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.