Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January Vintages Release - New Year - same old, same old.

January 7th, 2017. Another new year is upon us. This is supposed to be Vintages bargain release, a release in which wise shoppers are treated to a release laden with high quality, bargain priced wines. That’s what is supposed to happen and in a world where actual competition exists, it might. In Ontario, not so much. Ah well. There are a few  that might tickle your fancy, otherwise watch for markdowns by stores.
Since this is a bargain release, let’s start with a good bargain. Among the better whites this week is The Vinecrafter – a  Chenin Blanc from South Africa.  It’s in the general list and is currently $8.25.
Next up is another Chenin Blanc, this one in the release and from MAN Vinters. Their Free Run Steen is a good buy at $13.95.
If you want to compare a French take on the same grape, try the HERITIERS DUBOIS  VOUVRAY 2015. Capable of short term aging so no rush to open.
If Salmon is on your menu, the PFAFF SPECIAL 2015 a blend of Sylvaner and Chardonnay might be the ticket. $13.95.
The best Chardonnay in the release (for my tastes) is the Macon Uchizy 2015. At $15.95, this is pretty well priced.

PIATTELLI PREMIUM RESERVE MALBEC 2013 - $16.95 – Ranked in the WS Top 100 last year, so you’re probably getting a wine that is resting on its laurels and not on that level of quality but we shall see.
JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ 2014 - $16.95 –Good Value for the bucks here.
The omnipresent Gerard Bertrand strikes again with one of the wines of the month. His wines are from the Languedoc and are well priced for the quality they deliver. The 2013 TAUTAVEL GRAND TERROIR is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. At $18.95, it’s a bit expensive. If you can, look for leftover CAP INSULA or  CORBIERES at a couple of dollars less
Le Gravillas SABLET COTES Du RHONE VILLAGES 2014 - $15.95 – Nice buy here. Among the best red buys in the release.
CHATEAU BOUSCASSE 2009 - $21.95 – Already 7 years old but still not yet ready, give this another year or so and decant even then! Tannat is a slooooowwww developer.
LACRIMUS CRIANZA 2012 – Best buy from Spain in this release.

RIO MADRE GRACIANO 2014 - $15.95 – A Rioja but not   Tempranillo. Should be a buck or two less.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vintages December 10th release - Another year come and gone

Well, here we are the final Vintages release of the year and to say the year has been ho hum would be overly complimentary to the year I think.  The combination of mediocre vintages in parts of the world combined with the reduction of the global value of the Canadian dollar has meant we’ve seen fewer exciting wines often at massive jumps in price. In the case of California, two or three stellar vintages in a row all came at a time when the Canuck buck was at its worst. Woe is us. Ah well, one more reason to drink I suppose. Below are my final picks from the final release of  the year 2016.
Whites and Bubblies
Pierre Luc Bouchard Muscadet  Sevre et Maine sur lie - $14.95 – one of the few real bargains in the release, this will please any and all white wine fans during the holidays.
Louis Moreau Chablis 2015 - $21.95 – Well priced for a pretty good quality Chablis.
Dirty Laundry Chardonnay 2014-$19.95- Should be almost burgundian in style.
Schola Sarmenti Nerio Reserva 2012 - $21.95 – Malvasia Nera and Negroamaro are blended to make an almost black wine that  has a lot going on. Ageworthy but can be enjoyed now as well.
Castellani Filicheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2012 - $18.95 – Try one to see how you like it. I expect an intense looooong finish on this one. Give it time in the glass or decant.
Castelli del Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico Reserva 2011-21.95 – Well scored by Bruce Sanderson of the Wine Spectator, this’ll be a nice food wine as well as an interesting comparison with the CCR’s in the previous release.
A trio of sub $20 Spaniards make the list this week. (See I’m already showing signs of restraint here) – The Rioja Vega Crianza 2012 ($16.95), The Burgo Viejo Crianza 2012 ($15.95) and the Ardal Crianza 2010 ($19.95) should all be very nice quaffers with any holiday meal.
If Spain is not in your wheelhouse, try the Triptych Blend from South Africa. It’s always pleasing  at $16.95.
Getting bigger still, there are 4 Australians that merit attention. All come in just under or around the $20 mark. Among them is the terribly named Baron von Nemesis from Zonte’s Footsteps which has steadily risen in price but is well made; the Dandelion Vineyards 2014 Lionheart of the Barossa; the Thorn  Clarke Shotfire Quartage blend from 2014; and the Wakefield Cabernet  Sauvignon 2014. The latter is festooned with enough medals to pass as a South American general, but don’t hold that against it.
If you’re looking for a good Cabernet from the U.S., try either the Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington St. @$21.95 or spend a few bucks more and go upscale for the St. Francis Cab ($29.95) from Sonoma. Both will be nice with something rare and red on a plate.

Big Bucks
The theme running thru the big buck choices this week seems to be price inflation. Some of these wines are increasing in price faster than the Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets.
Paul Hobbs Cross Barn Cab Sauv 2013 - $69.95. The August 2013 release of this wine was priced at $38.95. Think about that.
Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Cab Sauv 2014 - $44.95. One of my favourites from Sonoma, but it has jumped about $10 so I’m trying to find alternatives (see the St. Francis above).
Trapiche Terrior Single Vineyard Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2011 - $39.95 – Among the better big malbecs, Trapiche produces usually 3 of these each year to highlight their superior vineyard managers. It’s quite an honour to be named.
E.Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 - $63.95 – Spectacular vintage in the Rhone and this one should be very well made. Ready to begin to be consumed now but great for at least another dozen years as well.

Domus Vitae Brunello di Montalcino 2007 - $63.95 – Best recent vintage prior to 2010 and right where you want it if you’re looking for a Christmas gift to drink this year (or over the next 10).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vintages November 26th release - Wallets at the ready? Go!

After a long delay, due in equal parts to a motorcycle tour to Alabama, travel to India, a sabbatical from work and just general boredom with the Vintages releases, we have returned with a new perspective. They say travel opens your eyes to things – our visit to Kerala, India and our subsequent attempts to buy some beer  there made the LCBO seem positively liberal (small L that is) in its policies. The line ups were long and the process was not dissimilar to the LCBO of the 1960’s when seeing the evil stuff was forbidden! That said, when we ventured to Goa, beer and beverage alcohol were plentiful, easily purchased and cheap. A 26’er of very good rum was the equivalent of $2.50 US. Finding a good wine was a different story.
Anyhow, enough about the world, let’s talk Vintages. The next release – November 26th – is annually the big holiday gift release which means dollars are up and QPR is down. There are some that are worthy of your attention but if you’re looking for reviews of wine over the $50 price point, look elsewhere my friends. Bad LCBO markups, Taxes and the weak Canuck buck are just taking too much of a toll on us! That means I can ignore the first 23 pages of the release – as much as I’d love to review any of the products therein.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to start.
ALVEAR SOLERA 1927 PEDRO XIMENEZ – 19.95 for a 375ml - Do you remember how your old Aunt’s house smelled when you went to visit? In a cloud of mustiness she’d lean over and always want a big hug saying “Oh my you’ve grown so tall!” while she sipped on her glass of sherry. Well this recommendation is not your old Aunt’s sherry by any stretch. More post than pre meal, this be a beaut!
Looking for a bubbly? Try one of these three, all below $20 and should be fine.
DOMAINE DE VAUGUNDY BRUT VOUVRAY -$17.95- Chenin Blanc grapes – very nice.
GRAHAM BECK ‘BRUT’ -$18.95 – This superior producer of dry table wines has hit the mark here with a very tasty alternative to champagne.
FANTINEL Prosecco - $18.95 – A single vineyard production – great on its own or with lighter seafoods.
Looking for under $20 values in this release and while there are some, they are not easy to find so maybe we’ll bump the price to $30. My picks, pretty much in the order I’d pick them -
UMBERTO CESARI LIANO 2012 – $27.95 - Previous vintages of this wine were superb accompaniments to red meats or on their own. From the under appreciated Emilia Romagna.
COLUMBIA CREST H3 LES CHEVAUX Red Blend 2012 - $19.95- Anything from the Horse Heaven Hills seems to be impossible to mess up. Columbia Crest continues that trend here. Might be a bit too much oak for some.
SAN FELICE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2013 – $19.95 - A difficult spring (it was cold and dull) gave way to a better summer in Chianti and Three of Three from Gambero Rosso is hard to ignore.
VILLA CAFAGGIO CHIATI CLASSICO 2013 – $21.95 - Wonderful and consistent producer, this could do with a year or so in a quiet place but will be excellent after that. Decant if you must drink sooner.
BARON DE LEY Reserva 2010- $21.95 – Outstanding wine always. Great on its own, better with roast meats.
Two Valpolicellas – Monte del Fra  at $21.95 and REMO FARINA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2014 – $17.95 – Both beautiful  mouthsful  in name and product. Excellent to have on hand for both wine lovers and non wine lovers. Both groups can find enjoyment in these wines.
WYNN’S COONAWARRA ESTATE SHIRAZ 2012 – $22.95 - A very nice effort from a good producer  and from a region known more for Cabs that shiraz.
Cantine de Falco Falco Reserva - $18.95 – I have not yet tasted this wine but am going on 3 things – the Vintage was excellent, the blend of grapes are interesting,  and lastly, similar blends were among the best wines we had when visiting Puglia a few years back.
Ceppaiano Violetta 2010 – $22.95 - Again an excellent vintage that should be right in its drinking window.
BOSAO BOLE 2013-$15.95 – Might be the sleeper of the release. New to me but the producer is solid and consistent.

MAGANA DIGNUS 2012 - $15.95 – A great Parker score and really well priced but new to me  and the Parker review is now 2 years old so don’t go crazy buying it until you’ve tried one.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 6 is here already! 3 whites, 6 reds make the grade.

Not a lot to pick from in this release but we are in the dog days of summer...

Cathedral Cellar Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine 2010 WO Western Cape South Africa,  $16.95 – Very well priced – nice with popcorn or potato chips. I know, I know, haute cuisine!

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Sutherland Chardonnay 2012  South Africa, $15.95 – Well priced and very good.

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2013  Niagara,   $24.95 – Previous vintages of this were very nice. Look for it to come on sale in your local Wine Rack store.

Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah 2013 Cotes du Roussillon, $18.95 – Another of the Bertrand stable of wines. Very, very good.

Columbia Crest H3 Merlot 2013 Horse Heaven Hills Columbia Valley, $19.95 – liquid oak, vanilla and chocolate covered cherries.
Best's Bin No. 1 Shiraz 2013   Victoria,   $19.95 – The best of the Aussie shiraz this time around.
Chateau D’Angles La Clape 2012 - $17.95Try one, you might like it!

Ardal Reserva 2006 – $21.95Already with 10 years on it, this’ll be ready to go right away.

Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva 2009 Rioja, $17.95 – Older style Tempranillo – ready to go.

Monday, June 20, 2016

June 25th - Southern France this time around

It’s the June 25th release and the LCBO has taken a full 12 pages to sell a mere 14 wines in their Southern France feature. I will acknowledge that they are covering 3 or 4 regions but if the LCBO’s retail plan was to provide Ontario consumers with more choice, someone should tell them that given the choice of more well priced, quality wine or pretty pictures on pages, we consumers will opt for the former every time.
Also featured are Canuck wines for Canada Day and some Ontario Rosés.

Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015 – Available in 750ml and 1.5 litre bottles, here’s a white wine with a hint of a blush. Will satisfy both rosé fans and Pinot Gris and even perhaps Grigio fans.  Worth trying with shrimp and avocado salad.
Pierre Amadieu Le Grangeliere Vacqueyras 2014 - $22.95 – Among my favourite crus in the Southern Rhone, the wines of Vacqueyras are fruit forward and approachable but with enough tannic back bone to support some mid term ageing.
Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico 2013 - $19.95 – Annually among my favourite non reservas from the Classico zone of Chianti and usually at an attractive price. A superior option to enjoy with pizza or pasta and a tomato/ meat sauce. Not a great vintage but I think this one’ll rise above it.
Domaine Les Yeuses ‘Les Epices’ Syrah 2013 -$15.95 – Good price and a very tasty option that usually over delivers.
Vega Moragona La Duna Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2011-$17.95 – Site specific so look for terroir differences to your usual Tempranillo blends. 20% new oak so the oak should be less pronounced than in some Riojas (for instance). Smooth, ready to go right now, but not built for long term aging.
Chateau St. Roch Chimeres 2014 - $19.95 – Mostly Grenache from a slightly tougher Grenache vintage, but worthy of a try.
Domaine des Terrisses Grande Tradition Gaillac 2012 - $17.95 – Selected only because this is a blend of unusual grapes, Duras, Braucol (aka Fer in France), and a soupcon of Syrah. If nothing else this’ll be a conversation starter among your wine geek friends.

Manus Dei du Chateau  Sixteen 2013 - $38.95 – From a ‘better than most’ recent vintage, this might be worth springing for if you’re looking for a bigger wine that you can rest for a short time.

Ridolfi Brunello di Montalcino -2010 - $48.95 – Wonderful vintage but a new producer for me. Ahhh, so many producers, so little time! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June 11th release, Bubblies, Zins and Dad's day

June 11 means it’s time for the annual Father's day release. Like a profligate, prodigal son, the LCBO spends like mad but delivers disappointment for dad. A feature that provides a few OK bubblies is backed by a page wasting Zinfandel feature and one for Dad that manages to fit more (mostly mundane) bottles into fewer pages taken by the Zins.  Some good news this week is that my regular selections are all under $20 and even the big buck ones stay under $50.  
  • South Africa – Mulderbosch – Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé – 2015 - $12.95 – Always an amazing combination of quality and price, this is among my favourite rosés every year.
  • Rustenberg Petit Verdot Rosé 2015 – $13.95- Slightly more expensive than the Mulderbosch and an interesting new wine for me to try.  Might be the first Petit Verdot Rosé ever for me.
  • Conde Valdemar Rosé 2015 - $13.95 – Mostly Grenache, this will be a delight with grilled shrimp or other seafood.
  • Cattin Brut Rosé Cremant D’Alsace - $18.95 – a light rose colour adds an extra dimension to this sparkler’s strawberry notes.
  • De Chancey Excellence Brut Vouvray 2013 -$19.95 – Made with Chenin Blanc, if you’re a fan, dive in to its citrus goodness.
  • Rotari Brut Rosé $17.95 – Well priced for this one. Look for creamy pastry notes and sweet red fruit hints.
  • Chateau Grande Moulin Vielle Vignes 2012- $15.95 – Made from vines over 100 years old, three stars from Guide Hachette and this price make this among the best options in the release.
  • Domaine les Verrieres Les Sept Fontaines 2009 - $18.95 – Slightly more expensive and more aged, this is another good option. Should be right in its drinking window over the next year.
  • Zonte’s Footsteps Baron von Nemesis Shiraz 2013 - $17.95 – Among the goofier wine names but the bottle contents will surprise. Better than many at $7 more.
  • Balbas Reserva 2005 – Be careful here. The wine is from 2005 and the review is 6 years old. Buyer beware!
  • Lopez de Haro Crianza 2010 - $15.95 – Six years old and ready to drink right now.
  • Poggio Stella Vino Nobile de Montepulciano – 2011 - $24.95 – Ready to go with some air, serve with a thick, rare T bone.

Big Bucks cuz Dad’s worth it!
  • Beringer Napa Valley 2013 $49.95 – Great vintage, fine producer, big $$’s.
  •  Tenuta La Fuga – Brunello di Montalcino - 2010 - $42.95 – Well scored by the very credible Bruce Sanderson, from a brilliant vintage. Let Dad snooze on the sofa while this one sleeps in the cellar.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vintages May 28th - Venice sinks and Judgement more like Judge Judy

May 28th’s release has two features - Venice is the big one followed by a review of products from some of the American wineries involved in the Mid 70’s Judgement in Paris. On the Venice front are a few different reds but the best selections are two white styles - the well made Soave and a Prosecco. The reds? Mmmmm, my opinion right now is there is not so much to pick from up to and including a couple of Big $ Amarones.
The Judgement in Paris feature reflects the weak Canadian dollar and Napa wine prices in general.
Picks? Vintages maintains its streak of less than thrilling releases so there are few that you need to rush out for again this week.
Pieropan Soave Classico 2014 – Do not expect a buttery chardonnay. This is rated Dry by the LCBO, but perhaps due to its acidity, I’ve found past vintages seem dry beyond that level. Superior producer. Excellent with summer salads.
Belcanto di Bellussi Prosecco Valdobiadine $19.95 – Want a nice dry Italian bubbly? Here you go.
NZ - Saint Clair Family Estate Pinot Gris Rosé 2015 -$16.95 – Not 100% Pinot Gris but rather a blend of Pinots (Gris and Noir) combined to produce a slightly deceptively labelled rosé.
Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard rosé 2015 - $13.95 – An excellent and very well priced Ontario rosé. Serve chilled with fish tacos, chicken fajitas, or any hard/ soft cheese, coldcut combo that your heart desires.
TUSCANY - Carpineto Vino Nobile de Montepulciano Riserva 2010 - $29.95 – With 2010 being heralded as THE vintage in Montalcino, it stands to reason that the vintage should be almost the same a mere 20 kms to the east in Montepulciano. At half the price of the Banfi, look for this to be a bargain ‘baby Brunello’. Yes it is a different sangiovese clone, but very similar and great with the same types of food.
Viticcio Chianti Classico 2012 – $20.95 – Ready to drink and enjoy with any tomato sauced, pasta based dishes. Nothing too complex here but enjoyable.
SPAIN - Borsao Tres Picos 2014 - $19.95 – The last few vintages have been less to my taste but I’m willing to try again with this perennial favourite. Still not badly priced (do not take that to mean well priced), this is a quality wine and a good expression of Grenache.
Tobia Seleccion Crianza 2010 - $21.95 – A wine that comes with a warning. While being well scored by the Toronto Star wine reviewer, her review reads like this wine is a midwinter classic. If you buy, consider holding until November perhaps even until your first tourtiere of the season.
Australia - D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2013 – A big gulp to be sure. Teethstaining grapes from the McLaren Vale.
CHILE - Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 - $17.95 – A very good wine, spiced and oaked in good proportion and less of the green notes that some Chilean cabernets can propose.
ARGENTINA - Benmarco Malbec 2013-$17.95 – Huge production so it’s difficult to say if the quality can be maintained across the entire run, but this is a producer who has pleased in the past. Grill something red and don’t expect too much complexity though.
Kaiken Ultra Malbec -$19.95 – Knock 5 points off Suckling’s score and you’ll get what you expect.
Domaine Mathieu Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 $41.95 – From the latest of the truly good vintages in the region, this should still be just coming into its drinking window.

Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2010 – 5 bucks lass and I’d buy but just too rich for me now.