Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 28th Vintages release - Veneto and New Zealand

April 28 Preview - it's early, but here are the picks  
The April 28th release features  Veneto and New Zealand but the best choices might be from  a number of other wine producing areas.  There is some good news this week.  There are quite a number of  appealing under $17 wines in this release but as always with the LCBO, good news is offset with equally bad news. The bad news is that the recent Food and Drink $15 specials seem to have moved to the $17 price point.  It’ll be interesting to see how long it’ll take to jump to $19. As it is, I’m into a bit of an austerity programme so  while I’d love to buy any of  the wines listed you’ll find my picks have been  down-dollared a bit this week.
There’ve been lots of good Malbecs in recent previous releases. The two below will be good picks if you’re grilling something  but neither one makes the top 5.
PASCUAL TOSO ALTA RESERVE MALBEC 2008 279 cases $31.95 – Expensive  and should be in the big buck section but I’ll leave it here. You can find some malbecs from previous releases that are almost as good and $10 less.
SUSANA BALBO SIGNATURE MALBEC 2009 (Dominio del Plata) 971 cases  $21.95 – like this one perhaps?
 (Pick #2 tie) LEASINGHAM BIN 61 SHIRAZ 2008 559 cases $24.95 – I have fond recollections of the 2000 vintage of this wine. It was one of my 'Ahah!'  wines. That vintage was made with fruit from the Classic Clare Shiraz vineyards that had been damaged by hail. If you like the Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz (I do!) then try one or two of this one. Same region, similar cooler climate style, watch for pepper, black fruits, olive notes  and licorice in a very nice wine.  If you need another reason to buy it, this appears to be the penultimate vintage ("Or is it the last?" he asked, wiping away a tear.) for the Clare Valley Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz as we know it. Leasingham was owned by Constellation Brands and in 2009, under financial duress, Constellation  closed the winery.  Tim Adams had already purchased one of the Leasingham vineyards  from Constellation and in 2010 he bought  the winery as well. The sale did not include the Leasingham brand, just  the winery and equipment .  The Leasingham brand, among other Australian wine assets was later sold by Constellation to CHAMP, a private equity company.  It’s a sad end for the iconic Classic Clare and Bin series brands and something to keep in mind if you ever begin to see bottles of them with a more recent (post 2010) vintage.
TWO HANDS GNARLY DUDES SHIRAZ 2010 399 cases $29.95 – From a quality and breadth of range of wines, you simply cannot beat Two Hands. If I wasn't down pricing this week, I'd buy some of this for sure!
SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008   708 cases of 6 $24.95 – Very good Cab and age worthy in the short term
MAJELLA SHIRAZ 2008 399 cases $29.95 –Remember last release’s Katnook Estate? Well the Majella shiraz is also produced from grapes grown in the Coonawara.  It’s probably not as famous for Shiraz as the Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale but good nonetheless and right in its drinking window.
NINQUÉN ANTU CABERNET SAUVIGNON/CARMENÈRE 2010   504 cases of 6 $16.95 – Chocolate, coffee, smoke and black fruits but previous cabs and syrahs were heavily oaked so watch for some big creamsicle vanilla notes late on the palate.
ARNOUX ET FILS 2009 VACQUEYRAS $19.95 – Rare is the Vacqueyras that I don’t recommend! So here I am recommending another one!
(Pick #3 tie) LE GRAVILLAS PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2009  599 cases $14.95 – A  very good producer of Southern Rhone blends (Vacqueyras, Gigondas among them) and this one from the village of Plan de Dieu should be no exception. Black berries should jump from the glass.
CHÂTEAU NOZIÈRES CUVÉE AMBROISE MALBEC CAHORS 2008 $15.95 – A French malbec from the Cahors region, a nice counterpoint to all those Argentinians we’ve had lately.
TSELEPOS DRIOPI AGIORGITIKO 2008   139 cases  $18.95 – take a step off  the beaten grape path and try this with a homemade pork or  lamb souvlaki.
(Pick #1) CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (CANONICA A CERRETO) 2007 $17.00 – Equal reasons  to worry and to be happy here – does  this  seemingly late availability of gobs of an  ’07 with a big Galloni (Parker)  score mean we’ll get  leftovers and dregs or will we get a wine that truly merits the 92 point score at $17? When this one is released, watch the local reviewers’ tasting notes or try one first. There will be oodles (+2000 cases) around and if it’s as good as the score, it might merit buying a case. ***Update*** Tried a bottle with a homemade spagehetti bolognese. It's good, but not 92 points good. I'd be happy at $15, I'm a little disappointed at $2 more. Also, all the boxes on the floor at Weston Rd. were marked as Lot 2011/04, but the bottles I could see in all the open cases were labelled 2011/11. What gives  with that? If someone tries a bottle labelled with lot 2011/04, let me know how it is. Meantime, floral notes and red fruit on the nose, hints of vanilla yet woodsy (forest floor?).  On the palate, more red fruit than black, hints of smoke, earthy, not full bodied and just a wee  tad short on the finish.

Of the BRANCAIA TRE 2009, I've had past vintages which were very well scored by international critics and frankly, I found them not up to the marks. I was expecting full and rich.  Maybe my palate isn’t so educated, maybe the ones I had were a little off,  or maybe buyer beware on this one. Regardless, I dare say it’ll blow out on past reputation alone.
ISOLE E OLENA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2008 199 cases $26.95 – In a normal week, I’d pick this Chianti Classico but the ’07 reserve above at $10 less is hard to resist!
(Pick #3 tie) TEDESCHI CAPITEL NICALÒ APPASSIMENTO VALPOLICELLA 2009 $15.95  - I enjoy this one annually  but to some it is an acquired taste. Might need some time first and if you get a little hint of effervescence, don’t be too surprised.
(Pick#3 tie) MONTE DEL FRA TENUTA LENA DE MEZZO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2008 –$15.95 - Another age worthy, almost bargain priced,  suggestion from the Veneto focus.
CONDADO DE HAZA TINTO 2008 179 cases  $23.95 – I’m a fan of this Spaniard, more red than black fruit and  have food handy.
BODEGAS OLARRA ANARES RESERVA 2005 - $17.95 – More traditional in style but still provides good fruit. Well priced.
(Pick #2 tie)BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2009 - $19.95 – A very nice Grenache, excellent consistent producer. Gobs of fruit, hints of smoke.
MONTEBUENA 2009 - $12.95 – I’m not familiar with the wine, but 90 points from Suckling means it might be worth a shot, especially at that price.
FREI BROTHERS CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2008, 1000 cases at $23.95. One of the Gallo brands from the Sonoma region of California. A  WOM (Wine of the Month) so there’ll be lots initially.
IRONY MERLOT 2009 – The second of this month’s $17 specials, this is a nice, fruity, unassuming, summer  ’burgers and buds’  type of  BBQ wine. It’ll blow out as well, I’m sure.
EBERLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007  12 111 $43.95 – I presumed this was to be a re-release of the Eberle Vineyard Select product  that I enjoyed so much a year or so ago until I saw the price!  $43.95?  I hope this is the Estate Cabernet  at that price.  The previous release of  the Vineyard Select line was VERY GOOD but  it was priced in the lower to mid twenties  and  I thought then that the LCBO should knock a buck or two off that!  So buyer beware, if this has a VS watermark on the label, it’s the  Vineyard Selection and we’re just really, really taking it in the ear again! At $23 it was an OK buy, at $44? Fahgedaboud –it!  If it doesn’t have the VS and you’re looking for a splurge wine,  you could try this one. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Actually, it’d be fun to compare this and the next one in a blind tasting.
STAGS' LEAP WINERY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 12 382 $49.95 – If you must spend $50 on a wine this week and you like Napa cabs, try this one.
MARZIANO ABBONA TERLO RAVERA  BAROLO 2006 $42.95 – Look for lineups and foolishness  for no other reason than the high score (96 pts) but be prepared to age it before you consider opening it.
VENTURINI CAMPOMASUA AMARONE CLASSICO 2005 gets 3 of 3 from Gambero Rosso and comes in at a cool $59.95
CABREO IL BORGO 2007 – If you’re looking for a bit of a rarity here’s this week’s  ISD  treasure.  Coming in at a cool $34.95 for a 90 to 94 point wine, there will only be 79 cases of 6 delivered to the province. Cuddle up to your LCBO consultant at one of the ‘biggy’ stores if you hope to score any!
CHÂTEAU FORTIA CUVÉE DU BARON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2009   149 cases $35.95 – Fortia can be big, closed, and tannic but with lots of air or some time it’ll display good fruit too!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 14 Vintages Preview - The Gauchos are coming - fire up the BBQ!

Argentina and Wine Biodynamics are the focal points this week.  Sadly, the trend of hohum, inflation inducing releases continues. This one has some nice wines but there are few  stellar ones under that most important $20.00 mark and most are barely under the $30 mark!
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $22– Gooseberry and grass with some lemon. You better have some seafood close by.
Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2010 – The result of a business venture between Actor George Hamilton and former Boston Celtic centre Bill Russell, this’ll be tannic with a long finish (‘tan’nic with a loooong finish, get it?  Of course I’m kidding and No, I could not stop myself!).  Seriously now, if you want to throw your entire tax return at a new world white, try this one. It is pricey for a South African  white wine at the LCBO ($32) but annually it’s a terrific wine.  There’ll be 99 cases of 6 and it’s a bit ‘cult-y’ so watch out. If you ever decide to stage a New World Chard blind tasting, this one, a Clos Jordanne, a Luca from Argentina, a Leeuwin from Oz and something from Cali would be very interesting especially if you were to toss in one of Norman Hardy’s PEC offerings as a counterpoint!
If you can’t find the H. R. Chardonnay, you might try the Hoopenburg Integer. At $22 it’s ready to drink now.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a store that receives ISD’s, go for the 2009 DELAS DOMAINE DES GRANDS CHEMINS CROZES-HERMITAGE. This is another terrific syrah made by the Delas clan in the Rhone valley. There are only 79 cases of 6 though so expect very limited amounts in a very limited number of stores, at $28.95. It’ll need a bit of time to come around.
Among the Argentinians, I suggest taking a run at 3 of them.  First, the Norton Privada 2008 $24.95 – Michael Vaughan at VintageAssessments.com projects 13 cases. I hope it’s a typo and means 130 or possibly 1300 cases. Buyer Beware:  If it’s as good as the first and best example I had from the previous vintage and if you enjoy say, Clos de Los Siete, you’ll be blown away. If it’s like the later ones I had last year, you’ll be taking the bottle back. Clearly I’m hoping it’ll be like the first sample I had in BC. Think $50 Cali Bordeaux blend at half the price. Christmas cake spices, black fruits, some drying tannins, it may have it all. But what the hell is this three dollar jack up from last year’s price in less than a year?  My other choices from Argentina include the Mapema Malbec at $22 and the Fabre Montmayou Cabernet  bargain priced at only $15.
From Australia, Katnook Estates Cabernet  Sauvignon 2008 223 cases $29.95 – From the red clay of Coonawarra, the legendary Cab home in South Oz, Katnook is an excellent  big wine exhibiting  prominent cassis and  black cherry  on the palate along with eucalyptus hints supported by a firm tannic backbone. It’s a perfect accompaniment to anything grilled or just on its own but it’s not for the faint of heart. I have fond memories of two samples from the Barracuda Club in Umm Al Quwain that were near perfect. Served on a starlit rooftop halfway between the Jumeirah Beach hotel and the Burj Khalifa, with both loved ones and something well spiced and grilled on a stick close by, they were mouth filling, unctuous, and ripe.  And speaking of the Burj, (segue alert!) how about….
Grant Burge The Holy Trinity $33.95 499 cases of 6 – A tip of the cap to the pope with the religious  reference and aptly named for the three main grapes in many Southern Rhone blends (Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre) this is as close to a Chateauneuf du Pape Rhone Clone as Australia produces. More tannic than most GSMs from Oz, it’s also big and fruity but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it should really be under 30 bucks. On the inflato-front, this one was $29.95 perhaps two  releases ago, I think. And since we’re still on the subject of Burge,
Are you looking to really splurge? Basil, does your wallet have an urge to purge?  Two 2006 Brunellos (Brunelli?) come available this week. Both will require either careful  forethought  and large decanters or patience and a  cool, dark place. I know you have both! Open and decant 4 to 6 hours ahead of serving, or just lay them down for years. Both should be super – La Gerla and Mastrojanni. The latter comes in two sizes so those who just can't wait can buy a small one and quickly get a preview of where the 750 ml will be in a few years. Both come in at just under $50. each.  (A little over half that for the half bottle).