Monday, April 21, 2014
With their April 12th release Vintages does little to change the LCBO’s 2014 record as one of the world’s largest purveyors of often overpriced, often poor quality wines. To say that there is a dearth of vinous options in this release is a fair assessment methinks. The big features are appassimento wines and Easter wines, so if you are a fan of Amarone or Riesling you might be very happy. While there is nothing in the release that I absolutely have to buy, the Catena’s Cabernet (in spite of the over blown review), Zonte’s Footsteps Baron van Nemesis Single Site (in spite of the dumb name) and Jim Barry’s the Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 are my only recommendations. In the past I have been a proponent of l’Ecole 41 wines but this time around I have to issue a buyer beware. I haven’t seen any glowing reviews of the one in this release and at this price, the reviews should be glowing. If you can drop by a local LCBO that has a tasting bar do so before spending your hard earned cash on this one. The big buck Amarones from the Feature don’t hold much allure but In the past I have recommended a couple of the more reasonably priced ripasso wines - The Zenato Ripasso and the Capitel Dei Nicalo are both always quite solid .
So what will I be doing this weekend? Probably ignoring this release and picking up ones and twos of recommended wines from previous releases that are still available . If you can find the Tassinaia 2006 do so. To my palate it’s close to the Sette Ponti’s Oreno for about two fifths the price. I’m also thinking that the Castello di Ama 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva is a good option if a little expensive. The 09 was a blend of grapes from their single vineyards blended with those usually used in their Riserva. With the next vintage being officially the first of the new Grand Selezione category, positioned above the Chianti Classico Riserva, the 09 could actually be a Grand Selezione in Riserva’s clothing. Properly marketed I expect this new category of Chianti Classicos to edge into Brunello territory price wise going forward. Still another great option from a few weeks ago is the Montirius Gigondas 2007 if you can find any of them and if you like the Southern Rhone.
Looking ahead, the big features of the April 26th release are B and B’s - Bordeaux and Bubblies. In general terms, I’m not a fan of Bordeaux. Tobacco and green flavours, not enough fruit and of course way over hyped and too often overpriced. Surprisingly the prices aren’t bad for the Bordeaux in this release and it is better than recent ones. But it’s still not a great release.
My first recommendation is to shop the Spanish reds in this release. There are values at every price point from Spain including one that was the decanter number 1 wine of the year and which received a 100 point score from one of their reviewers. With a trio of tasters the I Faustino 2001 ended at 97 points which means the other two scored it around 95 points. Not too shabby if you trust the decanter palates. Considering the price of the 100 point Dominus in a recent release, this one at $32.95 is a buy. Just be prepared to line up early and hope you like that old time Spanish profile.
If you’re not a fan of Spain and you must shop the new release for a red, go to Washington St. or Argentina. From Washington, try the Three Rivers ‘Rivers Red’ 2011. The wine is slightly overpriced at $19.95 but should be good. From Argentina, the best choice appears to be the Casarena Ramanegra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, from 80 year old vines, this one should be a beaut. A third option might be the Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2010. All three of these choices are under $20 and should be good.
If you’re looking for whites, try one of the following chardonnays:
Gray Monk unwooded Chardonnay 2012 - $19.95 – A very good Okanagan producer. Remember we’re not going for the vanilla buttery notes here but rather all fruit.
From Burgundy, Roche de Bellene Montagny Premiere Cru 2011 – This should be very tasty but for $26.95 it ought to be. It is the midpriced option of three of the producer’s chardonnays that the LCBO has sold in the last few months. A less pricey and perhaps less sophisticated sibling was released in February this year and was very nice – green apple, some lemon-y acidity and quite vibrant. The more expensive (almost $50) bigger brother was in the March 29th release.
Among the Big buck options, Les Terrasses from Priorat in Spain is often superb but also often ends up on the Bin End markdown sale list. Because it was #26 in the WS Top 100 last year, it should sell through this year. For those looking for something different the Mitolo Serpico is one release late coming to the party. This is an Aussie Cab Sauv made in the Amarone style. Where was it last release?
Let’s all hope for continued improvement and better things to come in May!