Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The January 5, 2013 Vintages release.

  A new year always brings hope and although by now I should know better, resolutions. Wine wise, our hope is for better things from the people tasked with buying the biweekly Vintages releases at the LCBO.  Last year (2012) seemed like a rough one from where I was sitting.  Resolution wise, I have two, one for me, one for the monopoly.  The first one is for me to try to be nicer to them. The second one? It can be summed up in four simple words - Better wine, lower prices.  The resolution can be said many ways, as simply Better wine, lower prices,  or mix the 4 words  in a  Q and A, “Wine Prices? Better Lower.” or perhaps mix ‘em as a threat “Wine prices better lower!” (with the unspoken “or Hudak says you’ll all be sent to your rooms”). If the monopoly can manage to live by the mantra BW-LP, then the year 2013 will have a chance to be regarded as a success.  
On to the new release. Traditionally the first release of the year is the LCBO’s attempt to defibrillate your dead wallet. Their hope is that the bargains populating this release will have the wallet reviving effect of an electric shock after that  crise cardiaque of conspicuous consumption brought on by three of the  last four releases of 2012. See I can be illiterately alliterative, or was that alliteratively illiterate? And I can mix my metaphors too!   I’ll bet I could have a job naming each future feature (see there’s another!) in the upcoming Vintages releases, if I want one.  And yes, I AM trying to stick to my resolution to be nice!
For the Jan.05 release, the VRSS is low at 62 points.
The Picks
All Reds, no whites or fizzies make the grade this time around.

Finca VillaCreces Pruno 2010 - Steel toed boots, elbow pads and mouth guards may be called for when you go for this one - At $19.95 and from just next door to the renowned Vega Sicilia in the Duero, the Parker review quoted in the Vintages catalogue says you could pay from $75 up to $150 for a wine of this quality.  It is a WoM (wine of the month) so there should be lots but watch out, with a Parker review like this one I expect  they’ll be blowing out of the stores. If you buy a box, don’t hesitate to let it rest for a bit.  If the wine is as good as the review, kudos to the Vintages buying team for managing to pull this one off. If it’s not as good , well  I’ll try to be nice.

El Molet Tinto 2009 –$14.95 The wine was number 33 on the Wine Enthusiasts Top 100 Best Buys for 2012 and best of all it’s buried way at the back on the bottom of a page.  My opinion? This might be a great wine to have when you feel like letting your hair down. “What? It’s Molet not mullet? Oh…..Never mind.” (With apologies to the late Gilda Radner as Emily Litella).

The first release also contains two more of the Food and Drink ‘$17 that should be $15’ wines. One is an Australian with a silly name - Baron von Nemesis Shiraz from Zonte’s Footsteps. Where is the monocle on pack? Recent vintages of this wine score and drink above the price point (and the silly name). It shows lots of black fruit, white pepper and licorice hints while not breaking the bank.

Another good QPR option from OZ should be the Mr. Black’s Little Book ($17.95) from Small Gully, the same folks who delivered the Formula to the Ontario market. If this one matches that for hedonistic pleasure at a reasonable price, then it’ll be worthy of some attention. Being a WoM means there’ll be plenty of it as well.

Terres D’Avignon Reserve des Armoirres 2010 – At $14.95 this gold medal winner should provide ample pleasure for midweek meals,  Friday pizzas, or as an option for a big open house gathering that doesn’t merit you opening one of your higher price point wines. Lots of up front fruit and a slight tannic backbone, it’s ready for immediate consumption.

Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2007 – Past vintages have been pleasant surprises, especially at the price. Another super pizza/ lasagna/ burger wine and very well priced at $13.95.

Charles and Charles Cab Sauv/Syrah 2010 - $15.95 is a good price for this Washington St. collaborative effort. Look for some upfront fruit and in spite of the syrah, a hint of Bordeaux in the tobacco notes.

 Alta Vista Premium Estate Malbec 2010 - $14.95 – A fine inexpensive malbec for those nice warm January days that allow you to fire up the BBQ for burgers.

Thorne Clarke – Shotfire Cab/ Shiraz 2010 – At $24.95, this is getting expensive, especially compared to the two Australian options up above. Is this  $7 better than them? It’ll be very good, but I don’t think so.

The Big Bucks

Our Big Bucks category starts a bit lower than usual just because there are so few over $25 in the release.
La Pieve Barolo 2008- At $28.95, it’s hard to beat this price for a Barolo. You’d have to go to the general list to match it methinks.  A good intro to an early drinking sample of one of the world’s  great wines at a price that won’t break the bank.
Monsanto Chianti Classico 2008 - $29.95 – A previous vintage made the WS Top 100. On its own  I’m not sure the wine was worthy of those previous accolades but it is much better with food than alone, to be sure. Steak Florentine, pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, eggplant parmesan are all better off with it.
Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009 – $34.95 – Your standard Cali cab, always very solid.
Keenan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - $60.95. Out of place in this release? Yes it is but there are benefits to being the big fish in the small pond!

And a new member of the Vintages Essentials has been added – Stags Leap Cellars Napa Cab. Nice wine but expensive ($49.95).  It’s early to say this but the key will be to watch for it as the vintage years begin to change. You can usually get a slight buy (10% off) then.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

December 8th Vintages goes out with a whimper.

After the last two big buck, massive money, terribly taxed, wallet wrecking, dollar discarding delights (see, I can use alliteration to describe the Vintages features too), the December 8th release seems to be an afterthought unless you want some fizz. The good news is there are some really big quantities on order in this release because it’s the only one in December. The bad news? The majority of the big quantities are ‘who cares?’ kind of wines.
Like so many of the 2012 Vintages releases, the December 8th Vintages release is sadly lacking in excitement. The result is the LCBO ends the year with a whimper, not a bang.  The release merits  a VRSS score of 59. There are only 3 wines that are in my both my ‘have to buy’ category and my ‘within my budget’ category.
My Red Picks
Perrin Vacqueyras Les Christins 2010 - $22.95– Broken record time! The Southern Rhone, Vacqueyras, 2010, the Perrin boys – buy it. You’ll like it.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - $19.95 – Nice wine, spicy, lots of cassis notes, hints of cedar.  Priced where the Wynn’s should be. Nice segue, if I do say so myself.
Wynn’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - $24.95 – Always could be recommended on quality, its black fruit and hints of eucalyptus make it a natural for lamb chops,  but too costly.
Foncalieu Reserve du Crouzeau St. Gervais  Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010 $15.95 – Another reasonably priced CdRV from the amazing 2010 vintage, this one has the palate pleasing combination of full on fruit and an almost contradictory dryness.  According to the review, rich stew is called for. Failing his availability ladies  I suggest you try rich Bob.
Cuvelier de Los Andes $21.95 – a WoM so you can buy one, try one, then go back for more if it meets your fancy. With a rare prime rib this’ll be superb. Lots of black fruit and tannic enough to hold its own against the sanguine beef.
Susana Balboa Signature Malbec 2010 - $19.95 – From the queen of Argentine winemakers, this gets an amazing score from Tastings.  I don’t expect it will reach that lofty height in your glass but it will be very good and the two bucks you’ll save on the WoM might as well go in your pocket .
Ninquen Antu  Chilean Mountain Syrah 2010 - $16.95 – Chocolate and coffee and gobs of black fruit. Last couple of vintages I bought were overoaked with lots of heat on the back. Watch for that.
Bodegas Del Abad  Dom Bueno Mencia $15.95 – 92 points, 5 years to age to reach its prime. Worth a try but if you must open it, do let it breathe. See last release’s notes on Petalos for more on what to expect from the mencia grape.
Bodega LAN Crianza 2008 - $15.95 – Well priced, good quality. Bring on the post New Years diet tapas!
Domaine Clavel Bonne Pioche Pic St.Loup 2010 -$19.95 – A new one from the Languedoc that is going to be really food worthy if you’ve served up something in the ‘herbes de provence’ spectrum.
Zonte’s Footsteps – 2010 Sangiovese Barbera – Just because you’re in a place where you can grow some things and make wine from them doesn’t mean you should grow some things and make wine from them.  This wine might an example that.
The Whites
Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay -$14.95 – A good price for the pure expression of Ontario Chard fruit unencumbered by toasted hardwood.
Jim  Barry The Lodge Hill Reisling $19.95 – Excellent producer, from the Clare Valley so think cooler climate (for Oz, not for here)  and extra dry. Should age well.  Blind tasting against some from Europe and Niagara? Sounds like fun.
The Big Bucks
Elderton Ode to Lorraine 2009 –$39.95-  A cab/shiraz/merlot blend delivers a massive wave of black fruits that hits your palate with a Tsunami-like intensity.  Gee, without  hyperbole how would I describe some of these wines? In your glass, opaque; on your palate, oplaque. My own word for teethstaining, mouthfilling , viscous monsters.
Another pair of big Aussies – the 2008 Mitolo Serpico Cabernet at $57.95 will be an enormous glass of spicy, black fruited cabernet. Far less of the eucalyptus that you’d find in say a Coonawarra cab but look for some cedar notes if you can find them under that fruit. The Glaetzer Bishop is equally big but a shiraz, and from 2010 so it’s two years younger than the cab. Think black fruited soy sauce, maybe.  At $39.95, it’s much less expensive. Both these wines used to have/ still have a bit of a cult following. For sure the latter will need  some time to rest before you attack it.
Two reds from BC – Church and State’s Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Burrowing Owl Syrah 2009 are both highly priced and in some circles highly prized. I like them both but have a hard time with the QPR. Church and State has a pair of wineries now open so should you find yourself visiting Victoria and heading to Butchart Gardens, leave yourself time to visit the original  one just up the road from there.    The new Okanagan winery is home to an apparently spectacular tasting bar.  Burrowing Owl?  Better (financed) competition may have taken the bloom off that rose but it’s still very good.  Ageworthy? Not sure about either one.
Stonestreet Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon - $49.95 – Just under my self-imposed ceiling, the reviews for this one read like it should cost many times this price. Watch for the local reviewers take on it – 94 to 96 points is hard to ignore but also hard to live up to!
J.Lohr Hilltop Vineyard Cab Sauv 2009 - $38.95 – Bigger brother to the Vintages Essential J. Lohr  Cabernet, this one’ll provide immediate pleasure and also age for a time. Is it four dollars better than the Stark Conde or one dollar worse than the Elderton blend? Only your palate will know for sure and it’s a somewhat expensive exercise to find out, but I think you’ll be happy with any of them.
Stark Conde Three Pines Jonkershoek Cab Sauv 2008 -$34.95 - a big, brawny cab from one of South Africa’s more respected producers. Has a fine pedigree and although this is a new product so is unfamiliar to me, I have had previous Stark Conde cab vintages and found them a pleasure with anything grilled or roasted.
Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino 2006 - $35.95 – Great price for a great vintage in Brunello.
Poggio Il Castellare Brunello di Montalcino 2006 - $47.95 – I’m not familiar with the producer but oh what a vintage this was. If you’re not sure about your palate but want to try a brunello, go for the one above.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Things we'll never see at the LCBO

Next time someone asks me what I want Santa to bring me for Christmas, I'll just send them here and tell them "I want  the LCBO to do things like this."

BP, don't you know there is no Santa Claus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 24th release - We're in the home stretch - bring the big, big, bucks

Well here we are, November 24th. I know there’s still one more release to come in 2012 but as far as I’m concerned, if the year’s Vintages releases were a horse race, this pre- Christmas release would represent the home stretch to the finish line. I can hear the call now,  “In the lead, it’s Don Mechor on A Chile Breeze, followed closely by  One Big Napa Cab just in front of his stablemates Another Big Napa Cab,  Still Another Big Napa Cab and Biggest Buck Cabby… now here comes The Old Gaucho and Ozzie Oz on the outside as the Canadian horse, Options from Niagara, falls off the pace. As they pound toward the finish, French Fizz surges ahead by a tongue, and speaking of tongues,  Hard Licker in a Beret is gaining ground,  followed closely by the Wee 18 yr old Scot. And as they cross the line the winner is, and the winner is???  It’s just too close to call in a 3 way photo finish among jockeys Mark Up atop ‘Already High Retail’ , Mort Axes riding ‘Ungawdly High Tariffs’  and Hans Offamy-Wallet aboard ‘Conspicuous  Consumption’!”  
Speaking of the latter, again this year the first 25 bottles in this release  have an average price well over $100 each.  I looked at them, dreamt of the lottery and quickly turned the pages to the more plebian choices. If price was no object, the VRSS would be way up there. But price really is an object,  so we’re back to another mediocre 59-64 point range release. However, there are some excellent wines priced in the mid-twenties (and a few even less) that should receive your consideration. I've sorted them in the order I'd buy 'em in both the regular release and the Big Buck but not the biggest buck categories.
Domaine  Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte Lirac 2010- $22.95 Lirac is one of the less appreciated Villages among  the Cotes du Rhone Villages. This is from a great vintage and from a terrific producer, Alain Jaume, as well. This might even be down in price from last year I think. (Gasp, terrific wine, terrific vintage,  terrific producer, down in price – good thing I am sitting down!)
Pierre Amadieu  Romane Machotte Gigondas 2010 $23.95 – I’ll be buying  the Lirac and the Gigondas for sure! The Lirac might be slightly more approachable for immediate consuming, the Gigondas is built more for the long term if you can keep your hands off it.
Rust en Vrede  Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. At $24.95, a superb South African producer and region. Well priced at $24.95 for what I expect to be a big, full cab.
Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – Always very good. Hits the sweet spot on my palate for SavvyBlank. Where are those scallops?
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay $14.95 – Can’t go wrong here. Oaky enough to give you splinters, it’ll be buttery but the fruit shines through and the price is right.
Canonica a Cerretto Chianti Classico Riserva  2007 - $18.95. Well priced Riserva from a great vintage. Could be a good option too I hope!
Small Gully ‘The Formula’ Shiraz 2007 –$18.95 – Still wildly popular in Ontario, the ’06 sold out a few times over. This wine is like the energizer bunny, it just keeps selling and selling!
Ballast Stone Shiraz 2009 – $18.95- From  the Fleurieu Peninsula  of the McLaren Vale, this is a Shiraz  that lets you  taste its proximity to the ocean. Well priced, expect lots of black fruit and some real saline notes of to me, nori to others,  olive tapenade.
Volpaia Chianti Classico 2009 At $23.95, I’ll search out the Cerretto first and hold this one in reserve (not in Riserva, yuk, yuk,)
Descendientes de J. Palacios Petalos 2010. $23.95 From the Biezo region of Spain and made from the Mencia  grape. As I’ve said in the past, if you want the label on your bottle of wine to impress someone, this is the wine for you. The label is Beyond stylish. But it’s also so much more than just a label.  Contents wise, and YMMV, Mencia is Pinacherah to my palate. Hints of Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah are all there. The first vintage I had was spectacular. The last couple of years’ have been harsher and less fruit forward. I laid one down last year. Hmmm, perhaps it’s time to try it and let you know how it fared.
Cicchitti Limited edition Malbec 2008 – Into the $20’s for a Malbec but I like this one. Best served with something dead and red on your plate.
Big Bucks
I refuse to even review the first 18 pages or so of this Vintages release.  The wines there are priced so far out of my league that I just have to laugh. However, there are a few smaller big bucks ones (sort of like jumbo shrimp, I guess)  further back. These ones may be flying slightly under the radar but they also manage to provide wine greatness and slip in under my (feeble attempt to maintain a) $50 ceiling.
Paul Hobbs Crossbarn 2008 - $38.95 – Almost 40 bucks but among the better Cab buys in the release. Not as age worthy as the big boys on the first 20 pages or so but over the next few years this’ll be a great addition to any cellar.
Massena 11th Hour Shiraz 2006 - $48.95 – and should be drinking impeccably right now but is expensive. If you’re going to spend this much for an Aussie, you might consider the Terlato and Chapoutier in the previous release for three dollars more.
Domaine La Roquete 2010 – $46.95 - From the Bruniers of Vieux Telegraphe fame, this has increased in price at an alarming rate over the last 5 years. The ’05 was superb at less than $35. That said, this is still a smoking wine and I mean that in both the quality and the mesquite-y sense of the word. Look for the smokey nuances combined with lots of fruit on the palate.
Ascheri Pisapola Barolo 2007 – $42.95
Cascina Cucco  Ceratti Barolo 2007 -$39.95
Citille Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino - $39.95 – These last three all need to be taken to a quiet, cool dark place and forgotten for a number of years. And then, maybe five Christmases from now, go find them, pick one and consider pulling the cork. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy Imbibing One and All!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vintages November 10th release - Ka-ching!

Nov 10 Vintages release - Festive Finds and Piedmont's progress. If it wasn't for alliteration, could the LCBO describe their vintages releases?
This one is usually among the bigger and often  better releases of the year so let’s see what 2012 holds for us. My first thought? If nothing else many of these prices  prepare you for even more sticker shock to come in the next release! That said, I did manage to find some sub $17 wines for your Christmas house warming party, sudden guests,  or to accompany simple grilled meat  and salad when you can’t face more rich food. There are also some sub $30 wines that’ll look, and more especially, taste good in any cellar. As well, I have succumbed to the siren song of a few of the entries in the Big Bucks section. Many of these latter ones are admittedly well over my own self imposed $50 ceiling but for those of you with the urge to splurge,  here they are.
This release scores well on the VRSS – largely because of the big buck options that are leading me down the road to temptation – coming in at a new high of 75 points.
**Cathedral Cellars Brut 2009 $16.95 –335 cases -  From a very high quality, well priced South African producer of big reds and chardonnays.
**Cave de Lugny Brut Rose Cremant de Bourgogne $16.95 - 349 cases– Gold medal winner – think fizz at ¼ to 1/3 the price of  Champagne and without the ageworthyness.

**GRAY MONK UNWOODED CHARDONNAY 2011 $19.95 223 cases of 12 from the Okanagan. Look for pure fruit, unencumbered by a preponderance of nasty wood. Turkey this Christmas? Try this!
**CAVE DE LA VIGNE BLANCHE MACON VILLAGES 2010 - $15.95 – 299 cases of 12. Should be a terrific inexpensive white option over the holidays.
DOMAINE DE RIAUX POUILLY FUME 2011 249 cases $21.95
PAZO PONDAL LEIRA ALBARINO 2011 299 cases – Spectacular review and score (95 points) for an acquired taste for $15.95 – It has to be worth a try. Expect a perfumy nose suggesting  pit fruits and a very light on the palate wine. The palate leads more to apple and pear with citrus hints.  I’m not a huge fan of it on its own but it’ll accompany seafood or chicken satays nicely.  

THORNE CLARKE BAROSSA SHIRAZ  2010 1498 cases $21.95 – Can never go wrong with this one. Big and bold, it just says Australia.
WAKEFIELD JARAMAN CABERNET 2010 447 cases $25.95 from a very good producer.
VASSE FELIX CAB MERLOT 2010 334 cases –$24.95 more Bordeaux than  OZ.  Not so ‘in your face fruity’ but still, you do have to think 2003 Bordeaux.
SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK SHIRAZ 2010 $24.95 1024 cases of 6 – A very nice Shiraz, but I prefer the Thorne Clarke shiraz option.
HOGUE RESERVE CABERNET 2007 $29.95 250 Cases - If you enjoyed the recent release of the Hogue Genesis, try this. It’s got all that and more! Yes my bias to Washington St. wines is showing here and it should really just be $25. If you’re not going to hold it for more than a year or two this is a better buy than either of the big buck options from Washington St. in my humble opinion.
Two 2009 Argentina Cabs in a sub $20 duel – LUIGI BOSCA VS KAIKEN ULTRA CABERNET  – The Kaiken has a slight lead on points but also is a couple of $’s more. For immediate to short term future consumption, you can’t go wrong with either one paired to a rare rib roast. Over 800 cases of each.
FAIRVIEW SHIRAZ  2009 $16.95 – South Africa does Shiraz and Syrah oh so well. Fairview manages to match quality and price very nicely.
**DOMAINE DE LONGUE TOQUE GIGONDAS 2010- $29.95 199 cases – Hmm, the Gigondas or the Vacqueyras? Maybe both!
**PIERRE AMADIEU LA GRANGELIERE VACQUEYRAS 2010 - $19.95 399 cases – Fruitier and less tannic (usually) than the Gigondas but longer lived than a Cotes du Rhone Villages.
LA FERME DU MONT  PREMIERE COTES COTES DU RHONE 2009 $15.95 – Right in its drinking window.  Good vintage, good wine  and well priced for a party.
CLOS LA COUTALE CAHORS 2010 - $15.95 – An OK French Malbec (or is that an oaky French Malbec?).  Makes for  an interesting comparison to the single vineyard LA POSTA FROM ARGENTINA at the same price point in this release.
DA VINCI CHIANTI 2010 -$16.95
**BERONIA RIOJA 2007 $18.95**- 1970 cases - Annually a dandy wine at a pretty good price. I checked the past recommendations to get a price history.  In previous releases, the wine leapt up to $19.95 after being previously listed at $17.95. This vintage has split the difference and come back to $18.95. Could it be that the LCBO is actually listening to us? Doubtful,  but the correctives will continue if they deserve them.
BARON DE LAY GRAN RESERVA 2001-$29.95 400 cases - Lots of age on this one for those of you who like their wines with less primary fruit (so smokier, prunier and more leathery).


**LE VIEUX DONJON CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2010 $53.95 –149 cases of 12 so be ready for a fistfight! Always exceptional. With 2010 being a terrific vintage, I expect nothing less than that.  I’ll need to get a couple to keep my vertical going – even though they’re over my $$ limit.
**RENATO RATTI MARCENASCO 2007 $49.95 –229 cases  A spectacularly good Barolo. I committed oenological infanticide on a bottle of the 2005 just so I could share it with my brother and sister in law in BC. It was a big, multilayered spectacular example of the Nebbiolo grape.  I wish I’d kept it longer!
**TWO HANDS BELLA’S GARDEN 2010 – 499 cases of 6 - $64.95 Picking an Australian Shiraz could be a difficult sell, but if the WS decides to reward many years of patient, consistent, Top 100 placements, this could be a good  pick for their Wine of the Year this year. Other wines may have scored higher this year, but have they exhibited such consistent excellence over time? Not many of them!
**DOMAINE DU VIEUX TELEGRAPHE TELEGRAMME 2010 199 cases $46.95 – Named for an old telegraph tower erected in the late 1800’s this estate has a long storied history. Many consider the Vieux Telegraphe to be among the Rhone equivalents to a Bordeaux Premier Cru. Certainly it is among the top half a dozen locations in the Southern Rhone’s best appellation, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The pricing on their top wine ‘La Crau’ has escalated crazily in the last few years. In 2006, I bought bottles of the 2004 release of La Crau in the $40’s at most. Now it’s around $80! Segue alert! In the mid eighties, the success of the Brunier family led them to  buy up another estate in the appellation (now called la Roquète) and to also produce a second label for VT, Telegramme. The latter is sold at a reduced  price from La Crau, but is still pretty highly priced for CNdP. While very good, Telegramme is produced from younger vines from the same vineyards as La Crau. Younger of course depends on your perspective. These younger  vines are all at least 20 years old. It is a very nice wine and to buy the ‘first’ release of it in Canada holds some cachet I suppose. However, it is in 4th place on my BIG BUCKS list, and I haven’t yet reviewed the Nov.24th release to see what temptations await me there!  Ahhh, so many wines, so few dollars!
**FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA DIRECTOR’S CUT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - $34.95 449 cases of 12  – After looking at the previous 4 wines,  the ‘Price –Quality’ equation  tips slightly in your favour here. Well as much in your favour as it can ever be when shopping at the LCBO. Lamb? Beef? On its own? It’s excellent.
TERTULIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 $33.95 199 cases From the H3 Vineyard in Washington St., this one is an unknown quantity to me. The review reads like it’ll be a sophisticated midweight cab  with mature fruit and herbs but not a fruit bomb. Too bad it’s not 4 bucks less. For those  4 bucks a bottle, I’ll stick with the known, if somewhat simpler, Hogue Reserve.
CORTE PAVONE Brunello di Montalcino 2006 -$49.95 449 cases of 6 – Spectacular vintage in Brunello and all of Tuscany really, given a 96 point score by the post WS version of James Suckling, this one is to be laid down and avoided for a few years at the very least.
JONATA TODOS RED 2008 $59.95
DIAMANDES DE UCO GRAN RESERVE $39.95 – 498 cases of 6 - Huge-mongous, yes I said huge-mongous,  malbec for that, served oh so rare, Christmas Prime Rib roast.
ABBONA BAROLO 2004 $47.95
TERLATO AND CHAPOUTIER LIEU DIT MALAKOFF -999 cases of 6 $51.95 – My opinion is that this is a funny one for the Vintages team to sell. It’s a terrific wine and is universally praised  for its level of  sophistication. Think of it as a wine  labeled from OZ but actually travelling incognito from a hot year in the Rhone. On the plus side, it’s a single named vineyard offering. The stickler is that it’s produced in Central Victoria and not the McLaren Vale or Barossa. As a result,  I can see it going on sale in a few months due to lack of interest. Previous vintages released here have suffered that fate and I think the same’ll happen here.  In  the $40’s it was a hard sell. Over $50? I don’t think it’ll move. Look for it to be marked down to $37.95 sometime next year. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oct.27th Vintages release - Bored Oh and I rant again!

The October 27th Vintages release focuses on Bordeaux 2009 and a few smaller California vineyards. But let’s take a minute to ignore them and review one of the ‘Food and Drink’ specials. Remember our friends at the monopoly buy these wines in industrial quantities, anywhere from 2000 to 5000 cases, and tout them as something special for you. The  LENA DI MEZZO RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2009 is one of them now for sale at $17.00. My first thought was ‘Hey wasn’t this out earlier this year?’ Well, yes the previous vintage was in the March 31st 2012 Vintages catalogue. The wine is now being foisted on the unsuspecting public for a dollar and 5 cents more than the previous vintage. So while Dalton** freezes wages in the public sector, his minions at the LCBO can blithely go ahead and jack up prices like they’re in some Sam Walton wet dream! It’s beyond crazed. Oh and in the review, that previous vintage was a point better. So let’s summarize:
  • Canadian dollar vs the Euro?  Stronger.
  • Wine quality? Weaker.
  • Quantity purchased (one would think for a massive volume discount)? Huge, but apparently no discount, at least not to the buying public!
  • Price? More expensive!  
  • Lubricant used? eeeYow, Not the way I feel! 

How stupid does the LCBO think we are?  Folks, not since the first $15 specials have these Food and Drink ‘specials’ been truly special. Boycott them until they  become something truly special again!

Now on to the release. Bordeaux holds little charm for me and the California wines are over priced. But that’s not to say this is a bad release – just MOTS from the LCBO. The VRSS is 62. There are options to tempt your tastebuds.
** Written before he flew the coop.

2009 MEERLUST CABERNET SAUVIGNON - $24.95 ooops $28.95– I expect big things here.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 91 pts
CONCHA Y TORO TERRUNYO BLOCK 27 CARMENERE 2009 – To my palate, the Terrunyo brand is always the best value and  among the best quality of all Chilean wines. This one is no exception and although it’s not cheap, you’ll find terrific enjoyment served with rack of lamb or rare beef. Terrunyo tier of wines never exhibit the green and brown flavours I get from some Carmeneres or other Chilean reds  - very hard to beat.
2010 PERRIN & FILS L'ANDÉOL RASTEAU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES - $19.95 From the Perrin family of the Rhone, an excellent, if somewhat expensive Cotes du Rhone named village. On par with Perrin’s Cairanne and Vinsobres offerings but for some reason a couple of bucks more. Save yourself two dollars and buy them first but if they’re sold out, go for this one.

94 points – James Halliday (Australian Wine Companion) so take the score and subtract  3 or 4 but a terrific producer and a big wine for sure! For the $5 savings,  it gets the nod over the Brave Faces.

2011 TWO HANDS BRAVE FACES - $29.95 – Another from the Two Hands team. A GSM to match up to anything from the Southern Rhone… always very good.

2008 MARCHESE ANTINORI TIGNANELLO ESTATE CHIANTI  CLASSICO RISERVA $29.95 (499 cases of 12)  Formerly known as Tenute Marchesi Antinori' Chianti Classico Riserva, this is now taking advantage of the awareness of the Tignanello brand. Look for this one to climb in price over the next few years for no other reason than it is Tig’s baby brother. Ahh I’m such a skeptic. The Wine Advocate gave it 91 points stating “presents a dark, almost saturated color. It is a bigger, fatter wine packed with super-ripe, jammy plum, raisin and licorice flavors on a structured frame of notable power as well as length”


2010 WYNNS COONAWARRA SHIRAZ  $22.95  (503 cases of 12)

2010 LECONFIELD COONAWARRA MERLOT  $22.95 (191 cases of 12) Awarded a bunch of medals and trophies from the various Australian wine shows.

2008 LANGMEIL BLACKSMITH BAROSSA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON $24.95  (255 cases of 12) – 89 points from both RP and WS, 91 from WE

CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2009 $21.95 – a rerelease of the popular Michel Rolland blend. Big, bold and excellent with anything red or grilled or any combination thereof.

SANTA CAROLINA RESERVE DE FAMILIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 – Well priced at $17.95 this is an excellent wine for the money. Open early or decant to allow the air to hit it, then serve with anything grilled or roasted.

2010 HECHT & BANNIER MINERVOIS - $19.95 Ah yes, another very good wine but if you want to save a couple of bucks there are better options available for less at the time of this writing. Look for the Millegrand from this same area or perhaps one of the Perrin southern Rhone named Villages (Vinsobres, Cairanne)  a few releases back

2010 DELAS FRÈRES SAINT-ESPRIT CÔTES DU RHÔNE - $15.95  (349 cases of 12) As good a price as we seem to be able to get for a terrific vintage from the Rhone.

2009 ROCCA DELLE MACIE TENUTA SANT’ALFONSO CHIANTI CLASSICO $21.95  (379 cases of 12)Bruce Sanderson gives it 90 pts “Black currant, violet, black cherry and licorice aromas and flavors take on a salty tang as this red develops on the palate. Ripe and rich, with dense tannins on the long aftertaste. Best from 2014 through 2020.

CHATEAU SENEJAC $28.95 A lower level Pontet Canet

2009 CHATEAU LESTRUELLE CRU BOURGEOIS - $18.95  (1,499 cases of 12)
WS 90 pts “Nicely toasty, with vanilla and espresso notes up front, but the core of raspberry, blackberry and boysenberry fruit rushes in behind it, with a long, licorice-filled finish.  Should settle in nicely.  Best from 2012 through 2017.  


 a solid core of ripe apple and apple blossom aromas and flavors, mixing with hints of anise and smoke, with a nut note that lingers on the modest finish. Crisp and fresh overall. Drink now. 6,500 cases made. –AN  89 points – Robert Parker


 2009 DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE LA CRAU CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE - $79.95 Wine Spectator James Molesworth 94 pts “This is crammed with fruit, spice and structure, as braised fig, plum skin, cassis and anise notes wrestle with roasted apple wood, melted red licorice and tar for now. The embedded grip should carry the finish until this assimilates fully. Best from 2014 through 2024.  

LINDAFLOR MALBEC 2007 $42.95 – From the Uco Valley, this is a massive offering. I believe the wine was at least co-vinified with Michel Rolland. If you like the Clos de los Siete, think of this as its bigger, bustier, more experienced sister who just returned by way of Paris from a summer in Australia.

2009 TENUTA SETTE PONTI CROGNOLO TOSCANA  $32.95  (349 cases of 12) NOTE: This wine marks the second label of Oreno.

2010 TENUTA SAN GUIDO  GUIDALBERTO TOSCANA  60% Cabernet  Sauvignon, 40% Merlot  $47.95  (199 cases of 6)  Guidalberto, the second wine of the iconic Sassicaia estate.

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS ARTEMIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 $51.95 – Here’s a conundrum, and I don’t mean the wine. Well I do mean the wine but not that wine, this wine. It scored 82 points from the WS and 95 from WE. How can there be 13 points difference between two educated palates? I’ll split the difference and guess we’ll be getting something closer to 90 than to 80, but 90 points for $52 is still not great QPR.

HAUTS DE PONTET CANET $ 54.95 – Second wine of Pontet Canet.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oct. 13 - OZ and Chile get the cover but Italy gets the picks

5 Australian Artisanal wine  producers  and new  Chilean Hot spots are the focal points this week.  On the Aussie front, the optimist in me says “Cool, the LCBO is on the leading edge, finding both small but high quality producers who march to the beat of their own drummer  and new regions of exciting wine production.” The skeptical pessimist in me says,”Who are these guys and how much are their wines really worth?” Since we can’t find many of their wines anywhere else, we can’t get a real feel for the markups we’re being exposed to. So unlike the bigger international names, we don’t know how really badly we’re getting hosed.  I suppose the reality is somewhere on a scale between the optimist and the pessimist, but I’ll let you all decide for yourselves just where you think you are on that scale.
And speaking of scales, for the Aussie wines it would appear the tasters doing the reviews are using two different scales. Certainly the more generous scores are those of  James Halliday who is somewhat infamous for his high point  scores for Australian wines. Is it patriotism, or perhaps  he just really  likes the Aussie style?  Anyhow if you must have a number take his reviews with a grain of salt and subtract a minimum of 3 points.  This is also a good process to follow with some well known local reviewers of Ontario red wine too.
For the Chileans, I like the look of two whites which are outlined below. 
The VRSS this week is as good as most have been lately, which is to say mediocre,  barely over 60 points.  Both the whites and the reds that interest me are just that, interesting.  Certainly none are compelling.
MAZZEI SER LAPO 2007 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA – $24.95 - 95 points from Suckling means this WoM will blow out quickly in spite of the usual big WoM quantities. In general  the reviews in Cellar Tracker and other wine sites are positive but not quite so numerically  effusive.  In his printed review  Suckling wastes so few  words in describing  the wine’s  flavour profile that he comes across as almost  Gary Cooperesque.  I picture him slurping, spitting, squinting, stating (pause) “I’m 95 on that.”, then  riding off into the sunset. Oh, in a rented, bright red convertible, not on a horse. I will buy one or two to see if they’re up to the score.  2007 was a terrific vintage in Tuscany but this review was also from Suckling’s post Wine Spectator days, when he became more of a marketer for himself and seemingly the wineries he reviews.
SASSO AL POGGIO 2006 - $18.95 – I always have grave concerns when the LCBO comes up with a wine from someone’s Top 100 a year after the printed review was published, especially one priced and scored so well. But let’s wait and see on this one. If the wine is good enough but does not get locally reviewed it could be the sleeper in this release hidden as it is so far back and letting that big scoring  WoM gather all the attention.
MASI GRANDARELLA 2008 – $24.95 - Want an Amarone without the full Amarone price tag? This could be it.  Use of non allowed grapes means it can’t wear the name but it is there in most other ways. A very good wine.  Dry, and yet also fruity. Very worthy  if you enjoy that style, methinks.
FLECHAS DE LOS ANDES GRAN MALBEC 2009 - $21.95 – A very tasty, big steak wine, or is that a big, very tasty steak wine? If you need to bring a wine to a BBQ, you can’t go wrong here.
JEAN LUC COLUMBO LES FEES BRUNES CROZES HERMITAGE 2009 $24.95 – Syrah from a nice vintage and producer.
GUARDIAN PEAK SMG2009 – $19.95 - A South African take on the Southern Rhone blend .
PAXTON SHIRAZ GRENACHE 2010 - $19.95- McLaren Vale fruitiness means instant enjoyment for a well priced red blend.
LAN GRAN RESERVA 2004 - $27.95– A food wine with some age on it, built for roast meats or tapas. A very high quality and consistent producer,  this wine’ll accompany almost anything on a plate.   Black olives, saganaki, spanakopita (yes I know they’re Greek not Spanish),  Serrano ham wrapped fingerlings with cheese, dry rubbed ribs, grilled red meats or chicken….mmm!
Two White wine Chileans catch my eye and perhaps my palate. The CASA LAPOSTOLLE 2011 CHARDONNAY at $24.95 and the well scored single vineyard Leyda  Sauvignon Blanc 2011 at $16.95.  The latter is described as having received a perfect score of 5 stars from Decanter.  A note to the proof readers at Vintages, 5 stars is not necessarily perfect, just exceptionally good.
Two Cotes du Rhones from Caves de Rasteau should be very tasty - either one will provide pleasure. I’d stick with the ’09 and save your $$’s.
O. FOURNIER ALPHA CRUX 2004 – $41.95 - Loads of everything in this one. The wine is expensive but at eight years old is also nicely ensconced in its drinking window so it’ll give lots of pleasure immediately. Did someone say rare prime rib?
MARCHESI DI BAROLO 2006 - $34.95 – Well priced, well scored for a bigger than some Barolo. Lay it down for a year or two, then serve with roast game. More subtle and sophisticated than many of this week’s other  picks.
ORNELLAIA LE VOLTE 2010-$29.95 –  Ornellaia’s third wine but the name Ornallaia that says it all.
THREE RIVERS RED 2009 - $19.95 – At this price  point it’s another of the same from Washington St. in a blend that’ll provide enjoyment  if not sophistication  during late season BBQs.
COUDOULET DE BEAUCASTEL 2010 - $29.95 – When is a Cotes du Rhone not a Cotes du Rhone? When it’s from the famed Beaucastel winery.  Priced up there with some Gigondas this is a serious, laying down and giving it some  time  kind of wine. Tannins abound and early on can almost overwhelm.  Not your mother’s Cotes du Rhone for sure!
SPICE ROUTE CHAKALAKA 2009 – $24.95 With a name like this you can’t take the wine too seriously and that’s as it should be. This wine is a blend of 6 grapes so think of it as a party with 6 of your most boisterous friends.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sept.29th, Tuscany and Turkey

This release focuses on Tuscany, Thanksgiving, and Pinot Noirs from Oz and NZ. If I was independently wealthy, I might think this is a pretty good release. I’m not, so I think it has a few high points but overall, I’m a little let down. We’re not yet to Thanksgiving on the calendar and already you can see the prices climbing at your friendly, local LCBO Vintages section. Is it just my imagination or is Christmas coming early for our friends at the monopoly?  
 I understand the global interest in Tuscany means the wines do not come cheap but while the Tuscan focus is an interesting cross section of the various DOCGs and IGTs available, the majority find themselves in my Big Bucks category.

The Aussie/NZ Pinots, I can take or leave, so I’ll mostly leave them and the Thanksgiving feature has pretty pictures of food and wines to match but not much else going for it.

Must I buy much from this release? Nope. And a few of the ones I must buy are over my ceiling so I mustn’t buy them. There are just enough must buys to give it a VRSS score of 58.

A comment here, one of the nicest wines for summer sipping is a good, well priced Vinho Verde. It’s no longer summer but now we finally get one! Earth to the LCBO – timing is everything!
TWO SAUVIGNON BLANCS from NZ – the Babich Black Label ($17.95) and the Dog Point ($21.95) are both an excellent accompaniments to  seafood and shellfish.

SIMONSIG CHENIN AVEC CHENE 2009 - $28.95 – Want something a little different to try with your turkey? Go for this South African Chenin Blanc. It’ll be oaky and not cheap but high quality. Actually,  if you can still find some of the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc from the July release, save yourself $11.00 and buy it.


TOSCOLO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 - $24.95 – I’m a sucker for a really good  C C R from a great vintage. Here we are.
MICHELE SATTA BOLGHERI ROSSO 2009 - $19.95 – From the producer of two of my favourite Italian wines (Piastraia and Cavaliere), this is the lone sub $20 offering worthy of inclusion and it makes it here on Satta’s name alone for now.
RUFFINO MODUS 2008 - $28.95 – This might not be quite up to the last two years’ efforts but is still a very good option.
DEI VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2008 - $28.95 – Dark fruits, some licorice or anisette, an OK wine.

LUCA MALBEC 2009 $29.95 – On the heels of the last release’s Luca Chardonnay selection comes another from the Catena family of wineries and fine wines. The LUCA wines promote regional terroir and reflect the high quality we’ve come to expect from Catena. This is annually a very good example of Argentina’s steak wine capability if a little pricey.  
CATHEDRAL CELLARS TRIPTYCH 2008 - $16.95 – Very good producer of crowd pleasing, quality wines. This one a blend of the big three reds – Cab sauv, Shiraz and merlot that’ll provide lots of pleasure around a late season BBQ of burgers or brats (sausages that is, not misbehaving children).
FINCA FLICHMAN PASAIJE DE BARRANCAS 2009 - $17.95 – Typically Argentina, with big flavours that require equally big grilled red meat. They found a great review.
BEAULIEU VINEYARDS BV CAB SAUV 2009 - $25.95 – Slightly more Bordeaux than Napa in style but $25.95? C’mon, you can do better than that!
HOGUE GENESIS MERLOT 2008 $18.95 - Stimmell likes it which means it’ll be a pleasant, simple wine for early fall BBQ’s. Price wise, this should be $15.95 or less.
CHATEAU MAISON BLANCHE 2009 $19.95 – BP recommends a Bordeaux! Are those hogs hovering outside your second story window? Well priced and a terrific review. Give it lots of air if you open it soon, otherwise, let it rest for a time.
LES VIGNES BILA- HAUT COTES DE ROUSILLON VILLAGES 2010 $14.95 – Expect to be pleasantly surprised by this one, in a Cotes du Rhone Villages kind of way. Is it a 92-94 point wine? Nah, but you won’t regret it with grilled souvlakis, burgers or rotisseried chicken. Your problem will be finding it. At this price and with that Parker score, it’ll be gone in a flash.
DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2009 $24.95 – As I’ve said before, I love reading those David Schildknecht reviews and this wine gets a recommendation just so you might read his review. They always contain snooty, over the top wine vernacular that is impossible not to like. Malolactic fermentation meets William F Buckley if you will.  Anyhow, back to the wine. This Chapoutier offering  has jumped in price over the last few years and it’s my opinion that quality-wise, what’s in the bottle  doesn’t merit the increase. And don’t let the LCBO tell you it’s due to currency fluctuations. A year ago a Cdn dollar bought 4.8 francs, now it’ll buy anywhere  between 5.2 and 5.4. This should be in the $19.95 range. My recommendation? Forget this and buy more of the $19.95 Gigondas that was in the previous release.
XAVIER COTES DU RHONE 2010 - $15.95 – Another ‘whatever happened to $12.95 Cotes du Rhones?’ wine from the stellar 2010 vintage. (See Canadian dollar vs. French Franc above.)

Welcome to Tuscany my friends!
PIAN DELLE VIGNE 2006 – $59.95 - From a terrific vintage in Brunello and from a family whose life is steeped in the tradition of Tuscan winemaking.  This one provides a real temptation to ignore my self imposed $ ceiling on wine. Fruitier than many and more receptive in its youth, this is always a smashingly good wine.
SILVIO NARDI 2007 BRUNELLO -$41.95 – This’ll need time to soften and open, but is well priced for a Brunello.
LIVIO SASSETTI 2005 BRUNELLO - $39.95 – Not up to ’06 and ’07 Vintage wise, but perhaps better grapes than normal because no reserve wine was made during this vintage. Again, time is required so lay it down or open with your morning coffee to serve with supper.
POGGIO AL TESSORO SONDRAIA 2008 - $44.95 – Made the WS Top 100 last year, this Bordeaux blend from Tuscany is a worthy  cellar candidate.
JACOPO BIONDI SASSOALLORO 2008 – $35.95 - Black fruits predominate in this IGT blend.
TENUTA SETTE PONTI ORENO 2009 - $71.95- A glowing review from Galloni marks this one as a must have if you have the bucks.
FREEMARK ABBEY CABERNET 2008 -  A terrific cab, under $40 if just, the written review finds red fruit which I think is unusual for Napa. I usually find it much blacker – bing cherries into black currants with cedar.
CATENA ZAPATA NICASIA VINEYARD MALBEC 2008 – $89.95- A single vineyard offering from the famed La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in the Mendoza this should be a smashing wine. But, it’s way over my price ceiling. Damn, where’s that winning lottery ticket?
LA CRAU DE MA MERE CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2010 - $44.95 – Spices, cherry and licorice from a terrific vintage. Make a note and remember this one. It  may be worth holding out for a future markdown.

And don't miss Paso man in the previous blog entry!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paso Man on variety...

Does a man  have only one life? Yes. One wife? Occasionally. One wine? Preposterous!

Do I smell grass? Charcoal? Church Bingo?

Real men aren't afraid of the tinting of a gorgeous juice. Real men fear only unrequited love, the road not taken, and clowns....

Your glass is waiting. It's full ........ of possibilities.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sept.15th - The Ontario Focus

As the season moves to cooler evenings and shorter days we finally get a release that has an interesting selection of wines with a combination of quality and variety. In spite of the release’s singular Ontario focus and the accompanying provincial navel gazing, this is among the more attractive releases of the summer.  It comes in at 68-72 points on the VRSS and could go higher.  Based on past experience, my top white wine choice in the release is the somewhat expensive Luca G Lot (not Spot) Chardonnay 2010. From vineyards up to 5000 ft above sea level in Argentina, previous vintages were among the best Chards ever for me but at $27.95, this isn’t cheap.  From the Ontario focus, two other chards also get a nod – the Lailey and the JT Delaine Vineyard. Both are first rate examples of what Niagara does very well. Neither has the Paskus/ Bachelder winemaker name on them but bang for the buck, they're hard to beat!  Unfortunately, if you feel the need to drink Ontario reds you will have to look elsewhere for  recos because you won’t find any here. I will say that I am hoping for a nice, long, hot, dry, autumn so that our merlot, syrah and cab sauvs can develop more dark fruit flavours and at least for this year, our winemakers can get away from the greens and browns (pepper/ tobacco and tomato leaf/ stems) I find so prevalent in Ontario reds.  Merlot that tastes like Cab Franc is just not my cuppa. Assuming a good fall, maybe, just maybe Ontario Vintage 2012 red wine could appear in future recommendations after this smoking hot summer. Style wise and in flavour profile, I don’t expect Napa but the Okanagan would be nice!
That said, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the following global red choices. Most are unfortunately over the $20 mark, again reflecting the LCBO’s belief that we’ll spend more for wine than we should have to spend.
Best of the Release
Pick #1 (tie) LA FONT DES GRIÈRES GIGONDAS 2009 $19.95 – 299 cases – A Gigondas for under $20 at the LCBO? Really? That’s not a typo? Short term ageworthy but with air it’ll be good right away as well.
Pick #1 (tie) COLUMBIA CREST H3 LES CHEVAUX  2009 $20.95 – 231 cases – A pick in spite of it being another LCBO ‘double up’ on a $10 release from Columbia Crest’s H3 Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills) , this blend often has Merlot predominating (2009 is either 80% or 34% merlot). It’s my opinion that the Columbia Crest H3 locations and climate are best suited to merlot so this should be very enjoyable as long as you don’t look at the US pricing. Look for chocolate, black fruit, and smoky vanilla notes from a slightly heavy handed use of oak. BBQ’d ribs anyone?
Pick #2 (tie)  MARCHESI DE FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2009  $21.95 - 1100 Cases – This baby Super Tuscan is always good value for the $$’s and some years it is even a case worthy  purchase. Too many options in and around the same price point reduce that chance this time around. With air this blend can be drunk young, medium, or middle aged. I’m enjoying a case of the 2007 vintage and they  just keep getting better.
Pick #2 (tie) BARBA I VASARI OLD VINES MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO 2008 – $18.95 - 1299 cases - 3 glasses out of 3 from Gambero Rosso for under 20 bucks is about as good as we can ever hope for when dealing with the monopoly.   Spicy black fruit, hints of licorice, long finish and lots will be available.
CHATEAU MILLEGRAND MINERVOIS 2010 $16.95 – 599 cases – A well priced Rhone blend from the Midi, this one could be the sleeper of the release.  Try one early to see if you like it and then keep it a secret! It is close to being a pick.
FERATON PERE ET FILS PLAN DE DIEU 2009 $15.95 – 449 cases – A Cotes Du Rhone Villages from the  somewhat underappreciated ‘village’ Plan de Dieu, I’m expecting this one to deliver big things for the price. Shouldn’t be more than $14.95 but vino per $ ratio is still in your favour here.
WYNN’S COONAWARA ESTATE CAB/SHIRAZ/MERLOT $19.95 – 383 cases – Priced where the Wynn’s Estate Cab Sauv used to be and should still be, expect a real mouthful here. Black fruit and hints of eucalyptus make it a natural pairing with lamb chops. If my mood changes, this could even improve to be a ‘pick’.
LUIGI BOSCA SINGLE VINEYARD MALBEC 2009 – 559 cases - $21.95 Red meat meet Luigi Bosca. Luigi, meet red meat. ‘nuff said.  I’m not sure the single vineyard designation is worth the extra few bucks over the Bosca Reserva but if you are an Argentine aficionado, perhaps it is.
BARON RICASSOLI ROCCA GUICCIARDA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009   $24.95 - 599 cases – I like this wine. It’s not a big, viscous wine but is terrific with food. We had a bottle of this vintage a few weeks ago while in Quebec and it was a great accompaniment to both a cheese fondu as well as a Chinese fondu combination of sliced Duck breast and Bison meat. The latter 2 were fabulous by the way so guess who might have that to look forward to next time we do Chinese fondu at home!
BODEGA LAN RESERVA 2007 $21.95 – 549 cases – A Rioja that loves food and the food loves it right back. Seeing this price I wish I’d bought more of the 1500ml bottles when they were on sale for $29.95 after Christmas.  LCBO note  -  that price ($29.95) tells me where this wine really should be priced.
MEERLUST MERLOT 2008 – Only 39 cases of 12 at $25.95, this should be a terrific wine from the Stellenbosch region (some say the best wine region in South Africa). It’s an ISD so it’ll be in short supply and in few stores. If you see it, try one.
ROLF BINDER HALES 2009 SHIRAZ – $20.95 599 cases – The entry level wine from an excellent producer of Southern Australian wines. Big, bold, and black purple, expect black fruit, pepper and strong tapenade, nori notes on a long finish.  The 95 point score is just silly but is liable to have points chasers out in force. The wine is good but not that good so if you can’t find any, don’t lose sleep. There are others just as good in the release!
GEMMA BAROLO 2007 – 299 cases - $29.95 – very well priced Barolo and well scored to boot. Everything that applies to the Gattinara below applies to this wine except for the goofy bottle!
TRAVALIGNI GATTINARA 2006 $29.95 - 600 Cases – Think of it as a poor man’s Barolo in a goofy bottle (I know, I know, it traps the sediment.) A terrific wine to accompany rustic recipes for braised meats in rich sauces. It’ll need a year or two to begin to soften and even then open it well in advance of serving or better still, decant it.
Some tempting big dollar selections this week too.
MONTEVIEJO 2007 – $33.95 – 199 cases – A big Argentine malbec blend - nearing the top of what I’ll spend for them. Has some age on it but is it really worth that much more than the Bosca malbec?
LILLY’S GARDEN 2010 - $62.95 – 199 cases – Among the best of the Two Hands offerings, the Garden Series entries are often overshadowed by the fabulous Bella’s but this one should be terrific. Over my own self imposed $$ limit unfortunately.
G D VAJRA ALBE BAROLO 2007 –299 cases – Barely into the big buck zone we find another Barolo, this one for $34.95! What’s not to like with that?
RUFFINA DUCALE D’ORO 2007 CHIANTI CLASSICO RESERVA - $43.95 –749 cases of 6 -  Not cheap but as good or better than many a Brunello.  Ageworthy for sure.
COLLOSORBO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 – 599 cases of 6 - Wonderful vintage for Brunello, at $49.95 this one just creeps in under my upper wine levels, price wise.
GIRAMONTE 2008 - $84.95 – 29 cases of 6.  Really? Why bother including it in the release other than to say “Look at us, look at us!”?  This should be an ISD.
BURGESS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005 – $37.95 – 223 cases – There is some age on this one so it should be drinking really nicely. I expect a 90-92 pointer here.
SIGNORELLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - $62.95 – 167 cases – Perennially this is one of Gismondi’s Top 100 Wines.   I would categorize this as less of a fruit bomb than many Napa offerings.
JOSEPH PHELPS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 – Big, big bucks! Even the little bottle is big bucks!
THOMAS FOGARTY LEXINGTON MERITAGE 2006 - $49.95 – 111 cases – Upon release this was categorized as the best ever Lexington. Should now be ready for you to enjoy immediately but not cheap!
CHATEAU MUSAR 2002 $54.95 – With only 74 cases coming in this should also be an ISD but since I’m not a big fan, I don’t care. However Musar is quite well regarded in the wine world so if you want to try a Bordeaux blend from off the beaten path (the Bekka Valley in Lebanon), here you go

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Labour Day? How appropriate because it's hard work finding a decent wine this week.

September 1 means Labour Day is next Monday.  Labour day,  a day to give the working man one last kick at the can that is summer!  The LCBO says “Let’s celebrate Labour Day by selling a bunch of over priced Champagnes!”  It’s  Labour Day! An average price of over $100 on these bubblies doesn’t say working man (or woman) to me!  Delving deeper into the release, the Fall fêtes section is pretty much a waste of paper. I will say that the scallops recipe looks terrific but I might pair it with the inexpensive Spanish Cava ($13.95) or the  DOMAINE DE VAUGONDY BRUT VOUVRAY ($16.95) from this release. The Big and Bold table setting is a laugh – too bad they couldn’t put one of the Big and Bold wines they’re trying to sell on that table!  After fall fêtes comes  the Russian Revelation  (Stop, you’re killing me with your wit!  No wait, let me get even!  I was considering the Pinot but now I’m Lenin towards the chard… or …. Where’s the informational  map of California showing the Russian River Valley with a big Karl over it? Karl Marx the spot.  Bada-boom,  I’m here until Thursday, try the veal). That focus is followed by the Ontario Royal Couple. The wines being sold almost duplicate the Russian River repertoire.  I suppose if you want to compare wines, you could use the two as a basis for that comparison. Failing that, use them to line your birdcage. 
There is nothing in this release that I just have to buy so it comes in at 51 points on the VRSS. I gave a point for the scallop recipe. But, there is some good news …. A few sort of satisfying, ‘$17 and under’ wines are available.  Finally, there’s the nod to the working man!
UNDER  $17
Two  Food and Drink ‘formerly $15 now marked up to $17 specials’ are promoted  like specials but priced  above where they should normally be sold. Both should provide some pleasure but let’s not be fooled into thinking we’re getting a deal here.  The 2008 OSCAR’S ESTATE is an Aussie Cote Rotie blend from a hot vintage in the famous Barossa Valley.  The 2010 CHATEAU DE GALIFAY CAIRANNE is a named village in the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation meaning the bottle should contain wines of a higher quality than the standard CdR or CdRV.  Both reflect the LCBO’s opinion that Ontario wine drinkers will pay more for their wines. Note to the LCBO, we’ll pay more (and already do!!!) but  only if the wines  are worth the extra dollars – these aren’t. For instance,  below is the Wine Align review for the Oscar’s Estate Shiraz. Is a dollop of viognier really worth $4.05 more?  So Buyer beware!

TEDESCHI CAPITEL DEI NICALO APPASIMENTO 2010 – I’ve been a fan for some time. At $15.95 this is pretty well  priced. Great pizza/ lasagna wine!
ZENATO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2010 – At $15.95 I think I’d prefer the Tedeschi, but you can be the judge.
BODEGA LAN CRIANZA 2008 – Gee wasn’t  an earlier vintage of this a Food  and Drink special at $15? Yes but if it’s up to LAN’s usual standards this is OK priced at $15.95.
GERARD BERTRAND ST. CHINIAN SYRAH MOURVEDRE 2009 – $16.95 Terrific producer, this’ll be a smokey, spicy blend.
JEAN LUC BALDES TRIGUEDINA LA CHAPELLE DU CLOS MALBEC 2008 – $16.95 Give it time if you expect  to compare it to an Argentinian Malbec.
SAMPETRIANA VIGNE DEL LA MONACHE RISERVA SALICE SALENTINO 2006 – At $15.95 a 5 star winner in Decanter, this one should be right in its drinking window. Probably needs food.
LEGON CRIANZA 2008 – A 90 pointer from ‘90 points Miller’. Again at $15.95, it’s a good price for a wine that might actually evolve.
BASEL CELLARS M 2007 - $28.95 - Creeping up on the big buck segment but holding under the $30 line this  blend of  Cab Sauv and Merlot should provide sophistication and Washington State fruitiness.  I haven’t tried this one before but might be looking for one or two.
The 2010 D’ARENBERG HIGH TRELLIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON is always good and, unlike many of its siblings has managed to hold the line on pricing . At $19.95 it’s a nice round the BBQ wine.
CASTELLO DI BOSSI C. BERARDENGA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009 at $22.95 might be allright but Mr. Suckling’s reviews seem to have slid over to the wine shill side of the ledger rather than the wine critic side since he left the Wine Spectator so keep that in mind.
Ignoring  the big buck champers  there are a number of more expensive options that might be tempting.
SEBASTIANI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 – Cassis hits big time but too highly priced at $34.95.
WAKEFIELD ST. ANDREWS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 – Wakefield is a wonderful producer of value priced Aussie wines. If you enjoyed their regular releases and want to try taking a (big) step up, try this one at $49.95. Is it 3 times as good as their normal listing?
CASCINA BUSSIA DARDI BAROLO 2006 – Ageworthy and well priced for a great Barolo vintage at $39.95.
BANFI BRUNELLO 2007 – At $59.95, this is out of my self imposed  price range but the quality is always there – needs more than a few years to settle in.
FATTORIA DEI BARBI BRUNELLO 2006- Oft times a bit more approachable in its youth than the Banfi, softer, more fruit forward perhaps.  A terrific vintage and at $41.95, ok priced for a Brunello.