Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Online Exclusive June 4 Release

VINTAGES OnLine Exclusives June 4, Burgundy’s Laurent Ponsot (see John Szabo’s article after Online Exclusives), Oregon/Washington Classics

By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo, MS and Sara d’Amato (Michael is away).

VINTAGES is releasing more and more wines on-line, especially those with lesser volumes. It makes all kinds of sense logistically, and should increase the number of wines available, if Ontario wine consumers buy in.  To do that they need good information, enticement and third party reviews they can trust, rather than the LCBO cherry-picking the highest scores they can find. That’s where we can come in.

But with no pre-release access to wines and it taking three to four days for wines to arrive after ordering, and another two days to taste and process, we have precious little time to publish reviews before some sell out.  Still, we will try.  We ask the LCBO and trade for co-operation, and our readers for your support of our efforts.

The picks below a good little run of pinot noirs from various locales. The WA scores shown below are an alignment from our critics. Click on the link to see the individual ratings and commentaries.

WineAlign members receive $10 off regular ticket price.

VINTAGES Online Exclusives for June 4

White & Orange

Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2019

Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2019, Burgundy, France
$41.95, Connexion Oenophilia
David Lawrason – From yet another warm vintage, this is a ripe, smooth and luxurious Chablis. Expect generous, complex and well integrated peach, creamed corn, baguette and crushed yellow wildflower. It is medium-full bodied, very smooth and almost creamy in texture with just enough acid backbone.
John Szabo – A ripe but pure and crystalline expression of Beauroy from this reliable producer, characterized as a warm vintage but showing here marvellous balance and poise. It’s drinking well now, but will surely develop a fine and complex range of enticing fruit flavours over the next decade or more. Lovely wine, attractive value.
Sara d’Amato – An exceedingly textured, fleshy style of Chablis emanating from the early-ripening Premier Cru of Beauroy due to its steep, sunny slopes. Chalky mineral and toastiness from well-managed lees contact delivers plenty of joy and intrigue on the palate. More gregarious and less restrained in personality with flavours of peach skin, passion fruit, yellow apple, lemon, grapefruit and jasmine are on full display.

Mönchhof Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2019, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany
$22.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines
David Lawrason – This is a quite fine, slim, just off dry and very flavourful Mosel riesling. The nose shows lifted green apple, saffron, clover honey and some flint. It is light bodied (8% alch) with finely integrated acidity and sweetness. The sugar creates a creaminess that fits well.


Closson Chase Churchside Pinot Noir 2019, Prince Edward County, Ontario
$41.95, Closson Chase Vineyards
David Lawrason Churchside is a vineyard on a gentle south facing knoll across Closson Road north of the winery. This is a lovely, fine tuned, almost creamy but light and elegant pinot noir with pretty aromas of red cherry, fine spice, vanillin, some mulch and considerable wood toast. It is light to mid-weight, yet fairly firm and energized with very good acidity and chalky tannin. Textbook.
John Szabo
The 2019 Churchside is a supremely delicate and lacy wine, fine-grained and silky, a really beguiling texture overall. I love the refinement allied to genuine depth and deceptive power – a mix of classic red with some darker berry fruit character expands the usual county range, perfectly ripe at just 12.2% alcohol, while wood remains a very subtle flavour influence. County magic.

Stoller Pinot Noir 2019, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
$39.95, The Vine Agency
David Lawrason – Stoller is among the most reliable pinot producers in Oregon in my books, making elegant, straightforward wines that capture the ripe but not too ripe essence of the Willamette Valley. This is medium bodied, smooth, balanced and with classic black cherry fruit, nicely etched with oak vanillin, spice and an underlying woodsy character. The length is very good.
John Szabo – Stoller’s 2019 “entry” level Willamette Valley pinot noir is evolving nicely at this stage, showing intriguing and complex earthy and stemmy-woodsy character in a classic pinot idiom. Complexity grows in the glass, as it should continue to do in the bottle, though it’s certainly enjoyable right now. 

Loveblock Pinot Noir 2020, Central Otago, New Zealand
$37.95, The Vine Agency
David Lawrason – Loveblock is the creation of Kim and Erica Crawford. The winery is based in Marlborough but they have gone to Central Otago fruit for this deeply coloured, quite intense and dramatic pinot. It has a very uplifted and penetrating nose of raspberry/ ripe cherry fruit, toast, fresh herbs (rosemary), vanilla. The energy continues on the palate with firm, juicy acidity, some alcohol warmth and Gritty, drying tannin. I would age it a couple of years but totally understand the urgency to enjoy this now.
Sara d’Amato – Loveblock’s latest pinot noir features a seductive perfume of blackberry bud, cherry, new leather, poppy and gentle spice. Lightly chewy tannins are paired with a youthful disposition and lively acidity. Delightfully exuberant

Mitolo 7th Son 2018, Mclaren Vale, South Australia
$29.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – An intriguing blend of about 2/3rds grenache with shiraz and sagrantino, this is savoury and satisfying red wine from McLaren Vale. I find it’s a departure from the typical Mitolo house style in my experience, much fresher, with less wood and raisined fruit character, and all the more interesting and drinkable for it. Drink or hold mid-term.
David Lawrason – This fragrant, sturdy and quite intense McLaren Vale red is formed largely from grenache and shiraz, but given a nervy, tannic edge from the inclusion of a small portion of sagrantino, a notably tannic Italian variety grown in the Umbrian town of Montefalco. It is full bodied, intensely flavoured, quite rich and warm – with a rugged ambiance nicely contained by some sweetness.
Sara d’Amato – This atypical blend of grenache, shiraz and sagrantino is pleasurably salty, floral, and licorice-tinged. features impressive concentration while at the same time remaining almost light in its tread due to fine balance. Polished and perfectly drinkable, no need to wait.

Le Ragose Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2010

Le Ragose Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2010, Veneto, Italy
$59.95, Carpe Vinum Wines
David Lawrason – This is now entering prime with very generous and lifted with ripe baked cherry/strawberry fruit amid leather, dried herbs and hazelnut/marzipan. It is full bodied, smooth, warm, creamy and luxurious. There is considerable tannin at work, with a drying finish, although sweet, ripe almost raisiny fruit and almost chocolaty notes come through to excellent length.
John Szabo – It’s terrific to see this nicely mature Amarone entering its prime drinking window now, and available at the price of most current releases. It’s replete with raisins and dark chocolate, nutty and roasted vegetal nuances, complex and satisfying, loaded with extract. Really a lovely wine at the price, a treat to drink now, but no rush – this will continue to evolve slowly toward the ’30s.

Special Offer: Laurent Ponsot, Haute Couture Wines of Burgundy

Deadline to submit an order is June 11, 2022 at 6 p.m

By John Szabo, MS

On June 9, the LCBO launched an online allocated release of a range of top-level 2018 Burgundy wines from iconoclastic winemaker Laurent Ponsot. The WineAlign Crü sat down to taste through five of them, and I later spoke with Mr. Ponsot himself to catch up on developments in the region and within his forward-thinking operation, discussing haute-couture wines, technical innovations, quality assurance, and the 2018 vintage.

Buy online – Laurent Ponsot 
View product list  – Laurent Ponsot >

For anyone unfamiliar with the name, Laurent Ponsot spent 36 years — from 1981 to 2017 — making wine at the family estate, Domaine Ponsot, in Morey-Saint-Denis, one of the most well-known and respected estates in Burgundy. Domaine Ponsot’s bottlings — like the Clos Saint Denis Cuvée Très Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru and the Clos de La Roche Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru — are among the region’s most revered and collectible wines. (Indeed, Laurent was at the center of the Rudy Kurniawan counterfeit wine scandal a decade ago when multiple faked vintages of both of these wines were consigned for auction, and Ponsot was instrumental in Kurniawan’s prosecution.)

Laurent left the family domaine in 2017 to launch his own company, Laurent Ponsot SAS, which produces a wide range of Burgundy’s most sought-after appellations throughout the Côte d’Or from a mix of estate vines, leased vineyards, and fruit and must/wine sourced from other respected growers. It’s thus neither a domaine nor a maison in the technical sense, but a form of micro-négociant aimed at the highest level.

“I want to remove the negative connotations around the term négociant, bring it respect,” he says. Ponsot brought the whole team from the family domaine to create the new company without missing a beat on quality, but his aim is also to work to protect the role of winegrowers and winemakers.

“Vines will be owned by rich people,” he says, fearing the creep of corporatization in the region. “Winegrowers and winemakers need to maintain control. We should fight together against this.”

Haute Couture Wines

Ponsot styles his wines as “Haute Couture,” not in the pompous fashion sense but, rather, “to give ourselves the challenge of using the right tool at each stage, the right methods. It’s attention to every detail in the extreme,” he explains. That, of course, means using the best raw material, with farming as natural as possible for his own vines and those he sources from, though not certified organic or biodynamic — Ponsot eschews the ideology of certification and embraces what advanced knowledge and technology bring to wine growing. He recently built a hyper-modern winery facility he calls “Les Ateliers Ponsot” to carry on the haute-couture analogy. It is equipped, he says, with “all of the technology that can be applied to help the human being to do nothing.”

Embracing Innovation

In a region bound by tradition, Ponsot stands out for his forward thinking embrace of 21st century tools. Among his innovation contributions to the industry is a technological bottle closure designed by Ponsot that performs exactly like a cork in every way, with optimum density, elasticity and porosity, but without natural cork’s notorious inconsistency and possible TCA taint. All of his wines since 2008 use this closure. And if you’re wondering whether wines will also age as well as those under high-quality cork, the company Ponsot worked with to produce the closure experimented using an accelerated ageing chamber to simulate 400 years into the future. “The structure held perfectly, and no components migrated into the wine. It’s totally inert.”

Each bottle also bears a temperature sensor that turns from green to black if it has been exposed to excess heat at any stage, while premier and grand crus wines are shipped in “intelligent cases” equipped with sensors that record the temperature of the case every 3 hours for 15 years. A smartphone with an NFC (near field communication) chip reader gives you direct access to the temperature data graph that each case was subject to since leaving Ponsot’s cellar and arriving in yours. “I want the final customer to know that the wine has been kept under proper conditions,” he says, while also pointing out that people along the supply chain feel a greater responsibility to store and ship the wine properly knowing that they’re being watched, so to speak.

And to prevent future counterfeiting attempts, Ponsot fits NFC chips in the capsules of all grand cru wines, allowing consumers to verify the authenticity of every bottle. With top Burgundy regularly stretching deep into three-digit price territory, such innovations are critically reassuring for consumers. (Read more about Ponsot’s innovations.)

Ponsot on the 2018 Vintage

Ponsot sums up the 2018s as “harmonious — all components are there, they show well.” He continues: “It was a good crop, with no real problems during maturation. The harvest was perfect. It was an easy vintage to manage. Each wine corresponds to its appellation archetypes.”

2018 was a particularly warm vintage, notable for having the hottest and driest growing season since the scorching 2003 vintage. Many of the wines I’ve tasted have shown raisined fruit character and high alcohol, but Ponsot credits critical choices around pruning and harvest dates for the relatively fresh acids and moderate alcohol levels — around 13 to 13.5 percent — in all of his wines.

When questioned about the ageability of these new-era, warm-vintage Burgundy wines, Ponsot says he believes they will age even better than most Burgundies of yore. To illustrate his point, he references the legendary 1949 Clos de la Roche made by his father. “It has 15.2 percent alcohol and low acids. If you had asked any scientist at the time about its ability to age, they would have said drink it within ten years. But it’s glorious now, it tastes like a 1990! I’m sure that wines made now will age a long time if they are made naturally. I have no fear about it.”

Considering also how far winemaking knowledge and technology have advanced in the last 70 years, Ponsot’s point is well taken, and none of the wines tasted are yet near prime in my estimation.

Below are short reviews — click on link to read full reviews and scores. Note that the cuvée names are fantasy names dreamt up by Ponsot, the reds named after trees and the whites after flowers, to highlight wine’s connection to nature.

Buyer’s Guide: Laurent Ponsot 2018 Burgundies


Laurent Ponsot Meursault Cuvée du Pandoréa 2018

Laurent Ponsot Meursault Cuvée du Pandoréa 2018
$110.00, CGU Fine Wines
John Szabo – A broad and rich wine belying the reasonable 13 percent alcohol declared, yet it’s also light on its feet and finely shaped around vivid acids. White fleshed orchard fruit and minimal oak influence joins almond and hazelnut flavours, lingering impressively on fresh bread dough-yeasty-leesy notes and wet stones. I like the impeccable balance, and the seamless integration; classy wine not yet at prime, I feel. Try again after 2023, or hold comfortably into the 2030s.
David Lawrason – This is a typically broad-shouldered, fulsome Meursault with all kinds of complexity. The nose shows very ripe yellow pear fruit, almond, lemon and peanut with exotic saffron spice and herbs. It is full bodied, powerful, rich yet poised with a seam of minerality. Flavours march purposefully across the palate with fennel and spice joining in. The length is outstanding,

Laurent Ponsot Corton Charlemagne Cuvée du Kalimeris 2018
$364.00, CGU Fine Wines
John Szabo
– Ponsot sources his Corton from six growers spread across the three villages that this grand cru straddles: Ladoix-Serrigny in the east, Aloxe-Corton in the south, and Pernand-Vergelesses in the west, making this a representative cuvée of the appellation. This 2018 is a grandiose wine, one of striking stoniness and purity, like a fresh mountain stream, discreet and subtle but with tremendous underlying depth. I love the clean lines, the well-chiselled acids, remarkable in this warm vintage, indeed a wine that defied the climatic conditions of the season. I’d hold it at least until the mid-2020s, better after 2028, or age well into the 2030s in a good cellar.
David Lawrason – This is simply gorgeous – my idea of truly great chardonnay. So lifted, sleek, poised and integrated! The nose cascades almond butter, gentle peat, pear puree, vanilla, spice and wet stone with light barrel toast. It is medium weight, creamy yet very refined with a great mineral in-sole. Very focused, very pure and cohesive and the length is outstanding. Never wavers and never quits.

Laurent Ponsot Cuvee De L’aulne Gevrey Chambertin Village 2018
$108.00, CGU Fine Wines
John Szabo – A very ripe Gevrey here from Ponsot in 2018, per the vintage, verging on overripe fruit character although registering a reasonable 13.5 percent alcohol declared. The palate is broad, fleshy and highly concentrated to be sure, displaying that ripeness and slight alcoholic warmth, but also plenty of phenolic grip and a measured dose of pleasant bitterness from tannin that help to shape and mold the fruit. The tactile sensation demands some time to relax, several years I would say — with this level of depth and extract longevity is assured, into the next decade. It requires time for full flavour development. 
David Lawrason – This is a firm pinot noir typical of Gevrey and also showing the darker blackcurrant-like fruit and herbality of this appellation. It is medium bodied, firm and very nicely focused with some tannic grit and almost ferrous minerality.

Laurent Ponsot Cuvee Du Noyer Beaune 1er Cru 2018
$110.00, CGU Fine Wines
John Szabo – – I love the openness and perfume in Ponsot’s 2018 Beaune 1er Cru, reflective of the village to be sure and its more ethereal, delicate wines in general, though also very ripe and generous in the 2018 vintage idiom. I’d suggest another 3 to 5 years minimum in the cellar to enter prime drinking, though, despite the ripeness, should also hold comfortably into the 2030s. 
David Lawrason – Here’s a very svelte, genteel and ripe pinot noir with immediate appeal and that generosity and softness I often find in Beaune – perhaps exaggerated by the warm vintage. I wanted a bit more energy in the end, but this is charming and seductive. The ripe red cherry fruit, pink rose, herbs and barrel spices are nicely integrated. Some gentle warmth on the palate, with fine-grained tannin and excellent length. I would age it another two years, but if opening now give it some breathing room.

Laurent Ponsot Clos de Vougeot Cuvée du Cèdre 2018

Laurent Ponsot Clos de Vougeot Cuvée du Cèdre 2018
$570.00, CGU Fine Wines
John Szabo – Four years in, this Clos de Vougeot is still barely out of the gates, showing its elevage, the savoury, toasty wood character that integrates well with the ripeness of the vintage but which needs much more time to fully integrate. Fruit is unusually black and verging on dried, with succulent acids and palate warming finish. Best from 2026 to 2040.
David Lawrason – The price is shocking of course, but we are into Grand Cru territory here – albeit from the largest Grand Cru of the Cote de Nuits. Take some time to aerate, then enjoy the fragrant, almost perfectly ripened red cherry and raspberry fruit, florals, fine fresh and dried herbs. There is subtle barrel toast as well. It is medium weight, firm and impeccably balanced, with some richness and warmth.

Oregon Washington Expedition

By David Lawrason

Dozens upon dozens of excellent wines from the U.S. Pacific Northwest were poured at the Steamwhistle event space in Toronto on June 6. I spent four hours with nose buried in a media tasting room while hundreds enjoyed a masterclass, cooking demo and visiting with producers and reps on the trade floor. I was searching in particular for wines currently available on-line through Vintages OnLine Exclusives and the Classics Collection, but pickins were slim, partially because wines being shown at the event were already one vintage later than those ordered by the LCBO months ago.  However, I do have solid notes for some top Oregon pinots and chardonnays, plus quite impressive Washington syrahs and cabernet-based reds, that we can hope to see in the months ahead.  Some of PNWs top labels were on display, and kudos to Predhomme Strategic Marketing for staging such a meaningful exposition.

Domaine Drouhin Roserock Pinot Noir 2018

Domaine Drouhin Roserock Pinot Noir 2018, Eola Amity Hills, Oregon 
$43.00, Philippe Dandurand Wines, Classics Collection
David Lawrason – Now maturing somewhat, this is a very elegant, poised chardonnay with complex, well integrated notes of pear, honey, nougat and spice. Also some lanolin. Midweight, polished and silky on the palate, with quite exquisite balance and flavour definition. Focus and length are excellent to outstanding. 

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2019

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2019, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
$42.95 Philippe Dandurand Wines, Vintages OnLine
David Lawrason – This is very pretty, refined and poised pinot noir with some rose/violet florality, fine cherry fruit, vanillin and spice – plus some minerality. Comes together very well. It is medium bodied, tidy and fresh with some warmth. Slightly gritty tannin. Excellent length. 

Betz Family Winery Besoleil 2018

Betz Family Winery Besoleil 2018, Columbia Valley, Washington
$68.00 Brand New Day Wines, Classics Collection
David Lawrason – This is made in a southern Rhone style combining grenache, syrah, mourvedre and rarely seen cournoise. It sports a lovely, complex and intriguing nose of candied strawberry/cherry, red licorice, fallen leaves, cedar and cinnamon. It is medium-full bodied, soft, loose and warm. Very generous, with good flavour intensity. A bit dry and starchy on the finish. The length is excellent. 

And that’s a wrap for this edition. Watch June 20th for our recommendations from Vintages InStore Release on June 18.  Please note the WineAlign office will be closed on Wednesday June 15 and opening Monday June 27.  All staff will be in Niagara for the 21st running of the National Wine Awards of Canada.

David Lawrason

VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Selections
Michael’s Mix

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