The “Son of the Fat Sheep” and Other Wine Stories

Vintages April 2017

Look for these wines coming to Vintages stores in Ontario soon – and into stores elsewhere.

Arriving on March 18 2017

La Haute Févrie ‘Le Fils des Gras Moutons’ Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2015
AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie $14.95 (363150) 12% alc,
The name of the wine – “The Son of the Fat Sheep” – is intriguing. The winery has a vineyard named “Les Gras Moutons,” so perhaps this is a single-vineyard wine named for some well-fed sheep that used to graze among the vines. But a few years ago I was told, when I was visiting the Grand Mouton estate in the Muscadet region, that mouton is a variant on the Old French word motton, meaning a slight rise or small hill. Yet even that winery has a stylized sheep’s head as its logo. Sheepish or not, this is an excellent muscadet, one that raises its head well above the expansive flock of fairly uninteresting muscadets made for mass consumption – which makes the price of this one unbeatable. The flavours are focused, defined, and complex, and the acidity is balanced and fresh. It’s a no-brainer. Buy lots for drinking with grilled seafood this summer. 

Jean-Max Roger ‘Cuvée Genèse’ Sancerre 2015
AOC Sancerre, France $27.95 (189126) 13% alc.
Formerly labelled “Cuvée G.C,” this is a fine sancerre (100% sauvignon blanc) that shows real purity of fruit supported by bright, clean acidity. The flavour profile is very attractive and nicely nuanced, and it holds through the lengthy, fresh finish. Aging on lees give the texture some weight and interest. Overall, it’s an excellent wine and makes a terrific partner with food. Drink it now and in the next year or so to enjoy its fresh youthfulness.

Aniello ‘Riverside Estate’ Merlot 2014
Alto Valle del Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina $17.95 (480731) 14.5% alc
I was in the Rio Negro/Patagonia region of southern Argentina a few years ago, and tasted a lot of wines that were not only high-quality and interesting in their own right, but different from the styles we most often see from the sprawling Mendoza region to the north. This 100% merlot is marked by real purity of fruit, partly because there’s not much oak in evidence. The wine was fermented in concrete tanks and only 30% of it was aged (for 12 months) in barrels. The palate is concentrated and nicely layered and it’s well balanced by the acidity that reins in the fruit effectively and makes the wine very drinkable. With modest tannic presence, this merlot is ready to go now, and I suggest drinking it in the next two or three years.

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015
Napa Valley, California $22.95 14.5% alc.
A perennial favourite, this 96% sauvignon and 4% semillon blend was sourced from three vineyards, including Mondavi’s famed To Kalon Vineyard. The sauvignon was aged on lees for five months in 60-gallon French oak barrels (barriques) to give the fumé character. The semillon does its part, adding complexity and texture, and the result is a wine I look forward to every vintage. Drink it now and over the next year or so – you want to enjoy this while its young.

Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015
IGP Pays d’Oc $16.95 (409870) 12.5% alc.
The first thing that strikes you about this wine – which is made from grenache gris and grenache noir sourced from an area north of Perpignan – is the lightness of its colour. It makes some oeil de perdrix wines (the pale pink pervasive in Provence) look intense. But lightness of colour doesn’t lead to lightness of being in this case. The flavours are focused, defined and pretty, kept fresh by the cool fermentation temperatures, the acid is bright and clean, while several weeks on fine lees gives the texture a little weight and interest. It’s a really lovely wine and a great pick-me-up if you’re suffering the winter blahs. 

Fess Parker Pinot Noir 2013
Santa Rita Hills, California $33.95 (382333) 14.2% alc.
This terrific pinot, which has a small contribution from Santa Maria Valley, delivers right across the board. It’s fruit-driven but the fruit has very good structure, and the flavours show very good breadth and depth. The fruit sits in balance with the well-tuned acid, and the tannins are fine, ripe, drying and well integrated. It’s aged 12 months in French barrels (33% new) and that treatment has been managed sensitively. At over 14%, the alcohol looks high, but it’s imperceptible on nose and palate.

Gérard Bertrand Syrah-Grenache 2013
AOP Languedoc $16.95 (413237)
This is a very easy-drinking blend, aged 10 months in barriques, that comes with plenty of rich flavours. There’s ripe-sweetness at the core, but plenty of layering that covers a wide spectrum. The acidity is clean and gentle, and the texture is generous and full- bodied. The tannins are present and integrated, quite drying, and giving a slightly astringent quality to the fruity finish. Drink it now and over the next two or three years.

Ravenswood ‘Dickerson Single Vineyard’ Zinfandel 2013
Napa Valley, California $39.95 (599183) 14.9% alc.
This opulent and polished zinfandel stands out from many zinfandels which are dominated by intense sweet fruit and lack the structure and balance to go well with many foods. This one is extremely well balanced and structured. The fruit is multi-dimensional, with impressive complexity and it’s supported by clean, fresh acidity. The tannins are drying but not intrusive and the alcohol is very well integrated and imperceptible. It’s a very harmonious wine that’s drinking beautifully now and that will easily hold its freshness to 2020. 

Arriving on 1 April 2017

Chakana ‘Estate Selection’ Red Blend 2014
Mendoza, Argenina $24.95 (322602) 14.5% alc.
This is a blend of 60% malbec and 20% each of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. As you might expect, it’s full bodied and full flavoured, with the palate packed with concentrated and fairly rich flavours. They’re reined in by well-measured acid, and the fruit is well structured, to boot, making this a rich but drinkable red. The alcohol is successfully integrated and imperceptible, and the tannins are easy-going. If your tastes tend toward big, robust reds, but you like them to have some finesse, too, here’s one for you. Drink now to 2019-20.

Kim Crawford Rosé 2016
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand $17.95 (650325) 13% alc.
Made 100% from merlot, this is a fruity, easy-drinking rosé dressed in fairly deep pink. It’s medium-plus in weight, with solid flavours and decent complexity right through the palate. The acidity is soft but positive, and good choice to greet the early days of spring.

Kim Crawford ‘Wild Grace’ Chardonnay 2015
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand $24.95 14.0% alc.
This chardonnay is named for the rugged landscape around the Kim Crawford vineyards in Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of the North Island, and the fermentation of the wine was also wild. Barrel-fermented and left on lees until barrels were blended, this small-lot chardonnay had 10 months’ aging in French barriques. The finished product is succulent and quite elegant, with an intricately layered palate of ripe fruit supported by clean, bright acidity. 
Arriving on 15 April 2017

Kim Crawford ‘Rise and Shine’ Pinot Noir 2014
Central Otago, New Zealand $29.95 (35337) 13.5% alc.
The pinots of Central Otago (just “Central” to locals) have a character of their own that distinguishes them from their siblings in other New Zealand regions – not to mention far-flung places like Oregon, Russian River, and a little place called Bourgogne, where they also make pinot noir. I’m not sure about this example for breakfast (which “rise and shine” implies to me) but I’m happy to sip it with lunch or later. It’s unquestionably a food wine, with juicy acidity complementing the fruit, which is consistent through the palate and persistent in the finish. There’s good layered complexity and harmony in the components. Drink it now to 2020.

Henry of Pelham ‘Family Tree’ Red 2014
VQA Ontario, Canada $18.95 (247882)
This blend of syrah (33%), merlot (29%), cabernet franc (19%), cabernet sauvignon (14%), and baco noir (5%) was barrel-aged for 17 months in French (65%) and American (35%) oak.  The syrah stakes its claim on the flavours at the outset, but the other varietal components make their mark as the palate evolves. This complexity is underwritten by a very good acidity that’s clean and fresh and adds some attractive juiciness to the texture. The texture itself verges on generous, while the moderate tannins tighten it up slightly. The overall effect is attractive, serious, and very drinkable. Drink now through to 2020 to enjoy its freshness. 

Arriving on 29 April 2017

Simi Merlot 2014
Sonoma County, California $22.95 (417386) 13.5% alc.
Most of the merlot in this wine comes from the Alexander Valley, and there is also some cabernet sauvignon (14%) and malbec (1%) in the blend. It was fermented in stainless steel and aged 14 months in a mix of small French and American barrels, a quarter new. The result is a densely flavoured merlot with a profile that’s deeply layered. The fruit is ably supported by a broad seam of clean acidity, just the right balance to cut through the fruit and lighten the texture. The tannins are slightly drying but very manageable. As usual, I err on the side of youth and I suggest drinking this now and in the next two or three years.

Arriving soon, the date TBA

Henry of Pelham ‘Family Tree’ White 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $17.95 (251116) 13% alc.
A blend of viognier (35%), chardonnay (25%), gewürztraminer (25%) and chardonnay musqué (15%), this was 40% barrel-fermented then barrel-aged for eight months, and 60% made in stainless steel. It’s a remarkably easy-drinking blend in the best sense of easy-drinking – easy to drink a glass and easy to pour the next. It shows generous fruit, nice complexity, decent structure, and excellent fruit-acid balance, with the clean, fresh acidity giving some juiciness to the texture. It’s ready to drink now and in the next couple of years.

Other wines I tasted recently

Order these from Vinoluna wine agency: or 416 587 6691

Sidewood Chardonnay 2016 
Adelaide Hills, South Australia 12.5% alc.
This is made in a fairly lean style with positive and well-balanced acidity that’s clean and vibrant. The attack leads to a palate dominated by luscious fruit with both depth and breadth, backed by the acidity that here contributes very attractive juiciness to the texture. It has 10 months maturation in French oak, with the oak perfectly integrated – adding to the texture but almost imperceptible on nose and palate. Drink it now to the early 2020s for its freshness.

Sidewood Pinot Noir 2016
Adelaide Hills, South Australia 13% alc.
Quite a perfumed nose here leads to a palate of well-defined and nicely layered fruit. It’s just on the light side of medium in weight – a nice place for a pinot noir to be in – and the well-calibrated acidity contributes some juiciness to the texture. Overall, it’s a very well-made pinot that’s made for food, and it argues convincingly for a place at the table.