Thursday, February 23, 2012

3rd Day of the 3rd Month and another hohum Vintages release is upon us

France’s 13 best known grapes, along with Chile’s Carmenere and Irish Whiskey for St. Paddy’s Day make up the 3 points of focus of the March 3rd release. Slightly improved on the previous week’s release (or is that the previous weak release?), this one doesn’t blow my socks off but it does provide some interest.  Two of the three entries in the Rhone portion of the France Focus make my top six (big surprise, I know!). Carmenere , once thought to have been  merlot makes the grade with one of my top picks and returns as a choice in one of the Big Buck entries as well. The Irish whiskies? One glass too many and I think I can perform Riverdance – ‘nuff said.

Top Six
DELAS FRÈRES LES LAUNES CROZES-HERMITAGE 2009   219 cases $20.95 – If you combine price, quality and taste, I expect this one to be among the top three wines in the release.  100% Syrah from a great vintage, producer and location.   
JIM BARRY THE COVER DRIVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009   499 cases $23.95 - From another excellent producer, this is a really nice Cab that needs to rest a bit. I’ve found past samples to have been just good but nothing special when opened fresh from the LCBO.  However, if you leave them to settle in for just a few months in the cellar they really come on. Big cassis, mint and later chocolate. Great stuff.
CONCHA Y TORO TERRUNYO VINEYARD SELECTION BLOCK 27   483 cases of 6 $29.95 – Everything you could ever want in a Carmenere. Smokey, a bit of tar, black fruit.  While not cheap, the C y T Terrunyo line of wines always exhibit the highest quality. This one’ll have you saying “I like Carmenere – who knew?” especially if served with something cooked on the grill or rotisserie.
THE WATCHER SHIRAZ 2008 – $19.95 – A second Vintages release of this WS Top 100 from 2010. The earlier release of this wine was recommended and it was very good in that blousy Australian way.  Big but not a blockbuster, the nose and palate combine juicy black cherries with liquorice hints, subtle wafts of meat and pepper and wait for it, is that nori I detect on the finish?   
JACKSON-TRIGGS GOLD SERIES SUNROCK VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2008   223 cases of 6 $26.95 – Grapes from among the best southern Okanagan vineyards, this’ll please every palate. What every Ontario Shiraz/ Syrah hopes to be when it grows up.
PERRIN & FILS LES CHRISTINS VACQUEYRAS 2009 349 cases $23.95 – One of my go to wines but I’d prefer to go to it at $21.95. Black fruit, some red, some hints of garrigue.
One Cab gets an honourable mention.  The Errazuriz Don Maximiano Single Vineyard  Cabernet 2008. This one never quite lives up to the Santa Rita or the Santa Carolina Famiglia Reserva releases at about the same LCBO price but it’s always a very nice wine.
Two  Cabs get dishonourable mentions for their LCBO pricing. One goes to Ravenswood’s Vintner’s Blend Cabernet at $18.95. It’s a nice easy drinking cab that’s great around the BBQ and is available in Buffalo for $6.95. Retail. Yes, $six, not $16. The average retail price of this wine in all US stores carrying it is $9. The LCBO pricing here is brutal!  The second is the Hess Select. This WoM  is a good easy drinking wine but should be priced with the LCBO’s Ravenswood price ($18.95) and even then it’d be well above market price south of the border.  
The reality is that none of these should be more than $10 and they don’t make the Top 6 but they’re the best bargains in the release. LCBO Bargain – isn’t that an oxymoron?
Domaine La Montagnette Sinargues Cotes du Rhone Villages 2009 – You may need a ventilator to be able to ask for this one in one breath, but it should be immediately quaffable for $13.95.
El Transito Pietro Marini Malbec 2008 – 90 points from Mr. Ninety himself, Jay Miller but at $13.95 worth trying one or two.
Palacios Remondo la Vendimia 2010 –At $14.95 I expect this’ll be another good quaffer  but in the Spanish style so it will require some food or snacks.
If you’ve got’em, spend ‘em.
Montes Purple Angel 2009 – A wonderful sample of Carmenere (with hints of Petit Verdot) but at $56.95 this is among the more expensive Vintages offerings from Chile. However, if you want to bring something different to a big buck wine party, this’ll fill the bill. Please note, ‘big buck’ is a relative term. What’s big bucks to me might be exorbitant bucks to some and small potatoes to others.
Marchesi de Frescobaldi Montesodi Chianti Ruffina Riserva 2007 – Always very good, I’ll take the fuller, more rounded flavours of this one over many Brunellos. $49.95
Antinori Guado al Tasso 2008 – An Italian Bordeaux blend – no indigenous grapes - $89.95
Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2006 - $59.95 – The drying tannins in past vintages make this (to my palate) not quite as good as the Frescobaldi Brunello (or the Montesodi), but still a real keeper if you have the $$’s.
Caymus Special Selection  Cabernet 2009 – At $119.95, this one’ll make a real dent in your budget but might almost be worth it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 18th release - In a word, weak. In two words - price gouging!

Oh we’re going to have some fun discussing this latest weak LCBO vintages release. In spite of the catalogue's title, there is very little to enthuse me. It’s titled Popular Front. Now most Popular Fronts that come to mind are associated with either communist or terrorist organizations. Should we draw a subtle conclusion about the leanings of our beloved LCBO’s marketing team or should we just wonder if this is how they perceive their customers? It’s an unusual choice for the title of a Vintages release containing what are supposed to be ‘our favourites’. By the way, the other three focal points in this release are Terroir (some say that’s French for April Fool), Kosher wines (avoid ‘em), and Ontario Gold Winners (ho hum).

Let’s delve deeper into the main focus of the release, shall we? The Popular Front is divided into ‘Old Friends’, ‘For the Wine Pantry’, ‘Party Favourites’ and last but not least ‘Icon wines’. One would expect me to be picking many more this week but there just aren’t that many that excite me. Also, in these times of strong Canuck buck, fiscal restraint, tough negotiations, the U.S. buying American first, and the LCBO’s supposed volume buying power, why are so many of these prices going up?


ALLEGRINI PALAZO DELLA TORRE 2008 - $24.95, WS Top 100. This one has never been one of my old friends but one or two are worth a shot.

D'ARENBERG THE FOOTBOLT SHIRAZ 2009 574cases $22.95 – Big, juicy, OZ’s take on the traditional Cote Rotie blend of Shiraz and Viognier. Not that long ago this was under $20 at the Board. Strong dollar, weak wine market, rising prices. Which one of these three doesn’t belong? I thought old friends didn’t screw old friends over a few bucks. As a result, I’ll pass.


BERONIA RESERVA 2006 749 cases $19.95 A tie for my top pick is the always good Beronia but it was a real favourite at $17.95, not $19.95. Is the LCBO really so dumb as to tell us it’s a favourite and then jack up the price? Well, in a word, yes.

PIRRAMIMMA SHIRAZ 2009 959 cases $26.95 – My second in the tie for favourite of the release, there are lot’s of cases of this one.  I really enjoy this producer's wines - Cabernet, Shiraz or Petit Verdot.

CHATEAU ST. ROCH CHIMERES 2009 – From the Cotes de Rousillon, but I have to ask a question here, if this was so wildly popular, why did the LCBO have to mark it down in the last couple of releases to get rid of it?


Party Favourites of the LCBO, not necessarily us

BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA 2007 1000 cases $15.95 – Another hugely successful wine but last time out the Board blew through about 5,000 cases of this one priced at $15 even. While not crazily expensive, this reflects a price increase of about 6 and a quarter percent in a year. How’s your portfolio been doing?

MCMANIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 1999 cases $19.95 – An under $10, great big Cali wine that earned infamy when Parker scored it 90 a number of years ago. Expect a great summer BarBQ fruit bomb but also expect to bend over (pricewise) and get royally ripped by the governmental wood rasp again. South of the border, this is available for under $9 per bottle with a case discount of 20% on top of that. Here a case will cost you $239.40 Cdn, there it costs $86.40US. Is that an eye opener?


Few if any of these are icons so I think the marketers must mean icon as in, (said with a haughty British accent)”ICON very easily say NO THANK YOU to all of these wines!”

On to the rest of the release:


YALUMBA PATCHWORK SHIRAZ 2008 384 cases $21.95 - I’m a Yalumba fan so I’ll go with this one but that entire page of James Halliday reviews and scores is hilariously inflated.


TOWNSHIP 7 SYRAH 2007 111 cases $24.95 – Love those Okanagan wines. One to match to an Ontario Shiraz but it should be from ’07 or ’10 to make it a fair fight.


SANTA RITA MEDALLA REAL GRAN RESERVA CABERNET 350 cases $19.95 – New world meets Bordeaux. Big, tannic, black fruit, good for short term ageing too, probably my 3rd pick overall.

ARAUCANO SYRAH 2009 (François Lurton) 451 cases $14.95 – Massive doses of black and blue fruit with hints of smoked bacon and perhaps some chocolate. Quite a combo.


Two entries under $15.95 and both are new to me and to Vintages. The AZUL Portugal 2008 is $13.95 and the Lua Nova Em Vinhas Velhas 2009 comes in at $15.95. The review of the latter reads like it’ll be the better wine – I might try one.