Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 30th - Vintages marches out like a lamb.

Just another dreary release that barely crawls above 60 points on the VRSS. This one focuses on the Midi area of France, a region that is home to some interesting bargain wines. A small number made it to this catalogue – a very small number. Second focus is Easter. The way winter is hanging on and since neither feature is very good perhaps the second feature should be a Nor’easter

There are a few conversation piece wines in this release. The first is represented in the Argentina section. Called Versado, it’s a small winery in the Mendoza with a Canuck connection. It’s co-owned by Peter Gamble, Ann Sperling, Moray Tawse and Gerry McConnell. All are well known in the Canadian wine biz, Gamble works with, among many others, McConnell’s Benjamin Bridge in Nova Scotia, and Sperling has her eponymous winery in BC as well as working with others in the Okanagan and Southern Ontario. Tawse of course owns Tawse winery, that bastion of overpriced excess in Niagara. The Versado vineyards are approximately 7 or 8 hectares in size (about 20 acres), 3 hectares of which are planted with 80 to 90 year old Malbec vines. According to the winery, each of the vines is 100% European (not grafted on) root stock. Indeed, ungrafted, true vinifera varieties are pretty rare anywhere in this day and age. The area’s extended growing seasons combined with naturally reduced yields from the old vines deliver the potential for a wine of enhanced aroma and flavor. I’m looking forward to big fruit with enough tannic backbone to stand up to the rarest of beef.

Versado Estate Old Vine Malbec 2010 $24.95 -223 cases – Expectations? Deep ruby , some oak on the nose; lively acidity, dry, savoury, black olive, tarry blackberry flavours with a somewhat herbal finish.

Versado Estate Malbec Reserva 2009: $59.95 - Bigger and fuller than the regular cuvee, I expect something along the lines of one of Trapiche’s special ‘best managed vineyard’ releases. Those ones are often brilliant and under $40 so I’ll stick with them. The Versado Reserva, perhaps suffering from the Tawse effect, is priced way over my own self imposed $50 ceiling coming in at almost $60.

Continuing on the conversation piece theme, fans of say D’Arenberg’s Laughing Magpie might want to try the Lion’s Tooth of the McLaren Vale at $19.95. Unlike the Syrah Viognier blend made famous in the Cote Rotie, this wine is comprised of the odd combination of Shiraz and Riesling. Could be interesting, or not.
 Last of the interesting wines is one called the Stray Mongrel from Hentley farms. This is a GSZ blend. Scratching your head? I was too! Zinfandel has been added to the traditional Southern Rhone blend of Grenache and Syrah. It’s an ISD, so 4 cases of 12 in the entire province. You’ll be very lucky to see a bottle, never mind be able to buy one! On with the real picks!

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz $24.95 - from the Clare valley expect cooler climate stylings here but this’ll still be a big mouthful. Fans of the late, lamented Bin 61, this is even better.
Cave de Roquebrun La Grange des Combes Saint Chinian Roquebrun $17.95 – MSG  - that’s not monosodium glutamate but rather Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache. Look for  meaty, earthy  aromas and flavours.
Calmel et J.Joseph 2009 Faugeres $16.95 – Described as having unctuous aromas. I always associated unctuous with an oily, slippery feel as opposed to smell. It received 5 stars from Decanter. Hard to beat the price.
H & B St. Chinian 2010 – $23.95 299 cases of 12 - Should be excellent. The 2009 was reviewed at 92-94 points. 2010 should be every bit as good a vintage and certainly the producer has shown no signs of reduced capabilities or quality.
Hickinbotham Cabernet Shiraz 2009 $16.95 – I’ll recommend this one in spite of the image of the  young dork wearing his little brother’s suit jacket in an effort to arrive in style.

Irony Small Lots Reserve 2010 – This seems to cover all the bases. Small Lots? Got it. Reserve? Got it. Cabernet Sauvignon?  For sure.  Napa. Yes indeed. Under $20? Barely. Is it worth it? Maybe. A Google of it gives me the first  little wine store selling it at $12.99. Wine searcher gives me a screen full and none above $13.50, but many below it. Ah well, BBQ season is coming and this’ll be a pleasant accompaniment to burgers and a change from Malbec.

Lander Jenkins Spirit Hawk Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $18.95 - Might be worth a flyer on one and if you really like it, go for more.

The SUM 2010 from the Beckstoffers of To Kalon fame.  At $27.95, buying one might be worth a shot on the name alone.

Beronia Gran Reserva 2005 – $32.95- The Beronia Reserva is always very good and this should be no exception. Ready to drink now it’ll be smooth and fruity but still tannic enough to stand up to red meats.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 16th - Vintages release of California Pioneers

March 16th features California pioneers (Can you say Ca-Ching?) and a feature to compare similar wines to ascertain the differences of terroir, weather, altitude and I suppose palates. Having quickly gone through the release I have seven wines to recommend but none of them are true ‘must buy’ wines. Of them, I expect the best to be the Veneroso,  the ’07  Cellole CCR and the Luca syrah.  There are a number of big name,  big bucks wines from California in the release but the number of cases available for some is pretty small. It’ll be fun to watch the stock brokers, bankers, doctors, lawyers and plumbers fighting over those ones!   The release scores 58-62 on the VRSS.  For 2013 the Vintages releases have been consistent, if nothing else.
Luca Laborde Double Select Syrah 2010-$22.95 - 339 cases of 6 - From the Catena family’s Luca Winery, this is a very good example of higher altitude Argentina  Syrah.
San Fabiano Calcinaia Cellole Chianti Classico Riserva 2007- $26.95 -199 cases – Terrific vintage for a consistently very good to excellent wine. They also produce olive oil and are located about 25 km from Villa Nora (about 15 as the crow flies). 
Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 - $19.99 – 599 cases – A food wine from another producer who is deserving of your attention.
Tenuta di Ghizzano Veneroso 2009 $29.95 and 399 cases94 points from Galloni and under $30. The review reads like this should be a $50 or $60 wine.   Do you have time? You’ll need it to wait for this one to soften up and come around. I don’t expect this to be one to pop and pour so be ready to decant this morning and drink tonight, if you must drink now. And serve with something that’ll stand up to it.
Hewitson Miss Harry  2010 $19.95 – Another good Aussie GSM. Vintages has had a good run of them lately.  This one is OK priced based on Ontario prices for Aussie GSMs - unless you compare it to one of the many available 2010 Cotes du Rhone Villages. Then, not so much.
Skillogallee Shiraz 2008 –From the Clare Valley so not a massive fruit bomb. It’ll be interesting to compare this and the Jim Barry The Lodge Hill in the March 30th release.
Menguante Garnacha Seleccion 2007 $17.95– Grenache, so imagine a Southern Rhone offering that has a lisp. Well priced.
Big Bucks
Taurasi  Vesevo 2007 – $35.95 – An acquired taste ISD with only 39 cases of 6 so become really good buddies with the Vintages consultant at one of about 6 stores. Otherwise, fahgeddaboud it.  Aglianico.
La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino 2007 – $49.95 - 199 cases – Another big buck charmer from Brunello.
Shafer One Point Five $84.95 “I won the lottery!” If you just uttered those words rush right out and buy a case of this wine. Wonderful wine, it just says Napa Cab!
Shafer Relentless 2009 $84.95 - 29 cases of 12 – A question to Vintages and LCBO management, “Why bother putting this in a Vintages catalogue?” Just send a few from each case off to your political cronies and be done with it!