Tuesday, December 31, 2013

January 4, 2014 - A good start to the year

After the big buck temptations of November and the bubblies of December, this first Vintages release of 2014 traditionally presents a truckload of cheap and cheerful wines which one hopes will provide some pleasure without breaking the bank.  This release also has me hoping for a bin end sale to accompany it. We always need one of those so watch for news about that possibility. Regardless of whether there is a bin end sale or not, there are some wines in the first release of 2014 worthy of consideration. Best of all, they shouldn’t cause your wallet too much undo stress. If you were lucky enough to get an LCBO gift card for Christmas use it on some of the bargains this week. Or perhaps wait for the Holiday 1500ml’s to go on sale? 
The VRSS merits 62- 66 points. Remember, the scoring system starts like Parker’s 100 point system. In his system, a wine gets 50 points for showing up. Well I give a release 50 points just for getting printed on that nice glossy paper. From there, if I ‘must buy’ a wine that wine adds points to the score of the release. if a wine must be bought, whites and bubblies score 3 points each, reds merit 4. Unlike Parker’s system, a release can score more than 100 points but I haven’t seen it happen yet.
The Picks
Chateau La Bastide 2010 - $13.95 – 900 cases- Three of Three from Guide Hachette is exceptional at any price but especially at this price.  Ready to drink with a meal or on its own.
Cusumano Noa 2010 - $19.95 –1999 cases- A  Sicilian equivalent to the Tuscan Terriccio in the Big Bucks section,   just substitute Nero d’Avola for Sangiovese and save $10! If you must drink it now, this one’ll  benefit from a short decant, methinks.
Pierre Amadieu Les Grangelieres Vacqueyras 2011 - $19.95 –499 cases-  Among the  better  wines in the release even though the vintage wasn’t stellar. It’ll need a few months to calm down.
Seven Falls Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - $18.95 – 167 cases – New to me, this one is from vineyards located on the Wahluke slope in the Columbia Valley. You know I like red wines from Washington St. This one is no different.  If you enjoy the  Columbia Crest H3 Cab, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Domaine Tournon Shiraz Mathilde 2011 - $19.95 – 489 cases-From the Australian winery of Chapoutier, stylistically this’ll exhibit as much southern Rhone syrah as Australian Shiraz.
Zonte’s Footstep Avalon Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - $17.95 –255 cases- High quality juice from an Australian  winery with a silly name. All Zonte’s Footstep products seem to be well scored by North American critics.
Wakefield 2010 Shiraz -$17.00 – 4000 cases- Quality yes, but regardless of what the LCBO would have you believe, this really isn’t a bargain.
Geografico Montegiachi Chianti Classico Riserva 2009- $24.95 – 499 cases - This’ll need some time, but should be a smoking wine. Leave it in a cool, dark place for a year or so for it to begin to show its best.
Looking for a bargain cabernet? Try the St. Alicia from the Maipo valley in Chile. Maipo is home to many of the finest Cab Sauv’s coming from Chile, so this one at $14.95 is worth a shot. 419 cases.
Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2007 – $13.95- 1000 cases- Looking for something inexpensive and  Zinfandel-esque  to accompany midwinter bbq’d burgers or ribs? This is always excellent and well priced.
Azul Portugal 2008 - $14.95 – 248 cases of 6-With the fanfare in this release it may go early but not to worry – any of the three from Portugal  will provide the same pleasure – but you have to like the Portuguese flavour profile.
The Bigger Bucks (comparatively speaking, that is.)
J.L. Chave Offerus St. Joseph – 2011 - $33.95 – 50 cases- An ISD or FSE  or perhaps make that a YCBI (you can’t buy it) so there’ll be very few and the few there are will be snapped up by the cognoscenti.
Castello del Terriccio Tassinaia 2006 - $29.95 – 399 cases- Among the more expensive bottles in the release  this is from a brilliant vintage in Tuscany. A Blend of 1/3rd each Sangiovese, Merlot and Cab sauv, this should be an interesting wine and right in its drinking window.
La Pieve Barolo – 2009 $29.95 – 500 cases- Wonderful price for a food friendly wine. This will also benefit from a bit of aging  to soften the tannins.

Welcome to the new year boys and girls.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

LCBO Gift Review - In a word, Wait!

LCBO Gift review
Every year at this time the LCBO promotes an array of gift products, many of which began to be highlighted in the Nov.09 Vintages catalogue.  Some of them are gag gifts, some are make you gag gifts and small number  are worth buying especially if and when they are marked down after Christmas. While the wines available are rarely serious collector items, some quite good ones are available especially in 1500 ml bottles. The combination of wine quality and large bottle size promotes graceful if slower ageing.  Perhaps the best news is that if they don’t sell out in the pre Christmas/ New Years frenzy and if the inventory quantities are right these big boys can be had for reduced prices early in the new year.  In the past I have purchased 1500ml bottles of very nice wines at or below the same price as Vintages was selling a 750 ml of the same wine. Yes you have to watch and be lucky but from time to time a bargain can be had at the monopoly. I’ll be tracking inventory in the following wines and recommend you do as well. They are my suggestions for the best wines among the gift items but best is a relative term here and I wouldn’t buy many, if any, at full price. The LCBO website will tell you what’s in the stores but once we get past Christmas and New Years it’s what’s in the warehouse that’ll really count.

The Frescobaldi Brunello Vertical is the only gift pack that I’d consider– one bottle of each of the 2005, 06 and 07 vintages packaged together. $149.95 it is a steep price to pay for this trio but you get a readymade mini vertical and at least two of the three years are superior vintages. Watch to be sure the ’06 and ‘07 bottles haven’t been switched out by other clever Vintages shoppers!

Of the big bottles, here are the ones to consider after Christmas.

Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf du Pape 2010- $74.95-This 1500ml bottle is from one of the better Southern Rhone vintages but the producer is not among my favourites. That said, if it becomes well priced it will age for 10-15 years and look like a screaming buy in five. Quantity wise, there are some but perhaps not enough of these to hit the post-Christmas mark down rack. What’s in the warehouse?

Rocco Guicciardo Chianti Classico Reserva 2010 – $49.95 – A personal favourite among  the Baron Ricassoli CCR offerings. This 1500 ml will be a great buy if it gets marked down to $40. but I don’t hold out much hope. There just don’t seem to be that many around. Again, what’s in the warehouse?

Descendientes de J. Palacios 2011 - $49.95 – Readers of the blog will recognize this wine as a perennial pick at 750 ml. Again, if it hits the mark down rack, this 1500ml is worth considering.

J. Lohr 7 Oaks Vineyard – $43.95 - Having a big group for dinner?  Can’t go wrong here.  Lots of stock but they do pretty much sell out in our market.

Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi Barolo 2008 - $129.95 – A 92 point gem that’ll age for two decades. It could outlast me but it’ll take a real price hit to get it low enough!

Stags Leap Artemis  Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 - $139.95 – There appears to be lots around and with it  being well over the $100 mark, there could be limited demand. The Stags Leap name holds some cachet though. It would take a serious price cut for this one to go below my self-imposed price ceiling per 750 ml bottle.

Any of  the Masi, Remo Farina and Tommasi Amarones will be OK if you’re a fan of the style. If you have a serious cellar and can find one marked down,  the 3000 ml Tommasi will provide a great looking accent bottle long after the contents have been enjoyed.

As for the rest of the offerings, I’ll take a pass.