Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 4

4 12 2017

Well, after a riotously successful guest author turn yesterday, you’re stuck back with me tonight.  Thankfully, there seems to be no “stuck” and no neutral gear in the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar, which just keeps churning out half-bottles of interest on the daily like it’s no big thing.  We’re at 4 for 4 in terms of legitimately interesting, well-made, high-quality, non-seat-filler wines, and I get the feeling there’s going to be 20 more where that came from.  I should have known that tonight’s producer would end up in this calendar, as Beaujolais’ Manoir du Carra (at least in my experience with them) seems to be the king of the small-format wine.  My first interaction with the winery was in the form of a highly rare but utterly magnificent (for those solo wine-drinker households like mine) 500 mL bottling of Cru Beaujolais, a format that I would like every winery in the world to emulate, as it ends up being either a glass-and-a-bit-each weeknight dinner almost-bottle for two or a vinous feast less the hangover for one.  Turns out MdC can bring it in 375 mL format too.

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Tonight’s offering is the 2015 “Montee de la Tonne” (which roughly translates to “The Rise Of The Ton”, which I don’t understand) from Fleurie, which is one of 10 top “Cru” sub-regions of Beaujolais, known for its elegant, almost pretty, wines.  Manoir du Carra owns 50 separate vineyard plots within Beaujolais, and Montee de la Tonne is one of them, a 1.5 hectare micro-plot of 50 year-old wines just recently acquired by the producer that it holds in significant esteem.  Like all red Beaujolais, the wine is 100% Gamay, fermented partly through carbonic maceration (an intra-grape fermentation process spurred by CO2 and an absence of oxygen that enhances bubble-gummy fruit flavours) and then aged in large natural oak barrels for 3-4 months before bottling.

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Cork Rating:  2/10 (Can we all agree to eradicate all “Mis En Bouteille” corks from existence?)

First impressions:  this is a surprisingly deep and vivid purple colour, still mostly transparent but pretty amped up for Beaujolais.  The crisp herbal, floral nose evokes roses (complete with stalks and thorns) and potpourri, softened by felt and spiked with pepper, surrounded by a mist of strawberry and raspberry fruit and just a whiff of banana skins, the latter likely a product of the carbonic fermentation process.  Powdery yet poised on the palate, kept haughty by emery board tannin and piercing rivulets of acid, the Montee de la Tonne flashes class and subtlety with a careful flavour mix of dusty currant, sidewalk chalk, dried flowers, rocks and rain, never quite letting you in but letting you admire its sophistication from afar.  Like a black and white movie star, this is cast in hazy heroic tones, admirable but not fully reachable, a true throwback.

88 points

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It’s probably not what led to the banana skin aromas in this wine, but isoamyl acetate can result in banana smells in some bottles.  The chemistry continues…

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Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 1

1 12 2017

I am a realist when it comes to the reach and impact of this blog.  Calgary has a remarkable, informed, ambitious, impressive local wine scene, and my only goal in starting up this site years ago was to be a tiny voice in that massive chorus and find an outlet for my passion, whether anything came of it or not.  For the most part, I am simply an observer, experiencer and occasional reporter on the goings-on of Calgary wine life.  However, in this case, it’s at least possible that I was the catalyst for a great idea that Bricks Wine Company has now expertly executed.  About 12 and a half months ago, after seeing another set of annual Advent releases go by absent a particular format that I thought would be perfect for the occasion, I vented into the black void of Twitter…and was shocked to see somebody almost immediately respond and take up the task:

It’s one thing to send a two-word response on social media, and quite another to spend the time and effort to specially source two dozen half bottles of wine to assemble an Advent calendar for the NEXT year, so I didn’t allow my hopes to leap too high at the time, but now here we are, on December 1st, 2017, and I’m looking at a wooden crate filled with 24 beautifully wrapped and meticulously selected 375 mL splits, my Advent dream realized and in the flesh.  I am filled with awe and gratitude, and I haven’t even opened anything yet.  Way to go, Bricks — you really did it.

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And if I was excited BEFORE peeling back the wrapping on Day #1, my anticipation only intensified after seeing what was on tap for Calgary’s inaugural Half-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar:  wine geek paradise.  Bella Wines is a producer about whom I have heard a ton over the past year, without yet having had the chance to try their wines for myself.  Bella is British Columbia’s only winery that is exclusively devoted to the production of sparkling wine — all bubbles, all the time.  And their approach is brutally uncompromising:  all natural farming, traditional method Champagne-style fermentation (where the secondary fermentation creating the fizz takes place in each individual bottle in which the wine is ultimately sold), all single-vineyard single-varietal expressions, wild yeast fermentation, no additives, no dosage; nowhere to hide, no messing around.  Bella makes multiple different bottlings of both pink and white bubbles, with their pigmented production focused entirely on the Gamay grape, which they believe has unheralded potential in the sparkling world.

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Crown Cap Rating:  8/10 (Stylized and retro, great font, CROWN CAP – I’m all in.)

So if you’re keeping track at home, Day 1 of Wine Advent features an Okanagan traditional-method single-vintage sparkling Gamay natural wine:  the 2016 Bella Sparkling Rosé Brut Natural “Westbank”.  Hot damn.  Bella releases annual sparkling Gamays from vineyards both west and east of Lake Okanagan, and the Westbank hails from the Beaumont Estate Vineyard in West Kelowna, on the slopes of Mount Boucherie. It is a beautifully confident deep watermelon colour in the glass (yay, non-deathly pale rosé!) and makes an emphatically lean, tart and frothy impression, launching aromatic bullets of cranberry, sour cherry and pomegranate fruit laced with grape skins and handfuls of gravel.  The flavours are pure and unforgiving, the lack of any added sugar after secondary fermentation clearly evident, the wine sharp as a razor’s edge on the finish thanks to Ginsu acidity and circular saw bubbles.  This Gamay practically vibrates with energy and electricity from the moment it hits the tongue, and that coiled tension doesn’t ever release:  not when the bubbles burst, not when you hold it in your mouth, not when you swallow.  It’s like watching a thriller movie that never ends.  If this is Day 1, we are in for a SERIOUSLY impressive Advent.  I did not know Okanagan bubbles could be like this.

90+ points

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Joseph Drouhin Hospices de Belleville Beaujolais Duet

23 11 2016

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

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Great region, great wines, great story.

A few posts ago I was discussing the intractable dilemma of trying to locate value Burgundy, that nearly mythical beast of the wine world, and I’ve since realized that I neglected to mention the obvious solution to the problem:  just look for Cru Beaujolais.  The Beaujolais region is technically part of Burgundy, located just south of Macon and north of Lyon, and while it can produce its share of forgettable wines, the main difference between Beaujolais and the other zones of Burgundy is that its top wines are shockingly wallet-accessible.  In fact, Cru Beaujolais, wines from one of the ten top quality Cru subregions in the area, might be some of the greatest wine bargains on Earth, pinnacle expressions of a classic grape at absurdly reasonable prices.  Case in point:  the two bottles to be discussed below, which each clock in at $27-$30 retail and which combine old-vine vineyards in top locales, one of Burgundy’s best producers and a hell of a good back story, all for the price of a basic forgettable Bourgogne Rouge.

Unlike the rest of red Burgundy (which is crafted from Pinot Noir), red Beaujolais is made from Gamay, the thin-skinned and light-bodied red grape well known to Canadian wineries whose spiritual heartland lies in this region’s ten Crus.  True story:  Gamay used to be grown all across Burgundy until 1395, when the (likely self-titled) Duke Philip the Bold ordered the “very bad and disloyal plant” uprooted in favour of the more aristocratic and noble-approved Pinot Noir.  His decree was not all that impressively enforced way down in the south of Burgundy, so pockets of Gamay remained in Beaujolais, quietly, until the danger of extermination had passed and the region was officially recognized as a Protected Denomination of Origin.  While it’s true that Gamay may never quite reach the lofty heights of nuance and complexity that Pinot can, it can offer a pretty reasonable facsimile at an absolute fraction of the price. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2008 Domaine du Vissoux Fleurie Poncié

22 07 2011

Confusing label, but quality white wine substitute.

Butter chicken was on the dinner menu tonight, but after having white wine for the last two nights in a row, I didn’t want to have it again, thus depriving me of the most natural spicy food wine pairing (as discussed previously here):  a slightly sweet, lower-alcohol, low (or no) tannin white like a German Riesling (natch) or a Chenin Blanc.  Since tannin and alcohol are notorious enemies of hot and spicy cuisine, I dug around for the red in my cellar likely to have the lowest levels of both, a difficult feat since booze and tannin are two of the hallmarks of most good red wines.  I came up with Beaujolais, a red wine region in the southernmost part of Burgundy in southeastern France that may be the world’s only premium red site focused on making wines from the Gamay grape.  Gamay is an ideal white wine pinch-hitter because it is generally light in body, fairly low in alcohol, and most importantly, extremely low in discernable tannins; it has the fruity punch of a red with the delicacy and texture of a white.  Not to say that it’s a match made in heaven with Indian food, but it stood the greatest chance of not clashing horribly. Read the rest of this entry »








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