Cellar Direct: Summer Vibes, Part 3

7 09 2017

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

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So different, yet so marvellous.

Well, the leaves in my backyard are starting to turn yellow and fall, and my kids just started a new year of school, so it’s probably a good time to wrap up my multi-part summer saga featuring the always-impressive old school wines of Cellar Direct, an online purveyor of European treasures that it offers up to a list of eager email subscribers and then ships nationwide when weather permits.  I recently had the chance to meet Ron van Schilt, one of the founders and owners of the business and the man in charge of sourcing all of the wines offered up across Canada, and his love and passion for his producers and their creations is physically palpable in every word he speaks.  Serious Wines all, and wondrous finds.

Cellar Direct sent me a six-pack sampler of their prior 2017 offerings at the start of the summer that I have been devouring in twos over the past couple months; to see how Wines #1, 2, 3 and 4 showed, click here then here for the recap (hint:  well, well, well and well).  Time to see if the last duo of bottles follow suit.  Like everything else in this offer set, they hailed from France and were the product of hand-worked soils and low-intervention winemaking, but they had basically nothing else in common.  I started off with a familiar face, and a blast from the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cellar Direct: Summer Vibes, Part 2

9 08 2017

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

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There’s something to be said for obscurity.

Summer is the time of sequels, and when the original is good you look doubly forward to the reprise.  (I should know:  my wife and I watched Cars 3 on the weekend with my oldest and his mini-me brother.)  Last week we got a brief glimpse into what national wine club extraordinaire Cellar Direct has been offering up to its email arsenal of subscribers in 2017, but the hits don’t stop there, as I still have a quartet of temperature-control-shipped CD French gems to take out for a spin.  Bring on the encore.

If you missed the start of this ongoing review saga, click here to catch up on what Cellar Direct is all about (TL;DR:  they’re a weekly-offer Canadian e-merchant with an Old World network of connections bordering on the incredible and a passion for low-intervention hand-made wines).  The initial duo of offerings I tasted took us a little bit off the standard retail track, to Loire Valley Cabernet Franc and Cahors Malbec.  Tonight’s pair nearly gets us lost in the wilderness, starting with an obscure white Bordeaux from the lesser-known Entre-Deux-Mers and then dropping the compass and setting the map on fire with a wine made from 100% Fer Servadou grapes grown in the Marcillac region of southwest France.  I didn’t make up any of those words, and I can assure you that after trying the wine they reference, I won’t be forgetting them anytime soon. Read the rest of this entry »





Cellar Direct: Summer Vibes, Part 1

2 08 2017

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

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Cellar Direct:  always delivers, figuratively and literally.

And we’re back.  If you’ve seen little activity on this blog for the past few weeks, it’s for good reason:  I was not on mainland North America.  Some family fun in the sun in Maui was an excellent and much-needed recharge, but too much time away from the cellar is a dicey proposition, so I’m revving up the tasting notes and Pop & Pour is ready to rumble again.  And we’re not easing back into blogging life either:  we’re kicking it retro-style tonight with a powerhouse sub-13% abv traditional red duet that’s as Old World as Old World gets, both of which were recent feature offerings at what ever-increasingly appears to be Canada’s can’t-miss online wine club, Cellar Direct.

If you read this blog and that name is familiar to you, there’s good reason, as this will be the fifth time I’ve been lucky enough to experience and describe their wares, dating back to the venture’s launch almost two years ago (see here and here and here for more).  I have yet to taste a Cellar Direct bottle that disappoints.  Sourcing directly from the cellars of producers themselves and focused on classically made, low-intervention, farm-to-bottle offerings from European producers steeped in history, CD gets them to consumers in a 21st-century manner, via regular inbox offers and an online storefront where you can go back and grab more of past winners.  They ship using AST Healthcare’s temperature-controlled delivery services when external temperatures permit (3-4 times per year) and safely store your ordered wines until they’re ready to be delivered to your door.  Cellar Direct’s reach is nationwide, and their inventory is stocked with European treasures that often don’t otherwise see our shores.  Past, meet future.

This is the first of a three-part series of posts offering a snapshot of what Cellar Direct has been offering its members (which can include you, as it’s free to sign up) in spring and summer 2017.  Some of the wines are still around in CD’s online shop; others have sadly sold out with haste; but all are representative of what this venture is all about.  The first two bottles I tried tell you all you need to know. Read the rest of this entry »





Cellar Direct: German Riesling Powerhouses

3 11 2016

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

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Serious wine, serious value.

You owe it to yourself to drink more German Riesling.  You may not know it yet, but you do.  I know the idea of turning to something German doesn’t conjure up the same (somewhat oversold) feelings of art or romance that something French or Italian might, but I’m here to tell you that startling clarity, absolute transparency and unfailing precision can be much sexier than you give them credit for.

And I know, I know – you don’t like sweet wine and all German wine is sweet, right?  Except (1) your palate may be more attuned to sweetness than you expect, and (2) no, no it’s not.  In fact, some German Rieslings are as dry as a bone, often helpfully highlighted by the label indicator “trocken”. A “trocken” designation doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be no residual sugar left in the wine, but any that remains will be minimal (9 grams per litre or less) and the wine will taste dry, thanks to a helpful assist from German Riesling’s often raging levels of scouring acidity.  Another hint of dryness in German whites is (relatively) elevated levels of alcohol, since this is an indication that the bulk of the sugars in the grapes have been converted to alcohol during fermentation instead of left in the finished wine.  Generally speaking, if it’s 10.5%-11% abv or higher, it probably won’t taste sweet (and frankly, even if there is some discernible sweetness, you will probably welcome it given how much else will be going on.  Trust me.) Read the rest of this entry »





Value Burgundy Battle: The NEW Cellar Direct

20 10 2016

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

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Cellar Direct Does Burgundy.

Conscientious readers may remember this post from over a year ago where I introduced Cellar Direct, an Alberta-based online national wine club featuring subscription-based access to a specially-curated selection of non-interventionist natural wines.  Thirteen and a half months later, Cellar Direct is still doing its thing, but under a revamped and significantly more flexible business model.  Now, instead of paying a fixed amount per month for semi-recurring shipments of pre-selected wines, you simply keep an eye out for regular wine offers (generally to be unveiled weekly on Saturdays) and then place an online order for as few or as many bottles as you want, which are shipped to you shortly afterward in temperature-controlled trucks to keep your wines in cellar-like comfort during transport.  This simpler, less demanding offer-based approach is a boon to buyers in the tighter economic times in which we currently find ourselves in this province, and Cellar Direct’s streamlined e-commerce interface allows them to keep prices reasonable even while offering highly researched, quality-focused wines from traditional producers that truly pop and that you won’t see at your neighbourhood wine store.  If any of that piques your interest, you can sign up for the club’s offer newsletters and find out more info at cellardirect.ca.

Cellar Direct’s first online offering under its new and improved structure was the excellent  Senorio de P. Pecina Rioja Crianza that I have already gleefully tried.  The next offer is due out this Saturday and tackles what is often considered (including by me) to be the biggest oxymoron in the world of wine:  value Burgundy.  Wines from Burgundy can make the toughest weep and turn the deepest skeptics into lifelong followers of the vine; unfortunately, they can also empty your wallet with shocking efficiency and leave you feeling underwhelmed and disappointed.  It can be exceedingly difficult, especially at lower price points (which for Burgundy can mean anything under $50ish), to know what you’re going to get in any given bottle, and finding anything $30 or less that properly showcases the region can be a massive challenge, especially when you’re not sure where to look.  Cellar Direct’s upcoming offer this week, as well as a further offer coming in mid-November, try to be your map and compass to this frustrating yet enchanting region of legend.  Let’s see how they do, starting with a bottle due to hit your inbox in a few days… Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2008 Ratzenberger Bacharacher Riesling Sekt Brut

13 12 2015

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

Redefining the world of German bubbly.

Redefining the world of German bubbly.

What’s this?  A wine review?  Isn’t this a whisky blog now?  OK, I probably deserved that.  But Advent only comes around once per year, and since no one yet has taken up the torch of my idea to find 24 good half-bottles and make a Wine Advent Calendar, this is what you get instead.  For those wine lovers out there just dying for the calendar to turn to January, this one’s to tide you over.

This bottle is another selection from Cellar Direct (cellardirect.ca), the online Canadian Natural Wine Club that allows people from all over the country to have high-quality, artisanal, naturally made wines shipped to their door via an array of tailored subscription packages ranging from $40 to $80 per month depending on your location and the package selected.  Since I last wrote about the service back in September, it has revamped its website, introduced an offer of two free bonus bottles for every 24-bottle annual subscription, and added an online shop (which will be operational in January) where Cellar Direct members can order more of their favourite bottles over and above their subscription.  It has also gotten rave reviews in BC, where price increases and regulatory chaos have otherwise made reasonably priced access to many good wines a pipe dream.

The one thing I can so far say for sure about Cellar Direct is that its selections are not fooling around; each of the three bottles I’ve now had the chance to try from their library have been of exceptional quality and proud ambassadors of where they’re from.  These are wines from somewhere as opposed to wines that could be from anywhere, and this gets all the more impressive given that this latest wine is a bottle of Sekt.  Nobody usually makes quality and terroir proclamations about Sekt (German sparkling wine), and for good reason:  most Sekt doesn’t deserve it.  In fact, it’s hard to say anything specific about Sekt as a category because it might be the least regulated category of Old World wine I’ve come across.  German wine law doesn’t mandate that Sekt be made of any particular types of grapes; it doesn’t even require those grapes to be from Germany; and it doesn’t require the wine to attain its bubbles any particular way.  Sekt is required to be at least 10% abv, but after that, all bets are off. 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 »








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