Sylvaner Alert

Lying comfortably between the maritime zone to the west and the protective
shadow of the Vosges Mountains eastward, Alsace is the driest wine region in
France. This translates into vineyards where the grapes enjoy a long growing
period toward maturation – resulting in more complex, layered flavors. Since the
Middle Ages, within this zone, the terroirs of Riquewihr have been renowned
as producing some of the most distinctive and interesting white wine varieties
in the entire country including Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and this
week’s DéClassé selected, varietal bottling of a 100% Sylvaner.

Surprisingly, these noteworthy wine-producing tracts were almost wiped out
early in the 20th century by a combination of the earlier Franco-Prussian wars
and then the scourge of various pests and horticultural disease! Nonetheless,
the Sylvaner variety, considered a noble grape, has battled its way in and out of
favour for most the ensuing period. Recently it has again declined from 27% in
the early 1980’s to only 11% of the vineyards currently planted. Gradually, this
grape has waned due to increased consumer demand for Riesling. But Sylvaner
appears to be the come-back kid of Alsace. From the 2005 vintage onward, it
qualifies for the distinction as ‘Alsace Grand Cru’, which should help the variety
to regain part of its former, elevated status.

Also, though grown all over the Europe, it has not caught on significantly in the
New World wine regions. So Alsatian versions, derived from very mature vines,
should continue to revive the deserved re-appreciation and interest in dry, crisp
whites that display none of the overly “grassy” or “herbaceous” notes that seem
to be the current norm for these wine styles from warmer climates.

This bottling is ripe and ready to be enjoyed now, but this strong 2012 vintage
will hold well in the cellar for at least a couple more years – so buy several!

Hugel Sylvaner

LCBO – Product #361543 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.25
11.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Hugel & Fils S.A.

Tasting Note
This has an attractive fruit-driven and refreshing, springtime character that’s
typically a much drier wine style than its Riesling cousins. Savour with mildly
spiced roast pork, sweet-and-sour chicken, baked hams and cabbage recipes.

Zinfandel Alert

Based in California’s Sonoma County since the mid 70’s, Joel Peterson began
forging wines in an itinerant manner by moving about the region for 15 years
with his tanks and barrels in tow – searching for a financially and logistically
sustainable setting where his dream winery might take permanent root. Even
more colourful is the formative anecdote of a Raven flock buzzing about while
he desperately worked to complete his first harvest ahead of an impending and
potentially destructive thunderstorm Their inspirational form and provocative
energy led to creating the winery’s distinctive logo of 3 interlocked Black Ravens
perched on branches; a somewhat later introduction to the tragic character of
Lord Ravenswood at an operatic performance of ‘Lucia de Lammermore’ would
inspire the property’s moniker.

Since 1991, the central operation has been producing signature wines drawn
from a host of connected growers, who in local wine making lore are playfully
referred to as co-conspirators. Utilizing traditional methods such as employing
only wild yeasts in open-vat fermentors and the subsequent resting and aging
for 10 months in 100% small French Oak barrels, illustrates a combination of
traditional, old-world wine making, innovative modern techniques while wielding
the philosophical adage of ‘Nullum Vinum Flaccidum’ – no wimpy wines!

Long considered to be California’s heritage grape, the Zinfandel cultivar at the
heart of this vintner’s story also has a circuitous history as a variety, seemingly
originating on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. A near-relative
to Italy’s Primitivo grape and wine style, its Californian arrival is pegged around
the early 1850’s where it took root in the counter-intuitive growing context of
so-called dry-farming and low-production. Refered to as ‘Zeinfandell’ in these
early days, it has remained one of the most important vinestocks, vigorously
producing copious volumes of grape bunches and whose only, primary liability
lies in an uneven ripening characteristic, which needs to be closely managed.

This week is an excellent time to revisit this full and robust wine that, even when
not on sale as it currently is, continues to be one of the better price-point values
coming from a region that more-typically – is unjustifiably overpriced!

Ravens Wood

VINTAGES – Product #359257 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Was: $ 17.95
Limited Time Offer
Until Mar 30, 2014
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: California, USA
By: Ravenswood
Release Date: Apr 18, 2013

Tasting Note
Ripe raspberry, cherry, blueberry flavours have long made this an upscale
barbeque classic. It will stand up to some time spent on your cellar rack, so
stock up on several now to serve along your first batch of brisket or pork ribs.

Super Venetian Alert

The development of Appassimento grape drying technique originates with early
Roman wine making experiments. Initially aimed at creating various sweet wine
styles such as Recioto della Valpolicella, it was gradually adapted to create a
broader range of drier, though still immensely rich variants such as Amarone,
Ripasso and this week’s DéClassé recommended 2010 vintage of Campofiorin.

Here in the hilly vineyards of Verona, numerous generations of vintners at Masi
have been refining the so-called ‘Super Venetian’ first released in 1964: yet
another variant of the traditional techniques, this has also gained the winery the
deserved reputation for being the leading innovators of a regional style boasting
a Latin subtitle “Nectar Angelorum Hominibus” (“Nectar of the angels for men”)!

The artisanal process begins with pre-selected, optimally ripe grape bunches
being harvested long after the main picking has been completed. These are then
laid out to dry on bamboo racks known as ‘Arele’ and left to wither for a portion
of the early winter months. Once having reached the desired concentrations for
both sugar and glycerin content, they’re slowly pressed and allowed to gradually
ferment for an extended period – also in the cold.

The extracted juice from this complicated process becomes Amarone wine; the
residual grape pomace that’s left over is re-purposed by being added to young,
partially aged wine. This promotes a secondary fermentation, adding richness
and becoming a Ripasso-style wine. For the Campofiorin version, a small batch of
whole dried fruit is added. In all cases, the typical grape varieties include the local
stars of north-eastern Italy such as Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.

This bottling is several dollars above the traditional DéClassé price-point, though
with an appreciation of how much effort has been invested by the winery – it’s a
real bargain for what should be a classy dinner wine addition to your go-to list.
Remarkably, this has so much body, it could stand up to 15-20yrs. of cellaring!

Masi Campofiorin

LCBO Product #155051 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 18.95
13.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Veneto, Italy
By: Masi Agricola S.P.A.

Tasting Note
Has a distinct and layered set of aromas and flavours including cherry, currants
and spice. As expected from a Ripasso wine, it’s velvety smooth and extremely
versatile with a broad range of food pairings. Try as apéritif with appetizers
such as steak tartare, salsa verde or also ideal with well-aged cheeses.

Tempranillo Alert

Bodegas LAN, founded in 1972, is an acronym derived from 3 provinces in the
Rioja designation of origin – Logroño (now called La Rioja), Álava and Navarra.
This winery’s picturesque 72 acre plot known as Viña lanciano, is a spectacular
horseshoe-shaped location along the meandering, vineyard-lined Ebro River. At
a higher elevation this area is also referred to as Rioja Alta, with a reputation
for producing somewhat lighter, fruit forward wines – resulting from the shorter
growing season and the character of its limestone, sandstone and alluvial soils.

Though La Rioja has ancient traditions of winemaking dating back to the period
of the Phoenicians, it was the King of Navarra and Aragon who was the first to
convey legal recognition on these indigenous wines early on in the 12th century.
Unlike many of the large producers in the region who source their grapes from
numerous independent growers with wide-ranging standards, LAN, as part of a
new generation of Spanish vintner, is producing a more distinctive flavour profile
from the closely managed harvests of its large, single vineyard.

Native to Rioja, grapes for this 100% Tempranillo varietal wine are hand-picked
and sorted, with initial fermentation begun in stainless steel tanks. The Crianza
designation attests to the young wine then being aged in a novel construction of
wooden casks (which combine American Oak staves with French Oak tops) for
12 months, followed by at least another year in the bottle. This current bottling
has 3 yrs. of cellaring at the Bodega and though it offers less complexity than a
Reserva grade, it has serious credentials for a $16.00 offering.

Unlike the perennial and immensely popular DéClassé recommendation of the
2006 thru 2009 vintages, the 2010 release has been ordered by the LCBO in
sufficient amounts so as to qualify for its ‘Vintages Essentials’ listing – happily
making it available throughout the better part of this year!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #166538 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Lan, S.A.
Release Date: Mar 1, 2014

Tasting Note
Layered aromas of red fruit, vanilla and spice. This medium-bodied, lively red has
a smooth balance of light tannins and alcohol. Try pairing it with grilled chicken
salad with Arugula and lemon pepper dressing or leg of lamb and pork loin with
roasted beets and goat cheese salad.

Roussanne Alert

This Domaine, run by the brothers Michel and Andre Berthet-Rayne, began in
the 1880’s as a modest 6 hectare vineyard plot. 4 generations onward, this
winery’s holdings have swelled to 25 in the one of the Côtes du Rhône region’s
most desirable locations – Cairanne. At the edge of the sun-baked Plan de Dieu
plateau this is part of the ‘Villages’ appellation. Officially including the name of the
village, this AOC designation signifies a superior grade of wine being made here
in the Southern Rhône Valley. Elevated quality is due to stringent requirements
that includes pruning techniques to both thin the vines for better aeration and
lower the grape yields – resulting in more characterful and concentrated fruit.
As of this vintage, the farm’s output is also certified organic and chemical-free.

Influencing the character of this terroir is the clay and calcareous (calcium-rich)
soil covered in the drainage-promoting, crushed rock top layer left behind by the
retreating Rhône glacier. Now in its place, the frigid winds of the Mistral (derived
from ‘miserable’) blow for upwards of 150 days per year, often at near-hurricane
speeds! Though frequently destructive, an upside of these blasts is that they blow
off the moisture-loving fungus growth in spring and cool the vine stock and grape
clusters during the hottest, wilting periods of summer.

The harvest and vinification involves 100% hand picking and sorting, as well as,
fermentation in individual tanks to better ensure that this equal-parts blending
of Clairette, Marsanne, Bourboulenc and traditional star variety Roussanne
– is of a consistently high-caliber.

First established as a wine growing region by the Greeks in the 4th century BCE,
more recently this wine won a Silver Medal at the prestigious Concours Général
Agricole de Paris 2012. With this release you can dare to think that a white wine
from the Côtes du Rhône can be as rich and satisfying as its red counterparts!


VINTAGES –LCBO Product #354100 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rhône, France
By: Dom Andre Berthet-Rayne – Earl Les
Release Date: Mar 1, 2014

Tasting Note
With its tell-tale notes of pear, plums and touches of honey, this weighty-white
also delivers a fine supporting minerality imparted from calcium-laden soils.
Best served with food, try this with roasted vegetable minestrone, lamb and
grilled poultry and fish.