Everything Wine And More

Jeramy Torrance
September 29, 2014 | Jeramy Torrance

Comparing Premium Wines from the Old World and USA

Our last Premium Gems event in August was a big success, everyone had a great time and we all got to try some really awesome wines. In light of the event, I am going to talk a bit about the line-up for anyone who couldn’t be there that night. The theme was USA versus the World, and the aim was to pair unique wines against each other that really showed off those classic nuances you find from different regions around the world. To emphasize this, I selected some wines that I felt really show-cased the beauty of the terroir and the styles from these regions.

FIRST PAIR: Roederer Anderson Valley Brut  ($32.49) VS Louis Roederer Premier Brut Champagne ($59.99)

The first pairing pitted the Roederer sparkling from the US against its French counterpart. In composition, the main difference is that no Pinot Meunier is grown in the US vineyards, therefore the Roederer from the US is composed from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We sampled the Anderson Valley Brut first. Pale straw in colour with a nice head of foam, the wine gives off tart aromas of apples and pears with a line of baking yeast. Bright acidity gives a very lively palate with a green apple finish that has a bit of pucker power. The bubbly had a medium level of carbonation with a medium length finish. The fruit was definitely emphasized in this creation, carrying those green apple and pear notes from start to finish.

Moving on to the Louis Roederer Champagne from France, it poured the same colour with a little bit more foam on the head. The fruits on the nose again showed the apple and pear, with a bit of brioche and baked pastry showing as well. On the palate, the bready, pastry notes really showed themselves mingling with a nice line of mineral acidity. The French Champagne definitely showed a more elegant finesse than the Anderson Valley Brut, however the US counterpart is a good fill in for someone who enjoys the profile of champagne, without spending Champagne prices.

SECOND PAIR: Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris 2013 ($29.99) VS Eroica Riesling 2012 ($33.99)

For the second pair, I selected two of my favorite whites that I think truly show off the character of their growing regions. Pinot Gris has a lovely little niche here in Canada, showing up in most winery line-ups. Nichol dazzles year after year with their lovely salmon-pink Pinot Gris and places like Ruby Blues and Sandhill make their own beautiful renditions. The one I focused on in this class is one of my favorites; the Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris. At 29.99 it is an absolute steal of a wine, way out-performing its price range. The nose is flowery and pretty with a hint of peach orchards. The palate carries medium weight with a nice toned down acidity to compliment the peaches and cream notes. A lovely light sipper, it goes a long way to show the quality of wines we can produce in the Okanagan.

Its rival in this competition was the Eroica Riesling from Columbia Valley in Washington State. Eroica is a joint-venture between Chateau St. Michelle, one of the premier Riesling producers in Washington, and Dr. Loosen of the Mosel Valley in Germany. Together they make a stunning off-dry white with bright crisp acidity and tremendous pairing potential. For a 2012, I was surprised at the petrol notes that came off this pale-gold wine. A lot of ripe stone fruit up front, more typical of a colder climate, lots of peaches and pear. The finish was medium in length, with just a touch of residual sugar to carry through.

THIRD PAIR: Villa Cafaggio Cortaccio 2005 ($47.99) VS Rutherford Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($45.99)

In round three it was battle of the Cabs, with Villa Cafaggio’s 100% Cabernet from Italy up against Rutherford Hills classic Napa Valley Cab. Calling the “Golden Basin” of Chianti its home, the Cortaccio comes from the heart of Tuscany. Only about 15% of Villa Cafaggio’s vineyards are comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest being used exclusively for Sangiovese. Since it’s a 2005 vintage, with a bit of age the wine was deep garnet with a little bit of brown showing on the edge. The nose hit strong with prunes and stewed fruits, very classic Italian. Even with the age, the fruit was still quite prominent on the palate, loads of blackberry and raspberry. A touch of earthiness showed itself on the mid-palate like a wet forest floor. Some mushroom notes carried through to the finish where the tannins were still very prominent and mouth-filling. It drank really well that night, but still has the potential to age for 3-5 more years.

On the younger side, the 2010 Rutherford Hill Cab Sauv was a bright ruby red. The nose was fresh, with loads of black berry and cassis. One striking observation about this bottle was upon first opening it there were very pronounced notes of tobacco, however by the time we tasted it near the end of the class most of it had blown off and only a slight linger remained. On the palate, it had loads of the same dark fruits with a bit of black cherry mingling with the cassis. A fresh note, something reminiscent of pine, was detectable as well. I found the wine to have a nice little bite of acidity right on the end, with silky tannins that had already integrated well. The Rutherford Hill did not have the same kind of power and structure as the Cortaccio, but is certainly more approachable now and will be reaching its peak in another year or so.

FOURTH PAIR: Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso 2011 ($45.99) VS Zenato Amarone Classico ($45.99)

We looked at red blends for the final pair, facing off the exciting new Halter Ranch from Paso Robles, USA versus an Italian staple, Amarone, specifically from the Zenato winery. In this final pairing, I wanted to show off some bigger, boozier examples that can come from some playful wine-making techniques. Calling Paso Robles its home, Halter Ranch is much further South than the Napa Valley wineries. The Pacific Ocean lends its influence to keep a very even heat throughout the summer, allowing slow and evening ripening to maximize flavour concentration.  The reason I picked the Cotes de Paso for this category is the interesting choice of grape blend. 48% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 19% Mourvedre and 6% Tannat. The wine was a lovely mix between garnet and purple, but still a little bit see-through. Red berries and spice dominated the nose with a pine-like freshness. On the palate, well balanced acidity entwined with notes of raspberry, sour cherry and loads of baking spice with that bit of pine still lingering on the back of the palate. This red ends strong, with beautiful chalky tannins that coat the tongue, making the finish persist endlessly.

The last wine of the evening is one of my favorites, the Zenato Amarone Classico. For those who don’t know, Amarone is made by harvesting the grapes and then drying them out on straw mats. The resulting raisins are then pressed to make the wine. By going through this drying process, it concentrates the sugars by taking the water out of the grape and provides some incredibly intensely flavored wines that are full-bodied. This particular Amarone has a pungent aroma of perfumes, black cherries and black berries with a bit of smoky spice. The palate was intense and powerful, loaded with rich red and black fruits, chocolate and just a hint of lavender. Chewy, mouth-filling tannins round out the never-ending finish that continues to linger with hints of spice and berries.

Overall, the class was a big success and everyone enjoyed themselves. With Summer coming to a close and moving into Autumn, we are looking towards the gift giving season, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more Premium Gems events in the coming months, as well as the return of weekly vintage tastings. As always, if you ever have any questions about what is written here or any other wine questions feel free to come chat with me inside our Vintage Room. 

Time Posted: Sep 29, 2014 at 1:46 PM
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