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What’s Grower Champagne?

“Champagne is on the verge of profound change. There is a growing realization in the region that its viticulture has become slovenly and the subtleties of its terroir have been neglected. The era of great growers and great vineyards is just beginning.”
Andrew Jefford, The New France

In Champagne, only about 4,000 growers make their own wine; the rest sell their grapes to the cooperatives or to big brands like Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. In fact, big Champagne houses account for about 70 percent of total Champagne production and about 97 percent of sales outside Europe. They have long been the names that stand for Champagne.

But in the past several years, things have started to change. More growers have begun exporting their wines. And more consumers have been buying them. The reason for this new popularity is terroir—the untranslatable (and frequently invoked) French term for the confluence of weather, soil and aspect that gives a vineyard an identifiable character. Unlike the big houses, which buy grapes from all over Champagne (sometimes from as many as 1,000 different vineyard sites), growers make wines with grapes from a particular place. That sense of terroir, coupled with good prices (often 10 or 20 percent less than the big brands, and sometimes even lower), has incited sommeliers to add names like Pierre Paillard to their wine lists, even according them special categories in some cases. For winemakers too small to have marketing teams, publicity departments or, for that matter, much wine, this is a clear underdog victory

How to spot when a champagne has been made by the producer that grew the grapes rather than by a bottler that bought and blended the wine. Virtually all champagne front labels carry a little code next to the name of the producer as follows:

NM négociant-manipulant, one of the big houses/maisons/négociants
RM récoltant-manipulant, a grower who makes his or her own wine
CM coopérative de manipulation, one of the co-operatives
RC récoltant-coopérateur, grower selling wine made by a co-op
MA marque d’acheteur, buyer’s own brand, usually a made-up label

So to find a grower’s champagne, look out for the letters RM.

Click here to find out more about Champagne Pierre Paillard in British Columbia or click here for Alberta

Musella: Passion for precision

On the hills of San Martino Buon Albergo, is Tenuta Musella, one of the most beautiful estates of the Veneto region. Rich in forests, rivers, ancient courts and chapels, farming estates and houses, all within a single, completely fenced area. A splendid aristocratic villa, dating back to the seventeenth century, stands at the centre of the estate.

The oldest roots of the family of the counts Muselli, presumably the first proprietors of the Tenuta, date back to the sixteenth century. But it is not until the second half of the nineteenth century that one hears about the winemaking tradition of the area, established by Cesare Trezza di Musella. He introduced innovative viticultural practices, thus initiating what was to become a major venture for the Tenuta. In 1990, the Tenuta loses its original unity, but in 1995 the winery purchases all the vineyards and structures that were eventually restored and converted into the cellars and offices.

Since 2008, The estate is in the process of converting to biodynamics under the supervision of gifted winemaker Maddalena Pasqua. Pasqua’s meticulous work and dedication has propelled Tenuta Musella amongst the top wine estates in the world. It’s obvious to the contented band of devotees who have followed the estate over the years that the wines are becoming even brighter, more vibrant and pure as a result of her passion for precision.

The winery owns three vineyards for a total of 24 hectares on three different hills, rich in forest and natural oasis: Monte del Drago, Perlar and Palazzina. The variety of soil compositions and favourable exposure, mainly to the West, guarantee an interesting combination. The estate itself extends on a total area of almost 400 hectares.

The Musella family is a member of “Le Famiglie dell’Amarone d’Arte” or The Amarone Families. A very prestigious group composed of twelve historical producers who promote and protect the tradition, quality and integrity of Amarone.

Click here to find out more about the wines of Musella in British Columbia or click here for Alberta

Bodega Renacer: Sustainable Malbecs

Bodega Renacer is a boutique winery that specializes in Malbec and produces only four wines: Punto Final Clasico, Punto Final Reserva, Enamore and Renacer.

The winery was built in 2004 in Perdriel, Lujan de Cuyo, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. It is a fusion between classic and modern architecture: well-defined, straight lines combine with Tuscan-inspired walls to provide a highly attractive and unique building.

Renacer is equipped with top of the line Italian technology: we have 550,000 litres of stainless steel tanks and 280,000 litres of underground cement tanks sealed with epoxy for aging and all tanks have computerized temperature control. Currently the winery is expanding its capacity with the construction of a new underground cement tank facility with a capacity of 1,081,000 litres.

Renacer is under the supervision of talented winemakers: the Tuscany-born Alberto Antonini, who is considered as one of the most renowned flying winemakers from Italy, and the Mendocenean Hector Durigutti, who has extensive knowledge about Malbec and the terroir. The winemakers have developed a great synergy and together produce splendid wines that have been praised by the international press.


Renacer’s vineyards are located in Perdriel, a unique zone in Mendoza, Argentina where the soil, altitude, climate, and water come together to create the perfect growing environment for Malbec. The winery has over 29 hectares of Malbec (some of which are more than 50 years old) with yields of less than 8 tons per hectare.

In addition to their own vineyards, Renacer works with and buys from local producers to take advantage of the different terroirs found in Mendoza, such as the Uco Valley, Lujan de Cuyo and Medrano.

The winery uses water that comes from the melted Andean snows. This pure water transforms arid Mendoza into an oasis which, in conjunction with the irrigation system that carefully measures each drop of water that is given to the vines, creates small, high quality grapes.


One of the most sustainable wineries in Argentina, Bodega Renacer is committed to protecting the environment. They are the first winery in Argentina to be certified carbon neutral. They use 100% eco friendly bottles, with a lighter weight (15% less glass, reduced carbon emissions), and a recyclable carton case.

They store the water that flows from the Andes Mountains in natural ponds, which provide the vines only with the water that they need and nothing more, thus maximizing its use. The used water is returned to the environment in its natural state, free of chemicals or foreign substances.

Renacer continues innovating and improving their commitment to the land and vineyards, and always ensures that the natural resources are protected.

Click here to find out more about the wines of Bodega Renacer in British Columbia or click here for Alberta


Les Halos de Jupiter by Philippe Cambie

Originally from Pézenas in the Languedoc, Philippe Cambie began his wine consulting career in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1998 and is now one of the most sought after enologist in the area. He works with over 20 estates including such greats as Les Cailloux, Vieux Donjon, Clos du Mont Olivet, Saint Prefert, Clos Saint Jean, Tardieu-Laurent, and many others. Halos de Jupiter is his own project in partnership with Michel Gassier, the proprietor of Château de Nages in the Costières de Nîmes. These are small production wines sourced from great vineyards that Cambie has unique access to because of his many relationships in the region.

“According to poets, Jupiter (Zeus in Greek) is the father, the king of all gods and humans. He rules on Mount Olympus and his power is such that he can shake the entire universe by a simple nod of the head. He also represents the spiritual world, organizes the exterior world and is the god of all physical, moral and social rules. According to Mircea Eliade, he is the archetypical head of a patriarchal family. Jupiter is also the biggest planet of our solar system and its Halo is the closest of the three rings that surround the planet.

For me, Grenache is the king of all grapes and the natural leader of all Rhône varietals. The Halo symbolizes the appellations that best express its personality.”

-Phillippe Cambie, Oenologist

Click here to find out more about Les Halos de Jupiter in British Columbia or click here for Alberta

Andrea Oberto: Modernista in Barolo?

The 40 acre estate is run by Andrea Oberto and his son Fabio. Andrea founded the estate and started bottling the wines in 1978. Before then, the Obertos grew grapes and sold them off. Since 1978 the winery has grown quite a bit, but it is still family owned and operated. Andrea mainly works in the vineyard and Fabio is in charge of the winery operations. The estate is located in La Morra, one of the eleven communes of the Barolo DOCG.

Oberto has made a great name as a bit of a modernista in Barolo – fair enough, with all of the brand new barriques in the cellar. However, the urge to classify a producer who uses barrique as modernist should be tempered by the realization that little NEW barrique is used – wines are often aged in second and third season barrels.

With a brand-new winery, and an annual production of around 100,000 bottles. The passion that Andrea dedicates to his craft has not changed however: while other producers have preferred to delegate the work in the vineyards, he continues to tend his vines with enthusiasm, assisted by his son Fabio and wife Ornella.

The Barolos from La Morra are known as the most perfumed and graceful of Barolo. Besides the regular Barolo, the Obertos make three prestigious single vineyard DOCG wines: Vigneto Albarella, Vigneto Rocche, and Vigneto Brunate. The estate is also well known for its Barbera Giada.

Click here to find out more about the wines of Andrea Oberto in British Columbia or click here for Alberta

Castiglion del Bosco: Centuries of tradition

One of the oldest estates in Tuscany, located on the Via Francigena pilgrim route to Rome, Castiglion del Bosco has an incredibly rich history. Today the team at Castiglion del Bosco consider themselves to be stewards for this historic treasure, preserving and continuing its legacy.

While winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco has been a craft for centuries, until fairly recently the vineyards were cultivated solely for personal consumption by each family living on the Estate. Today, Castiglion del Bosco wines are consistently recognized for their excellence.

As one of the founding members of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the organization that regulates and controls the quality of Brunello production, Castiglion del Bosco introduced the world to its exemplary vintages through the emergence of a commercial operation in the late 1950s. In 2004, acclaimed international Wine Master Nicolo D’Afflitto took command of winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco, along with locally trained enologist Cecilia Leoneschi. Under their careful direction, the Estate is yielding more modern Brunellos that are attracting critical acclaim.

The fundamental goal of winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco is to remain faithful to the land and the characteristics of the grapes. Everyone at Castiglion del Bosco has the unique opportunity to help contribute to this goal and participate in all aspects of the vinification process, from picking and sorting to bottling and tasting.

Click here to find out more about the wines of Castiglion del Bosco in British Columbia or click here for Alberta

Proyecto Garnachas de España

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The Project’s Origin

Proyecto Garnachas de España pays homage to a varietal that was relegated to the background for some years and which current consumer trends have brought back to the limelight.

This collection of wines is the result of a very personal project by Raúl Acha, oenologist and technical director at Vintae, which was initiated with the search for vineyards in different areas of Spain that best reflected the essence of Garnacha. The result is a collection of single varietal wines from very old vineyards that capture the concept of ‘Terroir’ to perfection, as each wine expresses all the nuances and singularities typical of its winemaking area.

The wines produced for Proyecto Garnachas de España are made in areas near Valle del Ebro, which offers the optimum conditions required for Garnacha.

The Documentary

The documentary ‘Proyecto Garnachas de España’ is a journey through the history of Garnacha, the film’s main character, accompanied by the people who grow, study or make wine with it. This 45-minute documentary covers the trip carried out by Raúl Acha, a passionate advocate of the varietal, through the basin of River Ebro and the areas that have traditionally grown Garnacha: La Rioja, Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia.

The trip begins at the heart of the family Acha, where Raúl defends the value of the Garnacha vineyards that his great-grandfather planted in 1906 in his village, Cárdenas (La Rioja). The vines were about to be pulled up by his father to be replanted with other more productive varietals. Among Raúl’s family, a few believe that Garnacha will disappear because of the complications involved in its production and winemaking. Raúl, therefore, begins a search for areas with old Garnacha vineyards that experience similar issues, and in each of these areas (Calatayud, the Moncayo and the Priorat), he encounters various locals telling him about the history of Garnacha in their area and its evolution.

Following that road trip, Raúl Acha returns to La Rioja with his own project, a collection of wines made from each of the areas he visited on his search for old vines Garnacha. The collection also includes wines made in La Rioja with grapes from the old vines planted by his great-grandfather. The traditional way of harvesting, carried out by his family, is also shown in the documentary, and it ends with a very special tasting of the entire collection, in which we see if Raúl’s father – in favour of pulling up the vines – still has the same opinion.

Garnacha : A few facts

Garnacha is one of the varietals whose wines have been increasingly valued in the past few years. Consumers and critics alike are starting once again to value the fresh, fruity and easy-drinking wines that are produced from this varietal. However, Garnacha has not always enjoyed this recognition. For years, it has been relegated to the background and associated with low-quality wines.

The amount of hectares planted worldwide has also dropped; the 400,000 hectares registered just a few years ago have dropped to around 300,000.

Garnacha used to be the top red varietal in hectares planted in Spain for years. Up to the late 20th century, Garnacha covered between 100,000 and 120,000 hectares – it currently covers around 70,000 hectares. The amount of hectares planted worldwide has also dropped; the 400,000 hectares registered just a few years ago have dropped to around 300,000.

The Garnacha boom took place in the mid 19th century – around 1850 – when Oidium started to appear in the vineyards, a vine disease Garnacha proved to endure much better than other varietals; as a result, it was widely planted. Throughout the 20th century, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and La Rioja were the areas growing the best quality Garnacha which produced highly renowned wines.

Following the boom, in the late 20th century, there was a decline that associated Garnacha with low quality wines for years. Excessive coulure (a reaction to weather conditions that causes a failure of grapes to develop after flowering) brought the elaboration of clones to counteract its effects, which resulted in higher yields. It is precisely in those conditions that Garnacha produced its worst results. Therefore, it began to be associated with lighter coloured wines that was grown for bulk and rosé production.

In the past few years, Garnacha has slowly started to recover its prestige as a result of wines made from old vineyards producing low yields. “When yield is controlled, balanced wines with good longevity and great finesse are produced”, says Raúl Acha, who convinced by this statement put together the collection Proyecto Garnachas de España with the purpose of showing the different characteristics of this varietal from different winemaking areas.

Click here to find out more about La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo in British Columbia or click here for Alberta


Macauley: Sweet Danger

The Macauley Vineyard label was originally established in St. Helena in the early 1980s by Ann Macauley Watson and for several years produced a very well received late harvest Sauvignon Blanc with help from renowned winemaker, Rick Forman.

In the late summer of 2000, Ann’s son Mac, went to work for Rudd Estate in Oakville. After several months of winery work and education, Mac was inspired to revive the family label, after a 13-year hiatus. With help from childhood friend and winemaker Kirk Venge, he crushed his first grapes in October of 2001.

Mac and Kirk have one goal: to source the highest quality fruit in Napa Valley and make wines of extraordinary depth and personality. The grapes they choose showcase the terroir of the vineyards and create a remarkable wine-drinking experience.

“Dulce Periculum” is the Macauley clan motto. Many have inquired over the years as to the meaning of this Latin text that appears on the Macauley label. When Mac decided to incorporate the family crest into his label, it was important to him not to omit these two words. The phrase, which translates to “sweet danger”, epitomizes his relationship with wine. It is the anticipation and moment of discovery he experiences as a collector of wine. It is ever present in Mac’s journey as a vintner. As Mac says: “It is the thrill of each harvest as the elements of that year and my own judgment culminate in the formation of a unique vintage. It is my relationship to a particular vintage”. Dulce Periculum is the appreciation Mac feels for the ephemeral nature of wine, while relishing its bold essence.

“It is the thrill of each harvest as the elements of that year and my own judgment culminate in the formation of a unique vintage. It is my relationship to a particular vintage”

The Winemaker

Second-generation winemaker Kirk Venge grew up in the Napa Valley. At his father’s side, he learned about farming and winemaking, feeling at home in the cellar at an early age. While pursuing his enology degree at the University of California at Davis, Venge worked at Mumm Napa Valley for five years in their experimental division. Upon graduation, Venge sought to expand his winemaking knowledge by traveling to New Zealand and working harvest in the southern hemisphere. Equipped with a broader sense of viticultural techniques, Venge returned to Napa to partner with his father in the creation of Venge Vineyards. Today, Venge brings his skill and passion to Macauley Vineyard. Those who know Kirk Venge will attest to his acute palate. His wines reflect balance and finesse. Because Kirk believes that wines are made in the vineyard, he is relentless in his quest to find the very best vineyard locations and sources of fruit.

The Vineyards

To Kalon
Originally planted in 1868 by pioneer viticulturist Hamilton W. Crabb, the historic To Kalon Vineyard provides grapes for some of the Napa Valley’s most sought after wines including Harlan Estate, Bacio Divino, Carter, Schrader, Paul Hobbs and Macauley.

To Kalon is Greek for “highest quality” or “greatest beauty”. The vineyard sits at the base of the Mayacamas Mountain Range in the Oakville AVA and is managed by the famed Andy Beckstoffer whose passion for growing the best grapes possible is legendary in the Napa Valley.

Mac’s To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon is a Clone 337 on 110 R rootstock and was planted in the early 1990’s. The clay and loam alluvial soils of the appellation give the vines very deep roots with excellent drainage. The berries are small and the bunches are tight, making for a concentrated and flavourful wine of “highest quality” and “greatest beauty”.

Star Vineyard
Originally a collaboration of the late Reg Oliver, Ric Forman and David Abreu, Star Vineyard grows in the heart of the Rutherford Appellation. Its location on the west side of Highway 29 in the middle of the Rutherford “Bench” means the vines get wonderful sun exposure and sink their roots into deep, well drained alluvial soils. This is one of the valley’s most celebrated spots for grape growing.

The vines of Star Vineyard have produced consistently delightful wines, including Forman, El Molino and St. Clemente. Mac gets his Cabernet Sauvignon from the most historic, most long running Star Vineyard block. A fifty-fifty split of Clone 7 and Martha’s on 110 R stock, these vines took root under the dedicated care of Reg Oliver in 1991. They are now managed by David Abreu, one of the most sought after vineyard consultants in California

Stagecoach Vineyard
It is here that the Krupp brothers, Jan and Bart, have excavated over a billion pounds of basalt, andesite, and tufa boulders to create a remarkable property – Stagecoach Vineyard. In recent years, Stagecoach Vineyard has become one of the most renowned vineyards in Napa Valley. It rises 900 feet above sea level and continues to climb to nearly 1,850 feet at its highest elevations on the southern side of the Oakville appellation’s Pritchard Hill. Blessed with south-facing slopes filled with shallow, volcanic soils, the site’s rugged terroir is ideal for growing intensely coloured Cabernet Sauvignon grapes rich with mineral and mountain flavours.

Click here to find out more about the wines of Macauley Vineyard in British Columbia or click here for Alberta