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.)





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 11

11 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

It’s been six days since I have made an Advent wine post, which is almost assuredly the longest Advent blogging break I’ve had in half a decade.  (We won’t talk about the separate full wine review that I published in the meantime, as I prefer to bask in my pretend meandering pace of blogging life.)  Ray and Tyler have done yeoman’s work in the meantime on an array of bottles from the great classic regions and grapes of the world:  Cali Cab and Chardonnay, Bordeaux, Rioja, Port.  This year’s Bricks calendar has done an excellent job canvassing pinpoint takes on the top appellations of wine’s illustrious history.  Surely my return to the fray will yield a similar textbook treasure.

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Um.

Just when the calendar is expected to keep zigging, it zags, and right into an area and grape that I have never found overly compelling in combination.  I don’t pretend to own an encyclopedic knowledge of British Columbia Pinot Gris, but in my experience with it, it has always struck me as a sort of afterthought grape in the province, the kind that you can fairly easily wring some nondescript quasi-tropical tutti fruitti flavour out of and sell for $18 in the tasting room to maintain cash flow year over year.  The great Pinot Gris wines of Alsace, southern Germany (Grauburgunder 4ever!) or even Oregon can be thrillingly rich and savoury and complex, but there is not a ton of striving for greatness with this particular varietal in my home and native land, with the primary focus of the local industry on other, more intriguing vinous options.  So I readied myself for a limpid and forgettable white patio blast, and then…

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Um.

You may think that this is a rosé.  It certainly looks like one.  But the “White Wine” identifier on the bottle label and the 100% Pinot Gris composition of the wine make this impossible; rosé wines must hail from red (or partly red) grapes.  This is an orange wine, a white wine made like a red, where the juice from the crushed grapes is allowed to sit in contact with the skins before or during fermentation and pull out colour, flavour and tannin.  This increasingly popular (or re-popularized, since orange wines date back almost to the start of winemaking history) style of white usually results in wines that are golden or slightly amber in colour, not the brilliant rose gold/bronzed salmon blaze of glory seen in the glass here, because most white wine skins don’t have a ton of pigment to them.  Not so Pinot Gris, whose very name (“grey”) is a nod to the surprising darkness of the grapes’ skins:

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Pinot Gris.  Photo Credit: Rod Heywood. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/15511924@N03/37010425430)

This depth of colour allows for all sorts of interesting orange wine possibilities, including the one brought to us by a Naramata Bench pioneer tonight:  the 2016 Kettle Valley Winery Pinot Gris.  Kettle Valley’s owner/winemakers Tim Watts and Bob Ferguson started out as home winemaking hobbyists before they decided to put an academic background in geology to use and plant their own vineyard.  They were one of the first to plant in Naramata in 1987, and shortly afterward became the third ever licensed winery in the region.  Nearly thirty vintages later, they might be one of the quietest under-the-radar names on the Bench, making a vast assortment of wines, from Merlot/Pinot blends to Zinfandel to solera-style reds; however, they focus equally on the classics, particularly their North Stars, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Orange Pinot Gris slides right into the menagerie.

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The first thing I noticed about this wine was its general “Product of British Columbia” designation in lieu of an appellation name.  This is because the grapes for this Pinot Gris come from multiple different vineyards across more than one recognized wine appellation:  grapes from Okanagan Valley subregions Summerland, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Penticton and Oliver have variously been employed in the blend over the years, but also grapes from a couple different spots in the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, with the resulting cross-regional mix therefore required to take on the broader provincial designation.  The second thing I noticed was the hefty 14% ABV, the product of these Pinot Gris grapes being harvested into November after a lengthy ripening period and a ton of hang time.  The grapes were crushed and then left to soak for 2-3 days on Pinot Gris’ hyper-pigmented skins before a fermentation that took place partly in barrel and partly in steel tanks.

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Cork Rating:  2/10 (I hereby ban the inclusion of any phone numbers or websites on corks.  Will that work?  Put a train on here or something, guys.)

This is a back-vintage version of the Kettle Valley Pinot Gris, as they have recently released the 2018 version to market, but the bit of extra time in bottle has not slowed this  racy deep pink and copper powerhouse one bit.  The amount of skin contact was expertly timed so as to provide additional complexity and structure without the corresponding bitterness or oxidation that can leach the freshness out of some orange wines (often on purpose).  Piercing aromas of kids multivitamin, freeze-dried watermelon, orange Life Savers and sweet pea are startling in their purity, accented but not hindered by more eclectic notes of salt and vinegar chips and parchment.  This is shockingly vivid, the acid buoyant, the dainty but subtly scrubby tannin providing a three-dimensional tasting experience; tangerine, apricot, public pool and lemon-lime Gatorade (or more accurately its equivalent Gatorgum, if that still exists) strut across the tongue and remain anchored there long after you swallow, demanding that you check your premises and not prematurely abandon hope in any given grape’s potential in a region.  You can keep your Bordeaux and your Riojas — this is currently the wine of the calendar for me.

90+ points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 10

10 12 2019

By Tyler Derksen

Rioja and the wines that are produced there will always have a special place in my heart.  A little over a decade ago, when I looked to expand my knowledge of wine beyond the Aussie fruit bombs that dominated my wine-drinking youth, Rioja was a revelation.  Wines that have complex flavour, come pre-aged, and retailed for an amount that I, new to the professional world and balancing my first mortgage and buying my own food and clothes, could afford?  Surrounded by those still buying whatever was on sale that week at the local liquor store, it felt like my little secret.  Turns out, it’s kind of a big deal.

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Located in the north of Spain, Rioja is one of the country’s major winemaking regions, with a history dating back hundreds of years.  Sometimes referred to as the Bordeaux of Spain, the wines produced in this region are often blends, typically dominated by Tempranillo, although it is now not uncommon these days to see single-varietal bottlings of Tempranillo and other grapes common to the region.  Rioja also has a tradition of aging their wines in oak for extended periods of time, often using American wood.  That aging process is an important part of the development and character of wines from the region, and the subject of strict classification laws.  Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva are all indicators of how long the wine has been aged in oak.  Wines with the Crianza designation must be aged for at least two years, one of which must be in oak.  The Reserva designation requires aging of three years, with at least one year in oak, and Gran Reserva must be aged for at least five years, two of which must be in oak, with the remainder of the aging occurring in bottle.

 

Today’s bottle is the 2014 Herederos Del Marqués de Riscal Reserva.  Marques de Riscal is one of the oldest producers in Rioja, founded in 1858 by Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga, the Marqués de Riscal (hence the name).  The winery sits atop a mini-catacomb of a cellar totalling two and a half miles.  In addition, the grounds of Marqués de Riscal houses a massive complex devoted to wine, including a hotel, spa and restaurants.  The City of Wine, as the complex is called, is stunningly modern and was designed by famed Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry.  Looking more like a museum than a winery (not surprising, as Gehry also designed the Guggenheim Museum in the city of Bilbao, Spain), and covered in titanium, the building shines with the colours meaningful to the winery: pink for the wines, silver for the cap on the bottle, and gold for the mesh wrapped around it (we will get to that in a moment).  To entice Gehry to accept the commission to design the City of Wine, the winery’s proposal was accompanied by a bottle of wine from his birth year, 1929.  

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The City of Wine in all of its modern, Canadian-designed, glory.  Photo credit: Marques De Riscal website

The wines used in Marqués de Riscal wines come from the cooler climate Riojan sub-zone of Rioja Alavesa and are sourced from vineyards owned by the winery and others controlled by it.  The red grapes grown are Tempranillo, Graciano (a curious high-acid, high-tannin blending variety recently coming into its own), Cabernet Sauvignon and Mazuelo (also, as I just learned, known as Carignan).  As I am sure many of you have noticed, some of the wines from Rioja are sold with a fine gold netting around the bottle.  I had always assumed that this was a marketing peculiarity of the region, something to set it apart.  While this is true today, it was not always the case.  It turns out that the mesh was an invention of Marqués de Riscal’s founder Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga.  One method of wine counterfeiting was for unsavoury folk to put sub-par wine in an empty bottle from a different, more acclaimed, producer.  Amézaga was worried about this and developed the netting, or malla, as a safeguard against such activities, as the cork could not be removed without cutting the netting.  The more you know.  

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Cork Rating: 4/10  (A bit perfunctory for my tastes, but the lack of telephone number and little design on the back adds some points.)

The 2014 Herederos Del Marqués de Riscal Reserva is a blend of Tempranillo (90%), Graciano (7%) and a splash of Mazuelo (3%), which was aged in American oak barrels for 24 months.  The wine in the glass is a deep garnet with only the slightest hint of aging.  The nose, while a bit muted, is characteristically Rioja with notes of cherry, black liquorice, baking spices, vanilla Coke, ball glove leather, and clay dust.  The palate ushers in more fruit, with flavours of black plum, blackberry, and hints of tobacco, more leather, and pen ink.  While certainly not a patio wine, it would pair wonderfully with a good book next to a fire.

88+ points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 9

9 12 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

In at least two ways Day 9 marks a return of sorts. One: a Schug wine (that time in the form of a Pinot Noir) appeared in the 2017 Bricks calendar. Two: we briefly met the Carneros AVA on Day 6 this year, in its guise as the original home of the Starmont Winery. This time Carneros truly gets its due, with today’s wine proudly sporting “Carneros Appellation” on a label affixed to the bottle neck. A personal favourite California appellation and yet another iconic producer? Sign me up.

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The Los Carneros AVA straddles both the Napa and Sonoma counties. Receiving official AVA status in 1983, Carneros was in fact the first California wine region to be demarcated based on climate rather than political boundaries. A true cool-climate wine region, it finds itself well-suited to the classic Burgundian varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Indeed, this region appears to have been the first in California to establish anything like a decent track record with the temperamental Pinot. Cool winds blow in from San Pablo Bay and early morning fog is commonplace, moderating the warm temperatures needed for ripening such that acidity in the grapes is preserved. Moisture-retaining fertile clay soils also contribute a cooling effect. This yields fresh wines characterized by an elegant precision and a quintessential purity of expression, albeit one not entirely devoid of a certain distinctive sun-kissed California sweetness. As Paul Lukacs explains in “The Great Wines of America”, an overly forceful winemaking hand can easily mar this purity. Fortunately, German emigre Walter Schug understood this.

The Schug Carneros Estate Winery got started in 1989, when Walter ended a 10-year winemaking stint with Joseph Phelps to forge out on his own. Walter had in fact been bottling Pinot Noir under his own label since 1980 and doing so with the blessing of Phelps, even as he continued on as the winemaker at Phelps’ estate. Walter attributed his persistence with the variety to “patience and urgency” in equal measure, with grace and balance in the finished wines being the end goal. His passion for Burgundy did of course extend to Chardonnay, and currently lives on under the guidance of Walter’s son Alex. As you might deduce from the climate conditions explained above, Carneros Chardonnay is notorious for high acidity, thereby providing a much-needed counterpoint to the fatter, round, and frequently buttery Chardonnays produced in warmer Cali AVAs.

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Perfectly consistent with my expectations, the 2017 Schug Carneros Chardonnay receives most aspects of the classic Burgundian treatment, being 100% fermented and aged on the lees in small oak barrels. Vineyard sources include the Schug Estate itself (49%), with contributions from the Ricci, Hi-Vista, Cornerstones, Lund, and Sangiacomo Vineyards to add complexity. The wine is aged sur lie for 8 months, with the oak regime including 16% new medium toast French Allier oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation was not induced, apparently a more recent trend in the Carneros, allowing the wine to retain a more acidic backbone despite many of the other winemaking decisions seeming to converge on a full body with the corners rounded. Let’s see how it all shakes out.

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Cork Rating: 7.5/10 (this is a great cork… Look at this graphic. Alas, the other side features the winery name and a phone number! For a good time call…)

The nose doffs its hat toward the old country, with wisps of smoky hay, yellow mustard, struck match, flint and nutmeg heralding something that is likely to be quite steely as opposed to histrionic. Sure enough, the palate harkens to Granny Smith but also Honey Crisp apple, lemon rind, lemon pepper, and pineapple skin, initially compact and linear but revealing a broader attack that falls just short of creamy over the course of multiple sips. The acidity is cross but not outright angry…well, maybe a bit angry, butting up against the toasty oak that is more prominent on the palate than the nose. Fortunately the wood fails to completely obscure the famed Carneros purity. Some nectarine and honeydew begin to vie with the apples and lemon, and I briefly conjure up thoughts of pear Jello (yes, that used to be a thing), underripe kiwi, and plantains before the acid clamps back down after this nearly tropical pulse. Perhaps a shade too stern and woody to be truly graceful, this is still certainly trying hard to jump over this latter bar, ultimately landing somewhere in the ballpark. I ponder those twinkling sparks of Carneros fruit and peach kernels lingering on my palate, a finish longer than expected. See you in a few.

89- points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 8

8 12 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

We begin week 2 of this Advent blogging saga with a bang, at least if you love Port. I will admit to being rather intimidated by this fortified wine style when I first started learning about wine. I had a vague recollection of trying Port for dessert years ago, long before any explicit attempts to develop an educated palate, and thought it tasted like NyQuil. I’m guessing this was a relatively inexpensive ruby example, one blended to match a particular house style and designed for early drinking. Since those dark times, and with the benefit of a few technical tastings under my belt (a few of those are detailed on this very blog), I’ve become an aficionado of good quality vintage Ports and tawnies. They remain a rare treat, but one much appreciated. I unwrap this bottle, see the phrase “10 Year Old Tawny Port”, and my mind is immediately jubilant with associations of toffee, nuts, and other sundry warm and festive sugarplum tastiness.

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All Ports are made by fermenting grapes (usually red) for a relatively brief period, typically to the point of around 5-6% ABV, at which point a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente is used to arrest the fermentation, boosting the alcohol content but also leaving residual sugar in the wine. At this juncture the “what type of Port am I making” decision tree becomes more complicated, and here our focus must be on tawny Port. These wines are aged in old wooden barrels called pipes, during which time exposure to oxygen and evaporation occur. This oxidation mellows the wine into a golden brown hue over time, and also imparts nutty flavours that distinguish tawnies from ruby and vintage ports. Although vintage tawny Ports do exist (they are called colheitas and are sublime), entry level tawnies are blends of different vintages, with most of the component wines being aged at least 3 years and then combined to yield a desired house style. Above this quality tier are bottles like the present one that carry an indication of age. Note that the age indication is in fact a “target age” based on desired characteristics in the wine: these aged tawnies still represent a blend of several vintages, and the Port house is looking to provide a wine that tastes characteristically like it has been aging for 10 years in barrel, for instance. Sure, some of the wine in the blend is legitimately quite old, but not necessarily all. It might help to think about the designated age as an “average” age, although technically even that is not correct. The basic notion is that a 10 year old tawny should be fruitier and less complex than a 40 year old tawny.

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You might now understand why I found this topic daunting when first learning about it. Despair not, for if these technical details threatened to put you to sleep, a half bottle of 19.5% ABV fortified wine should be just the thing to perk you up. Perhaps more compelling is the story of Porto Quevedo, a relatively small family winery based in the Douro. Historically families such as the Quevedos grew grapes and made wine that was sold  to merchants based in Vila Nova de Gaia, with such wines likely used as blending components by the larger houses. However, in 1986 legislation changed to allow growers and individual wineries to export their wines directly to the retailer. Oscar, a lawyer and notary by trade, first bought vineyards in 1977. After several years of helping his father João to make Port, in 1990 he built his own winery and was finally able to nurture his true passion, with son Oscar Jr. handling the business side of things and soccer-hating daughter Claudia (I hear ya) formerly handling the winemaking (she still helps with blending). The winery has a wonderful website and even a blog that is imbued with a real down-to-earth, non-pretentious human touch, right down to inviting critical commentary on the wines. Challenge accepted.

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Stopper Rating: 1/10 (oh, COME ON!!!)

The Porto Quevedo 10 Year Old Tawny Port is comprised of Touriga Franca (25%), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo; 25%), Touriga Nacional (5%), Tinto Cão (5%), Tinta Barroca (20%), and other grapes (20%; over 100 grapes are sanctioned for Port production, including many rarities). Interestingly, the fermentation is described as “slow”, perhaps relative to other Ports. This is notably brickish in colour for a 10 year old tawny. The nose initially flashes some bright and fruity character, recalling maraschino cherries, raspberry jam, dried apricot, burnt orange peel, and pumpkin pie filling, with some nuttiness (pecans, chestnuts, sesame snap) and caramel that meld into a nice facsimile of Turtles candy. The palate largely echoes this array of aromas but is not purely sweet, with a gritty underlay of graphite, red rubber utility ball, and the ashy white ghosts of charcoal briquettes. With further air over the course of about an hour (hey, it’s a Sunday night, I’m sipping over here!), the palate softens to a more silky fine texture, and further oxidized characters emerge: sultanas/raisin or molasses pie, figs, ginger snaps, and a general deepening of the smooth toffee vibe. I like how this stitches together over time, with the wine showing better if you are patient.

88+ points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 6

6 12 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

Oh, California Cab. As one of the world’s benchmark wine styles, victor over Bordeaux in the infamous 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, this will of course have a place in any wine Advent calendar worth its salt. I also cannot prevent my mind from conjuring up such pejoratives as “overly oaked”, “heavily extracted”, “boozy”, and even “Mega Purple“. I will concede that for many consumers at the time, and many even now, massive size is a virtue. Fortunately a sea change began in the 2000s. A much-needed shift started taking place, from a winemaking culture focused largely on harnessing a technical wine science to yield a consistent product to please the average consumer, towards a “grassroots” middle path where science still matters but is now free to marry more European notions such as restraint, finesse and elegance, and even the notion that reasonable vintage variation can add interest and pleasure to the wine-drinking experience. It is no longer safe to make black and white assumptions about the monolithic nature of Cali Cabernet, and wineries like Starmont have played a key role in this paradigm shift.

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The name Starmont originally graced a bottle of Carneros Chardonnay in 1989. From there the name grew into a full-fledged brand, relocating from its original home with the more established Merryvale brand to the Stanly Ranch property, home to a couple of quality Carneros vineyard sites. Although the wines are no longer produced at a “green” facility built at one of these sites (that facility was sold this year), the commitment to sustainability remains. Although best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Starmont does not shy away from Merlot or Syrah. There is an interest in seeing how each varietal does in its place, whether said place is the Stanly Ranch itself, the Carneros AVA, or the broader Napa Valley and North Coast AVAs, and this interest in terroir may have something to do with one of the men at the helm.

Starmont winemaker Jeff Crawford was born in Alaska but has managed to become superbly well-travelled, picking up bits and pieces of winemaking knowledge from places as far-flung as Greece. His general approach is to use his travels and reading to cram his brain with as much history, winemaking philosophy, technical acumen, and tasting experiences as possible. His unceasing quest has led to equipment upgrades at the winery, yet Jeff wishes Starmont to remain a “microcosm” of the Carneros region: a source of even-handed, balanced yet structured wines that can still convey some degree of subtlety.

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The 2017 Starmont North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon is bottled under the very broad North Coast AVA appellation, with the grapes hailing from vineyards across the northern part of the state (41% Sonoma, 37% Lake, 13% Napa, 9% Mendocino). The wine is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petite Syrah, and 8% Merlot. This blending approach renders much of the philosophy behind terroir irrelevant for this particular bottle, unless the concept of site specificity is somehow extended to rather large tracts of land that exist as legal entities rather than embodying bona-fide “climats”. Nevertheless, the goal here was to obtain a mix of sites that reveals restraint in the final execution. Handpicked, hand sorted, and de-stemmed fruit was not crushed at the winery, leaving over 90% of the berries whole. This approach, if you were wondering, can prolong fermentation, as sugar release from the berries is delayed. This gives winemakers more control over the process, and can also enhance fruitiness and yield a more delicate, silky texture in the finished wine. After a cold pre-soak, the wine spends an average of 14 days fermenting on the skins and is then aged for 15 months in a combination of American and French oak (30% new).

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Stelvin Rating: 6/10 (hey, this is a decent Stelvin: vinous colour, nice font.)

This is indeed pretty silky in the mouth, with a supple, velvet-like latticework of tannins reinforcing a rather light-bodied frame. The aromas do tick all the right boxes: blackcurrant (duh!), some cool climate black cherry, even maybe red cherry Nibs, Aero bar, Swiss mocha instant coffee mix, nutmeg, MacIntosh’s toffee, very slight red pepper flake and well-worn cedar plank. The oak notes I am pulling off this are assertive but not overly intrusive. All of the ripe yet fresh fruit is powdered with graphite and waves goodbye with a medium-duration plume of oaked red currant jelly. An efficient, seamless purple elegance, one that you will likely enjoy but that is unlikely to provide total recall a year from now.

88+ points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 5

5 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve migrated into our “classics” phase of the 2019 Half-Bottle Wine Advent calendar.  After Canadian bubbles, German red crossings and New York cans, yesterday’s Chianti Classico signalled a bit of a vibe shift, and tonight’s offering got the message loud and clear and has continued the trend.  You don’t get more throwback textbook Old World than Sancerre, a region that has stood the test of time but also run the fairweather gamut of popular opinion over the past few decades.  If this was the 1982 Half-Bottle Advent Calendar, it might be entirely composed of Sancerre; fifteen years before or after might have seen Sancerre wholly excommunicated.  Now it’s making a cautious return, seeking to reclaim (or maybe just re-assert) its status as the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc.

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Sancerre is one of the most easterly sub-regions of the long, thin, west-to-east Loire Valley, which ultimately connects to the Atlantic Ocean but extends all the way to the dead centre of France on its other end.  Monks first planted vines in Sancerre in the 11th or 12th centuries, and subsequent swaths of royalty ensured that its sought-after wines were always available in their courts.  While currently most known as a (if not THE) key French site for Sauvignon Blanc, which now makes up 80% of all plantings in the region, it was previously home to considerably more Pinot Noir and Gamay, the latter of which was ravaged by a phylloxera outbreak in the 19th century and was replanted with Sauvignon.  Pinot retains 20% of the acreage in Sancerre, but this is now firmly a white wine region, and tonight’s bottle has its name all over it.

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I don’t know whether to call this the 2017 Chateau de Sancerre or the 2017 Chateau de Sancerre Sancerre.  It seems completely ridiculous to use the name twice, but I’ve never come across a producer whose name was the name of its region before.  (Chateau de Bordeaux and Domaine de Bourgogne, you missed your chance.)  The Chateau appears quite aware of its unique nomenclature, boasting in almost all of the available online literature, not to mention the back label of this bottle, that it is the “only wine which can be marketed under this exclusive name”.  Well…no kidding?  Isn’t that the case for EVERY SINGLE WINERY on Earth?  You don’t get a lot of non-Beringer wines marketed under the “exclusive name” of Beringer, thanks to the rather handy world of intellectual property law.  But whatever.  The Chateau de Sancerre is actually a Chateau, a castle (re)built in 1879 in the heart of the vineyards of the region, which was purchased in 1919 by Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle and is still owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle company a century later.  Its name is more familiar than you might think, as Louis Alexandre was also the inventor of Grand Marnier (speaking of exclusive names).

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Cork Rating:  6.5/10 (Pretty boring cork, but I love the swag associated with the tagline “Pass before the best.”  Badass.)

This particular bottling is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, as one might expect, and emerges a deeper lemon colour than I had anticipated given its utter lack of oak contact.  Meyer lemon, salted lime (inching towards margarita), Fuzzy Peaches, Tums, rock dust and straw/dried grass sing a stately yet playful aromatic song…until you sip and the hammer comes down.  The Sancerre Sancerre is bright and instantly alive on the palate but extraordinarily tart, like Sprite if you removed all of the sugar.  Tonic water, (very) green apple, citrus peel, flint and a torrent of biting, punishing acid lead into a chalky, icy, mineral finish that oddly dries out the mouth as it scrubs it clean.  An emphatic and almost angry wine, vociferously expressing its turf in defiance.  Sorry for the IP jokes?

88- points








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