Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 26th Vintages release - 90 Pointers, Portugal, Rolling Stones and apparent supply chain issues

It’s May 26th and the big feature this week is 90 point wines. In this one the LCBO acknowledges the impact of the wine critics’ reviews and suppliers are expected to come up with not only the wines but the wines with suitable 90+ point reviews. None of those ‘Vintages tasting panel’ notes will do for the 90 Point part of the release. Also this week, a few selections from Portugal.  I think one red from there will stand  out, but let me make a couple of gentle comments about the Vinho Verde page - the part 2 of the travel kit might lead a neophyte to think these label terms apply to Vinho Verdes. They do not. Also I would have liked to have seen a little more variety in the Vinho Verdes for summer sipping. The one that is presented is pretty expensive (especially for a VV). So instead we’ll have to make do with a rosé, a Cremant and perhaps one of the chards for our lighter selections. For the red choices, my top 3 are from the Languedoc, Tuscany and Washington St. but any and all of the red choices herein should provide ample drinking pleasure.
DELAS FRÈRES SAINT-ESPRIT CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ 2011 499 cases of 12 $12.95 – Great price for a great producer’s summer wine.
PIERRE SPARR BRUT ROSÉ CRÉMANT D'ALSACE 329 cases of 12  $17.95 – A fine light fizz, just dry, great for enjoying as a starter on the summer decking, around the pool, or just because.
VASSE FELIX CHARDONNAY 2010 138 cases of 12 $20.95 – Excellent Margaret River (Western Oz so not as hot as the east) producer, toasty vanilla notes, something in a shell please! The 2009 vintage was a very nice accompaniment to lobster for Mother’s Day.
MOMO CHARDONNAY 2010 217 cases of 12 $17.95 – An organic producer, this’ll show green apple notes on the nose, with buttery lemon hints on the palate.
KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 397 cases of 12 $9.95 – Half bottles for those “I’m all alone so I think I’ll BBQ some shrimp just for me” nights.
CATENA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009  1200 cases of 12 $19.95 – Lots of stock from a first class producer so there’ll be no rush. Oak notes, cassis, hints of anise on the backend – could be a Doug option.
TWO HANDS ANGELS' SHARE SHIRAZ 2010 499 cases of 12  $27.95 – Always a real mouthful and very, very tasty.
SMALL GULLY The FORMULA ROBERT'S SHIRAZ 2006 994 cases of 12  $18.95  Exceedingly popular with Ontario wine drinkers, this has been a  ‘buyer makes his bonus’ kind of wine for the LCBO. It’s received in industrial quantities, sells out fast and has few if any returns.
WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 799 cases of 12  $24.95 – Since this wine was removed from the general list and sold as a Vintages product, every vintage has been consistently good. It’s a bit too expensive for what you get but I’ve given up singing that song. If you must drink an Aussie Cab you won’t go wrong here.
BEST’S GREAT WESTERN BIN #1 SHIRAZ 2009 $23.95 400 cases of 12 – Originating from Best’s vineyards near the town of Great Western in Victoria, last vintage of this was terrific. Nice to pick a shiraz that’s not from the Barossa or McLaren Vale for a change.
TAIT THE BALL BUSTER RED 2009 $24.95 299 cases of 12 – Buy one for  the name alone but it would be nice to see this and the Best’s at $19.95 - $20.95.
(Update: Would have been Pick #1 but looks like this one is now due out in July week1) MAS D'AUZIÈRES SYMPATHIE POUR LES STONES 2009 250 cases of 12  $19.95 This was to be my number 1 pick for a number of reasons but the caveat now is that both the on line catalogue and the print copy says PRODUCT CURRENTLY NOT AVAILABLE. For those intellectuals among my readers, I am flummoxed and nonplussed. For the more plebian among you, I say “WTF gives?” And for still others, it could be both.  Why the level of consternation you ask? Well, as soon as I saw the listing for this wine, the bongos/ congas started in my head, followed by the maracas, a couple of Mick’s screeches and then the lyrics “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long long year, Stole many a man’s soul and faith”….. and now I can’t get rid of them. Any wine that rejeuvenates memories of old, old Stones songs deserves a place in the biweekly top 3 but who is the producer? This called for some serious Winery Googling….
Mas d’Auzières is run by the sophisticated cutie Irène Tolleret  who was lucky(?)  enough to have been treated to spam and beans cooked on a camp stove in the BBC’s Oz Clarke & James May’s Wine Adventure  – see the link below - it's quite funny.
Irène’s husband Philippe is a Michel Rolland trained oenologue (but we won’t hold that against him) who provides useful technical back-up. Irène on the other hand  provides the heart and soul of these wines as well as campaigning for the  extension of the Pic St. Loup appellation. In a couple of years her  wines will be AOC Pic St. Loup. The emphasis in Irène’s mainly Syrah- based wines is the minerality derived from the limestone soil. No wood is used at all and the wines are left to clear naturally. The result is apparently, for I have not yet tasted this year's,  a pure expression of fruit in some eccentrically named cuvees.  For instance, ‘Sympathie pour les Stones’ has its foundation in  Irène and Philippe’s love for  the Rolling Stones. They also love the minerality that their limestone terroir produces and the two loves combine to manifest themselves in this  franglais cuvée name.  For the younger folks out there, the classic track ‘Sympathy for the Devil’  is from the Beggar’s Banquet  LP.  Don’t make me explain what an LP is!
As the video linked above proves, Irène is a real sweetie  who seems to know her way around wine, cars, tractors, farms, rocks and rock and roll, (and now Spiced Ham  too). If you can,  try one to be sure then go back for more if you like it. The wine also earned  a David Schildknecht opus that makes for great reading while singing “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name….”

(Pick #2) MARCHESI DE' FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2009 750 cases of 12  $21.95 – Annually a very satisfying wine. The ’07 vintage is drinking superbly now. Can be a tannic beast but certainly leans toward new world rather than traditional old world stylings. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese, high to low %-wise.

UMANI RONCHI MONTIPAGANO MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2010 439 cases of 12  $13.95 – Good price, try one as it may be a well priced alternative to the Cotes Du Rhone Villages options lately.

VICCHIOMAGGIO AGOSTINO PETRI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2007 1198 cases of 12  $19.95 – A WoM so lots around. No need to rush out for this one.

CLOS DE CAVEAU FRUIT SAUVAGE VACQUEYRAS 2009 349 cases of 12 $18.95 – Hard to go wrong with anything from Vacqueyras in 2009.

PIERRE HENRI MOREL SIGNARGUES CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2009 599 cases of 12 $15.95 – Probably just as good a choice as the Vacqueyras for $3 less.

QUINTA DO INFANTADO RED 2009 199 cases of 12  $21.95 – A dynamite Portuguese red, full of some red but mostly black fruits, some oak notes (vanilla) on the nose and palate.

STAGS' LEAP WINERY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 99 cases of 12 $23.95 – Half bottles for those “I’m all alone so I think I’ll BBQ a rib eye just for me” nights.

LOUIS M. MARTINI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 698 cases of 12  $29.95 – slightly more Bordeaux than Napa to my palate.

(Pick #3) CHATEAU SMITH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009   839 cases of 12  $25.00 – The other WoM, this one should be quite good and a 3 pack might be in order. Fruit sourced from prime Washington vineyard locations makes for a tasty, short term ageworthy cab.  Served blind, it’ll be a nice head to head with the Wynn’s to see if it’s worth a nickel more.  Definitely an option to become someone’s eponymous house wine.

Recommendations from the over $30 zone:
BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE EBENEZER SHIRAZ 2006 457 cases of 6  $39.95 – a perennial favourite of mine since I tasted  the ’98 vintage (I think) at Steve and Lori’s annual wine tasting competition (it won, if I recall correctly). 95 points for the ’06 from Halliday? Nah, 92 from BP maybe.
RIDGE LYTTON SPRINGS 2009 239 cases of 12 $46.95 – after having my socks knocked off lately by the Ravenswood  Icon, this might be a good comparison and a similar wine.
ANTINORI PIAN DELLE VIGNE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 400 cases of 6  $59.95 – Special, among my favourite Brunellos. 
LE MANNELLA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 199 cases of 12  $39.95 – Heck of a price for a 2006 Brunello. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Looking at the May 12th Vintages Release thru Rosé coloured glasses

May 12th Release

I was looking for something good to say about this release and I think I found it. This release provides a good opportunity to read through previous notes or go back to the list of wines that you’ve enjoyed from previous releases and see if any of them are still in stock at your local LCBO. If they are, go buy them. Why? Because unless you just won a lottery, this is a brutal release. How bad is it? With apologies to Rodney Dangerfield, you’d have to tie a pork chop to this release to get the dog to play with it; I phoned a rep at the LCBO customer service line to complain about this release – I said “Everyone hates it!” She said ”Ridiculous, not EVERYONE has read it yet!”; it’s so bad that the WCTU is gladly giving out copies to stop people from drinking! Badaboom.
California, Global Rosés and Israel are the focus points. California? Bring a big, full wallet. Rosés? The good news is they can be inexpensive! Israel? Really?

So out of this whole release I’ll pick up the Cremant de Bourgogne and a few of the Rosés - that’s it, that’s all.

Muga Rosé 2011 – $12.95 1099 cases – Lots of cases, well priced and so nice on the deck in the summer with tapas/ antipasto/ snacks/ junkfood. (See, it matches with every level of sophistication!)

Mas des Brassades Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2011 - $13.95 – 1299 cases – Tart and tangy, again with light munchies on a deck in the sun this wine’ll be perfect

Carpineto Rosato 2011 - $12.95 – 298 cases. If you really want one of the three rosés and you see this one, buy it first because it’ll be gone first.

My nationalistic sensibilities insist I should pick an Ontario Rosé as well, so let’s try the Featherstone or the Fielding from this release. Full Disclosure: I usually spring for the annual release of the rosé from Sandbanks down in PEC. (winery only, methinks)

There are a few other wines that earn a mention, among them the Wallace by Ben Glaetzer at $28.95 and a pair of Tuscans, the Banfi Rosso de Montalcino 2009 at $22.95 and the San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2008 at $19.95 but will I be buying any of them? I don’t think so.

Big Bucks

Of the insanity that is California, I’d suggest the Shafer One Point Five - $84.95 – How good is this wine? Even served on a moving bus headed for Niagara on the QEW the 2006 vintage was a great wine. The 2007 was even better (although to be fair it was served with a BMW1200RT parked in front of it). Just imagine how good it could be if allowed to rest in a cellar and then breathe for a time before serving. It’s a superb wine for a special, special occasion. Like someone’s 50th or someone else’s 60th or any dinner that I’m invited to.

Drink well my friends and be patient - the May 26th release looks better.