Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August 4th - Showtime? More like slowtime. Blockbusters? I don't think so.

Another “Gee, they get paid for that?” release from the buyers at Vintages.  A few new wines to try out and a few old favourites to replenish with but  by and large a release that if you miss it, you won’t really be too upset.  The ‘Summer Blockbusters’ are anything but. Only a couple of them are worthy of the moniker blockbuster  and even then only if your idea of a blockbuster is  Repo Man. The Romance movie equivalents seem to be stuck in the paradigm that only French or Italians are capable of romance. The ‘Action’ entries are not the vinous equivalents of Dirty Harry but are more like  Sleepless in Seattle.  These wines all make a statement and the statement isn't  “Make my day”, it's more like “I’ll have what she’s having!”
The other focal point is 5 single vineyard German reislings (and a Gerwurtz).  I think Kung Fu Girl might kick their asses.
The VRSS total is 62 this week.

PASCUAL TOSO RESERVE MALBEC 2009 594 cases $19.95
BENMARCO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 (Dominio del Plata) 539 cases $17.95 – A nice sample of a simple, reasonably priced  Arg. Cabernet.
CICCHITTI GRAN RESERVA MALBEC 2004 259 cases $21.95 – This one has some age on it – should be smooth and will show you what your malbecs can become if you take care of them or can leave them alone for long enough.
Pick #2 - SCHILD ESTATE OLD BUSH VINE GMS  299 cases $21.95 – Nice political paragraph about what a pillar Mr. Schild is (overlooking and in spite of getting caught with his pants down in their WS Top 100 fiasco).  I’ll give Schild the benefit of the doubt and hope they are working hard to overcome that black eye from a few years back, this one should be a tasty Southern Rhone blend from OZ.
Pick #3 –Tie-  PIRRAMIMMA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009  999 cases $24.95 – I’m a fan. Excellent producer and their cab is always on par with their Shiraz .
GRANT BURGE BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2010 728 cases $18.95 – Reasonably priced for a quality producer.
PETER LEHMANN LAYERS 790 cases $17.95 – A juicy crowd pleaser for back yard BBQs.
Pick #3 –Tie-  SANDHILL SMALL LOTS ONE 2008 111 cases $36.95 – Ok, so it’s too expensive for what you get but if I’m going to buy a Canadian red, I’d  buy some of these before anything with Niagara on the label. Why?  Bigger, blacker fruit, cedar hints, a touch of olive, and usually far fewer  green notes.
 Pick #3 –Tie-  Picked on price alone. DOMAINE LES YEUSES LES EPICES - $13.95 for a gold medal winner seems too good to pass up. Expect peppery  syrah flavours.
 CHÂTEAU D'ANGLÈS LA CLAPE CLASSIQUE  449 cases $14.95 – Well priced from one of the best wine growing regions in the Languedoc.
 Pick #1 - DOMAINE DU GRAPILLON D'OR GIGONDAS 2010   499 cases $28.95  - Consistently a very well made wine, but will need some time.  Vintages first foray into the 2010’s from Gigondas, this was another wonderful vintage in all of the Southern Rhone.
BURGO VIEJO GRAN RESERVA 2001 Rioja – Decanter Gold medal winner and 11 years old  for $21.95. Long and leather-y  -  don’t expect a fruit bomb!
PLUME CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009   223 cases $29.95 – First vintage from a new Okanagan – Napa combo entry.
Pick #3 –Tie-  BEAULIEU VINEYARD BV TAPESTRY RESERVE 2008   207 cases $34.95 – Try this and the Sandhill blind. You might be surprised!

A pair of Brunelli 
The first  one an ISD, 39 cases of 12 of the CAPANNA BRUNELLO 2007 @$45.95 which was scored 97 points by the Wine Enthusiast and 93 points by Antonio Galloni. The other, the PININO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006   329 cases $38.95 – A reasonable price for a sometimes brilliant, sometimes only average Brunello.  History has shown this wine to be an adventure because the same vintage, no the same case,  can supply you with both ends of that spectrum! Watch for the Capanna. It'll be in a very limited number of stores and I expect it'll be a dog fight for those few cases! If you see one, buy one.
OTHELLO 2008 (Christian Moueix)   249 cases $41.95 – Full of pomp and circumstance, at this price, here's a wine you'll love not wisely but  too well.  Available only in Japan and Ontario but was originally available on the Scottish Moors (ok bad review and even worse geographic pun based on Othello being a Moor which I know has nothing to do with Scotland but at least I tucked way down here so only the serious readers have to put up with its badness)!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 21st Vintages release - Cool climate gets a cold shoulder

Cool climate wines seem to be the rage lately.  I suppose the conventional thinking is that this might be a good thing for Ontario wines  as it'll show  that they can compete in both flavour and sophistication if the temperature ranges of the producing regions are similar. That thought process requires a real leap of faith and requires we take into account at least two variables:
·         that some of these regions have a very narrow vinofocus and  their wine, cuisine and culture have symbiotically evolved over centuries to adapt to that focus
·         that other regions are not really cool so much as comparatively cool. Take for example  Australia Cool. How many ice wines are produced in their so called  ‘cool climates’?
 If Oz has ‘cool climate’ wines then certainly Ontario produces  ‘cold climate’ examples, so case closed  methinks. Anyhow, cool is the focus this week (OZ and the Loire). I’ll continue that theme by turning a cold shoulder to this release.  July 21 offers up a 57 to 60 point release in the VRSS (my humble opinion). A very few ‘must haves’ and most of the wines presented  that fall into the nice to have  category are already represented by very similar examples in the cellar. As with many of the recent releases, the whites and fizzies  are as interesting as many of the reds being offered. Since I’m not terribly interested in whites and fizzies , what does that leave me with?  Well, more disposable income, I suppose.

FIZZIES and/ or SPARKLERS, those carefree, effervescent little buggers for summer sipping
Joseph Cattin Brut Cremant d’Alsace - $16.95
Tenuta S. Anna Prosecco Superiore de Valdobbiadene - $18.95

2010 Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc - $17.95 – Across the board  this one rates over 90 points and for a wine this good, is also well priced.  WS: 90 pts; WA: 92 pts; W E: 90 pts  
2010 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling - $18.95 – Another  ‘off centre’ name and wine from Washington States’s  eponymous Rock and Roll winery, Charles Smith. Very tasty (citrus-y with little or no petrol) and always good,  Charles Smith wines are to be enjoyed  right from the store or after a year or three aging.   WS: 90 points  
2009 Red Hill Estate Chardonnay - $21.95 – The review , even taking into account James Halliday’s inflatomatic scoring of Aussie wines (94pts?), is a good one.  Could be worth a try.
2010 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko / Athiri - $16.95 – something slightly off the beaten path from Greece. WS: 90 points  
2010 Martin Codax Albarino $16.95–  Another off the beaten path wine  serve chilled with ceviche or lightly breaded crab cakes perhaps.  Very well scored white 87 to 90 points 

2009 Altocedro Reserva Malbec - $24.95 – This might be the best red wine option in the release. It is the best if you like big juicy black fruited accompaniments to slabs of red flesh being seared on a grill. From La Consulta in the Uco Valley within Mendoza. Some regard this as the finest grape growing region in Argentina and certainly this wine does nothing to contradict that opinion.  A great big wine for a great big steak but also at a pretty big price. WA and WS: 92 points
2009 Clos de los Siete - $21.95 – A Michel Rolland investment in big tannic juiciness, this too will stand up to anything grilled.  As the vineyard grows up, so too does the wine. WA: 90 pts;  WS: 89 pts; Tanzer  90 pts
2009 Summers Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $29.95 A 90 point Napa cab for under 30 bucks? Ok, I’ll bite! Robert Parker: 91 points; Wine Enthusiast: 90 points
2010 Domaine La Guintrandy Cotes de Rhone-Villages Visan Le Deves - $14.95 – Try one, then buy a bunch is my bet.
The Australian cool climate release looks less than stellar. There are some interesting wines but none that really, really  turn my crank and none of them are real terrific values. Of the Aussies in the release, the following  ones are my selections, but I’d take the two (maybe the three) Argentines and try the Napa cab before them:
 2008 Tahbilk Shiraz - $20.95 Lisa Perrotti-Brown: 91 pts – A very good wine from what I would describe as a traditional Aussie  producer .
2008 Camelback Shiraz - $27.95 Lisa Perrotti-Brown says 92 points  - A man is not a camel.  Hmmm, at the same time a camel is not a man. Just as well or there’d be far less wine around!  Enough philosophy, on with the drinking! And please note there was no off colour 'camel' related reference made during this wine review.
2010 Tyrrell Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz - $19.95 – An OK wine but shouldn’t be more than $17.95. Hello LCBO, are you out there?
2009 Durigutti Malbec $16.95- A former WS top 100 producer, this’ll be a good BBQ wine for burgers or sausages and casual  get togethers . Nothing too sophisticated, just lots of dark fruit and soft tannins.
2009 Gabriel Meffre Laurus Gigondas - $26.95  - Not a bad price for an ‘almost CNdP’ WS: 91 points’ Is it better to wait for the 2010 Grapillon D’Or in the next release? Or buy both? Such a conundrum!
2009 The Show Cabernet Sauvignon - $17.95 – Another  easy drinking summer BBQ wine from California that you can age for a few years  if you can stay away from it for long enough.
2009 Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore - $18.95 – If you like the Vintages essential Zenato Ripasso, try this one. It’s a few $’s less and usually very good. I W C: 90 points

2011 Chateau St. Roch Syrah / Grenache rosé - $14.95 – The best rosé choice this week but only if you’re out of rosé and have to have a new one. Otherwise, save a few bucks and look around for past rosé picks @ $12.95.

2009 Delas Haute Pierre Chateauneuf du Pape - $37.95 – JM in WS: 92 points  - not cheap but age worthy and a terrific vintage.  

2006 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino - $47.95 – From the terrific ’06 vintage, expect smoke, tar, more red fruits than black - WS: 94 points

Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2009 $35.95 - The 2008 was released in November and covered in a blog entry at that time. It’s a great name and cleverly marketed by Plunkett Fowles but once the cork is pulled, that cleverness doesn’t taste quite as fulfilling as the price indicates it should. Good with squirrel though.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 7th Vintages release - an improvement over the last few

A better release than the recent ones that the LCBO has foisted upon us, this one actually contains a number of attainable and desirable wines. Helped in large part by the ‘Stones’ being delayed from May, this week’s release climbed over the 70 point mark in the VRSS (Vintages Release scoring system) , coming in at 72 points overall.
 WS Top 100 fans will like it because there are three wines that scored well enough and were well priced enough to make that list.  From an overall perspective, the Tour de France doesn’t quite merit the yellow jersey while the cool Climate Chards and the Governor General’s awards hold little interest.  On the plus side, South Africa’s white wines are not without some interesting options.
2009 Mas D'Auzieres Sympathie Pour Les Stones - $19.95 – Originally 250 cases were to have been released in the May 26, 2012 release. Oh crap, here I go again with the Mick  impression…This wine was universally praised by Ontario reviewers at that time. I suppose they were able to taste samples of it even if the balance of the shipment was late arriving. Or was it improperly labeled? With any luck a combination of things will happen:
  • The reviewers  will not rereview it and so the masses will forget about how good it was
  • We will receive the same lot numbers as the reviewers tasted earlier in May so we will actually get what they tasted.  As it was then, it is my Number 1 pick.
You also won’t go wrong with anything from the Tuscany section of this release but there are a few that really stand out:
2009 Argiano NC Non Confunditur - $24.95 – 249 cases of the #46 wine from the  Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2011 & 92 points. I’m not sure why the LCBO didn’t highlight the Top 100 info since it did for the others in this release.
2009 Fonterutoli Chianti Classico - $25 95 – 349 cases, this one was #49 on Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2011 & 92 points & Smart Buys 
Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico Reserva 2007 – 249 cases of another well scored CCR from the ’07 vintage, this one should be just coming into its prime now. 
E Guigal Gigondas 2009 – Almost 500 cases of an annual treat. Lots of everything going on here. Licorice, smoked meat, weeds,(ok, garrigue),  big fruit. Age worthy and very, very nice.
Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from Chile is always very good value at $19.95 and  available in this release for $17.95. There’ll be 839 cases of it.
Those looking for a well priced (by Ontario standards at least) Washington State Cab Sauv could do worse than the Hogue 2007 Cab at $17.95. 500 plus cases – expect something similar to the recently released  Chateau Smith for a few dollars less. This’ll be fruitier and softer than the big Chilean above.
2009 Chateau du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois - $12.95 600 cases but at this price it may blow out by the boxload. From the midi this one is not only very well priced but should also taste delightful. If you like Cotes Du Rhone style wines (only from the Languedoc), I think you’ll be pleased.
Cave de Rasteau La Domeliere 2009 with 1331 cases coming in and a $15.00 price point there’ll be lots to choose from.
Two Hands Sexy Beast Cabernet 2011 will need some time and at $29.95 is expensive compared to most of those above. There’ll be 449 cases but leave it alone for a few years unless you like Welch’s grape juice and vodka-style.
Hickinbotham Cabernet/ Shiraz  2009  should be a massive mouthful at  a reasonable $16.95 and there are almost 1200 cases being released.
2007 Nashwauk McLaren Vale Shiraz – 450 cases at $19.95  - Repeat of a  Feb. 2011 release. OK around the BarBQ but if you miss it, no big deal.
Domaine Durand 2009 Les Coteaux St. Joseph – Should be a tasty 100% Syrah, Parker scored it 90 – 93 points and liked the licorice aromas and intense fruit.
2008 Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz – 519 cases, based strictly on price it finishes up the track to the blend and the Shiraz above.$24.95
2010 Vinum The Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc - $14.95 – Well scored and a tasty departure from the Chards  below.
Kim Crawford 2011 unoaked Chardonnay – $17.95 - 610 cases of bursting pure fruit. No oak so if you like those big buttery chards, you may not like this one.
2008 Kumeu River Kumeu Estate Chardonnay – 167 cases $34.95 - #78 on Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2011 & 92 points.
Sterhuis Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2009 – At $25.95 this could be a better buy than the Kumeu but without the Top 100 score.