Friday, May 27, 2011

May 28th release - nothing too exciting to me....

In spite of the California focus, the Vintages Release out May 28 does not show much to get 
too excited about. I might chase down the Eberle (eh-burr-lee) Cab but that’s about all.
SANTA JULIA MAGNA 2009 ( Familia Zuccardi) $14.95 – Well priced red blend
135202 KAIKEN ULTRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $19.95 – Good Cab – where are the burgers and the steak?
BURROWING OWL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 $56.95 – An ISD so it’ll be rare,but well made, good Canuck producer.
FIELDING RED CONCEPTION 2008 $18.95 – Worth a try but expect more green/brown scents and flavours than red and black fruits.
New Zealand
 Lawsons Sauvignon Blanc - $16.95 – Very well priced for a 91 point savvy
RENATO RATTI MARCENASCO BAROLO 2006 $49.95 – Previous vintage was Top 7 in the WS Top 100 so you know it’s a good producer.  
APOLLONIO TERRAGNOLO PRIMITIVO 2004 $17.95 – Always enjoy the Apollonios. Big, great mouthfeel with some age on this one.
I GREPPI GREPPICANTE BOLGHERI 2007 $23.95 – Mid twenties for a  WSTop 100 wine? Yes indeed, even if it is the second pass for this one.
BARONE RICASOLI CASALFERRO 2006  $39.95- Big Bucks, big flavours.
EBERLE VINEYARD SELECTION CABERNET $23.95 – The previous release of this Cab was really really good. Only downside was the plastic cork. Wait a sec, if a cork is made of plastic, does that make it a plastic and not a cork?  If so, the only downside to this last time was the plastic plastic. Note to Eberle  and to the LCBO -  For Eberle - Real cork or a screwcap please and for the LCBO - two dollars less on the price.
FESS PARKER RODNEY'S VINEYARD SYRAH 2007 $39.95 – Serve with raccoon. (Think about it, you’ll get it eventually.)
Ardahl Crainza 2005 - $16.95 and ready to be served with food.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The conspiracy theory plot thickens further!

Many Thanks to reader Rick from Ottawa for his post in the Comments section regarding Dandelion's Lionheart Shiraz. For those too lazy to check the comments section, Rick said:

"Hello, I just finished the last bottle of Dandelion we had from last year. Fortunately we purchased 12 at the time and enjoyed every one for special occasions. The lot from last years distribution I had was L10046. We just purchased several bottles today and the lot is L0230. Haven't tried it yet, but will let you know how it is for comparison."

Now the plot truly does thicken. If I'm understanding the lot numbers right, Rick's last bottle of last year's release  was produced on the 46th day of 2010 (Feb.15th). Rick's  most recently purchased bottle matches the ones I bought - L0230, which I interpret to be day 230, 2010. Mine  has a time of 09:33 and an L1 etched in the bottle. I read the notes from Dandelion's site last summer but I'm not sure how Dandelion knew prior to June  they HAD bottled only 1103 cases if they didn't bottle this wine until day 230 - August 18th.

SO, methinks the LCBO has some 'splainin to do - or at least they should do as much of a comparison as they can between the two wines. Meantime on to my unscientific taste test. I hope Rick will respond with his 2 cents worth as well when he tries the latest release.

I popped and poured mine on Friday evening, shortly after a 5 minute car ride from the LCBO.  Initial aromas of black fruit and hints of mint. Maybe some rotting, make that ageing, meat (or bacon/ smoked meat combo -  either way to me that's a good thing!).  First taste, lots of fruit - very nice with a slight olive tapenade. Full notes across the palate and a nice, long finish. The fruit lasted through the first glass ( Reidel syrah stemware). Second glass had the fruit fading for me and by the third I found that, by and large,  the fruit component had left the building leaving mostly alchoholic, earthy notes with just a hint of chemical after taste.

So, my recommendation? Open with company,  pour 4 or more big glasses and drink them right away. Not like shooters but don't linger too long over them! This is one wine that does not seem to appreciate air much.

Quality wise, this Lionheart was not up to the version I drank last year. I do still have another bottle from this release. I'll give it some time in a cool dark place and will try it then see if it comes around any more.

For now, this skeptical reviewer suggests a name change to Lionheart of the Bait and Switch.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 14, 2011 - A great release with a conspiracy theory added in for spice!

Another very nice release… Two focal points this time around. One of my favourite regions,  the Southern Rhone,  and  for those soon to come hot spring days on the deck, Rosé wines. There are at least 10 different wines in this release that I am seriously considering buying. Yes 10, and yes seriously!

But let’s start the reviews with a focus on two possibly outstanding but also possibly ‘WTF is this crap?’ wines – one from Argentina and one from Oz.

First, the Argentinian, the 2007 Norton Privada - $21.95 : 91 points from Parker and Spectator, 92 points from BP but BP has also scored it substantially less than that! See my notes from a week or two ago. This one could be one of the best wines you’ve ever had under $22 - or one of the most dreadful! Look for a new note on one of my other bottles just before release.

The second one I wonder about is the 2008 Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz. A return of what I thought was one of last summer’s classiest labels and most pleasant Shiraz surprises. I bought one bottle but didn’t get around to trying it until much later in the year. To my disappointment then it was sold out or I’d have gone back to buy more. But, while it is nice to see the same vintage back for an encore, I have warning bells going off on my blog. Not warning bells to tell you to rush out and buy the wine, but rather to tell you why perhaps you should not
Vintages release of the 2008 last June was very, very good but last year the the winery’s own notes said only 1103 cases were made. They’ve since removed that from their website.Between the 239 cases bought by the Monopoly last year and the 799 this time around, that means the LCBO bought over 94% of the winery’s production of  2008 Lionheart of the Barossa. Does this seem reasonable considering the strong Australian press and very good scores that this vintage of the wine garnered (92 to 95 points across the board)? All of Oz and the rest of the world bought only 65 cases or so? Good for us if the LCBO did get that much of the original 2008 batch but let’s face it, the LCBO is not renowned for their ability to sniff out and buy up the entire vintage of a really good ‘under the NA radar’ wine! So we have a ‘buyer beware’ situation because to this skeptical wine lover it appears there can only be three other explanations and none of them are positive.
If they didn’t buy 94% of the entire vintage, are our friends at the LCBO trying to find ways to guarantee sales by conspiring with the producer to use an old ‘bait and switch’ tactic?  That is, they bait us with a very good, well priced wine that’ll sell based on very strong word of mouth from last summer’s release. Meanwhile they knowingly switch in a subpar second run of the wine for the original. The LCBO wouldn’t do that, would they? The second even more insidious explanation is that the winemakers in Oz are finding ever more questionable ways to try to reduce their grape glut. Did Dandelion get the good scores and then, unknown to the LCBO, did they pull a Schild Estate? Schild Estate’s Shiraz was the number 10 wine in last year’s WS Top 100. Very good for a roughly mid twenty $ wine. Except that Schild  restarted producing, bottling and selling that vintage of their supposed estate wine long after the WS Top 100 had been printed and long after they had exhausted their ‘estate’ grape crop. Such a practice is not illegal, but very questionable, I’d say. So I’m wondering, did Dandelion take a page from Schild and remake another batch of their high scoring wine not from their own, advertised, ancient vines but rather from bought Barossa grapes or juice? If the latter is the case, this wine is untasted and untested against all the previous high scoring reviews and may be setting us up for a disappointment. Time will tell but for now BP  recommends that if you buy multiples of this wine try one quickly. Also, check the lot numbers to see when the lot was produced. And see if all the cases in your store are from the same lot number. If you still happen to have a bottle at home from last year’s June Vintages release, check it to see if the production lot number is the same too. Use the comments section below, because I’d sure like to know! The third option is that they actually produced more than 1103 cases. But then why state that number on their site? It’s either incompetence or a nasty practice to heighten demand and one that calls into question the producer’s integrity.  

Indeed there may be a grassy knoll in the Dandelion Vineyard but that’s enough conspiracy theories for now…on to the other great wines in the release!
The aforementioned Lionheart of the Barossa and Norton Privada are joined by a number of superb mid to upper priced Rhone offerings. I’d pick them in this order:
2009 Perrin 'La Gille' Gigondas -$29.95: Nice. Great producer, great  wine, great region, great vintage. A little pricey but absolutely worth it to me.  Very ageworthy, drink now after decanting or age in a quiet dark place.
2009 Domaine Alain Jaume Grand Veneur 'Grande Garrigue' Vacqueyras - $22.95 : Similar to the Gigondas but a bit more fruit forward, slightly less tannic structure, not quite as ageworthy but oh so good. Alain Jaume is a first class producer as well.
2009 Vignerons de Caractere Seigneur de Fontimple Vacqueyras - $18.95 : Another very good one at a very good price!
2009 Ogier Marquis de Valclair  Gigondas $23.95 – A very well priced Gigondas but one designed for food.
And then follow them with two Cotes Du Rhone Villages which are too well priced to pass up:
2009 Domaine le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu Cotes du Rhone-Villages - $13.95 : Tremendous wine  at a really attractive price.
Le Gravillas Sablet  2009 – $14.95 Another beauty at a really great price!

2007 Avignonesi Vino Nobile de Montepulciano $29.95 – Not cheap but like the Perrin Gigondas, worth every penny. Big, juicy, licorice, and black fruits. Brought a bottle back from BC and it was excellent – right in its drinking window too. A WS Top 100 pick from last year.

More Oz
Two Hands Gnarly Dudes 2009 $27.95 – Two Hands is a proud, preeminent Australian vintner. This wine is traditionally a 89-90 pointer so scoring 93 points from Harvey Steiman is a coup. I expect it may be a WS Top 100 for 2011 if this score holds up.
2008 Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz- Both at $24.95 Two more James Halliday 95, 94 point scores which probably translate to 91 pointers in the real world, but look for big, big McLaren Vale black fruits, judicious oak and an evolution of flavours and aromas in your glass. 
Whoops, Two I forgot - The Filsell Shiraz from Grant Burge, probably the best Shiraz in the release and the D'Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier. For those who think a Shiraz Viognier mix is a strange one, remember it is the traditional Cote Roti blend. The viognier ads perfume to the syrah to round out the nose and to a degree the palate. Both these wines are hard to beat and of the two, in spite of only getting 89 from Parker's minion, I'd pick up a few Filsell's. Both are hard to beat!  
Washington State
2007 Dusted Valley Boomtown Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.95 : Burgers? Steaks? Smoked pulled pork? All the above? This bad boy will be there! Another really good Washington State midpriced Cabernet.

2004 Ondarre Rioja Reserva - $19.95 : Great score, a WS Top 100 and under $20 bucks.
2006 Viticultors del Priorat Vega Escal - $18.95 : A Priorat for under $20? Niiiice.  
2009 Dehesa Gago - $14.95 : Worth a flyer.
2008 Joseph Phelps Innisfree Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $37.95 Always very good but priced out of range with the other quality wines in this release.
The Rosés
Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Cabernets $11.95 -  Local talent and tasty
Muga $12.95 – Pink grapefruit light and dry. Great with all sorts of tapas.
Finca Alcayata Malbec Rosado $12.95 – nice, a bit more of a mouthful.
Kim Crawford Pansy $16.95 – A few bucks more but usually worth it.
Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto $11.95 – Antipasto anyone?
Malivoire Ladybug $15.95 – A few bucks more than most but a local favourite.
The Whites
2006 Naveran Dama Cava $17.95 – Want a good inexpensive sparkler? Try this one from Spain.
A trio of Chardonnays - 2009 Mulderbosch Chardonnay - $19.95; 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay - $17.95 ; Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay $17.95.
2010 Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - $19.95 : Might not be up to previous standards but usually a fave.
2009 Sols & Sens Cotes du Rhone-Villages Laudun Blanc - $13.95 : A gold in the  2010 International Wine Challenge, this is a blend of the traditional Rhone white grapes for a different white experience.
Port Anyone?
Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port - $20.95 – A tasty little bottle for ‘after dinner’ing. Where’s that stilton?

My Picks? In this order…

Perrin’s Gigondas
Alain Jaume’s Vacqueyras
Avignonesi’s Vino Nobile de Montepulciano
The Gnarly Dudes and the Ondarre rioja and with the caveats, Norton Privada and Lionheart all in a dead heat,
The Filsell, Magpie and both Chapel Hills in a tie with the 2 Cotes du Rhone Villages and the Boomtown Cab.
And then the Rosés in the order above and maybe the Cava and the KC Unoaked Chard

Good grief, at some point fiscal responsibility has to take over….someone save me from myself!