feat, but it was accomplished with flair — mark me down for next year’s calendar already.

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Our annual Pop & Pour Advent tradition is to wrap up our calendar coverage with each author’s Advent podium wines, as well as a dark horse candidate that particularly captured their attention.  In order to ensure neutrality and avoid cross-contamination of opinions, all three of us separately wrote down and submitted our lists; any overlaps (and there were many) are a testament to the wines involved and not a function of any groupthink.  If you had a Bricks calendar for 2019 and have been following along, let us know your top 3 wines in the comments below!  Without further ado, our list of winners:

Ray Lamontagne’s Top 3 Wines

  1. 2015 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Day 23):  A  pure, seamless meld of power and complexity.
  2. 2016 Kettle Valley Winery Pinot Gris (Day 11):  The freshest side of orange wine.
  3. 2017 Robert Biale Vineyards “Royal Punishers” Petite Sirah (Day 14):  A purple behemoth that is not without subtleties.
  4. DARK HORSE — Porto Quevedo 10 Year Old Tawny Port (Day 8):  An old style from a small yet classic house.

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Tyler Derksen’s Top 3 Wines

  1. 2015 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Day 23):  Bold yet structured, this wine delivered at every level.  Perhaps a bit predictable after last year’s Top 3 lists from Peter and Ray, but this bottle deserves the top spot.
  2. 2016 Kettle Valley Winery Pinot Gris (Day 11):  Easily the biggest surprise of the calendar for me.  Mild disappointment (I’m not a huge fan of Pinot Gris) turned a complete 180 when I brought the glass to my nose.  Wonderfully balanced, this exemplifies what orange wine can be when done right.
  3. 2016 d’Arenberg “The Noble” Wrinkled Riesling (Day 22):  This made my list for pure hedonistic pleasure.  It may not be perfectly balanced, but a flower-shop nose keeps this from being one-note.
  4. DARK HORSE — 2017 Robert Biale Vineyards “Royal Punishers” Petite Sirah (Day 14):  This was definitely in the running for the podium until the last few days.  Evilly dark, the myriad of notes on the nose and palate made this both delicious and interesting.

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My Top 3 Wines

  1. 2015 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Day 23):  A Ken Wright back-to-back calendar sweep.  He takes no Advent prisoners.  The biggest point of intrigue this year was the remarkably stark difference between this dark, rocky Freedom Hill Pinot and last calendar’s bright, elegant Shea Vineyard Pinot, especially since each hail from the same 2015 vintage!  Terroir indeed.
  2. 2016 Kettle Valley Winery Pinot Gris (Day 11):  Probably my most memorable calendar wine, that perfect combination of orange wine’s bitter phenolics and white wine’s purity of fruit.
  3. 2017 Robert Biale Vineyards “Royal Punishers” Petite Sirah (Day 14):  A true statement of identity, and a clarion call of Petite Sirah’s suitability in California.  A deep, dense, gritty, lasting experience.
  4. DARK HORSE — 2016 K.H. Schenider Dornfelder Trocken (Day 2):  The World’s Best Dornfelder™ is an old friend whose acquaintance I made a while ago, but it never ceases to thrill and impress.  Each successive bottle is a reminder of the potential of this grape when grown in the right spots and handled the right way.

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All I know is that I will be heading out and grabbing some Ken Wright (full bottle versions) during Boxing Week — no Advent calendar will ever be the same unless he’s involved.  As Advent reaches its zenith, consistent with Bricks tradition, we finish off the long and winding road of the calendar with both a toast to the journey of the past 24 days and a half-bottle of bubbles to allow us to make it.  Tonight’s wrapping paper slips off to reveal the Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV, probably the most compelling sparkler to grace a calendar to date, from one of my favourite Champagne houses.  I first tried Pol Roger in WSET class, where it was held up as an exemplar of what classic Champagne should resemble.  This Reserve version of Roger’s standard NV Brut bottling takes its status as comparison reference seriously:  it is a roughly equal blend of all three grapes of Champagne (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay), with 25% of older reserve wines from Pol Roger’s cellars added to the base vintage (2013 or 2014, if I had to guess).  After blending, secondary fermentation and disgorgement takes place 33 metres below ground after regular hand-riddling and around 4 years maturation on lees.

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Our collective Christmas Eve present is a deep straw colour run through with millions of racy pinpoint bubbles that continue their ascent to the top of the glass even after over an hour’s worth of exposure to air.  The eager and festive nose combines vanilla bean, tapioca, butter croissant, lemon drop, black jujube, aloe and toasted almond, albeit in a more focused and chiselled way than the largely confectionary descriptors might suggest.  Rich and almost custardy on the tongue, the Brut Reserve is firmly structured on rails of electric acidity, the only thing restraining the expansive flavours of salted butter, charred lime, matchsticks, Golden Delicious apple, crystallized ginger and fresh caramel.  An extended persistent finish allows for plenty of reflection on where are now are and how far we have come.  A delightful toast to the season, to the upcoming joys of tomorrow morning, and to the sheer lazy pleasure of not having to blog for the rest of the month!  Merry Christmas, all.  Until next Advent.

90- points

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Cork Rating:  7.5/10 (I love the little “PR” logos ringing the metal cork cap. Classy and classic.)





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 22

22 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

Here’s a crazy stat:  this is my FIVE HUNDREDTH published post for Pop & Pour.  The blog itself passed this threshold some time ago thanks to the remarkable contributions of Ray and Tyler in recent years (as brilliantly evidenced by their kick-ass daily Advent coverage this month), but this is my personal milestone post.  It’s been close to nine years since I started this blog with limited direction or aspiration, as a vehicle for a passion I didn’t fully know how to express.  I don’t know what I was expecting out of it, but to still be dutifully doing it so many years later (and to have at minimum elevated myself to a self-professed connoisseur on boozy Advent calendars while I’m at it) probably already surpasses any initial blogging goals.  Thanks for reading along; if it wasn’t for you, this probably wouldn’t still be happening.

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Perhaps Bricks cosmically knew that this was going to be a more monumental night of blogging, or perhaps I subconsciously lined up my name on the Advent schedule to align with the one bottle in this year’s calendar that was definitively not like the others, but it became apparent almost immediately that this was not a standard half-bottle of wine.  First, it was taller than a standard-sized 750 mL bottle (!!), a good 3-4 inches taller than any other bottle in the Bricks crate.  Second, it was slender throughout, a thin lengthy cylinder without curves.  Before the wrapping even came off, only one style of half-bottle seemed to fit:  dessert wine.  But it wasn’t in a Germanic flute shape or a standard Bordeaux bottle, and I had my doubts that the calendar would culminate in ice wine, sooo…what’s left?

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The 2016 d’Arenberg “The Noble” Wrinkled Riesling, that’s what; a continuation of Australia’s surprisingly rich tradition of sweet winemaking.  This particular bottling began by pure circumstance:  in 1985, one of d’Arenberg’s Riesling vineyards was discovered to have become infected with the beneficial mould botrytis cinerea, which grows on the surface of the grape berries and gradually leaches the water out of them, leaving them shrivelled, dehydrated, fuzzy and rather gross-looking but internally composed of ultra-sweet, ultra-concentrated, ultra-flavourful essence (all of the acids and sugars and flavours of the grape, without the extra water to dilute them) that when vinified creates the most majestic sweet wines known to man (for my money, anyway).  There’s nothing to be done when you discover botrytis but to (1) make wine out of the result and then (2) try to duplicate the conditions to have it show up again next year:  humidity, especially fog, in the morning, followed by sun and drier conditions later on, so that the cinerea fungus attaches to the grapes but does not accelerate into full-blown grey rot.  It is a difficult balancing exercise that results in precious little wine (imagine pressing and vinifying juice out of a raisin to understand why), but the reward is emphatically worth the risk and the effort.

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Size comparison: a standard 750 mL bottle (L) and this freakishly tall half-bottle (R).

After their initial accidental introduction to the world of botrytized winemaking, d’Arenberg has become something of an old hand at it, now producing three different nobly rotted dessert wines under their “The Noble” lineup.  This bottling used to simply be known as The Noble Riesling before later being revised to the Wrinkled Riesling to reflect the physique of the grapes after botrytis has had its way.  I would have loved to be in the marketing meeting where that decision was made.  Not that I have any doubt about d’Arenberg or its branding, all of which is specifically selected to tell a story.  The winery is named for the maiden name of founder Frank Osborn’s wife Helen, who died tragically immediately after childbirth at the age of 31; the child who was born healthy just before this event was Frank and Helen’s son Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, who everyone simply called d’Arry, partly in honour of his mother’s lineage.  It was d’Arry who give the winery its current name (in 1959, well after Frank started growing grapes in 1912, or making wine in 1928), as well as its distinctive red label stripe on a white background, representative of the crimson and white striped school tie that d’Arry wore in college.  The d’Arenberg coat of arms features that stripe, a symbol of fertility, a bunch of grapes, and the motto “Vinum Vita Est” — “Wine Is Life”.  Says it all.

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Stelvin Rating: 9/10 (The colour, the coat of arms, the motto – pure poetry.)

Every single one of d’Arenberg’s myriad of wines is fermented via traditional basket press, including this one, and all the reds are foot-trodden to this day.  The Wrinkled Riesling is a 50/50 blend of McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills Riesling, hence the dual-appellation labelling that I’m not sure I’ve ever previously seen on any bottle.  The tech specs beggar belief:  a 2.98 pH and 10.8 g/L of Titratable Acid run smack dab into an astonishing 253.3 g/L of residual sugar at 9.5% ABV — this was surely the alcohol level where the fermenting yeasts simply gave up and died in such a densely sweet environment.  This is unbelievably viscous emerging from the bottle, like motor oil, and eventually settles in the glass a majestic steeped-tea-meets-maple-syrup deep amber colour.  Then the fireworks begin.

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An explosion of florals is the first sensation I record — Easter lily, daisy, marigold, daffodil.  Then comes the cavalcade of dessert aromas, in rapid-fire fashion:  key lime pie, Fuzzy Peaches, manuka honey, marmalade.  This intoxicating mixture is cut only by that telltale orange peel, lemongrass, apple cider vinegar citric/herbal tang that botrytis cinerea leaves behind at the scene of the crime, the calling card of its dehydration caper.  After I resign myself to the fact that I can’t possibly drink this all in one sitting, I settle into its exquisite, eye-opening sweetness and its sensual lusciousness, sliding in slow motion down the throat and coating every square inch with layers of lemon curd, salted caramel, rosehips, dried mango, apricot and pineapple upside-down cake, still pulsating for at least a minute after I swallow.  The recorded acid is elevated, but it is barely present in the field, not quite able to maintain a sense of liveliness in the face of the torrent of glorious sugar.  This leads to a slight yet growing sense of heaviness as the wine warms up and the sips multiply, so enjoy in moderation…but that can be the hardest thing to do when what’s in the glass is this unspeakably delicious.  Two days left and we’re headed to a crescendo.

90- points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 19

19 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

Some New World sites are unlike anything that came before them, with no obvious comparator from the Old World to help tell their story; Australia’s Barossa Valley and Washington’s Rocks District of Milton-Freewater are good examples of places that, to me at least, don’t taste like anything except themselves.  Other non-European regions have a clear cross-reference to a classic vinifera haunt, a reasonable facsimile in the Old World that allows for an easy introduction.  Think the Willamette Valley and Burgundy.  Australia’s Margaret River falls in the latter camp, and has the benefit of two different European doppelgängers:  its Cabernet-based reds are routinely compared to those of Bordeaux, but its other specialty, Chardonnay, is very Burgundian in essence, combining acid and texture and a regal sort of presence in a way that makes you understand why this recently maligned grape remains at or near the pinnacle of white wine expressions.  I have a massive soft spot for the wines of Margaret River, so it was with great delight that Day 19 was revealed to have come all the way from Down Under.

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Voyager Estate was one of the first wineries to be established in Margaret River, located south of Perth in the southwest corner of Australia.  Its first vineyards were planted in 1978, a decade or so after the inaugural winery in the region saw its start.  Voyager now has five different estate vineyards spanning roughly 110 hectares, all located in a privileged position:  in the Stevens Valley, a spit of land that protrudes directly out into the Indian Ocean, to the point where its vineyards are surrounded by water on three sides, in the so-called “Golden Triangle” of Chardonnay, according to James Halliday.  Voyager is one point of the triangle; its neighbours Leeuwin Estate (along with Vasse Felix’s Heytesbury, the makers of the finest Margaret River Chard I’ve had to date, courtesy of its Artist Series) and Cape Mentelle form the other two.  The vineyards in this area have the benefit of taking root in the oldest soils in the country, gravel-based lands dating back thousands of millions of years (!!), and being kept cool by continuous swirling breezes that help prevent rot and allow for longer hang time.

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The team at Voyager is meticulous to near-OCD levels in the vineyard, striving for absolute uniformity in each block of vines:  careful pruning aims for the exact same number of buds, shoots and bunches per vine to ensure even and contemporaneous ripeness.  The winery is serious about its non-interventionist approach and its goal to express the purity of its soils, which plays out across all steps of the planting, picking and winemaking process:  the vineyards are organic (or in the process of converting thereto), all fruit is from estate plantings, all grapes are hand-harvested, all fermentation is with natural yeasts, and the winery has recently become carbon neutral.  Tonight’s offering, the 2016 Voyager Estate Chardonnay, spent just under a year in tight-grained French oak barrels with only partial malolactic fermentation in an effort to hit that intoxicating combination of texture and acid that only this grape can do justice.

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Stelvin Rating:  6/10 (This screwcap is weirdly difficult to photograph in focus, but it’s a Stelvin + in my book.  I should really fix that dent in the table.)

Everything starts out in highly promising fashion:  the wine is a brilliant gleaming lemon-gold colour as it hits the glass and starts beaming aromas before my nose is even halfway there.  It is a Burgundian dream aromatically, toasty chestnuts (open fire included), coconut crisps, pecan pie and popcorn kernels joyously interweaving with lemon curd, fresh pear and apple crisp fruit.  There was some consensus amongst our Advent blogging group that this might be pretty close to the nose of the calendar so far.  Then a few seams start showing.  The acid is vicious but almost hyperactive, like a tiny lapdog constantly nipping at your ankles.  The broad, full texture seems like a disparate entity, hitting just a touch out of rhythm, almost like you’re drinking two wines at once.  It’s a vertigo-inducing feeling, like a bassist that’s half a beat behind the rest of the band.  Smoke, custard, bananas Foster, lemon meringue and toffee notes play an enticing song, but I’m too stuck wondering why the tempo isn’t in sync to be able to fully sink into it.  I know this is a winery of impeccable credentials, and I can tell this Chardonnay has all of the elements of a winner, but despite being delicious it currently comes across a little bit scattered.  By this point in the calendar, I feel the same way.

88- points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 17

17 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a week left in Advent.  As our December wine journey starts wending its way to the finish line, Tyler yesterday rightly complimented the calendar on its diversity and variety to date, commenting on how every day has been a fresh and exciting adventure to a different place, grape or style.  Perhaps that triggered the jinx, or perhaps we fell into a trap set by the 7s, but tonight’s Day 17 reveals a strikingly familiar face, one just seen back on Day 7:  Clarence Dillon’s Clarendelle.  Whereas our first week of Advent ended with the Clarendelle red, our last week of the calendar starts with the 2018 Clarendelle Bordeaux Blanc.

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Tyler covered the history of Clarendelle in detail in Day 7’s entry, noting that it was a recent effort of Clarence Dillon Wines to create a brand-based and price-conscious Bordeaux wine “inspired by Haut-Brion”, another winery forming part of the Dillon empire, with some help from the Haut-Brion winemaking team.  I’m not sure I fully buy this motto, which is notably plastered on this half-bottle’s front label; “inspired by Haut-Brion” is largely code for “I also own Haut-Brion and can say this without being sued”.  That said, if I owned Haut-Brion I would probably put its name on everything else I owned too.  The man who purchased the great First Growth in 1935 has a few impressive buys on his resume:  a legendary financier, Dillon pulled the Goodyear company out of receivership, and then later bought Dodge, and then Chrysler, all within the span of six years and all before dropping 2,300,000 francs on Haut-Brion.  He was basically the Monopoly man.  His son, also named Clarence Dillon, was the US Secretary of the Treasury and the Ambassador to France.  And the prince of Luxembourg is in the family tree somewhere.  You get the idea.

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White wines used to make up half of Bordeaux’s production not even 60 years ago; now they are less than 10%, as a combination of soil-based vineyard replanting and shifting consumer tastes have seen the region focus more and more on Cab- and Merlot-based red blends.  Most of Bordeaux’s whites are blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with a smattering of Muscadelle here and there (I initially thought these three were the only permitted white grapes of Bordeaux, only to be roundly corrected by the following Rolodex of allowable white varietals:  Sauvignon Gris, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Merlot Blanc (??), Ondenc and Mauzac [at least possibly made-up], Albarino, Petit Manseng and Liliorila).  There are less than 1,000 hectares of Muscadelle planted in all of Bordeaux, the bulk of which is used as a floral-accented blending component to sweet wines like Sauternes. It is a delicate, fragile and discreet grape, not known for prominence either in any part of its flavour profile or in any notable white Bordeaux blends.  Its name notwithstanding, it is not related at all to the Muscat grape family, instead arriving on the scene as a crossing between an unknown vinifera parent and Gouais Blanc, a grape that’s utterly un-noteworthy on its own but has some remarkable procreation skills, acting as parent for a large swath of vinifera grapes (like Chardonnay) that we currently know and love.

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I mention all of this because my first thought when I saw the blend composition on this bottle, uttered out loud in spite of myself, was:  “That is a sh*t ton of Muscadelle.”  The Clarendelle website helpfully advises that they sometimes add “a touch of Muscadelle in certain vintages” of their Bordeaux Blanc; the 2018 vintage is 42% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 28% Muscadelle.  I have never seen that much Muscadelle in a single wine ever (although there is apparently a 100% Muscadelle Bordeaux Blanc out there, which I now must track down).  The combo of Muscadelle and Semillon means that 70% of this white is made up of restrained, reticent varietals — can the Sauvignon Blanc minority pump up the volume and bring out the extrovert in this wine?  (Spoiler: no.)

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Cork Rating:  5.5/10 (Elegant font and graphics, although the composites aren’t my favourites.)

The 2018 Clarendelle is a pale but vibrant lemon colour and emerges elegantly if cautiously in the glass.  Its strikingly alpine, floral nose conjures up crystal clear images of that mountaintop field of flowers in every Sound of Music poster or Ricola commercial, honey-lemon Halls meets honeysuckle meets liquid nitrogen, with hints of crystallized pineapple lurking around the edges.  This delicate Swiss chorus is joined on the palate by white grape (maybe Muscadelle is like Muscat in actually bringing out grape flavours), pear, tonic water, lime popsicle, rock dust and white tea flavours, laced with a touch of Semillon’s lanolin, the acid quietly tremulous as if unsure where to cut in.  The overall combination is pleasantly neutral, if sort of self-effacing as a result, the wine not really flashing its personality until a finish that lasts way longer than you might expect.  Haut-Brion it is not (percentage of Muscadelle in the 2018 Haut-Brion Blanc:  0%), but as far as introductory signposts to Bordeaux blanc go, it strikes the right chords, if in a slightly tentative manner.

87+ points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 16

16 12 2019

By Tyler Derksen

After a bit of a hiccup on Friday (the 13th, so you’d think I would have seen it coming), things quickly got back on track with the Bricks Advent Calendar, and today continues that trend.  Over this past weekend, I was speaking with a friend and extolling the virtues of a wine Advent calendar.  The obvious benefit is that I get a couple glasses of wine every evening to help me get into the holiday spirit.  The other benefit is that the wine world is so varied and this year’s calendar is taking full advantage, allowing for a vast exploration of styles, grapes and regions over a quick 24 days.  And so it is that on Day 16, we get to taste yet another classic varietal from a storied wine-making area.

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Tonight’s wine is a Nebbiolo from Langhe in Piedmont, Italy.  While Barbera and Dolcetto are also grown in Piedmont, the true star of the region is Nebbiolo.  The wines made from this grape can vary in style depending on where it is grown, even within Piedmont, but it is the grape from which both Barbaresco and Barolo, true all-stars of Italian wine, are produced.  Interestingly, the wines produced in Piedmont are very often single varietals, as compared to much of the rest of Italy where the wines are often blends (much in the same way that Burgundy differs from the rest of France for this same reason).  Langhe is a region within Piedmont that itself includes Barolo and Barbaresco.  The more general Langhe designation is given to wines that do not adhere to the strict  geographical or production requirements of Barolo, Barbaresco or other D.O.C.G. requirements.

La Spinetta, the producer of today’s libation, is one that is well known to me.  I was first introduced to the winery when I tried its Bricco Quaglia Moscato d’Asti.  Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of bubbles (aged Champagne excepted of course), and so this was a revelation to me.  Inexpensive and low in alcohol, the Bricco Quaglia quickly became my go-to bottle whenever bubbles were needed, and it has become a bottle of choice for my extended family for pre-dinner drinks.  As it turns out, there is very good reason for this, as La Spinetta began its life as a Moscato d’Asti producer.  While it may not have the lengthy multi-generational history that some of the producers highlighted in the past couple of weeks have had, it has been in operation for over 40 years.  The winery was founded in 1977 by Giuseppe and Lidia Rivetti in Castagnole delle Lanze in the Italian province of Asti, and it remains a family-owned and -run winery to this day.  In 1978, it produced its first Moscato d’Asti (the aforementioned Bricco Quaglia), which was the first ever single-vineyard Moscato d’Asti in Italy.  It was not until 1985 that the first red wine was produced.  Since that time, after purchasing several other vineyards in Piedmont and Tuscany, La Spinetta now produces wines from a range of varietals, making approximately 650,000 bottles of wine per year: 30% Moscato d’Asti, 24% Sangiovese, 22% Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba, 10% Nebbiolo, 8% Barbaresco, 4% Barolo (note: Barbaresco and Barolo are also made from the Nebbiolo grape) and 2% Chardonnay.

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Anyone familiar with La Spinetta’s line of red wines will immediately recognize the image of the rhinoceros on the label (the winery’s bottlings of Barolo use a lion on the label instead).  La Spinetta’s website has a page dedicated to the label rhino and I was excited to learn the significance.  Remarkably, there isn’t one, which kind of makes the use of the rhino on so many of La Spinetta’s wines that much more amazing.  The lead winemaker (and son of founder Giuseppe Rivetti) Giorgio Rivetti has always been fond of this rhino woodcut by German artist Albrecht Dürer and decided that it would be used on the labels.  I love that the story behind the image is actually a non-story and, as with so much when it comes to wine, “because I like it” is the only reason needed.  [Note: After I wrote this, I looked back at last year’s calendar and realized that much of this was already covered with great eloquence by Ray Lamontagne when he wrote about this wine’s sibling, the 2013 Ca’ Di Pian Barbera d’Asti.]

That’s all well and good, but we’re here tonight to talk about the 2014 La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo.  The grapes for this bottle are harvested from vineyards in Starderi and Neive, which are located south of Asti and just slightly to the northeast of Alba, from vines approximately 19 to 22 years of age.  After being harvested in early to mid-October,  the wine is aged for 12 months in used French barrels that have been medium toasted.  From there, the wine is aged for two months in stainless steel vats before being bottled.

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Cork rating: 3 out of 10.  It gets points for correctly identifying the region and varietal…that’s it.

The wine is a light transparent red in the glass and at just five years of age is already starting to show some brick colouring at the edges, a clear characteristic of the varietal.  The nose is classic Piedmontese Nebbiolo: newly paved roadway, dark cherry, liquorice, leather upholstery, fresh dirt, ammonia, dried roses, oregano and rosemary come together to present a bold precursor to the palate.  Wow, that first sip.  Nebbiolo as a grape produces wines that contain massive amounts of both acid and tannin, and this wine hits you with both.  Yet the wine assimilates these with ease and places the focus more on flavours of strawberry, black currant, fig, prune and Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and a soft, elegant floral/perfume note that leads into a lengthy finish.  A modern, friendly and delicious take on old-school Nebbiolo.

89 points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar: Day 13

13 12 2019

By Tyler Derksen

While this is my first year contributing to Pop & Pour’s Advent Calendar blogging efforts, I have been a loyal reader since the site’s inception and followed the recounting of the wines in prior calendars with great interest.  Like fan of a TV show seeing a character from past seasons rejoin the cast, I was excited and trepidatious in equal measure when I removed the wrapping on today’s wine: Chateauneuf-du-Pape!  Bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape have had a…spotty…calendar history (both the 2012 Domaine Chante Cigale in 2017 and the 2013 Domaine de Cristia in 2018), so much so that Peter, blogging both of them, worried that he might be cursed.  So, will history repeat or will the one year that Peter doesn’t write about it be the year that Chateauneuf-du-Pape shines?  Let’s find out!

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While the wine making tradition at Chateau de la Gardine dates back to the 1700s, the current ownership of the winery began in 1945 with its purchase by Gaston Brunel.  It is now run by his two sons, Patrick and Maxime, along with their wives and children.  The Chateau originally consisted of 10 hectares of vineyards when acquired by Brunel and has grown dramatically since then, now consisting of 52 hectares, the vast majority of which (48 of the 52) grow the various red grapes permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape that make up their blend.  In regular format, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Chateau de la Gardine is bottled in distinct and unique bottles that found their original design from a hand-blown bottle uncovered by Gaston Brunel when he was looking to expand his cellar.  Struck by the design, he decided that all of his wines would use a similar bottle.  His dedication to this aesthetic was so great that he had to go to Italy to find a glass supplier that was able to produce it for him.  As with many bottles from the region, the regular 750 mL format also has the traditional keys of Saint Peter, the hallmark of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, embossed in the glass.  Sadly the half-bottle contains neither the unique shape nor the embossed keys (they are, however, on the label…it wouldn’t be a Chateauneuf-du-Pape without them).

Today’s bottle is the 2015 Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Although legally permitted to use eight different red grapes in its blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Muscardin, Counoise, Vaccarese and Terret Noir), Chateau de la Gardine uses only four: 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 5% Muscardin, all picked from vines between 40 and 60 years of age.  Those vines are grown in three different types of soils.  The first is comprised of large, round alpine stones; second, Urgonian limestone; and third, sandy clay soils, all of which impart different characteristics into the grapes and then into the wine.  Unlike many producers, Chateau de la Gardine blends the grapes before vinification.  The producer believes that using this more regionally traditional method gives the wine better balance than if the grapes are fermented separately and mixed afterwards.  Once fermented, the wines are then aged between 9 and 14 months, 60% in vats and 40% in oak barrels.  The winery suggests that its Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be cellared for between 10 to 15 years, so we’re diving into this bottle early — good thing the half-bottle format speeds up maturation.

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Cork rating: 5 out of 10.  While the image of the chateau is a nice touch, I was really hoping to see the Keys of St. Peter on the cork.  How am I supposed to know this is a CNDP?

So, have we shaken the Advent Calendar CNDP curse or did CNDP score the most unfortunate of hat tricks?  As it turns out, the latter.  This should come as a bit of a relief to Peter as it proves that he is not personally cursed, just all Chateauneuf-du-Papes in all Advent Calendars.  Based on my own personal experience tasting wines from this region, and also based on tasting notes of others for this particular wine (both Peter’s and Ray’s half-bottles tonight were corked), I have to assume that my bottle is also flawed and that the liquid in my glass does not reflect what this wine truly has to offer.  The nose is incredibly muted and what notes are there are reflective of my past experiences with corked bottles and contains little of the hallmarks of traditional CNDP wines.  Musty locker room shower, carpet, ash, and vegetable peels dominate what little nose there is.  The palate is incredibly thin, displaying none of the dark berry, kirsch, tobacco and leather notes I’m told should be present.  It’s a shame that this wine did not show its potential as I truly love wines from this region.  If nothing else, this continues a humorous, if luckless, storyline.  If there’s a Chateauneuf-du-Pape in next year’s calendar, Ray’s got to write about it.

Not scored: flawed





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 12

12 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

Halfway!!  As I picked up bottle #12 of the Bricks half-bottle lineup and noted that my yearly Advent crate was starting to look considerably more spacious than it once did, the thought briefly flickered that I should celebrate getting this far.  And as soon as I held the bottle in my hand, I knew that the calendar was giving me my wish.  It was heavier, heftier, thicker, the top oddly bulbous beneath the wrapping paper.  Bubbles.  Again.  I started off this year’s Advent adventure with some excellent Ontario fizz, and I’m scheduled to be on deck for December 24th, when the Bricks calendar has finished off for the past two years with more sparkling wine, so I am apparently the 2019 bubbles guy.  I do Advent bubbles like Ray does Advent Austria.  Bring it.

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The halfway point celebration wine is perhaps slightly more ubiquitous and within-the-lines than the starting line Tawse Spark, featuring the sparkling wine that now seems globally inescapable:  Prosecco.  Hailing from a rather vast area encompassing both the Veneto and Friuli regions in northeast Italy, and made from the Glera grape (which used to be confusingly called “Prosecco” as well, because Italians responsible for wine designations love confusing people), Prosecco has recently exploded in popularity, in part because it’s tremendously inexpensive as compared to Champagne, in part because its cheaper and volume-friendly pressurized tank secondary fermentation process (the Charmat process) results in no yeasty autolytic flavour characteristics that can be challenging for casual drinkers, and in part because the trade body there knows a thing or two about marketing.  The wines are almost uniformly pleasant, crisp and inoffensive, although higher quality offerings exist:  within the broader Prosecco DOC there are four much smaller area-focused DOCGs, the most well-known of which is Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG.  Tonight’s bottle, the Adriano Adami “Garbel” Prosecco Brut, comes from a middle-ground subregion, Prosecco Treviso DOC, located in the heart of the region and just beneath all of the DOCGs.

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When I say “beneath”, I mean both “south of” and “below”, as the DOCG vineyards tend to be on steep green hillsides, with Treviso a bit lower in the foothills.  The Adami family was one of the pioneering growers in Valdobbiadene, but third-generation owners and brothers Armando and Franco Adami have expanded the winery’s foothold and boosted their production to 750,000 bottles annually, about 25% of which is from estate vineyards and the rest from trusted growers.  The Adamis have recognized the quasi-flatland Treviso roots of this particular bottling by having the label stretch similarly flat and horizontal, “to indicate the origin of the grapes from vineyards on the plain”; all of Adami’s other labels are oriented vertically (portrait as opposed to landscape), but this one stretches out to the horizon.  The name “Garbel” is a word from the local dialect for a dry, light, crisp, fresh drink, their goal and approach for this style of wine.

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The Garbel first undergoes temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel and then surprisingly gets 3 months of lees contact in tank before being shuttled off to a second and much larger pressurized steel tank for secondary fermentation, whose date (the “Presa di spuma”) is noted on every bottle (in this case, April 2018).  At 13 g/L of residual sugar and 3.2 pH, it is as primed to party as any good Riesling, straining at the very edge of its “Brut” designation.  The wine’s pale lemon colour is accompanied by a cascade of larger, foamier bubbles and clipped aromas of lime zest, green apple, white flowers, cardboard and wildflower honey.  Piquant acidity is turbo-boosted by flailing bubbles, tiny pinprick daggers across the tongue, energetically propelling straight-line Asian pear, honeydew and starfruit flavours laced with a slight bruised-apple mealiness but stopping somewhat abruptly on a finish that reminds me most of pennies in a mall fountain.  2019 Advent has yet to provide a sub-par offering, although this one feels more like a supporting player than a star.

87- points

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Cork Rating:  7/10 (Love the “a d r i a n o  A D A M I” encircling the cork as a mirror of the logo, complete with rectangle border. You never see bubble corks get fancy.)








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