Friday, August 5, 2016

Featured Wines: Small Batches of Brunello

If any of the wines in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's Morgan Crossing location in South Surrey.

Small Batches of Brunello

By Jordan Carrier

This is another chapter of the Summer Reading series, in longer form. You do not want to miss this selection of Brunellos, however, so if you’re time constrained, scroll down to the bold type to get to the wines.

The seminar was already bizarre. The kind, older Tuscan winemaker was full of wisdom but not of English, so his comments had to be filtered through the agent who’d organized the afternoon event, in the dusty upstairs of a downtown Italian restaurant. It was evident from the beginning that this agent was an hobbyist translator at best: we would ask a question, the agent would slowly translate it to the winemaker, who eagerly responded with several flowing paragraphs using gregarious hand gestures and at least 2 octaves of vocal tones, only to be nervously refracted back to the attendees with one word translations like “yes”, or “five”.

We adaptively began to simplify our questions, and someone asked what percentage of Italian vineyards were growing Sangiovese. We watched that question ping between the agent and the winemaker until the answer came: “ten percent”. What? Italy’s most famous grape accounts for only ten percent of plantings? It’s, like, planted everywhere! My hand shot up.

“Is the gentleman saying that only 10% of Italian vineyards are planted to Sangiovese? That seems low”

Ping, ping, back comes the answer: “I’m sorry, poor translation. The gentleman is saying that 10% of Italy is planted to Sangiovese”

Yes, he said ten percent of the Italian landmass grows this legendary grape, a progeny of Ciliegiolo, an ancient Tuscan grape, and Calabrese Montenuevo, an immigrant from Calabria that is now effectively extinct. Sangiovese took hold in Chianti 500 years ago, big time: the grape was the boldest, most tannic variety with the most longevity that the region had ever seen, and the wines became the toast of Renaissance Florence, championed by its ruling family, the Medici.

The Medici expanded Florentine influence all over Tuscany, eventually incorporating southern Sienna and its holdings, notably a small, nearby hilltop town with an impressive fortress: Montalcino. With the Medici came the Florentine grapes, and the meager vineyards around the fortress were replanted to Sangiovese, mostly for Sacrament, and then everything carried on pretty much as normal. The Medici faded into memory. The Renaissance became the Enlightenment, which became the Romantic era, which became Modernity. Since the town wasn’t a commercial producing region like Chianti, centuries went by without anyone realizing what was happening to the Sangiovese around Montalcino.

It was changing. It evolved. Likely because of the altitude and increased solar influence, Montalcino’s Sangiovese mutated into its own clone; one that was thicker-skinned, darker and deeper than the Sangiovese Piccolo that Chianti grew. Botanists called the clone Sangiovese Grosso (means “bigger” but the berries are, in fact, the same size), but the residents of Montalcino have always used their own distinctive term: Brunello.

Here are some Brunellos that I’ve been collecting in (mostly) small batches for a while, now. My girlfriend, 2010, is included here (the Riservas are trickling in), along with some great older vintages. I’ve hoarded some of this for a while, just until I had enough for an offering, but the quantities are low and we won’t see these vintages again, so don’t hesitate to call me if you want any of these (and you do). We start with the Riservas:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Featured Wines: Masi Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron

If any of the wines in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's Morgan Crossing location in South Surrey.

Masi Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron
By Jordan Carrier

Those of us familiar with Ontario may know Guelph as “Lesser Kitchener”, but not many people know that it was named Guelph as part of an effort to bring some British Royal flavour to Upper Canada. Conceived and planned out like a European city, complete with squares, broad main streets and narrow side streets, the fledgling Canadian town was given its name to honour the origins of King George’s Hanoverian Royal Family, the House of Welf.

How Welf morphed into Guelph is a linguistic question (or perhaps a contraction of the Welf-ian cheerleading cry “Go Welf!”), but the House itself stretches back to the 11th century, boasting ruling Monarchs of England, Bavaria and Russia to name just a few. A branch of this house, interestingly, found their way to Rome, where they supported the Papacy against the Holy Roman Empire in the late 1100s, and later settled in the city of Florence, where the Guelphs flourished as merchants and burghers for another century.

Having achieved super-awesome Florentine success and having run out of enemies to fight, the Guelphs naturally split in to two opposing factions, the White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs, and began battling for control of Florence (you could tell the sides apart by how they wore the feathers in their caps – parentheses are usually where I tell jokes but this is true). When the Black Guelphs won and ran the White Guelphs out of town, they also ousted a former Pharmacist and poet who had been serving as City Prior (like a Mayor), a White-affiliated man named Dante Aligheri.

Falsely accused of corruption and threatened with execution if he ever returned to Florence, Dante moved north to Verona in 1302, where his family put down roots and he began working on what became Italy’s preeminent literary work: The Divine Comedy, which chronicles Dante’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso). Dante moved away before finishing the piece but his family stayed, and his son Pietro got into the local wine business, purchasing the Casal dei Ronchi estate in the heart of the nearby Valpolicella region in 1353.

Twenty-one generations later, that estate still belongs to Dante's direct descendants, the Counts Serego Alighieri. Most of the original Villa still stands, surrounded by vineyards, including the legendary Vaio dei Masi, from which is produced one of the world’s most famous Single Vineyard Amarones - the Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron – and which gave the Masi winery its name.

I have 3 vintages of this great wine to offer, if you’re interested please reply or call me right away.

Masi Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron 1996
20 years young. Dried fruits, toffee and cocoa powder run the table here, overshadowing the sweet soy notes that usually evolve in aged Amarones. The palate is pure elegance; we Wine Geeks avoid/loathe the word “smooth” but this wine embodies it, the acidity is down (was it ever that up?) and the softened tannins support the substantial weight instead of putting a period on it. Drinks like what calligraphy looks like. 92 points Wine Spectator, 4 wooden 6-packs available, $158.99 +tax

Masi Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron 2007
As though a cinnamon coffee cake with cherry icing came alive and started to demolish your living room. According to Robert Parker’s Vintage Chart, the Valpolicella/Amarone region has never had a better year than 2007 (score: 95), and the top marks are likely due to the vintage’s celebrated longevity, supported by firm tannins and the perfect acidity of a not-too-ripe year. Fitting, then, that we should be able to offer the vintage in a 1.5L large format, perfect for long-term aging, and fitter still that each Magnum should come in its own wooden box with a rope handle, so you can swing the box like a lunch pail and look like you’re headed to the Best Lunch Ever. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 Magnums (1.5L) available, $214.49 +tax

Masi Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron 2008
Ok. This is where everyone gets mad at me, because this wine placed #8 on Wine Spectator’s most recent Top 100 list, we are the only store in B.C. to carry it, and I only have six 6-packs. Yikes. Because of the short supply, I’ll have to “be that guy” and limit availability to one 6-pack per customer, awarded to the first 6 folks that contact me (I’ll ask for payment if you need me to hold it). If you are #7 or later, please remember how pleasantly funny I can be. 95 points Wine Spectator, #8 – Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2015, 6 6-packs available, $97.49 +tax

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pink Wines for Canada Day

You may have have envisioned a day of sprinkler dodging and outdoor grazing but there's no guarantee the crisp, white, patio sippers you're hoping to pair with a smokin' hot deck or backyard will meet their match on Canada's birthday. In Vancouver, especially, the weather forecast for Canada Day has rarely been reliably hot and sunny. So why not plan on serving the most versatile category of wine available with your flexible festivities? "Think Pink", as JoieFarm likes to remind us, and try one of the following blush wines on July 1st:

Chateau Des Charmes 2015 Cuvée D'Andrée Rosé - $16
A fruity and fresh rosé with lifted, red berry aromas and a touch of cooling minerality on the nose. Medium bodied with a touch of residual sugar mid-palate that finishes dry thanks to a refreshing wave of cranberry-rhubarb acidity and flavours. Grapefruit rind and light, dried herbs linger on the moderate finish.
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Fort Berens Estate Winery 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé - $18
An orangy-pink rosé with a lovely combination of delicate, sweet berry fruit and warm, sage and dried herbs aromas on the appealing nose and the off-dry, approachable palate. Cool, steely-mineral notes and cranberry acidity balance the residual sugar nicely and linger on the finish.
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Quails' Gate Estate Winery 2015 Rosé - $18
A consistent blend, from the 2014 vintage, of 80% Gamy Noir, 10% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris offering a pleasant, delicate, nose of Spring flowers, strawberry, watermelon, citrus peel and white pepper. Followed by a fruity, slightly off-dry and slightly boozy, effervescent palate of ripe citrus, strawberry, cranberry, minerals, wild herbs and watermelon rind flavours. A delicious taste of Spring. 
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Bench 1775 Winery 2015 Glow Rosé - $20
A truly lovely rosé to experience via its delicate, candied fruit and floral-herb nose and superbly balanced, slightly off-dry, mouth-watering, berry and citrus-infused palate. Salmon-hued and subtly textured, produced with minimal skin contact and aged in stainless steel tanks. Finishes long with lingering herb, melon and tangy, tropical fruit notes.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2015 Oldfield Series Rosé - $20
2015 was another stellar vintage for this Provence styled, salmon-pink rosé made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes sourced from the winery's Diamondback Vineyard along the Black Sage Bench in the Southern Okanagan Valley. Its balance of sweet and savoury characters on the joyful nose and on the off-dry, mouth-watering palate is spot on.
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River Stone Estate Winery 2015 Malbec Rosé - $20
Though muted on the nose, with a youthful bouquet of strawberry, raspberry and mineral aromas, this rosé is as bright and cheerful as its cherry-coral colour suggests. Made from 100%, estate-grown Malbec grapes this blush's raison d'être is its delightful, juicy'n'crisp, off-dry palate of plump, strawberry-kiwi and citrus-pomegranate flavours.
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LaStella 2015 LaStellina Rosato - $20
Produced in the saignée method which "bleeds" juice from newly crushed red grapes imparting a pale strawberry colour and just a touch of tannin texture, the LaStellina is a blend of 62.6% Cabernet Franc, 29.9% Merlot and 7.6% Sangiovese with a fruity, joyful flavour profile of strawberry, rhubarb, cherry and mouth-watering tropical fruit. The balance between the sweet fruit and the acidic elements leans towards off-dry, but not fully.
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JoieFarm 2015 Rosé - $21
A very consistent wine, year-to-year, with a distinct colour and profile offering juicy, red fruit and light, dried herbs on the expressive nose and the slightly, off-dry, textured palate where the residual sugar is balanced beautifully by tart cranberry acidity, light tannins and tangy citrus notes. Your go-to, feel-good rosé. 
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2016