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