Post # 70 – La Grande Dégustation 2019, Montreal Wine Show

I have been to so many wine shows now that I have lost count. I went last year as well, but I had such a thick head cold that I decided not to write a report. That decision was an easy one, when I reread my notes, every wine tasted the same, so that would have been a waste of time. As I was heading to this year’s Montreal Wine Show, La Grande Dégustation 2019, on Friday November 1st I asked myself what it was that I found so entertaining about attending a wine show. This year’s specialty region of coverage was Portugal, which left me wondering if I would end up tasting port all night. In I went still wondering if I was going to have a good time or not, and why?

Walking into the exhibition hall, I smiled immediately at the sight of Thomas Bachelder holding down the pole position, that all important first tasting booth, for Bachelder Wines, in a strategic spot guaranteed to get all the traffic. I started by tasting the 2017 Bachelder Gamay Noir, very young and very green but very promising with such great minerality on the palate.

Thomas reminded me this was only his second year making this wine and that of course it would smoothen out with age. At $23.00 this wine will become a crowd pleaser as time in the bottle softens the rough edges.

So next I wanted to try his best white, and I was treated to the 2015 Bachelder Chardonnay Wismer – Wingfield Vineyard made from 23 year old vines, aged with light oak. Thomas made only four barrels of this little gem from the 20 Mile Bench area of Niagara. The wine was great, showing flint, smoke and a hint of oysters. At $47.00 per bottle the wine is not cheap, but you are paying a fair price given how little of it was made, and that wonderful creamy texture as it smoothly coats your palate and sends you looking for an oyster bar.

The 2016 vintage is currently in the LCBO, but you can buy the 2015 vintage direct from the winery, and this is new. So if you want some for yourself, contact the winery at www.bachelderniagara.com or call Mary Delaney at 905-932-3942.

Next stop was the Vignobles De Larose booth hosted by the Marchands des Ameriques Inc’s President Kenny Gunn. The Larose family of wines is owned by the French insurance company Allianz, and produces Chateau Larose-Trintaudon, Chateau Larose Perganson, Chateau Arnaud, and Chateau Tour de Pez. With 252 hectares of vines in the Haut Medoc region bordering on the Pauillac region, the Larose group produces over 1.45 million bottles of wine per year and is the largest producer in the region. Chateau Larose-Trintaudon accounts for about 190 hectares and 1 million bottles, or about 70% of their total production.

We tasted the 2011 Chateau Larose-Trintaudon first, it was excellent, smooth, silky, and fully developed. This was $33.00 per bottle as a private import.

Then we tasted the 2015, which was fruit forward (which is characteristic of the vintage) but thoroughly enjoyable as is. Kenny did point out that with 2-3 years of age the fruit would settle down, allowing the tannins to show better. The 2015 is offered at the SAQ for $26.80 per bottle.

Moving on we tasted the 2008 and 2012 Chateau Larose Perganson. Both were great, with the 2008 tasting very dry but full bodied, and the 2012 showing so much development potential. The 2008 was $39.00 as a private import while the 2012 is available at the SAQ at $36.75.

Finally we tasted Chateau Arnaud from the 2014 vintage (a private import at $67.00) and the 2015 vintage (available at the SAQ in magnum format at $116.75). The 2014 was just a great blend of full, soft and smooth fruit, with just enough tannin to give it some backbone. The 2015 needs about 2 years of age to reach maturity, but is so full of luscious fruit that you can drink it now.

           

All the Larose family of wines are consistently made and are usually rated at about 88 points by most critics. I was very impressed with the consistency and quality of all 6 wines tasted. There are so many poor quality Cru Bougeois wines in the $25.00 to $60.00 price range that so often disappoint, and yet all 6 of these wines were very good. Considering that we tasted several different vintages (2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015), and even a couple were weaker vintages (the 2008 and 2011), they were all excellent. I would have no hesitation recommending all of these wines for the upcoming holidays. And the good news is that there is a lot of this wine made and available for sale. If you are not familiar with the Larose family of wines, do yourself a favor and buy a bottle, you will not be disappointed. Congratulations Kenny, you are representing a great brand with the Larose family of wines.

Earlier this year in my blog post # 68 I spent quite some time talking about the E. + J. Gallo wines, and their Apothic red wines in particular. One of the points I made is that Gallo also makes excellent high end wines, not just the grocery or convenience store $8.00 bottle. So when I saw the Gallo wine booth I made it a point to stop and test my theory. We tasted 4 wines with the assistance of Stephanie Desjardins, their Canadian rep (stephanie.desjardins@ejgallo.com), and all four were great. We started with the 2015 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, available as a private import at $49.25 per bottle. Talbott Chardonnays have long been a favorite of mine, with big creamy, smoky, and oaky flavors. This wine was no different, full of flavors, ripe rich fruit, tightly woven, great balance and powerful. A consistently well made wine that I would rate at 90 points in almost every vintage I have tasted over the years.

We then tasted the Frei Brothers 2015 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, available as a private import at $28.00. The fruit was soft and delicate, a very pleasant style, just perfect for a romantic evening with that special someone.

We then tried two wines from Mount Peak Winery in Sonoma Valley, the 2015 Rattlesnake Zinfandel and the 2015 Sentinel Cabernet Sauvignon. The Rattlesnake was $57.00 as a private import, and the Sentinel was $85.00, also as a private import. The Rattlesnake was rich and very ripe, 15.5% alcohol, with light tannins that let the luscious cherry, cinnamon, and vanilla flavors speak loud and clear. The Sentinel was full of black cherry and cassis, with cocoa, coffee and chocolate undertones. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine is rated 91 points on Cellar Tracker and deserves that rating or more.

               

If you ever wanted a lesson in how much quality goes into Gallo wines, try tasting these four wines. The Gallo family of wines is extensive, and they have something for everyone as they cater to every different taste in wines. So let me repeat one more time: Gallo makes some very good upper end wines, so you owe it to yourself to look further into producers like Talbott, Frei Brothers and Mount Peak.

Next stop on this night was the Penfolds booth. Penfolds is a very well known and long established South Australian winery. Penfolds makes their famous Grange Hermitage (the equivalent of a Bordeaux first growth), they make whites and reds, they make ports and tawnies, they make single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, they make blends and they make wines covering the entire price spectrum. At this show Penfolds had a number of their Bin series of wines, mostly mid-range priced wines. We tasted six Penfolds wines: a Riesling, a Chardonnay, two Shiraz, one Cabernet Sauvignon, and one Cabernet/Shiraz blend.

The 2018 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling lists at $45.00. The wine was bone dry, flinty, and textbook dry Riesling.

The 2017 Bin 311 Chardonnay, costs $54.00, displayed light oak and was again quite dry.

The 2016 Bin 28 Kalima Shiraz lists at $49.75 and is best described as a hot climate Shiraz, you can taste the heat in the wine, with big bold Shiraz fruit bursting from the glass.

The 2016 Bin 128 Koonawarra Shiraz lists at $62.00 and was one of my favorites in the Penfolds lineup tonight. Not as hot a Shiraz as the Bin 28, but smoother on the finish.

The 2016 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon lists at $98.75 and the Cabernet fruit just bursts from the glass while smooth integrated tannins round out the experience on your palate.

The final Penfolds wine we tasted was the 2015 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, listed at $99.00 and often referred to as the “baby Grange” in the Penfolds lineup. The wine is powerful and intense, displaying lots of blueberry, blackberry, licorice, dark chocolate, ginger, marzipan, oak and cedar on the palate.

My overall impression was that Penfolds wines are expensive compared to their competition. Their Bin 51 Riesling is very well made, but at $45.00 I would rate it similar to other well made Rieslings in the $25.00 – $30.00 price range from Australia, Alsace, and California. I got the same impression about all their other wines in this tasting, except for the Bin 389 baby Grange. At $99.00 this bottle also is not cheap, but compared to their Grange Hermitage priced at $800 – $900 per bottle, I think there is good value in the Bin 389 at 1/8th to 1/9th the price. Critics rate the baby Grange at roughly 91 points, and the Grange Hermitage at roughly 94 points in the most recent vintages, so it does not make sense to spend 8-9 times the money for an extra 3 points worth of tasting pleasure. Most of these Penfolds wines tasted tonight received critic scores in the 90 points range, and frankly there are a lot of other 90 point wines available in the market at the $20 – $30 per bottle price range. So I found it hard to get excited about this Penfolds lineup of 90 point wines in the $45 – $100 price range.

Next stop on our tasting tour was the booth for Arthur Metz wines from Alsace where Nicolas Haeffelin was kind enough to guide us through a tasting of two Arthur Metz wines, the 2018 Arthur Metz Sushi Alsace, priced at $18.95, and the 2013 Grand Cru Steinklotz Pinot Gris, priced at $34.25. I remember tasting the 2017 Arthur Metz Sushi Alsace at last year’s Montreal wine show (but I did not write up last year’s show because I had a bad cold and all my tasting notes were off). The Sushi 2018 wine is very pleasant, and very well priced. It is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer, and there is lots going on in the glass. There is plenty of luscious fruit, including mangoes, lychees, citrus, and peach. There is lots of spice, smoke, flint, and all kinds of flower and perfume fragrances, indeed something for everyone. This is the kind of wine where everyone will be tasting something different because there is so much packed into the wine. As an added bonus, the wine is not sweet, but dry enough to enhance the tasting experience. All this for $18.95! For the price and the tasting experience, this wine is a superb value.

The second Metz wine we tasted was just as good, if not better. The 2013 Grand Cru Steinklotz Pinot Gris was outstanding. The nose was full bodied, promising lots to come in the glass. The palate showed a text book full bodied Pinot Gris flavor, spicy, mineral, plump without being overdone. Very refined, well made, with a laser like precision to it. This must be one of the 3-4 best Alsace Pinot Gris wines I have tasted, and competitively priced for a Grand Cru at $34.25 per bottle.

Arthur Metz is making some very good, well priced Alsacian wines, and you would be well advised to search them out at your local wine shop.

And now for my favorite stop on the tour, the tasting booth of Hugel et Fils of Alsace. By now readers of my blog should know I just adore Hugel wines and the family that makes them. I have written about Hugel wines on no less than five previous occasions in blogs # 63, 51, 21, 17, and 6. Tonight we had Marc André Hugel guiding us through an absolutely stunning tasting of eight different Hugel wines as follows:

  • 2015 Hugel Estate Pinot Gris $38.50, semi sweet with a generous alcohol level, lovely mix of smoke and spice, very pleasant wine.

  • 2015 Hugel Estate Riesling $36.50, steely dry with lots of body and finesse, a classic dry Alsace Riesling.

  • 2011 Hugel Riesling Schoelhammer, $140.00, this is a very classy wine, a textbook Grand Cru Riesling, a clear cut above the Estate Riesling, showing more mineral flavors on the palate.

  • 2012 Hugel Riesling Vendange Tardive, $84.75, just the right level of sweetness for my liking, a gorgeous wine and one that will age effortlessly for 30 years or more.

  • 2007 Hugel Riesling Jubilee Reserve Personnelle (Magnum), $170.00, fantastic Riesling extract, from Hugel’s famous Schoenenbourg grand cru vineyard, steely mineral palate with loads of citrus flavors, a thoroughbred and one for the cellar, especially in this magnum size. Rated 92 by Robert Parker.

  • 1997 Hugel Riesling Jubilee Reserve Personnelle (Magnum), $190.00, a real treat to compare this wine to the previous bottle, the same wine just 10 years older. The 1997 had more age on it but was just as luscious and full of Riesling character. At 22 years of age this wine is still young and will be in full bloom for another 20 years or more.

  • 2010 Hugel Riesling Selection de Grain Nobles $180.00 (375 ml.), this is best described as “nectar from the gods”, just a thoroughly voluptuous taste of wine. This wine is so well made, it is both light and refreshing while at the same time thick and creamy in texture. Sweet citrus perfumes the glass, coats your palate and leaves a soothing aftertaste that brings you back for more, rated 96 by Robert Parker. This was easily the best wine of the night!

  • 2010 Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive $90.00, honey, mango, lychees, all wrapped in velvet. This wine certainly gave me that “wow” feel. Not quite as sweet as the previous wine, but a masterpiece of wine making skill that combined beauty with craftsmanship, the wine showing a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity to show off the multiple different fruit fragrances.

What a tasting experience, led and animated by Marc André, who presented with such passion and dedication to the world of wine that it was an inspiration to us all.

As I posed for a photo with Marc André, I instantly flashed back to my thoughts in my opening paragraph of this blog, where I wondered if I was going to have a good time tonight or not, and why. This is why I came, to experience this kind of tasting experience with a passionate wine maker proud of his product and the satisfaction it delivers to his customers.

Sadly, not one of these Hugel wines tasted on this night are available for purchase in Quebec or Ontario right now. You can buy their basic Gentil blend for about $17.00, and basic Riesling Classic and Gewurztraminer Classic in the $18.00 – $22.00 range, and maybe the odd premium high end product (Quebec currently sells the Hugel Grossi Laue Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg 2011 for $95.50), but that is it. When you do see a higher priced Hugel wine at your favorite retail outlet, take a closer look and buy it, these wines are so well made you will be very happy that you bought a couple of bottles, and they are not available that often. Merci Marc André, well done, your family must be very proud of how well you continue the family tradition.

The last stop on our tasting tour was the tasting booths for Fonseca and Taylor’s ports. At Fonseca, their local sales rep Richard Carrier from Oeno (www.oeno.ca) guided us through a quick tasting of the Fonseca 20 Year Tawny and their Fonseca 2017 Vintage Port. The 2017 vintage port was far too young, harsh and very unforgiving, needing years to mature and smoothen out. Only buy this wine (listed in the SAQ at $155.25 per bottle) if you are prepared to cellar this wine for at least 10-15 years. However, their 20 Year Tawny was lovely, full of soft fruit, smooth, with a long lingering aftertaste. Priced at $69.75 per bottle (SAQ product # 00318543), this wine is readily available and makes a great after dinner nightcap or dessert wine.

We then tasted the Taylor’s 30 Year Tawny, and the Taylor’s 40 Year Tawny. The 30 Year Tawny (which lists in the SAQ at $190.00) was smooth and stylish, fully developed with no bite to it, full of soft rounded fruit. However, I was astounded at how much better the 40 Year Tawny (which lists in the SAQ at $250.00) was compared to their 30 Year Tawny. Full bodied, loaded with tastes of maple, caramel and tobacco, a real treat for those in search of something decadent for the holidays.

We did taste several other wines on this evening, but I chose to focus on these 32 wines mentioned above. If you are looking for something inexpensive from this list for the holidays, I would recommend the 2018 Arthur Metz Sushi white at $18.95 (SAQ product # 14018412), and the 2015 Chateau Larose-Trintaudon red at $26.80 (SAQ product # 11835388).

Happy holidays, and may Santa bring all those wine lovers reading this blog something special for the cellar, I know almost everything in this review would bring a smile to my face.

Cheers!

Reg