Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sept.29th, Tuscany and Turkey

This release focuses on Tuscany, Thanksgiving, and Pinot Noirs from Oz and NZ. If I was independently wealthy, I might think this is a pretty good release. I’m not, so I think it has a few high points but overall, I’m a little let down. We’re not yet to Thanksgiving on the calendar and already you can see the prices climbing at your friendly, local LCBO Vintages section. Is it just my imagination or is Christmas coming early for our friends at the monopoly?  
 I understand the global interest in Tuscany means the wines do not come cheap but while the Tuscan focus is an interesting cross section of the various DOCGs and IGTs available, the majority find themselves in my Big Bucks category.

The Aussie/NZ Pinots, I can take or leave, so I’ll mostly leave them and the Thanksgiving feature has pretty pictures of food and wines to match but not much else going for it.

Must I buy much from this release? Nope. And a few of the ones I must buy are over my ceiling so I mustn’t buy them. There are just enough must buys to give it a VRSS score of 58.

A comment here, one of the nicest wines for summer sipping is a good, well priced Vinho Verde. It’s no longer summer but now we finally get one! Earth to the LCBO – timing is everything!
TWO SAUVIGNON BLANCS from NZ – the Babich Black Label ($17.95) and the Dog Point ($21.95) are both an excellent accompaniments to  seafood and shellfish.

SIMONSIG CHENIN AVEC CHENE 2009 - $28.95 – Want something a little different to try with your turkey? Go for this South African Chenin Blanc. It’ll be oaky and not cheap but high quality. Actually,  if you can still find some of the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc from the July release, save yourself $11.00 and buy it.


TOSCOLO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 - $24.95 – I’m a sucker for a really good  C C R from a great vintage. Here we are.
MICHELE SATTA BOLGHERI ROSSO 2009 - $19.95 – From the producer of two of my favourite Italian wines (Piastraia and Cavaliere), this is the lone sub $20 offering worthy of inclusion and it makes it here on Satta’s name alone for now.
RUFFINO MODUS 2008 - $28.95 – This might not be quite up to the last two years’ efforts but is still a very good option.
DEI VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2008 - $28.95 – Dark fruits, some licorice or anisette, an OK wine.

LUCA MALBEC 2009 $29.95 – On the heels of the last release’s Luca Chardonnay selection comes another from the Catena family of wineries and fine wines. The LUCA wines promote regional terroir and reflect the high quality we’ve come to expect from Catena. This is annually a very good example of Argentina’s steak wine capability if a little pricey.  
CATHEDRAL CELLARS TRIPTYCH 2008 - $16.95 – Very good producer of crowd pleasing, quality wines. This one a blend of the big three reds – Cab sauv, Shiraz and merlot that’ll provide lots of pleasure around a late season BBQ of burgers or brats (sausages that is, not misbehaving children).
FINCA FLICHMAN PASAIJE DE BARRANCAS 2009 - $17.95 – Typically Argentina, with big flavours that require equally big grilled red meat. They found a great review.
BEAULIEU VINEYARDS BV CAB SAUV 2009 - $25.95 – Slightly more Bordeaux than Napa in style but $25.95? C’mon, you can do better than that!
HOGUE GENESIS MERLOT 2008 $18.95 - Stimmell likes it which means it’ll be a pleasant, simple wine for early fall BBQ’s. Price wise, this should be $15.95 or less.
CHATEAU MAISON BLANCHE 2009 $19.95 – BP recommends a Bordeaux! Are those hogs hovering outside your second story window? Well priced and a terrific review. Give it lots of air if you open it soon, otherwise, let it rest for a time.
LES VIGNES BILA- HAUT COTES DE ROUSILLON VILLAGES 2010 $14.95 – Expect to be pleasantly surprised by this one, in a Cotes du Rhone Villages kind of way. Is it a 92-94 point wine? Nah, but you won’t regret it with grilled souvlakis, burgers or rotisseried chicken. Your problem will be finding it. At this price and with that Parker score, it’ll be gone in a flash.
DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2009 $24.95 – As I’ve said before, I love reading those David Schildknecht reviews and this wine gets a recommendation just so you might read his review. They always contain snooty, over the top wine vernacular that is impossible not to like. Malolactic fermentation meets William F Buckley if you will.  Anyhow, back to the wine. This Chapoutier offering  has jumped in price over the last few years and it’s my opinion that quality-wise, what’s in the bottle  doesn’t merit the increase. And don’t let the LCBO tell you it’s due to currency fluctuations. A year ago a Cdn dollar bought 4.8 francs, now it’ll buy anywhere  between 5.2 and 5.4. This should be in the $19.95 range. My recommendation? Forget this and buy more of the $19.95 Gigondas that was in the previous release.
XAVIER COTES DU RHONE 2010 - $15.95 – Another ‘whatever happened to $12.95 Cotes du Rhones?’ wine from the stellar 2010 vintage. (See Canadian dollar vs. French Franc above.)

Welcome to Tuscany my friends!
PIAN DELLE VIGNE 2006 – $59.95 - From a terrific vintage in Brunello and from a family whose life is steeped in the tradition of Tuscan winemaking.  This one provides a real temptation to ignore my self imposed $ ceiling on wine. Fruitier than many and more receptive in its youth, this is always a smashingly good wine.
SILVIO NARDI 2007 BRUNELLO -$41.95 – This’ll need time to soften and open, but is well priced for a Brunello.
LIVIO SASSETTI 2005 BRUNELLO - $39.95 – Not up to ’06 and ’07 Vintage wise, but perhaps better grapes than normal because no reserve wine was made during this vintage. Again, time is required so lay it down or open with your morning coffee to serve with supper.
POGGIO AL TESSORO SONDRAIA 2008 - $44.95 – Made the WS Top 100 last year, this Bordeaux blend from Tuscany is a worthy  cellar candidate.
JACOPO BIONDI SASSOALLORO 2008 – $35.95 - Black fruits predominate in this IGT blend.
TENUTA SETTE PONTI ORENO 2009 - $71.95- A glowing review from Galloni marks this one as a must have if you have the bucks.
FREEMARK ABBEY CABERNET 2008 -  A terrific cab, under $40 if just, the written review finds red fruit which I think is unusual for Napa. I usually find it much blacker – bing cherries into black currants with cedar.
CATENA ZAPATA NICASIA VINEYARD MALBEC 2008 – $89.95- A single vineyard offering from the famed La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in the Mendoza this should be a smashing wine. But, it’s way over my price ceiling. Damn, where’s that winning lottery ticket?
LA CRAU DE MA MERE CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2010 - $44.95 – Spices, cherry and licorice from a terrific vintage. Make a note and remember this one. It  may be worth holding out for a future markdown.

And don't miss Paso man in the previous blog entry!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paso Man on variety...

Does a man  have only one life? Yes. One wife? Occasionally. One wine? Preposterous!

Do I smell grass? Charcoal? Church Bingo?

Real men aren't afraid of the tinting of a gorgeous juice. Real men fear only unrequited love, the road not taken, and clowns....

Your glass is waiting. It's full ........ of possibilities.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sept.15th - The Ontario Focus

As the season moves to cooler evenings and shorter days we finally get a release that has an interesting selection of wines with a combination of quality and variety. In spite of the release’s singular Ontario focus and the accompanying provincial navel gazing, this is among the more attractive releases of the summer.  It comes in at 68-72 points on the VRSS and could go higher.  Based on past experience, my top white wine choice in the release is the somewhat expensive Luca G Lot (not Spot) Chardonnay 2010. From vineyards up to 5000 ft above sea level in Argentina, previous vintages were among the best Chards ever for me but at $27.95, this isn’t cheap.  From the Ontario focus, two other chards also get a nod – the Lailey and the JT Delaine Vineyard. Both are first rate examples of what Niagara does very well. Neither has the Paskus/ Bachelder winemaker name on them but bang for the buck, they're hard to beat!  Unfortunately, if you feel the need to drink Ontario reds you will have to look elsewhere for  recos because you won’t find any here. I will say that I am hoping for a nice, long, hot, dry, autumn so that our merlot, syrah and cab sauvs can develop more dark fruit flavours and at least for this year, our winemakers can get away from the greens and browns (pepper/ tobacco and tomato leaf/ stems) I find so prevalent in Ontario reds.  Merlot that tastes like Cab Franc is just not my cuppa. Assuming a good fall, maybe, just maybe Ontario Vintage 2012 red wine could appear in future recommendations after this smoking hot summer. Style wise and in flavour profile, I don’t expect Napa but the Okanagan would be nice!
That said, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the following global red choices. Most are unfortunately over the $20 mark, again reflecting the LCBO’s belief that we’ll spend more for wine than we should have to spend.
Best of the Release
Pick #1 (tie) LA FONT DES GRIÈRES GIGONDAS 2009 $19.95 – 299 cases – A Gigondas for under $20 at the LCBO? Really? That’s not a typo? Short term ageworthy but with air it’ll be good right away as well.
Pick #1 (tie) COLUMBIA CREST H3 LES CHEVAUX  2009 $20.95 – 231 cases – A pick in spite of it being another LCBO ‘double up’ on a $10 release from Columbia Crest’s H3 Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills) , this blend often has Merlot predominating (2009 is either 80% or 34% merlot). It’s my opinion that the Columbia Crest H3 locations and climate are best suited to merlot so this should be very enjoyable as long as you don’t look at the US pricing. Look for chocolate, black fruit, and smoky vanilla notes from a slightly heavy handed use of oak. BBQ’d ribs anyone?
Pick #2 (tie)  MARCHESI DE FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2009  $21.95 - 1100 Cases – This baby Super Tuscan is always good value for the $$’s and some years it is even a case worthy  purchase. Too many options in and around the same price point reduce that chance this time around. With air this blend can be drunk young, medium, or middle aged. I’m enjoying a case of the 2007 vintage and they  just keep getting better.
Pick #2 (tie) BARBA I VASARI OLD VINES MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO 2008 – $18.95 - 1299 cases - 3 glasses out of 3 from Gambero Rosso for under 20 bucks is about as good as we can ever hope for when dealing with the monopoly.   Spicy black fruit, hints of licorice, long finish and lots will be available.
CHATEAU MILLEGRAND MINERVOIS 2010 $16.95 – 599 cases – A well priced Rhone blend from the Midi, this one could be the sleeper of the release.  Try one early to see if you like it and then keep it a secret! It is close to being a pick.
FERATON PERE ET FILS PLAN DE DIEU 2009 $15.95 – 449 cases – A Cotes Du Rhone Villages from the  somewhat underappreciated ‘village’ Plan de Dieu, I’m expecting this one to deliver big things for the price. Shouldn’t be more than $14.95 but vino per $ ratio is still in your favour here.
WYNN’S COONAWARA ESTATE CAB/SHIRAZ/MERLOT $19.95 – 383 cases – Priced where the Wynn’s Estate Cab Sauv used to be and should still be, expect a real mouthful here. Black fruit and hints of eucalyptus make it a natural pairing with lamb chops. If my mood changes, this could even improve to be a ‘pick’.
LUIGI BOSCA SINGLE VINEYARD MALBEC 2009 – 559 cases - $21.95 Red meat meet Luigi Bosca. Luigi, meet red meat. ‘nuff said.  I’m not sure the single vineyard designation is worth the extra few bucks over the Bosca Reserva but if you are an Argentine aficionado, perhaps it is.
BARON RICASSOLI ROCCA GUICCIARDA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009   $24.95 - 599 cases – I like this wine. It’s not a big, viscous wine but is terrific with food. We had a bottle of this vintage a few weeks ago while in Quebec and it was a great accompaniment to both a cheese fondu as well as a Chinese fondu combination of sliced Duck breast and Bison meat. The latter 2 were fabulous by the way so guess who might have that to look forward to next time we do Chinese fondu at home!
BODEGA LAN RESERVA 2007 $21.95 – 549 cases – A Rioja that loves food and the food loves it right back. Seeing this price I wish I’d bought more of the 1500ml bottles when they were on sale for $29.95 after Christmas.  LCBO note  -  that price ($29.95) tells me where this wine really should be priced.
MEERLUST MERLOT 2008 – Only 39 cases of 12 at $25.95, this should be a terrific wine from the Stellenbosch region (some say the best wine region in South Africa). It’s an ISD so it’ll be in short supply and in few stores. If you see it, try one.
ROLF BINDER HALES 2009 SHIRAZ – $20.95 599 cases – The entry level wine from an excellent producer of Southern Australian wines. Big, bold, and black purple, expect black fruit, pepper and strong tapenade, nori notes on a long finish.  The 95 point score is just silly but is liable to have points chasers out in force. The wine is good but not that good so if you can’t find any, don’t lose sleep. There are others just as good in the release!
GEMMA BAROLO 2007 – 299 cases - $29.95 – very well priced Barolo and well scored to boot. Everything that applies to the Gattinara below applies to this wine except for the goofy bottle!
TRAVALIGNI GATTINARA 2006 $29.95 - 600 Cases – Think of it as a poor man’s Barolo in a goofy bottle (I know, I know, it traps the sediment.) A terrific wine to accompany rustic recipes for braised meats in rich sauces. It’ll need a year or two to begin to soften and even then open it well in advance of serving or better still, decant it.
Some tempting big dollar selections this week too.
MONTEVIEJO 2007 – $33.95 – 199 cases – A big Argentine malbec blend - nearing the top of what I’ll spend for them. Has some age on it but is it really worth that much more than the Bosca malbec?
LILLY’S GARDEN 2010 - $62.95 – 199 cases – Among the best of the Two Hands offerings, the Garden Series entries are often overshadowed by the fabulous Bella’s but this one should be terrific. Over my own self imposed $$ limit unfortunately.
G D VAJRA ALBE BAROLO 2007 –299 cases – Barely into the big buck zone we find another Barolo, this one for $34.95! What’s not to like with that?
RUFFINA DUCALE D’ORO 2007 CHIANTI CLASSICO RESERVA - $43.95 –749 cases of 6 -  Not cheap but as good or better than many a Brunello.  Ageworthy for sure.
COLLOSORBO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 – 599 cases of 6 - Wonderful vintage for Brunello, at $49.95 this one just creeps in under my upper wine levels, price wise.
GIRAMONTE 2008 - $84.95 – 29 cases of 6.  Really? Why bother including it in the release other than to say “Look at us, look at us!”?  This should be an ISD.
BURGESS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005 – $37.95 – 223 cases – There is some age on this one so it should be drinking really nicely. I expect a 90-92 pointer here.
SIGNORELLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - $62.95 – 167 cases – Perennially this is one of Gismondi’s Top 100 Wines.   I would categorize this as less of a fruit bomb than many Napa offerings.
JOSEPH PHELPS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 – Big, big bucks! Even the little bottle is big bucks!
THOMAS FOGARTY LEXINGTON MERITAGE 2006 - $49.95 – 111 cases – Upon release this was categorized as the best ever Lexington. Should now be ready for you to enjoy immediately but not cheap!
CHATEAU MUSAR 2002 $54.95 – With only 74 cases coming in this should also be an ISD but since I’m not a big fan, I don’t care. However Musar is quite well regarded in the wine world so if you want to try a Bordeaux blend from off the beaten path (the Bekka Valley in Lebanon), here you go