Friday, May 29, 2009

South Australia's Oldest Vineyard May Be Bulldozed for Housing

Constellation sells McLaren Vale's Stony Hill, first planted in 1838; says it's too expensive to maintain

South Australia's oldest commercial vineyard site has been sold to developers to be subdivided into a housing development. The Stony Hill vineyard at Old Reynella in McLaren Vale was first planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in 1838 by the district's first settler, John Reynell. The announcement of the plan to develop the historic site has angered locals and wine lovers across the country.

"We'd like to see it preserved as vineyards, as a tribute to our early history," said Kris Hanna, the local parliament member and chairman of the Reynell Business and Tourism Association. McLaren Vale is under increasing pressure from the sprawling southern suburbs of Adelaide, despite assurances from politicians that vineyard sites will not be rezoned to residential land.

Nonetheless, the vineyard was sold by Constellation Wines to Pioneer Homes, which has lodged a council application for 41 high-density homes to be built on the site.

Constellation Wines Australia public relations manager Sheralee Davies said that the vineyard, just 0.8 acres in size, was identified a number of years ago as unviable. "Water access is a challenge and the small vineyard has become increasingly expensive to maintain," she said. The site is currently planted to 19- and 25-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines, which would be removed under Pioneer Homes' development plan.

Davies explained that the company is focusing its resources on its Hardy's Old Reynella headquarters and its public areas, located directly opposite the Stony Hill vineyard. "We have had to make some tough calls across the board and this is one of them," she said.

While acknowledging that the site has historical significance as the original location of John Reynell's vineyard, she said, "We're trying to run a business here and we need to be responsible in the way that we maintain it."

Some in the industry have suggested that the vineyard was the original source of the Reynella clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, which has since been planted across Australia. It's more likely that the clone originated from the nearby Reynella vineyard, planted by Reynell shortly after Stony Hill. Constellation has declared that it plans to continue to maintain the Reynella vineyard.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Pomerol legislation could cripple properties

Pomerol proprietors say they face 'deep debt' if new legislation forcing them to make their wine within the appellation is upheld.

The decision, made earlier this month by the Pomerol wine union (Syndicat Viticole de Pomerol), will ensure all the estates will make their wines within the appellation's 780 acres by 2018. With Pomerol land costing around €1m per hectare (ha), some producers say the ruling will cripple them. 'The estate has been in our family since 1861 and the wines have been vinified in St. Emilion,' said Sandrine Ybert, owner of Domaine Vieux Taillefer. 'The small plot we have in Pomerol has no electricity or water – either we need to sell it or go deep into debt.' Ybert's comments were echoed by Charles Estager of Château La Fleur Grangeneuve whose 1.66ha do not include a single building. 'We have been vinifying the wine 200m away, at Château Fougeailles in Lalande de Pomerol…I cannot afford to build a new chai just to vinify 1.6ha,' said Estager, who also owns over 5ha in Montagne St-Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol. Pomerol union president Jean Marie Garde said the vote followed on from an earlier, similar, decision in 1998. He said the rule followed the same logic as the St Emilion Grand Cru system and that it 'validates the notion of “mis en bouteille au chateau”.' He added that about 20 chateaux opposed the ruling. 'This is economic nonsense, enological nonsense and just unfair,' said Paul Goldschmidt of Château Vray Croix de Gay (vinified at his Lalande de Pomerol property Château Siaurac). 'By 2018, I would have to invest some €600,000 for a new chai, for just 20,000 bottles per year, including my second wine. Vinifying the wine a short distance away does not affect the quality.' Jean-Michel Laporte of Château La Conseillante says a middle ground could be followed: 'Given the cost [of Pomerol land], why not allow certain châteaux who have been vinifying just outside Pomerol for a long time to continue and require new entrants [who can afford the property prices] to vinify in Pomerol?'

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A New Wine Festival comes to Toronto – SALUTE!

For many years, the Bloor Yorkville region of Toronto played host to Sante: The Bloor-Yorkville Wine Festival. This year there is a new kid in town and it is called Salute Wine and Food Festival. Although there are similarities between these two events – Salute runs during the same week that Sante once occupied and there are some similarities in the types of tastings, the similarities do stop there. Salute has a more intimate, close knit feel to it and has some extra diversity to the events that Sante has not considered in the past. Three notable differences this year were a modern day’s Farmer’s Market where guests could sample delicious servings of Ontario wines, cheeses and produce. Chef Chuck Hughes of Food Network will man the BBQ and offer tantalizing treats. HGTV host, Carson Arthur, will create a special lounge for the evening which will be up for auction with proceeds going to the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation.

The third notable difference I felt in Salute is the scale of the big industry tasting held on the Thursday. In the past, it would be impossible to get through even one third of the industry tasting due to the sheer number of wineries and the wines they have available. With the Salute tasting, although the number of wineries was similar in size, it did not feel as large scale and, as a result, much more manageable. The focus for this year’s festival were the wineries of Prince Edward County and Argentina. Having recently been through an Argentinian tasting, I decided to focus on the main area and the Prince Edward County group which is one of my favourite Ontario wine regions.

Down in the main area there were three wines that really intrigued me – one from France, one from Portugal and one from Chile. From France, the winemaker of Domaine Bourbon was there to talk to us and showcase a couple of really great red wines. The wine that I enjoyed the most was the Julienas 2007 which is made solely from Gamay grapes. Gamay is the native grape of Beaujolais, where the winery is located, and it tends to produce some of the lightest red wines available on the market. In Ontario, we have a few good examples of Gamay Noir but Beaujolais is recognized as being heads and tails above most other wine producing regions for their Gamay’s. What I tend to find is that Gamay Noir produced in Beaujolais have more variety in their flavours, more ability to age for a longer period of time and – all around – are extremely food friendly on a variety of levels. The Julienas 2007 fit all of that description to a tee – the list of possible food pairings was as long as my arm. Everything from burgers to pasta with red sauce to pizza to cheese and pate would pair beautifully with the wide variety of flavours that were pouring out from this glass. In terms of the actual wine, the Julienas 2007 was medium bodied and largely fruity in nature – lots of cherry and raspberry flavours – with next to no tannins because it is not aged in oak. The winery itself says the wine could easily be cellared for three to five years, which might be possible if you buy enough because this is one of those wines that you could not have enough of.

The wine from Portugal – from Sogevinus Fine Wines – is one of two white wines I found at the beginning of the tasting that were very impressive. Although Portugal is known for great Port and amazing red wines, there are some truly wonderful white wines that are coming from this country. Perfect levels of acidity, fruit and mineral…light and lively the whole way through…Portuguese white wines are unique unto themselves and deserve a very serious look. The Agnusdei Albarino Rias Baixas 2008 - which is from Spain - was still slightly underchilled making it easier to distinguish the aromas of fruit and herbs. You can tell that this is one of those wines that, when chilled to the proper level, is incredibly complex. The flavours were predominantly tropical fruit balanced with great acidity and a slightly lingering finish. There are slight hints of anise (licorice) and aromatic herbs in the mid palate to the finish. The flavours that really stood out were apricot, pineapple and slight hints of toffee. If you did not want to have this at the beginning of a meal, this wine would pair rather well with a fruit based dessert too due to the complexity of aromas and flavours. If you want to pair this with a main dish, try seafood, fish or white meats or, for the more adventurous, Sushi.

The final international wine that was really impressive hails from Chile – from the Vina Cono Sur. This is one of those wines that is quite easily found in local LCBO stores and is always at a very reasonable price. Viognier is one of those grapes that has become a “go to” grape for me in the summer. While I may enjoy a Pinot Grigio or a Rose wine every now and then in the summer, Viognier has become a very versatile, easy to pair wine and is just as great as a summer sipper on its own. Just to give you an idea, this particular Viognier – the Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier 2008 – was the first wine I sampled this afternoon and it was still lingering hours later when we left. The aromas pouring out of this glass were apricots, citrus fruit, peaches and slight floral note at the end. The wine itself was fresh and lively – with complimentary flavours to those found in the aromas – and although it may seem hard to pair, my suggestions are to head to the Far East to find good pairings – Thai, Indian and Chinese foods seem to be the way to go with this wine.

Now on to our amazing local wines – mostly from Prince Edward County but with one Niagara on the Lake winery added in for their unique Gamay. Chateau des Charmes has become known in local circles for having a very unique clone of Gamay – the Gamay Droit. In 1982, Château des Charmes' founder Paul-Michel Bosc, while conducting pioneering clonal selection research at his vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, noticed a single Gamay Noir vine that exhibited some interesting and unique characteristics. Most noticeably, the vine shoots grew in an upright ("droit") position. Propagation of this single vine began immediately and culminated almost two decades later in the granting of international Plant Breeder's Rights to Château des Charmes. "Canada's first vinifera" was born. Gamay Droit produces grapes that ripen on average about ten days later than Gamay Noir with higher sugar levels and greater colouring matters. The result is a red wine with more body, alcohol and flavour concentration. The 2007 vintage of Chateau des Charmes St David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Droit is everything that vintage promises to be combined with everything this clone promises to be. Gamay’s are typically fruity and full of flavour – this one is all that with the added kick of spice and herbs. I would not normally describe a light red wine – like any Gamay – as a powerhouse wine but, in the case of Chateau des Charmes’ 2007 Gamay Droit that is the only way to do this wine justice.

Now out to Prince Edward County, where there are plenty of fine wines to choose from. First stop is The Grange of Prince Edward – a place that has always made interesting Gamay Noir and, this year, saw a Chardonnay added to my favourites. The Chardonnay is becoming a Vintages release in June of 2009 and has a very pale straw colour indicating that it did not come into contact with any oak. The aromas are mostly melon, peach and apple while the flavours are a continuation of the apple with some minerality to give it extra dimension. The Gamay has always been one of my favourites and the 2007 vintage is no exception. This particular vintage has this lovely combination of floral and red berry aromas that continue on to the palate and add a cinnamon overtone to the taste. White meats are not typically paired with red wines but, in this particular instance, Roast Turkey would be an excellent pairing with this wine.

Not all that far from The Grange is a wonderful little winery called Rosehall Run Vineyards. Always one of my favourites with great white wines and very interesting red wines, today my favourite was their 2007 Cuvee County Chardonnay. Rather than being a straight Chardonnay, the Cuvee County Chardonnay is a blend of Chardonnay and Chardonnay Musque. The Chardonnay Musque gives an added dimension and a slight hit of sweetness that most Chardonnay’s do not. One of my favourite flavours of the summer is corn on the cob and this wine reminds me of it – Peaches and cream are the predominant flavours then comes the distinctive minerality that most County Chardonnay’s have followed by floral and caramel near the end. This wine could pair with a large variety of foods but I would stick with chicken, corn and cream based pasta’s.

There were a couple of other wineries from Prince Edward County that were quite spectacular that day but I actually want to wait for a continuation of this blog before I present them to you. Stay tuned for reviews on Bergeron Estate Winery’s 2007 Gamay Noir and Thirty Three Vines 2007 Cabernet Franc. Reviews to be posted by the end of this week.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Importance of Being Earnest - WBC Scholarship Fund

Did you know the second annual Wine Blogger conference is almost upon us? If you love to blog about wine, this is the place for you!
If you like to read wine blogs, then be prepared to read lots about what we'll collectively discover at the spotlight on Napa!
In both case, take a second to see if you can help make this year's event a little better.
By helping someone who might otherwise have to sit out this year by contributing so someone with a lot of passion around wine, writing and adventure gets to come. Different perspectives are an invaluable aid in learning about how the moon looks on the other side of the world. Someone not like me can bring a fresh perspective to the most tired topic. I am very much looking forward to seeing friends at the WBC, but am just as excited by the prospect of meeting new people.
Another reason is that by helping to sponsor someone to attend we help ourselves too. The wineries and business focused contributors might fund someone who will someday make a vital connection for them, become an invaluable employee someday or just be their biggest booster. Connections are important. And in the world of one-to-one marketing enabled by social media, everyone is more than important. We're necessary! So, if you are able to give, please click and contribute. Maybe you can sell something on eBay and repurpose an item sitting around gathering dust so that a deserving blogger will get a chance to brighten us all a little.
PS: If you are a blogger in need of a scholarship, please click on the same link to apply! Or clip the badge and link for your own website! See you at the WBC!

Policy and practice at the Wine Advocate - Parker responds

What do you think of this squabble (Robert Parker x Dr Vino)?

In a recent posting, I published my correspondence with Robert Parker and Jay Miller concerning an apparent divergence between the ethical guidelines set down by Parker and the actions of some of the contributors to The Wine Advocate.
One claim that came up several times in the over 130 comments was that Mr. Miller took one or two trips to Argentina, organized and paid for by Wines of Argentina, a trade group representing over 100 wineries that also receives government funding according to their web site. I contacted Wines of Argentina and they confirmed that they paid for and organized the two trips and several people in the trade there also confirmed them. Robert Parker has also now admitted as well but referred to them as “vineyard tours.” There was apparently more to the trips than just that–multiple sources said that there were lunches and dinner at wineries, and I was also told by several people that Miller was ferried around the country by private jet during one visit.
I alerted Miller yesterday that Wines of Argentina had told me that the trips were comped and asked him for comment. Not long thereafter, Parker posted a message that indicated that Miller would no longer be able to take “vineyard tours paid by Wines of Argentina.”
Parker laid down ethical guidelines years ago–guidelines that are the source of so much of his authority and that have set the standard against which all other wine critics are judged. The divergence between the action of some contributors to the Wine Advocate and the stated policy was (and perhaps still remains) a legitimate issue and important issue given the power of the publication; if the Wine Advocate was bending the rules, that was something his readers had a right to know.
Over the weekend, on his web site, Parker characterized those of us raising these concerns as the work of “extremists who could care less about the truth.” On the contrary, the truth was precisely what I’ve been after. Perhaps the larger issue then is Parker seemed to resent that people wanted to know the truth. While Parker lamented the state of journalism, the examples he cites of good journalism seems to be anything that speaks well of him.
But journalism is precisely what I’ve been doing all along. I went to Parker and Miller with legitimate questions and they were evasive. I spoke with Wines of Argentina and the truth came out. That’s called journalism. Instead of lashing out with invective (”extremists” or “jihadists” or eliding wine bloggers with the Taliban) at me and others who have raised very legitimate issues, Parker should take this episode as indicative of the respect he commands and the seriousness with which the wine community takes the ethical standards he established long ago.
Since Mr. Parker has shown an affection for ending his interventions with quotes, here’s an aphorism that he might remember from his days as a lawyer: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

vins du JURA....Wines with Unusual EXCEPTIONAL Flavor
Recently I attended a vins du JURA wine tasting in New York, hosted by the most able French wine and food oriented PR firm in New York, Carbonnier Communications.Honestly, I knew very little about the wines from the Jura region of France.What I learned is that the Jura is France's smallest region. It is located 50 miles from Burgundy, stretching from Arbois to Lons le Saunier in the western foothills of the Jura mpuntains. The land is full of limestones and fossils. There are four regional appelations: Arbois; Cotes de Jura; Chateau Chalon and a small version of Etoile, plus two wine style appelations: Cremant de Jura and Macvin.The wines are not what one expects from French whites. Visually, the whites range in hue from dark amber to pale green. The grapes used for the whites are Chardonnay, Savagnin (Nature), Poulsard and Trousseau.When you taste the traditional wines you will be in for quite a shock. The vineyards date back to the 1400's and the wines often taste like they were produced during those times. Thw white wines are full of yeast, which I like, but many of my wine friends found the wines repulsive. Thw wines tasted alot like Indian food in a bottle. Tumeric, ginger, curry were the spice overtones mixed with honey and walnuts. The taste of the wines is so interesting and yet, quite unknown, for obvious reasons.I felt like I was tasting wine for the first time. Ans I was blown away.I suggest that everyone who reads this blog to invest in a bottle of white wine from the Jura region of France. It is alot like licorice. Either you love it or you don't.Please ask your wine merchant to recommend a 'tradional, classic, white wine from the Jura'. You won't be let down...
Posted by at 5:29 PM

How Hungarian Cabernet Franc Changed My Life by Philip S. Kampe

My Dad was known to his friends as ‘Cab Franc.’ You see, his name was really Joseph and all of his social time with visiting frien...