Monday, August 26, 2013

Vintages August 31st release - 90 pointers, Champers I can't afford and a geography lesson.

August 31st already! I was going to proclaim this the final release of the summer but we still have over three weeks of September days before the arrival of the autumnal equinox so that’d be premature. And we all know there’s only one thing worse than a premature proclamation. Those three September weeks translate into one more (probably forgettable) Vintages release before autumn officially arrives. 
So instead of end of summer proclamations, let’s start this week’s review with a brief geography lesson for our friends at Vintages. Cahors is in the Southwest of France, roughly east and a bit south of Bordeaux. It is not anywhere near Burgundy and should not be included in that region.  Red wines from Cahors are predominately made with malbec grapes. Red wines from Burgundy, pinot noir!  End of lesson.
On to the release - the first feature is a big batch of 90 Point (+) Wines. Some of them might even merit their advertised scores. The second feature is one I like to call ‘Champagnes that no one with any sense should buy’.  No wonder I drink Cava, Prosecco,  the various Cremants and the odd Canuck bubbly!
The VRSS scores the release anywhere from 62 to 66 points. It has some good sub-$20 variety and quality but few wines that absolutely demand to be purchased.

The Reds, in order*
*= subject to some shuffling if my mood changes, the top 5 or 6 are all worthy of consideration but are very different wines
Rivera Cappellaccio Riserva 2006 - $17.95 – This wine has entered its prime drinking window yet even at this price it still shows the ability to age further. A good buy. (Words not often said when talking about the LCBO!).  93 in a recent review from Antonio Galloni.  Look for tannins, black fruit, hints of licorice and spice, I suggest decanting.
Breca Old Vines Garnacha 2010 - $19.95 – A brilliant wine according to Robert Parker, this is one that’ll probably have folks scrambling to buy in bulk. If you like raspberry ganache, I expect you’ll adore this one!
Poggio alle Querce Il Guado Bolgheiri 2009 -$22.95 – An Italian take on the traditional international Cab and Merlot blend, this one earned a great review from Bruce Sanderson in the Wine Spectator but is not included in the 90 point wines feature. Even paired with rare lamb or beef, it could still use a few years in a cool, quiet, dark place to really show its stuff.
Perrin  Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne Peyre Blanche 2011 - $17.95 – Annually it’s neck and neck  between this wine and the Perrin Vinsobres for the best bargain from this excellent producer.  2011 seems to be no different. So far the Cairanne is ahead by a nose (yes that is a terrible wine pun)!
Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas 2011 – $24.95 - From two vineyard sites  (La Romane, La Machotte hence the name), this is not the prestige label from this very good producer but is a superior wine nonetheless. Those who might have purchased the 2010 can now compare the two vintages – the brilliant 2010 and the not quite so inspiring but still very good 2011.
Mandrarossa Cartagho 2009 - $19.95 – 3 glasses  of 3 from Gamberro Rosso, if you like  Nero D’Avola
Domaine Le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu 2011 - $13.95 –We’re pretty much finished with the southern Rhone  2010’s now so you bargain hunters will have to wrap your palate around the next vintage of the Cotes du Rhone Villages. This named village is bargain priced  - great for burgers on a weeknight but sophisticated enough for far more.
Los Clop Cabernet 2009 or Malbec 2009 – $16.95 – Given my unsophisticated language skills,  my pronunciation of this  winery’s name sounds like a Clydesdale on concrete. Do not hold my linguistic failings against these wines. Both are from the Mendoza and both received 90 point scores.  They’re new to me but the reviews and the prices are definitely right.
Achaval Ferrer Malbec  2011 – $24.95 - Always a winner but has steadily increased in price over the last few years moving it down the list of options.  Should be priced at the $21.95 price point as there are many almost as good in the $18 - $22 range (or priced even better, see Los Clop for a sample perhaps). A-F seems to be following the same marketing plan as the Penfolds brand. Might work, might not.
Domaine Fontaine du Clos Reflets de l’Ame Vacqueyras 2011 – $20.95 - Not yet recommended, I’ll have to try one of these first – stay tuned.
Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2010 $24.95 – A young chianti, open in advance and allow to air.
Once again reflecting its status as a bargain hunter’s delight Spain has three more entries that look to be worthy of very serious consideration.    
Luis Canas Reserva 2005 – From the esteemed 2005 vintage in the Rioja, this is another pretty good buy at $22.95.
Bodegas del Abad Dom Bueno 2008 - $15.95 - From the Bierzo region and made from the Mencia grape (tastes like Pinacheyrah to me). Here in North America both were largely unknown until the last few years but they’ve become a favourite of wine trendoids everywhere.  The trendoids won’t tell you why but it’s because Bierzo wines are generally inexpensive!  Also, even at 5 years old you can leave this particular one alone for a while.
Barco de Piedra Tinto 2011 - $17.00 – Another of the Food and Drink $17 that should be $15 wines. Well reviewed, this one should be right in its drinking window.

And now three under $20’s from Oz – The Billi Billi shiraz might merit 90 but not 94, and there are opening price point labels from two quality producers – Elderton Friends  Shiraz and Katnook’s Founder’s Block Cabernet. Having a crowd for an end of summer BBQ? Can’t go wrong here.

Chateau Pinerai Cahors 2009 - $15.95 – Cahors, South West France, not Burgundy! To receive 2 stars from the Guide Hachette at this price is like a fast food joint getting a star in the Guide de Michelin.  Want to compare old and new world malbecs? Try this one against the Los Clop perhaps.
Two Whites
Excelsior Chardonnay 2012 - $12.95 – Really? This review looks too good to be true for this price. Should not be overoaked, but should provide a tiny hint of butteriness on a slightly sweet, fruit driven  finish.
Falchini Vigna a Solatio Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2012 - $16.95 – Recommended only because I spent a week this past summer a few kilometers from San Gimignano. Minerally and slightly bitter on the finish, not for you buttery chard fans by any stretch of the imagination!

Big Bucks
(My big Bucks are not nearly big enough to include any of the champers)
Beringer Reserve Napa Cabernet 2010 - $49.95 – An excellent Napa offering from Beringer. Expensive though!
Villa I Cipressi Zebras Brunello di Montalcino 2006 - $45.95 – Both the name and the interesting label reflect  the owner’s fascination with zebras. The label is taken from a mural that is actually painted on the walls of the winery’s cellar. From the very good 2006 vintage, this is almost riserva quality from this producer. Very ageworthy.

Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin de Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 - $36.95 – A new (to me) CdP from the esteemed 2010 vintage. This has a richly adjectival text review from James Molesworth lthough the numerical score may not reflect his effusive wordiness. ;-)

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 17th - A rosé with star power, less common Italians, and an old favourite returns in big numbers.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. Yes, this release has the Brad and Angelina Miraval  rosé from Provence.  The LCBO, ever the celebrity stalker, managed to buy 996 cases of it and will be making them available to the lucky Ontario public for $24.95 per bottle.   Expensive as it is it’ll probably sell quickly for three reasons – the hype of the big names, the curiousity factor, and it appears to be in a very different, stylish bottle so it’ll stand out among the acres of rosés populating the shelves. Reviews have been generally positive for it but…..
The Aug.17th release features ‘Off the beaten track’ Italian wines. Certainly there are many that are made from red grapes other than nebbiolo, sangiovese, and the international grapes like merlot or cabernet sauvignon. As well, the whites are a departure from Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. It is nice to see Vintages try to push them a bit to expand their merchandise lines and our palates. Also in this release are Australian whites. Again, there are some unusual grapes and grape combinations (perhaps uncommon is a better word than unusual) than the normal Aussie Chards. OK, ok there is a chard too.  As well there are a few new to Vintages products, and  new vintages and rereleased vintages of old favourites.   
The VRSS  crawls into the  62 point  territory, mostly because I finished my last H3 cab and my last Clos de Sixte in the last few weeks.  
Top 3 Picks Under $25
Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon  2010 $19.95 – 1799 cases – This should be $15 at the most  (Google is your friend, look it up!).  Pricewise we’re taking a real beating here but this wine is good enough to make you forget about that! It’s a very good, very consistent wine and under $20. Consider a case buy or perhaps try to find 6 Rust en Vrede’s marked down cab and go for 6 and 6.
Alain Jaume Domaine Grand Veneur  Clos De Sixte Lirac 2010 - $23.95 – 398 cases – Jaume’s Lirac is among my favourites of the non-Gigondas/ Vacqueyras/ CdP Southern Rhone villages.  For this wine the 2007 has been the benchmark for me. I think the 2010 is not quite there but it is very, very  good. Timing is everything, I finished my last bottle of the previous release of this vintage just a week or so ago! And yes it is a dollar more than last November.
Beronia Reserva 2008 - $18.95 – 1100 cases – Plenty of cases of this popular, high quality  Spanish option. As in the printed review, the ’05 was my benchmark for this one – it’s fruit driven,  smooth,  just tannic enough and a tasty accompaniment to any meal.
Top White
Fielding unoaked Chardonnay  2012 279 cases -$14.95 – Pure, tasty fruit for grilled fish or to accompany summer pasta salads. Take this one over the rosés (one of Brad and Angelina’s excepted, perhaps).
An Easy Three from The Italian Feature
Villa Mora – Montefalco Sagrantino. $19.95 – 1299 cases - If only because it’s so close in name to Villa Nora. Those of you who understand that joke will get this one!
Taurasi Villa Raiano 2008 $23.95- 249 cases An Aglianico, even though this one has some age, it may be less approachable than the next from Puglia.
Girolamo Capo di Gallo Aglianico 2011 – $18.95 - 298 cases- younger by three vintages than the Taurasi, look for black fruits to dominate the palate but I think you’ll find some licorice notes too. Decant it.
Big Bucks
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $34.95 – 223 cases of 6– Overpriced in our market but a very nice wine.  From a specific vineyard in the H3 region, this one’ll be an interesting counterpoint  to the  recently released  Ste. Michelle Indian Wells and the CC H3.  Given the option, you can buy three CC H3’s for less than two of these.
Kenwood Jack London Cabernet 2010 - $39.95 – 269 cases of 6 - Almost as good as the Ste Michelle but even more expensive for what you get.

Chateau Fortia Cuvee du Baron 2010 - $38.95 – 219 cases– Big, bold, but there have been as good CdP’s this year for less.