Calgary Wine Life: The Fladgate Partnership 2016 Vintage Port Release Tasting @ La Chaumiere

9 05 2018

By Dan Steeves & Raymond Lamontagne

Vintage Port, undoubtedly one of the crown jewels of the wine world, is celebrated as one of the Earth’s most complex and robust wines, one that has a superior ability to age and mature in bottle, often only fully revealing itself after several decades. Having never tasted a vintage Port with less than 10 years of age on it, we were very interested in the opportunity to preview the brand new 2016 Vintage Ports from The Fladgate Partnership (literally, they were just bottled a couple weeks ago for sampling purposes, well before what will be their commercial release).

The Fladgate Partnership includes three iconic Port houses: Croft, Taylor Fladgate, and Fonseca. Each house enjoys centuries of history producing Port, and between them they hold the most revered vineyards in the Douro, giving the Partnership the ability to make some of the best and most sought after Ports on the market. Croft, founded in 1588 and thus the oldest Port house in the world, possesses the Quinta da Roêda estate, which has been termed the “jewel of the Douro Valley”. Taylor Fladgate has three main estates: Quinta de Vargellas (well known as a pinnacle wine estate), and two Pinhão Valley estates (Quinta de Terra Feita and Quinta do Junco). Fonseca, the relative newcomer in the Fladgate trifecta at the fresh age of 203 (founded in 1815), also has three significant estates: Quinta do Panascal in the Távora Valley, and Quinta  de Cruzeiro and Quinta de Santa António, both located in the Pinhão Valley. It is these special estate vineyards, with their prime soil, ideal climate conditions, and significant plantings of decades-old vines, which contribute most to the style and personality of each House’s classic vintage Port. As we shall see, there are compelling genuine differences in house style.

Vintage Port is made only in the very best of years when the fruit is exceptional and the wines are determined to be monumental in character, showing early evidence of the ability to age that all great Ports should have. It is a house by house decision, made in the second spring following the harvest once the wines have undergone initial aging and blending. If the producer believes the wine has the characteristics of a great Vintage Port (and the regulating body agrees), they make a formal vintage declaration and begin preparations for bottling. For Fladgate, this declaration occurs on April 23rd and it historically happens roughly three times each decade. The last vintage declared for Fladgate was 2011, which followed 2009, 2007, 2003, and 2000. Taylor Fladgate has declared 32 Vintages from 1900-2016, whilst Croft has declared only 24 vintages in the same period.

Jorge Ramos, the export manager for The Fladgate Partnership, led us through a tasting of three vintages (2003, 2007, and the new 2016) from each of the Fladgate Partnership houses. The opportunity to taste various Vintage Ports from all three producers, side by side, really brought into stark relief the differences in their identities. From the luscious fruit flavours of Croft to the soft yet strong complexity of Taylor Fladgate and the muscular power of Fonseca, these were all stunningly delicious with their own personalities. We’ve summarized our tasting notes below by vintage year, in the manner they were tasted. First up, the 2003 vintage, which had a near perfect start to the growing season and periods of intense summer heat in August which allowed for perfect ripening of the fruit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Calgary Wine Life: Domaine Chandon Sparkling Wine Dinner @ Elwood and the Rabbit

13 04 2018

By Dan Steeves

Chandon is a name that instantly makes me think of the luxurious Champagnes from the famous (and largest) Champagne house Moët & Chandon, but its North American offspring Domaine Chandon is not just a clone of its majestic parent company.  It has a vision to be different and create its own legacy by providing a pure expression of what California is all about, while at the same time maintaining the quality that is inherent in its French pedigree.

When Domaine Chandon was established in the Napa Valley in 1973 it was not the first international venture for Moët & Chandon (Chandon Argentina was established first in 1959, and California was succeeded by Brazil in 1973, Australia in 1986, China in 2013, and most recently India in 2014) but it was the first French-owned sparkling wine venture into the US, which now hosts operations from many of the large Champagne houses. Moët & Chandon recognized the potential of the area for sparkling wine production, especially Carneros, which at the time was seen as too cold and infertile to grow grapes (coming from Champagne, they knew it’d be perfect). Moët & Chandon purchased 400 acres of Carneros vineyard land for mere pennies on the dollar in today’s market. It was a humble California beginning for the M & C Winery on March 26, 1973, whose official address was John Wright’s garage, but within a few years the current winery facility was built and opened to the public and the house’s name was officially changed to Domaine Chandon. The 45th anniversary of Domaine Chandon just passed a few weeks ago with the winery holding firm as a longstanding powerhouse in Napa Valley, seeing over 200,000 visitors a year and likely holding the honour of being the largest producer of traditional method sparkling wine in the US.

The line up of Domaine Chandon California wines available in Alberta –  Blanc de Noirs, Brut, and Rosé

Having visited the Moët & Chandon mothership in Épernay (the heart of Champagne) a couple years ago and being fan of all their Champagne wines, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to try the Chandon California wines alongside some delicious food from Bridgeland’s Elwood and the Rabbit. The dinner was hosted by Brian Fairleigh, the Brand and Wine Educator for Domaine Chandon, whose infectious passion for sparking wines is matched closely by a wealth of knowledge about every aspect of Domaine Chandon. Brian made it clear that comparing Moët & Chandon Champagne with Domaine Chandon is like comparing apples to oranges: the two are very different, although they share the same adherence to quality and excellence in the vineyard and cellars. Domaine Chandon aims to showcase the fun, vibrant, sunny California fruit flavours and builds wines that are accessible, enjoyable, and made for everyone to enjoy all year round. Many people only reserve sparkling wines for times of celebration, and although they are perfect for those times, they are equally as enjoyable for a casual sip with friends or an accompaniment to almost any meal. Brian was happy to show us some great pairings. 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





Wine Review: 2011 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva

30 09 2015

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

Modern Traditional Chianti.

Modern Traditional Chianti.

Barone Ricasoli holds itself out as the oldest winery in Italy.  Its history certainly marches in lockstep with that of its region, Chianti:  the winery’s eponymous founder was the man who first suggested the modern “recipe” for the standard Chianti blend — largely Sangiovese, blended with indigenous varieties Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Colorino — in a letter in 1872.  That mix has expanded and adapted since then, but Ricasoli has remained a constant in the area, producing Chianti at all price and quality points, from the entry level to the sublime.

This particular bottle is from the sub-zone of Chianti Classico, the traditional Chianti heartland at the centre of the region encompassing the original lands upon which that name was bestowed.  Chianti has now expanded significantly beyond that area, some might say for largely economic reasons and to the detriment of its reputation, as the lands surrounding Classico often do not quite live up to its hallmarks of quality.  The symbol of Chianti Classico, emblazoned proudly on this bottle in multiple places, is the black rooster, the gallo nero.  Why?  Legend has it that, back when the provinces of Florence (in the north) and Siena (in the south) were fighting over the territory of Chianti (right in the middle), they settled on a contest to determine their mutual border:  they would each pick their best knight, who would ride from his city towards his opponent as fast as his horse could take him once the rooster crowed, and wherever they met would mark the new edge of each province’s lands.  The Florentines had a black rooster, and before the date of the contest they kept it locked up in a box with no food, so that when it was finally released on the day of the race, it crowed much, much earlier than dawn, giving Florence’s knight a massive head start.  The Florentine met the Sienese knight just outside of Siena’s walls and thus scooped all of Chianti for Florence, giving the black rooster mythical status in the process.  This is the best part about wine:  everything has a story.  You just have to find it. Read the rest of this entry »





New Links!

24 07 2011

I realized two things today:  (1) I hadn’t updated my Links section down the right-hand page of this site since I started PnP, and (2) my Links section sucked.  When thinking about how best to describe it, words like “half-hearted” and “filler” jumped to mind.  Well, no more — I set about re-tooling it tonight and I feel I’ve upgraded it to at least “work in progress” or “mediocre-plus”.  Check out my new additions below, most of which are wine sites that I visit on a regular basis.

I especially want to invite you to take a look at some of the other local wine blogs that are out there, all of whom do a wonderful job of building and promoting Calgary’s wine culture.  YYC Wine is sharp, well-written and easily readable, and they provide not only regular insightful wine reviews (with specific mention of where in Calgary/Alberta you can find each subject bottle) but also write-ups of special wine events in the city.  Check out YYC on Twitter (@yycwine), where they have been known to pass along info about some killer Calgary wine deals…  Tom Firth is a wine blogger and reviewer for Canada’s own Wine Access magazine, but I know him best from his prolific and interactive tweets (@cowtownwine)…I’ve gotten more than one piece of sage 140-character vino advice from him in the past few months.  Highlander Wine & Spirits (@highlanderwine) runs its own stream-of-consciousness wine blog, Vinous Virtuosity, as does the Calgary Herald with Uncorked, the latter of which I use more for local events news than actual wine write-ups.

Do you know of any other solid Calgary online wine contributors?  If so, please let me know in the Comments section below, because I would love to add them to my Links.  There’s an amazing amount of local expertise in our fair city, but I feel like a lot of people don’t know where to look to find it…that seems like something that can be fixed if we do enough to spread the word.  Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 








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