To savour or cellar this fall
By Monique Sosa
History, artistry and tradition are bound by a sense of place. Places that uphold a distinctive peculiarity capable of consistently producing some of the world’s most impeccable wines. Wines that show clear vibrant colours, clean prominent aromas, long concentrated flavours, harmonious balance, a firm structure, and a consistent benchmark style.
Here are eight iconic wines that uphold these treasured qualities.
The first two wines on our list are traditional method sparkling wines. These are wines produced following the centuries-old French technique of Champagne winemaking involving a meticulous hands-on process from vineyard to shelf. Champagne-style wines are typically made from a blend of three key varietals – Chardonnay (a white varietal), Pinot Noir (a red varietal) and Pinot Meunier (another red varietal, related to Pinot Noir) — and a blend of different vintages (harvests). In Champagne, some years yield such exceptional fruit that they are officially declared as vintage years. In every vintage year, some of the finest yields are allocated to creating some of the most exquisite expressions of sparkling wines capable of cellaring for decades.
Outside the bounds of Champagne, there are select producers crafting outstanding expressions of traditional method sparkling wines in unique pockets of the globe. Ferrari’s Giulio Ferrari Reserva del Fondatore produced high in the mountains of Trentino, Italy and Benjamin Bridge’ Brut Reserve crafted in the Gaspereau Valley on the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, are two choice examples of traditional method sparkling wines offering all the joys and perfection of vintage Champagnes.
2004 Giulio Ferrari Reserva del Fondatore, Trento, Italy
Retails for $109.75 | Available in limited quantities at the SAQ #10321967 or by private order from Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.
The Giulio Ferrari Reserva label is named after the founder of Ferrari Wines, established in 1902. He was a cutting-edge viticulturist who became one of the first wine producers to plant Chardonnay grapes in Italy in the early 1900s. Growing a non-indigenous grape varietal in Northern Italy at the time was perceived as a risky move but Ferrari was certain that the high altitude, considerable diurnal temperature shifts, limestone soils, and cool climate provided the site for crafting distinctive expressions of traditional method sparkling wines that would rival the world’s most luxurious brands. Ferrari survived two world wars and near bankruptcy. Today, they are Italy’s leading producers of luxury wines.
The 2005 vintage Giulio Ferrari Reserva del Fondatore is a traditional method sparkling wine crafted from Chardonnay grapes grown nearly 600m above sea level and aged for more than ten years on yeast. It pours with a shimmering gold appearance and a rush of erratic glistening bubbles. The aromas showcase vivid notes of baked apple, stone fruit, candied citrus peel and hints of sweet baking spices. The flavours are absolutely scrumptious featuring a creamy mouthfeel followed by a burst of tangy-sweet dried apricots, mouthwatering citrus notes, and lingering saline minerality notes. It is an outstanding expression of delicately crafted traditional method sparkling wine akin to some of the most revered vintage Champagnes. Enjoy this delectable wine now with freshly shucked oysters, plump stone crab claws or succulent steamed lobster. You may wish to cellar this bottle for another four to five years as well and toast to a special occasion.
2011 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve, Wolfville Nova Scotia, Canada
Retails for $74.50 | Contact the winery directly to purchase
The surge in popularity of Nova Scotian wines across the country is no fluke and one standout winery at the forefront of it all is Benjamin Bridge. Their vineyards are certified organic letting nothing artificial come between the land and the fruit it bears. As well, the similarities in climate and soil types to that of Champagne’s finest vineyards are striking. With practice, patience and dedication, Benjamin Bridge have flourished in their ability to craft flawless expressions of traditional method sparkling wines. Today, they are irrefutably Canada’s top sparkling wine producers.
The 2011 Brut Reserve is a premium blend of Benjamin Bridge’s finest hand-harvested Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. This sparkling wine was aged on yeast for five years which contributed to its development of character, weight and complexity. Pop, pour and admire its fine beguiling pale-golden bubbles and after a few seconds, you’ll find it impossible to ignore the intense green apple, stone fruit, and saline minerality aromas. The palate is rich and flavourful showcasing hints of toasted almonds, apple and lingering citrus zest. It’s fresh and vibrant with a lavish texture, racy acidity, and a long scrumptious finish. The value for quality is astonishing! Enjoy with Yellowfin Tuna tartare, buttery lobster rolls or a bowl of creamy East Coast chowder.
Moving on to a couple of stellar white wines, we’ll head to the Southern Hemisphere for two exemplary wines notable for their signature style and extraordinary expression of terroir (a sense of place capable of bearing a distinct quality of fruit).
2012 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia
Retails for $50.00 | Available at the SAQ #10956022
Rieslings have a long-established history in Australia and likely being one of the first vinifera (wine grape) varietals to be planted in the early 1800s in the state of New South Wales. Today Australia boasts one of the world’s largest and most reputable plantings of Rieslings, second only to Germany (wineaustralia.com). What makes Australian Rieslings so paramount is its distinct purity, vibrant citrus fruit character and crisp dry finish. The Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia, located north of the City of Adelaide, are the most renown regions for producing age-worthy and benchmark quality Rieslings.
The Grosset Polish Hill Riesling is easily Australia’s most reputable expression of clean crisp dry Rieslings hailing from the Clare Valley. It upholds consistency in quality and expression vintage after vintage, showing a remarkable capacity to age. The 2012 vintage is particularly exciting due to its über fresh tart green apple and key lime notes, high mouthwatering acidity, wet stone minerality and a clean bone-dry finish. Cellar through to 2026 to explore its depth or enjoy now with oysters, poached octopus, or salty fried Greek-style calamari.
2016 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, Hermanus, South Africa
Retails for $43.95 | Available at the LCBO #931006
Hamilton Russell specializes in producing premium quality estate grown Burgundian varietals (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Their wines are highly regarded as the best wines hailing from South Africa and the New World. Their vineyards are located in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation near the quaint fishing village of Hermanus. They attend to some of the most southerly vineyards in South Africa, strongly influenced by the cold Benguela current. The clay-rich soils also offer a unique structure and harmony of flavours creating wines with opulence and complexity. Yields are keenly monitored and purposely kept to a minimum to ensure benchmark quality and consistency, despite their growing worldwide demand.
The 2016 Hamilton Russel Chardonnay pours with a brilliant light golden hue and pronounced orchard fruit and minerality notes. The palate is rich and creamy with a tasteful balance of acidity and concentrated orchard fruit flavours. Prominent notes include ripe peach, apple, toasty oak, sweet baking spice and stony minerality. It is a divine expression of an elegant full-bodied chardonnay showing deep complexity and length. Enjoy it with roasted chicken, Thanksgiving turkey or seafood casserole.
Next, we turn our attention to three stunning red wines hailing from distinct noteworthy terroirs in North America.
2014 Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir, Naramata BC, Canada
Retails for $58.00 | Contact winery directly to purchase
Foxtrot Vineyards is a family-owned craft winery located on the upper slopes of the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, BC. They are highly respected for their Burgundian-style wines with depth, complexity, purity and quality on par with some of our world’s premium brands. Their original Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1993 on two very distinct soil compositions and microclimates. The upper block is composed of alluvial soil which has shown to yield elegant wines with pronounced floral and berry notes, while the lower block is composed of glacial till which yields fruit with rich texture, weight and spice. In 2002, the Allander family assumed ownership of Foxtrot Vineyards and soon released their first vintage in 2004. Their 2004 Pinot Noir was met with such high praises that in very short time, it secured a dedicated national following.
The 2014 vintage pours with an alluring bouquet of wild berries raspberries, red cherry, zesty dried sage, cedar, hints of leather, and a touch of flinty minerality. The palate is dry with fine developing tannins harmoniously balanced with high mouth-watering acidity and long berry and spice flavours. This Pinot Noir is an ideal cellar candidate that would flourish in about four to six years allowing tannins to mature and fresh berry and zesty notes to integrate.
2013 Col Solare Red Wine Blend, Benton City WA, USA
Retails for $81.75 | Available at the LCBO #20487
Col Solare is a lavish collaborative boutique label by the trail-blazing wine producers at Ste. Michelle Wines and the illustrious House of Marchesi Antinori (Tignanello). This partnership broke ground in the late 1990s on the smallest, warmest, most coveted American Vinicultural Area (AVA) in Washington State, Red Mountain AVA. A site sought after for its dry hot desert climate and mineral-rich soil boasting a distinctly high pH. Together with blue skies and sunshine throughout their growing season, there was no doubt that such a place could yield red grapes with purity, structure and depth capable of producing outstanding wines.
The 2013 Col Solare Red Blend is a cellar-worthy powerhouse Cabernet Sauvignon with a fraction of Merlot for fruit concentration and floral aromatics, Cabernet Franc for texture and spice, and Syrah for finesse. The aromas show inviting plum, blackberries and spice notes followed by a heavy rush of ripe black fruit, cocoa, tobacco, cedar and minty anise flavours. Every sip delivers a decadent burst of flavours balanced by subtle developing tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Every vintage shows sublime consistency in character and complexity. The 2013 vintage is still young and developing. It’s exciting to see how these wines will transform. If enjoying now, decant for 1-2 hours prior to serving and pair with a braised beef short rib.
2013 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve to Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Oakville Napa Valley CA, USA
Retails for $149.95 | Available for purchase at the LCBO #670463
To Kalon, translated from Ancient Greek, means “of the highest beauty.” This unique parcel of land in Napa Valley is widely acknowledged as the home of North America’s premier “first growth vineyards” with its earliest plantings dating back to 1868. These vineyards sit on a fanned out alluvial flat with deep gravely soils comprised of ancient deposits washed down from the Mayacamas Mountains. Over the last few decades, To Kalon’s vineyards have become recognized for their premium Bordelaise-style red wines. Today, To Kalon wines like Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon, Schrader Cellars To Kalon, Opus One and Robert Mondavi To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon are highly coveted and revered as one of the world’s most iconic wines.
The 2013 Robert Mondavi To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon was meticulously hand-crafted from the finest fruit harvested from select To Kalon blocks. It pours with an alluring deep ruby appearance and inviting dark fruit aromas. The palate is rich, smooth, luscious and harmoniously balance with a long dark plum, cassis, leather, and anise finish. This wine is still quite juvenile and has a ballpark 30+ year cellar life ahead of it. If enjoying now, decant for two hours prior to serving and pair with a prime rib roast.
Finally, with sweetness and sensuality, a dessert wine to soothe the palate.
Taylor Fladgate 40-year old Tawny Port, Douro Valley, Portugal
Retails in Ontario for $240.00 | Available for purchase at the LCBO #540260
The steep picturesque vineyards of the upper Douro Valley have been the cradle of the world’s finest fortified wines for over 2,000 years. Today, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site revered for its beauty and time-honoured traditions. Every harvest is still arduously hand-picked, de-stemmed and hand-sorted, then sent to undergo a distinct crushing and maceration process (the stage where grapes are kept in contact with their skins). The maceration typically lasts about three days after which a unique fermentation process takes place. When the sugars in the fermenting wines reach between six per cent and nine per cent alcohol by volume (abv), a spirit is added to the wine to achieve a minimum 17.5 per cent abv wine. This step stops the fermentation process by killing the yeast resulting in a wine with ample residual sweetness and higher than usual abv of a table wine. By law, Portugal, Spain, Italy and France must use a spirit distilled from grapes (brandy) to complete their fortification process.
There are many styles of Port and one of the most coveted is the Reserved Tawny Port style. A Reserve Tawny Port is the result of multiple blended vintages aged for a minimum of six years in casks. Tawny Ports that show an indication of age (10-40+ years) are considered to be exceptionally complex and are meant to be drunk soon after being bottled as they don’t improve from bottle ageing. Also, the age statement does not indicate the actual or average age of the wine, instead it is meant to highlight the characteristics of a wine with that indicated aged.
Few houses still produce 40-year-old Tawny Ports and only a handful of them are gifted enough to craft an aged Tawny with finesse, balance and preserved fruit character — the House of Taylor Fladgate being one them. Their rare 40-year-old Tawny is the pure essence of Port. Nutty and sweet baking spice aromas lead the way to warm hazelnut, cinnamon, nutmeg and exotic dried fruit flavours. The palate showcases a rich and unctuous mouthfeel with a long delectable dried fig, candied orange and toasted pralines finish. There is no need to cellar this bottle, enjoy it now with dark chocolate mousse.