Institut Agricole Régional Gamay Vallée d’Aoste DOC 2015

Winery: Located in the western Alps of northwest Italy, Institut Agricole Régional is a school and research center dedicated to all types of farming. Founded in 1951, the institute is committed to agronomic, economic, fruit, wine and livestock development. Their viticulture department explores experimental plantings, such as international varieties and their possible suitability into the Valle d’Aosta region, along with preserving ancient varietals and historical vineyards.

Tasting Notes: Deep ruby red in colour with vivid aromas of strawberry, raspberry and chocolate. The flavours delightfully mirror the aromas, with red berries given a shake of crushed pink peppercorn. Bright acidity compliments the dry, yet plush finish. Easy drinking, fresh and fruity, this will disappear right before your eyes.

100% Gamay
Vallée d’Aoste DOC
Italy
Produced and Bottled by Institut Agricole Régional
13.5% Alcohol
€ 10 [I enjoyed this in Florence, Italy, unfortunately it is currently not available in the US.]

Les Chardons Gamay Touraine 2014

Estate: The Chardon domaine is located along the banks of the Cher River in Couffy, in the Touraine region of the Loire Valley. Husband and wife team Sophie and Thierry Chardon cultivate 115 acres of vineyards, with an average vine age of 25 years. Raised on a vineyard in Touraine, Thierry’s family made wine for many generations, until his father was forced to sell the vineyard. Years later, Thierry and Sophie moved their family back to Touraine and purchased a domaine.

Winemaking: Certified organic since the late 2000’s, the believe in minimal intervention in both the vineyard and cellar. “Our wines emerge from grapes cultivated without chemical products, in respect of our environment.”

Tasting Notes: Transparent in red-violet in colour, with aromas of strawberry, resin and earthy funk. Strawberry, raspberry, along with sour cherry wrap around a floral core and are accented by sandalwood, white pepper, a dash of funk and a streak of granite minerality. Black cherry and a trace of tart wild berries linger between each sip. Smooth tannins and food friendly acidity compliment this fantastic, unique expression of Gamay.

100% Gamay
Touraine
France
Estate Bottled
12.5% Alcohol
$13
Enjoy now

Vignoble Couillaud Gamay Rosé Val de Loire IGP 2015

Estate: The Couillaud family has been making wine for 7 generations in the Loire Valley. Brothers Bernard Michel and François Couillaud, along with Bernard’s daughter Amelia, head the estate. Known for their elegant wines, the family believes this finesse is a reflection of the terroir and their “strong personalities”.

Winemaking: Sustainable and organic viticulture is practiced. Soils are a mix of mica schists [which contribute towards the “freshness and finesse” their wines are known for], shale and clay.

Tasting Notes: Pale coral-pink in colour with inviting aromas of rhubarb, strawberry, white flowers, minerals and a wink of funk. Agile and zippy with strawberry and floral notes buoyed by an undercurrent of tart fruits. Rain-washed slate minerals and clean grapefruit comprise the dry, refreshing finish.

Gamay [I could not verify varietal percentage.]
Val de Loire IGP
France
Mis en Bouteille a la Propriété by Couillaud, Vignerons
12% Alcohol
$12
Enjoy now

Le Sot de l’Ange Pét-Nat Azay le Rideau 2014

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Estate: Le Sot de l’Ange translates to “Idiot Angel” of Azay-Le-Rideau, and refers to the decision “energetic and young” winemaker Quentin Bourse made when he took over a friend’s domaine in a tiny, off the radar appellation. Azay-Le-Rideau is located within the Touraine AOC, in the Loire Valley and has a winemaking history that dates back to the Romans. The 12 hectare estate has been certified biodynamic for over 10 years; Quentin’s first vintage was 2013.

Winemaking: Quentin manages the entire estate himself, by hand; his friends give help with harvest. Vineyard soil is predominately clay over silica. Crafted in the Pét-nat [pétillant naturel] manner, an ancient method of making sparkling wines.

Tasting Notes: Venetian red* in colour with aromas of strawberry, cherry, minerals and a hint of sweet funk. Packed with tart cherry andblackberry flavours with a streak of lemony acidity. Fine, light bubbles are the foil to a shake of nutmeg and sprinkle of funk on the dry finish. Refreshing and gluggable, this is a wonderfully distinctive wine well worth seeking out.

*[Yes, at the risk of sounding pretentious I used Venetian. I could have said cherry red, but I felt Venetian really is the better descriptor. Ahhh, art school.]

As to be expected with such an engaging, esoteric wine, details such as vintage year, varietal percentage, alcohol content and bottling info are at times a bit enigmatic. I do believe this is the 2014 vintage, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
100% Gamay or a blend of Gamay and Grolleau
Azay-Le-Rideau,
France
11-14% Alcohol
$21
Enjoy now

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An Afternoon at Château des Charmes

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On a recent trip to the fantastic wine region of Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, Canada, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Château des Charmes. I explored the entire winery, with a detailed tour that included all aspects of production; from the vineyards to the cellar to the bottling facilities. I was impressed with their commitment to sustainable methods throughout, and their hands on approach to all processes of winemaking. Their affinity with Old World methods and grapes [for example using Méthode Traditionelle for their sparkling wine], was particularly thought provoking and had me questioning why other winemakers limit themselves to a few types of grapes. Hopefully their pioneering spirit will encourage the more recent additions to the region to branch out beyond their comfort zone. [I’m aware that Gary Pilliteri, of Pillitteri Winery with his roots in Sicily, is having success with Sicilian grapes, and using the Appassimento style of winemaking.]

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Bottles undergoing riddling for Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine.

The estate produces over 30 red and white wines, including sparklers, Rosé, Icewine and their flagship, single vineyard Bordeaux blend, ‘Equuleus’. I tasted two wines during the tour, followed by many more at their tasting room. I purchased quite a few bottles, so they will be showing up here subsequently in time. [I am returning to Niagara on the Lake soon and will be returning to Château des Charmes to restock and try their latest vintages!]

Estate: Paul Bosc, a fifth generation French winegrower who holds degrees in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France, founded Château des Charmes in 1978. Paul brought his young family to the Niagara on the Lake region of Canada in the 1960’s “with the idea that growing our own grapes was the best way to make fine wine”. Paul established himself as a pioneer in the region, from planting traditional French varietals to employing cutting edge techniques such as installing wind machines to protect the vines from the cold.

The estate consists of 280 acres of vineyards in four locations all within the Niagara-on-the-Lake region. Two of the vineyards are located in the sub-appellation of St. David’s Bench [the appellation was actually named after Paul’s vineyard there], and two are in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation. Today Paul Sr still has an active role in the vineyards, his son Paul Jr is President of the estate, and Paul Jr’s wife Michèle is the Director of Marketing. In addition to being recognized for their progressive, groundbreaking work with traditional French grapes and methods, their wines have garnered accolades for their balance, finesse and quality.

Philosophy: “We are custodians of the land.” Crafting wines that are “food friendly and age worthy. We hope you will call them delicious”.

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A balanced approach to oak ageing is utilized, all of the French oak barrels are at a medium toast and used multiple times.

Winemaking: Committed from the very beginning to sustainable practices, the family is a charter member of Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario. Chemical treatments are never used, and sustainable methods such as hedge vine canopies, and under drainage are utilized. Naturally occurring yeasts are used for the majority of the wines. All by-products from the winemaking process [stems, skins, seeds] are returned to the vineyards as natural fertilizer. Their extensive cellars are geothermal and do not require any heating or cooling, especially impressive considering how cold Canadian winters can be. In years where the weather wasn’t the kindest to their warmer climate red wine grapes, they will declassify; “We would much rather you be delighted with a wine that over delivers at $19.95 than be disappointed with a $40.00 wine that wasn’t up to our quality standards”.

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Château des Charmes Aligoté Niagara on the Lake VQA 2014
Tasting Notes: Vibrant green apple and tart pear are dusted with freshly grated lime zest. A streak of clean minerality abides thru the crisp finish. Light and refreshing, this is an engaging sip on its own or with light dishes.
100% Aligoté
12.8% Alcohol
$14

Château des Charmes ‘Droit’ Gamay Noir St David’s Bench VQA 2012
‘Droit’ is actually an indigenous Canadian Gamay clone, born right in the Chateau des Charmes vineyard. For more information on this fascinating occurrence, click here.

Tasting Notes: Clear garnet in colour with sweet spices and black currant radiating with each swirl. Bright tart fruit, [think blackberry, red currant] highlight a mineral driven, earthy backbone. A dash of crushed pink peppercorn lengthens the clean, dry finish. A substantial Gamay with a food friendly acidity make this a lovely companion with a wide variety of dishes.
100% Gamay
13% Alcohol
$17

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Lots of self control here to not open up any of the taps on the stainless steel tanks in the geothermal cellar.

 

Prices listed are in Canadian Dollars