By Malcolm Jolley and Jamie Drummond
On April 20 the Calibirum and Lifford wine agencies along with the Vintages program at the LCBO and Ontario winery Southbrook showcased some of the world’s most promising sustainable grown and made wines at critics’ lunch, a trade tasting and dinner open to the public at Globe Earth. Jamie and I were lucky enough to attend the lunch to meet those winemakers not grounded by volcanic ash, and taste wines that promised to be as kind to environment as they were to the palate (see Jamie’s tasting notes below).
We began with Champagne, a Kiwi Pinot Gris, then a Seriously Cool Chardonnay and a procession of big, but balanced reds, and wrapped-up with a sweet Alsatian Gewurtz. In attendance were Thomas Lambert-Laurent from Pommery, Southbrook proprietor Bill Redelmeier, Yealands’ Michael Wentworth, Soledad Meneses from Errazuriz, Bob Swain from producer Paul Dolan and Chris Benziger from his family’s eponomously named winery (look for Jamie’s videocast soon). Sadly absent were Domaine Weinbach’s Catherine Faller and Telmo Rodriguez.
Each winemaker spoke to their wines before poured and all agreed that whatever measures they had taken towards sustainability had not only made them feel better about their stewardship over their vineyards, but had also helped them make better wines. Biodynamic producers Redelmeier and Benziger admitted they didn’t know particularly why their techniques worked, but attested to the health of the ecosystems around their vines and the better results they enjoyed.
1999 Pommery “Cuvée Louise Brut” Champagne France (Sustainable) LCBO Vintages #20925 $199
This luxury cuvée from Pommery does not disappoint. Aromatically one finds flowers, biscuit, and apple. Superb acidity with a fine mousse. Manages to be both elegant and voluptuous at the same time. Considerable complexity means that this will be more suitable with food than drunk alone.
2009 Yealands Estate Pinot Gris Awatere Valley Marlborough New Zealand (Sustainable) LCBO Vintages #172031 $19
Honey and poached pear on the nose with some nuances of rose petals. A pleasant texture in the mouth with surprising acidity. Lacking a little on the mid-palate and finish.
2008 Southbrook “Triomphe” Chardonnay Niagara-On-The-Lake VQA Ontario Canada (Organic) LCBO Vintages #172338 $21.95
Another cracking wine from Winemaker Ann Sperling. A complex nose stylishly combines fruit, minerals, and oak. On the palate there is beautifully assertive acidity coupled with some good weight. An exceptionally well-crafted example of cool climate Chardonnay. Superb value.
2006 Viña Errázuriz “Seña” Aconcagua Valley Chile (Converting to Biodynamic) LCBO Vintages #172353 $79
There is no mistaking this wine for anything other than a Chilean Bordeaux blend. Mint, cedar, spice, leather, and cassis jump out of the glass. Intense, dense black fruit on the palate with sufficient structure to hold the whole thing together. A good example of this popular wine style.
2006 Telmo Rodriguez “Altos de Lanzaga” Rioja Spain (Grown Organically) LCBO Vintages #172262 $99
A very modern Rioja with deep, dark, ripe, black berry fruit wrapped up in a whole lotta American oak. Also dried herbs and ground espresso beans. Lots of great minerality shows on the palate. Good supple tannins. A very persistent finish rounds out this wine perfectly.
2006 Paul Dolan “Deep Red” (Syrah/Grenache/Petite Sirah) Mendocino County California (Biodynamic) LCBO Vintages #48595 $56
An interesting blend from Northern California that exhibits a most interesting nose of juicy red and black fruits alongside an intriguing bubble gum character. On the palate there is an abundance of intense ripe juicy fruit that would almost overwhelm were it not for the wine’s pronounced acidity. A crowd-pleaser, that is for sure.
2006 Benziger “Tribute Proprietary Red” Sonoma Mountain California (Biodynamic) LCBO Vintages #172163 $99
A complex nose of solid, ripe and dark fruit coupled with minerality, spice, well-integrated oak, and herbs. The palate is harmonious, rich and rewarding with the quality of the fruit coming to the fore. The wine is balanced, buoyant and full of vitality, with superb structure and weight. My favourite wine of the release and in my mind one of the best wines Benziger have ever made. Grab some while you can!
2005 Domaine Weinbach “Furstentum Grand Cru Vendages Tardives” Gewurztraminer Alsace France (Biodynamic) LCBO Vintages #172312 $134
Weinbach certainly does not disappoint here. Gorgeous botrytis notes of guava and papaya dominate on the nose, with a underlying mineral complexities. As always with Weinbach, the palate is in perfect equilibrium with great acidity keeping in balance with the wine’s intense sweet fruit explosion . A delicious glass of wine whichever way you look at it.
Malcolm Jolley is the editor of Good Food Revolution.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… and he loved explaining a “tribute” to Mr. Benziger.