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Best of the fest, part 1

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How many wines did I try at the 2013 Winnipeg Wine Festival? From the opening ancillary event to the end of the Saturday matinee tasting, I figure about 200. And while I can't possibly talk about all of them in great detail, I did pick a few of my favourites.

Below are some of my picks, in no particular order, that stood from Argentina and New Zealand, the two theme regions of the fest. Most of what you see here was brought in special for the festival, and some may have sold out on-site. Anything left was sent to the Grant Park Liquor Mart, and are there while supplies last. Get while the getting's good.

My next post will feature wines from other countries that I tried and loved...

Giesen 2011 The August 1888 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand — around $33)
Wild yeast fermentation and about six months in oak helped Giesen's flagship Sauvignon Blanc stand out from the many lighter, racy examples of the grape at the "Big Sky Party" Argentina/New Zealand showcase tasting/ancillary event at the Qualico Family Centre. Lovely honey and light vanilla notes join the tropical, peach, and lemon-lime notes here — it's a medium-bodied, viscous, elegant Sauvignon Blanc. Sadly, I think this one might be all gone — it's made in pretty small quantities — but their entry-level and "The Brothers" mid-price Sauvignon Blancs are also excellent. This was probably my top pick from the entire festival. 93/100

Seresin 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand — $26.02, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Kiwi cinematographer Michael Seresin has worked on such films as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and The Life of David Gale, but is also making some pretty stellar wine. This Sauv Blanc brings honey, peach, fresh lime and tropical notes with a hint of nuttiness. There's some great texture and complexity here. This wine's regularly available, and will be flipping to the 2011 vintage shortly. 90/100

Sileni 2011 The Straits Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand — around $20)
Bright herbal, lime rind, lemon, gooseberry and mild bell pepper aromas are pretty textbook Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the nose. The Sileni shows great balance on the light-bodied palate, with the herbal and lime notes front and centre and secondary herbal and green apple notes bolstered by bright acidity. The entry-level Sauvignon Blanc is also very good (and regularly available) at $13.49. 89/100

Kim Crawford 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay (Marlborough, New Zealand — around $20)
Peach, red apple, tropical fruit and lemon candy notes on the nose are gorgeous, and on the medium-bodied palate there's some honey notes added into the mix thanks in part to malolactic fermentation and aging on the lees (dead yeast cells - it's a good thing, trust me). Maybe it seemed a welcome reprieve from the abundance of crisp, citrusy New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but this unoaked Chardonnay showed very well. 90/100

Finca Las Moras NV Sparkling Viognier-Shiraz (Mendoza, Argentina — $13.95)
I've heard of Viognier (a white grape) being blended in small quantities into Shiraz (a red grape) in Australia — it can add great aromatic complexity and actually darken the colour — but I've never heard of Shiraz added to Viognier, in Argentina or otherwise. This bubbly was a goldmine of intense aromas: pineapple, spice, fresh flowers, peach and more. Medium-bodied but rich on the palate, the bubbles lift the tropical notes as well as some minerality, and there's almost a hint of tannin herer from the Shiraz. 89/100

Amalaya 2012 White (Valle Calchaqui, Argentina — around $13.99)
While the red blend in this line is regularly available, as far as I know the white was a festival-only pour. A blend of Torrontes and Riesling (a 90-10 split), there's loads of bright peach, mandarin orange and floral notes on the nose. Honey and tropical fruit flavours dominate on the dry, medium-bodied palate, with orange peel notes lifted by a hint of sweetness. 90/100

Yealands 2008 Pinot Noir (Central Otago, New Zealand — $21.25, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Another regularly available wine from Liquor Marts (and private wines that choose to carry it), it's rare to find a New Zealand Pinot Noir from a relatively older vintage. The Yealands is turning a touch brown in colour around the edges (completely normal), but aromatically still shows pretty berry, cherry and plum notes on the nose as well as a hint of caramel — all without seeming sweet. It's light-bodied, and the berry and cherry notes are still alive thanks to a splash of acidity to counter the light black-tea-like tannin. With age this Central Otago Pinot Noir has started tipping its hat to Burgundy while retaining that new World fruit. 88/100

Bodega Septima 2010 Gran Reserva (Mendoza, Argentina — around $22.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
This blend of 55 per cent Malbec, 35 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 per cent Tannat is available regularly at Liquor Marts and beyond, although not in great quantities. Cherry and blackberry aromas work well with dark chocolate and black tea notes; on the dense, full-bodied palate there's some medium tannin that provides grip and vanilla/spice notes thanks to time in oak. 91/100 (PS. The festival-only Septima Noche Pinot Noir was fantastic as well, especially for those that like the grape made in the more Old World/Burgundian style.)

Benvenuto de la Serna 2008 Trisagio (Uco Valley, Argentina — $24.99)
A nearly even split of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tannat, the Trisagio has an intense nose of blueberry, plum, raisin, perfume and spice. Aged 18 months in new French oak barrels, it's a decidedly rich, full-bodied and chewy red, with blackberry, white pepper, black tea and cocoa notes. This needs a big steak. 91/100

Twitter: @bensigurdson 

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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