Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February 4th - Cali Cabs for the 1 percenters

The February 4th release is focused on California Cabs which means there’ll be plenty of big wines available at equally big prices. Fiscal Restraint is in order lest you  suffer from the dreaded wallet lightening effect of these oft overrated beverages. There are 10 samples available in this release with an average price of over $60. If you remove the three that are available at under $25, the average price of the remaining 7 jumps to a staggering $77. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Ironically, and I really do think our friends at the LCBO do have a sense of irony in these time of ‘fiscal responsibility’, the other focus this week is Greece. Those of you who don’t get it should read the newspapers more often. The wines available have an average price of $17.80.

Enough about the politics of finances (or was that the finances of politics?), on with the picks!


Jackson Triggs Entourage Silver Series Methode Classique 2006 - $22.95 – I oft times shy away from Ontario wines with showy scores from local reviewers (call it a Canadian equivalent to the James Halliday effect) but I think this one might actually merit both good reviews.

Cordoniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava - $14.95 – A Spanish specialist in fizz, the price gives it the nod over the Cremant de Limoux.


MMMMMMmmmm, Not this week.


Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2007 – $15.95 - Ready for immediate consumption, this one has come down in price over the last few years. Yes I know it’s because the Canadian dollar has appreciated against the Yankee greenback (see paragraph 3 above). One of the better buys in the release from a Washington State producer of consistent high quality.

Maycas Del Limari Especial Reserva 2007 – $19.95- This one also should be right in its drinking window, from my second favourite Chilean region.

Epsilon Shiraz 2009- $24.95 – I’m picking this one on its track record over the Stone Dwellers but just by a hair. And The Stone Dwellers is 5 bucks less and is one of the WoMs so there’ll be plenty of it anyhow.

The Best of the rest

Of all the California Cabernets, my pick is the Hall but it’s $59.95. Note to the LCBO, I’m not made of money and it is only February! Interestingly the 2007 is on sale in Buffalo for $39.09 ( the ’08 is $42.49). Yes, more than 40% less at a  3 store operation 1 hour away from me. Aren’t we lucky to have the LCBO buying power or we might be paying 50- 60- 70 % more! What’s wrong with that picture?

Of the rest from California, if you must have one and don’t have a huge bank account try the Sebastiani or the Dry Creek. Both have good track records for quality and consistency. I’m not buying either one. I’ll go for the aforementioned merlot and the Maycas de Limari. I expect big things there.

Lavau Vacqueyras 2009 - $19.95 – Should be good and if you want to compare it to a Gigondas, the same producer’s is (gasp) on sale at almost the same price. Try ‘em both!

M. Chapoutier Petite Ruche Crozes Hermitages 2009 - $22.95 – Rack of Lamb in your future? Here’s the wine to serve.

There is a quartet  of Malbecs from Argentina - sorted in price
Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2010 - $13.95 – Always good especially at that price point.

La Posta Angel Paulucci Vineyard Malbec 2008 - $15.95 – A burger on the bar-b kind of wine.

Don Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Malbec 2008 $17.95 – My introduction to Argentinian Malbec 5 or 6 years ago. It was good then and still is but other producers have surpassed them.

And one new one that received 92 points from Jay 'Call me 90' Miller is the most expensive of the malbecs at $22.95, the Deceros Remolinos Vineyard 2008 is worth investigating too.

Last but not least, try the South African Barista Pinotage if you like your wine with a coffee flair – otherwise nahhh.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jan.21 - Australia and Lesser Knowns make the Vintages Lineup

It’s time for OZ again and if I recall correctly, I complained about the Vintages Australian release not having enough GSM’s last year. Was someone at the LCBO reading me? This year’s Aussie release has a number of them, across price points from under $18 to almost $35. That’s good news boys and girls! Even better is we have a number of old world GSM blends with which to compare them in this release. That’ll make doing an ‘Old world vs. new world’ throwdown even easier!

Also in the release are wines from 6 relatively under appreciated grapes. Some are quite well known, others, perhaps not so much. A few make it into my picks below.

My Top Three (ok, there are 4)

HECHT & BANNIER ST-CHINIAN 2009 A terrific score and a review from David Schildknecht that reads like a Harlequin romance novel. The only thing missing was sweating, heaving bosoms. An excellent producer, how do you pass up a wine with a ‘resonant, baritonal finish’? I expect it to have me singing, especially at this price $23.95

LUCA LABORDE DOUBLE SELECT SYRAH 2009 A smokin’ Argentinian to compare to the Aussies in this release. Great producer, Laura Catena is from arguably the first family of Argentinian wine, and it’s well priced at $22.95

TORBRECK CUVÉE JUVENILES 2009 $29.95 – This is priced where the Penfolds Bin series should be. This’ll be comparable to a Gigondas or CdP but with an Aussie palate

JIM BARRY THE LODGE HILL SHIRAZ 2009 $24.95 – Another wonderful wine from a terrific producer. The Clare valley is a cooler climate so this will not be a Barossa fruit bomb but a very good (and still big) wine.

The Best of the Rest (and they are all excellent)

DOMAINE DE CABASSE GIGONDAS 2007- $29.95 – Oh so close to the top four, this should be coming into its drinking window right about now. I'm not sure why Molesworth says best before 2011.

DESCENDIENTES DE J. PALACIOS PÉTALOS 2009 – Made from the Mencia grape in the ‘still under the radar’ region of Bierzo in Spain, I think ‘Pin-ache-yrah when I taste this wine. Some Pinot noir notes, some Grenache and hints of syrah are all there. This wine was ranked #26 on the 2011 Wine SpectatorTop 100. Readers might remember my anticipation for last year’s release of this wine and my disappointment in it. Harsh almost astringent and too drying on the finish. Watch for that in this year’s because it won't go away with time. But, this year’s appears to be back on track based on the accompanying review, and is well priced at $22.95. Also, if you buy a wine for its label, this has one of the most stylistic ones going.

Turkey Flat SGM 2009 - $19.95 –Ignore the 94 from Halliday, he’s always too high – 90 points from LPB – but this’ll also be a tasty Aussie take on a Rhone blend at a very good price.

EDGE WINES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 - Last year's was pretty tasty. Not cheap compared to the Wakefield but for Napa, this is close to a bargain! $27.95

WAKEFIELD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 $17.95 – Good value for the price always from Wakefield.

HEWITSON MISS HARRY 2009 $23.95 – worth a try.

PIRRAMIMMA PETIT VERDOT 2008 – One of my go to producers from OZ. Chocolate and black cherry and in the past big, bold licorice flavours. $26.95

Five Red Cheapies
SISTER’S RUN SHIRAZ 2009 - $15.95 – A bargain and reads like a Pia wine if ever there was one!

ALAMOS MALBEC 2010 – At $13.95, the bargain in the release.



CONCHA Y TORO SERIE RIBERAS GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - $14.95 – A new product line from a consistent, high quality, producer. Fire up the BarBQ - Burgers anyone?

The Big Bucks entries

PETER FRANUS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - $45.95 - For a Napa Cab this is pretty well priced - scary huh?

BERONIA GRAN RESERVA 2001 - $32.95 – The big brother to the always terrific Beronia reserve, at 11 years old this one has some age on it. If you want an older wine for a special meal, this is the ticket.

PENFOLDS BIN 138 GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/ MOURVÈDRE 2009 $34.95 – I’m a big believer that the BIN series from Penfolds is well made and will provide drinking pleasure but it’s too expensive by about 5 bucks a bottle.

Last but not least, some Whites!

JIM BARRY THE LODGE HILL DRY RIESLING 2011 $19.95 A cool climate riesling from OZ – take a chance on it!

SPICE ROUTE CHENIN BLANC 2009 $17.95 - A South African take on a Loire standout.

BOUGRIER VOUVRAY 2010 -$13.95 – Slightly sweeter so better with spicey foods than the S.A. above.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 07 release - another year is upon us!

Another January comes around and we’re presented with another of the traditional  ‘bargain’ Vintages releases. Funny how these used to be 12, 13 and 14 dollar entries but now seem to be pushing the 15.95 and 16.95 range and the ones that used to top out at $19.95 now seem to be bumped to $24.95. Did they really think we wouldn’t notice? As it happens, the over $24 range is where almost all the best wines of the release can be found.

 Below $20, there are a few good pizza wines, burger wines, bar-B –Q wines but overall  if you miss this release, don’t get too upset.

Under $18
SMALL GULLY  THE FORMULA ROBERT’S SHIRAZ 2006 $17.95 – a rerelease  of a very popular Aussie.

JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ 2009 $16.95 – I think it’ll be better than the Formula and a dollar less.

SUR DE LOS ANDES RESERVA MALBEC 2007  $14.95 – two inexpensive Argentinians

Cavino Nemea Reserve 2006 $14.95 – In the ‘Off the beaten path in Europe’ portion of the release, this is the only red I’d recommend.

2007 $17.95

CAPEZZANA BARCO REALE DI CARMIGNANO 2008  92 points and $15.95 – Terrific recent review from the WS.
VICCHIOMAGGIO RIPA DELLE MANDORLE 2009 $15.00 – Baby brother to the Ripa delle More. OK wine.

Over $18…..
RIVERA CAPPELLACCIO RISERVA AGLIANICO 2005  $18.95 – some age and licorice notes.
VAN ZELLER VINTAGE PORT 2003 $19.95 – age worthy vintage port at a terrific price.
CHAPEL HILL BUSH VINE GRENACHE 2008 $24.95- might be the best overall wine in the release.


ALTOCEDRO RESERVA MALBEC 2008  $24.95 –in spite of the price point,  this is the Argentinian I’d buy in this release.

LA PIEVE BAROLO 2007 DOCG, Piedmont, Italy $28.95 – A Barolo for under $30!

FATTOI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 $34.95 – Very well priced Brunello if you like them.