I attended a tasting at Color de Vino this past Tuesday, one of the first done by this new Edmonton wine shop. (If you haven’t been, go visit them right away – it’s a wonderful shop run by lovely people, with tons of interesting, well-priced wines. I wrote a profile on them for Vue which you should also check out for the inside scoop; they are the only store in Edmonton organized by wine style, rather than by country/region.
The tasting’s theme was “All I want for Christmas” and featured four pairs of wines: sparkling, white, red and port. The first in each pair was a good value under $20, while the second was a high-end, “buy this for your rich uncle” (or splurge on yourself) bottle. It was hosted by Stacey-Jo Strombecky, who has been a mainstay in the Edmonton wine industry for years. She’s an ISG-certified sommelier and the current rep for Nobilis and Clarus Wine Importers; she’s also the former cellarmaster at the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff.
Tastings hosted by wine reps offer a different set of advantages than those hosted by the store itself. Back when I worked at deVine, almost all of our wine tastings were done by the employees/owners. Agents are obviously only able to pour wines from their own portfolio, so the tasting is limited to what that particular agency has to offer. Now, when it’s a large agency that represents tons of wines like Nobilis/Clarus, this isn’t really an issue. Some agencies also specialize in certain regions/countries, so it could work out really well to have an agent pouring at a tasting focused on one particular place. (This tasting skewed heavily towards Portugal, but I’m not complaining.)
Agents also know their own portfolio very well (or at least the good ones do), so they can give an insider’s perspective on the wine; Stacey-Jo had lots of interesting stories and background details on her labels.
For a small/new/family-run wine shop like Color de Vino, having an agent host relieves a lot of the burden and work associated with tastings: they don’t have to worry about selecting/researching the wines, not to mention actually speaking about them; instead, their time is freed up to handle logistics like setting up and tearing down all the furniture and stemware, pouring the wine, serving the food, clearing the glasses.
Here are my tasting notes on the evening’s wines:
2013 Fezas Java Le Blanc Bonheur Côtes de Gascogne (France) $16
I bet even your nerdy wine friends (or geeky self) haven’t had a wine from Gascony. Gooseberry, fresh lemon pulp, fresh green herbs: you could easily trick someone into thinking this was a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Lemon candy on the palate, cleansed by high acidity. Pair with goat cheese. Very good bargain at $16, especially with the New Zealand Sauvignons creeping up in price: this is a great alternative.
2013 Patz & Hall Chardonnay (Sonoma, California, US) $37
This is my favourite style of Chardonnay: judiciously oaked, with the toastiness balanced by solid acidity. Nose of buttery pastry, tapioca, a touch of baking spice, and toasty French oak that carries through to the palate, which finishes with white pepper spice. Good with fatty cold cuts like prosciutto (speaking from personal experience).
2012 Animus Tinto (Douro, Portugal) $17
Portugal is a rising star in the wine world: they dominated the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list this year. I’ve long known that Portugal’s dry reds are often one of the best values in the wine world. As much as I appreciate the recognition they’re starting to receive, I’m also afraid this will result in a price hike over the next few years.
The Animus shows upfront red fruit on the nose with a touch of earthy lake weed. (This sounds gross but it’s not, and I’m certain it’s just my own weird olfactory/limbic connection – no one else is gonna smell this, so don’t be afraid that this wine reeks of swamp or anything like that.) The palate has red fruit that gives way to bone dry, slate-y mineral, which might be surprising after smelling a nose so reminiscent of ruby port. (This wine is made from the same blend of grapes as port: Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca.) A touch rustic, but still very approachable and crowd-pleasing.
The winemakers behind this bottle have a great story: they are 17th generation (!) winemakers – the longest unbroken winemaking family on the planet, previously responsible for the renowned Quinta do Noval vintage port.
2010 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella (Veneto, Italy) $95
Prepare to be totally ruined: yes, this wine is expensive and yes, it’s worth it. Actually, that just-under-$100 price tag is completely reasonable for an Amarone of this calibre. The nose is classic: dried fig, dates and prunes, with red licorice and forest flowers. (I’m not sure exactly what that means either: it just reminded me of smelling the aged floral quality of a mixed wood forest in late summer. Make of that what you will.) The seemingly sweet fruits on the nose are belied by a bracingly dry palate with red licorce fruit, drying white pepper and tobacco/cigar box. With a chiseled yet elegant structure and high tannin, this could easily age for decades. You’ll drink it before then, though.
Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port (Douro, Portugal) $23
This is a basic but solid ruby port: nothing special but fairly well-structured; a touch cloying. The winemakers use very natural processes (no filtering) and fortify their ports with a slow inoculation of grape spirit as opposed to the usual big bang all at once.
Barão de Vilar 20 Year Old Tawny Port (Douro, Portugal) $76
Taste this tawny and never drink Fladgate again: beautiful golden tawny hue with a nose of rum raisin cake, cigar box, nutty baklava; tingly caramel butterscotch on the palate with surprisingly high acid, making it warmingly oxidative yet bright. Super long finish. Fuck yeah.