Synchromesh Wines, Part I: Powered by Rieslings (and Merlot)

4 05 2020

By Raymond Lamontagne

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

Social distancing. Self-isolation. Working from home. Stress baking. Flattening the curve. It is all a bit much, but just maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or at least a faint wink, luring us towards a world that won’t be completely the same ever again. Keep up the great work, (most) folks. Aren’t you glad that there is still ample wine to drink, and to read about? We here at Pop & Pour were particularly thrilled to spend part of our quarantined home-stay getting acquainted with the latest vintage of Synchromesh Wines, Canada’s Riesling overlords, a homegrown brand forging an unmistakable vinous identity.

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Please excuse the floor… Cats live here, and it is not like tons of people are coming over to visit.

Alan and Amy Dickinson certainly had their research cut out for them when they set out in 2009 to find vineyard sites in BC that might yield top-shelf Riesling. This grape is one that will translate any nuances of terroir right into the glass, which is exactly what the Dickinsons wish to foster: minimalist winemaking that lets the land speak for itself. After almost of a year of searching, they acquired 5 acres of high-elevation south-facing vineyard that would serve as the nucleus of Synchromesh’s estate plot Storm Haven, which would later blossom to 107 acres when a neighbouring property was acquired in 2017. Although such an expansion may conjure up concerns of dilution of all that makes a specific parcel unique, au contraire. For one, the Dickinsons don’t play around with mediocre sites. Furthermore, a larger vineyard provides an opportunity to explore geological and climatic aspects of the site that in effect provide a larger palette from which to paint. Pinot Noir was added at Storm Haven, and the Dickinsons ultimately extended their stewardship to other vineyard locations in Naramata, a never-ending quest for further pure site expressions. All of their farming is organic, with no synthetic inputs, and all wines are fermented spontaneously, with a hard turn away from any factor that could blur the expression of each specific vineyard. Stay tuned for later in-depth coverage of Synchromesh’s home base; in this post I will focus on two special non-estate sites for Riesling, as well as another renowned plot for… Merlot?? Yes. Read on. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2015 Culmina Hypothesis

20 03 2020

By Raymond Lamontagne

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

My initial intent was to write this piece without a singular mention of COVID-19. I wasn’t sure I wanted this sort of historical tag on a bottle review…this too shall pass, right? It then occurred to me that wine itself is usually about the vintage, the year it was made. Wine is historical, and other things besides. I also don’t particularly want to talk about  our current global situation. We are all experiencing some degree of anxiety (not to mention other painful emotions) in our own ways, and do I want to fan those flames? Not really, but at the same time, I’m not in the business of denying aspects of the human condition. Perhaps this is a chance for me to ask all of our readers to say safe, look out for one another (even at a social distance), and retain hope that we got this. Because we do. Peter and I are going to keep doing this blog (for which this is post #600 — see? history), because we love what we do and because this is a great way to remain connected. At this moment join me, will you, in experiencing some of the most iconic red wine that Canada has to offer?

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Don Triggs

As a wine lover a tad obsessed with Gruner Veltliner, I immediately recall that Culmina and founder Don Triggs are responsible for one of Canada’s first plantings of this white grape, and they still produce Unicus, a wonderfully salty, flinty, yet surprisingly fruity rendition that does this wacky variety proud. It turns out that Don’s first vinous love is in fact red Bordeaux varieties. You likely recognize the surname. Yes, Don Triggs co-founded Jackson-Triggs, one of Canada’s largest commodity wine brands. When the giant Constellation Brands purchased Jackson-Triggs in 2006, Don thought briefly about retirement…or rather, what to do with retirement. Don and spouse Elaine decided to found a boutique winery, in essence taking the very opposite stance from the path that had previously brought him so much success, focusing instead on a deep desire to make terroir-driven wines. You see, Canada’s relatively cool climate doesn’t always reliably ripen red Bordeaux varieties. Although Merlot is more forgiving, Cabernet Sauvignon needs ample sun and heat. Far from daunted, Don and Elaine embarked on an intense research program to figure out just how “Canadian Bordeaux” could become more fact than fiction. Read the rest of this entry »





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 3

3 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

I get a strong sense of deja vu. A distinct feeling of coming full circle, of the universe working in mysterious ways, a feeling that perhaps the space-time continuum is not linear but rather cyclic. You see, my very first post on this blog (indeed, my first wine blog, period) detailed a Gruner Veltliner, also on Day 3, in last year’s Bricks Advent calendar. Never mind just that, I also became Pop and Pour’s de facto Austria correspondent for that entire 24-wine run, drawing every bottle from this country in the calendar and becoming an even more ardent fan of Austria’s wines in the process. This just feels right. It is great to be home.

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Gruner Veltliner remains my favourite white wine grape one year later, despite some clear inroads by Riesling: many of these have involved sneaky guerilla actions with accurate laser beam weapons of acid and floral aromatics, while a few have involved full on armoured assaults bearing the insignias of Rheinhessen and the Pfalz. Nevertheless, Gruner remains ascendant (for now). It is safe to say that my view of what constitutes a good Gruner has evolved. Where once I sought sheer weirdness, now I yearn for clarity, distinctiveness, balance, and complexity. I want a sense of place coupled with unambiguous varietal character, although these can sometimes be at loggerheads. Gruner can be high-yielding, leading to blurry tepid wines, or it can deliver a rude slash of acid without enough aromatics to entice or tantalize. It is no longer enough merely to smell like a compost bin or root cellar, although I shall never stop craving the peppery “funk” that is this grape’s signature, the one that initially captivated me. Fortunately, the present wine region has rarely let me down. Read the rest of this entry »





National Zinfandel Day: An Interview With Ravenswood Founder Joel Peterson

15 11 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Happy National Zinfandel Day! Although we do not feature many interviews on Pop & Pour, we felt that the chance to publish a Q & A correspondence that I recently had with Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, commonly described as California’s “godfather of Zin”, would be a consummate way to celebrate, especially when paired with tasting notes for one of Ravenswood’s most iconic wines. To me, Zin embodies a key dialectic at play within wine appreciation: that between elegance, austerity and grace on the one hand, and sheer hedonism, richness and bold frivolity on the other. As an avowed disciple of Pinot Noir, you can deduce which pole of the dialectic I might ultimately prefer. However, wine is so immensely enjoyable precisely because there is ample diversity, so many different experiences to chase down and absorb. And I do like having my mind blown by huge flavours as much as the next bon vivant. If I am being honest with myself, a well-crafted Zinfandel may do a better job of resolving this particular dialectical dilemma than almost any other black grape:

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There are some very specific cherry varieties listed here. I approve. (https://zinfandel.org/resources/zinfandel-aroma-wheel/)

The best Zins feature succulent, approachable berry fruit in lockstep with robust secondary flavours of smoke and spice, all festooned on a moderately formidable structure of fresh acidity and fine ripe tannins. They are fun and serious in equal measure: light yet dark, carefree yet intense, simple yet complex. Joel Peterson masterminds just this sort of Zin. Read the rest of this entry »





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 11

11 12 2017

By Raymond Lamontagne

One certainly learns a lot working through an advent calendar. Providing a detailed commentary for each wine puts this learning into hyperdrive. There are producers and methods to investigate. Sometimes there are grape varieties that I need to research further before delving into the tasting per se. This is one of those times, although this grape is far from rare and I know I’ve had it before. Learning a little beforehand or refreshing one’s knowledge base provides scaffolding for those treasured “in the moment” experiences. This enhances memory for what you taste and smell. The act of paying careful attention on purpose is hard work. Although I prefer to share actual tasting impressions with others after I’ve partaken, to avoid (added) sensory bias, I am a firm believer in having this framework of semantic knowledge ready to go beforehand. This allows one to note the expected structural features and aromas quickly, freeing up mental processing resources for focusing on anything that seems out of place. One could debate the merits and drawbacks of this approach. It works well for me.

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Party up top, business below.

In his encyclopedic opus of Italian wine grapes, Ian D’Agata makes a solid case for Verdicchio being Italy’s greatest native white. Versatile, capable of aging, full of aromas described as lemony and almond-like, and showing an affinity for oak, this bright green wonder typically produces lighter and highly floral wines in Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, one of the major DOCGs in the Marche. The latter has been described as producing “cheerful and simple” fare, although this may downplay how good these wines can be. The New York Times recently identified Verdicchio as a “hip varietal”. Yields have dropped and the region is starting to shed its reputation for frivolity due to a previous emphasis on cheesy amphora-shaped containers. These latter vessels look like a cross between King Tut’s scepter and something one could find in an adult novelty store. Circuitous geographical musings and botanical studies of both genetics and morphology have revealed that this grape is identical to the well-regarded Trebbiano di Soave and therefore probably originated in Tuscany, brought to current alternative stronghold the Marche by Tuscan farmers who resettled the land after a severe bout of plague.

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Italian wine label with an f-ton of script. Don’t sweat it. Key details explained below!

D’Agata and myriad wine critics regard Villa Bucci as one of the finest di Jesi producers. Bucci offers age-worthy bottles full of finesse, floral perfume, and primary fruit. “Classico” means the grapes were grown in a traditionally favored hilly area near the town of Cupano. Grapes hail from four organically farmed high altitude vineyards (Villa Bucci, Bellucio, Montefiore, and Baldo), each vinified separately. Vines are about 45 years old. Although DOCG rules allow for up to 15% Malvasia Toscana to be included, this is 100% Verdicchio. Grapes are gently crushed under cold temperatures and aged in large used oak barrels for four months, permitting micro-oxygenation but minimal seepage of flavors into the wine.

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Cork Score = 8.0 … Actual winery is named with decent font. Some empty space but lofts are still “in”, no? Not depicted: A funky graphic intended to evoke a very pleasant farm.

The Villa Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2016! Nose features a stark minerality right out of the gate … Wet gravel with flecks of table salt and potash. Some low key fruits emerge next: Green apple (including a slight whiff of brown apple oxidation), lemon rind, maybe green tangerine, white blossoms (gardenia, a personal favorite scent, or the aforementioned apple). Palate largely echoes the nose but with more tangy fresh fruits: Bitter orange and almonds, lime, lemon, Granny Smith. Like a Five Alive or similar beverage without any sugar, if said beverage featured a few additional flagellations of acid and some serious added calcium. This has more minerals than it does vowels in the entire handle that I typed out above. Crisp, taut, and broad, with enough primary fruit to save it from an experience not far off rock climbing in a glass. I dig. Or rather, I chip away at a frozen orange entombed in gypsum. We’re back, baby.

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You cannot deny that it was an effective marketing tool … From http://www.vintuition.net/main/?p=3517

89 points








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