Wine Maven: May June 2018

Martin’s Lane’s Pinot Noir and Riesling, Death’s Door Gin and Laura Catenas’s innovations at Bodegas Catena Zapata

by Mary Bailey

Shane Munn pours the Naramata Riesling at a Color de Vino tasting
Shane Munn pours the Naramata Riesling at a Color de Vino tasting

The story of Martin’s Lane is the story of Pinot Noir and Riesling; how the two varieties communicate the viticultural idea of the Okanagan—intensity, extremes, desert-like precipitation, volcanic and granite soils, sunny days, cool nights, latitude, altitude—it’s winemaking on the edge of possibility. The story is as dramatic as the winery, perched above Cedar Creek Winery, an architectural work of art (or, James Bond’s lair, according to one Okanagan resident).

Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir
Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir
There are three vineyards; Simes, named after John Simes, the beloved former head winemaker at Mission Hill, is north-facing and hilly, with granite-based soils. Naramata Bench is the most diverse site, both in climate and geography. This is old vine Riesling country, granite bedrock, along with five blocks planted in Pinot Noir in a variety of micro climates. Fritzi’s Vineyard, nestled at the foot of dormant volcano, is named after owner Anthony von Mandl’s 102-year old mother. The south east-facing block catches the sun in spades and has quartz in the soil. Shane Munn the winemaker, is originally from New Zealand, loves skin contact, Austrian Riesling and un-hurried minimalist winemaking.

The first releases from 2014 are now in the market. The wines are spectacular— communicative, ageable, impeccably balanced, even in their youth, but don’t be in a hurry to drink any of them, as your patience will be rewarded. From $75.

California Citrus Vodka
California Citrus Vodka
The St. George California Citrus Vodka is so subtle it will make you forget any flavoured vodka you may have encountered in the past—silky smooth, clean and elegant with just a hint of fresh orange from the infused Valencia and Seville oranges and bergamot peels. Think of it as orange-scented vodka, perfect for a twist on a standard martini. Pair with a rosemary sprig. $50.

Death’s Door Gin
Death’s Door Gin
Three botanicals. That’s it. When gin becomes a race to have the longest list of botanicals it’s a treat to taste Death’s Door Gin’s unique approach to the classic London Dry style. The piney and peppery Washington juniper is up front, the citrusy, green notes of the coriander sits in the m

Bruto Americano
Bruto Americano
The name is a cheeky reference to the idea of a rude American trying to make an Italian classic (bruto means crass, or rude and St. George Spirits is an American distillery), yet the quality is such that even the most staunchly Italian aperitivi lover will enjoy Bruto Americano. Made with both hot-steeped and cold infused ingredients (California-grown Seville oranges, balsam fir and California buckthorn bark) and coloured with natural cochineal. Try it in your next Negroni. $50

Yalumba Coonawarra
Yalumba Coonawarra
Fans of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon are thrilled to know that the Yalumba Coonawarra 2016 is now available. This juicy Cab, with silky tannins, restrained oak and intense black fruits and red berry flavours, from the terra rossa soils of the Menzies Estate. Super drinkable right now. $25ish.

Bodegas Catena Zapata wines
Bodegas Catena Zapata wines
Nicolás Catena founded Bodegas Catena Zapata in 1902 with a singular vision of quality. Great-great-granddaughter Laura continues to innovate, finding the best sites and opening the door to more experimentation. By doing so, Catena has changed the wine culture of Argentina. “Now we find lots of small innovators, creating interest and excitement on the local level,” says Andrea Nunez, export director. “It’s become fashionable to say look at this new label.” Catena has new appellation wines such as the San Carlos Cab Franc, with its ripe, taut tannins and violet aromas and the Vista Flores Malbec, bright and heady, smoke and plum, violets and roses. The high-end Malbecs don’t disappoint. Of note is the Argentine with its glorious label telling the story of the family.

Michelle Murphy (Tromba Tequila) with her favourite Trombasoda
Michelle Murphy (Tromba Tequila) with her favourite Trombasoda

A Canadian, an Australian and a Mexican walked into a bar. That’s not exactly the origin story of Tromba Tequila but it’s close. Eric Brass, Nick Reid, James Sherry and Rodrigo Cedano met during an exchange school program in Guadalajara.

Tromba tequila: Blanco, Reposado and Anejo
Tromba tequila: Blanco, Reposado and Anejo
Rodrigo introduced them to high-quality artisan tequila made from 100 per cent Highlands Blue Agave. Eric knew only the late night, knock-a-shot-back tequila. Rodrigo’s father Marco was the creator and master distiller of Don Julio. So, from that serendipitous meeting (tromba is the intense rainstorms of the Jalisco highlands, and, also, means change is brewing) Tromba Tequila was born. Marco and Rodrigo are in charge of the production in Los Altos and Eric is in charge of everything else in Toronto. Tromba (Blanco, Reposado and Anejo) is a rising star, $42-$65.

Purple Angel
Purple Angel
Through Viña Montes we discovered a world of Chilean quality wine beyond cheap and cheerful Cabernet Sauvignon and fridge door Sauvignon Blanc—not that there is anything wrong with those. But, there was more, such as fine Syrah and Cab from high-altitude vineyards meant to age and challenge the best of Europe.

A key tenet for the winery is sustainability, especially water use. “The lack of irrigation helps to create grapes with thicker skin to protect from the sun and creates more concentration,” said Pedro Brancoli of Viña Montes at a recent tasting of new releases.

The entry-level Classic line is well-made everyday wine for under $20. The Alpha Cab, with its green notes, nice ripe tannins, red currant flavours and balanced acidity, similar in style to a Petit Bordeaux, is terrific value, around $25. The Montes Folly, 100 per cent Syrah, made from selected grapes in those high-altitude vineyards is a gorgeous wine, as is the iconic Purple Angel.

Scarpetta Frico Frizzante in a can
Scarpetta Frico Frizzante in a can
Drink Scarpetta Frico Frizzante in a can this summer. Dry and a bit fizzy, utterly refreshing and just the right size, (187 mL, $22/4pk), I can see this going into a lot of picnic baskets and golf bags. Made in Friuli, northern Italy, of Glera, Chardonnay and 50 per cent Trebbiano by American master somm Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Patterson.

The two love Friuli, its wines, culture and its ham, hence the amusing labels.

The Scarpetta Rosso IGT is a Tuscan field blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Colorino and Mammolo. Juicy, lowish tannins, earthy red fruit flavours, moderate length—crushable! $18ish.

Pierre-Henrí (Domaine Gadais Père et Fils)
Pierre-Henrí (Domaine Gadais Père et Fils)

“Gneiss, granite, blue slate, schist.” Pierre-Henrí Gadais of Domaine Gadais Père et Fils is identifying the rocks in his hands, explaining how they form the soil in his family vineyards in Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine, 15k south-east of Nantes in north-eastern France. That is the very cradle of the appellation in Saint-Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners, where the Sèvre and Maine Rivers meet. Growers were praying to Saint Fiacre in 2017 when frost took about 40 per cent of the crop.

“The Vieilles Vignes (old vines) is on gneiss, planted by my grandfather in 1929,” says Pierre-Henrí. Most Muscadet spend about six months on the lees, but the Vieilles Vignes spends 14 months, which lends the wine a slightly chewy texture and amazing complexity. (Crestwood had some, about $35). We look forward to getting our hands on a bottle or two of the highly sought-after Monopole (single vineyard). Aged in oak, it spends anywhere from 18-24 months on the lees and comes from vines that average 40 years. In the meantime, we’ll happily drink the beautifully light and refreshing Domaine de la Tourmaline, about $22.

Joie Farm’s En Famille Muscat, Pinot Blanc and Rosé
Joie Farm’s En Famille Muscat, Pinot Blanc and Rosé
We know spring is really here when Okanagan wineries start releasing their white wines. Joie Farm’s 2017 Pinot Blanc, Rosé, En Famille Muscat, Un-oaked Chardonnay and the Noble Blend are beginning to show up in stores. The wines are all drinking well right now and will be ideal for enjoying on patios and decks well into fall. The Rosé, 80 per cent Pinot, the rest Gamay, is bone dry and fairly structured with bright red fruit, juicy acidity and a hint of pleasingly bitter tannin. We are also quite taken by the En Famille Reserve Muscat, with its generous citrusy, peachy fruit flavours, white flowers and green grapey notes. It’s dry, which is unusual for Muscat, and delish. Under $30 for all whites.

Bertrand Varoquier (Champagne Veuve Cliquot) and Juanita Roos (Color de Vino) at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald launch of the Extra Brut Extra Old.
Bertrand Varoquier (Champagne Veuve Cliquot) and Juanita Roos (Color de Vino) at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald launch of the Extra Brut Extra Old.

The widow Clicquot must be, by now, the most famous person in Champagne. For good reason. At 27, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin took over the family business upon her husband’s death; she invented riddling on her dining room table (to remove sediment from the wines) she was the first to ship to Russia, creating an entirely new market for Champagne, and, she invented rosé. In 1818. Veuve Clicquot is celebrating the 200th anniversary of rosé. What better time to taste the 2006 Grande Dame Rosé? $450. Lucky those wine lovers who have some in their cellar.

Another first —the Extra Brut Extra Old, $125. Bertrand Varoquier was in Edmonton recently to talk about the first ever blend of reserve wines. First made in 2103, with wines from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 1996 and 1988. “The idea was to show the richness and complexity of the reserve wines,” said Bertrand. “Some of our best wine are put in reserve for the next generation. It’s the spirit of the house.”

The blend is on lees for three years, then disgorged and aged under cork for one year. It has slightly less pressure than most Champagnes, giving the effervescence a pleasing creaminess. There is much less sugar added to the dosage, resulting in a wine that has 3g/l residual sugar (Brut can be up to 9g/l). The result? A wine that is pure and precise, refined and complex, with savoury notes of mushroom and soy and a lingering aftertaste. Absolutely delicious. About $120.

Prices are approximate. Find at better wine shops such as Bin 104, Color de Vino, Hicks Fine Wines, The Wine Cellar and Vines. Not all products in all stores.

Event Calendar

May 1-6
Dig In Horticulinary Festival
St. Albert, tix: $0-$120,,

May 3-May 13
Canmore Uncorked, Canmore

Friday, May 4
Quevedo Port Tasting and Tapas with Oscar Quevedo, Bodega Tapas & Wine Bar by Sabor, 780-757-1114

Saturday, May 5
Crestwood Wines Spring Tasting featuring Oscar Quevedo, Crestwood Wines, 780-488-7800

Sunday, May 6
Cavern Cheese School Spring Pairings
$75/p, Cavern, 780-455-1336

Monday, May 7
Avignonesi Wines with Giuseppe Santarelli, $25/p, Hicks Fine Wines

Tuesday, May 8
Quevedo Port Tasting with Oscar Quevedo, $35/p, Everything Wine
Sherwood Park, 780-417-3356

Sunday, May 13
Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet,
$26-$52/p, XIX Nineteen,
780-395-1119 or 780-569-1819

Sunday, May 13
Mother’s Day High Tea, $35/p
Juniper Bistro, Two seatings:
1pm and 3:15pm, 780-490-6799

Tuesday, May 15
Think Pink! Rosé in May $10/p donation to the Food Bank
Aligra Wine & Spirits

Thursday, May 17
Think Pink – HFW Annual Rosé Tasting, $40/p, Hicks Fine Wines

Friday, May 18
Kitchen by Brad’s Meatball Madness, 780-757-7704

May Long Weekend
Food Bike Tours, weekends
and summer Thursdays, 780-250-2453

Saturday, May 26
HFW Annual Spring Open House, donation to the Sturgeon Community Foundation, Hicks Fine Wines

Tuesday, May 29 
Cibo Spring Winemaker Dinner with Castello Romitorio’s Daniele D’Antoni
$155/p, Cibo Bistro

Friday, June 1
Culina Pop Up Pyrohy Dinner and Silent Auction, $12-$25/p or 780-420-1757

Sunday, June 3
Claustrum (a Found Space Theatre Performance) by the Third Eye Theatre Production, $40/p, Cavern

Monday, June 11
Indulgence, a Canadian Epic of Food & Wine, $100/p, Delta Edmonton South,

Tuesday, June 12
Gins in June, $35/p
Aligra Wine & Spirits,

Tuesday, June 12
Not by the Hair of my Ginny, Gin, Gin with Nathalie Mulder
$85/p, Hicks Fine Wines

June 16 – June 17, Father’s Day Weekend
The Porkapalooza BBQ Festival
Northlands Casino and Racetrack,

Thursday, June 21
Pasetti Wines with Massimo Pasetti of Abruzzo, $30/p, Hicks Fine Wines