Monday, December 1, 2014

Vintages Release Report December 6, 2014 - we hit 50,000 page views!

Thanks to all the readers out there. This week we surpassed the 50,000 visitors mark. 

Here we are – the final  Vintages release of the year. The previous release had some very tempting entries and if you broke your bank to buy some of them you may be disappointed in yourself this time around. I must say it was almost worth a paid admission last week to see the folks lined up at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning for the 2010 Pontet Canet @ $250 and the Faustino 1 at about $40!  Ahhhh,  first world problems, aren’t they grand?

Back to this release, there are some well priced wines in this one. Argentina and South Africa lead the charge among the reds. Two malbecs - One under $20 and the other at almost $40 look very good as do the two South African blends.  After that, I’ll leave the selections to your palate. Any and all of the wines listed below should bring you pleasure. 
ARGENTINA – Bring on the medium rare prime rib for any of the following 4 – if you’re in the market for a malbec, this is the order I’d pick them in
SUSANA BALBO SIGNATURE MALBEC 2012   1199 $19.95 – Balbo has been a fave for quite some time and a real rarity in the macho world of Argentina winemaking.
CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2011   630 cases $21.95 – Michel Rolland’s (and 6 others ) investment has taken on some age now. 
CICCHITTI GRAN RESERVA MALBEC 2004  300 cases $22.95 – Note the year, this has some age on it now and an old review from the no longer active Jay Miller.
MULDERBOSCH FAITHFUL HOUND 2011    167  cases $19.95 – A WS Top 100 Pick this year, this is always a pleasant wine. A fine Bordeaux blend for prime rib, there are so many from which to choose this week but this was among my top picks.
ERNIE ELS BIG EASY 2012 279 cases $19.95 – A kitchen sink blend with Rhone varieties sharing centre stage with Cabernet Sauvignon.
DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2012 (M. Chapoutier)   913 cases $24.95- Lots going on here. Black fruit, licorice,  some herbiness. Needs some time to let it all settle down and then will be excellent . It’ll age like a Gigondas given the right cellar climate.
DOMAINE TERLATO & CHAPOUTIER SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2012   1199 cases $23.95 – Another of Chapoutier’s global wine holdings, not so in your face as the Dandelion.
DANDELION VINEYARDS LIONESS OF MCLAREN VALE SHIRAZ 2012   1198 cases $19.95 – A big, black fruited, peppery mouthful.  
WAKEFIELD JARAMAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   383 cases $24.95  - The bottle image has the look of Idi Amin with  all those medals but Wakefield is a terrific producer of well priced wines.
IL MOLINO DI GRACE RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2006   997 cases $23.95 – Nicely aged and from a terrific vintage. With food, excellent.
In the mood for a Spanish wine? Try some of the Finca El Encinal 2010 from last release. And Doug says if you can find the Bordon from Oct.25th, buy it.
RUTHERFORD RANCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   1299 cases $22.95 – A very pleasant unpretentious  cabernet.   
 POMUM SHYA RED 2008   209 cases $24.95  - New to me. I might have to try one.

Lots of inexpensive bubbles this time around! Try the Mumm Napa from the general list too – very good around $26.
MOUNTADAM ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2009   611 cases  $21.95 
 JACKSON-TRIGGS DELAINE CHARDONNAY 2012   55 cases of 6 $24.95  
DOMAINE LOUIS MOREAU CHABLIS 2013   399 cases $24.95   
TRAPICHE VINA JORGE MIRALLES TERROIR SERIES SINGLE  VINEYARD  497 cases  of 6 $39.95 – Within a release or two this seems to be the annual spot for this wine.  A single vineyard wine, very well made, for that special prime rib roast or steak. The same vintage was available last year at the same price. It would have been nice to try one of the other of Trapiche’s single vineyard releases but that would necessitate some work  by  the LCBO buyer I guess.  Too much to hope for? Apparently.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA DIRECTOR'S CUT CABERNET   449 cases $36.95 – I like this wine but it’s too much this time around.
ELDERTON ODE TO LORRAINE CABERNET   467 cases  of 6 $39.95  -Last release was a disappointment. Very thin, I almost thought I was pouring an old world Bordeaux blend.
LADIES WHO SHOOT THEIR LUNCH SHIRAZ 2012 (Fowles Wines)   479 of 6 $35.95 – Well marketed, well made.
Want a Canuck Christmas wine? Try either of these –
LAUGHING STOCK BLIND TRUST RED 2012     110 cases $37.95 
BURROWING OWL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011      167 cases $44.95 
MONTES PURPLE ANGEL 2011   249 cases  of 6 $62.95  - What was an annual treat for me is over my price threshold now.
BERINGER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   501 cases $49.95  - Good wine, bad vintage.
CORTE PAVONE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2008   398 cases  of 6  $49.95  
CAPRILI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2009   209 cases $44.95  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vintages November 22nd release - another year come and gone almost

November 22, 2014 is usually Vintages Best of the Best release. After the most recent release this one has a lot to atone for and at first glance it does so. From the sub $20’s (barely) to the multi hundred $’s, there is something for most wallets and reasonably good prices and bottles across all price points. Herein, I’ve tried to pick all the ones that are worthy of your consideration. Anything in the triple digits has been ignored – why would I tempt myself?
Whites and Bubblies
LOUIS BOUILLOT PERLE D'AURORE BRUT ROSÉ CRÉMANT DE BORGOGNE   599 cases $19.95  - Looking for a rose champagne?  Save your bucks and dive into this as a stand in. Great with brunch, popcorn, salmon (gravlax, smoked or planked) or just because your palate needs awakening.

 DOMAINE DE FUSSIACUS VIEILLES VIGNES POUILLY-FUISSÉ 2012  179 cases $27.95 or ALAIN GEOFFROY BEAUROY CHABLIS 1ER CRU 2012  299 cases $29.95  – I know it’s Christmas time, but how about a Chardonnay throw down? One of these two from Burgundy, a Hamilton Russell if you have one, the Clos Jordanne and maybe one of Stormin’ Norman’s creations from the county.  


 D'ARENBERG THE HIGH TRELLIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   447 cases $19.95 – An under rated cabernet and well priced.
GRANT BURGE THE HOLY TRINITY  2011 -  498 cases of 6 $29.95  - As close to a CdP as you’ll find from Australia. Will age well for a few years and is priced close  to where it should be.
WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL CABERNET $24.95 – From Coonawara, this traditional Aussie  cab shows eucalyptus, black fruit and some hints of licorice.
SANTA RITA MEDALLA REAL GRAN RESERVA CABERNET  798 cases $17.95 – Age worthy, great with roasted or grilled beef or lamb. More loamy -greens and brown flavours in with the black fruit - than the High Trellis or the Wolf Blass.
SEVEN FALLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON2011 - $19.95 – Think of it as an H3 in slightly different clothes. ‘Smart Buy’ earlier this year in the WS, less smart in Ontario due to the LCBO’s pricing.
NOSTRE PAÏS COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES 2012 (Michel Gassier)  237 cases $21.95 – This is the middle priced of the three Costieres de Nimes in the release. Perhaps miscategorized for some nefarious reason, I would have thought this should be with the Rhone entries since other offerings in this release are categorized there. Since 2004 Costieres de Nimes has been in the Rhone. Per Wikipedia, the move of Costières de Nîmes to the regional committee of the Rhône valley was effected in the 19 July 2004 version.  Up until the version of 8 July 1998, which the 2004 version superseded, Costières de Nîmes was assigned to the regional committee of Languedoc-Roussillon.
LES HALOS DE JUPITER COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES 2012  594 cases $16.95 – Same Costieres de Nimes, excellent producer, much better price!
CHÀTEAU DE NAGES JT COSTIÉRES DE NÎMES 2012   238 cases $24.95  - Another Costieres de Nimes but this one knows from whence it came. Also the most expensive.
GRANDS SERRES LES HAUTES VACQUIERES VACQUEYRAS 2012  400 cases $24.95 – I never miss a chance to recommend a Vacqueyras.
M. CHAPOUTIER PETITE RUCHE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2012  196 cases $24.95 – From younger vines surrounding the renowned Hermitage, expect this to be ready sooner. Made with no exposure to oak, it’ll show pure syrah fruit.
PERRIN L'ANDÉOL RASTEAU 2012  443 cases $19.95 – Among the better of the lesser named villages in the Cotes du Rhone Villages, the Perrin family does everything right.
 FINCA CONSTANCIA ALTOS DE LA FINCA 2011   576 cases of 6 $21.95
FINCA EL ENCINALCRAINZA 2010 -$17.95 – 94 points from a panel at Wine and Spirits – my opinion of the wine is not quite that high, but for the price and with tapas or roasted or grilled meats it does come alive.
BODEGA DIVINA PROPORCIÓN MADREMIA 2011   167 cases $29.95 – Don’t spend  your money here. I guess the LCBO thinks we won’t calculate the exchange rate – 15 euros  equal $21.30 Cdn.

FAUSTINO I GRAN RESERVA 2001 12 748 $35.95 – 13 years old and a Decanter number one wine from last year, this was gobbled up earlier this year and I expect the same to happen again. Not a fruit bomb  but even now redolent of red berries, backed by tannins and acid this wine has plenty of stuffing to continue to age gracefully.  Perhaps the buy of the release.

LE CLOS JORDANNE VILLAGE RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2011   309 cases of 6 $30.00  - 5 cents less and it doesn’t get stuck here with the big boys. Too bad.
CUNE GRAN RESERVA 2008   996 cases of 6 $39.95 – Already 6 years old but will be better if aged for a few more, if you can keep your hands off it. A quality Rioja from a quality producer.
TWO HANDS BELLA'S GARDEN SHIRAZ 2012   299 cases of 6 $63.95  - Now back in its sweet spot  points wise (the mid 90’s), Micheal Twelftree and this wine epitomize  everything good about Oz wine. This was the #16 wine in this year’s WS Top 100 Wines. 
BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE E&E BLACK PEPPER SHIRAZ 2008   79 cases of 6 $89.95 – Huge, brilliant wine but you do have to love those big boys and have lots of $$’s.
CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012   249 cases $89.95 – Among the finer CdP’s every year, this’ll need at least 7 years to open up, and probably more like 10.
DOMAINE DE VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE TÉLÉGRAMME CHÂTEAUNEUF    149 cases $49.95 – Vieux Telegraphe’s first wine has gotten crazy price wise (into  Beaucastel territory) so this  their 2nd cru is available. There are better CdP’s around for the $$’s.
LA VITE LUCENTE 2012 (Luce Della Vite) Luce Della Vite   248 cases $34.95 – Luce’s second wine.
TENUTA SETTE PONTI CROGNOLO 2011  299 cases $34.95 – James Suckling gave this 95 points, everyone else gave it 90. You be the judge – I think the lower score is a better indication of the wine.
BREZZA SARMASSA BAROLO 2009 139 cases $49.95 – Tremendous score for a very age worthy wine.
FATTORIA DEI BARBI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2008  247 cases $49.95 – Well made, slightly more fruit forward yet still a traditional Brunello.
A couple of ISD’s which you may or may not be able to find:
MEERLUST RUBICON 2008 - $33.95 – a South African Bordeaux blend that really delivers. 

CASTELLO DI NIPPOZANNO VIGNETO MONTESODI RISERVA  CHIANTI RUFINA 2010 $49.95 – Priced in Brunello territory, this is a fine vintage of a rarely available wine.  Needs time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November's First release is a bit of a dud....

I just checked the calendar. It is November 1st not April 1st !!!! Yet here we are, with about 7 wines   recommended from this entire release!  Seems like a cruel joke - how can we be at this late time in the year and only be recommending 7 wines (with an average price of about $35.00)?  Because, just because.

Next week I’ll take a look at the Vintages Christmas gifts – but they are less inviting! than last year and last year was not a great year.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE INDIAN WELLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON     335 cases $25.95  - Roast beef, roast pork, steaks? I expect this to be very good and one of the best buys  in this release.  It is ready to drink now with spice, cedar, currant notes, but flavours will age on the short term into more oaky vanilla and black cherry.


Argentina appears to be the Spain of this release, with quality across a number of price points. The two sub $20 wines are both very good for the money but my recommendation from the release is:

Manos Negras Malbec Atrevida 2010 - $22.95 – Should be right in its drinking window.  It behooves you to pair with anything with hooves (and then hoover it down). Look for this phrase next year in Vintages.

ALVARO PALACIOS CAMINS DEL PRIORAT 2013 321 cases $24.95 – Very young, so give it some time.

VIÑA REAL ORO RESERVA 2009   449 cases of 6  $29.95  - Almost a pick.  Almost.

Expensive for Argentina so it’s in the big bucks, FINCA FLICHMAN DEDICADO 2011 $29.95 – Apparently produced only in exceptional years, this blend reflects the quality that can be achieved. Ageworthy but also ready to drink with some air and some red meat.  I’ll spring for one for that prime rib roast.
CONCHA Y TORO TERRUNYO VINEYARD SELECTION CABERNET  2010 335 cases of 6  $34.95 – Among my favourite Cab Sauvs. To my palate and especially to my wallet this is a better buy than C y T’s  flagship Don Melchor as it is very close to just  as good most years.  

ONTANON GRAN RESERVA 2001   200 cases $39.95

LE VIEUX DONJON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012     148 cases $63.95  - If I were to buy one it would be  just to keep a vertical alive.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Italy and Chile on Oct. 25th - Bring your wallet!

How can you tell we are into the home stretch for another Vintages year? Because in spite of the inclusion of two “Food and Drink” $17 specials in the release the big $ choices far outnumber the under $30 selections.   The big feature of this week’s release is an upper middle class of Tuscan wines. Oooops sorry, make that ‘Tuscan Treasures’.  It seems the LCBO’s misguided marketing manager associated with and answerable for all alliteration allocations is back. (With Tuscan Treasures to tipple as treats to your tastebuds!).
The second feature is Chile. So many wines that could have been included but weren’t. Ah well.
It’s quite early so I might make a few additions or subtractions – check back closer to the release date for the final picks.
My Top Pick is a Chianti Classico Riserva from Cestello D'Albola ARGENTINA
ALAMOS SELECCION MALBEC 2012 $16.95 -  Above average quality for the price.
MORANDÉ GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   2399 cases $17.00 – Look for the typical   Chilean aroma and flavour  profile - earthy with some green notes backed by cassis and black cherry.
EMILIANA COYAM 2011   138 cases $29.95  - An unusual blend of grapes find their way into this biodynamic wine. Most to least syrah, carmenere, merlot, cab sauv, mourvedre and malbec are all included in the mix.   Expensive but different.
FAMILLE PERRIN LES CHRISTINS VACQUEYRAS 2012   249 cases $24.95 – On its own or with almost any   meal this should be great. I’d recommend it regardless.
CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA  CASTELLO D'ALBOLA RISERVA 2008 at $22.95 this is a 3 Glass winner from Gambero Rosso.  Counter balancing that is a very good but not quite as good score from Wine Spectator's Bruce Sanderson. That  tells me that you should buy one, try it and then go back for more if it meets your palate's criteria for fine wine.
ROCCA DI CASTAGNOLI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011   2497 cases $17.00  - Pizza, spaghetti, burgers? It’s  a food wine.
RUFFINO MODUS 2011   797 cases $29.95  -  Usually a  James Suckling favourite
LEONARDO CHIANTI RISERVA 2010     698 cases $19.95 – Another food wine. 
COLUMBIA CREST GRAND ESTATES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 838 cases $17.95 – Barely $10 in the US, this is considered good QPR for the LCBO and that is shameful!
BORDON GRAN RESERVA 2005 - $22.95 – Nine years old and in its prime. Expect delicate tannins and fruit to accompany any tapas you can imagine.

BIG BUCKS – aka Little Italy this week!
SOFFOCONE DI VINCIGLIATA 2011 from Bibi Graetz   An ISD  in the release so not many bottles and at not many stores.  At $34.95 this wine isn’t cheap but given some time it’ll be the perfect thing to accompany a homemade wild boar ragu over pasta or a slow roasted porcetta. Two or Three glasses of this overlooking the Arno made me a convert. Thank goodness it was before my cold set in as it was memorable.   I’ll let you google the origins of the name of the wine and then as a joke you can complain to your MPP about the LCBO promoting vulgarity and loose morals and having lost sight of their social responsibility mandate. In keeping with the name of this wine and the way they blow budgets, it’s time for a new head at the LCBO (a double (or is that triple?) entendre made more amusing when you realize the current one’s name is Bob Peters)! But do be careful  if you have to ask for this wine. Knowing how politically and socially correct Ontario is, you may be charged with sexually harassing your local Vintages consultant.  
GIACOSA BUSSIA BAROLO 2009   298 cases $39.95 cases 


TENUTA SAN GUIDO GUIDALBERTO 2012   191 cases of 6 $52.95 

 ORNELLAIA 2011   Tenuta dell'Ornellaia   442 cases of 6  $189.95  - Too rich for my blood.

  LIVIO SASSETTI PERTIMALI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007   299 cases $45.95  - A great vintage in Brunello.

 POGGIO VERRANO CHANCE 2006   297 cases of 6   $37.95  - A new one for me to try perhaps.

 AVIGNONESI VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2011   162 cases $35.95  - Consistent quality.

And now from the rest of the world
DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE LA CRAU CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012 219 cases $96.95  - This has gotten crazy price wise. I bought the 2004 release  for $40 something! Is it really that much better than two Usseglios? 
DOMAINE PIERRE USSEGLIO ET FILS CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE  2010  219 cases $45.95 – Spectacular vintage in the Southern Rhone. This looks like a bargain next to the Vieux Télégraphe above.
 PASCUAL TOSO ALTA MALBEC 2011   200 cases of 6   $33.95 – Should only be $29.95 but is good enough to still recommend it.
 BURROWING OWL MERLOT 2011   278 cases $40.95  - Nationalistic choice of the week.

PENFOLDS BIN 407 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 199 cases of 6  $44.95 – Penfold’s strategy to settle into the upper price points continues.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Better than a turkey of a release in honour of Thanksgiving

Ahhh,  the October 11th,  release. By the time these wines are made available turkey day will be just a few short days (or hours) away. The release features Sonoma and Piedmont but unless you’re spending big bucks I’ve pretty much ignored both of them. My opinion is that better value can be found in wines from regions of Spain, the Southern Rhone, and Oz this time around. As is usually the case, each of the following wines are good now  but will improve if left in a cool dark place for  at least 6 months to a year.

 BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2012   $19.95 – This is not your typical Spanish tempranillo. Why? Because it’s 100% Grenache (Garnacha in Spain) and is always very good. Produced in a modern style the black and red raspberry notes come to the front but are supported by soft but present tannins.   
 MURIEL GRAN RESERVA 2004   $24.95 – The recent release of the 2008 reserva from Muriel was highly prized by the Decanter tasting panel and by yours truly.  This time around it’s their Gran Reserva. From a better vintage than the ‘08 and with 10 years on it but less than $25 if you like the flavour profile of mature Spanish Rioja wines, this’ll be for you.
 FERRATON PÈRE & FILS SAMORËNS CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2012   $14.95 – An OK price.  Great with anything from roast chicken to grilled steak.
DOMAINE CLOS DE SIXTE LIRAC 2011 - $24.95 – Annually a favourite from this slightly underappreciated village in the Southern Rhone. A quality producer and excellent short to mid term ager. I had a 2010 a week or so ago.  It was very good – dark red and black fruits, hints of licorice, a touch of kirsch and just a wee bit of herbiness all backed by still present tannins.  I expect the ’11 to be even more approachable.
LES HALOS DE JUPITER VACQUEYRAS 2010   $27.95 – A superior producer and a better to best vintage.  Not cheap for a Vacqueyras but perhaps worth it.
 BRUNEL DE LA GARDINE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2012   $23.95 – Smoked meat, hints of barnyard and black fruit. With some age it’ll taste better than it sounds. 
There are 3  sub $20 Aussies for consideration this week  - CHÂTEAU TANUNDA BAROSSA TOWER SHIRAZ 2011 $18.95, ELDERTON FRIENDS SHIRAZ 2011 $17.95 and  the D'ARENBERG D'ARRY'S ORIGINAL SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2010 at $19.95.

PIRRAMIMMA SHIRAZ 2011   $24.95- Shiraz fans with an ever so slightly more subdued and perhaps intricate palate will enjoy the always fine Pirramimma Shiraz. This is about the worst score I can recall it receiving from a professional reviewer- this vintage was nothing to write home about – but in spite of that I think this wine will acquit itself quite well.    
SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   $27.95  A cab that’ll need some time – and if you must buy a cab, try the John Merriman for a few bucks less.
SAN PEDRO 1865 SINGLE VINEYARD  CARMENERE 2011 - $19.95 – A WOM and good value.
 NK'MIP CELLARS MERLOT 2011   $24.95 – Nationalists take note, the wine is from among the best vineyard locations in the Okanagan, owned and produced by native Canadians working with Randy Picton and is first rate. Black fruit and mocha notes abound.
 RUSTENBERG JOHN X MERRIMAN 2011   $24.95 – A heads up tasting with the Mamre Brook would make for an interesting comparison.
 CATHEDRAL CELLAR SHIRAZ 2011 (KWV)   $15.95 – Always a solid bargain.
ST. HALLETT BLACKWELL SHIRAZ 2010   $39.95  - Disappointed because you missed out on the Ebenezer?  Go for this.   Impenetrable colour, black berry and cherry fruit, and white pepper.
CONCHA Y TORO TERRUNYO PEUMO VINEYARD BLOCK 27   $34.95  -  Carmenere  can be terrific wine. Once thought to be merlot, turns out it wasn’t, this has become Chile’s differentiator and its signature grape.  Roast up some animal protein and try this with it. BUT…Never mind this carmenere, when is the Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Cabernet  going to reappear on the Vintages shelves?
SORBERO CIABOT TANASIO Barolo 2009 - $37.95 – An excellent Barolo and great addition to the release. Lay it down and forget it for some time.
CASCINA DARDI BUSSIA BAROLO 2007 - $35.95 – 93 points from Galloni. Lay it down and forget it for slightly less time.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Vintages Sept 27th - Groundbreakers herald the coming of fall

Gadzooks! Autumn will have arrived before the bottles for this release reach the floor. This release also signals the continuing (or is that continuous?) rise in Vintages prices culminating with the preChristmas releases a few months from now. The proof is in the recommendations – lots of big, bold reds and fewer lightweight whites and roses  but only one wine under $20!  
This week features New World Groundbreakers , Portugal, and Thanksgiving,. That first one is the big feature of the release.  The LCBO spells Groundbreakers ‘ Big Bucks’.
My early opinion is that this’ll be a great release for fans of Australian red wines and both the Washington Smiths should be good.  
Another note. This is a special release of many 2011 Vintage Ports. The year was superb and the prices reflect it. If you buy some and if you are of a certain age, your children and perhaps your grand children will drink very well to your memory because these’ll keep for years and years and years.
TWO HANDS ANGELS' SHARE SHIRAZ 2012 349 cases $25.95 -  A well priced, always excellent Aussie Shiraz. 
JIM BARRY THE LODGE HILL SHIRAZ 2012   600 cases $26.95 Disregard Halliday’s 95 points. The wine is perennially very good but not 95 points good. If you are a fan of the old Bin 61, this wine’ll match the early to mid-2000’s closely.
MOJO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 $18.95 – 800 cases and finally one to recommend under $20! James Halliday really seems to have liked this one but remember, he’s never met a bottle of Oz wine that he didn’t adore.  This one  is from Coonawarra home to many an iconic cab and you can expect cassis and mint or is that eucalyptus? Throw a rack of  lamb on the bar-b or a leg of lamb in the oven.
 MEERLUST CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - 110 cases $29.95  - Big S.A. cabernet fruit in a ripe and yet understated (well, not over the top, well ok sort of a restrained new world/old world style but not quite, hmm how about ‘like a Coonawarra cab in a strait jacket?’ ) wine.
 DOMAINE BRUSSET TRADITION LE GRAND MONTMIRAIL GIGONDAS 2012 - $29.95 – You know me and my predilection for Southern Rhone blends.
I’m getting into white Burgundies a lot lately (Thanks to Norman H., his pizza oven, a warm day and good friends. You know who you are.) so if I was to buy any this time around, I’d  expect these two to be very nice.  At this price they should be!
  BOUCHARD PÈRE & FILS MONTAGNY 1ER CRU 2011 139 cases $29.95 
  JEAN-MARC BROCARD VAU DE VAY CHABLIS 1ER CRU 2012   200 cases $29.95 
 CHARLES SMITH BOOM BOOM! SYRAH 2013 166 cases $21.95 – Charles Smith’s wines are easily identifiable with their bold print and stark black and white labels. It is clear he doesn’t take wine or himself too seriously.  This is a big wine that stands up nicely to medium rare roast prime rib of beef.
 CHATEAU SMITH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012  447 cases $23.95  - Look for the typical Washington profile of cassis and cloves with some cedar notes.
HORSEPOWER PROPRIETARY RED BLEND 2009  $21.95  – A kitchen sink blend of whatever was available it would seem.  Syrah, Barbera, Malbec, Petit Verdot,  and Mourvedre seems an odd lot but somehow it works. This’ll be a tasty wine for nontraditionalists, to be sure.
  NAPA CELLARS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012  2014 cases of 6 $25.95  - Lots of cases of a good solid crowd pleaser.
 DOMAINE DES MALANDES CÔTES DE LÉCHET CHABLIS 1ER CRU -$35.95 – Another white Burgundy – this one is an ISD  so only 49 cases.
DOMAINE JEAN DEYDIER ET FILS LES CLEFS D’OR  CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2010 - $44.95 – A late arrival to the LCBO Vintages scene from the wonderful 2010 vintage. Worth a plunge if you want a wine to forget about for some time before opening on a special occasion.
From here on you better have a fat wallet because there are lots of big boys! Barring a lottery win, I will not be buying any of these but will recommend them nonetheless for anyone who has a reason to splurge.
JOHN DUVAL PLEXUS SHIRAZ/GRENACHE/MOURVÈDRE 2009   99 cases of 6  $49.95 – Expensive but think of it as a slightly more fruit forward Chateauneuf.
TWO HANDS LILY'S GARDEN SHIRAZ 2012 249 cases of 6 $56.95 – Always among the best wines from Two Hands and better than the 2011. If I was to break my own rule and spring for an over $50 big buck wine in this release, this’d be it. Spoiler alert – I expect to see this in the WS Top 100, maybe even Top 10.
CAYMUS 40TH ANNIVERSARY CAB SAUV 2012 - $68.95 – Well above my own self imposed price ceiling. Watch out for the Range Rover traffic jam trying to load up on it.
IRONSTONE RESERVE ESTATE GROWN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 400 cases of 6 $36.95 – A notch up for this solid producer. 
SHAFER ONE POINT FIVE –$93.95 - A Napa treat.  Where’s that damn lottery ticket? I think this has gone up in price by 10 bucks since a certain youthful Italian Stallion turned 50!
STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS ARTEMIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 279 cases of 12. $64.95 –Look around for the 1500 ml of the 2011 available from last Christmas for well under $100. Do the math and save a few bucks if you must buy this wine.
 CATENA ALTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   70 cases of 6 $45.95 – A wonderful expression of Cab Sauv from Argentina. A Top flight producer and an ageworthy wine.
CATENA ALTA MALBEC 2011 269 cases of 6 $49.95 – Among the best of Argentina’s signature grape from any producer at any price.
MARCHESI DE' FRESCOBALDI MORMORETO 2010   39 cases of 6 -  $63.95 – An ISD, so this one’ll be in short supply and high demand. A super Tuscan if ever there was one, this is priced out of my wallet so I’m not worried.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vintages last release of the summer aka pages and pages of nothing to buy!

The first release of September  heralds the coming of fall, something we all know that the LCBO prices will never do. This release features Ontario wines, and oh what a feature it is! 18 pages of text before we see our first bottle of wine.  Wine must (See what I did there? I do love a good double entendre.) be a long way behind pulp and paper in the Ontario economy!  As well, this week has a tiny feature on  Vino Nobile de Montepulciano.  A somewhat underappreciated Tuscan village, Montepulciano   produces some very good wines, some amazing views, and some very full Canadian tourists. (Still sorry we missed that one!)
An interesting side note, the best Montepulciano in the release might not be a Vino Nobile but rather one from Abruzzo. No they are not the same wines nor are they from the same village.

The release itself has a few standouts especially if hunting down Top 100 wines is your thing.
In no particular order, here are my picks:
PIRRAMIMMA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   511 cases $24.95 –Among the better Aussie Cabs we see each year. This vintage wasn’t great but the winemaker’s talent shines through.
NINQUÉN ANTU CHILEAN MOUNTAIN VINEYARD SYRAH 2012 651 cases $17.95 Big chocolate and black fruit flavours – every year a good buy. Needs a bit of time to integrate the oak though.
DOMAINE GRANDY VACQUEYRAS 2012   299 cases $19.95 Well priced for a Vacqueyras. Buy it and leave it for 6 months to a year.
COPPI  PEUCETICO PRIMITIVO 2007 - $13.95 – Looking for a bargain? Here’s the one I’d pick from the release. Well aged, it’ll be soft, fruity and good to go with any casual Italian meal.
BARBA I VASARI Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2009- $19.95 - 3 of 3 from Gambero Rosso. Hard to beat that rating and that price!
ANTICO COLLE VINO NOBILE DE MONTEPULCIANO 2010- $26.95- Ranked in the Wine Enthusiast  Top 100 last year, this wine will provide a tasty counterpoint to tagliata. Give it some time to come around.
PICCINI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2007 699 cases $19.95 Right in its drinking window now, this one is from a very good vintage and is well priced as well.
 REININGER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   167 cases $21.95  To quote the winemaker ”This cab is not the boisterous seat at the dinner party. Rather it is the captivating, intriguing, humble guest that you want to stay the night.” Sounds good to me. Look for aromas of cassis, chocolate and some sandalwood that’ll evolve on the palate into cassis and cherry flavours.
Ontario - PEC
ROSEHALL RUN 2011 COUNTY CHARDONNAY 111 cases $21.95. Norman Hardie is just up Greer Rd and his impact is felt stylistically here. You can expect bracing acidity and a real Chablis style. Need something to kickstart  your saliva glands? Here it is.
DOMINIO DE TARES CEPAS VIEJAS MENCIA 2009   238 cases $29.95 – Number 8 among the Decanter Top 50 wines of the year for 2013. The growth of the Mencia grape is pretty much restricted to one small D.O. in Spain called Bierzo.  Bierzo comprises a tiny 3000 sq. Kms of Spain’s total of just over 505,000sq.Kms. Past reviews have seen me describe the grape as Pinacherah. (Hints of Pinot Noir, Grenache and Syrah). YMMV.

Big Bucks
MANUS DEI DU CHÂTEAU SIXTINE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011   149 cases $39.95  - Just because.
VILLA I CIPRESSI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007   169 cases $51.95 Another Tuscan from a terrific vintage – not cheap though.
LA RIOJA ALTA VIÑA ARDANZA RESERVA 2004 218 cases $39.95 Very well produced. Lots of age on it already too.  #22 in the WS Top 100 last year.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

90+ points? Not for this release.

Vintages proudly trumpets their 90+Point release this time around. Some thoughts about wines and point scoring . I rarely buy a wine on points alone. Past experience with a producer and knowledge of the vintages helps me to make my selections. If you have never had a specific wine,  try to read more than one reviewer’s opinion of it.  Their words can often be just as important as the score they give. I suppose it is nice to be able to say, “Yeah, that one scored 95 points” (Guilty as charged!) but it is even nicer to discuss  the colour, the aromas, the purity of fruit and just to taste the wine with or without food and friends. The points are not the be all and end all.  I’ve really enjoyed many wines that scored under 90 points (or were unreviewed wines) and saved more than a few $$’s in the process. I’ve also had many 90+ point wines where I thought, “What was this guy tasting to give that score?!”
Also included in the release is a U.S. Pacific Northwest feature. Pretty nondescript despite the presence of the l’Ecole 41 Cab. Not even such a good wine is enough to save it.
MAS DES BRESSADES CUVÉE TRADITION ROSÉ 2013 412 cases  $15.95 – Brad ,Angelina and the Famille Perrin’s Miraval  is tempting, but 7 bucks a bottle is hard to beat so if you like a dry rose, here’s my  pick.
SIMONSIG CHENIN BLANC 2013 369 cases $13.95 – The 2012 vintage was among my favourite Chenin Blancs last year and at this price it really can’t be beat. Want to try a different white? This is it.

The RED Picks
Three wines from the Southern Rhone from $18 thru $25 make the list this week. Like the full 4 grape blend ? Go for the Vacqueyras. 55% grenache, 35% syrah, 5%  carignan et 5% mourvèdre.  Like a 50-50 blend? The Vinsobres is always very hard to beat and is well priced for the quality. More a syrah fan?  Opt for the Crozes Hermitage. 
L'ECOLE 41 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010  94 cases of little bottles $24.95 – One of the better Cabernet Sauvignons that we’ll see from Washington State, this looks like a great price until you realize these are half bottles. Still, the same quality from Napa would be $15 more/bottle methinks.
Ravenswood Old Vines ‘Lodi’ Zinfandel 2011 – 556 cases 21.95 – This might be the first Zin I've recommended in the blog. Roughly 75% Zin and 25% Petite Syrah, this one comes highly recommended especially if you’re BBQ’ing anything. It’ll be a nice big mouthful to have with a gargantuan, thick, marinated sirloin steak. Marinate the steak in a blend of soy sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, pepper,  ketchup and brown sugar (and other secret ingredients)  and grill it  on very high heat. Slop on the marinade so the sugars form a nice crust and serve rare to medium-rare or heck, just serve the wine with nice juicy hamburgers.
BRANCAIA TRE 2011 594 cases $23.95 – I’m torn on this preview. Some very good vintages of  this wine were as well reviewed as this 2011 but I found each of them thin and somewhat insipid. So buyer beware - and if you happen to lose out in an arm wrestling match for the last bottle, don’t be too upset.   

The Food and Drink ‘Specials’ – said like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady
CASTAÑO SOLANERA VIÑAS VIEJAS 2012   2491, yes 2491 cases of 12  $17.00 – A Spanish option that has always been very well reviewed by critics. The LCBO was sure to print the portion of the review that mentioned that the wine should be 3 to 5 times as expensive. Suuuure it should. The wine is a custom cuvee produced for an American Importer and he probably couldn’t take all that was made so we ended up with it. With the 94 point score I’m sure it’ll blow out by the box and some bureaucrat will make their bonus but don’t be fooled into thinking that the LCBO is doing you a price favour with this Food and Drink ‘special’. Also,  keep in mind that the predominant grape in the blend is Mourvedre. Quite tannic and often associated with earthy and/or barnyard aromas this grape requires careful handling to produce a wine that can overcome those traits and even then it is not to all tastes.
Sisters Run – GSM 2011 – Also $17 – A nice, new world copycat Cotes du Rhone. This one might be a tasty counterpoint to the CASTAÑO but let’s remember that it used to be $15.95. Our friends bought 2500 cases AND raised the price! How I understood supply and demand to work (when there is lots of supply and not as much worldly demand, if you buy more,  you should pay less) and how the LCBO understands it to work (they buy more, we pay more) seem  very different!  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 16 - Southern France and Argentine Malbecs

Ahhh back in Canada and back in the routine. I missed the previous release (not much there at all) as I was out of the country in Brazil. Make a note, Brazilian wine is not very good. Beer and cachaca on the other hand are just what the doctor ordered for the climate of the Brazil north – heat and humidity sucks the fluids from you faster than you can say “Set up another round!”
This week’s release is a good double header for me. Southern France (the Languedoc  region, not to be confused with the Southern Rhone although many of the grape blends used are similar) and Argentine Malbecs are featured in this release.  There are some real QPR winners in both features as well as a couple of Big buck ones among  the Argentine offerings.

The Reds
From the Languedoc both the Gerard Bertrand wines will offer good value, especially the 2009 St. Chinian. The Pic St. Loup is also very good.
H&B ( Hecht and Bannier) are well represented – from this release I suggest the Minervois at $5 less than their St. Chinian.
The Chateau Gourgazaud Cuvee Mathilde offers great value at $14.95 and is always solid.
The Tessellae Old Vines Carignan 2012 comes in at 90 points but is a far cry from last year’s 93 point offering. Still very solid for this underappreciated grape.
From Argentina, the Bousquet and Graffigna Malbecs will both provide good value for the money especially if homemade burgers are on the menu!
Moving on to the rest of the release, there are some real bargains to be had.
From Australia, the 2011 Thorn Clarke Shotfire Cab/Shiraz  blend is a big wine for $21.95.
Wakefield’s Shiraz from the Clare Valley in Australia will not be quite the big mouthful  but is always very good and true to the slightly cooler climate there. At $15.95, it’s hard to beat.

The  best buy  in the release is from the Southern Rhone, in my opinion. The best is the 2011 Domaine le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu. Just across the valley  from Chateauneuf, this named village flies under the radar and produces some spectacular bargains.  
Also very good should be the Domaine Autrand Cotes du Rhone 2012. Both these wines come in at $13.95.  
It is not often that I can recommend a Barolo among the red buys of the release. They’re usually stuck in the Big Buck options but this week the Patrizi Barolo 2008 a 5 star wine (from Decanter) slides in at $28.95. Well worth a shot. Lay it down for a few years and try with lamb or beef.

The Big Bucks
First on the list is a 2012 Chardonnay from Norman Hardie. This somewhat schizophrenic listing is indicated as a VQA from Prince Edward County, but is made from strictly Niagara grown fruit. So, is it really VQA Niagara or is it VQA PEC? Or did the LCBO just screw up in their catalogue? The VQA minefield claims another victim!

Two big buck Malbecs are worth considering. The Bramare 2011 and the Colome 2010 are both excellent but the Bramare is the better buy. At $30 less it’s a no brainer if you must spend big bucks on a Malbec.

The other big buck option that I might spring for is the 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape from Domaine Montpertuis. We’re beginning to see the end of releases from the excellent 2010 vintage so if you have a good place to age them, get them while you can.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 21st release - An OK midsummer release - but who screwed up the search feature on the website?

The LCBO and Vintages websites have suffered a real setback lately. Someone has messed with the search feature, finally fixed the messed up search function which used to work reasonably well once you discovered its foibles, so now it doesn't works worth a darn. More on that when I have some time do really vent!

Mid July has arrived along with a release that presents lots of variety in wine styles,  geographic locales,  new world vs.  old world options, and interesting choices among the reds,  whites and roses. While there are no truly compelling wines like last release’s Hamilton Russell or Villa Cafaggio, there are still lots of choices from which to choose.  More good news is that even among the big buck options, few will break the bank. Any that would  break my bank are ignored.
BBQ wines and I4C (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) are the features in this release and both features have representatives in the vintages recommendations.
Below are my choices from the release. I’m thinking the Gabianno and a few  Chardonnays may take precedence this time around.
13th Street June’s Vineyard, unoaked chardonnay2012 – $21.95 - From vines planted in 1999, another very nice example of the excellent combination of pure Niagara fruit, acidity and limestone soil.
Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay – 2013- $18.95 – From half a world away comes another unoaked sample at a reasonable price.
Don Jacobo Rose 2013 - $14.95 – Blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha. Should be great on the deck with all sorts of tapas.
Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone Rose 2013 -$14.95 – Delicate, fruity, very tasty accompaniment to a  grilled chicken breast with a pesto mayonnaise on focaccia or maybe a Cucci octopus appetizer.
Castello Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva -2009 - $22.95 – Well priced and from a quality producer and vintage. To acquire a CCR of this quality in future vintages you may have to move up to the price level of the new CCR Gran Selezione.  Keep that in mind.
Renzo Massi Chianti Riserva 2009 - $15.95 – Terrific price for a riserva.
Alain Jaume Grand Garrigue  Vacqueyras 2012 - $24.95 – Among the first of the 2012 Vacqueyras  to be released and the Grand Garrigue from Jaume is always very good.
Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage 2011 - $21.95
Perrin L’Andeol Rasteau – 2011- $19.95 – Another of the named villages from Perrin.
Chateau St. Roch Chimeres 2011 - $18.95 – From the Languedoc, one of the wines of the month. (That is the LCBO’s wine of the month, not mine.)
San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 - $19.95 – Solid wine and OK priced. This single vineyard Chilean Cab hails from the Maipo valley, one of my favourite wine regions in Chile.  QPR wise it’s a good value, probably the best among the three cabs listed here. You may find it a bit more coarse with a touch of greenness and loam not found in the following pair.
Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 - $29.95- If you missed it, here’s another version of last release’s EDGE. Look for Cassis, cedar and spice.
Two Hands Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - $25.95 – Two Hands is a terrific producer. The name of the wine? Not so much. Add a little hint of mint to the Cassis, cedar and spice.
Dei Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2010- $27.95 -  Short term cellar worthy from a great location. Everyone should visit Montepulciano once in their life – or maybe twice.
CVNE - Vina Real Plata Crianza 2009 - $18.95 – Among the better buys in the release in my opinion. The producer is first rate.
Convento San Francisco 2005 - $21.95- A very good review  but check the date. This wine has lots of age on it so I expect what you find in the bottle (and your glass) will differ from the review somewhat.
Montebuena Rioja $14.95
Tamara Roble Tempranillo 2011 - $16.95
Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011 - $30.00 – Always very good and certainly among the better eastern Canadian wines period. Oaked? Yes but not overdone. If it was $29.95 it would not be in the big bucks zone - 5 cents makes a difference!.
Miramar Unoaked Chardonnay – 2012- $31.95 – You can describe this wine two ways –‘Stylistically  very UnCalifornian’  or ‘This is an eighty year old man in a bottle - no wood’. Hmmm, maybe I should copyright  that name for the I4C.
Souverain Winemaker’s Reserve 2008 - $41.95 – A big buck wine from the Alexander Valley, this one has some age on it already so it should be drinking very nicely.

Domaine Barville Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 - $44.95– A rerelease from a wonderful vintage in the Southern Rhone.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

July 5th Vintages - A couple of good ones but little from the two features

July 5th brings two features -  New Zealand  and a second smaller one that focuses on Spain. NZ is nice if you’re after crisp whites – grassy Sauvignon blancs, crisp Pinot Gris, apple-y chards (surprisingly missing from the release). The reds? Not too much going for them  or at least not to my palate. YPMV.
So on to the second feature.  The last few months have seen Spanish wines provide most of the interest  and dominate the quality of Vintages releases. Is it surprising that this feature would be anticlimactic?  No. ( and Yes that was a rhetorical question).

My choices for the wines of the release include one from Tuscany and two of the bigger buck options.
VILLA CAFAGGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009   300 cases of 12  $26.95 – So call me a point chaser! This should be a natural to be served  with anything Italian (eggplant parmesan comes to mind immediately). Wine Enthusiast thought enough of this wine to make it their number  5 wine of 2013. If you are fortunate enough to find some, it’ll need time and air. I do suspect you’ll be arm wrestling for it.

COLTIBUONO CANCELLI ROSSO 2011 – $15.95 - WS liked it enough to fit it into their Top 100 wines -  if only just. This might just be this year’s 2006 Monte Antico. 

ORTAS L'ESTELLAN GIGONDAS 2011   249 cases of 12  $24.95 –  Considering they are both old world, I would categorize this as the opposite of the Chianti above. Rather than giving it time in a dark place, this is ready for immediate consumption with a little decanting.  The vintage is not up to the structure and quality of 2010 but the wine will be very good, open and inviting.
VIÑA OLABARRI GRAN RESERVA 2005   615 cases of 12  $24.95 – The best of the Spanish choices this time around.
THORN-CLARKE TERRA BAROSSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   560 cases of 12   $16.95 Well priced Barossa Cab from the big fruit experts. Historically big and viscous
JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2012   511 cases of 12  $16.95 – A well priced, well made option if you’re in the mood for a blend. Try with slightly smokey  BBQ’d ribs.
THE HEDONIST SHIRAZ 2010 Walter Clappis   391 cases of 12  $23.95
COLUMBIA CREST GRAND ESTATES MERLOT 2011   900 cases of 12   $16.95 – More chocolate and vanilla notes from the oak, this is from the same category as the current Food and Drink $17 Special.
EDGE WINES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   447 cases of 12  $29.95 – Typical California flavours of cassis, cedar, vanilla.
RAYMOND R COLLECTION FIELD BLEND LOT NO. 7 2012   447 cases of 12   $19.95
CATHEDRAL CELLAR MERLOT 2010 (KWV)  500 cases of 12  $14.95 Inexpensive but still real quality – black fruit and mocha notes – great for a backyard BBQ. Interesting comparison with the Columbia Crest.
MASI GRANDARELLA 2010   279 cases of 12  $25.95 This wine has been described by some serious wine folk as everything from  a really poor impression of an Amarone  to an outright wine joke. But I don’t mind it from time to time with a big stew or braised meat. Not really the time of year for that though!
Hamilton Russell Chardonnay - Only 111 cases of 6 - $34.95 – 666 bottles means you’ll have a devil of a time finding this one (I kill myself sometimes!).  It is a bit of a cult wine and is quite renowned for its full charm, brioche aromas and fruity goodness. Watch the legs form on your glass and you’ll know you are in for a real treat. Among my favourite of the new world  chards. For reference points, I like this and I like the rarely seen Luca from Chile. It’s my opinion that if this were from Napa it would be over twice the price. It’ll be rare and you will probably have to arm wrestle for it too.
BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE EBENEZER SHIRAZ 2007   418 cases of 6  $39.95- Past vintages of this wine have been massive, viscous treats – but you do have to in the mood for them. Calling it  ‘big’ shortchanges the wine.  Rack of lamb served rare with a big glass of this wine is difficult to beat. Nice age on this one too.
BERINGER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   335 cases of 12  $49.95
 DUCKHORN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   167 cases of 12   $76.95
THE CHOCOLATE BLOCK 2012 (Boekenhoutskloof) 155 cases of 12   $39.95 – The name says it all.

LA VELONA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2008   199 cases of 12   $43.95

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 21 Vintages release - The reign of Spain continues

   June 21 brings another Vintages release containing  only a few wines that might cause guilt or second thoughts if they are missed. The release features New World and Old World comparisons of wines and also has a second feature of wines made from specific ‘less travelled’ grapes.  In spite of these promising possibilities, the release is a bit of a dud. If it wasn’t for Spain (again!) this one would be a nonstarter. Four very good wines in the release and two more in the ISDs! Perhaps a harbinger of World Cup performance? (Editor's comment: Or perhaps not after that debacle against the Netherlands) 
While there are a few wines of interest, are they compelling? 54 to 62 points on the VRSS says very few.
Muriel  Vendimia Selecionnada 2008 Tempranillo - $19.95 and 95 points? 718 cases but watch out - folks will be buying by the box. The number 6 wine from Decanter last year so this one could be this release’s no brainer! By the way, it’s half the price of Decanter’s number 7 wine, also still available at some local LCBO tax centres.  
Vina Herminia Excelsus 2009 – 1198 cases - Another Top 100 wine, this one from the WS Top 100 (#39) last year, is a WOM and ok priced at $21.95. Ageworthy, put it in the cellar and forget it for a year or three.
 Borsao Berola 2009 – $18.95 A well made blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon . The double B causes an alliteration alert. If you try this one your tastebuds might provoke pleasurable,  past perceptions  of  Priorat’s Prior Pons Planets. Rich, full and oh so tasty.
Two opposites (not polar but dollar) from the southern Rhone. Rasteau, a named village is available as is a Cotes du Rhone but from a very highly respected Chateauneuf du Pape producer Clos de CaillouNormally the prices would be reversed but the Rasteau  is $17 and the CdR is $25.95

CHÂTEAU D'ANGLÈS LA CLAPE CLASSIQUE  2010  448 cases  $16.95
Chateau de Gaudou  Grand Lignee – Cahors 2010- Malbec/Merlot blend – The review reads like one for a Chateau Lagrezette from a hot vintage. Worth a flyer? Maybe, if you have a dark cool place for a few years. In general, these French malbecs need some time to come around and soften up.

Argentina – Two inexpensive ones for Burgers and more
La Posta Angel paulucci MAlbec 2011 – $16.95 - A single vineyard production from the Mendoza  region, this one is always good value for the money. Ribs, steaks, burgers – or even by itself.
Agostino Inicio Malbec 2011 $14.95 – Also from the Mendoza region, this appears to be one of the better buys of the release. Neal Martin’s review is effusive in its praise of the nose and palate of the wine.  Burgers? You bet!
Washington St
Chateau Ste. Michelle – Syrah – 2011 –$17.00  An excellent producer and from a state that has lots of areas that have all the right things going for this grape. The price is getting closer to where most Washington St. products should be sold here.
TUSCANY – Nice wine but maybe still on sale
 BARONE RICASOLI ROCCA GUICCIARDA CHIANTI CLASSICO  2010 499 cases $24.95. A tip if you like this wine - Look around for the 1500ml bottles of the same wine and vintage  that are left over from last Christmas.  Save yourself some $$’s. 
 SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK SHIRAZ 2011    498 cases of 6 $26.95  
 MAGPIE ESTATE THE SACK SHIRAZ 2010   499 cases $22.95    
LA TOUR COSTE LA COMBE SAINT-JOSEPH 2010   114 cases $30.95  - Really?  Might be very nice but holy smokes, that’s getting up there!
CLOS DU VAL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 E 223 cases $39.95  
 PLUME CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011  279 cases $31.95  
Paolo Conterno Rive del Bric Barolo 2009-$42.95
MUGA SELECCION ESPECIAL RESERVA 2009 - $39.95 - An ISD so very limited in stores and quantity, but among the best wines of a terrific producer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

June 7th Vintages - Oz and Dad are upstaged by Spain

The June 7th release features Australia, crisp whites from Italy and some Fathers Day selections. The Australian release is moderately good, if more of the same old, same old. The Father’s Day pickings are so slim it appears someone at the LCBO has some unresolved Daddy issues. We’ll delve no further into that.

 For this release and to my palate the best wine buys in the release hail from Europe. From both a flavour and a quality perspective (to say nothing of QPR)  the better wines and my top picks are two of the offerings from Spain and one from Puglia in Italy. I do issue a word of warning about one of the Spanish choices in my notes below though.  You can call me a pessimist for that.
The VRSS comes in at 62 to 66 points.
  BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2011   700 cases of 12  $19.95  - Spanish Garnacha (Grenache), made to suit a mature if modern palate can be exceptional. This one is just that and is annually among my ‘must buys’. Especially good served alongside a grilled pork tenderloin or perhaps a ‘hot off the home rotisserie’  chicken.  An excellent wine.   If I fail in my quest for some of the Breca, I’ll double up on this wine. Buying wine from the LCBO means a man must have a fall back strategy!
  BRECA OLD VINES GARNACHA 2010   689 cases of 12  $19.95  - A Vintages rerelease of a wine that  Robert Parker  scored 94 points.  The previous release caused normally mature, intelligent  adults to degenerate into chest puffing arm wrestlers on Saturday morning in the LCBO. The LCBO must have loved it though because it blew out of the stores like the title of a certain 2000 Nicolas Cage movie. I expect a replay in this release (not of the movie, just of the title – Gone in Sixty Seconds).  I do have a concern about this vintage being made available again so late in the going.  Is it a second rate release of the wine made to capitalize on the original’s great score? Time will tell. Taste wise, my previous bottles needed a bit of time to settle in. This wine opened with an almost dusty  texture and mouthfeel  when I enjoyed my first bottle of it. That dustiness was replaced by supporting tannins and big gobs of black and red berry fruit after a short exposure to air. Second bottle, served a few months later, didn’t have the initial dustiness, just great fruit and tight tannins. It was a memorable wine, especially for under $20. Served on Mother’s Day, it was a huge hit with my wife so, being a wise man,  I’ll be trying to get more of it for sure!  The third sample that I had was purchased in BC and was good but not great.  Pleasant fruit but lacking definition and character. That one was the latest one that I bought and that’s why I’m concerned  for the lot in this release.
 LEONE DE CASTRIS RISERVA SALICE SALENTINO 2010   349 cases of 12 $19.95  - Three of three from Gambero Rosso and under $20. I’ll take that any time. Grilled meats,  braised meats, ripe or hard cheeses – excellent!
WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE BLACK LABEL CABERNET   348 cases of 12  $27.95  - This wine continues to score  well with all the Toronto area wine critics and this year’s vintage made the WS Top 100 too.  Big Coonawarra profile – cassis, cedar, and eucalyptus makes it a natural for rack of lamb. It’ll age or be ready to go right now.
DOMAINE TOURNON MATHILDA SHIRAZ 2011 (M. Chapoutier) M.   350 cases of 12  $19.95  - If the Terlato and Chapoutier single vineyard offering in the Big Bucks group is an Aussie Cornas, think of this as a St. Joseph. OK mate, since it’s from OZ let’s call it a St. Joey! And go waltzing.
GRANT BURGE THE HOLY TRINITY   479 cases of 6 $29.95  - As close as an Aussie gets to being a Gigondas  ( or maybe even a CNdP).   Still at the magical $29.95 mark this time around, this drifts back and forth from there to $33 sometimes.  Very good wine though and I’m a big fan of this GSM  but there are better choices for less this time around.
ZONTE'S FOOTSTEP LAKE DOCTOR SHIRAZ 2012   808 cases of 12  $16.95 
 HASELGROVE FIRST CUT SHIRAZ 2010   379 cases of 12 $18.95 
THE WINNER'S TANK SHIRAZ 2012   415 $17.95 
Liciencado Reserva Tempranillo 2006 – 275 cases - 29.95 – Very highly regarded by Decanter and with plenty of age already, this one is a new one for me so I’ll try one to begin with. The review’s Bold Black cherry and liquorice flavours sold it for me.
Three Cabernet Sauvignon options, one from OZ, one from California and one from South Africa.
DELHEIM CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   223 cases of 12 $18.95 – Best of the reasonable priced Cabernets. Not up to the Wynn’s but it is priced where the Wynn’s used to be.
ROSE and White wines
CARPINETO DOGAJOLO ROSATO 2013   374 cases $15.95 
MARQUES DE CACERES ROSADO 2013   497 cases $13.95 
LANZERAC CHARDONNAY 2011 419 cases of 6 $16.95  - From South Africa, this should be a well priced chard option. Woody though.
Big Bucks
DOMAINE TERLATO & CHAPOUTIER LIEU DIT MALAKOFF SHIRAZ   500 cases of 6 $55.95 – Think of it as an Aussie version of a wine from  Cornas, if Cornas was in the Southern Rhone. OK maybe not. Just think of it as an expensive well crafted Aussie wine made by a Frenchman. 
BURROWING OWL  ATHENE 2010 ISD   55 cases $44.95 – Canadian content. Great winery in the southern Okanagen.
MITOLO G.A.M. SHIRAZ 2010   111 cases of 12 $39.95

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vintages May 24 Release - The Southern Rhone

It’s the real May Two Four weekend!  An auspicious date for a Vintages release and it’s a Southern Rhone release to boot. If the Southern Rhone feature had lots going for it, this could be a win streak for the LCBO (two releases  in a row, wow).  Sadly it doesn’t have much going for it so the Vintages streak is stopped at one and only if you’re a  Leaf fan  does that constitute a win streak!  
For the release and perhaps to add insult to injury,  the better wine price matchups (the best QPR ones) do come from a Southern Rhone producer but from his Languedoc enterprises.
This release, in spite of the main feature being for one of my favourite regions, has a VRSS score of 58 to 62 points.
M. CHAPOUTIER LES VIGNES DE BILA-HAUT 2011 998 cases  $14.95 – The  bargain of the release. Think of it as a very  good Cotes du Rhone Villages. And looking at many of the prices of the CdRVs in this release it is well priced too.
DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2011 399 cases $25.95 – Annually a very well regarded wine from the Master of the Rhone Michel Chapoutier, who has become a global powerhouse. This is among his better Midi productions and is held in high esteem by everyone from Beppi  to  Parker to the WineAlign crowd to WS. Allowed to repose for a time in a dark cool place, it’ll really show its best.  
DOMAINE LES YEUSES LES ÉPICES SYRAH 2011 749cases  $14.95 – Mmmm as the name suggests, spicey!
All the Rhone wines are OK. None have me racing around trying to find them but this one should be a good buy:
DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE LIRAC 2011   999 cases $18.95 – Among the lesser known ‘named’ Cotes du Rhone Villages, Lirac is still somewhat undiscovered/ understood  in North America. As a result this one has held the price line nicely. You’ll get plenty of fruit and a pleasant wine for pizzas, burgers, saucisses, or charcuterie but the wine should have enough stuffing to drink and age nicely on its own.

And the following one is slightly overpriced for what you’ll get:
GABRIEL MEFFRE SAINTE-CATHERINE GIGONDAS 2011   199 cases $29.95- While the quality of the vintage may not be up to 2010 the price certainly is. I’d normally pick up a couple. This time round and at this price it’s a ‘maybe- maybe not’ proposition.
LEO Premium Malbec 2011 $18.95  – Produced by Valentin Bianchi on behalf of and named for Argentina’s  Lionel Messi, this is a good wine to have on hand for burgers during the World Cup! And proceeds from the sale of this wine go to help underprivileged kids.
THELEMA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009   111 cases $28.95 – Not a huge number of cases but I expect this one to be among the better  choices in the release if you can find it. Big SA cabernet profile – means cassis, cedar and spice with perhaps a hint of tar ( or is that burnt rubber?).
ROLF BINDER ‘Hales’ – 2010 Shiraz – $18.95 - From the Barossa Valley, big bold, and a real mouthful for the price.
CANOE RIDGE EXPEDITION CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   223 cases $19.95 – I was hoping for a Columbia Crest H3 clone but am not sure you’ll get all that from this one. Look for the H3 instead.

Big Bucks

LAZZERETTI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007   238 cases $42.95 – A super year in Tuscany in general and Brunello in particular, this one should provide great food friendliness immediately and long into the future.

LA CRAU DE MA MÈRE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011   139 cases $46.95

E. GUIGAL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2007    199 cases  $59.95 – Great vintage with some age on it now so you can promote it in your cellar while waiting for the 2010’s to come around. Just over my price ceiling though. Perhaps I’ll drown my sorrows with some less expensive 2010’s,  if there are any around.

Monday, May 5, 2014

May 10th Vintages - Something for almost everyone.

May 10th and we finally get a release with some quality and variety and thankfully also with wine prices that don’t break the bank. This time around the featured countries are Argentina and Chile backed up by two others, a Rosé feature and a look at Germany. The wine picks are global in scope.
As so often happens with Vintages featured countries, the wines presented are not really top notch but this time around a few are good enough to make it into my selections. I have also made some picks from the rosés. On a deck or patio on a hot summer day I quite like them. The nice thing about new rosés is they are versatile enough to accompany a lunch or a supper of grilled fish, chicken, or pork tenderloin.  I know it may seem early in the year but once many of these are gone, they’re gone until next year so pay attention!
This release scores 68 points on the VRSS and could make it into the 70’s. It’s been a long time since we reached that lofty height and you can thank the rosés this time around.
For me only a couple of wines make the grade among the reasonably priced offerings in the first feature of the release, (excluding that big buck Purple Angel). Both are malbecs. Is my predilection for rare, grilled beef showing?
ALTOS LAS HORMIGAS TERROIR MALBEC 2010   223 cases $19.95 – Almost a QPR winner. BBQ’d Burgers, lamb or beef and a glass or two of this. Hard to beat.
ACHÁVAL FERRER MALBEC 2012 400 cases $24.95 – Among my favourite Argentine producers. Santiago Achaval’s discussion of terroir and terrunyo on Wine Library TV is among my favourite wine clips on youtube. A-F’s malbec has gotten more pricey over the last few years but is worth it when served with a roast prime rib or a big hunk of grilled steak.
FOWLES WINE THE EXCEPTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010   419 cases $24.95 – Fowles wines are on a successful run at the LCBO in both the general list and Vintages. Their Stone Dwellers Cab is very popular in the general list and the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz has developed quite a following at a premium price. I expect the Exception to be a terrific wine. Last year the 2005 Vintage won the Chairman of Judges Award at the prestigious Sydney International wine competition. If nothing else, that proves the wine can age nicely in the medium term.  Look for this one.
SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   497 cases  of 6 $26.95 – Always tasty.
TABALÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL 2009   300 cases $22.95
GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR LA CLAPE   399 cases $18.95 – This’ll be an interesting wine. Don’t expect to get quite a Gigondas or Vacqueyras profile as this is missing the raspberry provided by the Grenache, but it’ll be, at times, a smokey, meaty, peppery, licorice-y treat.
DELAS FRÈRES LES LAUNES CROZES-HERMITAGE 2011  249 cases $22.95 – Think of it as a short lived Hermitage. Give it a year or two and really enjoy it then. If you can’t wait that long, your decanter is calling!
MARCHESI DE' FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2011   700 cases $21.95 Annually a very good wine. Will age until at least 2018 -2020 or serve it tonight with a grilled bifteck fiorentina.
RUFFINO MODUS 2009  299 cases $28.95 – Another high quality wine that is very good each year but I think  Suckling’s score of 95 points is way over the top. You’re probably better to save $7 and buy the Rocca Delle Macie 20009 CCR.
VALDEMAR INSPiRACION SELECCION 2010 3998 cases - $17 – One of the few Food and Drink $17 specials that merit the price.  A WS Top 100 choice (#34) that will blow out of the stores by the case load on that reputation alone. Made in a more modern style (for Spain), this one should exhibit plenty of berry fruit and spice with a nice long finish.
HEDGES CELLARS CMS 2011  446 cases $19.95 – Another very pleasant solid wine from the Columbia Valley. Blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Syrah, this one’ll please a lot of palates.
Rumour has it that summer will arrive sometime this year. In preparation, I’ve picked out a demidouzaine of the rosés in this release. They run the gamut from fruity to acidic so look for everything from watermelon, strawberry and raspberry through rhubarb and pink grapefruit notes. Served properly chilled all will work if you’re out on the deck with some charcuterie, breads, cheeses, pickles and olives or some grilled seafood, or tasty sausages hot off the grill.
MULDERBOSCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON ROSÉ 2013   503 cases $12.95 – Annually a fave especially if you’re overlooking Weller’s Bay with some nice charcuterie.  Very, very strawberry-rhubarb.
MUGA ROSÉ 2013   1200 cases $12.95 – Consistent, solid and well priced. A very pale coloured rosé that accompanies tapas so well.
ZENATO BARDOLINO CHIARETTO ROSÉ 2013   419 cases    $14.95 – I’m expecting this to have some real nice cherry notes instead of berry notes. We shall see.
GÉRARD BERTRAND CÔTE DES ROSES ROSÉ 2013   511 cases of 6  $19.95 – I like Bertrand’s wines across the board so I’m going to pick this one in spite of the somewhat elevated price tag (for a rosé). Spiffy bottle and stopper too.
 Big Bucks
Two of the picks are just over my $50 ceiling – c’est la vie!
MONTES PURPLE ANGEL 2011 200 cases of 6   $59.95 – A very good wine from a high quality Chilean producer. A smokey, fruity delight but outside my price ceiling.
FONTANAFREDDA SERRALUNGA D'ALBA BAROLO 2008  199 cases $39.95 – Consistently very good and well priced for a Barolo but will need some age or a decant.
TORBRECK THE STEADING 2009   38 cases of 6   $53.95 This one is a Flagship Store Exclusive.  That means it’ll be unavailable to the great, unwashed hordes outside of a few limited store locations in the Nation’s Capital and in the area of the Big Smoke.  Fans of Big Oz, take note.
What might I buy?

Altos Las H
A-F malbec
Fowles Exception