Friday, December 9, 2011

The Last Vintages Release of 2011 and some WS Top 100 comments

Before I get into my release notes, a couple of comments on the Wine Spectator Top 100 issue that just hit the streets.  To me there are two big winners. The first is Washington State. They’ve placed 7 wines in the Top 100, but if you look more closely all 7 are actually  in the Top 50! Considering the number of wineries globally and even taking into account the WS proclivity for jingoism, this is a terrific showing. Perhaps we’ll see more products come thru the LCBO as a result. The second big winner is a huge surprise. WS columnist Matt Kramer picks his own wines of the year – wines that have made a huge impact on him over the previous 12 months – and his first choice was Norman Hardie’s 2008 (and ’09) PEC Chardonnay. He gives Norman, his white wine, and the County  a glowing write up. Congrats to Norman .
 The final release of 2011 is about to hit the shelves and here I am unable to drink! Where’s the justice in that , I ask you? After the last couple of releases,  price wise  this one seems positively penurious. That’s not to say we aren’t getting  gouged on the pricing of a number of the wines but overall they’re back  down from the recent stratospheric offerings.
And it is a good release, a very good release with which to say goodbye to 2011.
The Top 3 for me ‘Quality for the Dollar’  wise are the Cremant D’Alsace from Pierre Sparr at $16.95, the Carles Andreiu Brut Nature Cava from Spain at $15.95 or the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut Sparkling wine at $21.95.
From BC comes the latest vintage (2007) of the critically acclaimed Osoyoos Larose. Yes it’s $99.95 but it’s a big 1500ml bottle for that price.
Two Cabs from California
There are a number of really good wines in this release from California but many are priced out of range. To me, the  better buy is the 2008 Directors Cut from Francis Ford Coppola. At $34.95, this isn’t cheap but last year’s was a terrific wine – smoke, currant, cedar and hints of loam. Great with a roast beef or rack of lamb. Close on its heels and 10 bucks less expensive is the Raymond Family Classic 2008. Lots of fruit with ample tannins to support it but ready to drink.
If the Southern Rhone component of this release wasn’t so good, I ‘d have said this is an Argentina focused release! You can’t go wrong with any of the wines from Argentina in the release.
My pick is the Cicchitti Edicion Limitada Malbec 2008 at $23.95 and I always enjoy the Clos De Los Siete.   2008 should be no different. Cab Fans? Try Suzanna Balbo’s Signature Cab blindfolded against the Raymond family above – but decant it first!
If you’re looking for an upscale malbec, try  the Trapiche  Jorge Miralles Single Vineyard offering. It’s expensive at $39.95 but remember each year Trapiche picks the 3 best of their vineyards and bottles the wines under the vineyard owner’s/ manager’s  name. One of them made the WSTop 100 in 2010. Michael  Schachner preferred this one to the one the WS put in its Top 100 so I’m thinking it’s more than good. Where’s that prime rib?
Is this a price error? Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander has always been $31 to 34bucks, hasn’t it?! $24.95? Perhaps there really  is a Santa Claus!
Montes Alpha  Cabernet Sauvignon2009 – Can never go wrong with this wine at this price.
I like the D’Arenberg High Trellis and better still I like that it’s keeping the price point unlike a few of the D’arenberg wines  $19.95 
The Rhone
If the Argentinian  component of this release wasn’t so good, I ‘d have said this is an Southern Rhone  focused release! You can’t go wrong with any of the wines from the Southern Rhone in the release.
You know I’m going to pick the Vacqueyras ( Les Haut de Castillas @ $19.95)  and the Gigondas at $27.95 but the Cotes du Rhone  at $14.95 is a good buy as is  the CdR Villages Rasteau from Perrin et Fils @ $19.95.
Of the two Chateauneuf du Papes, I had an ’05 Clos Du Calvaire recently and was blown away by the mouthfeel and gobs of fruit on the palate. At $34.95, the 2009 in this release strikes me as the better of the two choices.
The Pesquera Crianza 2008 $27.95 for laying down .

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nov.26th Release - The LCBO says "Buy into this release and act like Greece or Italy!"

Another of the LCBO’s “Break your Bank” releases, replete with $90 Aussies, $100+ Cali Cabs,
Super Tuscans and Bordeaux. Fiscal restraint and common sense have prevailed unlike in Greece or Italy so I will not even consider reviewing any of these massively priced offerings, tempting though they may be. Instead, think of the release this way: While reading through the Vintages catalogue, you’ll have to pass a lot of pretty pics to get to my pretty picks!

So here they are sorted by nation not by preference…

Two Italians
GEOGRAFICO MONTEGIACHI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2007 $23.95 – A three glass winner from Gambero Rosso, this one will reflect both the region’s terroir and the fruit from the terrific vintage in 2007.
MARCHESI DE’ FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2008 21.95 – Always a very good wine, the 2008 might not be  quite up to the last couple of last years’ (’06 and ’07) standards but served with lamb chops or rare beef, you’ll be happy with it!
Three from the South of France
Two Gold Medal winners from the Languedoc should provide plenty of sub $20 pleasure:
And a Cotes du Rhone - LA FERME DU MONT LE PONNANT CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2009 $17.95 – repeat after me, 2009 great vintage, well priced.
New Zealand
MOMO PINOT GRIS 2010 $18.95 – great producer.
KAESLER STONEHORSE SHIRAZ/GRENACHE/MOURVÈDRE 2008 - $22.95 – I like Kaesler wines and I like GSMs, especially at this pricepoint so I’m thinking this’ll be a good buy. One thing that I found in a previous vintage of this wine was a delicate effervescence that stubbornly held on despite spending time in the cellar. Would a cork have allowed it to dissipate? The previous vintage of this wine was under screw cap, like this one.
Don’t cry for me……Argentina
BENMARCO MALBEC 2009 - $16.95 – Need something to accompany slabs of rare beef for a big crowd? Here’s a well priced option for you.
A couple of Yanks
BOMBING RANGE RED 2007 - $19.95 – From the Horse Heaven Hills region of Washington St. This area is well known for the H3 line from Columbia Crest and many other higher priced offerings as well. If this wine is up to any of those standards, you’ll be pleased but don’t go to their website. It’s $12 from the winery without any US retailers’ discounts taken into account – so it costs them $12 to grow the grapes, bottle the wine, age it and make a profit selling it to the public. And we get to pay $20? Merry Christmas to us, I suppose.
J. LOHR CAROL’S VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 $27.95 – a very good producer of midpriced wines, this one is a little expensive for what you’ll get, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Bigger Bucks but not nearly the Biggest Bucks
With all the huge $$’s Cali Cabs in this release there are a couple that are worth seeking out  if only because they appear to be relative bargains. Both scored well and at this time of year to have a big Napa Cab under or around $50 is a surprise!
CUVAISON CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $49.95 Mount Veeder, Napa Valley
CHIMNEY ROCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - $54.95 Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

And last but not least, “Buy one for the name alone?”
LADIES WHO SHOOT THEIR LUNCH SHIRAZ 2008 - $34.95 – From Plunkett Fowles, makers of the Stone Dwellers Cabernet. This is expensive but what a great name for a wine -  I’m tempted to buy a bottle on that alone. Combining the name with the region it’s from, the Strathbogie Ranges, makes it even more difficult to say no.  But wait, it gets better! If you’re tired of squirrels buggering around in the attic, pop them with your pellet gun, roast them and  serve them up with a bottle of this fine wine. Don’t believe me? Check their website! And, if this grosses you out, in the finest of Oz tradition Chopper says “Harden Up.”


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 12th - The Beginning of the Big Buck Brigade

Ahhhh, November and the LCBO’s thoughts turn to big buck exclusives to lighten our wallets, damage exercise our kidneys, and send our tastebuds into paroxysms of desire for more! The first release of the month of November presents an amazing compendium of grape based delights. And the good news is some are even below $20! But most of the really high scoring wines will likely require an RRSP raid. So here we go, sorted from ’cheap and cheerful’  to  “You spent how much on wine this month??!!’   

The Cheapies (OK, under $20)

QUINTA DE CABRIZ SELECCIONADA COLHEITA 2008 - Not a port, don’t be confused! $14.95 and a Best Value with ‘sauvage allure’. How can you even question buying a wine that has suavage allure?

STALKING HORSE SHIRAZ 2008 $17.95 – Harvey Steiman says 90 points. I’d trust his palate over Jay Miller’s. Buy this one.

DELAS FRÈRES SAINT-ESPRIT  CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2009 - $14.95 – At the risk of sounding like a broken record, 2009 - Terrific vintage, terrific producers.

MAIPE RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 $17.95 – Another Argentinian with 90 points from Parker’s minions.

AGRELO LAMADRID SINGLE VINEYARD  MALBEC 2009 90 points from Jay (Just call me 90) Miller but for $14.95, it’s a good one.

MONTES ALPHA SYRAH 2009 – Always very good, softer than some Chileans - $19.95

SANTA CAROLINA RESERVA DE FAMILIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 $17.95 – A perennial 90 point wine. In a lighter bottle than some previous years. Too bad,  I like those big,  heavy ones.

CAT AMONGST THE PIGEONS NINE LIVES SHIRAZ 2009 $17.95 – Last year was good but this one gets lost among all the other choices in this release.


CHUSCLAN LES GENÊTS CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2009 – At $19.95, this is on the upper end of the CdR-V range, but ’09 was a terrific vintage.

And one lonely white bargain
VINUM AFRICA CHENIN BLANC 2009 $14.95 – Tired of Chards, SauvBlancs or Pinot Grigios? Nicely priced for a different white varietal.

The Midpriced beauties ($20 to $30)

RUFFINO MODUS 2007 $28.95 for a 96 point wine? This’ll be roller derby on Saturday morning!   Needs some serious cellar time but this wine was #25 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010.

E. GUIGAL GIGONDAS 2007 $29.95 – Another terrific wine and if you compare Gigondas to Chateauneuf du Pape it’s a steal. Released previously in Vintages.

THE HEDONIST SHIRAZ 2008 $23.95  - Is it worth 6 bucks more than the Stalking Horse or the Cat Amongst? You’ll have to decide.

FERRATON PÈRE & FILS LA MATINIÈRE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2009 $20.95. Very nice wine but gee there are so many!
ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 – At $21.95, this is a better buy than the Castello di Querceto  methinks.

SEÑORÍO DE P. PECIÑA RESERVA 2001 90 pts. $29.95 Ten years old.

 ‘Consider taking out a Mortgage’ Wines

If money was no object, this is the order I’d buy them in. If only money was no object!

LE VIEUX DONJON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2009    $57.95 90-92 RP – Keep the vertical going!


RUBICON ESTATE CASK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 Rutherford, Napa Valley $74.95 95 WE

TENUTA SETTE PONTI ORENO 2008 $74.95 - 96 points from the usually conservative Antonio Galloni.

REININGER ASH HOLLOW  SYRAH 2006 Walla Walla Valley, Washington State  $39.95 93 WS

KILIKANOON PARABLE SHIRAZ 2007 McLaren Vale, Australia  $39.95  94 + (The review on this one begs the question How many palates can tell the difference between 94+ and 95 points?)

PODERI COLLA BUSSIA DARDI LE ROSE BAROLO $49.95 94+ RP (Hmm, what cost it the half point?)

MITOLO SERPICO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 McLaren Vale, Australia  $54.95 94 RP


MISSION HILL QUATRAIN 2008 VQA Okanagan Valley, B C – 90 points in the WS  $41.95


JONATA TODOS RED 2007 . Score: 92-94 $59.95

GEMMA COLAREJ BAROLO 2006 $34.95 for a Barolo? Very good buy.

MOLLYDOOKER THE BOXER SHIRAZ 2008 - I reviewed the Mollydooker Boxer a while back. To call it a real mouthful is understating it! Should be $29.95 not $34.95

TENUTA SAN GUIDO GUIDALBERTO 2009 $49.95 from the producers of Sassicaia

VAL DE FLORES MALBEC 2005  Mendoza, Argentina  $49.95  94 points for another of the Michel Rolland efforts from Argentina.

One Big Bottle to watch out for
BODEGAS LAN RESERVA 2005 - $39.95 for a 1500ml  bottle of a Top 100 wine? Seems like the loan  (sorry Bad pun) the lone good buy among all the Christmas gifties. Just to clarify, the '04 LAN Rioja and the 06 LAN crianza made the WS Top 100, not the '05. My mistake!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vintages Oct.29th release - Take a pass on Sonoma, but a bet on the fête.

Oh the Vintages wordsmiths earned their salaries with their staggeringly sophomoric plays on words in the latest (Oct.29th) release. Sonoma County becomes Sonoma Bounty and Fait accompli, a translation of something that has already happened has been changed to fête accompli which I guess we're to think means an accomplished party. Or did they just plagiarize a copyrighted book title of the same name? I suppose the latter might also actually be a real French phrase, but I highly doubt it.

The good news is there are a few good buys to be had in the overall release, the bad news is  I recommend you avoid most of the Sonoma County options. Best among them appears to be the  FREI BROTHERS RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 Alexander Valley, Score: 90 (Robert Parker Jr.,) $23.95

The following are good wines but worth avoiding due to QPR issues. Too much bucks for too little wine!  
 KENWOOD JACK LONDON VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 Sonoma Valley, California $34.95 Google says $18.62 US south of the border.

SIMI LANDSLIDE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 Alexander Valley, $44.95. A quick Google shows 33 vendors in the States selling it for substantially less.

STONESTREET ALEXANDER MOUNTAIN ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 Alexander Valley Score: 92 (Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast, Dec. 31, 2009) $39.95. Close to the US prices I could find.

From the ‘fête accompli’ focus, there are two worth considering mainly due to the seductive $15 price point. Both wines have garnered 90 points from international reviewers.

VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 Maipo Valley, Chile $15.00.  One of the better wine regions in Chile.

SABOR REAL VIÑAS CENTENARIAS TEMPRANILLO 2007 DO Toro, Spain (Bodegas Campina) $15.00. We can only hope this is as good as the Bodega LAN that was available earlier this year for the same price. I’m not familiar with the producer but am in a Spanish frame of mind after having a good one this past weekend. If you want a great Spaniard  try to find some Bodega Ondarre ($19.95). Released in May, it was a 2010 WS Top 100 wine and was delicious with short ribs - fruit, tannins, long finish….but I digress.

Also in ‘fête accompli’ I would also consider either of the following:
FINCA EL ORIGEN GRAN RESERVA MALBEC 2009 Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Viña Santa Carolina)  $19.95

MITOLO JESTER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 McLaren Vale $21.95- This one barely creeps into the under $30 group but it’s better value than most of the others in the group.

The rest of the recommended Reds (in increasing price)
FAMIGLIA BIANCHI MALBEC 2008 $14.95 – Always a standout for the price. If you’re considering hosting  a Christmas open house, this is a good one to buy along with the other two at $15.
PORCUPINE RIDGE SYRAH/VIOGNIER 2010 $16.95 – Always well made, at a reasonable price.

SALCHETO ROSSO DI MONTEPULCIANO 2008 - $17.95 for a well crafted Rosso, ready for immediate consumption.

MEANDRO DO VALE MEÃO 2008 92 (Kim Marcus,,) $23.95 – A Portuguese blend. Big and ripe.

RIOJA BORDÓN GRAN RESERVA 2001 92 (Wine & Spirits, Dec. 2010)$23.95
BARONE RICASOLI ROCCA GUICCIARDA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2007 93 points (wineandspiritsmagazine com,) $24.95. 2007 was a standout year in Tuscany and this CCR is better than most.

NK’MIP QWAM QWMT MERITAGE 2008 VQA Okanagan Valley $26.95. Wine spectator recently gave 3 or 4 Mission Hill red wines scores of over 90 points. While NK’MIP is a much younger winery I think the location is better and the grapes will be. Future years should make this a standout and you can say “Oh I’ve been drinking Inca meep (NK’MIP) for years!”

A couple of  fizzies for your enjoyment.
Celebratory times are just around the corner and you can never go wrong with a nice bubbly aperitif.

The Whites
ZENATO PINOT GRIGIO 2010 $13.95 - Rounds out your quartet of party wines.
NATURA CHARDONNAY 2011 $15.95 – unoaked Chilean Chard – nice fruit essence.
CAVE SPRING CHENIN BLANC 2008 $17.95 - An Ontario Chenin. Pretty rare.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A terrific wine from the latest Release - Structura 2006

I stopped in to my local LCBO outlet and started picking thru the release to get the wines I thought would offer the best value and quality. I was told by a consultant, whose palate is probably more educated than mine, that the Structura was spectacular. Hmmm, it made my list of ones to consider but was not in the Top 6. Should I go for it? Only one bottle left in this huge store (it was 9:45 on Saturday morning). Why not? Then, when I stopped at another store to get some Two Hands Brave Faces they also had a few more of the Structura. The consultant there said nothing but made a kissing impression and put her fingers to her mouth in that universal Italian gesture of ‘Mama Mia, atsa good’. How could I resist that? So I grabbed a couple  more. I had already figured out the weekend menus at that point.  One of the Structuras was now to be sacrificed on Sunday and be served with one of my favourite things, a pork rib roast.
 There is something about a cold, damp fall day that just screams for a long roasted, crackling covered, piece of pork. Originally,  the pork was to be served with small, new potatoes roasted in the meat’s drippings, green beans, and a red cabbage braised in wine. But halfway through the cabbage's cooking time something went terribly wrong. I say ‘something went terribly wrong’ to protect the guilty, because the reality is I fell asleep in front of the Lions and 49’ers. As it gently reduced the wine was to steam the cabbage but actually it quickly reduced and then left the building completely, leaving the cabbage to begin to burn to the bottom of the pan. Luckily, the doorbell rang to wake me out of my sleepy reverie. It was a good friend delivering a big pan of homemade eggplant parmesian! What a delight! And the timing could not have been better! My pork roast had a brand new accompaniment. Forget the cabbage, taters and beans. It was to be pork roast and spatulas of homemade  Parmigiana di melanzane! Minimalist cooking at its finest! Fresh, simple ingredients, cooked to perfection, served  piping hot. And the wine? In a word, amazing. Upon first pouring, intoxicating aromas of grape lept from the glass followed by more black fruit scents. First mouthful? A viscous cornucopia of mouthcoating flavours – earth, fruits, hints of tabacco and anise. Wow. One mouthful and I was out the door to see if the store still had more. Seriously, I was! Equally seriously, the store didn’t.  Back home, finishing prepping supper and sipping the wine,  these are the times when I wish the LCBO had 375ml bottles of all their wines. I knew this one bottle of Structura was going to leave us wanting at least one more glass. By meal’s end, the fruit was still there, anise (or was that now sweet basil?), and hints of nori, cedar, and tar were all prevalent. 95 points from Neal Martin. Neal, you nailed it. This was a beautiful wine. Now, where is that 375? 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oct. 15 - Piedmont, Tuscany and some Big Bucks Argentinians

On the surface this looks to be a very good release but you have to have big dollars to take full advantage. Nonetheless there are some very good wines across all price points. The Piedmont Tuscany Focus is an OK representation although for the most part the prices are creeping up as we head to the holiday season. More of the same with the Premium Argentina offerings. That said, there  should be lots from OZ and elsewhere to turn your crank.
My Top 3
 Domaine Grand Veneur ‘Les Champauvins’ Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2009
AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages $18.95 – Fabulous fruit driven, well priced wine to enjoy with almost anything!
Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi ‘Terre More Dell’Ammiraglia’ 2009 IGT Maremma Toscana $19.95 – A new product from this terrific producer. A highlight of the release for this price.
Two Hands ‘Brave Faces’ Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2010 Barossa Valley, South Australia $33.95 – A super Aussie GSM. If you liked the Rosemount GSM or the Burge Holy Trinity, this’ll be right up your alley. Too bad it's not $29.95
Near misses to the Top 3
La Curciola Chicchivello Langhe Rosso $13.95 – Ready to drink with casual pizza nights. Well priced but let’s not expect too much sophistication, OK?.
Poliziano Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2007 DOCG Montepulciano $25.95 – Did you enjoy the ’07 Avignonesi VNdM? If so, more of the same here. Very, very  nice.
Durigutti ‘Reserva’ Malbec 2006 Mendoza $26.95 – Big Brother to the recent WSTop 100 Durigutti release, should be very tasty. Not sure it's worth 9 dollars more though.
The rest of the really good ones
Doña Paula ‘Estate’ Malbec 2009 Mendoza $17.95 – Well priced for the quality.
Luigi Bosca Cabernet Reserva 2008 $17.95
Riglos ‘Gran Corte’ 2007 Mendoza $37.95 – Starting to get up there in price – but a nice big wine with something red on the plate.
Navarro Correas Structura Ultra 2006 $34.95. 95 points. Hard to argue with that score!
SXS 2008 Step Two Shiraz $14.95 – The bargain Shiraz in the release.
Elderton ‘Ode to Lorraine’ Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot 2008
Barossa Valley, South Australia $39.95 – Teeth staining, palate coating big wine.
Tait ‘The Wild Ride’ Shiraz 2007 Southern Flinders, South Australia $19.95 – From a lesser known OZ region.
Pirramimma Petit Verdot 2007 McLaren Vale, South Australia $26.95 –DO you like licorice? Here’s your choice.
A Pair of Whites
Vieil Armand Pinot Gris ‘Ollwiller’ 2007 AOC Alsace Grand Cru $23.95 – Let’s have a Pinot Gris throw down with the Fielding Estate offering below.
Fielding Estate Winery ‘Estate Bottled’ Pinot Gris 2010VQA Niagara $21.95
Really Big Bucks
Catena Alta Malbec 2008 – $49.95. One of the best Argentinian producers
Luigi Bosca ‘Finca Los Nobles’ Cabernet - Bouchet 2005 Argentina $63.95 – Bosca’s $19 wines are super. I expect big things from this one but premium wine asks a premium price.
Shafer One Point Five 2007 $79.95 In a word, wonderful.
Antinori Pian Delle Vigne 2005 $59.95 – a softer gentler style of Brunello
San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello 2005 $44.95
Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo 2005- $42.95
Domaine du Vieux ‘Télégraphe la Crau’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2008 AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape $72.95 – Only included because this is a bad year and might be your only chance to ever buy a VT la Crau. A note though, I wouldn’t.

Friday, September 30, 2011

October 1st Vintages release - a few good buys but no 'I've got to have that!'s

The October1st Vintages release has three subfeatures – Syrah/ Shiraz from around the world, How to start a Cellar, and Thanksgiving simplified. Prices are slowly rising as we head to Christmas but there are still some bargains to be had in this release.
Let’s review them in that order, shall we. Syrah starts with old world, Rhone versions from Guigal, one from the North and one from the south. The North is a Cote Rotie which traditionally  includes a soupcon of Viognier – yes I have my beret on for that bit of phrasing. For those who snicker at the Aussies proudly making this blend, here’s where it originated. Snicker no more. The second is a Crozes Hermitage, not to be confused with the Northern Rhone’s very expensive  Hermitage appellation.  Both are expensive for what you’ll get. If I had to choose between these two, I’d go with the ’07 Crozes Hermitage. OZ is next up with 5 offerings from  $17  thru $90. The best of these for me are the Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa 2009 at $`16.95 and the always impressive Ebenezer from Barossa Valley Estates at $39.95. The Mitolo GAM might be as good but it’s more money. The Elderton Command is an amazing wine too but again, too much money by far! Of all the Syrahs from other countries the Fess Parker The Big Easy Syrah is  the best @$34.95
Following the syrahs, the LCBO offers up  Cellar Choices – ironic when you consider that the LCBO has changed their returns policy so that none of the recommended wines could be returned if faulty, if held until the LCBO suggests you hold them. Of all of these, the Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard Malbec is the best QPR choice and is ready for consumption now with a little decant and a bleeding slab of red meat. If you want to try something different go for the Mollydooker Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a polarizing winery. You either love their wines or hate them. They are BIG, they are viscous, and they are in your face. Subtle and understated? I don’t think so.
The Thanksgiving choices? Try ‘em if you’d like to. I prefer to simplify this further – it’s a turkey, it's gravy, it's stuffing  - just serve and drink what you like.
The rest of the release? There are some good under $20 wines available.
The Coyote’s Run Pinot Gris 2009 at $17.95 should be nice.
Argentina – along with the Bosca Malbec try:
LaMadrid single Vineyard Cab Sauv at $13.95 should be a very good buy.
Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor 2008 $16.95 – a nice blend.
Australia – along with those mentioned above:
The Yalumba FDW 7C Chardonnay – at $23.95 this is from a high quality producer and is a subset of their best grapes. Maybe not 95 points good but very good nonetheless.
Hickinbotham Cab Sauv/ Shiraz 2009 at $15.95 is a screaming buy.
South Africa –
The Post House Penny Black 2008 – $19.95 - The kitchen sink blend with Shiraz, Merlot, Cab Sauv, Petit verdot and a wee touch of Chenin Blanc but it’ll be tasty. Apparently this one failed the LCBO lab testing so was not available.
Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noir 2009 - $19.95 – A gold medal winner at Vinalie 2011. Should be very nice.
Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu 2006 $19.95 for 250 ml – A WS Top 100 dessert wine – nice to finish off Thanksgiving or perhaps try an ice wine throw down?
A well priced Barolo and a well priced Brunello highlight the Italian section. The Marchesi Di Barolo 2005 at $34.95 is a rerelease I think. The Caparzo Brunello2005 should be a real  buy for Brunello fans at $39.95

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vintages Sept.17th release - Liberace played rugby, who knew!?

The LCBO looks to be giving all the anal retentive early shoppers a head start at their Christmas gift lists with the spread in this week’s Vintages release. There are lots of $15 to $25 wines to spend on but also a truckload of $40 and up wines that seem more destined to be corporate Christmas gifts than to be the usual weekend drinkers. In this release a trio of focused specials also greet the shopper – to this observer’s palate, most rate a pass as in take a pass, not rating a passing grade. Bordeaux ’08 is described as a sleeper vintage – one glass and you’ll be nodding off. Pinots from France and Oregon? Yawn. New Zealand premium wines? Big bucks, but samples just as good of the same grapes are available for half the price. And speaking of New Zealand,  what was the LCBO thinking and where did they find the hand model to hold that rugby ball for the Rugby World Cup? Those look a lot more like Liberace’s fingers  than say, Jonah Lomu’s!
The good news? This is a better release than the last couple.
Top Red Picks
2009 Alaine Jaume Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte Lirac - $23.95 – Less expensive than in previous years, this should be a smoking wine for the next 4 or 5. My palate loves the GSM’s and this one is no exception!  Alain Jaume is a terrific, high quality Rhone producer. My pick of the release!
2008 Durigutti Mendoza Malbec - $16.95 - #74 in last year’s Wine Spectator Top 100, good to go now over the next few years. At under $17, throw a steak on and let’s get to it!
2008 Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz / Cabernet / Petit Verdot - $14.95 – Always good value for the price.
2007 Finca Flichman Paisaje de Barrancas Shiraz / Cabernet / Malbec - $17.95 – Could be the real sleeper of the release. A blend of three grapes from a single vineyard site and a real mouthful.
Top White Picks
2009 Gehringer Bros Pinot Gris $17.95 – If you enjoyed their unoaked Chard from earlier this year, or if you’re a fan of Kettle Valley’s Pinot Gris, then I think you’ll like this one. Slight pinkish hue due to the exposure to skins for a short time.
2010 Mount Riley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - $15.95 Fans of New Zealand Sauv Blanc – step right up.
2010 Spice Route WO Darling Sauvignon Blanc - $14.95 – A Citric, grassy, SB from South Africa. Well priced to accompany a seafood dish!
The Rest
Jip Jip Rocks 2009 – Scored well but past vintages have left me unimpressed. Perhaps this’ll be better.
2008 Rivera Violante Nero di Troia - $15.95 Well scored by all reviewers (86 to 87 points) and a very solid wine with fall foods or on its own.
 2007 First Press Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.95- First released last year, this is an OK Cali Cab for the money. It was better than I expected it to be last year.
2007 DOURO RESERVA RED from QUINTA DO COA – Wonderful review. If you are a fan of Quinta do Crasto Old Vines Reserva and are P.O.’d that you can’t get more, this will be a close approximation. Slightly tart to bitter annise notes on the finish. Not cheap though. 
Bodegas LAN 2003 at $26.95 is ready to drink now.

Big Bucks, Major Money, Piles o’ pennies
2008 Two Hands Bella's Garden Barossa Shiraz - $63.95 : #2 in the WSTop 100 last year. Is money no object? Line up early and with elbow pads on probably.
2007 Te Mata Hawkes Bay Coleraine  Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc - $59.95- An unusual blend from New Zealand, we don’t see a lot of Cab Sauvs from there to be sure even if they are blended with other grapes.  
2008 Faust Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $39.95
2004 Ladera Lone Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $64.95  
 Encore appearance from an earlier Release:
2006 Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2006 at $39.95  was a very nice big wine on first release.
2009 Perrin La Gille Gigondas - $29.95  - I really like this wine, even at this price. Ageworthy, complex, delicious. 
A couple of Spaniards have been rereleased as well but the 2008 Arrocal at  $15.95 is your best bargain bet.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September 3rd Vintages Release- Blends, an Anniversary, and some Sake

Various Grape Blends, the 150th Anniversary celebration of Italy combined with Sake make for another forgettable Vintages release. Have we reached the dog days of the Vintages releases? It seems so.  The last two have been in a word, weak.  Next week's mini release of Ontario wines promises more of the same. For  this week's, I might take a pass altogether or buy just one or two bottles out of  all those listed below.
Ah well, Let’s start with the blends. $23.95 seems like a good place to start:
Lavau Gigondas at $23.95, a 2009 this one will benefit from a year or two in a cool dark place or open early and decant it. Good price for a Gigondas from a terrific vintage.
The Inniskillen Dark Horse Meritage 2007 from the Okanagen will be nice with beef or lamb. Luv the Okanagen, especially heads up against the green, vegetable reds from Ontario. Make special note though, the 2011 could be the rare Vintage that Ontario smokes BC in the all Canadian wine awards. It has been a bad spring and summer out there so far.
The three South African blends are all good but go for the price and take the Lammershoek Roulette 2006. It should be ready to drink and is well priced also at $23.95. If you want to spring for something upscale you could do far worse than either the De Toren Z or the Ruste en Vrede 2007 Estate blend, but they are expensive. The best South African might be the Mullineux Shiraz at $28.95. Fire up your food processor - a Moulinex of course - and make something special to go with it...a Mullineux Moulinex masterpiece perhaps. Say that 10 times fast! 
From OZ, go for the Musician Cab / Shiraz 2009 at $19.95, Gotham Shiraz 2009 or the Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2009 at $17.95.  All three under $20 will be good.
In keeping with the past $15.00 releases of the LAN Crianza and the Perrin Vinsobres, there is another good looking bargain this month at $15.00. The 2008 Single Vineyard Malbec from LaMadrid should be able to hold its own with $18 to $20 buck Malbecs but might need a bit of time to settle in. Not a case worthy buy, but OK.
Looking for something different from Italy? Try the Aglianico del Vulture. Terrific value at $14.95, this one might be worth considering buying a few but try one first to be sure it matches your palate.
Want a sparkler? Go for the Cremant de Loire Rose at $16.95. I'm liking examples of these Cremants from the Loire and Burgogne more and more.
Whites? Loooking for a Chardonnay? Try the MOMO 2009 at $18.95 from New Zealand or either of the age worthy reislings from Germany should be great now and for many years to come. Best of all, both of them are less than $22.

The Vintages August 20 Release - Better late than never, I suppose.

California’s lesser known regions share the spotlight with the wines of Southern France in the Aug.20  Vintages release. Having been away in BC for the week prior to this release, I’m a little late  reviewing this one  but there weren’t  many  to tempt my palate anyway so I’ll use this as an opportunity to save you some money.

Chateau des Flaugergues Sommeliere 2007 – Well priced at $17.95, this wine exhibits black fruit on the nose with hints of herbs and olive. The big sniff is followed by raspberry ganache/ black cherry on the fore palate with hints of smoke and olive tapenade bringing up the rear. WS had it at #50 in their Top 100. It’s a very nice wine, well priced and ready to consume now or over the next 3 or 4  years. Best of all, there is still some around even today!
Ampelos Gamma Syrah  2006 – From the makers of one of the few Pinot Noirs that I have enjoyed, I expect this to be a big mouthful of sophisticated flavours. A tad pricey at $27.95, but a good bottle from the Santa Rita Hills of California.
Pirramimma  Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – Could this be the answer to Doug’s quest for an affordable, sophisticated Aussie Cab? I think it might, if $24.95 is not too high a price. Terrific producer across the board.
Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – as good a price as you’ll find for a quality Napa cab. $29.95 for currants, smoke  and cedar hints.
Les Celettes 2009 – A gold medal winner, this Cotes du Rhone is well priced at $13.95
Domaine de Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2008. The ’07 release of this wine was very highly rated by most reviewers but  was lost on me. I expect more of the same here –  I will  avoid it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 6th - Where is this summer going? This week, to Chile and BC!

The August 6th  vintages release from your local Ontario government sponsored purveyor of distilled spirits has a Chilean focus. Good news because that means one of our favourite product lines, the Terrunyo line from Concha Y Toro is represented. I think Terrunyo translates to terroir but perhaps terroir viewed from a uniquely South American perspective. Not so much what the earth gives the wine but rather how the earth shapes the people themselves. Or maybe that’s unique to Argentina.  Anyhow, to me, the Concha Y Toro  Terrunyo Cab is the best $30 Cab Sauv going and I would put it up against any at twice the price. Got your hopes up? Good, now I send them crashing on the rocks of despair! The Cab is not in this release. However, the 2007 Terrunyo Carmenère is. This is a terrific wine -  smoky, spicy, choclatey, ample tannins yet fruit laden. The 2006 was fantastic. The ’07 might be even better and it may be something new for many of you to try. Think Mercabec. Hints of merlot, a soupcon of cabernets  and a dash of malbec, all in one terrific but not cheap wine. Yes I will be buying some.  Terrunyo Block 27 is the standard by which I measure all carmenères.
Also in the release are some BC beauties. They are expensive, but to my palate better than an equivalently priced Ontario offering. There is something to be said for growing grapes in a desert.
My red picks, in order,
LES VIGNERONS DE VISAN VISAN CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2007 $ 12.95 – a named village, under $13. Last ‘07 Visan I had was as good as either of the two Gigondas that followed it and they were 2 to 2 and a half times the price! Oh, and they were very good too!
PETER LEHMANN LAYERS RED 2008 $ 17.95 – A Rhone blend from OZ with an added touch of tempranillo – so let’s call him Pedro Lehmann this week!
SANTA EMA RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008  A bit coarse, tannin wise, but black fruit and loamy $ 16.95
TERRA D'ALIGI TATONE MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2007  $ 15.95 – always very good.
ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI RISERVA 2006 $ 15.95 – I’m not sure if the wine matches the review in the Vintages book. Buyer beware, do your own DD.
2008 KARMA CABERNET SAUVIGNON PASO ROBLES $ 15.95 – Paso Robles doesn’t have the cachet or the big buck prices of Napa but the wines are very good.
Five Chardonnays! OMG, Blame it on the heat!
GLEN CARLOU CHARDONNAY 2008 $ 17.95 – South Africa – my pick as the best Chard in the release.
2009 VASSE FELIX CHARDONNAY $ 19.95 –OZ – My pick as the other best chard in the release.
MONTES ALPHA CHARDONNAY 2007  $ 19.95 –Chile – not quite up to the previous two, but close.
BURROWING OWL CHARDONNAY 2008 $ 32.95 – Love the winery, like the wine, hate the price.
Big Bucks
SIGNORELLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $ 59.95 – Perennially this is a year end top pick by  Anthony Gismondi. Either he knows the owners or it’s really, really good. I don’t know the owners and past  bottles I’ve had were in the really, really good category.
MONTES PURPLE ANGEL 2007  $ 49.95 – ready to drink according to the review, this is a blend of Carmenère and Petit Verdot. Should be everything that the Terrunyo is plus a bit more with the addition of licorice hints from the Petit Verdot. Superb wine but big $$’s too.  94 points from Parker if it matters to you.