Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 22nd Vintages release - A few gems but overall not much to get excited about.

This is an easy review week for me. Not too many wines that pique my interest. Chile, Southwest France and Ontario Rieslings get the spotlights. I’ll ignore the latter and provide a brief comment on the former two.
Let’s start with Chile. With most of the entries in this release, the LCBO continues to maintain and perhaps even feed the Ontario perception that Cheap and Cheerful Chile is a purveyor of nothing but inexpensive, acceptable plonk. There appear to be only few exceptions in this release to change one’s mind. The Carmeneres from Montes Alpha and Tabali should be good to very good and the Single Vineyard Cab from Errazuriz might be as well. But, my pick from Chile is the Ninquen Antu Syrah. A few years ago, 2005 or 2006 vintage methinks, it was a spectacular example of the grape in all its new world splendour. I had the ’08 while visiting BC some time ago but after much mental buildup, I was really disappointed. The OOOAAAKK came across like some leather clad dominatrix, flogging both my olfactory and gustatory receptors into complete and utter submission. OK, maybe I’m overstating it a bit, but now you kinky readers have an image in your mind that you can really enjoy and you less kinky readers think “Wow, he’s sick but he really knows his anatomy!” Reading a couple of later reviews of the ’08 vintage and guessing the wine has come together nicely with another year or two in the bottle, I think we’re in for what I expected back in BC. Black fruits, chocolate and hints of olive and anise all underpinned by much more subtle oaky vanilla flavours. This’ll be a big mouthful either on its own or to accompany summer BBQs on the deck. (Special shout out to the Ya-Ya’s, aka the Booze Broads, you had one of these at your fall fling in Cobourg some years ago and I’m told you were impressed enough to go to the LCBO looking for more that day – now’s your chance). It seems to me it was only $16.95 last time and in spite of the stronger Canadian buck it’s now at $17.95. Even at that price the wine could be on par with a very good $25 to $30 Aussie Shiraz.

Nice segue BP, for the next recommendation comes from one of my perennial favourite Oz producers, Pirrammimma. This time it’s a Grenache, Tannat, Shiraz blend at $23.95. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Tannat from Oz but this should be interesting if only to see how this blend comes together and tastes. Tannat is a dark, tannic red most often grown in the Madiran region of Southwest France where it is usually best left in a cool dark place and forgotten for years. Oh and that’s another great segue as the Madiran is represented along with Cahors, Fronton and Gaillac in this release’s Southwest France feature. This feature is best left to lining the bottom of the birdcage in my humble opinion.

That’s not to say all of France should be avoided. I do have a couple of recommendations from there. First I’m going a wee bit upscale to recommend the 2007 Perrin Gigondas La Gille. At $29.95 it’s the more expensive of the two Gigondas in the release but think of it as a bargain basement Chateauneuf Du Pape. This wine is ageworthy but also terrific now. With some decanting and patience it’ll be even better. I have the decanter, now where did I put my patience?
The second recommendation from France is the Chateau Caplazens La Garrigue 2007 at $16.95. From the area known as La Clape (not La Cape as in the Vintages catalogue), which is probably the most renowned grape growing region in the Languedoc/ Rousillon. The ’07 vintage was terrific - expect a great fruit herb mix of flavours.

There are some Spanish wines that look promising as well but many of them are new to the LCBO so I have not tried past vintages of them. I’ll go out on a limb and provide a few of them as ‘could be’s’. Remember Spanish wines seem to love two things - food and air. The 2008 Vinos Sin-Ley Traza Gra 2 will need some time while the Casa De Illana Tresdecinco 2004 and the usually good 2007 Buil & Gine Gine Gine should both be good to go. For you fans of older wines, the 2000 Burgo Viejo Gran Reserva Rioja might be worth a shot but I’d watch the local reviewers comments in next Saturday’s newspapers before trying it.

My last pick is one of these from Italy - the Rocca Della Macie 2006 Chianti Classico Reserva gets a subtle nod over the Sportoletti but there is also a sub $30 Barolo that might merit some investigation.

Battling to make my Top 10 but not likely on my buying list this time around starts with the La Velona Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2004 (two reviews, 93 and 94 points but just over 50 bucks, ahhh lead me not into temptation!) followed by the Glaymond ‘The Distance’ Shiraz from Oz at $29.95, the Cumulus Rolling Shiraz at $14.95, the Novy Syrah, $27.95 from Napa, the 2007 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Gigondas and perhaps the Mission Hill SLC Merlot.

Time for a Vintages Spoiler alert!!!!! Next release (Feb.05) has multiple spotlights – 2007 Tuscan Reds, Washington State wines and the annual Valentine’s day suggestions. You might want to adjust your buying habits accordingly this week to accommodate these upcoming features. If I can find the release list sooner, I’ll provide some early insights.

Spoiler Alert Part 2 - I have now seen the product list for Feb.05 and it meets the BP criteria to merit a description of "outstanding".

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The January 8th, 2011 Vintages release

It's time for the annual “Oh my God I’m broke but can’t stop buying wine” Vintages release. This one and probably the next have a focus on bargain priced wines – remember bargain is relative when you look at the Barolos or Brunellos – but there are a few that stand out.

The Whites
2009 3 Stones Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - $12.95 : Great price for lemony, grassy, “lets have seafood tonight” accompaniment.
2009 Dominio del Plata Crios de Susanna Balbo Torrontes - $11.95 Susanna Balbo is a specialist at this grape. Want a change from SavBlanc or Chardonnay? Try this.
2010 MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc - $12.95. Used to be South Africa’s signature white. Again, if you want a change from SavBlanc or Chardonnay, here’s an option.
2009 Domaine Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc Touraine - $12.95 :
2009 Roux Pere & Fils Les Murelles Chardonnay Bourgogne - $14.95.
2009 Gehringer Brothers Dry Rock Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay - $18.95 : A gold winner and well priced for this quality of BC Chard, and unoaked for you fans of fruit.

The Reds
2007 Altocedro La Consulta Reserva Malbec - $23.95 : WS92 points – My number one pick of the release. If I buy nothing else, I’ll buy this bad boy.
2008 La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec - $15.00 : 90 points and 15 bucks. What’s not to like? ’08 was a more challenging year in Argentina but this should still be a good one.
2007 Villa di Cigliano Chianti Classico - $18.95 : A very good producer and a very good year. There might be better priced wines in the release but I’m not sure there’s a better wine for the buck.
2008 Majella 'The Musician' Cabernet/Shiraz - $19.95 : James Halliday says 94 – you might say 90 but still a good price for this age worthy red.
2007 Flagstone 'The Music Room' Cabernet Sauvignon - $17.95 : The best of the South Africans in this release.
2008 Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon - $14.95 : A very consistent producer for fans of those big, bold Cabs and really well priced.
2008 Cat Amongst The Pigeons 'Alley Cat' Shiraz/Grenache - $15.95 : The CATP 9 lives Shiraz was a big mouthful, this’ll be more of the same.
2008 Chateau Le Pey - $17.95 : A Bordeaux ‘wine of the month’ from a very good producer. Not to my palate but might be worth a shot!