Friday, October 25, 2013

Vintages Last of October - Bordeaux and the US Pac.NW

October 28th brings with it the Bordeaux 2010 feature. Yawn. That’s just my palate, don’t take it personally. The second feature this week is the U.S.Pacific Northwest.  A Pacific Northwest feature should yield some rare delights from Oregon and Washington State. What do we get? The expected  Pinot Noirs and a Gris from Oregon and from Washington, three wines that are oft available in Vintages but which sell out quickly.  Why use a feature to repeat the same old, same old?   Especially from Washington where there are plenty of medium to big buck options available (whether they be Cabs, Syrahs or Merlots) without having to resort to retreads. Up price, Abeja, Baer, Bookwalter, Januik  to name a few or the less well  known and less pricey  Millbrandt or Glaze or Waterbrook? 

Since the LCBO saw fit to reiterate Marie Antoinette’s infamous “Let them eat cake!” in their marketing this week, let’s stay with the guillotine theme and chop off the VRSS at 60 points. It would be 64 but I can’t bring myself to get in the scrum nor drop the bucks for the Amon Ra.  If this release is a sign of things to come, this fall does not bode well for the cellar. It does bode well for my bank account though.

The Picks (not many this week)
Vinum Africa  Chenin Blanc 2011 – $15.95 - Try this one for a tasty, zippy, fruity accompaniment if Thai or spicy seafood is on the menu. Good choice.
Zolo Cabernet -2010– One of the latest options of the ‘$17.00 that should be $15.00’ wines.  Very well scored, this might be a good wine to serve if you’re having a Christmas open house. Of course if you do, your guests might never leave.
The Columbia Crest Grand Estates and H3 Merlots  as well as the Charles Smith Cabernet are good wines but you can find similar options quite often in Vintages.  Like the Zolo above, the Grand Estates is a great choice to serve at an open house. Not too overpriced, it’s food friendly yet very good on its own. It’s sure to please.   
OZ appears to be this week’s Spain. There are a few Shiraz Grenache blends this week from $17 to $29.00 and a couple of good Shiraz between $17 and $25.
Travaglini Gattinara 2007 $29.95 – Think of it as a Barolo without the full price tag.  Ageworthy and still tannic even after six years.
The BIG Bucks
Glaetzer Amon Ra 2010 – A renowned Australian wine.  Can’t afford the Grange or Hill of Grace (who can?)? This is your ticket!  It is close to a match for the Elderton Command or the E and E Black Pepper Shiraz. But, 64 cases of 6 is all there is. Watching the scrum at the Cornwall St. Store will be an interesting way to spend about 45 seconds on Saturday morning!
Trapiche Single Vineyard Series 2009 –$39.95 - Jorge Mirailles Vineyard – Annually, Trapiche selects their best single vineyards and from these, they produce a special series of wines named for each of the vineyard managers.  Quality permitting, usually three Single Vineyards are selected and the resultant wines are among the very best produced by Trapiche. Massive, opaque, just made for red meat.  

Yacochuya 2006 $46.95– From Michel Rolland, this bad boy is a big one and right in its drinking window. Expensive though!

One mention of a Vintages Essential this week as well. WineAlign recently voted the The Stag's Leap Cabernet as the best  wine available in Canada in the $25 to $50 category. It's on sale for a couple of weeks at $5 off. Down from $49.95 to $44.95. I guess the new vintage must be coming in. Winealign had a number of criteria for the wine to be chosen, go to their blog to read about the process. It's a very well run operation with pretty much the who's who of English Canadian wine critics involved.

Friday, October 4, 2013

October 12 Vintages - Napa and Barolo/Burgundy - Kaching!

It’s time to strap on your big boy face if you’re going to go near  the Vintages section this week. With the Oct.12th release,  which features a selection of Napa wines ably backed up by a second feature on Barolo/Burgundy,  Vintages unofficially begins its autumnal upswing  in pricing. This culminates with the final three pre-Christmas releases. 

Of all the countries represented in the current release, it would appear that once again Spain will provide (alliteration alert!) the best and biggest bang for your buying buck. The 7 Spanish options average 91-92 points according to the quoted reviews of professional tasters and magazines yet cost on average about $26. Contrast that with the reds in the Napa release which come in at an average price of well over $58 and it’s pretty easy to see where you’ll get more value.  

I just checked my cellar in preparation for this release.  The fact that it resembles a Tokyo subway car at rush hour combined with my enforced price ceiling has a direct impact on the VRSS this week. The result is a paltry 58 points score. As a ‘must buy’ only the under $20. Tres Picos makes the grade for me.  Two others have me weakening. The Torres Salmos is calling my name and should I win the lottery, I’d be all over the Oreno.  That said, here are the others that do appeal to my palate.
The Picks
Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2011-$19.95- Tremendous Grenache – raspberry/blackberry coulis galore! Last release of this was an amazingly tasty wine. I scored some of the Breca from a few releases ago. Maybe a blind tasting is in order.
If you’re a fan of garnacha or tempranillo, any of the Spanish options should fill the bill for you!

Two from the Rhone - Domaine St. Pierre Vacqueyras 2010 –$24.95- From the renowned 2010 Vintage, this should be ready to drink now. A heady mix of Grenache and syrah, expect coulis, garrigue (herby notes) and perhaps a hint of fennel or licorice.
Domaine la Fourmone Tresor du Poete Vacqueyras 2010 – 22.95 – See above.

Two from Oz – $24.95 - Schild Estates 2010 Barossa Shiraz – made it back into the WSTop100 last year after getting a good spanking and being sent to its room for some questionable conduct. It’s a good wine. Big, ripe black fruit, olive tapenade or seaweed maybe on the finish.  Like many OZ brands, I think Schild is moving upscale for future vintages so look for more single vineyard and old vine reserve  type options from them and grip your wallet accordingly.
Wynn’s Black Label Cabernet 2010 $27.95 - On par with last release’s Pirramimma Cab but with a bit more mint or menthol notes from the Coonawarra eucalyptus. Last release had Wynn’s second label (similar to Katnook Founders Block, Elderton Friends) to support the rising price of this wine. Annually I whine about buying it on close out from the General List for $16.95 some years ago and how I have a hard time to spend this much more for the same quality wine from a country with a wine glut. This’ll be the last year for the whining, I promise. It is a very good wine, just not for me at this price.

Two from Cali – under $30 – the Loius Martini  2011 Cab is solid and the Stonehedge reserve might be OK but I am not familiar with it. Any of the three recommended cabs from last release or the Wynn’s from this one are better options than these two.

Luca Malbec 2011 – $29.95 - From the Catena family, this is their mid-to upper level  category of wines. The Luca  Chardonnay is among my favourite global Chardonnays. Like the chard, this malbec is well crafted from prime vineyard locations but yes it is getting expensive.  For a match made in heaven, decant it, grill a T-bone steak and you’ll quickly forget the expense!

The Big Bucks
Torres Salmos 2010 - $36.95 – Think of it as a Spanish CdP. From the Priorat region of Spain and like a very good CdP,  it will benefit from time. Buy one, leave it horizontal in a shadowy corner on the cold floor of your basement and forget about it. In 3 or 4 years, when you rediscover it and savour it, you’ll find yourself crawling around in the dark on said floor sadly asking “Didn’t I buy more?”   OK, perhaps that’s over the top, but this should be a great wine.
Sette Ponti Oreno 2010 - $71.95 – A Tuscan take on a Bordeaux blend, to me, this wine is among the best Tuscan offerings of the entire year. Duplicate the handling instructions for the Torres Salmos above. 
Luis Canas Seleccion de la Familia Reserva 2005 - $34.95 –  Ageworthy tempranillo that can be enjoyed today.
San Lorenzo Bramante Brunello 2007 - $47.95 – Ready to drink but ageworthy as well.
Cavalli Tenuta Degli Dei 2009 - $49.95 – Just squeaks in under the $50 ceiling and as a bonus is you can tell your wife (or yourself!) that you bought her a designer original!
Napa – The Freemark Abbey will be OK, but for that price, I think you can do better from other regions.  The balance of the Napa options are just too much $$’s for  me.
Giacosa Bussa Barolo 2008 – Sneaks in under $40, red fruits, smoke and will need some time.