Barrel Select Wine Salon – Battle of the Blends

Barrel Select pioneered the concept of accessible luxury wines in Ontario years ago! We brought in wines that tasted like cult wines, yet they were more obtainable, accessible and affordable than those with the out-of-reach cult status (and ego driven price tag). We did this long before others; paving the way for more dynamic and varied wines in Ontario.

Stepping outside of the mainstream, we introduced lesser-known regions, that required a commitment to the wine chain, as opposed to acquiescing to the commodity driven, notional wine options. Barrel Select’s wines are made by wine lovers for wine lovers. They reflect the character of every vintage, place and unique terroir.”

I was lucky enough to get an invitation to Barrel Select’s Wine Salon for their Battle of the Blends tasting a couple weeks ago and it did not disappoint!

Barrel Select is an importer/distributor of Kermit Lynch wines. If you do not know (and I did not) Kermit Lynch is a wine rock star who literally changed how North Americans view wine. They recommended reading his book “Adventures on the Wine Route” to fully understand what he is about. Kermit Lynch has been importing wine since the 80’s. His philosophy is based on the natural wine movement – from the ground to the fermenter – wine from the barrel essentially, which skips the “middle man”.

Kermit Lynch also insists that all wines are shipped in coolers and he is the only person who guarantees this.

Daun Bailey, the owner, was lovely to meet and is very passionate about wine. Ben Shillow, the Sommalier, was a fantastic host, super knowledgeable and passionate as well.. As a newbie wine taster I kind of took over the conversation and asked a ton of questions (including the proper way to taste wine!)

All the wines at Barrel Select are part of the Kermit Lynch brotherhood and I was lucky enough to get there early to taste a bottle not on the menu. The Bugey-Cerdon 4500 ($26.97) which uses something called the “method ancestral” in it’s bottling practice, and it was absolutely delicious!

The purpose of the Battle of the Blends is to open up our minds to blended wine, which is generally not a focus of North American wines. Here we have a “one grape” mentality.

As the other guests arrived we began the official tasting. All of the wines were encased in an Entovat machine, which essentially keeps the wine fresh & corked until you pour it.

The proper way to taste wine is:

  1. Swirl the wine in your glass to open up the flavours
  2. Look at the color of the wine
  3. Put your nose in the glass to smell (and FYI you can only do this the first time as you will not smell anything new/different other that the first sniff)
  4. Then you taste the wine and let the liquid swirl around your mouth to hit all the tastebuds
  5. Once you’ve tasted you can either spit or swallow the wine (haha). I opted to drink all of it because I wasn’t driving!

Now onto our tasting!

The 1st bottle was a 2011 Salvard Cheverny which comes from the first family run farm that has the distinction of being wine growers and not winemakers. The Domaine du Salvard is a member of the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée). It is fermented in stainless steel tanks and is a blend of 80% Sauvignon 15% Chardonnay. It was a light and dry white and I liked it. 3 out of 5 grapes.

Ben was very excited about the 2nd bottle to taste, the J. LaSalle NV Cuvee Preference 1er cru. This is a true growers champagne and it is not often that wine growers produce champagne in the traditional way. J.LaSalle started in the midst of WWII and has 3 grapes in the champagne; Pinot Monyea, Pinot Noir (for structure) and Chardonnay. The average non vintage champagne house is 6-8 months in bottle before selling, LaSalle is a minimum of 2 years. Kermit Lynch was the first to bring growers champagne to North America, and this was it. Ben asked what I thought of this bottle. My response was not too dry and not too sweet and he said I hit the nail on the head!

The 3rd bottle was a 2011 Neyers Sage Canyon Red. This was the only North American bottle of the bunch from California. The man behind this wine is Bruce Neyers, the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch and one of the best palette’s on the planet. His wine is work of love and this is Bruce’s 2nd vintage, which is his take on a Chateau Neuve du Pape, with grapes from 136 year old heritage vines. This red was full bodied, a bit peppery with good fruit flavour. I loved this red!

Bottle #4 was the 2010 Villa Di Geggiano Bandinelli IGT. This wine has been made by the Bandinelli family and Andrea and Alessandro Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli are the current proprietors. This estate has been in the family since the 1527 and documents show that the family was already producing wine here and exporting it to Great Britain in 1725. This wine is a benchmark of Chianti in the Tuscan region and is a wine meant for sitting at a table, eating and sharing. This wine was fruity and leathery tasting and I would definitely share a bottle or two!

The final bottle in the tasting is a new property for Kermit Lynch and the first time in market, the 2010 Gallety Cote du Vivarais Rouge. This wine is made by a father and son team of the Gallety family. They had a vision and built a state of the art vineyard on the hillside in the area of Vivarais. They built a system that best insures freshness so that the grapes go exactly where they need to immediately following the harvest—bypassing the cellar completely to begin their fermentation. The wines are then aged in Burgundian barrels, as the Galletys believe them to produce wines with greater finesse. This wine was also delicious, the palette was cool and it makes you want another glass!

It was a real pleasure to be invited and to learn more about Barrel Select and Kermit Lynch wines. They do sell wine to the public by case and if you are looking for something outside of the LCBO staples, I highly recommend checking them out.

Thank you very much to Daun & Ben. I forgot to get a photo of us, but will be sure to do so next time!

***UPDATE: Kermit Lynch tweeted and asked who the winner of the Battle of the Blends was.  My favourites were the Bugey-Cerdon 4500 (not part of the Battle), the 2011 Neyers Sage Canyon Red and the 2010 Gallety Cote du Vivarais Rouge.