Stratus Vineyards Cabernet Franc Niagara-On-The-Lake VQA 2013

Estate: Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, Stratus Vineyards was the world’s first fully LEED-certified winery in the world in 2005. The 62 acres of vineyards “are divided into 44 distinct blocs. Each one, its own small ‘somewhereness’.” The soil consists of layers of mineral-rich earth, resting on a limestone foundation, resulting in a “clay-loam mosaic” of individual soil types. The sustainable estate grows 10 varieties of red grapes and 6 varieties of white. In 2009 Stratus enlisted famed winemaker/viticulturist Paul Hobbs “to bring additional international perspective to its operations”.

Philosophy: “The wine we grow is dependent on the health of the land on which it is grown. We farm our vineyard and guide our winemaking as though our children’s future depends on it. Each vintage bottled is a reflection of this ongoing commitment.”

Winemaking: Aged for 552 days in French oak, 23% new.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with expressive aromas of cherry, red grapes, baking spice, graphite minerals and a hint of caramel. Cherry, blackberry and black cherry meld with minerals and an herbaceous streak. Silky tannins pair up with soft toasted oak and vanilla on the plush finish. Fantastic on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.

100% Cabernet Franc
Niagara-On-The-Lake VQA
Canada
Estate Bottled by Stratus Vineyards
13.5% Alcohol
$38 [Canadian Dollars]
Enjoy now thru 2020

Domaine Sainte Croix ‘Le Fournas’ 2013

Brings the funk like the BT Express.

Estate: Domaine Sainte Croix is located in the rugged hills of the High Corbières on the border between the Languedoc and the Roussillon, in the very southern part of France. The 13 hectare [32 acre] estate is owned and run by the English husband and wife team of Jon and Elizabeth Bowen. The area is known for its fantastic Grenache-centric wines, small stone wall enclosed vineyards and fig, almond and wild cherry trees. The vineyards are comprised of multiple terroir, including “of steel-blue limestone to sandy, gravelly clay shot through with quartz crystals, to sheets of purple-green schist.”

Philosophy: “Fine wine is made in the vineyard. Our aim is to express the terroir of the domaine, we see the cornerstone as being the health of its vineyard ecosystems.”

Winemaking: The estate has been certified organic since 2008. Grapes came from vineyards with a blend of limestone, chalky-clay and sandy loam soil. The Carignon grapes came from vines over 100 years old. Fermented using only indigenous yeasts found on the grape skins. 100% matured sur lie in tank for 18 months. Unfined, loosely filtered.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of wildflowers, peppery spice, candied cherry and funky sawdust. Cherry, blackberry, hibiscus and a shake of black pepper wrap around a flinty mineral, earthy core, backed by balancing acidity and silky tannins. Fruit and funk wrap up the velvety finish.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Particularly good accompaniment to the cuisine of the Mediterranean region using tomato-based sauces, olives or wild herbs such as thyme or rosemary.

50% Carignan, 21% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre
Corbières AOC
France
Mis en Bouteille au Domaine Par J & E Bowen
13.5% Alcohol
$16
Enjoy now

Orin Swift ‘The Prisoner’ Napa Valley Red Blend 2005

The Prisoner is a scintillating American success story; launched in 2000 by famed winemaker Dave Phinney, the brand has been sold twice already. In 2010 Phinney sold it to Huneeus Vintners, they in turn sold it [along with its siblings Saldo, Cuttings, Blindfold and Thorn] to Constellation Brands in 2016. As the bottle I enjoyed pre-dates these sales, here is the original background on the brand:

Progressive winemaker David Swift Phinney was “introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked” during time spent in Italy in 1995. Upon his return to the States he took a job as a harvest worker at Robert Mondavi. It was there that he decided, “that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself”, and in 1998 Orin Swift Cellars was founded [Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name]. . He is renowned for wines that “are unapologetically full-flavored and intense, yet with a backbone of structure that holds it all in place”.

[Orin Swift developed into an international brand including 300 acres in southwest France along with projects in Spain, Italy, Corsica, Argentina and other locations. In 2016 Orin Swift (the brand, remaining inventory and the tasting room in St. Helena) was purchased by E. & J. Gallo Winery. Dave Phinney “will remain involved”.]

Winemaking: The Prisoner was an immediate success, and has been hailed as a “contemporary California field blend” [comprised of varying percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono]. The Prisoner consistently is awarded, and appears regularly on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour, highly aromatic with aromas of blackberry jam on toast, black pepper, vanilla and mocha traces. Silky layers of concentrated black current, black cherry, raspberry are dusted with crushed black peppercorn along with a hint of graham cracker. Velvety tannins accent burnt caramel, chocolate, black current, vanilla and buttery toast on the fantastically lengthy finish. Opulent and lush, nearly a meal on its own.

48% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah and 2% Charbono
Napa Valley
California
Bottled by Orin Swift Cellars
15.2% Alcohol
$125 [1.5 L]
Enjoy now thru 2020

Rated 93 points by Wine Spectator

Chais Saint-Laurent ‘La Vigne en Véron’ Chinon 2015

Consistently a fantastic value.

Producer: Founded in 1921 by Paulin Lebrun, Foucher-Lebrun is a “Petit Negociant” specializing in wines from the Loire Valley. Chais Saint-Laurent is their second label. In 2009 fine and rare wine broker Jean Mounard joined the company managing “the selection process for the wines of the company”. His large network of wine growers and winemakers has increased the quality, along with being able to offer wines that “display a real sense of their underlying appellations and are made with a balance and delineation usually found in much more expensive wines”.

Philosophy: “To convey the expression of the appellations in the Loire region by careful selection, vinification and aging of its wines”.

Winemaking: The grapes were sourced from select vineyards with Argilo-Calcaire and gravel soils in the villages of Riviere, Beaumont-en-Veron and Savigny-en-Veron. The average vine age is 45-50 years. Aging of the majority of the cuvee is in used barriques, 1-3 years old, whilst the remainder is aged in tanks.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of ripe berries and garrique. Jammy cherry and berry flavours are complimented by smoky, grilled herbs [juniper, thyme, rosemary] and soft pepper spice. Good acidity and moderate tannins, a hint of chocolate frames the dry, fruity finish.

100% Cabernet Franc
Chinon
France
Produced and Bottled by Chais Saint-Laurent
13% Alcohol
$9
Enjoy now thru 2019

Jeff Carrel ‘Les Darons’ Languedoc AOP 2015

 

Brand: French winemaker Jeff Carrel is famous for crafting super tasty wines that are also excellent values. He has worked for a wide variety of brands, including Robert Mondavi and Stimson Lane. Most recently he has focused his expertise mainly in the Languedoc Roussillon region of southern France, resulting in international accolades for his lush, budget friendly wines. ‘Les Darons’ is derived from an “affectionate expression for “The Parents” in the Parisian suburbs where Carrel was born.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards in the Laure-Minervois area northwest of the medieval village of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region. The vines are in clay and limestone soil and are sustainably farmed. The Grenache and Carignan vines average 40+ years in age. The 3 varieties were de-stemmed and crushed/vinified together. Fermented and aged in concrete.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of black cherry, blueberry, pink peppercorn and a trace of sour cherry. Tasting quite similar to the inviting aromas with black cherry, blueberry and a pop of sour cherry over a clean, flinty mineral core. Good acidity and silky tannins compliment pink peppercorn on the clean finish. A fantastic companion with a wide variety of everyday dishes.

60% Grenache, 25% Carignan, 15% Syrah
Languedoc AOP
France
Bottle by F.11200 for TOOWO The Way of Wine S.A.R.L Négociant in Narbonne
13.5% Alcohol
$10
Enjoy now

Rated 91-93 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate