Friday, November 20, 2009

Report from ... Halpern Portfolio Tasting – October 29, 2009

It’s time for the Halpern tasting, an every two year affair, from what I am told. Halpern represents a variety of wineries both famous and infamous, from around the world. Their tasting was held in the ex-Automotive Building (now the Allstream Centre) on the Exhibition grounds (otherwise known as The Ex). The most amazing part of the tasting – besides some of the wines – was the elephant (not kidding) at the front door acting as a beacon to visitors … you had to have some sympathy for the guy who had to cart around the wheel barrel and shovel all day … one guy leads the elephant around from the front, the other guy has a the wheel barrel and shovel, sounds like a metaphor for life. But enough about the pachyderm. The reason to be there was to taste all the great wines Halpern brings into Ontario, and there were plenty of them on display, some need no introduction or plug from me, so I’ll try (operative word here is try) to focus my attention on wineries you may not have heard about and wines you’ve just gotta get your mitts (and tongue) on – someway, somehow … maybe by getting a case from Halpern, just a suggestion:

M. Chapoutier (France) 2007 Rasteau Cote du Rhone Village ($17.80) – lots of cherry and red fruit with a subtle spiciness … excellent price for this delicious wine. (****)

Domaine Carneros (USA) 2005 Vintage Brut ($32.70) – this bubbly bites back with tart green apple and lots of acidity. (****)

Faiveley (France) 2007 Mercurey 1er Cru Clos des Myglands ($39.50) – I’m worried about the name of this wine, not sure I’m too enthused about a wine that comes from “My Glands”, but once it hit the palate all my cares just drifted away. This all Pinot Noir wine delivered delicious flavour: lovely cherry with subtle earthiness; try this and you too will be crazy ‘bout a Mercurey. (****½)

Gaja (Italy) 2006 Ca’Marcanda Magari IGT ($76.00) – 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc; big black fruited beauty with bold tannins. (****½)

Hecht & Bannier (France) 2006 Cotes du Rousillon Villages ($22.95) – a Grenache dominated wine; heavy on the black fruit, big on taste with nice tannin structure. (****)

Kalleske (Australia) 2007 Pirathon Shiraz ($36.85) – smooth blackberry, white pepper and spice, big mouth filling wine, at 15% alcohol, with a chocolaty finish. The representative, obviously from Australia, said this is his house wine, I hope when I get to Australia I’m invited to his house. (****½)

Isole e Olena (Italy) 2006 Uvaggio Coste della Sesja Rosso DOC ($43.65) – a blend of Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Croatina; think young fresh fruit: strawberry and raspberry flavour with a touch of stoniness, floral aromas are delicate on the nose and the wine has a good tannins structure and nice acidity which helps to keep it fresh and lively … this was a pleasant and welcome surprise. (****½)

Jermann (Italy) 2007 Were Dreams ($67.15) – made of indigenous Italian grapes though it tastes like a well made Chardonnay: creamy vanilla, butter and a touch of sweet tropical fruit. (****)

L’Aventure Winery (USA) 2007 Estate Cuvee ($102.55) – Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot; crème du cassis, black fruited and boldly peppery. (****)

L’Aventure Winery (USA) 2007 Cote a Cote ($102.55) – owner/winemaker Stefan Asseo hails from Bordeaux, tired of the restrictions put on him in his native land he came to California to make “whatever he wanted”. This beauty, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah (his take on a Rhone-style blend, California style) was the best wine of the tasting. Loaded with fruit (both red and black), pepper, spice and so much more; the wine had a great complexity on the nose which followed right into the mouth, there was also plenty of alcohol (16.4%) – stunningly good. (*****)

Layer Cake (Italy) 2007 Primitivo ($23.00) – plumy with sweet cherry fruit backing, very Zin-like … bring on the bbqed ribs with extra sauce. (****) … the Layer Cake Malbec (from their Argentinean venture) is also quite good.

Majella (Australia) 2005 Sparkling Shiraz ($34.35) – representative Peter Lynn called this: “red wine with training wheels”, the bubbly is aged 48 months on lees and, as in the traditional method, in bottle; it retains the peperiness and black raspberry of the Shiraz grape, as well as the elevated alcohol (14%); the dosage is premium Aussie Port-style wine, giving it just hint of something sweet … probably one of the best Sparkling Shiraz’s I have ever had. (****)

Vega Sicilia (Spain) 2006 Pintia ($66.15) – 100% Tempranillo from the Toro Region; spicy, bold and black fruited, lots of pepper, it’s a two “L” wine: lively and lovely. (****½)

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