Wine Maven – May/June 2013

If the last time you drank riesling was out of a bottle shaped like a cat, it’s time to take another look — there is a world of flavour to explore.

At a recent (and sold-out) all-Riesling dinner held at the Marc Restaurant, Tom Pennachetti of Niagara’s Cave Spring poured several back vintages, and talked about how best to grow, make, age and drink Germany’s signature variety. Noted: Cave Spring’s Indian Summer Riesling pleasingly unctuous texture and lime marmalade flavours well-served by fois gras first course. Highlight? Tasting the 2007, 2008 and the exciting 2009 with seared duck breast on beet puree, a delicious study in balance, texture
and flavour.

eroica_nvWashington state is another new world home to riesling particularly at Chateau Ste. Michelle, whose original Riesling vineyards were planted over 40 years ago. The winery now produces up to seven different wines depending on vintage. The most intriguing (to our palate at least) is Eroica, the joint venture with the Mosel’s Dr Loosen. In a word, gorgeous. Citrusy mandarin orange flavours and steely minerality in precise, yet voluptuous balance, in tune with such vibrant acidity that the question of how sweet or not becomes moot. Now, that’s a package. Drink now or cellar for several years.

Find both at Riesling Rendezous, a gathering of important Riesling producers (including the Okanagan’s mind-blowing Tantalus) in Seattle this July,

Tinhorn Creek 2Bench White.
Tinhorn Creek 2Bench White.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012 whites have just been released.

The south Okanagan’s 2012 warm growing season finished with a cool fall, super-beneficial for aromatic whites. The young Gewurztraminer vines up the hill at Tinhorn are now producing some of the grapes that were used in the 2012 — zesty, sassy, ideal with chicken satay and patios. The Pinot Gris owes its luscious texture to a bit of lees stirring and malolactic fermentation. The textured and flavourful Oldfield Series 2Bench White is primarily Chardonnay with 21 per cent Sauvignon Blanc, 17 per cent Semillon, with the small but mighty proportion of Viognier and Muscat contributing the opulent floral aromas. The 2Bench Rose (Cabernet Franc and Syrah) had about four hours skin contact creating a ruddy pink colour and more robust flavours. Drink the Rose and Gewurz right now, while the Pinot Gris and 2Bench White benefit from a bit of time in the cellar (or closet).

Gremillet Rose.
Gremillet Rose.

A new fave bubble for spring: Gremillet Brut, made by a small house (by Champagne standards, about 30,000 cases) based near Ricey in the south end of the region. Made primarily from Pinot Noir, in a full-bodied, muscular style — Krug-ish you might say. Delicious you will say. From its tiny perfect mousse to the long and rich aftertaste, Gremillet Brut delivers. Try the Gremillet Rose with its fresh strawberry shortcake flavours, ideal for sipping (glug glug) at long and lazy summer brunches.

Big win for Quails’ Gate: The 2010 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay bagged a gold, and the 2011 Quails’ Gate Chardonnay a silver medal at France’s prestigious Chardonnay du Monde competition in March. After four days of judging close to 900 wines from 42 countries, medals were awarded to about one third of the wines entered. Chardonnay du Monde was established in 1997 to identify and celebrate the best chardonnays in the world. For the complete list of winners, visit

Crestwood's Juanita Roos with Tattinger's Mikael Falkman at the Pacific Wine and Spirits' road show.
Crestwood’s Juanita Roos with Tattinger’s Mikael Falkman at the Pacific Wine and Spirits’ road show.

Pacific Wine & Spirits held their annual producer road show recently. The lines of eager tasters at Glenfarclas and the Port table (Croft, Taylor and Fonseca) were too long to contemplate, so refreshed with delicious Cuvee Catherine Rose from Henry of Pelham. Loved the reds from Spain: Palacio Quemado (Bodegas Alvear) and Jean Leon (Torres); could not resist the opportunity to taste Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2002. If this wine were human, it would be Audrey Hepburn, ineffably elegant, yet with soul.

Friendly and laid-back black hills winemaker Graham Pierce was in Edmonton to introduce the new releases of Black Hills and the second label Cellar Hand. It’s the first vintage of Cellar Hand Free Run white, a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Chardonnay, with fresh bright aromatics and a fairly lean character. The Punch Down Red is a happy blend of predominantly Syrah with Merlot and Cab Sauv — lots of juicy, clovey, red berry, black pepper action with soft tannins providing some structure —ready for duty by the barbecue. Alibi, as usual, doesn’t disappoint. The Sauv Blanc/Semillon blend possesses a fragrant grapefruity/lime/passion fruit nose with flavours to suit. Ageable, if there’s any left after guzzling all summer long.

Graham Pierce, Black Hills.
Graham Pierce, Black Hills.

Duckhorn Vineyards is the iconic Napa Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon house — but it’s not only that. Their Golden Eye Winery produces premium elegant and long-lived Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley near the Pacific Ocean. They also make a series of good everyday wines called Decoy from Sonoma, Chardonny, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot plus a Napa Cab, under screw cap no less. The Sauv Blanc tasted at lunch was suitably grassy and crisp with Canteen’s polenta fries. The newish Migration label is a departure for Duckhorn, whose wines are very much about a specific region or vineyard expression. Migration explores cool-climate Pinot and Chard from several different California regions. The current vintage of Chardonnay exhibits creamy peach and subtle tropical aromas, and is medium-bodied with a buttered potato character; perfect with beer-can chicken according to Duckhorn rep and sommelier Stacey Jo Strombecky.

What about the ducks on every label? All native to the Pacific flyway.

Find these wines at Crestwood, Liquor Select, Unwined, The Wine Cellar, Keg & Cork, Wine and Beyond and other better wine shops. Not all wine at all stores.