Liquid Art Fall Portfolio Tasting
Liquid Art is one of the top importers of premium wine into British Columbia. Their portfolio includes some of the top producers in the old world, and usually an interesting spattering if intriguing new world producers. I find that they tend to be quite sensitive to palate trends (such as the current vogue for more balanced, lower alcohol wines) and they usually introduce a few particularly good new producers each year.
Below are my picks for the best wines poured at their fall portfolio. I’ve divided these up into classics and new producers.
H. Billiot et Fils Cuvee Laetitia NV Champagne: Billiot has long been a favourite producer of mine, particularly his top cuvees, of which the Laetitia is one. These babies age amazingly well and become Krug-like in complexity and density with enough cellar time. This disgorgement was still quite young and fresh, which I found made it tight and somewhat not fully integrated yet. However, the material is all there and greatness will come with time. It’s also a superb price for the quality in the bottle. Excellent. $105 list.
Jean Milan Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs ‘Special’ NV Champagne: Milan is one of the best value Champagne producers around. This, his entry level cuvee, is superb for the price and outclasses pretty much every other Champagne in this market at $60. It’s classic blanc de blancs, with minerality, slight leesyness, and clean apple fruit (the malic components will lessen with a little bottle age). His high end Champagnes are even better (check out the Transparence and the Terre de Noel). Very Good+ to Excellent. $60 list.
JL Chave Selection ‘Mon Coeur’ Cotes-du-Rhone 2011: The stored producer JL Chave is famous for his Hermitage, one of the world’s greatest red and white wines. I used to ignore his negocient wines sold under “JL Chave Selection” as I’ve often found such wines from famous producers to lack character. However, I tried this Cotes du Rhones a couple years ago off the Vij’s list and was quite impressed. The 2011 follows suit with fresh, berry fruit, a clean palate and silky, easily consumable tannins. But there is character here too and it will pair with a huge range of foods. Very Good. $29 list.
Domaine La Soufrandiere Pouilly-Vinzelles 2011: Soufrandiere has always been one of the top producers in the Maconnais. Now owned by, I believe, Jadot, quality has remained consistent. This 2011 was tight and not showing much at the tasting. However, with some reflection and a re-taste it showed its superb density of fruit and tremendous of raw material that will undoubtedly open up in a year or two. Very Good+. $49 list.
Rene Rostaing ‘Cuvee Ampodium’ Cote-Rotie 2010: Rostaing is one of Cote-Rotie’s top producers. A traditionalist who inherited some of Cote-Rotie’s greatest vineyards in the 90’s (previously owned by his father in law Albert Dervieux-Thaize and uncle Marius Gentaz-Dervieux), Rostaing is at the top of his game in this, his entry level Cote-Rotie from the near perfect 2010 vintage. At this very young stage of its development, you might be surprised that the wine is very good but not transcendent. That is because it has had very little time to integrate and develop, which is necessary for Cote-Rotie at this level. However, 2010 is deceptive in that the wines are accessible now, perfumed and blessed with fine, ripe tannin. Nonetheless, it would be a shame to gobble this up now. Very Good+ (now). Excellent (with age). $99 list.
Shaw + Smith Shiraz Adelaide Hills 2010: Australian wine is now out of style. Too bad. This wine shows how delicious they can be and how power and jam is no longer emblematic of the best of Aussie Shiraz. This is a fruity shiraz, sure, but it also has minerals and game and has an impeccable structure. Delicious, superbly made wine. Very Good+ to Excellent. $50 list.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Alsace 2011: Needs no introduction. One of France’s top winemakers, with a massive range of wines from all of Alsace’s grapes. This is textbook Gewurztraminer that is perfectly typical of the grape but also dry. Only Alsace makes wine like this and very few in Alsace offer this quality at this price point. This entry-level line of wines from ZH is a great place to start if you’ve never had top Alsatian wine before. They also make killer mid-week dinner wines. Very Good to Very Good+. $30 list.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Alsace 2010: Not for the faint of heart, this vineyard consistently producer the most complex Pinot Gris I’ve had and I’ve had many. It is also probably one of the ripest, most alcoholic PG’s you’ll ever have. Not that you can detect the 15.5% ABV on the palate – as is the ZH way maximal ripeness is achieved with perfect balance. If you want to discover what it means to take Pinot Gris to the next level – this is the wine to show you the way. Excellent to Excellent+.
E. Pira & Figli Chiara Boschis Barolo Via Nuova 2006: The 2009’s are the current vintage, but Liquid Art was pouring older vintages to show what the wines could do. This is massively structured Barolo that seems quite traditionally styled, with both huge tannic structure but also all the hints of
aromatics and flavour that will undoubtedly unleash in 10-20 years. A producer I tend to miss, this is top notch stuff. Excellent. $100 list.
E. Pira & Figli Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi 2008: Same notes as above on the producer and the structure of the wine, but this wine shows more finesse and is a little softer, likely given that Cannubi is often an earlier drinking vineyard. Excellent. $110 list.
Aldo Conterno Colonnello Barolo 2007: I don’t know how he does it, but Aldo Conterno is the modern master of melding tradition with a modern, accessible style. Even at this young age, the wine was singing its pretty, floral aromatics and soft, sexy dark fruit, cherries and walnuts – already laid out to see. The tannins were refined, but definitely present to support serious aging. This is a masterpiece of Barolo. Excellent+. $178 list.
New To This Market
Arnot-Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon Bugay Vineyard 2010: While Arnot-Roberts has been in this market before, that was many years ago, and we only saw a few of their top notch syrahs. This (and the also available Fellom Ranch) Cabernet, represents the progression of Arnot-Roberts from up and coming to one of if not the top new-wave producer in California. This is superb wine, made in a style that nearly vanished from California in the past two decades, but is now making a resurgence. That is, highly structured, restrained wines built for aging. This is perfectly ripe and filled with minerals and herbs. Excellent to Excellent+. $125 List price.
Benoit Badoz Vin Jaune Cotes du Jura 2003: This is excellent, typical Vin Jaune for the price. It offers freshness but also that caramel, nutty quality from aging under flor. It is not at the level of the very best producers: Tissot, Puffeney and the great Bourdy, but it is excellent for its price point and a great Christmas wine. Very Good+. $45 list.
Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir ‘Cincuenta y Cinco’ Patagonia 2010: Started by the della Rocchette family who own Sassicaia, this intriguing Argentinian Pinot Noir is made from 55-70 year old vines in the remote region of Patagonia. This is modern pinot to be sure, and won’t convert the traditionalists. However, it is very well made and completely atypical of anything coming out of Argentina right now. I highly recommend the curious who are into high end modern pinot noir to check this bottle out. Very Good+ (some likely would score this Excellent). $75 list.
Clos du Moulin Aux Moines Auxey-Duresses “Moulin aux Moines” AC Blanc 2009: An old estate that used to be run by monks in the 10th century, Clos do Moulin is now owned by the Adnrieu family, whose winemaker trained under Dominique Lafon and Etienne de Montille. This Auxey blanc is an impressive sign of things to come. A forward style that is easily understandable and tasty, there is also a lot of interest and stuffing here for short term aging. Delicious and in check for the vintage. Very Good+. $65 list.
Neal Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008: This is very well made Napa cab in a balanced, forward style that is neither opulent Napa nor fully traditional Napa. In other words, it has the delicious notes you’d expect for a blended Napa wine, but it is also accessible and, while it will obviously benefit from age, it does not need cellar time. It also happens to be a very good wine for the price. The Neal family are long time farmers that own 2,000 acres of vineyards all over Napa. Very Good+. $60 list.
Roccolo Grassi Valpolicella Superior 2009: This was the most surprising find of the tasting for me as I had never heard of this producer and also never had high level Valpol with this level of finesse. Unlike the super modern ripe wines of Marion or the intense, extremely dark, heavily extracted wines of Dal Forno, Roccolo Grassi offers a refined take on the Corvina grape: freshness, fruity, supple but filled with complexity. This is elegant wine, proven by how well the 2007 that was also being poured had developed. As noted in the importer’s notes on the producer: “Marco uses the minimum allowable drying time for his Amarone rather than stretch the process. In his view concentration still needs to come from the vineyard in the form of beautiful fruit, not merely as a result of drying the grapes.” I highly recommend trying this producer. Excellent. $55 list.