Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 16

16 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

I love rare birds. I’ve been a birdwatcher since about the age of 10, one of those “twitcher” types that needs to keep a life list of every bird I’ve seen. Of course, a particular brand of nerd status and glory is affixed to the rarities. There is something deeper at work as well here, at least for me. I was a psychology resident in Vancouver in 2008, and frankly it was one of the worst years of my life. Everything seemed like it was falling apart. One way I coped was by spending most Fridays at a beach close to UBC campus, sneaking out there almost every week (rain or shine) when I was supposed to be working on a research paper. If my supervisor knew (and she probably did), she had the forbearance to turn a blind eye. One day I was hiking down the wooden steps as a band-tailed pigeon exploded past my head. Not even that much of a rarity, but it was a first for the life list, and it felt like at least one tiny win that I majorly needed. I’m a pretty good archivist and a half-decent birder. Well, I do the same thing with wine grapes. I keep a life list. Birds are beautiful but wine smells better and you can drink it. Although I’ve had dry Rotgipfler before, from this very same producer, unwrapping this distinctly-shaped bottle still made me feel some of what I felt when I saw that damn pigeon (despite the fact that my life is a whole lot better now). What a pleasant surprise. And of course, my Pop & Pour Advent Austria streak remains alive. Zum Wohl!

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Look at how long this sucker is… Great field mark for an Auslese split.

Rotgipfler (and what a name…) makes full-bodied spicy white wines in Austria’s Thermenregion, a true local specialty. The grape is a half-sibling of my beloved Gruner Veltliner. The name refers to the red colour of the vine’s shoot tips (“rot” = “red” in Austrian). The aroma is typically compared to peaches or apricots. As far as white grapes go, this one is a bit of a tank. Known for great concentration and a heavy, unctuous body, Rotgipfler is often paired with Zierfandler, another Thermenregion specialty that adds needed acidity and minerality to the blend. I enjoyed Reinisch’s entry level Rotgipfler with an importer buddy of mine and although the wine had seen no oak, it somehow featured a pungent smoky  nose and was bursting at the seams with banana peel, peach, mango, and gooseberry notes. Huge concentration indeed but elegant at the same time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Calgary Wine Life: Taylor Fladgate 1968 Single Harvest Port Release

17 03 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Although I am deathly tired of the evil winter weather that simply will not give up the ghost in this city, I am more than happy to brave one more snowstorm (please, just one more?) in order to carry on the Pop and Pour tradition of covering the annual release of a Taylor Fladgate Single Harvest Port.  These bottles capitalize on Taylor Fladgate’s extensive back catalogue of aged Port stocks.  They are tawny Ports, meaning that they are aged in barrels for many years, exposed to oxygen and thereby mellowed into a resplendent golden brown. They are also Colheitas, or tawnies where all of the bottled grapes hail from a single vintage.  Taylor Fladgate eschews the term Colheita on these labels in favour of a more anglicized approach.  Regardless of the naming convention employed, Port connotes a sense of pageantry, giving off a regal vibe that this self-styled progressive enjoys basking in from time to time. I wander through the fine wooden décor of Calgary’s Ranchmen’s Club, past a litany of taxidermied game, following my nose into the tasting room where fragrant pourings have already sat for some time.

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Our host Cynthia Opsal, Brand Manager for The Fladgate Partnership for Pacific Wine & Spirits, leads us off with a video that features an interview with Alistair Robertson, principal shareholder in the Fladgate Partnership.  Robertson explains that terroir is fundamental to good Port.  According to Taylor Fladgate winemaker David Guimaraes, 12 different indigenous grape varieties are planted, with four providing the majority of production.  Some grapes such as the vogue Touriga Nacional provide tannic grip, while others such as Tinta Barroca provide more color and sugar content.  Robertson explains that a day of work on the estate involves eight hours of picking grapes, followed by four hours of foot treading in the case of high quality bottlings.  Production of all Port involves adding grape spirit to stop fermentation just before its midpoint, which at Taylor Fladgate occurs around three days into the fermentation process, when about 5-6% alcohol has been produced.  Enough spirit is added to bring the alcohol up to around 20% (which in turn kills off any remaining yeast).  David Guimaraes has stated that a recent trend toward use of more clean and pure spirits means that vintage Ports are approachable sooner, with more fruity expression.  This latter point seems particularly relevant, as this year we get a welcome break from tradition:  instead of the preliminary offering of blended tawny ports that were tasted in prior Release years, we get to sample three 2015 vintage Ports — Single-Quinta vintages, that is.

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Wine Review: 1989 Schloss Reinhartshausen Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Beerenauslese

19 03 2011

Today was as good as it gets in terms of wine-drinking occasions:  we had two great friends over to our place to celebrate their recent engagement.  They are both amazing people and are perfect together, so this was definitely cause for opening something special.  Most people might think to toast news like this over Champagne — me, not so much.  We went with German Beerenauslese dessert wine instead, and once we tried it, there was no doubt that we came out ahead. Read the rest of this entry »








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