12 Days of Vinebox: Day 1

25 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Merry Christmas! And welcome to Vinebox. Amidst all the unwrapping of presents, preparing meals, and dealing with relatives (at least some of whom you like, presumably), hopefully you can find the time to join me in crushing just under half a glass of…Pinot Grigio!? I suppose one has to start somewhere. Although I do not naturally gravitate towards this style, I freely admit that premium offerings often show some interest, perhaps even a little charm, certainly far more than the oceans of antiseptic acid water that comprise the commodity Pinot Grigio market, which is demolished in vast quantities at cafes, bars, dinner tables and bridal showers around the world. Although climate and other viticultural decisions such as yield play a role in separating the wheat from the chaff, most premium PGs from northern regions such as Alto-Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia come from a small-berried clone of the grape with more flavour concentration than the much larger, thin-skinned berries that hail from the vast prolific vineyards of the Veneto plain. As Peter mentioned in his comprehensive preview of this attractive package of super fun wine-laden test tubes, the Vinebox team has assembled this lineup solely for its Canadian audiences from the wares of various European artisanal producers, working only with about 1% of the wines they tried so as to keep quality high. I am cautiously optimistic.

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Although the Vinebox reveal website (hey, no cheating now!) states that this is “Friuli Pinot Grigio”, the vial is actually marked with “Delle Venezie IGT”. This is an older appellation that actually ceased to exist in 2017, being renamed “Trevenezie IGT”. (The word “Triveneto” also appears near the top of the vial!) The new appellation “Delle Venezie DOC” was then carved out of the Trevenezie IGT to primarily encompass Pinot Grigio, and this, I presume, is where the present wine would now be classified. Detective work complete. Delle Venezie DOC includes not just Friuli but also Trentino and the entirety of the larger Veneto plain, meaning that the grapes in this vial could hail from any of these regions. The producer, Vinicola Tombacco, has a website that does not appear to feature this particular wine, or if it does, said wine appears under the guise of one of the numerous sub-labels that fall within the Tombacco stable. Tombacco does produce a Delle Venezie DOC Pinot Grigio labelled “Collezione Privata”. My guess is that this is the very same wine, or something similar. OK, so the detective work was not quite complete. Good enough. Let’s taste. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Prospect Winery White Showdown

5 11 2012

[The bottles below were provided as samples for review purposes.]

The competitors.

Over the past few weeks I have become quite a fan of BC’s Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery.  I have long retained a lingering suspicion about any bottle of inexpensive Canadian wine, fearing that elements both natural (shortened and uneven growing seasons/smaller ripening windows) and economic (high land costs in winegrowing areas/little access to cheap labour) would inevitably combine to make it impossible for a homegrown bottle to compete for my $15 Tuesday Night Bottle attention with those bastions of cheap and cheerful wine:  Australia, Argentina, California, Chile, Spain.  While I am increasingly convinced that we’re in the midst of a quality revolution in Canadian wine, I saw little hope that it would trickle down to the entry-level bottles in any winery’s lineup.  Then I got sent a six-pack sampler from the folks behind the Prospect Winery, an Okanagan producer with ownership ties to the more famous Mission Hill and a focus on the budget-conscious end of the retail shelf.  First a remarkably complex Shiraz and then a substantial Merlot captured my attention as each were downed with surprise and admiration and made the subject of solo reviews.  Left in the sampler box were four whites from Prospect’s 2011 vintage:  Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay.  Quicker than you could say “easy excuse for a tasting”, I knew what had to be done.  I rounded up my tasting panel from this summer’s Mission Hill Pinot Olympics and we went to work on a head-to-head-to-head-to-head showdown of Prospect Winery’s whites. Read the rest of this entry »





The Mission Hill Pinot Olympics

17 07 2012

[The bottles below were provided as samples for review purposes.]

As tactfully mentioned by the disclaimer above, I recently received a mixed six-pack of sampler bottles from the good folks at Mission Hill Family Estate winery in the Okanagan Valley.  Two of these bottles, the 2011 Reserve Riesling and the 2011 Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, have received separate PnP review treatment over the past couple of weeks:  see here and here for the full write-ups.  But I couldn’t bring myself to split up the other four bottles and rate them separately, because it was clear that they belonged together, bound as they were by a common provenance:  the family name Pinot.  Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir all sat side by side in the MH sample box like a monochromatic grape rainbow, their shared forename a reminder of their common genetic ancestor (Pinots Grigio and Gris are the same grape, and both PG and Pinot Blanc are mutations of Pinot Noir, which is well-known for being genetically unstable).  Since the fortunes of these bottles were clearly tied together, and since it’s July 2012 and our athletes are preparing to head off to London for the Summer Games, I did the only thing I could do and hosted the inaugural Mission Hill Pinot Olympiad at my house over the weekend.

In order: Grigio, Gris, Blanc, Noir. Let the Games begin.

Here’s how our game was played:  I invited over a couple of fellow wine enthusiasts, opened all four bottles of MH Pinot, and we tasted through the lineup and separately ranked each of the wines as against its peers, individually coming up with our gold, silver, bronze, and, um, whatever’s below bronze (lead? aluminum? tungsten?) medal choices.  I then added all of the placements together to come up with a cumulative judges’ score (for example, a wine ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd by the three different judges would get a total score of 1 + 2 + 3 = 6); the lower the score, the better.  The lowest total score won the overall prize, which basically meant that the bottle was emptied the fastest.  We tasted the wines from whites to red, lightest to heaviest, and my notes below are in the same order.  Who emerged victorious?  Read on! Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2009 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio delle Venezie

27 08 2011

Time to quit you, Pinot Grigio. Tiefenbrunner, this isn't your fault.

Dear Pinot Grigio,

I’m sorry.  I try hard to keep an open mind, accept that wine comes in many forms, and expose myself to as many of the world’s different and unique grapes and regions as I can.  But I just can’t do it anymore.  You don’t need me anyway:  you’re enormously popular, synonymous with patios and summer, one of the most successful wine exports to North America of all time, an A-list (well, maybe B-list) grape.  But you’re just so…well, BORING.  When people try to describe you to PG newbies, they inevitably fall back on words like “neutral”, “crisp” and “refreshing”.  You know what else is neutral, crisp and refreshing?  Water.  And it doesn’t cost $20 a bottle.  I had held out hope that you had something of intrigue to offer, that I just hadn’t found the right bottle that would expose me to your inner wonders, but now I don’t think that bottle exists.  I think you are what you are, which is part of your allure — your devotees always know what they’re getting — but is also your greatest shortcoming.  When I can’t bring myself to get excited about opening a bottle of wine, there’s a problem, and in this case that problem is you.  I think I’m moving on. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve

29 06 2011

Long time no PnP!  Sorry about that — I was away on the weekend and discovered both at the time and after coming back that trip-related schedule lulls are multiplied tenfold when babies are involved.  However, I am now back in the saddle and again devoted to reducing my cellar one bottle at a time.  Tonight’s wine seemed like a promising combination:  a region (Alsace, France), producer (Trimbach) and varietal (Pinot Gris) that I love, all at a bargain price (I think this bottle was $17).  Too good to be true?  Oh yes.

"Reserve" is the wine equivalent of "part of a nutritious breakfast".

For those of you wondering if Pinot Gris has any relation to Pinot Grigio, the Italian white that I reviewed a few wines ago, they’re actually the exact same grape, although they usually manifest themselves in the bottle in very different ways.  Pinot Grigio is grown and made to be light, crisp, refreshing and neutral-tasting, whereas Pinot Gris is much fuller, lusher, riper and more flavourful.  If you taste classic examples of the two back to back, you wouldn’t believe they were the same grape.  Pinot Grigio’s home is northeast Italy, while Pinot Gris is best known from Alsace, where it is one of four “noble grapes” allowed to be in the region’s top Grand Cru wines (the others, if you’re curious, are Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat).  I personally prefer the Gris to the Grigio, as I find it more interesting and think it has much more personality in the glass.  Even better, like many Alsatian wines, it can be a value:  I’ve seen Grand Cru Pinot Gris on sale for less than $30 a bottle.  It’s also consumer-friendly, because all Alsatian wines actually list the grape on the bottle label, unlike the wines from almost every other spot in France. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Kris Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie

2 06 2011

Every label needs a good dose of Surrealism. Look at the colour on that Pinot Grigio!

I got this wine as a gift from my awesome in-laws…thanks Alan and Margaret!  In my experience, there’s no wine that’s better than free wine.  I don’t often drink Pinot Grigio, but here’s what I know about it: (1) its most well-known renditions come from northeast Italy (as this one does); (2) it remains one of Italy’s best selling wine exports and has found a willing and thirsty audience in North America; and (3) it is the same grape as Pinot Gris, a varietal grown in Alsace (France), Oregon and Canada, among other places, although the wines from the two versions of the PG grape are almost nothing like each other.  Pinot Grigio tends to be dry, light-bodied, very pale, high in acid and neutral, crisp and refreshing, while Pinot Gris is fuller, richer, deeper in colour, more complex in flavour and used for both dry and sweeter wines.  I’ve had my fair share of Pinot Gris, but only a handful of Pinot Grigio, so tonight I broaden my horizons. Read the rest of this entry »








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