Calgary Wine Life: Barone Ricasoli Luncheon @ Alloy Fine Dining

10 02 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ growing up. Amongst the many fond memories (including my grandmother’s never-ending tolerance of my boundless energy and predilection for getting into various forms of trouble), I can recall that there were always a few fiascos kicking around the house, those round-bottomed bottles covered with a close-fitting straw basket that shall be forever associated with one of the world’s great wines: Chianti. Although the wine contained in most of these vessels was far from remarkable, over time a serious quality revolution occurred, one that led to the creation of the Chianti Classico DOCG designation. This important development was associated with a renewed commitment to meticulous winemaking as well as the elimination of winemaking techniques that were eventually appreciated to hinder quality (e.g., blending white grapes into a must that was largely red). At the same time, there was a dedication to preserving a unique identity; Chianti was and is a Sangiovese-dominant blend, not a varietal wine (at least usually…it turns out that Chianti Classico can be 100% Sangiovese!). As a newly christened regular contributor to Pop & Pour, I could not have been more keen to draw this tasting assignment, hosted by none other than Francesco Ricasoli. You see, Francesco’s ancestor Bettino actually invented the style.

IMG_0808When Francesco, a professional photographer, finally entered the world of winemaking, Bettino Ricasoli’s beloved Castello di Brolio estate had spent some time being passed from one multinational to the next. Enter a “contractual loophole” that gave Francesco a chance to purchase his family’s legacy from Hardy’s, based in Australia. Although he was initially unsure about whether this was a good idea, some helpful advice and prodding from a friend at Castello di Fonterutoli sealed the deal. Alas, there was much work to do. Francesco wanted to restore his wines to glory. He commissioned a three-year study to clarify the agronomic potential of his property and conducted trial plantings of fifty different Sangiovese clones, eventually determining which would perform best in his vineyard soils. The latter are largely calcareous clay with additional stony components and occur at a wide range of altitudes. Francesco was careful to explain his philosophy of “precision viticulture”. Under this approach, every vineyard parcel is a distinct entity yielding a unique vinous product. Parcels are each farmed according to their individual characters. The wines are all vinified separately to preserve their distinct attributes and are then thoughtfully blended. It became clear that Francesco does not like leaving winemaking to chance. “Why make mistakes that can be avoided?”, he asked, in response to a question about whether he uses selected yeasts for fermentation. However, he is passionate about preserving grape character. This is a highly intelligent man who thinks deeply about his wines, one who has the utmost respect for nature’s raw materials but who is not shy about steering vinification exactly where he wants it to go, according to his vision. Read the rest of this entry »


Wine Review: 2012 Alice May Crosswinds Syrah

13 08 2015

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

The sequel. Even more awesome.
The sequel. Even more awesome.

I love when I have the chance on this site to track a wine’s development over successive vintages.  I love it even more when the wine in question has a strong local connection, something you don’t get to say very often when you’re based in Calgary.  Last year I had the chance to write up the inaugural release from Alice May Wines, a new label conceived by Calgary sommelier-turned-wine-agent Alex Good in collaboration with noted California winemaker McPrice Myers of Barrel 27 Winery.  Alice May’s stated focus was on Rhone-based varietals, and its 2011 Crosswinds Syrah was a silky, elegant Cote-Rotie style co-ferment of Syrah and Viognier that I repeatedly sought out and drank over the course of 2014.  Having exhausted my supply, I was happy to turn to the 2012 edition of the Crosswinds, and even happier that it carried the Alice May torch with aplomb. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Review: 2011 Alice May Crosswinds Syrah

23 02 2014
Calgary-born, Cali-made.  YYC pride rise up!

Calgary-born, Cali-made. YYC pride rise up!

I was at the always-amazing Alloy Restaurant with my wife a few weeks ago, celebrating a rare night away from young children and talking to sommelier Alex Good about Riesling (because I basically talk to everybody about Riesling).  Suddenly he said:  “Hang on.  I have something for you to try.”  He returned with a glass of deeply coloured, powerfully aromatic, eminently interesting red.  “What is it?”  “It’s a Syrah/Viognier co-ferment from Santa Ynez Valley in California.  Cote-Rotie style.”  “Who’s the producer?”  “Well, me.”  It turns out that Good (who has since left Alloy to become a partner and sommelier at the equally excellent downtownfood), in his limited time away from the restaurant biz, had partnered with Cali winery Barrel 27 and its winemaker McPrice “Mac” Myers to create a new label geared toward artisanal, small-run, Rhone-influenced wine.  The 2011 Crosswinds Syrah is the inaugural effort of this collaboration, and although the grapes are all from California, the label name is a clear nod to the venture’s northern soul:  the Alice May is the name of the ship that became the title character’s funeral pyre in the classic Canadian poem The Cremation of Sam McGee.  Only 100 cases of the Crosswinds were made, almost all of which came to Alberta and most of which are now gone.  Syrah is my second vinous love after Riesling, and homegrown efforts like this are such rare finds in the Calgary wine world; both the wine and the story were so intriguing that I set out to find a bottle as soon as our meal was over.  I’ve gone back to find more multiple times since then.

Read the rest of this entry »

Roving Wine Review: 2007 Gaja Promis @ Alloy

22 03 2011

If you haven't been to Alloy, go. Now.

I had an Important Business Dinner last night that took me to Alloy restaurant just off Macleod Trail on 42nd Ave. S.E…. my favourite restaurant in the city, and as it turns out, even better on somebody else’s tab.  There was remarkable food (I had a short rib appetizer with a roasted pepper and fenugreek chutney that should be illegal) and witty conversation, but most importantly, there was wine.  I was lazy and didn’t take contemporaneous notes, but this is the second time I’ve had the bottle we ordered, and it left enough of an impression that this review should still be fairly accurate.

The wine in question was the 2007 “Promis” from Gaja, made from grapes grown in the Ca’Marcanda vineyard in Tuscany.  Both the producer and the style of wine are rife with history. Read the rest of this entry »

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