When my friend, the excellent wine writer Elaine Chukan Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, posted on Facebook that she’d be releasing thousands of ladybugs into a vineyard today, I have to admit I was stung with envy. Fortunately, modern technology enabled me to get the scoop by texting her, and I was immediately transported to the setting of her whimsical day:
“Grgich Hills Estate does all organic farming and uses biological pest controls instead of spraying. Last night they released 35,000 ladybugs to combat mealy bugs. They asked me if I’d like to help them spread some today. They spread several different species of ladybug at different parts of the season as different means of combating the mealy bugs, which are a pest in Napa Valley (and elsewhere). The goal is not to eradicate any particular pest, but to foster healthy biological balance instead. The shredded paper is to help transport them but also means you can spread them without squishing them and then the paper just degrades.”
Cool, right? And how was YOUR morning?
I enjoyed a little lunch yesterday at Gotham in Vancouver, courtesy of The Wine Syndicate, Bodega Renacer’s British Columbian importer. Across the table from me was Pato Reich, the son of Patricio Reich (who’s the founder and proprietor of Renacer).
We were on the patio, in the blazing-hot summer sun. (Yes, it happens in Vancouver!)
While our cannonball into glasses of 2015 Punto Final Chardonnay hit the (juicy, citrusy) spot, I braced myself for the coming big, bold reds.
The Malbecs? Delicious! Totally enjoyable and on-point. A bit of a chill was put on them and they showed well.
It may be sacrilege to say so, but it wasn’t a Malbec from this lauded, family-run Argentinian winery that blew me away the most.
The Renacer 2015 Punto Final Cabernet Sauvignon was a goddamned showstopper. It carried all the things I love in a good Cab: earthy red and black fruit, a splash of mocha notes, a lift of eucalyptus, and a shaving of pencil lead (seriously, I love that).
Here in Vancouver, it’s a measly 20-odd bucks at private stores like Firefly. Go get it, and throw something awesome on the barbecue.
Oh, man! A ridiculously delicious treat: Les Ligériens 2017 Rosé d'Anjou from the Loire Valley in France. A hearty 55% Gamay (#GoGamayGo!) is wonderfully balanced with 45% Grolleau.
It's an indigenous black-skinned variety (the moniker is a nod to grolle, the French word for crow, because crows are black, too, riiiight?) known for low alcohol, high acidity, and red wines that are kinda 'meh.' IN PINK THOUGH, it carries a lot of weight, boosting Gamay's plummy, red berry fruit, supporting that lovely lavender component, and keeping things at a tidy 10.5% alcohol. SO juicy and quaffable; if you find the pink wines of Provence to muted or boring, this is for you.
Here in Vancouver, it's $18.99 at B.C. Liquor Stores.
Yeah, yeah, yeah - for a long time, we've all known about the Wine Aroma Wheel Ann Noble developed during her tenure at UC Davis. How many of us, though, have the Mouth-Feel Wheel (developed by Richard Gawel, A. Oberholster, Leigh Francis) up our sleeves?
It was one of many things that flashed upon my radar for the first time during last week's International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration in Niagara, and now I totally love it.
While recently tasting through a bunch of Michel Gassier's most recent releases with The Wine Syndicate at Vancouver's Homer Street Cafe & Bar, I particularly enjoyed the hell outta this Château de Nages 2015 ButiNages Costières de Nîmes Blanc. A combo of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, it was fermented naturally in stainless steel, which keeps it bright and buoyant with white peach, lemon curd and a good crunch of green table grapes. This kind of blend can certainly be made in a much weightier style, perhaps with some oak treatment as well, but I found myself awfully charmed by how this particular version is so light-on-its-feet, allowing its juicy acidity to provide a nice lift. You still get some of that lovely beeswax-y texture often accompanying whites from the Rhône, but here it's without any heaviness or drag.
Sure, it's more traditional to go the Pinot route with salmon, but I was totally impressed by how well the wine hit Chef Tret Jordan's (kick-ass) salmon with quinoa, pickled fennel, lemon, caper & yogurt. All the freshness, everywhere! (Incidentally, Gassier's Viognier is on Homer Street's wine list, and it's also a lively, delicious drop.)
Next time you're throwing some salmon on the barbecue ('tis the season, after all), ensure you have a bottle of this chilling in the fridge. In Vancouver, you can track it down at Marquis Wine Cellars, and other private stores...
While in Piedmont recently, the international crew of sommeliers and journalists I was travelling with had a fun encounter, which caught us a bit off-guard.
You see, there are relatively few things that drive folks like us bananas when on wine trips, but the big two are:
We were about to be shown yet another bottling line on one afternoon, and as we all began to roll our eyes and elbow one another, we all suddenly perked up.
IT WAS A BAG-IN-BOX BOTTLING LINE!!!
The majority of us had never seen once in action, and after a quick tour -hilariously - it was tough to pry us away! It was mesmerizing! The photo-ops! The Instagram potential!
And so, for those of you who haven't seen one do its thing before, here you go.
(For the record, we later had the opportunity to try this Vinchio-Vaglia Montecroce Piemonte D.O.C. Cortese outta the box. Perfumed, a touch musky and floral on the nose, the palate is then drenched with guava, lemon curd and young pineapple, with medium acid and juuust a hint sweetness on the finish. If it were available here in Vancouver, it'd probably make occasional appearances in my fridge, particularly during these warm, summer days.)
I'm over in Piedmont, Italy this week for the Collisioni festival, a 'collision' of wine, music, literary arts and more.
Before the festival officially begins, there are a couple dozen of us doing an immersive trip through Monferrato, the region commonly thought to be the birthplace of the Barbera grape variety.
This morning, our first stop was at Pico Maccario, and my first sip of the day was a fresh experience: my first-ever Barbera rosé from the region.
Pico Maccario 2016 Lavignone Rosato has fairly sweet aromatics; I'm talking things like cotton candy, bubble gum and candied watermelon notes. On the palate, the wine had more viscosity than I'd expected, an oily character dominates. Those aromatic notes stay consistent through the first few sips, with a touch of salinity and maybe a little fresh-squeezed blood orange providing a little lift to an otherwise weighty wine.
There's a spot of residual sugar on the finish, which doesn't necessarily make it sweet, but definitely enough to ensure it'll handle any dishes which may carry a bit of spice or heat.
While I'm mentioning heat, I thought I detected a hint of alocholic heat on the finish, and a few colleagues tasting next to me agreed with my take. Oddly enough, the wine's only 12.5%; I wouldn't have thought that level would have significantly affected the profile, but the note was there with each taste.
It was an interesting wine, and I was on the fence as to how much I enjoyed the style; I usually like pink wines which carry a little more freshness. It was a good one to ponder though, and it has piqued my interest in tracking down others in the category.
I've never, NEVER, had a Malbec like this, certainly not from British Columbia. Summerland's Tyler Harlton has turned my world upside-down with this light, buoyant, fresh and minty 2016 Malbec, bright with blueberries and Coronation grapes bounding out of the glass. Served with a hint of a chill, it echoes a mighty fine cru Beaujolais.
The guy only made 20 cases of the stuff, so the only way to get your hands on some is to join his By Hand Wine Club. If you can't catch up with this one, I wholeheartedly endorse all of Tyler's wines. Dude knows what's up. Do track 'em down!
In the meantime, this Malbec tho. Holy shit.
UPDATE! Just got a note from the man, himself:
It’s from (Golden Mile Bench) grower Bruce Iversen, a certified organic grower (who also does amazing peaches and cherries). Just picked it and threw it into a bin. Wild ferment took off, swished it around a few times during ferment and then threw it into an old French barrel for four months. A bit of sulphur then in the bottle. No fining or filtration.
It was so nice to have a quick catch-up lunch last week with Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti of Tuscany's four-generations-strong Badia a Coltibuono winery and vineyards. We'd first met when she participated in our 2015 edition of Top Drop Vancouver, and I've been smitten with her family's wines ever since.
While we tasted through a bunch of her latest releases, the one that made time stand still for me was Badia a Coltibuono's 2011 Cultus Boni Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G. It starts off with 80% Sangiovese, which I should mention isn't limited to one clone. Stucchi Prinetti enjoys the mix of clones growing on the family's organic vineyards, as she feels they offer a better expression of the estate's biodiversity. Beyond the Sangiovese, there's a whole flock of indigenous varieties like Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Canaiolo, Mammolo, Fogliatonda, Malvasia Nera, Sanforte and Pugnitello, some so rare they were salvaged from the odd property around the area, where they'd been growing wild and un-checked for decades. These varieties are obviously right at home in the sunny region's clay and limestone soils.
Those few years of age on the wine serve it well; BOY - is it ever hittin' its stride. They do things authentically at Coltibuono, so we're indeed talking hand-picked fruit, wild-yeast ferments and so on. After a couple years in an array of casks and French barrique, the wine is then ready to step out into the world.
This particular edition is well-built with sticky black fruit, a good dose of fennel (both bulb and frond), dusty cocoa, and just a pinch of pepper on the finish. Fascinating, swoon-worthy stuff.
Here in Vancouver, it's imported by Waldorf Wine and $53 at BC Liquor Stores; beyond our borders - you can track it down on Wine Searcher right here...
Well, you probably don't! In my latest column over at the Georgia Straight, I taste through a bunch of Portuguese wines and fall in love with the category all over again! Read it right here...