On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Wakefield Top Tier Wines

17 Nov 2022

(September 20220) … Billed as the “inaugural family flagship release”, the event was held at Alo Salon Private Dining in the Yorkville area of Toronto. This was to be an evening of unveiling the "flagship" wines of Wakefield (aka: the top tier). Now Wakefield has been to Toronto many times, and usually we are hosted by Justin Taylor, but tonight we get Master of Wine, Neil Hadley, who walks us through and talks to us about the wines we are about to drink / taste.

The first half of the evening is filled with the wines from the St. Andrews lineup: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The story goes that the St. Andrews vineyard was a next door piece of land to the Taylor’s, and they would look over the fence at that beautiful terra rossa soil and dreamed of planting vines there one day. By the mid-1999s they got their wish, and soon the vines were in the ground. The mantra of the time was: "Good is good, but how do we get better?" And the St. Andrews’ vineyard set them on the road to do just that.

The walk around wine:
2022 St. Andrews Riesling (Clare Valley)
Pure, dry and mineral driven with notes of lime, pith and zest with good acidity at its core. Crisp, clean, a lovely sipper.  (*** ½+)

 

Dinner Wines...

The Dish: Madai, Cucumber, Dill, Creme Fraiche
The Wine:  2019 St. Andrews Chardonnay Wakefield Chard
The Note: St. Andrew's vineyard lies North of the Taylor family's plot of land, and this most coveted piece of land has finally produced that Chardonnay of Burgundian quality that the Taylors have always sought. A Dijon clone aged in Louis Latour barrels. There's a spiciness here that battles it out with yellow plum, apricot and orange peel. It has a rich creamy texture and as the wine opens there's a boxing match between the fruit and the spice ... It's really very lovely.  (****)

St Andrew WinesThe Dish: East Coast Lobster and Paragord Truffle
The Wine 1.0:  2018 St. Andrews Shiraz
The Note: Silky meets spicy here as peppery meets dark fruit with the addition of mocha, spiced-blackberry, dried-cassis and even a hint of floral.  (****)

The Wine 2.0:  2018 St. Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon
The Note: Complex Cab that has a lovely array of chocolate and mocha with dark fruit silkiness across the tongue. There's a delicacy of spice, good acidity and a nice length that doles out raspberries on the finish.  (****+)

The Dish: Duck, Yellow Plum, Chanterelle Mushroom
We are told before the tasting of the next two wines that they are "unashamedly big wines".
The Wine 1.0:  2015 The Pioneer Shiraz
The Note: 75% new oak, both American and French barrels ... big wine? Yes, but with a surprising freshness and delicacy; pepper rears up, but helps to carry the dried-raspberry across the palate and a lovely mocha note on the finish.  (****)

The Wine 2.0:  2015 The Visionary Cabernet SauvignonThe Big Guns
The Note: 50% in new French for only 12 months, then a barrel selection process takes place and those chosen for this cuvee lay down for another 12 months. The Cab is unexpectedly complex from nose to palate. Camphor, herbal, menthol and garrigue – proved to be a really cool whiff to take in for the nose. When it fully opens those notes transfer to the palate; then adds in some dark fruit and leather that carries all the way to the finish.  (****+)

The Dish: Rack of Lamb, Baby Spinach, Sunchoke
The Wine:  2015 The Legacy
The Note: This is a Bordeaux blend, and comes across as a hedonistic wine. I am told by Neil Hadley, "It is the absolute right of any winemaker to charge whatever he wants for a bottle of wine," and I would agree with that statement. I can't argue with that. This wine has an interesting character of spiced and dried fruit. It certainly requires time in the cellar. And is one of "those" wines where the winery is reaching for the stratosphere of the wine pricing world ($1000 CDN). I wish the best to them, but considering I know the price, it was truly difficult for me to be objective about this one. Let's just say it needs time in the cellar to really blossom, and if you plan is to buy and lie, it will not disappoint you in five-plus years or later.

I would like to end this article with another quote from Neil Hadley:
"no wine is any better then it is going to be, then when it is 15 years old."

I think the meaning is self-explanatory, but the question is at 15 years of age has a wine peaked or is it dead, but it will never amount to anything better than what it is at that 15-year mark. This is as open for discussion amongst yourselves and if you care to send me an email or hit me up on social media, I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

The Loire Valley: A Closer Look

14 Nov 2022

(April 20202) ... Over the next week or two I will be posting pictures and a series on my trip to the Loire in April 2022 ... It has taken me a while to figure out how to best present all the information – and maybe, the best way, is by date. The trip was full each day with a morning themed Masterclass, an afternoon excursion and an evening “out”. The time was jam-packed with wines to taste and things to do.

The Loire touts itself as a place with "The world's most diverse range of wines" and from the many tastings one could really see the diversity in grapes, wine styles and flavours. The focus for our purposes were on the Nantes, the Anjou-Saumur and Haut-Poitou, and The Touraine vineyards.

The Loire Valley ... Big picture by the numbers:

The Loire is 51 appellations and designations of origin taking up 56,900 hectares of vines, 63% of which have some form of environmental accreditation. They have five regions, 15 departments, and 800 km of wine trails. They are the third largest French wine region by AOP volume. If you exclude Champagne, they have the biggest vineyard area devoted sparkling wine production. They are number one in vineyard area for white wine and second for rosé. And they have over 2000 years of history in wine making. There are 24+ varieties of which the top five are Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Sauvignon Blanc. And while Cabernet Franc is the top grape, red wine makes up only 19% of their production. 45% is white (both dry and sweet), 26% is Rosé and 10% sparkling. They have 3,600 wine growers, 430 negoientes, and 21 co-op wineries.
280 million bottles are sold across 160 countries.

Interesting to note that nine bottles of Loire Valley wine gets sold every second; and the top markets for these wines are the UK, the USA, Germany, Belgium and Canada.

Diving deeper by region...

The Nantes:Nantes
82% White / 12% Rosé / 6% Red
$490 growers / one co-op / 80 negotiates
40 million bottles sold - 80% in France / 20% exported

 

 

AnjouThe Anjou-Saumur / Haut-Poitou:
46% Rosé / 14% Red / 20% Sparkling / 18% White
1100 growers / 5 Co-ops / 90 negotiates
129 million bottles sold - 80% in France / 20% exported

 

 

The Touraine:Touraine
37% Red / 36% White /16% Sparkling /11% Rosé
1180 growers / 10 Co-ops / 25 negotiations
57 million bottles sold - 78% in France / 22% exported

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