Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dec.11 Vintages release - another year gone by already!

The last release of the year already! Where did the year go? Some really well made and well priced wines and a few big ticket exclusives in case you haven’t bought my gift yet!

My picks from this release are the Aussie Tawny, the Hecht and Bannier from the Minervois and one of the bargains from Spain - probably the Mencia from Pittacum.

Lets start with a few fizzys

2006 Stellers Jay Brut from Sumac Ridge $24.95
LaCheteau, not that’s not a spelling error, Cremant de Loire or Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger should be nice under $20 alternatives to Champers.

They say the only way to truly celebrate is with Champagne but I think the 3 above will provide as much pleasure and let you buy a pretty good bottle of something else too!

2007 Inniskillen Reserve Meritage or Creekside Laura 2007 should be good examples of Ontario’s great ’07 vintage, both come in under 20 dollars.
2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay $17.95
2008 Ridge Sonoma Geyserville $43.95
2007 Luigi Bosca Reserva Syrah $17.95
On the Malbec front, the 2006 Trapiche Fincas Las Palmas Malbec $19.95 or the 2008 Kaiken Ultra are nice choices.
2007 Santa Ema Amplus Cabernet Sauvignon $19.95 – I expect the traditional Chilean flavor profile of dark fruit, spice and hints of espresso, but was told by someone who tasted this at the Vintages tasting that this one had some strong green flavors and aromas – think sweet green peppers and the scent of tomato leaf. I’ll try one to see before going to a multiple unit purchase. It’s a WOM so there should be lots around. Dec.14 - tried one and compared it to a 2007 Santa Carolina Reserva de la Familia The Santa Ema exhibited more fruit and less green than I expected and was the better wine on that night. An opinion shared by most.
Dutschke Old Codger tawny – I expect a Whiskers Blake clone so if you enjoyed that Aussie version of port in the past, you’ll like this bad boy.
2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Shiraz Viognier $19.95
2008 Bird In Hand Lofty Ranges Shiraz $24.95 – James Halliday says 93. Perhaps, but I think not.
2009 Mitolo Jester McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon $21.95 – well made.
2006 Glaymond Barossa Landrace Shiraz $29.95 – Should be an enormous shiraz. Not for the meek and mild.
The two big buck Aussies in this release are The Elderton Ode to Lorraine, still basking in its WS Top 100 finish in the last year or two and the Penfolds St. Henri which defies the odds and continues to see inflating prices based, I suppose, on its “Baby Grange” moniker. The Lorraine may eventually fall back to pre-last year’s pricing via a markdown. I’m not sure what is keeping the St. Henri going up.
2006 Chateau de Gourgazaud Reserve $17.95 – a fine one from the midi.
2007 Hecht & Bannier Minervois $18.95 – my pick from this release from the Midi.
2007 Les Vignerons du Castelas Cotes du Rhone Villages $13.95

A Question for everyone: Do you go for a great vintage from a mid pack vintner or an average vintage from a great vintner? That is the question that confronts and confounds us with the Chante Cigale 2007 @$37.95 and the 2008 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape $52.95

2006 Solar de Libano Crianza - $14.95 - I'm not familiar with the publication that has provided the 90 point review but expect that this'll be European in profile - more tobacco, less fruit. Still, 90 points and under 15 bucks is worth a flyer.
2008 Acustic Celler Acustic $18.95 – give it time or open really early.
2006 Mas Estela Quindals $18.95 – A Spanish take on the southern Rhone.
2006 Pittacum Mencia $18.95 – I expect something really nice here and different too. Once again from Bierzo, this is the mencia grape, not the expected Spanish tempranillo, cab, syrah or garnacha.
2004 Bodegas Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Reserva $18.95 – The other wine of the month, worth a try too.
Baron de Lay Gran Reserva 2001 – lots of age on this already, and 93 points for under 30 bucks is pretty good. Remember the Spaniards like food, so it’ll be better with it than without it.

Monte Antico 2007 – As stated in the catalogue, the 2006 made the WS top 100, scoring 90 points. This is as good a vintage so why expect less?$15.00 - Update - A word of warning here. Early reports have this being stewed - it points more to bad storage at the winery, the shipper or perhaps even our friends at the monopoly than to bad winemaking but buyer beware! I bought one bottle and will report back upon sampling it.Dec.14 - tried it - stewed, burnt flavours - 82 to 84 points, too bad
2006 Rocca delle Macie Chianti Riserva $15.00 – Terrific price.
2007 Elio Filippino Nebbiolo $15.95
2005 La Valentina Spelt Montepulciano d'Abruzzo $28.95 – A three out of three from Gambero Rosso – try to find a bottle or two.
2004 Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino $37.95
2005 Ascheri Vigna dei Pola Barolo $41.95
2004 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino $44.95 – Typically, this Brunello is a little more fruit forward than many others from Brunello. The score might be a wee bit inflated, but the wine is always well made the producer very solid.

Out of my range…

2006 Bongiovanni Barolo $49.95
2006 Grgich Hills Napa Merlot $53.95
2003 Il Poggione Riserva Vigna Paganelli Brunello di Montalcino $59.95
2003 Il Poggione Riserva Vigna Paganelli Brunello di Montalcino $59.95
2007 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno IGT Toscana $69.95
2005 Corte Riva Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon $77.95
2006 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon $92.95
2006 Mount Eden Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon $52.95
2005 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $119.95
2006 Cliff Lede Poetry Stags Leap District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $124.95

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The November 27 Vintages Release - Huuuuuge!

Nov.27 Vintages Release, Wallet killing Cali Cabs, Big buck Brunellos, Savings Shocking Shirazes, Overpriced Ontarians, but some terrific, if not quite bargain wines that are worth hunting down! But a word of warning, don’t stand in front of the doors at opening . The Crau will get you! OK so it’s the “Crow” not the Craw, but close enough ….

So what am I buying from this cornucopia of vinous delights?
Some Leasingham Bin 61, Clos de los Siete, the Vacqueyras, Marquis Phillips, Jalon Altos Las Pizarras, an Ebeneezer (What would Christmas be without one?), a Rieninger , and if I can find it, one bottle of the Vieux Telegraphe, aughhhh, somebody save me from myself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

$15 - $25

2007 Domaine Galevan Paroles de Femme Cotes du Rhone - $15.00 – Lots of fruit, terrific vintage, well priced. Second or third pass for this wine in vintages in the last 18 months or so.
2008 Peter Lehman Layers $17.95 – If you like Lehmann’s ‘Clancy’s Barossa’ try this. It’ll be similar, with Tempranillo added as well. Lots of fruit here for sure.
2006 The Garden Path Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon - $17.95 – Langhorne Creek Aussie Blend. I expect a fruit bomb.
2007 Quinta do Coa Tinto - $19.95 – Should be a very good Portuguese red, not for all tastes but very nice.
2008 Marquis Philips McLaren Vale Shiraz - $19.95 - For those of you who like The Formula, try this. Same wine style, just from a different vintner.
2007 The Show Cabernet $19.95 – A burger wine from California
2007 Shottesbrooke McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.95
2005 Jalon Altos Las Pizarras – For Grenache fans, this one should be super and really well priced. $18.95
Bodega Y Vinedos Fernandez Rivera Dehasa de la Granja 2004 $21.95 – Tempranillo, great with food and also well priced.
2008 Clos de los Siete - $21.95 - Annually a favourite – An Argentinian Bordeaux blend that exhibits all the pluses of the terroir as defined by Michel Rolland but so far this has held its own pricewise.
2005 Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz - $24.95 - A Clare Valley Shiraz, so a slightly cooler climate Shiraz and annually very good. If you like the Lodge Hill, then I suggest you try this one. The 2005 already has a bit of age so is drinking really nicely right now. I had one on the weekend. My notes: Decant it, super wine, meat, bacon, red fruit, olive tapenade, black fruit, nori , espresso. Good to the last drop. Yes I will buy more.
2007 Domaine La Fourmonne Vacqueyras - $24.95 - A Southern Rhone Blend that is a step up from the Cotes Du Rhone Villages but not quite there with the Chateauneuf du Papes, if you read me often you know I have a soft spot for this little zone. The ’07 Vintage was wonderful and this one should be nicely in its drinking window now and for the next few years.

$25 - $40

2007 Elderton Cabernet Sauvignon $29.95 – Nobody buy this one. Doug wants it to sit untouched so he can pick it up on sale in 6 months or so.
2007 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo IGT Toscana - $31.95 – Great Producer, vintage and wine.
2001 Beronia Gran Reserva Rioja - $31.95 – Some age on your wine, sir? Try this! The Beronia Reservas are always so good – this one has more age and is their next level up – the Gran Reserva
2007 Kendall Jackson Reserve Cabernet - $35.95 – Had an ’06 Jack London on the weekend. I wasn’t knocked out by it. I expect similar flavours and profiles here.
2007 Burrowing Owl Merlot or Le Vieux Pin both from the Okanagan both around $39.95 – I like them but hard to justify the price when there is so much great wine around for less.
Stratus and Tawse – Expensive wines, if I must buy Canadian, I’d buy the 2006 Osoyoos Larose from a while back before either one but that said, a blind tasting head up could really be fun!
2004 Barossa Valley Estate Ebenezer Shiraz - $39.95 – Big! No, BIG !!!!

Over $40

2007 D’Arenberg The Dead Arm – Another big boy from OZ , annually a very good wine and I think it has actually come down in price, if only by a few bucks. This used to be a bit of a cult wine here due to rarity but not so much anymore - palate backlash and more availability have conspired against it.
2007 CABERNET SAUVIGNON CHARLES REININGER – look for it. And while you’re doing that, perhaps The Vintages proofreaders can look at a map, there is no such place as the Walla Walley Valley. Or maybe someone has a sense of humour over there? At any rate, if this bottle said Napa on the label instead of Walla Walla it would be at least twice the price. Compared to most of the Napa cabs in this release it seems a screaming buy at $42.95!

2004 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino - $43.95
2005 Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino - $49.95
2005 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino - $53.95

2007 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe La Crau Chateauneuf-du-Pape - $76.95 - #3 in the WS Top 100 last year. Strap on the brass knuckles and start calling in favours already! It’s amazing that 3 vintages ago (the ’04), our LCBO friends had to mark this down to clear it out! Damn those wine reviewers.

The nosebleed section

2005 Black Label Wolf Blass $99.95 – Why wasn’t I born wealthy instead of good looking? A heads up blind tasting among this one, an Elderton Command and an E and E Black Pepper Shiraz would be such fun.

2005 Silver Oak Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $119.95
2006 Chateau Montelena Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $135.95
2007 Caymus Special Selection Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $139.95
2006 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon - $114.95

Friday, November 12, 2010

November 13th Release - Blockbusters and wallet busters too!

A terrific holiday release but don't blow your wad this week, there are more to come in the next release too. That said, the pickings are slim under $15, pretty good between $15 AND $30 AND THERE ARE SOME SUPERB WINES OVER THE THIRTY DOLLAR MARK.

Under $15

These are all ok but with the exception of the TERRA D’ALIGI TATONE MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO, you are better going up to the $19.95 price point.

MULDERBOSCH CHENIN BLANC 2009 - $14.95 – Terrific producer and this is , or was South Africa’s signature white

CAFÉ CULTURE PINOTAGE 2009 - $14.95 – Toasted barrels give this a real coffee nose and flavor.

LAS ROCAS GARNACHA 2008- $14.95 – A Bargain Spanish Grenache.

RAIMAT ABADIA CRIANZA 2007- $14.95 – Well priced, nice with food so a cheap alternative for Christmas wine and cheesing.

TERRA D’ALIGI TATONE MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO 2006 - $15.95 – Probably the best buy under $15. – Case lots might be in order!

$15 TO $20

DOG POINT VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 - $19.95 – One of My Top 3 Sauvingnon Blancs from NZ.

FIRST PRESS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 – A Napa cab under $20 might be worth a try but this is from Delicato and I am generally unimpressed with their wines - $19.95

PASCUAL TOSO RESERVE MALBEC 2008 $19.95 – Terrific Argentinian producer.

MONTES ALPHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 - $19.95 – Given the price point, I’d take this one over the Napa First Press in a heartbeat.

SANTA RITA MEDALLA REAL GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 -$19.95 – Same as above. This wine is traditionally a 90 pointer and the vintage was a pretty good one – perhaps more Old World than the Montes Alpha in style.

ROLF BINDER HALES SHIRAZ 2007 - $19.95 – Nice Big Barossa Shiraz.

ROBERT OATLEY VINEYARDS MUDGEE CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT 2007 - $19.95 – Fruit, you want fruit? I got your stinking fruit and I got it right here!

QUINTA DE VENTOZELO TOURIGA NACIONAL 2007 - $18.95 – A Portuguese star in the release will fly under most radars.

CHÂTEAU SIGNAC CUVÉE COMBE D’ENFER CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES CHUSCLAN 2007 $18.95 – This has to be among the final 2007 CdR-V’s but should still be a good one. Might be more tannic than earlier ’07 releases.

$20 to $30

JUAN GIL SILVER LABEL 2007 - $21.95 – Another Spaniard

HECHT & BANNIER SAINT-CHINIAN 2007 - $22.95 – Another David Schildnecht beauty of a review. He must be a riot at a party. This should be a terrific wine but I won’t even try to describe it the way he can.

BARONE RICASOLI ROCCA GUICCIARDA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 - $24.95 – Last Vintage of this was superb. Market wise, this bad boy sits between the LCBO general list product and the Barone Ricasoli that scored Number 5 on the WS top 100 last year. It’s closer to the latter than the former so I’ll be buying some of these for sure.

THORN-CLARKE SHOTFIRE SHIRAZ 2008 - $23.95 – Great producer but too much for the product. And the review is inflated point wise.

WALLACE BY BEN GLAETZER SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2008 - $25.95 – At 2 dollars more, I expect a better wine than the Thorn Clarke.

BODEGAS ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ TINTO PESQUERA CRIANZA 2007 - $27.95 – There’s another Spaniard. I’m liking them more – my palate is changing

E. GUIGAL GIGONDAS 2006 - $27.95 – Love this little zone in the southern Rhone, generally more tannic than the Vacqueyras that I also really like – barnyard funk, black fruit, spice, on its own or with something roasted. Guigal is a very good producer.

RUFFINO MODUS 2006 - $28.95 – A super Tuscan at a great price from the brilliant 2006 vintage. WS gave it 91 points and it’ll probably be in their Top 100 (just a guess).

TRAVAGLINI GATTINARA 2004 - $29.95 – Cellar this one for a few years, always good, think Barolo for 15 bucks less.

Over $30

BODEGAS CALLIA WINEMAKER’S RESERVE GRAND CALLIA 2006 – 34.95 – 95 points…. And not Halliday points, these are real 95 pointers.
MONTES PURPLE ANGEL 2007 – rare $49.95 – Not commonly seen in these parts and a spectacular expression of carmenere. This'll go fast methinks!

THELEMA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - $38.95 – A big South African Cab

BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE EBENEZER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 - $39.95 – The Cab is good but the Shiraz in the next release is better.

OLIVER’S TARANGA VINEYARDS SHIRAZ 2006 - $39.95 – Big wine, big price.

DOMAINE LA ROQUÈTE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2007 - $44.95 – The 2005 was amazing when younger – smokey, peppery black fruits on the nose and palate. As it ages, the smoke eases off, my first notes on it had mesquite all over, but it is a rich, deep, long wine. The’07 should be even better.

TORBRECK THE STEADING 2006 $49.95 – I really like Torbreck’s wines but I’ll recommend you take a pass on this, find some Holy Trilogy or Rosemount GSM instead and save 15 bucks or so. If you really want a treat, spring for the DOMAINE LA ROQUÈTE 2007.

Frescobaldi BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2005 - $49.95 – perennially a favourite Brunello – mavbe one for the vertical.
Over $50



LUCE DELLA VITE LUCE 2007 - $99.95
ANTINORI SOLAIA 2007 - $249.95
PRUNOTTO BAROLO 2006 - $51.95

STOLPMAN VINEYARDS HILLTOPS SYRAH 2007 $64.95 – Hold off on this one and buy the $35 Stolpman already in stores – This might be a point or two better but with the thirty bucks you save you can get any number of terrific wines.

DUCKHORN MERLOT 2007 - $54.95



DOMINUS 2005 - $121.95

GEOFF MERRILL RESERVE SHIRAZ 2004 - $54.95 – A Jimmie Walker Trophy winner for Dy – No – Mite in a glass….no actually it’s the Jimmie Watson trophy winner - awarded annually to the best one year old red wine in the Royal Melbourne Wine show. Quite an honour in Oz but no guarantee the wine will age. The Geoff Merrill is an ISD so you probably won’t even see it. These products follow what I like to call the LCBO’s rule of 5’s. If you’re 5 minutes late arriving at one of 5 stores that get one of the 5 cases then there are 5 people ahead of you buying just this wine – and it is gone.

SHINGLEBACK D-BLOCK RESERVE SHIRAZ 2005 - $54.95 – The D Block Cabernet from the same vintage also won the Jimmie Watson Trophy. That bodes well for this wine but at the cost of big bucks.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oct 30 release and some random thoughts

I read another article on Robert Parker and the cocacola-ization of wines lately and that got me to thinking. Is it really Parker and the American predilection for the sweet juices and sodas that has changed wine’s flavour profile or can the changes be traced to some other cause? I’ll fly in the face of popular wisdom and throw out another thought. Wine has changed, not so much because of the enjoyment of sweet pops or Parker, but rather due to the marked decrease in the per capita number of smokers (of cigarettes, pipes, cigars) in the Western world. Not only are there fewer smokers per capita but those who are smoking, are smoking less and certainly smoking less in public places. As a result their (and our) olfactory senses and taste buds are more acutely aware of scents and flavours both pleasant and unpleasant.
Last week I watched a PBS documentary on the Kennedy assassination in the early Sixties which was recently made using old films from the day. I was shocked at the overwhelming number of smokers both on the street and in offices. Even the announcers on the TV news were seen smoking on screen! The fumes and smell of old tobacco must have been everywhere – clothes, skin, furniture. For those who dated a smoker, think back to kissing that girlfriend who smoked (or boyfriend – reader gets to choose – but we don’t want to hear about your Katy Perry action here!). Licking an ashtray or sticking your nose in a freshly emptied pack of ciggies comes to mind. Now consider the impact of those scents to the wines of the day. The tobacco scent and taste in the environment would have been cancelled out by (or cancelled out) the equally tobacco-y smelling and tasting wines of the day leaving a minor hit of fruit as the discernable flavour. The fruit component is all that people would have tasted simply because they were numb to the other flavours.
Now plot a chart with the beginning of the demise of smoking (OK not the demise but at least the reduction) with the beginning of Parker and the supposed cocacola-ization and the two curves probably cross nicely in the late 60’s early 70’s. That is when wine really began to change. Yes this has culminated with the high alcohol fruit bombs of the last decade or so but only because we had to get to the point of ‘too much’ to really know that it was too much.
That said, there is a balance to be found between the fruit and vegetal flavours, but I’ll lean to fruit everytime. They are grapes after all!! I still find Bordeaux wines to have very strong tobacco nuances and do not enjoy them as a generalization. No big surprise if you read me often! And those nuances may also account for some of the popularity of Bordeaux wines in the orient. In general, smoking continues to be less frowned upon there.
I’m not sure if my theory is an original thought, nor am I sure it is scientifically proven but I have not read it elsewhere.
That’s just my 2 cents and since it’s my blog, I get to spend it!

Now on to the release. It’s a pretty good one with some good choices in the 10 to 20, 20 to 30 and lots in the over thirty dollar price points. You can tell the holiday and gift giving season is almost upon us.

My choices, but remember the new returns policy and reduce the number of bottles purchased accordingly!!!!!!
The following should all be decanted or at least opened well in advance of enjoying:
BURGE HOLY TRINITY 2005 - $29.95

Under $20

ILLUMINATI RIPAROSSO MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO 2008 DOC The 2008 Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo Riparosso is a plump, juicy offering endowed with generous dark fruit and an inviting personality – last year’s was very similar and a good buy. Score: 89 (Antonio Galloni) $12.95

PUYDEVAL 2008 This tasting note defines why people hate wine snobs. It’s a cork dork’s delight! Lovers of Cabernet Franc – not to mention value – do not miss this 2008 Puydeval, blended with 28% Syrah and 10% Merlot grown near Carcasonne … Machine oil, mulberry, and incense form an intense and striking aromatic display that leads to a rich, almost fat, 14% alcohol, yet positively bright palate, where resin-, cinnamon-, walnut oil, and mint-tinged dark chocolate and mulberries hang on for a surprisingly stubborn finish marked by piquant nuttiness and well-integrated bitterness. This is archetypal Cabernet Franc in character, implausibly rich, and ludicrously under-priced. Plan to enjoy it for at least the next three years … Score: 90 (David Schildknecht, Aug. 2009) $14.95

TERRES D ’AVIGNON RÉSERVE DES ARMOIRIES ELEVÉ EN FÛT DE CHÊNE 2007 -$15 – a terrific vintage and a great price especially if you’re having a Christmas get together.

PILLAR BOX RED 2007 - think little brother to Lehmann’s Clancy’s blend for $15.00 Past vintages have been in the 85 to 88 range from BP.

BABICH BLACK LABEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 Grass and gooseberries - a normal NZ SB - the note says melons and capsicums, deliciously rich, vibrant and zingy. $17.95

ALAIN JAUME LES VALATS RASTEAU 2007 AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages Expect more up front tannins than the usual ’07 CdR-V fruit. A masculine and ageable Grenache-centric Rasteau. Showing aromas and flavours of chocolate, tobacco, black fruits, and earth. Parker, 91 points $18.95

DOMAINE ZUMBAUM TOMASI CLOS MAGINIAI PIC SAINT-LOUP 2007 AC Languedoc Pure aromas of raspberry and black cherry. On the palate it is finely honed with excellent aroma replays, plus whispers of peat and spice. Wine Spectator, 92 points $18.95

HEDGES CELLARS CMS 2008: 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 6% Syrah. Very fine, almost nonexistent tannins in past vintages – easier drinking than the Chilean cab below. I’d take either one of these before the Folie a Deux. $17.95

LUIS FELIPE EDWARDS GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 – Well priced and good quality. If you like mint with your lamb, try this wine. It may not have the eucalyptus hit of a Coonawara Cab but there’ll be a subtle undertone. $16.95

CAVE DE TAIN CROZES HERMITAGE 2007 AC Gold Medal winner at the 2009 Concours des Grands Vins de France. Shows a nice currant and fig fruit profile, with a smoky edge as well. Hints of tobacco and macerated black olive check in on the openknit finish. Drink now. $17.95
BODEGA NQN COLECCIÓN NQN MALBEC 2006 Patagonia and CICCHITTI EMKEM MALBEC 2006 Mendoza – Two good Malbecs should offer distinct samples of the differences of Argentinian terroir and climate. You can’t go wrong with either one with a slab of rare prime rib to complete the picture nicely – both 90 pointers at $19.95
TERRE DI PUGLIA PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA 2007 DOC This is a full-bodied red with a lush centre and good length. A robust companion to a seafood jambalaya, or fusilli with tomato-and-basil sauce (or anything grilled says me).14.95
CELLER DE CAPÇANES MAS DONIS BARRICA OLD VINES 2008 DO Montsant In previous vintages this wine has been very strongly recommended but not by me. A blend of Garnacha and Syrah, so I should like it but have never been a convert. $16.95
HERENCIA REMONDO LA MONTESA 2007 DOCa Rioja Made with a high proportion of Garnacha, this wine is filled with dark fruits, cloves, fresh herbs and smoky oak. It is well made and perfectly balanced. The snappy acids and ripe tannins support the fruit aromas and flavours with precision. $18.95

Between $20 and $30
IGT Toscana A blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and sangiovese. Perennially a 89- 91 pointer, this year is close but won’t match last year’s 93 points. Always very good though! $21.95

QUINTA DE VENTOZELO RESERVA DOURO TINTO 2007 DOC Still young, this is a complex wine. It has layers of dusty tannins, spiced fruits, ripe blackberries and a dark structure. Black chocolate and licorice feed extra richness into the wine. Very smooth aftertaste. Score: 92 (Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, Aug. 1, 2010) $22.95

DUCKHORN DECOY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 Napa - 92% Cab Sauv, 6% Merlot and 2% Cab Franc. The Connoiseurs Guide to California Wines gave this an 85 but one of my favourite Vintages consultants said of this wine: “This Decoy is the real McCoy!” Gee, it’s out there on the ‘net for $15.99 US. RETAIL. At $29.95 I’ll try one and you can bet I’ll bring it back if it’s not worth it – within 30 days – with 1 receipt, 2 pcs of ID, 3 character references and a partridge in a pear tree.

CONDADO DE HAZA CRIANZA 2007 DO Ribera del Duero 100% Tempranillo features aromas of blackberry, espresso, cedar and mineral. The wine is a fine combination of ample fruit, good depth and firm tannic structure. The 2005 was a WS top 100 wine. $24.95

FOLIE À DEUX CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $24.95 – The Folie here is paying $24.95 for this wine. Should be no more than $17.95

RUFFINO SANTEDAME CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007 DOCG Great Vintage, Good complex earthy and black fruit driven nose. Very slick mouthful with a chunky blackcurrant finish. Modern and well executed chocolatey wine. Score: Silver Medal (Decanter World Wine Awards, 2009) $19.95

GLAYMOND ASIF CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 Barossa Valley, Expect typical Barossa colour -a teeth staining, almost black, wine – massive black fruit and licorice in both aroma and flavour. Decant this bad boy for at least an hour, perhaps more if you can wait. $29.95

GRANT BURGE ‘THE HOLY TRINITY’ GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2005 Barossa, A touch more tannic than Rosemount’s GSM this blend of 40% grenache, 35% shiraz and 25% mourvedre is from 50 to 120 year old vines. Leans toward CNdP stylistically. Deep in colour and fruit with a smoky bouquet of dried red berries, herbs and sassafras ( root beer or cola?), good mid palate, finishes long, with lingering notes of smoke and sweet red fruit. This wine is ready to drink but I would decant it. Score: 90 – BP liked it a bit better than that. $29.95.

GEOGRAFICO PULLERAIA 2006 IGT Toscana: Herbs, berries and green olives on the nose. Full-bodied, with velvety and caressing tannins. Coffee, berry and light vanilla bean on the palate. Beautiful and enticing young wine. Merlot. Best after 2011. Score: 93 (James Suckling) $29.95

MARCHESE ANTINORI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 DOCG A quality producer, the price of this wine reflects the canuck buck vs the euro. This dry and fresh, youthful wine will still benefit from cellar time (3-5 years), but if you decant it (2 hours) you can enjoy it tonight with game meats, bison steaks or grilled lamb. $29.95

Christmas is coming – so is the preponderance of Big Buck selections – some even worth it!
NORMAN HARDIE UNFILTERED CHARDONNAY 2008 17.5 from Jancis Robinson – a great score from her. $35.00

OSOYOOS LAROSE LE GRAND VIN 2006 – Is this a $45 wine? Not in 2006 but weather permitting the vineyards will mature to allow it to become one. As it is now, it is a very good expression of Bordeaux meets the Okanagan. And it is nice to match against a Niagara equivalent from ’07.

Pecchenino San Giuseppe BAROLO 2005 DOCG Aromas of dried mushroom and berries follow through to a full body, with chewy tannins and lots of fruit underneath. Structured and very rich.. Score: 93 (James Suckling,)$44.95

PODERI COLLA BUSSIA DARDI LE ROSE BAROLO 2005 DOCG Dark, mentholated spices, plums, prunes and minerals are among some of the nuances that waft out of the glass as this sublime Barolo reveals the breadth of its pedigree. … the wine possesses gorgeous overall balance and wonderful harmony, ... Regardless, this is a great effort from Poderi Colla.. Score: 93 (Antonio Galloni,) $47.95

CASANOVA DI NERI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2005 DOCG Very good but big bucks, to be sure.
Score: 92 (Antonio Galloni,) $57.95

LA VITE LUCENTE 2008 IGT Toscana (Luce Della Vite) The second wine to Frescobaldi’s iconic
Luce, is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, matured for 12 months in French barriques. This wine offers intense strawberry, blueberry, and currant fruit accented by mocha and spice. Built to last, it will show best after 2011; if you can’t wait, decant it for one hour or more and enjoy with rare red meat dishes . $39.95

MOCALI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2004 DOCG Offers currant, berries and flowers on the nose. Full-bodied, with lots of burnt fruit and raisin flavors. Rustic.Best after 2010. 91 (James Suckling, $46.95

ORNELLAIA LE SERRE NUOVE DELL’ORNELLAIA 2008 DOC Bolgheri Le Serre Nuove, a blend of Merlot, Cabs Sauv and Franc, and Petit Verdot, is a bright and fruity wine with red and black berries tinged by subtle oak nuances of chocolate and clove. Antonio Galloni gave the four previous vintages a score of 90 or above. Expect the yet-to-be-reviewed 2008 vintage to get similar hosannas. $59.95
RUFFINO DUCALE ORO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2005 DOCG TASTING NOTE: There’s a very plush and velvety quality to this wine that is enhanced by aromas of red berry, pipe tobacco, natural rubber and exotic spice. The wine has a ripe, fruitforward personality and a smooth, velvety finish that is broad, powerful and long lasting. Large percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon back the Sangiovese. Score: 91 (Monica Larner,) $43.95

BODEGAS ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ TINTO PESQUERA RESERVA 2006 DO Ribera del Duero TASTING NOTE: The 2006 Pesquera Reserva is purple-colored with an expressive perfume of earth, leather, spice box, lavender, and blackberry. Layered on the palate, it has ample savory fruit, good richness, and 3-4 years of cellaring potential. From 2014 to 2026. Score: 92 (Jay Miller, June 2010) $41.95

Stags Leap Cabernet 2006 - $49.95,
Joseph Phelps Cabernet 2007 – $74.95
Ggrich Cabernet 2006 - $74.95

No ISD’s to recommend this time around.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oct.16th Release – Not a Bad One but Buyer Beware!!!!

Buyer Beware indeed! Don’t expect to be able to hold your wines and then try them when they reach their drinking window. Because if you do and you decide you don’t like them, you cannot return them. The LCBO has very quietly revised their returns policy in two ways. The first is to require the purchase receipt for any product returned and unless that product is defective, if you bought it more than 30 days previously it cannot be returned. If I understand the policy correctly, you still require the receipt to make that return even if it is defective. “What’s the big deal BP? This is retail. I can just take my business to the store next door. Oh I forgot, there is no store next door - this is the Liquor Monopoly of Ontario!”
Here’s the policy:

And here’s some weak background on it – you can bet they’ve been working on this for some time:

The head office bureaucrats spend hundreds of thousands of $$’s telling you that you are really missing out if you don’t buy your Bordeaux futures. For that privilege, they’ll take half your money and hold it for two years while at the same time they’re revising their policies so that once you have bought and taken possession of the damn things you can’t hold them for more than 30 days to return them. Tell that to any wine drinker with even the tiniest bit of wine knowledge and they will tell you that these wines will not be enjoyable for at least a few years. Read your Vintages Catalogues carefully my friends. When the LCBO tells you a wine can age for 15 years, they really mean it can age for 29 days. If a review says “best after 2011”, it really means “best for the LCBO after 2011” because if you buy more than one bottle and wait that long to find out that you don’t like it you can’t take the others back!

Why aren’t we seeing the standard style of LCBO glossy catalogues outlining this new policy? This should be good for 20 or 30 pages showing harried, front line store clerks getting beaten by Brunellos, bashed by Barolos, bonked by Bordeaux, reamed by Riojas and just generally cursed by customers. The store staff are the ones who’ll take the flack, not the overpaid and overblown ‘executives’ of the LCBO. Meanwhile, Ontario’s imported wine customers now have one more important right taken away by these small timers. The rationale for this change is so transparent. It comes back to bloated profit margins which are directly tied to executive bonuses. You see, the bloated prices we pay for most wines is supposed to offset the LMoO’s, ooops, the LCBO’s, formerly excellent returns policy. Now that we don’t have that, why are we still being expected to pay loan shark prices for wines? I didn’t notice any across the board - sorry about the pun - price chops.

I guess there is some good news. After last week’s announcement by the SAQ that the SAQ has plans to become a major wine distributor in North America, the Ontario taxpayer will no longer have to foot the bill for Bob Peters’ boys and girls to make their overseas buying trips to procure wines and spirits. They can just take the Greyhound down the 401, stay in the Motel Metropole, dine on steamies and poutine and save us all a fortune there! (Note to Bob - Imagine the reduced travel costs, reduced per diems and the increased profits!)

All kidding aside, no monopoly should be allowed to unilaterally put such limitations on its customers. And make no mistake, the LCBO is a monopoly. There is no other option available to the citizens of Ontario to legally purchase imported wine and spirits. We can vote with our wallets I suppose. How BP? Well, all those untried, new wines from obscure locations will have to remain just that – untried. Why take a chance knowing we can’t take it back if we don’t like it? Buy three for the cellar? Not a chance – BP’s new policy will be “Drink the cellar down to zero bottles and when I do buy, BUY ONE bottle!

Bi-Weekly rant done, this is not a bad Vintages release. There are plenty of international options in the release and my picks include at least one representative red from OZ, Chile, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and South Africa, all in the $15 - $27 range. By the way, if I have time, I’ll do a quick price comparison to other stores (little US stores without the buying grunt of the LCBO) for some of the wine picks.
The $15 to $27 Range – My Picks
Before we get into my picks, the best wine in the release is probably an ISD - the Alta Catena Cab way down at the end.

– almost 2000 cases – there’ll be lots of it and it should be good. Think ‘the Formula’ with a niftier label. But see my note on the Jip Jip Rocks too!
South Africa
– This one might just out Aussie the Aussies! Blind against a Footbolt would be interesting but won’t happen now.
TOKARA DIRECTOR'S RESERVE RED 2006 $26.95 – OK so I changed the range just to fit this one! I’ll try one – I expect big things here. A more tannic Gamekeeper’s Reserve, perhaps like a Meerlust Rubicon and no S.A. burnt rubber. How’s that for an intriguing preview?
– should be good, and even better with food.
–the Maipo Valley Chilean flavor profile – cassis, chocolate, coffee.
Italy – Veneto
– this has come down in price to levels not seen in years.
Italy – Tuscany
Super vintage – big wine, full of rich fruit, hints of anise.
– This one may be as good as the Petalos of a few years back. Speaking of that, I had recommended it a few releases back and was disappointed in the bottle opened at Thanksgiving. Harsh, astringent and lacking the fruit came to mind. Perhaps a bit of time will help it – stay tuned and we’ll see.
R. LÓPEZ DE HEREDIA VIÑA CUBILLO CRIANZA 2004 $24.95 ISD – Will be an ‘old style’ crianza and I find my palate is moving in that direction sometimes. I expect a style and taste profile that is as opposite to the Nine Lives as it can possibly be. It’s great being a Gemini!

Best of the Rest
U.S.A. – California
RUTHERFORD RANCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $19.95 – nothing special but a good solid performer that will not offend anyone.
JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ 2008 $15.95 – Might be the best buy in the release and I’ll try one before I try the Cat Amongst the Pigeons. There is a lot of the latter, not as much of the Jip Jip and for two bucks less, I’ll try one of these first.
ZOLO RESERVE MALBEC 2007 $16.95 – still have a few malbecs so no rush on this one.
SANTA CAROLINA RESERVA DE FAMILIA CARMENÈRE 2008 $17.95 – SC’s Reserva de Familia is always very well made wine – expect no less here. Don’t fear the Carmenere – to my palate it’s a merlot-y cab, or is that a cabby malbec?
France – Rhône
$24.95 – super syrah.
RAVOIRE & FILS LE PRIEURE CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2007 $14.95- well priced but the ’07 CdRV’s are pretty much picked over by now.
KIR-YIANNI RAMNISTA XINOMAVRO 2007 $17.95 – want to try something a little different?
France – Southwest
– If you liked the La Coutale Cahors from a few releases ago, try this one. I expect earth, hints of tobacco, green pepper and tomato leaf, some dark fruit, tannins and will take a pass.

The Big $$ Items – Anything over $28 this week
The Two Bold Tuscans take the cake!!!

U.S.A. – Washington State
HELIX SYRAH 2006 (Reininger Winery) $29.95
O. FOURNIER ALFA CRUX TEMP/MALBEC/MERLOT 2002 $39.95 - WS Top 100 a few years ago, this one should be ready to drink, especially with an Indian Summer BBQ’d steak
France – Bordeaux
CHÂTEAU PIPEAU 2005 $42.95 – Perennially a WS Top 100 wine but too expensive.
Italy – Tuscany
FATTORIA CARPINETA FONTALPINO DO UT DES 2007 $39.95 - 94 Points from James Suckling – some would scoff – but that is a great score for a very good vintage.
LA VELONA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2004 $43.95 – 92 Points from Galloni
TENUTA SAN GUIDO GUIDALBERTO 2008 $54.95 – Over priced for what you get.
TORRES SALMOS 2007 $33.95

The ISD’d – Rare, usually expensive
CLARENDON HILLS ONKAPARINGA GRENACHE 2006 $89.95 – Man o man, why wasn’t I born rich instead of good looking?
CATENA ALTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $47.95 – This is my pick as the best wine in the release. Too bad it’s an ISD and there is so little of it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Monopoly fails in its quest for 3 in a row

The Monopoly fails in its quest for 3 in a row
Ah well, the Vintages streak of consecutive quality product releases has come to a crashing end at 2. Coincidentally it is also the appropriate time to reprise the Python boys ‘Fine Australian Table wines’ skit and provide the following recommendation for this release - it is a release for ’laying down and avoiding’.

On the OZ front the LCBO team has underbought and overpriced most of the products. Inside the release, the turkeys for Thanksgiving are a mostly bland rehash. With one exception the Icons from Italy are pretty much out of reach unless you have deeeeeeep pockets.

Let’s start with the Australia – if you are going to have a title of ‘Top Aussie Reds’ on your cover you had better have at least some of the TOP Aussie reds inside. Do Not Have one brilliant wine surrounded by a bunch of General List retreads, starter entries, and generally nondescript underachievers sporting overblown James Halliday scores! Where are the Two Hands, the Clarendon Hills, the Vasse Felix, the Leuwins? Hell even a Mollydooker would have been nice (they have more than one of ‘em in BC)!
On to the wines…
The Shiraz – Cimicky might be OK, the Blackwell from St. Hallet should be very good but is overpriced anymore, and the Grant Burge is an entry level wine from that producer. Ah well, if you have the bucks (I don’t), the Elderton Command is superb.
The Cabs – Really??? All of Coonawarra, and we have to have two Cabs from the same house? Katnook’s lowest price entry is good value for the $’s, Nick Faldo? Say no more. What’s the matter, didn’t they have a Wayne Gretzky bottling? The Wynn’s is a refugee from the general list where it languished at $5 LESS per bottle, and the Penley is a nice tannic brute but overpriced. It strikes me odd that here it is an Australian feature and there are a couple of Cali Cabs that are as good or better quality- wise and just as well priced.
The Western OZ offerings will provide a flavor profile more like Bordeaux. Think green peppers, tobacco maybe a bit of tomato leaf along with the fruit. The more full blown California style fruit will come from South Australia (Barossa, McLaren Vale, etc). Of the Cab Merlots – Stella Bella and Xanadu are my picks. The Stella Bella more because I can do a mini Marlon Brando impression with ‘Stella!’ than due to the overdone James Halliday review. I’ll leave someone else to do the Olivia Newton John bit with the Xanadu.
On to the Blends – don’t get me started again! Too late, I’m started again! How can you possibly have an Aussie blend page and not have a single GSM?
Pinots? – Not for me.

Rant done, lets get back to the release

The Italian Icons are at least somewhat iconic and high priced except perhaps the Chianti Classico Reserva 2006. That should be a nice find.

From Spain, what may be the three best buys of the release, the el Arte de Viver 2007 has a great review and is only $13.95; the Palacios Vendimia 2008 at $15.95 is also a good buy but I’m not as enthusiastic as Vic Harradine. The white of the release, especially with turkey day coming, might be the Burgans Albarino 2009. Again a great review and well priced at $16.95

2 from California that caught my eye – the Rodney Strong Cab is well priced and solid and last year’s Edge was a surprise. This year’s seems to be at least as good and is getting some good reviews. Under $28 for a 90 point Napa cab is pretty rare.
The Silver labeled Trapiche Cab from Argentina is always a bargain.
From Italy the Aglianico Del Vulture at $18.95 should sport big fruit and liquorice flavours I’m hoping.
As for the premium wines, look to the Italian Icons, Shafer’s Merlot and the Caymus cab along with the Philip Togni Tanbark Hill with the Caymus probably the best along with the aforementioned Elderton Command.

Those of you in the Big Smoke might head to Crossroads and pick up a real Australian bargain, the Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is on clearout for $12.95. It’s from Barossa and on par with the Wynn’s in this release but at half the price. Or go back through some of the last two release notes and see what’s still in stock. I know I did!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The boys and girls of the monopoly are on a streak - 2 releases in a row!

Hmmm, another really good release. Nice to see the focus on Ontario wines but I’ll skip them to take a more worldly view of things.
This release has some terrific Portuguese wines (especially three from the Douro), a good group of Aussies, a pair of Spaniards, one or two from both Chile and Argentina, a bargain or two from the south of France, another spectacular Italian section (especially Tuscany) and even a few from California, although a couple of them are big dollars compared to the value of what is in the bottle. The Tuscans especially reflect the pull back in the American economy I think. Prior to the 2008 meltdown many of the big guns in this and the previous release would have been snapped up in huge numbers by our friends south of the border. As a result the reduced availabilities would have commanded a pretty penny. Instead there are now more widely available inventories of great quality and values from 2 excellent vintages. Could it be that the far east is focused on buying Bordeaux while ignoring other old world wine producing nations? Maybe, but if so it’s to our benefit.
Enough global financial discussions – we’re here for the vino!

Once again, it was very difficult to pick a Top 10 so flipped a coin to do a Top three by Country or a Top Three by Value. Value won!

$14 (roughly) - $20
Quinto Tedo Vinho Tinto 2007 – a Portuguese red blend that was awarded the Best Blend under £10 by Decanter. I expect a big mouthful that will accompany foods of all types very nicely. May not be to your tastes if you’re expecting a Cab or a Shiraz, but I think this’ll be terrific at $17.95.Hmmm, think Luis Figo meets Crocodile Dundee.
Paringa Shiraz 2008 – Should be a terrific mouthful of fruit.
Beronia Reserva 2006 – The ’05 recently scored a 91 in Wine Spectator and it blew out of the stores in a rush last year. More of the same here!
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – From Western OZ so less in your face fruit than South Australia, this just squeaks under the $20 mark and is a terrific wine for the $$’s.
Callabriga 2007 – If you’re a fan of the Sogrape wines, try this one. Their Callabriga from the Dao region was a WS Top 100 wine a couple of years back and this vintage rocks. Tempranillo with a Portuguese twist.
Ben Marco Malbec – One last malbec in case a grilling opportunity pops up!

$20 to $30

Petalos from J. Palacios – Along with one of the most stylish labels in winedom this is a tasty treat. From the Bierzo region of Spain and made from the mencia grape you should expect Syrot Nache or is it Pinacheyrah. Mencia doesn't match a single grape variety, well not to my palate anyway and I really do get tastes of Syrah, hints of Pinot Noir and a dollop of Grenache. Best of all, I think it’s less expensive than last year.

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cab Sauv 2007 – A 92 point Italian Super Tuscan at $22.95. Line forms behind me thank you very much!
Fattoria di Basciano Il Corto – a very nice super Tuscan at $27.95
Giacomo Mori Castelrotto Chianti Reserva 2006 – 90 points from the traditionally stingy Galloni and at $26.95

$30 to $40

It’s not often that my three top picks of the release are in this price bracket but I know 2 of the three are for sure this time around.

Quinta Do Crasto Old Vines Reserva 2007 – The 2005 was number 3 in the WS Top 100. This vintage may not finish as high but it may be a better wine. At least 5 bucks more than the ’05, reflecting the market I suppose, this is my overall pick of the release. $34.95

Viticcio Chianti Classico Reserva 2006 – Reflecting a brilliant vintage in Tuscany, this wine should be terrific as well. $34.95

Over $40

Montepeloso Eneo 2006 will be in rare supply – 149 cases of 6 only in the province – and a 95 from Galloni – best of luck finding it even at $44.95
Banfi Brunello – Always a great wine, needs some time in a cellar
Ferrari Cerano Tresor should be wonderful but way overpriced compared to many of the other options available this time around.

The ISDs?
Last release the In Store Discoveries merited their own little report. This time? Not so much. Maybe the Bishop at $34.95 but I'm taking a pass.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September 4th - The ISD's - call it the sequel if you like.

And now for the Big Ticket ISD's for the September 4th release - some smokin' wines in very small quantities! If you like those big Aussies or those Brunellos, get there early!

Here they are in all their glory! Oh and I left off a $90 Cali Cab - just too much!

Score: 94+ (Antonio Galloni,, April 2010) $63.95
LA LECCIAIA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2004 Score: 93 (James Suckling,, April 30, 2009) $49.95
LA SERENA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2004 Score:94(James Suckling, $68.95

Monday, August 30, 2010

September 4th - Non Cottage Owners get their revenge!

If you don't own a cottage it means you're probably stuck in the city for the Labour Day weekend. The good news is all your cottage owning buddies are out of town, missing out on all the LCBO locations that the city has to offer.
This is a superior release, overall the best one in some time by our friends at the monopoly. I’ve listed my selections geographically, in order of preference for each region, not in order of preference overall. Why? Because I am completely at a loss to pick MY top 5 or even 10 from this release! It looks to be just that good.
It’s full of bargains for the short term, interesting well priced big boys for the midterm and excluding the ISD's even the top priced wines are not bank breakers but are built for the long term. The Southern Rhone 2007 focus has at the very least a half a dozen very good wines; there are three from BC that would be good picks for an East vs. West Canada Showdown and may show Ontarians what to expect from the 2009 Ontario vintage if it continues; OZ has a quartet of dandies between $16 and $24, and Italy has 5 beauties that almost get lost among the many choices available!
That’s 18 already and I haven’t mentioned the ones-y's from Argentina, Chile, NZ, SA, and a not bad Spanish duet! And I have not listed the In Store Discoveries…they’ll rate their own little epistle! Some great wines among the ISDs, but $KA-CHING$! Where’s my piggy bank?!!!?

Focus on the Southern Rhone













PERRIN & FILS LES SINARDS CHÂTEAUNEUF DU- PAPE 2007 $19.95 – remember this is the half bottle size!


Canada Okanagan
SANDHILL SMALL LOTS ONE 2007 $34.95 – I really enjoy the Sandhill wines Small Lots Bordeaux blends. I like them as well as Osoyoos Larose or Nota Bene and would match this against any Meritage blend from Ontario - bar none.

CEDAR CREEK ESTATE CABERNET/MERLOT 2007 $23.95 - Almost as good as the Sandhill at less $$$'s - worth hunting down!




San Rafael, Mendoza $14.95


THORN-CLARKE TERRA BAROSSA CUVÉE 2007 Barossa, South Australia
A Gold Medal winner at the 2009 Mundus Vini International Wine Awards.

SILENI CELLAR SELECTION SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 $15.95 – probably a better buy than Guilty Men.

RUSTENBERG BRAMPTON SHIRAZ 2007 $15.95 – Well priced now.

Northern Rhone
DELAS DOMAINE DES GRANDS CHEMINS CROZES-HERMITAGE 2007 $21.95 – not highlighted in the Southern Rhone part of the release, this should be a terrific syrah from the Northern Rhone.

Some fantastic wines here - the WS Top 100 #5 and #46 (at less than half the price of #5!)


I GREPPI GREPPICANTE BOLGHERI 2007 #46 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009. $23.95

DA VINCI CHIANTI 2007 $16.95


MARZIANO ABBONA TERLO RAVERA BAROLO 2005 $36.95 – Good price for a Barolo – we have to get our heads around the strength of the Cdn $ versus the Euro!

TORRES CELESTE 2006 DOC Ribera del Duero $19.95

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 21st release - take a week off and wait for Sept 04th

There’s not a lot to get me excited this release. I would wait for the next one unless you see something that really catches your tastebuds. We truly are in the dog days of summer at the LCBO!

Argentina – Red
Alamos 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.95) – Always a good price for the quality that’s in the bottle.
Finca el Origen Reserva Malbec @14.95 and the Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec @$19.95 are both terrific examples of Malbec, but I'm malbec'd out. Don't let that stop you though.

Argentina – White …
Accuro 2009 Torrentes ($14.95) – Bored with Chards and Sauv Blancs? Argentina’s signature white wine – try it you might like it.

Australia – Red …
Two Hands 2008 Brave Face Shiraz/Grenache/Mataro ($24.95) – Big Alcohol, but usually a terrific producer.’08 was a difficult year in Oz but I would expect dark fruits, hints of pepper on the finish and perhaps some coffee and raspberry ganache after it’s open for a while. All that said, you might be better off to try to find the Rolf Binder Halliwell 2007 Shiraz Grenache that recently went on sale at $20.20 – a better vintage and less $$’s. I tried a bottle last weekend and there was a lot going on - initial hit was currants, licorice, spice then a subtle meaty, almost sausagey taste on the back of the palate. That left with air to be replaced with vanilla, blackberries and more spices.

There are a few good Aussie entries this week, just nothing that really turned my crank.

France – the Rhone
Chateau de Beaucastel
2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($84.95) – Massive, cellar worthy, make that cellar necessary!!! wine. Wait for as many years as you can – tremendous vintage – too bad it’s too expensive.

Perrin & Fils 2007 L’Andeol Rasteau ($19.95) – if you liked the Vinsobres, you’ll like this!
From the Midi, a couple a cheap and cheerful ones, Domaine La Paraza Minervois 2007 and the Chateau Auzias Petits Messieurs CAbardes 2008 at $13.95 and $14.95 each.

The Cotes Du Rhone - Yes it's an '07, but I read Michael Pinkus's review that indicated one bottle was terrible while a second was terrific. To quote him, "look for the one with the winery name stacked on the label, not the words all in a row. Juicy and intense with lots of black fruit and licorice."

Rendola 2004 Brunello di Montalcino ($36.95 - #0181412) – ’04 Brunellos under $40 – try one. If you must open, decant it.

There is a rerelease of the '06 Monte Antico - these rereleases are always buyer beware, as you may not be getting the real good stuff any longer. But, that said, this was a WS Top 100 wine and for $15, it's worth a try.

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 06 Release - Southern Italy that should be Californian

An interesting release. Once again the LCBO Marketers have missed the mark or is that confused the marks? Based on the pricing, The Southern Italian release that they have come up with is better suited to an early January timeframe although perhaps they're aiming for the summer BBQ and dock sitters. The pinkies in this one cover that well though. Content wise, this struck me more as a California red release.

Southern Italy – bargoons abound!
Apollonio Copertino Rosso 2004 DOC Copertino Rosso $16.95 – Baby brother to the Apollonio that I highly praised some months back, this is worth a try.
Francesco Minini ‘Corte Dei Mori Nero d’Avola’ 2008 IGT Sicilia $13.95 – A Sicilian worth trying, especially for their signature red grape, Nero D’Avola.
Francesco Minini ‘Terre Avare’ Primitivo di Manduria 2008 DOC Primitivo di Manduria $12.95 – Zin fans, give this one a shot.
Rocca Delle Macie ‘Rubizzo’ Sangiovese Di Toscana 2008 IGT Toscana $14.95 – Just a nice simple red. Pizza, spaghetti, quaffer.
CaliforniaAs usual, the California selections all come in from $30 and up to just under $100
Kenwood ‘Jack London Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
J. Lohr ‘Hilltop Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 

Shafer ‘One Point Five’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Stolpman Estates Syrah 2007 – a new opportunity to try this Californian syrah. If it was from OZ it’d be a few bucks less probably, but hang the expense!
ChileConcha Y Toro ‘Trio Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon/ Shiraz/Cabernet Franc 2008 Maipo Valley $14.95

Shingleback Shiraz 2007 McLaren Vale, South Australia $23.95. There are some good Shiraz in the release, this is the one I think’ll be the best.
Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007
AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape $39.95 – I’m sure we’re starting to get near to the end of the releases of the terrific ’07 CNdPs. This’ll be a good one for the cellar or if you must drink it, decant this for a long time and try to avoid it whispering “Try me now, try me now” over and over to you!
Torres ‘San Valentín’ Garnacha 2008 DO Viñedos de España $13.95 – Cheap and Cheerful for Grenache fans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back from BC, too late to preview the July 24th release!

Back from BC
Ahhh the return from the annual pilgrimage to the west coast left us longing for no humidity, sunny warm days and a 2009 Pinot Grigio ( No eye rolling please!) from a delightful Vancouver Island Winery called Averill Creek. This was the first release from what was a terrific 2009 season on the Island last year and it is a super cool climate wine.
The winery is just north of Duncan and has a terrific view down the east cost of the island, overlooking part of Saltspring and down into the Saanich Inlet. They have a picnic license which means you can bring your food and they’ll provide their wines for you to enjoy with it while you soak up that west coast view!

Highlights – too many pink wines to mention, Averill Creek, N’Kmip’s Meritage, the expression of my brother’s face when he bought a 5 litre bottle of 2006 Pinot Noir from Alderlea and the joy on my Mom’s face looking down on the view and flowers at Averill Creek.

Lowlights – The BCLDB makes Ontario’s LCBO seem almost philanthropic with some of their prices and the few private stores do not seem to have had a huge impact on variety nor prices. Small price to pay to live in heaven on earth I suppose!

All this said, I missed a release and while I thought about giving my picks, it seemed anticlimactic and some were picked by a number of well respected wine journalists, so maybe I’ll just give you their top choices. Gord Stimmell liked the Pirramimma Cab Sauv, the Genesis Merlot from Hogue in Washington St. and the Walk on the Wild Side Shiraz. I’m not sure I’d have picked that one, but the Hogue will be similar to the Columbia Crest merlot that used to be a Vintages essential.

From the South of France, Beppi Crossariol in the Globe liked the two from Perrin ( but if you buy the Coudulet de Beaucastel, let this breathe for a long time – it’s close to Chateauneuf in price and style, the Vinsobres is more ready to drink immediately and a past pick), Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noires Macération 2007, and the Domaine des Aures Hautes Minervois La Livinière 2007 among others.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vintages July 10th release

The July 10th release has a few goodies but nothing to induce self flagellation if you miss it! A couple of whites from New Zealand should be very good followed by a number of very reasonably priced reds from around the globe. Enjoy!
KIM CRAWFORD PINOT GRIS 2009 $19.95 Always terrific.

ASTROLABE VOYAGE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 $19.95 Fresh, crisp, more fruit than some of the grassier SB’s from New Zealand. I think the points in the review are too high, but it’ll be terrific with anything that swims.

LA BASTIDE SAINT VINCENT PAVANE VACQUEYRAS 2007 $21.95 AC My pick of the release. Score: 91 (Josh Raynolds)
BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA 2005 DOCa Rioja, Spain $15.95 A food pairing wonder that is a very good value too - that pretty much says it all. A Wine & Spirits“Best Buy of 2009,” 90 points

SANTA EMA RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005 $14.95 Maipo Valley – Reads like a typical Maipo profile and should be very good for a year or so. James Molesworth’s palate matches up with mine pretty well but he tried this a year and a half ago : 90 (James Molesworth )

ALAMOS MALBEC 2008 $13.95 Grill me something, quick!

IGNACIO MARIN VIÑA ANGELA GRAN RESERVA 2001 $19.95 Try this one with a Las Rocas to see how the latter might age. Remember this has almost 9 years on it, so you won’t be buying for the long term but it should be nice for a bottle or two.

LAS ROCAS GARNACHA 2008 $14.95 A good buy for Grenache lovers. Might not be quite up to last year’s Full bodied, textured with gorgeous aromas of kirsch,raspberry, pepper and licorice..” Wine Advocate, 88 points

CHÂTEAU PESQUIÉ TERRASSES 2008, $13.95 Perennially a Parker fave, should be good for the price.

BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE E-MINOR SHIRAZ 2008 $17.95 Baby brother to Black Pepper and Ebeneezer, if you like that big Barossa fruit bomb style this is a terrific buy.

ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI RISERVA 2006 $15.00 Great vintage, terrific value

3 beaujolais – for you fans
GEORGES DUBOEUF LA TRINQUÉE JULIÉNAS 2008 AC Score: 90 (David Schildknecht,, Aug. 2009) $16.95

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 26 Vintages release - Some OK wines

Nothing spectacular, an 'if you miss it, you miss it' kind of release. But there are some pretty decent buys available.
2007 Te Kairanga Martinborough Chardonnay - $16.95 : TizWine 5 stars & Best Buy & Top Pick . A New Zealand pick that is not a Sauvignon Blanc!
2009 – Mulderbosch Cabernet Rose. Annually, one of my favourite roses.
2007 Le Gravillas Gigondas – a Gigondas for $23? Worth picking up a few, especially the ’07 vintage!
2008 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes de Roussillon Village - $15.00 : #75 on the WS Top 100 of 2009 but last year’s, which was a better vintage, was uninspiring at a few dollars more. I’ll try a few at that price though.
2007 Clos La Coutale AC Cahors - $13.95 : #76 on the WS Top 100 of 2009. Looking forward to a ‘2001 Lagrezette’ for a few bucks less. Will we get that or a harsh, grippy imposter? Again, the price is right to try a few.
2008 Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz - $18.95 JH95; James Holliday scores tend to be inflated but even at 90 instead of his 95, this’ll be a good buy.
2008 Marquis Philips McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon - $18.95 : RP90 – Expect a massive fruit bomb here.
2005 Jazz Wines The Shiraz - $18.95
2007 Tabali Especial Reserva – The up and coming Limari Valley I think – this blend of Syrah, cab, merlot, this should be very good. Creeping up to the $22 mark makes it a tough sell, but you will get what you pay for here.
2004 Fattoi Brunello di Montalcino - $34.95 : WS90; A Brunello for under $35? Have to buy one or two for the cellar.
2005 Ardal Crianza – W.o.M. so there’ll be lots. Spanish fans will like this one. Me? Not so much.
Vinoptima Estate Ormand Reserve Gerwurtztraminer - $54.95 : An In store Discovery, so very limited, but Parker gave this age worthy white a 94, Rod Phillips a 5* . Not for every palate nor wallet.

What am I chasing down? Some Gigondas, some Lionheart, the two Top 100’s, some Mulderbosch rose.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The June 12th release? Skip South Africa but take care of Dad!

First glance at the release and it is South Africa versus Dad’s Day competing for your wine buying dollar. It appears that Dad came out the winner. The South African release looks like the photos were of a bunch of beautiful people at a local Ontario BarBQ, uh sorry, a local ‘braai, rhymes with try’. All those travel savings should have gone into better wines. It does not appear they did. In comparison, last year’s South Africa release seemed far better in quality.

Dad, meantime is doing OK. Especially ‘easy going Dad’ – hint, hint! …Too subtle?

However, the real winners of the release are from the Southern Rhone (again) and Italy (again)!

My faves? I’m going a little upscale this time around:


My picks as the sleepers of the release:
Montgras ANTU NINQUÉN cab/carm, the Vacqueyras, and the Bogle Cab, all under $20

What to expect and the best of the rest….
Canada – Rosé Wine Ontario
TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA ROSÉ 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula A nice dry Canuck rose, well priced –$14.95

The Terrunyo series of wines are uniformly excellent. The Cab is always one of my must buys.The ’06 Carmenere was ranked #63 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009, receiving a score of 92 points and was scored higher by others.
Well made Carmenere is like a well made Malbec – superb when it’s right…not so much when it’s not. Worth every penny. $29.95

MONTGRAS ANTU NINQUÉN CABERNET SAUVIGNON/CARMENÈRE 2007 Colchagua Valley TASTING NOTE: Two years ago, I had the MONTGRAS ANTU NINQUÉN Syrah and it was spectacularly good. Last year, not so much – overoaked and over extracted. I’m not sure what to expect with the cab blend here but I’ll try one to see. Jay Miller liked it but Jay’s palate doesn’t always match mine. Score: 90+(Jay Miller,) $15.95

VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2008 Maipo Valley Worth a try perhaps. $16.95

It’s not often that you see two reviews from the same reviewer side by side on the same page, one at 90 points, the second at 92. Especially when one wine is $17.95 and the second is $74.95! Buy lots of the Bogle and if it is as good as the review, keep it. If it’s not, just take it back.

As for the Phelps, it’s excellence in the bottle, but is it worth two of the CndP’s?

New Zealand – a White
Marlborough, Love the Dog Point S.B. – always great, probably not a 94 but really good. Score: 94 (Bob Campbell, MW,) $19.95
And a Rosé Wine
A little pricey for a Rosé but last year’s was quite nice to accompany poolside snacking $17.95

France Midi
Vins de Pays d’Oc(Jacqueline Menard de Ginestous) Not familiar with the producer but that’s a heck of a review and well scored at $12.95. Score: 89 (David Schildknecht,)

France Rhône
Parker loved it and the ’07s from the Rhone have been uniformly superb. I’d expect no less from this one and it is well priced for a CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE @ $34.95

2007 AC If you’ve gone thu your Cores du Rhones, it might be time to pick up a few more here – the price is right. From the 2007 harvest, but label printed without the vintage. Drink now. Score: 89 (James Molesworth,) $14.95

LES PILIERS SYRAH 2007 AC Costières de Nîmes(M. Gassier, Vign.-Élev.) Fig and licorice aromas and flavors, backed by dark currant paste, tar and spice notes. Long and fleshy through the polished finish. For the hedonist crowd. Drink now through 2010. Score: 90 (James Molesworth,) $14.95

MAISON ARNOUX & FILS VIEUX CLOCHER JEAN-MARIE ARNOUX VACQUEYRAS 2007 Not often that I don't include a Vacqueyras in my picks but there are so many good wines this time around...Vintages quotes Josh Reynolds as describing this wine as, among other things “Complex… suave and pliant in the mouth…, with a velvety texture…. and very good persistence. This sexy wine offers …”. OK, so did he drink it or take it home to meet his parents? Score: 91 $18.95

Hungary – White Wine
In 2009, this was ranked #44 on Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 list. Great price for a terrific dessert wine. Get it fast! $19.95

Italy – Red Wine
DOC Cirò Gambero Rosso Italian Wines 2010 gave this wine three glasses (their highest rating) – a remarkable achievement, especially for such a modestly priced wine. Made with the indigenous Gaglioppo grape. $16.95

PAOLO CONTERNO BAROLO 2005 DOCG TASTING NOTE: The 2005 Barolo is a nice wine and best of all, well priced for a Barolo! Better with food than alone. Score: 90 (Antonio Galloni,) $37.95

CASTELLARE DI CASTELLINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 DOCG TASTING NOTE: Plum and Indian spices, with a floral bouquet. Medium- to full-bodied, with soft, silky tannins and a rich finish. Balanced. From a terrific vintage. Best after 2010. Score: 90 (James Suckling) $26.95

PICCINI VILLA AL CORTILE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2003 DOCG TASTING NOTE: $35 bucks for a Brunello? Sounds good to me! $34.95

ROCCA DELLE MACÌE TENUTA SANT’ALFONSO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2006 DOCG Another ’06 Chianti Classico at a very good price $21.95

Portugal – 2 White Wines
DOC … finesse in the mouth, with very delicate acidity; well-structured, classy finish . $18.95

MUROS ANTIGOS ESCOLHA VINHO VERDE 2009 DOC Try one with shellfish or grilled salmon steaks. At $11.95, if you like it back up the truck, if not, what have you lost?!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The May 29th Vintages release - Smokin' Argentinians, and an "I was wrong" this time!

OK, so last review I was wrong about this LCBO Vintages Glabal Focus. The Argentinian focus brings us some previously unshared beauties as well as a few old favourites. Price wise, some good under $20 wines, each of which call out for something red on a hot grill. The mainly Malbecs that are available then stretch up to the mid to upper $30’s for a couple of intriguing cellar worthy brutes that will require all your composure not to open early to taste.
Ignore the Loire unless you're a white wine fan and head for Italy and OZ for the other picks. This is a pretty good release!
My picks are a dead heat among the first 5 Argentinians below and the Frescobaldi TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI, the Zilzie Shiraz and the Yalumba Cigar. Your choices should be driven by cellaring capabilities and your bank book. Whatever the choice, you can't go wrong!
If and it is a big if, you are lucky enough to find some TRE, then all recommendations are off - just buy it.

LUIGI BOSCA RESERVA MALBEC 2007 Dark, with a core of plum, melted fig and iron covered by dark cocoa and espresso. A flash of minerality peeks in on the long, rich finish. Drink now through 2011. A WS Smart Buy and one of my favourite malbecs, especially for the price. Score: 90 (James Molesworth) $17.95

ACHAVAL FERRER MALBEC 2008 Bottled without fining or filtration so Decant gently due to the lack of filtration. A massive dense wine, finishes long and cries for red meat! …. Score: 91 (Jay Miller) $23.95

CALATHUS ROBLE MALBEC 2007 Uco Valley, Mendoza(Finca Don Carlos) Winner of a Gold Medal at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2009. Another complex wine that, given time, will evolve in your decanter. Score: 91 (Jay Miller,) $19.95

LUCA MALBEC 2008 Uco Valley, Mendoza They just keep getting bigger and more complex! This bad boy needs a year in a dark place and then open well in advance of grilling some rib eyes. Score: 93 (Jay Miller) $31.95

FLECHAS DE LOS ANDES GRAN CORTE 2006 Mendoza A blend, so more dimensions and underflavours (Malbec, Merlot and Syrah) ... spent 17 months in new French oak. It is opaque, leggy and very aromatic with scents that come and go as it opens. Think ‘Ode to Lorraine’ with magnificent Malbec fruit replacing the Cabernet. Demands cellaring or decant really early and fight off the temptation to try it! Or don’t fight and just succumb…According to JM, best from 2015 to 2030. Score: 94 (Jay Miller) $38.95

The "What wine should I bring to a bar brawl?" recommendation -
Finca El Origen Gran Reserva Malbec 2008 Uco Valley, Mendoza $19.95 – I don’t often recommend a wine for its bottle but if you like to work out while pouring your wines, go for this puppy. To paraphrase and plagiarize Monte Python, It is another good fighting wine, the bottle of which is particularly heavy and should be used only for hand-to-hand combat.

And just so you can compare an old world Malbec to the Argentinians, try the 2006 Mas del Perie Tradition Malbec Cahors - $18.95 : Scored 91 but may not be the fruit bomb that the South Americans deliver.

YALUMBA MENZIES THE CIGAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 Coonawarra, S A .. aromas of ripe dark fruit and smoke This velvety smooth, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is richly flavoured with plum, blackberry and spice. The winemaker suggests pairing it with roast duck with all the trimmings. $24.95

ZILZIE SHIRAZ 2008 Barossa, South Australia, Regional Collection The Sydney International Wine Competition judges wines on their own and with a specific dish. The dish was Stuffed Eye Fillet of Beef on Carrot Puree with Broad Beans. Excellent value! A beautiful wine. Hints of pepper. Bright fresh berries with subtle oak and a real lovely hint of spice. Maybe a touch of Viognier. A cool climate Shiraz. A very pretty style with elegance and balance. Score: Blue Gold (Steve Flamstead) $17.95

BACKSBERG PUMPHOUSE SHIRAZ 2006 WO Paarl TASTING NOTE: Sleek and racy, with mouthwatering
acidity keeping the red currant, fig and raspberry ganache flavors lively, while graphite and fruitcake hints flitter through the fleshy finish. Drink now through 2010. Score: 90 (James Molesworth)$21.95

LA BRANCAIA TRE 2007 IGT Toscana This wine was #10 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009 so best of luck finding a bottle. Get out early and ask often! Fullbodied, with velvety tannins and a long, softtextured finish that shows loads of fruit. Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Best after 2010. Score: 93 (James Suckling,) $25.95

MARCHESI DE’ FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2007 IGT Toscana TASTING NOTE: Superb Wine – load up on this one. It’s ready to drink with a little breathing and it’ll age like me! Intense aromas of currant, raisin and licorice, with hints of toasty oak. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a powerful currant, blackberry and mineral aftertaste. Dense, and all in reserve. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. Best after 2013. Score: 93 (James Suckling) $21.95

MARCHESI DE’ FRESCOBALDI CASTELLO DI POMINO 2006 DOC Pomino Rosso Harmonious and refined. Think Burgundy. Pinot Nero, Sangiovese and Merlot. Best from 2010 through 2015. Score: 90 (James Suckling,) $19.95

Terra d'Aligi Tatone Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2006 - $15.95 : A gold medal winner, for $15.95 you cannot go wrong.
PICCINI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 The 2006 vintage ranks as one of the finest in Tuscany. Good balance and ripe red fruit aromas and flavours are to be found in this Chianti. Pair this lively, versatile red with everything from tomato-sauce-based pasta recipes to dishes featuring fish, chicken and pork. $19.95

VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007 DOCG (Giovannella Stianti) TASTING NOTE: The 2007 Chianti Classico is a pretty, well-balanced wine. In this vintage the wine has a level of richness that is sometimes missing. I like the wines of this producer, but there is so much to choose from in this release! Score: 88 (Antonio Galloni,) $22.95

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 15th Vintages release - Not much in this one...overpriced Burgundians, two great (but expensive) Italians and one lonely bargain from Spain

I've decided to become very selective about my recommendations this week for a number of reasons. More and more I find the LCBO's Vintages Global Focal Points gives them an opportunity to foist overpriced and underqualitied and underqualified wines off on the Ontario consumer. This time it's Pinot Noirs from Burgundy -oooo, pretty cover... (Oui mais Monsier BP, c'est le terroir!). It ain't the terroir, it's watery, insipid, weak wine that needs food to be drinkable. The heartbreak grape indeed. The real heartbreak is what the consumer feels when they have their first taste!

California Chardonnays? Yawn. What, did they have a bunch in the warehouse?

As for the Rose wines stick with the Ros-eh wines from Niagara - the Featherstone and the Fielding and the Ladybug should all be good.

Next release, if it's anything like the recent Chilean release, BP gets disappointed by Argentina but I'm sure someone had a nice trip to take pretty piccies!

On to the Picks:
Either of the Suzanna Balbo creations from Argentina will be very good value for you.

2004 Castelgiocondo Brunello - a rerelease from Frescobaldi this is a spectacular wine from a very good vintage but it's also $49.95. If you can afford to leave it for a few years, do so. Otherwise, decant in the morning to drink with an evening meal - and visit it throughout the day to taste the evolution. There night be some left for supper but I doubt it.
2005 Barolo Serralunga $27.95 - An OK vintage and a spectacular price for a Barolo, especially one worthy of 90 points. This'll be gone fast. Dare I say it? Think Italian Pinot Noir.
MANGA DEL BRUJO 2007 - $15.95 – Think of an inexpensive Spanish Chateauneuf du Pape – 'the Wizard's Sleeve' should be a smoking buy based on last year’s vintage. The traditional Rhone blend plus a bit of Tempranillo thrown in to the mix. Let it breathe to soften a bit.
For something different let's try a Portugese white, the Vinho Verde from Muralhas de Moncao for $13.95. Could be a terrific summer sipper with snacks on the deck or by the pool and yes it does have a bit of fizziness on the tongue.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vintages MAY 1 release - Open the wallets for the really good ones in this release.

Overall this is a more expensive release. While there are some sub-$20 values, they are few and far between in my opinion. That said, there are also some terrific wines that you might just have to decide to spring for. Here are my picks, some are expensive so where I would have bought 2 or 3 in another release, this time around I’ll only be buying one.

MOMO PINOT GRIS 2008 $18.95

The Whites
MOMO PINOT GRIS 2008 $18.95
ATTEMS PINOT GRIGIO 2009 Bright tropical fruit, pear and apple flavours, a viscous texture and a crisp finish are the hallmarks of this popular Pinot Grigio. Serve it as a refreshing aperitif or with grilled chicken breasts and summer salads.

Zin and Prim fans – just one pick from me-

TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI SALTA GRILLI ROSATO 2009 pretty rosé, last year’s was one of my favourites of the summer so I expect nothing less this year. Calls out for a variety of foods such as barbecued chicken, grilled tuna, or grilled pork with a mango chutney. Filled with lemon zest, black cherry and spice aromas and flavours, this dry wine finishes with a zingy fruitiness. $14.95

RENACER PUNTO FINAL MALBEC 2008 A forward, juicy style, with blackberry and licorice notes that stay lively on the medium-weight finish. Drink now. Score: 88. $13.95

LEONARDO CHIANTI RISERVA 2006 DOCG A great vintage in Chianti, this one should be very nice $21.95

Two Shiraz, but note the scores are from Halliday so I regard them as inflated by 3 to 5 points
BREMERTON SELKIRK SHIRAZ 2007 Langhorne Creek, South Australia, Purple-red; a complex bouquet of black fruits, licorice and spice, the palate taking these characters on to another dimension, with a touch of chocolate, ripe but soft tannins, and oak. Score: 94. $19.95

PIKES EASTSIDE SHIRAZ 2006 Clare Valley, South Australia TASTING NOTE: Deep purple; a voluminous bouquet of black fruits, spice and licorice; a medium- to full-bodied and rich palate, flooded with black fruit and spice flavours; great tannin and oak support. Score: 95. $22.95

ROSEMOUNT TRADITIONAL SHOW RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT/PETIT VERDOT 2005 McLaren Vale, South Australia Usually a terrific wine, if slightly pricey. This one has also been moved to the new Rosemount wine bottle/ label that cheapens the product within (see my notes on the GSM from a few releases ago). Want to compare an Old world and a New world Bordeaux blend? Try this and the next one from Bordeaux. Score: 90. $34.95

CHÂTEAU LAROSE TRINTAUDON 2004 $26.95 – 5 stars from Decanter – hard to argue with that score and that price!


LAURUS GIGONDAS 2006 AC Rich but racy, with a lovely black tea and warm cherry sauce perfume leading the way for juicy currant, fig and braised beef notes. Warm licorice and coffee frame the finish. Drink now through 2014. Score: 91. $24.95
DOMAINE MONTMARTEL VISAN 2007 TASTING NOTE: From the great 2007 Rhône vintage, this rerelease has rose petal, blueberry and cassis on the nose. Dry, mouth-coatingly fruity with good tannins and a long finish. Age it 2-4+ years, or break out the rare roast beef. $15.95

CUVÉE DU VATICAN CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2007 AC Lots going on here and a truly wonderful vintage for the region. This’ll benefit from another 1-2 years of bottle age, and will drink nicely for 15+ years if you have the proper storage. Score: 90. $36.95
MARCHESI DI BAROLO BAROLO 2005 TASTING NOTE: Offers strawberry jam on the nose, with hints of vanilla. Full-bodied, with big, velvety tannins and a long aftertaste of ripe fruit and cream. Very, very chewy, but the tannins are polished. Excellent value. Best after 2013. Score: 91. $38.95

DOMINUS ESTATE NAPANOOK 2006 second wine of Dominus, this Cabernet based Bordeaux blend should be very good, if expensive. Score: 91. $49.95


Monday, April 12, 2010

April 17th - Veneto, One Lonely Tasmanian Devil and some bio if not dynamic wines

Early looks indicate another weak release – I've been off Valpolicella for a while and the really good Amarones are beyond my price points. As it is I see about 8 wines worth considering, but all the reds are at or above the $20 mark. I’ll be away for the release and not really sorry for it.
Possibles:The Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $14.95 should be a good one if you need some SB now.
There are 4 Aussie Shiraz to pick from – all are good and within 4 dollars of one another, Rufus Stone and Bendigo Shiraz at $19.95, The Hedonist at $21.95 and the most expensive but always very good, Saltram Mamre Brook at $23.95
Pirramimma Grenache $21.95 – a personal choice.
Rodney Strong Cabernet $34.95 – expensive for what you might be getting – look for the Gallo from last release or the Copolla’s Director’s Cut if you must buy a Cali Cab.

The Cellar Dweller

Verbena Brunello De Montalcino $46.95 – a 93 pointer from Suckling but only 150 cases so move fast on it.

There are some really good ’07 Cotes du Rhones in the release but I’m Cotes du Rhone’d up as far as numbers go. Also so mid priced Malbecs from Argentina that are good but not standouts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The long Easter weekend - New world rules....

Friday started with a glass of leftover Kaiken MAlbec. It had been sealed and refridged since being open a couple of days before. Drinkable but not much more...
Time to open a Piramimma Grenache from the cellar. My thoughts were two - one to try this bad boy because I'm a big G fan and the second because a new release of it will be coming to your friendly local Provincial Monopoly store in the next few weeks. It was very nice, Aussie fruit to be sure, but not overwhelming. Made me wish for a Piramimma that would be a wine I'd like to try!

Saturday was another great day - sunny, warm and nice until midafternoon. Steaks on the bar-B were called for so that meant a big Cab from the sous sol. Hmmm, how about the Trapiche Fincas Las Palmas 2007. This big brother to the Broquel line aquitted himself well. Opaque, the colour of eggplant - Oh wait, I'm a wine writer I better come up with something better than that! Opaque, aubergine almost pitch in colour. Cassis aromas with chocolate playing a close second fiddle are very much in your glass if not in your face! Not too dry, well strucured and pretty long with moderate tannins. Very nice wine with some nice rare beef.

Sunday - A lovely day, cool but sunny and warm for the 4th of April. Off to a good friend's place for both Easters - Greek Orthodox and Non Orthodox. We came bearing gifts of good wine and were treated to the classical Greek easter feast of an entire roast lamb on a spit over coals in the backyard. It started with spinach and cheese pies with a glass of Copolla's Director's Cut Cabernet 2007. Sipping this wonderful wine while picking at the lamb as it passed the 4 hour mark slowly rotating over hot coals was heaven on earth. OK, so maybe I wasn't sipping. What's halfway between a sip and a guzzle? Back to the lamb, you turkey skin lovers out there pay attention!. You have not lived until you're had the crackley outer skin of a still spinning, rotisseried lamb that is being lovingly basted with a blend of home grown olive oil, lemon, oregano and pepper. The cab has enough acidity to pair with the rich lamb and oil and enough fruit to finish long. Glorious, and gone too soon! Next up was a bottle of Ebenezer Shiraz, 2004. Again, a big fruity wine that is more than capable of standing up to the main course combination of lamb, lemon potatoes, homemade tzatziki. This one had a nose of smoked meat, barnyard and black fruits that blew off to reveal some coffee notes and more dark fruit.
I just wish I'd brought more of both!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 3rd - Happy Easter - The Spanish Inquisition gets a Si or two and some shrugs

Not being a huge fan of Spanish wines (Liking the Priorat region more and more though) this feature underwhelms me. A few good wines and some others from around the globe, but nothing to run around like a madman after....

SPAIN Feature
BODEGAS LAN RESERVA 2004 – While not a Top 100 Wine to my palate, this one is very good. Decanted and sipped I thought “What’s the big deal, just another Tempranillo?”. With food, (roast rack of pork with roasted root veggies, mashed taters and some greens) the wine improved and was very nice. I’ll buy a trio to see how they mature. $19.95
LOS 800 2005 – Grenache mostly – should be good tasty.$19.95 – Two of these or three of the cheapies? Hmmmmm….
BODEGAS ATECA OLD VINES GARNACHA DE FUEGO 2008 – Grenache mostly so expect more fruit than the tempranillos have and the price is right.$12.95
Artazuri – same as above for a buck more.

FINCA SOBREÑO CRIANZA 2006 – Might be worth a try at $17.95.

Best of the Rest
HENRY’S DRIVE PILLAR BOX RESERVE SHIRAZ 2007 $21.95 – Probably the polar opposite to the LAN. Aussie Shiraz in classic form. $21.95

TOWNSHIP 7 MERLOT 2006 – An Okanagen beauty, pricey at $26.95.

GALLO BARRELLI CREEK VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 – Expect great Cab character with a tarry afternote. $34.95

GRAFFIGNA GRAND RESERVE MALBEC 2006 – Not bad if you need a Malbec fix - $17.95

CATHEDRAL CELLAR TRIPTYCH 2006 – A good buy at $16.95.

DOMAINE DE LA CROISETTE CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2007 – My review by the numbers. No, BUY the numbers 2007 - $13.95.

SKOURAS SAINT GEORGE (AGHIORGHITIKO) 2007 – Fun to say and drink at Greek Easter this weekend – after a few glasses you won’t care if you can pronounce the grape! $16.95

The Big Buck Zone
MARCHESI DE’ FRESCOBALDI VIGNETO MONTESODI CHIANTI RÚFINA RISERVA 2006 – The last one of these I bought was on sale due to stained labels for barely $35. I can’t bring myself to spend this, no matter how good it is. Great wine, great year but $59.95

Monday, March 22, 2010

Better Late than never, the March 20th report

An abbreviated report of the March 20th release. Sorry for the late report but I’m just back from a week of not much wine in Costa Rica with my two bronzed beauties. We did have lots of Imperiales (beer) and one not bad Viu Manent Malbec Rose.
On our last night a Luigi Bosca 2007 Reserve Malbec was the perfact way to end our vacation. The latter accompanied some great tapas, classical guitar playing and flamenco dancers in the San Jose Marriot Hotel. What a hotel! It was the perfect end to a wonderful week! A night there is highly recommended to anyone with a morning flight out of San Jose. You’ll need to be very calm for that experience!

Ahhh but back to reality now!. There were some beauties in this release at the $15.00 Price Point as well as a few more sub $30’s that are even better, but perhaps not that much better!

A fizzie to start - SANTA JULIA EXTRA BRUT $14.95The other under $15.00 gems:

The Best of the rest, in my order of preference







Two from Portugal for under 12 dollars! CASA DO LAGO 2006 and REDONDO LATITUDE WEST 2008 both $11.95

And if money is no object, chase this one down:TENUTA DI CASTELGIOCONDO LAMAIONE 2006 IGT Toscana
(Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) TASTING NOTE: Dark in color, with intense aromas of mineral, spice, blackberry and coffee bean. Full-bodied, with a wonderful core of ripe fruit and velvety tannins. Polished and very beautiful, with a lovely texture. A fantastic effort from the Frescobaldis. Best after 2011. Score – 95. (James Suckling) $63.95