Saturday, February 26, 2011

Some terrific wines at terrific prices

Not too often do I dole out the kudos to our friends at the LCBO but there are a few entries in this release that merit them. Well done, especially on the first two wines below. As a matter of fact, I think the first four are candidates for you to 'back up the truck'. But also remember good readers, globally the Loonie is gaining against almost every currency so before we give the LCBO'ers too much credit, our expectation should be for imported wine prices to continue to improve!
BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA Rioja 2006  A Rioja red, WS Top 100, over 3,000 cases and  $15.00. What else could you ask for?             
SANTA CAROLINA RESERVA DE FAMILIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 Big black fruit, tannic, from the Maipo Valley. Over 3,000 cases and again only  $15.00.  Has been $18.95/ $19.95 in the past. A very very good buy!    91 - RP                                    
TERRE DI RUBINORO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO DOCG 2006   Tremendous vintage and lots of stock – almost 1300 cases and well priced at $17.95. 91 - WS                                               
TABALÍ RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON Limarí Valley 2008  - The Limari Valley is a great region in Chile, as good as  the Maipo Valley perhaps. Short tern (2-4 years or so)  Tabali’s Cabs are really excellent and can taste like $20- $25 Cabs. I haven’t held any longer than that so can’t comment past that timeframe. But at $14.95 with big black extracted fruit/ licorice notes it’s a beaut.
CONCHA Y TORO MAYCAS DEL LIMARI RESERVA ESPECIAL CHARDONNAY Limarí Valley 2007          - could be the best white in the release! 164 cases so act fast.          $19.95  92 – RP           
SIMI CABERNET SAUVIGNON Alexander Valley, Sonoma County 2007. Again, over 1,200 cases but at this price it’s getting stiff competition in this release. $21.95                                       
VAENI NAOUSSA XINOMAVRO DAMASKINOS  2004 $13.95 It's been said that Greek wine could be the next great 'undiscovered' wine region. Undiscovered by North America that is. With the Greek economy suffering, some of their better wines may now be making it to our markets where before they may have just stayed home. At this price, try one of these for something different! 89 - RP 
HAZYBLUR SHIRAZ 2006 Barossa Valley – Big Barossa fruit – Think BVE Ebenezer in price, profile and persistence!  $34.95  92 - RP     
D'ARENBERG THE FOOTBOLT SHIRAZ 2007 – Always very nice. Not subtle. $22.95  90+ - RP     
VALLE PERDIDO RESERVA MALBEC   Neuquén, Patagonia 2006 – Looking for a different Malbec? Try this one. $19.95     91 - RP                   
CANTINE DUE PALME SELVAROSSA RISERVA SALICE SALENTINO DOC  2006 $17.95 – Well priced for an underappreciated red made from the negro amaro grape methinks.  
MARQUÉS DE MURRIETA RESERVA    DOCa Rioja       2005     $24.95  Almost priced too high in this release! 91 - IWC
PERRIN et FILS LES SINARDS CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2007 Nice Half bottle from a great vintage. $19.95          92 - RP            
MASI GRANDARELLA - Do you love amarone but not the price? Try this bad boy. $29.95 

FERDINANDO PRINCIPIANO SERRALUNGA BAROLO    2005 $36.95 Another good price  for a Barolo.      
CANTINA DEL PINO BARBARESCO       DOCG 2006       $38.95  91 - RP

The SOPRANOS - Gimmick wine, named for the now defunct TV show of the same name - for fans of the show only.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

My first batch of Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from a very enjoyable supper among friends. As well, our host did a great job of lining up the wines so they didn’t step on one another’s toes too much. Remember, these are BP’s notes and may bear little or no resemblance to those of a civilized person. The name and vintage of each wine is followed by a thought that describes the wine (to me) but may also more accurately describe where my head was at while tasting drinking these great wines.  
Delaine Vineyard 2007 Chardonnay – Brighton, Ontario Apple Fest - Superior example of an Ontario Chard. Nice bright colour, opens fresh, crisp and apple-y on the nose and palate, clean pure flavours. Nice wine from a terrific vintage.
Grilli de Testamatta 2006 –1992 Bjorn Daehlie meets 1960 Marcello Mastroianni – Powerful, longlasting, but at the same time subtle and suave! This is a wonderful, smooth, opaque wine made to be enjoyed. It glides across the palate. Hint of oak apparent but nicely integrated at this time. Fuller and more viscous than many Sangiovese – maybe due to the Caniolo / Colorino combo in the blend – this shows the best of a great Tuscan vintage and is so long on the palate.

Franciscan Stylus 2005 – Darryl Hall – but not from the big hair days, from the ‘Live from Darryl’s Place’ days. (Google it and Pick your favourite song)  - A little full of itself and doesn’t care who knows it! Great California nose with hints of cocoa, cedar and fruit. On the palate, drying tannins are prevalent but not overwhelming. Less fruit driven on the palate than I expected, I was expecting currants galore, but still plenty of subtle dark fruit and cocoa dust.
Thorn Clarke William Randell 2005 – Fleetwood Mac - Rumours - Smooth and in perfect harmony. Barossa in a glass. Big, well integrated oak, fruit on fruit, both nose and palate-wise. Kirsch, caramel notes maybe? Quite a prelude to the next wine.
Mollydooker The Boxer 2008 – Hmmm, conficting thoughts here. Was this “AC/DC on the stereo while watching Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior ” or was that Robitussen in my reidel stemware? This is way over the top in a ‘once a year and it makes me smile’ kinda way.  Actually thought it was better with the spicy ribs than alone but unlike all the other wines, I could not make a habit of this wine. That said, it was enough to make me want to try to find another of the Mollydooker wines the next time I’m in B.C. - in spite of B.C.’s crazily elevated wine prices.
Chateau Reynella Basket Press Shiraz 2004 – Russell Crowe. Normally with Chateau Reynella, I’d say Russell Crowe in Gladiator. But to describe this one following the MollyDooker, I have to say Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. It seemed understated after the Boxer. That is really saying something because this wine has never been accused of being that!  Another terrific big wine from the McLaren Vale. Gobs of dark fruit and hints of nori or olive tapenade. Some sort of salty note anyway.
Robert Mondavi Reserve 2000 – Cary Grant. This wine says “relax on the sofa with the headphones on listening to Nat King Cole on a drizzly November day  while a great big prime rib roasts in the oven and fills the house with glorious aromas”. But as it was and where it was in the lineup, imagine Cary Grant coming to dinner with a crowd of Aussie rules football players.  He’d still be Cary Grant but some of his subtleties might get overlooked. Leather, plums becoming prunes, and fine, almost imperceptible tannins at this point. A very, very nice mature Cab.
We closed the night with a very good older vintage ice wine. Name and vintage escape me. It started with notes of raisins, raisin pie to me, then morphed into apples baked with raisins, a cinnamon stick, brown sugar and maple syrup – ooops and pecans or walnuts. And yes I really did smell all that and taste it too.

Terrific Zinfandel Festival Ad

This seems to be getting plenty of play in the blogoshere and if you like the Old Spice ads, you'll like this. In spite of it being a wee bit faulty vino-geographically ( I'm not sure any primitivo is grown in Tuscany) it shows you don't have to take your wine too seriously.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 19th - This could be a very expensive Cab ride!

Nothing in this release or at least nothing in this release that I can afford makes me say “I have to have that!” The Cab Feature does have a couple of spectacular wines but I'm sad to say that pricewise the ones that merit that adjective have grown through my informal, periodically ignored but most times followed, price ceiling. However, these wines do present an interesting example of ‘perspective’. For instance, it's not that many vintages ago that I recall debating the merits of buying the Don Melchor with it priced in the low $40’s! Since then The Donald has gained about 70% in price while many of its very good siblings have increased no more than 15-20%. As a result, when compared from a QPR perspective to others in the Concha y Toro portfolio, the Don Melchor doesn’t seem to be a great buy. However, when compared from the same perspective to many Cali Cabs it’s a screaming bargain! And in case you wondered, Yes I am trying very hard to talk myself in to a bottle or two!

My Picks:
Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet
Jackson Triggs Shiraz
And the Abbona Papa Celso (or either the Wakefield Shiraz or the Nashwauk Shiraz.)
“Hey, who put that Don Melchor in my shopping basket?”

Cab feature – these are the ones that I think represent the best value
Horse Heaven Hills Vineyard, Score: 90 (Harvey Steiman) The brother to the H3 Merlot in the last release. Washington style Cabernet - Verrrrrry nice. $19.95.
– Consistently very good, this one may not quite measure up to the ’07. Somewhat tannic so decant for a while and serve with something red on a plate.
. Coonawarra Cabernet, I’ve never had a bad bottle of this wine. Big black fruits and hints of minty eucalyptus make it a natural for lamb. Score: 93 (James Halliday) $29.95
$17.95 – on price alone, but there is a better Chilean cab in the next release so wait for it

The release
Score: 92 (Tony Aspler) - Not quite the JT Sun Rock Vineyard Shiraz (if you ever have a chance at that one, buy it!!!!) but almost as good for much less at $24.95! Blind taste this one against your favourite 2007 Ontario Shiraz!
LUIGI BOSCA RESERVA MALBEC 2008 $17.95 – Malbecellence - I should be in marketing - at a great price! I know it’s still February but Fire up the BBQ and throw on a steak!

WAKEFIELD ESTATE SHIRAZ 2008 This wine was named one of the Top 100 Wines at the 2010 Sydney International Wine Competition ( Made with Clare Valley fruit so if you like Bin 61 or the Lodge Hill, this might be for you. Far fewer bucks too! $17.95

Nashwauk Shiraz 2007 - The second release (methinks) of this new Kaesler undertaking has a real Canadian Connection. The name means "between the waters" in Algonquin and was also the name of a cargo ship made in Nova Scotia. The ship sank just off the coast of Australia in the Gulf of St. Vincent not far from these vineyards. The vineyards themselves share many of the same soil traits as Coriole and Chapel hill, so if you are a fan of those wines, or the Fleurieu Peninsula/ McLaren Vale in general, you may enjoy this well priced offering.$19.95
South Africa
CATHEDRAL CELLAR TRIPTYCH 2007 $16.95 – Very, very good quality, very well priced.
France Rhone
CHÂTEAU GOUDRAY CUVÉE EXCELLENCE RASTEAU 2009 AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages Gold Medal winner at the Concours des Vins Orange 2010. $15.95
LES GRANDES SERRES LA COMBE DES MARCHANDS GIGONDAS 2009 $26.95 – It appears the LCBO may be jumping over a weak 2008 Rhone vintage and into the ’09 vintage. This is one for the mid to longer term, so feel free to let it rest.
ABBONA PAPÀ CELSO 2008 - A Dolcetto from the Piedmont region – I don’t expect a Barolo but I do expect to be pleased. I’m looking forward to deep purple colour, heavily scented, and powerful on the palate. It reads like an Australian! Score: 3 Glasses (out of 3) (Gambero Rosso) $19.95
ABBAZIA BAROLO 2005 $28.95

Big Buck wines in order of preference and if $$’s were no object!

Score: 95 (Jay Miller) $69.95 – This is a great wine but I wait for the Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Cab each year. At less than half the price it’s almost as good.
SHAFER ONE POINT FIVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 Score: 93 (Robert Parker Jr) $79.95 – In a word – spectacular!
ZENATO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006 This wine ranked #36 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2010. Highly recommended by James Suckling . Score: 94 - 375 mL $24.95; 750 mL $47.95
CHÂTEAU FORTIA CUVÉE DU BARON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2007 $34.95 – Scoop a few 07s while you can.
NAPANOOK – worth a look always.
PININO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2005 OK review for an OK priced Brunello. Score: 90 (Antonio Galloni) $33.95

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feb. 05 Release - Not a good release for you if you can't make up your mind

My Picks? There are 9 from all over the map and I’ll change my mind to add or replace a few a number of times between now and the release. There are at least 5 more that are equally worthy of your consideration!

And another from Washington St. or some from the Southern Rhone, more from Spain…see? Can’t decide already!

TUSCANY FEATURE – 2007 was a terrific vintage!

LE CINCIOLE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007 A layered and pretty wine, with berry and cherry character. Full-bodied, yet reserved and balanced. Best from 2011 through 2016. Score: 91 $19.95

TESTAMATTA GRILLI DEL TESTAMATTA 2007 from Bibi Graetz - One of my picks of the release. Should be terrific but not a huge number of cases and those in the know will be chasing this one down. Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino. Best after 2011. Score: 91 (James Suckling) A little upscale at$32.95

BRANCAIA TRE 2007 No. 10 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2009, scoring 93 points. The previous LCBO release of the ’07 was somewhat muted and thin. Is this more of that or is this what the WS had? Limited number of cases. Be ready to arm wrestle for it regardless. Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: 90 (Antonio Galloni) $24.95

ISOLE E OLENA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007 Galloni says Readers who enjoy the Burgundian side of Sangiovese will flip out over this wine but I always found the Nebiollos more Burgundian… something for you pinotphiles to watch for I suppose. Score: 90 Antonio Galloni $26.95

LORNANO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007 This wine won a Gold Medal at the Berliner Wein Trophy competition in 2010 $15.95

RAVAZZI CHIANTI RISERVA 2007 $15.95 – Good price – but go for the gold above or below!

TENUTA MORAIA PIETRACUPA BOLGHERI 2007 Another Gold Medal Winner at the Berliner Wein Trophy competition in 2010. Pretty good buy at $18.95

CIACCI PICCOLOMINI D’ARAGONA ATEO 2007 – Originally he called this wine Ateo, ‘The Atheist’ because he contravened the local wine ‘religion’ and began making wine from nontraditional grapes in Tuscany. Not a wine for drinking on its own, this one will need food. Something bleeding on a plate would be best. My Expectation? Tight, dry and astringent but in a good way. Score: 91(Antonio Galloni) $24.95

AIA VECCHIA LAGONE 2007 Another new Bordeaux blend from Italy released to the LCBO. Availability may once again reflect the evaporation (for now) of the US market for Italian wines. Cab Sauv and Cab Franc. Best after 2011. Smart Buy. Score: 90 (James Suckling) $21.95

MASTROJANNI SAN PIO 2007 – Another super Tuscan from a good Brunello producer at $29.95

LA MADONNINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA fresh, with rich cherry plum fruit supported more by iodine bitterness than acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a decidedly bitter finish - oh yeah, suuuure, that’s what I look for in my wines! $22.95


COLUMBIA CREST H3 MERLOT 2007 Horse Heaven Hills Vineyard hence the H3. I had the 2008 and it was oaky as hell but still a very good wine from a great producer and location. The 2007 was ranked #43 in Wine Spectator’s 2010 Top 100 list – Harvey Steiman gave it 91 and said: Dark, supple blackberry and black currant flavors, playing against superfine tannins on an open-textured finish. Floral, savory overtones add depth. $19.95 - A great buy but only 200 cases so move fast or make friends!

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE ETHOS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 Columbia Valley - drinking well from 2013 to 2026 says Jay Miller so if you must open one soon, decant it please. 92 (Jay Miller) $39.95

Washington St. has also been described as the best location outside of the Rhone Valley for Syrah. These two efforts will show you why.
COEUR D’ALENE CELLARS SYRAH Score: 92 (Harvey Steiman) $32.95
DUNHAM CELLARS SYRAH 2005 Score: 92 (Harvey Steiman) $44.95


HAWKES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 Alexander Valley, Sonoma $29.95 We have to assume this has been properly taken care of all this time but when the US reviewer calls it a 40 buck wine and the LCBO has it for $30, well, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I look out my upper floor office window to see the pigs hovering with the pigeons. Historically this just does not happen! So, if you buy more than one bottle, try one quickly so you can take the rest back if you’re not happy!
MCMANIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 Burst to prominence when Parker scored them a 90 some years ago – nonetheless not a bad price for a Cali cab as a summer BBQ wine.$19.95 Me? I’ll wait for the H3 Cab (brother to the merlot in this release) in the next release at the same price!
NEWMAN’S OWN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 – When the profits from it go to charity, one has to try the wine! $17.95
RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 Rodney Strong wines are pretty well priced and seem to score well but I have yet to have one that makes me say “Wow! Score: 89 (Steve Heimoff) $22.95

PIRRAMIMMA SHIRAZ 2006 – McLaren Vale Shiraz with terrific layers of complexity but not over the top.
As it opens, expect to get notes of jerky, olive, nori, liquorice, strawberry, blackberry and espresso on both the nose and palate. I’m a fan. $23.95
GEORGE WYNDHAM FOUNDER’S RESERVE SHIRAZ 2007 This wine won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Perth Royal Wine Show. That's OK but more importantly how did it do at the Sharbot Lake Wine and Walleye Fest? What’s that? Oh, you meant the other Perth! Sorryyyy! In that case, at $19.95 this should be a no brainer.
RINGBOLT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 Margaret River, Western Oz – A first rate CAB done in a more Bordeaux style than most Aussies. This is always good quality for $19.95
ELDERTON SHIRAZ 2007 – Big bruisers usually and I’ve never had one I didn’t enjoy. These used to be $29.95 if I recall correctly. $32.95 now with a wine glut in Australia? Hmmmm, see my note on the Hawkes Cab.
HEARTLAND STICKLEBACK RED 2008 This poor guy should have been in the first or second release of the year! For now earns an honourable mention but should be a great buy at $14.95
TWO HANDS ANGELS’ SHARE SHIRAZ 2009 – Terrific producer, but for the $$’s there are better Aussie wines in the release. Score: 91 (Campbell Mattinson) $27.95
PENFOLDS BIN 2 SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2008 As I always say, this is a James Halliday score of 93 points – his and my palate do not always align. $21.95

South Africa
– Very nice, full Cab from South Africa. Not terribly complex but none of that burnt rubber we sometimes find from SA. Very Well Priced $18.95

DOMAINE LE GRAND RETOUR PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2009 - In 2010, this wine won Gold Medals at both the Concours Général Agricole in Paris and the Concours des Vins in Orange. Terrific bargain wine for mid week quaffing or Friday pizzas, burgers. Not for long term ageing but great in the short term. $13.95
LES GRANDES SERRES PRESTIGE DES GRANDES SERRE 2009 AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Rasteau. This wine won a Gold Medal at the Concours des Vins in Orange, in 2010. Rasteau is a named appellation within CdR-V so it’s a slight step up from Cotes du Rhone Villages. Is it worth 3 bucks more than the Plan de Dieu? TBD. Still well priced at $16.95
MONTIRIUS GARRIGUES VACQUEYRAS 2009 AC – Montirius is a great biodynamic producer from the Rhone. Think of it as a little brother to the Montirius Le Clos and be prepared for excellence @ $23.95.

Other Italy
DOCG Barolo wines rarely come at this fine a price, so this is the perfect opportunity to sample this Piedmontese classic. $26.95
DIEGO CONTERNO BALUMA NEBBIOLO D’ALBA 2008 DOC – Think of it as a baby Barolo $18.95
LA GIRONDA LA GENA BARBERA D’ASTI 2006 Another terrific food wine – 2 Glasses (out of 3) (Gambero Rosso)$16.95

89 or 90 point Grenache for $13.95? My one concern is that I’ve been disappointed by a lot of the cheap and cheerful Spaniards with big scores.otherwise, Line up behind me! $13.95
MURUVE CRIANZA This polished, modern red delivers black cherry, dark chocolate, mineral and sanguine notes, firm and focused. Ripe, well-integrated tannins give way to a lingering floral and spicy finish. Drink now through 2014. Score: 91 (Thomas Matthews) $16.95
VIÑA VILANO RESERVA 2004 DO Ribera del Duero might also be worth a try at $22.95 but there are so many good ones in this release, you can wait to try it.
BODEGAS LAN VIÑA LANCIANO RESERVA 2004 DOCa Rioja TASTING NOTE: (80% tempranillo and 20% mazuelo) Key to the entire tasting note? This needs time. Missing from the tasting note? And Food. Score: 90+ (Josh Raynolds) $28.95. LAN is a very high quality producer - expect the best.

A few Big Bucks ones, but why spend so much?

DIRTY LAUNDRY BORDELLO 2008 - Dirty Laundry is a great BC producer. As for the Bordello, I used to know just the dining room to serve it in! Sometimes home reno’s ruin a good thing! $49.95

TRAPICHE VIÑA DOMINGO F. SARMIENTO SINGLE VINEYARD MALBEC 2007 The third of three recent single vineyard releases from Trapiche. These single vineyard wines might offer more than the very popular Broquel series from Trapiche, but are 3 or 4 points worth $20? You could get two 90 point Malbecs from Luigi Bosca or Catena for one of these. It’s your call. Best from 2012 to 2022. Score: 93 (Jay Miller) $39.95

3 of the four from Washington St.

ROBERT MONDAVI OAKVILLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 $54.95 James Laube, in the Wine Spectator, rated this wine a 90, Parker a 91 and said licorice, spicebox, cedar, black cherries, and black currants. But at $39.95 the Ethos from Washington St. is a better buy.

TENUTA DI CASTELGIOCONDO LAMAIONE 2007 Always good but expensive and there are too many other good wines in this release for much less. $63.95