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.