Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Jan. 09 Vintages release - Here we go again!

Let's start the year with a question. Why can't you find the Vintages delistings anywhere on the Vintages  (or LCBO) websites? I bought a Cornas that was $11 off the posted price but  I had to ask for a price check and not even the Vintages consultant knew about it!  I found the info on a wine forum and have no idea of how long it had been at that new pricepoint. LCBO, you work for me, so tell me these things!!!!

The first release of the year should allow your wallet to recover from the voracious Vintages attacks of the last few months. I say should but remember, we’re dealing with the LCBO here. In their inimitable wisdom they have started the year with a feature called “How to Be a SMART Shopper”  like they’re our best friend and have our interests at heart.  But at the same time they charge us exorbitant markups and provide limited selections and availabilities. New year….same old  transparently obvious LCBO.

 While there might be one or two ageworthy choices available in this release, they are outnumbered by the simple quaffers.
MULDERBOSCH CHENIN BLANC 2015 S 12 335 $14.95 Distinctive label, nice with oysters especially, but any seafood or fish will suffice.

Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 -  699 cases of 12 $17.95  - Best QPR Cab in the release but you're better served to grab the '12 CARMEN Gran Reserva from the general list.
DOMAINE LE GRAND RETOUR PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE Villages 2013- 1299 cases of 12  $14.95 – Not a great vintage for Grenache so try one to confirm it’s as good as last year’s (which by the way was a terrific value) then consider buying a case. 
DOMAINE SAINT-ROCH VACQUEYRAS 2014 490 cases of 12 $21.95 Well priced for a Vacqueyras.
ANTICO SIGILLO PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA 2013   1040 cases of 12 $19.95  - Expensive for a primitivo from Puglia, especially when bought in these quantities. Should be a great pizza or burger wine though.
BIBI GRAETZ CASAMATTA SANGIOVESE 700 cases of 12 $14.95  - This is a blend of  current and previous vintages, ready to drink alongside pizza or a homemade spaghetti and meatball supper.
SISTERS RUN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 $15.95 - Always well priced and well valued. Meatloaf or burgers or sausage pizza.
GUNDLACH BUNDSCHU MOUNTAIN CUVÉE 2012   799 cases of 12 $19.95 – Parker calls it a Rhone look alike but I think it’s closer to the kind of blend you’d find from areas of the Midi. I will try one just because I like the winery for their sense of humour. You can spend time on their website and smile often.
FIRST PRESS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 1287 cases of 12 $22.95 – Napa Cab, ok price. Not a great vintage so I don’t know why the LCBO bought so many bottles when both the ’12 and ’13 are available. Industrial wine, unaffected by vintage quality, I suppose.

POWERS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013   223 cases of  12 $22.95 The truth is I haven’t heard of this winery before. Although it is OK to be labelled as a Cab Sauv it is actually 88% Cab Sauv, 4 % Merlot, 4% Cab Franc, 2% Syrah and 2% Malbec. But wait, it gets better. These grapes are sourced from 7 different vineyards. Worth trying one if only for the wine tour of Washington State.

Big Bucks – After the last couple of months these don’t seem all that big – but the reality is you get what you pay for.
 LA PIEVE BAROLO 2011 $34.95 – Not a great vintage or producer but it’s well priced for a Barolo and is a good starting point. Give it a year or so in a cool dark place.

BAnfi Brunello but only if it’s a 2010. After the 4th of January this one’ll be 5 bucks off. If you can find one 2010, buy one and lay it down for 5 years minimum.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 12th Vintages - Another year has come and gone

The December 12, 2015 release is the last of the year. As I look back on my summaries and notes for the year, what a boring, bland one it has been for Vintages. Ah well, we can hope for better things to come in 2016.
Two picks this week are the result of me letting my eyes overrule my nose and palate. The pair of La Posta malbecs have terrific new labels designed by Jose Canales. To my eye they more than do their job – they provide an eye catching, traditional yet modern invitation to the wine. Their styling is almost Spanish Rioja (or very old school Barolo) meets neon meets modern. If you’re a fan of the Catena malbecs it is also worth noting that both these wines are produced in collaboration with Laura Catena and winemaker Estella Perinetti.
LA POSTA PIZZELLA MALBEC 2014   934 cases of 12 $16.95 – From the Pizzella family’s vineyard in the renowned La Consulta region of the Uco valley. Given a bit of time it’ll be a good accompaniment to any rich meal, from rare beef all the way to a cassoulet.   Drink 1-3 years.
LA POSTA ANGEL PAULUCCI VINEYARD MALBEC 2014   923 cases of 12 $15.95 – From Angel Paulucci’s vineyard in the Ugarteche subregion of Luyan de Cuyo. As a food pairing the producer recommends it with anything from grilled meats to a wild boar, sage and dried cherry risotto.  
SALENTEIN RESERVE MALBEC 2013   847 cases of 12 $17.95 – Any of the three Malbecs will be good choices.
D'ARENBERG D'ARRY'S ORIGINAL SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2012  511 cases of 12 $19.95 – Southern Rhone blend from Australia.
PIRRAMIMMA WHITE LABEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 700 cases of 12 $23.95 – Always a terrific wine from one of my favourite producers.
VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 550 cases of 12 $17.95 – Not a bad cab for the $$’s.
GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR PIC SAINT LOUP 2011 697 cases of 12 $18.95 – This month’s release from the seemingly ubiquitous Mr. Bertrand presents more of the goodness of the Midi.
MAZZEI CASTELLO DI FONTERUTOLI SER LAPO RISERVA 2011 - 994 cases of 6  $23.95 – My number 1 pick, this is a rerelease of the 2011 that we saw last April. And that is my only concern about this Ser Lapo. Otherwise, it’s always very good. Darker and more brooding than some CCR’s but with a few years on it this is just coming into its own. It will provide years of pleasure. Galloni’s review says to hold it for another couple of years but my palate says it’s ready to go right now. Last weekend’s bottle was superb and worthy of the score.
CASTELLO DI FONTERUTOLI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2013 179 cases of 12 $13.95 – The bargain priced little brother to the Ser Lapo.
BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2013 964 cases of 12 $19.95 – Formerly a favourite of mine but the last few bottles were, to my palate, too oaky. This in spite of Parker’s review indicating the wine was aged in older French oak barrels and stainless steel.  The wine was very well made but just not exactly to my taste anymore. It’s a buy for most though.
VINA POMAL RESERVA 2010 - $21.95 – Well scored by both Decanter and Wine Spectator, this is my Tempranillo of the month. Same price as the W o M but  a better wine I think.
RODRIGUEZ SANZO LACRIMUS CRIANZA 2011 699 cases of 12 $18.95 – Previous vintages of this Tempranillo have been terrific so let’s take a chance.
BALBÁS CRIANZA 2011 799 cases of 12 $18.95 – Another well priced Tempranillo that is consistently good.
CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE INDIAN WELLS RED BLEND 2012 335 cases of 12  $25.95 _ The Indian Wells Cab seems to have flown under the radar – good news for me – perhaps the same’ll happen here.
RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 1115 cases of 12 $22.95
GIUSTI BRUT ASOLO PROSECCO 279 cases of 12 $19.95
BIG BUCKS- being the time of year it is, the Big Bucks choices are plentiful.
LUCA MALBEC 2012 499 cases of 6 $32.95 – A big inky wine just made for a very rare steak. Also, this is the appropriate bottle to arm yourself with if you’re going to get into a bar fight. To call it substantial is an understatement. 
BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE EBENEZER SHIRAZ 2008   480 cases of 6 $39.95 – Lamb chops anyone? Chewy wine, decant carefully.
LUCE DELLA VITE LA VITE LUCENTE 2013 299 cases of 12 $34.95
LAN GRAN RESERVA 2007 360 cases of 12 $31.95
BURROWING OWL ATHENE 2012   112 cases of 12 $44.95
TENUTA SAN GUIDO GUIDALBERTO 2013 198 cases of 6 $52.95  

MONTES PURPLE ANGEL 2012 498 cases of 6 $59.95 – Carmine, crimson, claret coloured, Carmenere for the LCBO alliteration fans. This is among the best Carmeneres made. A little Petit Verdot in the blend gives it some more licorice notes than your usual Carmenere.  It’s a beaut but too many bucks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 28 Vintages Release - A Mixed Bag for Christmas and New Year

This release is called Holiday Finery so the price tags on the big dollar purchases continue to mount. Once again this week the product consultants are also quoted. I thought I might interject into product consultant Voula’s thought on page 11 “Explore the world with our vast top quality product selection. Re-explore countries you’ve visited and realize… that wine you bought in a retail wine shop for 23 Euros is selling at the LCBO for over $100!” Oh and Merry Christmas!

In spite of the big $’s theme of the release there are some OK sub $20 and sub $30 wines available this week. Sorted by country, I have capitalized the ones that have an inside track to my table.

Two Bubblies – ignore the big $’s champers and go for the Bailly Lapierre Reserve Brut Cremant de Bourgogne and the Salatin Millesimato Extra Dry Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2013. You can celebrate as though they were champagnes and after half a glass no one will be any the wiser.

Lapostolle Canto de Apalta 2012 - $19.95 – Carmenere takes the lead in this blend but try not to hold that against it. Look for all the best of each ripe grape from a hot Chilean vintage - Carmenere supported by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot  and Syrah. Might be the buy of the release.
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2012 - $17.95 –Always lots of oak and black fruits  with enough tannins to go nicely with food. Almost on par with the H3 Cab which happens to be on sale at this time.
Clos de Los Siete 2012- $23.95 – The vines continue to mature in this new world styled Bordeaux blend from Michel Rolland. The older the vines get the better this wine is becoming and it has always been good.
Susana Balboa Signature Malbec 2013 – At $19.95 this is a good buy to accompany rare roast beef or grilled steaks.
Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 - $26.95 – Always a very nice cab from the McLaren Vale. Plenty to like here (but probably not 94 points).
Dandelion Vineyards Lioness of the McLaren vale 2013 - $19.95 – Festooned with enough medals to be confused with the 2000 vintage Thorpedo, this is an always big and bold red from Oz. If you like ‘em large, this is for you.
Nederberg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – $16.95 - This South African bargain while not a standout in any one area, does everything well for the price.
KWV The Mentors Shiraz 2012 - $29.95 – an excellent shiraz, give it a few months in a cool dark place. It will really come around.
Chateau Maris Las Combes Minervois La Liviniere 2011 – $25.95 – A Chateau Maris sighting is a pretty rare thing in Ontario but is among the very best producers in the Midi. Think of this excellent Minervois as a named ‘Villages’ quality wine from the Southern Rhone. Made from 100% Grenache.
M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut CoTes du Roussillon Villages 2014 - $15.95 – a  buy from the Midi holdings of the well known Rhone expert  Michel Chapoutier. Ready to drink right now but this can also use a bit of bottle time to develop and mature.
Domaine de Vitalis Cairanne 2013 –$16.95 - From a named village among the Cotes du Rhone Villages, this should be good for immediate consumption or short term age.
Casa Castillo El Molar 2013 - $17.95 – Terrific review for an under $18 wine. I might sink my teeth into one or two (did you see what I did there?).
Castano Solanera 2013 - $16.95 – Another Spanish bargain from old vines. Give it a bit of time to settle down then drink over the short term. I popped and poured a 2012 recently and it was very difficult to say whether I really liked it. I liked it…just not sure I really liked it. It was a busy wine to be sure.

Nothing over $50 GETS mentioned. I’m becoming more stringent with my limits.
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – $46.95 - Superior cabernet from Argentina. Brown bag it and you’d think $100 Napa, minimum.

Elderton Ode to Lorraine 2012 - $39.95 – A few years back this made the WS Top 100. Last year I had one (2010, I think) and it was shocking - It looked like a Pinot Noir in the glass. I’m really not sure what to expect – big, dark and unctuous or a repeat of this previous disappointment.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – Closer in price to what it should be - it’s still only $35 from the winery but a good wine if you can keep your hands off it for a few years.

Stags Leap Petit Sirah 2012 - $39.95 - Similar to what the Ode to Lorraine used to be (and might be again) this should be a very expressive, black coloured wine rich with floral scents and dark fruit.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mid November's Vintages release - Yawn....

For this week, which is normally one of the better ones of the year for wine consumers who live in Ontario, there are lots of average wines with a few slightly better than that tossed in. The QPR of the recent Oct.31 Vintages release highlights the inferiority of this one - unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. I wasn’t, so haven’t even bothered to review many of the big  ticket wines in this release. But speaking of silver, there is a silver lining to this gray cloud of mediocrity. Knowing how pedestrian this release is allows us to contemplate and perhaps revisit favourites that are still available from previous releases. Or perhaps just find a good reason to take a visit to Quebec.

This week the second feature is 1.5L bottles of wine. When a ‘big  bottle’ is the LCBO’s sole differentiator to sell a wine, you know someone has really taken the easy way out.

THE PICKS (but none overwhelm me)
 CHÂTEAU DE NAGES VIEILLES VIGNES COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES 2012 - 901 cases of 12  $19.95 – Gassier is a very good producer and this is a consistent wine with high levels of fruit, terrior and tannin. Great with game meats and stews.  
AUSTRALIA – As always, please take James Halliday’s scores with a grain of salt.
 PIRRAMIMMA WHITE LABEL SHIRAZ 2013   493 cases of 12 $24.95 – A perennial pick. McLaren Vale fruit, this is big but not overwhelming and is an excellent example of what Oz wines can offer. Tasted over time it’ll evolve nicely with air. Black cherry flavours will evolve to chocolate covered strawberries and on to mocha espresso aromas. Excellent with a thought provoking author or a rack of lamb.
ZONTE'S FOOTSTEP CHOCOLATE FACTORY SHIRAZ 2013   999 cases of 12 $17.95 By its name you can guess what to expect from this well priced Aussie. While it has won gold medals at four different international wine competitions, this isn’t as good as Halliday’s score indicates.
D'ARENBERG THE HIGH TRELLIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   447 cases of 12 $19.95- Solid, Well priced cab from D’Arenberg. Not as ageworthy as their Coppermine Road but also about two fifths the price. The Wakefield cab in this release is also worthy of consideration.
 GÉRARD BERTRAND FITOU 2011 808 cases of 12 $16.95  - The Fitou appellation in the Languedoc  region produces wines very similar to those from Corbieres. If you happen to be in France, just be sure which one you are in before you say the other is superior. Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah are the grapes blended in specified percentages. Actually, both wines from Fitou in the release should be good.
Palacio de Sada Crianza  2011 - $16.95 – Another Decanter 95 pointer from Spain but this Grenache is new to me. The review reads as though it’ll be a wine to be enjoyed while serenely and thoughtfully contemplating what the world has to offer (an early blizzard rather than an outdoor bbq perhaps?). We shall see.
CONVENTO SAN FRANCISCO CRIANZA 2009 - $19.95 for this WoM seems OK.   Not a palate coater by any stretch but a nice food wine. Oaky, I dare say.
As an aside, I think the other wine of the month (Decoy) is overpriced. If you can find the 2012 Beringer that is reduced in price it’s a better wine in my opinion. Also, Vintages website says the price for the Beringer is currently $39.95. The online version of the Vintages catalogue for 11/14 says it’ll be $32.95 on sale.
GIACOMO MORI CHIANTI 2012 500 cases of 12  $19.95 – A solid review from Galloni leads me to expect a chianti well suited to accompany a traditional meat based Italian meal.
IL MOLINO DI GRACE RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2008 799 cases of 12 $23.95 – A very solid food wine that is ready to drink now.
SANTA CAROLINA RESERVA DE FAMILIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 - 93 cases of 6  $37.95 This is a 1.5 litre bottle of the always good Cabernet. Ready to rock and roll with 7 years age on it.
TENUTE SILVIO NARDI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010   798 cases of 12   $41.95  - This winery is run by Emilia Nardi, granddaughter of the founder. She is also the winemaker and has developed a wine that presents the terroir of the locale very well. Black cherry, some anise, and an herby undertone are present. Suckling’s review (95 points) may be over the top for this elegant sophisticated wine.
ST. HALLETT BLACKWELL SHIRAZ 2012 237 cases of 6   $39.95 – Bigger brother of St. Hallet’s oft excellent Faith, this is a massive wine, not dissimilar to Ebenezer or Elderton’s upper midpriced Shiraz.
JOHN GLAETZER JOHN'S BLEND MARGARETE'S SHIRAZ 2010   239 cases of 6   $39.95 – A toss up between this and St. Hallett.  
BANFI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010   499 cases of 12  $54.95  - Also from the exceptional 2010 vintage, this should be very  nice indeed. Keep in mind Suckling’s score is 2 to 5 points higher than other reviewers.  I think I’d save 9 bucks and buy the Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from a few releases ago before buying this.
POGGIO VERRANO DRÒMOS 2005   298 cases of 6  $39.95 – The same vintage was available 4 years ago in Quebec for $32.50. Expect cedar, black fruit and some mint notes. Serve with rack of lamb. Right in its drinking window now, do expect some dried rather than completely fresh fruits on the palate.
MARCHESE ANTINORI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2012   150 cases of 12  $32.95 Too expensive.  If you want a chianti this’ll be good but stick with the sub $25 options. Should be $29.

GORDON ESTATE SYRAH 2012   112 cases of 12   $32.95  - Too expensive.  Just creeps into big buck territory which is too bad for it because it’s good but it shouldn’t be this pricey. Should be $27.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 31 - Tuscany and Chile in a very good release but why, oh why?

It’s a Tuscan release so let us commence with a Tuscan wine question. “Why is the Pian delle Vigne 2010 a full $16 more expensive here than in Quebec?”   I’ll await your response Shari Mogk-Edwards but I won’t hold my breath. That question asked, I now have to take my hat off to the Vintages team for this release. As you can tell from my notes below, this has something for everyone.

Chile plays second fiddle in this release and while it is overshadowed by the bold Italians there are some worthy options.

TUSCANY Picks – Four that look excellent, two under $20 and two under $25.
BORGO SCOPETO BORGONERO 2011   998 cases of 12   $19.95 – The Borgo Scopeto Chianti was a beaut and  Yes, I should have bought more! I expect more of the same with this well priced Tuscan/ Bordeaux blend. It might need some time to get settled so don’t rush to serve it but the big number and great price will have this one blowing out the door so do rush to buy it.
Frescobaldi CAMPO AI SASSI Rosso di Montalcino 2013 - $21.95 – While this 2013 might be good to age, it should also be ready for immediate consumption. Planted in the southern half of the Castelgiocondo estate below Montalcino and aged for 12 months in Slavonian oak, this was unanimously given 95 by the Decanter tasting panel.
CASTELLI DEL GREVEPESA CLEMENTE VII CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011   3498 cases of 12   $17.00  - Another of the Food and Drink specials (or is that F and D specials, or maybe F’n D specials) , this garnered a 92 point score from Wine Spectator but be careful to read the review. This is an old school chianti, so give it time and food. It does not seem to be as universally well liked among the wine cognoscenti.  
CAFAGGIO CORTACCIO 2006   344 cases of 12   $24.95 – A 100% Cabernet Sauv wine from a terrific Tuscan vintage. Now with almost 9 years on it this one is ready for immediate consumption and I don’t expect it to get better (I like my wines to exhibit some fresh as opposed to all dried fruit characteristics). Are you ready for a Florentine steak hot off the grill?
My first four picks outside Tuscany in the $15 -$30 range are the CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE INDIAN WELLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON   279 cases of 12 at $26.95 will be spicy and tasty with cloves and vanilla supporting the black currant fruit.  Next is the CONCHA Y TORO TERRUNYO ANDES PIRQUE VINEYARD CABERNET. In the medium term this’ll be as good as their flagship Don Melchor. A bold statement but I really like this wine. Look for the traditional Chilean profile of black currant, loam, just a hint of green and mint and a long, full finish. Decant and serve with a rare roast of beef. 995 cases of 6 at  $29.95. Third pick is the Spanish MURIEL RESERVA VENDIMIA SELECCIONADA 2008.  At $18.95 and with food this is among the better QPR reds I’ve had in the last year or so. Last option is the SYRAH from MONTES ALPHA. I find the wines from this producer lean more towards OZ than Europe so this’ll be a pleasant softer mouthful. 650 or so cases of 12.
POLIZIANO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2012   298 cases of 12  $29.95 – Having visited Poliziano I have to recommend this wine for no other reason than the professionalism of their staff.  
TENUTA SAN GUIDO LE DIFESE 2013   644 cases of 6  $29.95  - The Third  wine to Sassicaia and Guidalberto, this is made from younger estate vines. Expensive but …
LE VOLTE DELL'ORNELLAIA 2013   495 cases of 12  $29.95 – The third wine of the Ornellaia estate.
RUFFINO MODUS 2011   676 cases of 12  $29.95  - James Suckling is a huge fan of this wine. Me? I like it but I think there are many better places to spend your money in this release.
 MURIEL RESERVA VENDIMIA SELECCIONADA 2008   997 cases of 12 $18.95 As  mentioned above in my non Tuscan picks. Keep in mind this was in Decanter’s Top 10 Wines of 2013 but is the third release of this vintage and wine by the Vintages team. Now, that said I always worry about rereleases so you can bet I’m really worried about this rererelease! It might have been nice for the LCBO to throw us a bone and make this one of the Food and Drink specials but that was just too much to hope for.
BARÓN DE LEY RESERVA 2010   596 cases of 12  $19.95 – The second of a couple of well priced and terrific  Spanish wines in this release. You better like oak for this one and do open well before serving with food.
WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013   996 cases of 6  $23.95 – Another really solid new world Cabernet. 
LAVAU VACQUEYRAS 2012   358 cases of 12 $24.95 – Lavau is a solid if not spectacular producer and you know I like wines from vineyards in the region of this Village.
For you bargain hunters, there are a few goodies that just squeak under the $17 mark. Three from Argentina, the two CRIOS offerings – a Malbec and a red Blend should be very nice as well as  the FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013   599 cases of 12  $17.95 Any of these will be solid, great for a Christmas open house, it you’re thinking ahead. Also worth considering are the Brampton Cab from South Africa or the Xavier Cotes du Rhone 2012.
ANTINORI PIAN DELLE VIGNE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010   987 cases of 6  $69.95 – You’d laugh if you weren’t crying, right? This is $53.75 in Quebec for the same Vintage so those who have defended the LCBO by saying that it serves a purpose and funds things like OHIP etc can look at Quebec. With the same health system and subsidized daycare for young families (max cost $7.30 up to a max. of $20 per day)  they still manage to sell this wine for $16.25 less than the LCBO – how does the LCBO get away with that? Anywhere else and it would be called price gouging (or perhaps incompetence?).
 PENFOLDS BIN 28 KALIMNA SHIRAZ 2012   155 cases of 6 $34.95 
  TWO HANDS LILY'S GARDEN SHIRAZ 2013   299 cases of 6 $54.95 
  E. GUIGAL GIGONDAS 2011   197 cases of 12  $36.95
  J. L. CHAVE SÉLECTION OFFERUS SAINT-JOSEPH 2012   71 cases of 12   $33.95 – Nice meaty peppery syrah from a terrific producer. Lamb chops are calling its name.
  BENI DI BATASIOLO BOSCARETO BAROLO 2009   199 cases of 6   $67.95
  FONTANAFREDDA LA ROSA BAROLO 2008   127 cases of 6  $64.95
TENUTA SETTE PONTI ORENO 2012 246 cases of 6  $77.95 – This has come down a wee bit (maybe to try to match Quebec?) and the 2004  was among my wines of the year last year but I can’t justify it. Quebec has it at $73 for the 2011. Just sayin’.
 POGGIOTONDO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010 592 cases of 12  $39.95 – An old style Brunello at a reasonable price. But this is ‘old style’ so fruit will be reticent and food is recommended.
  SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO DA SAN FELICE GRAN SELEZIONE CHIANTI   247 cases of 6   $46.95 – A Chianti in Brunello clothing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 17th Vintages - Cali and Piedmont vie for your cash

The October 17thst release sees the prices begin to spike as we head into the Christmas time releases. Focused on California with an able backup from Barolo, this one will be a wallet lightener to be sure. The LCBO, ever the masters of the understatement called this release the California Gold Rush. Look at the prices and you’ll see why - They’re rushing to get our gold.
M. CHAPOUTIER DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2013   998 cases of 12   $25.95 – Always excellent but will need a bit of time to calm down.
VILLA SYMPOSIA L'EQUILIBRE 2012   221 cases of 12  $22.95  - Another reasonably good buy for a mid term ageworthy wine.
FAMILLE PERRIN LES CORNUDS VINSOBRES 2013   404 cases of 12  $17.95 – With the Nicalo, this is the semibargain red selection of the release.
DOMAINES PERRIN COUDOULET DE BEAUCASTEL CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE 344 cases of 12 $29.95 – A Cotes du Rhone with Chateauneufian sensibilities. Built to age in the medium term, you’ll find it puckeringly  tannic in its youth.
3 RINGS SHIRAZ 2013   995 cases of 12  $18.95  - Consistent wine – never let’s you down.
MOLLYDOOKER THE BOXER SHIRAZ 2013   199 cases of 12   $29.95 – Sometimes referred to as The BenlynDooker, this’ll be inky black garnet and juicy. Old style OZ.
D'ARENBERG THE GALVO GARAGE 2010   191 cases of 12   $29.95 Is it my imagination or has this jumped in price from last year? 
 TEDESCHI CAPITEL NICALÒ 2013 948 cases of 12  $17.95 – The other semibargain of the release. I do expect to like this one based on history.
RIOJA VEGA RESERVA 2008   1059 cases of 12   $21.95 – Lots of bottles so no rush.
DOMINIO DE TARES CEPAS VIEJAS MENCIA 2011   298 cases of 12   $29.95 – This one has jumped in price if I recall correctly. Expect something akin to a southern Rhone palate with a dollop of pinot noir thrown in. The only grape in it is mencia. But that’s what it tastes like to me.
FATTORIA DI BASCIANO I PINI 2011   239 cases of 6 $30.95 – I’m hoping for a replay of Castello del  Terriccio’s terrific Tassinaia with this one. One dollar too much drops it into the Big Buck zone.
BRITISH COLUMBIA’s JACKSON-TRIGGS SUNROCK VINEYARD ILLUMINA 2012   111 cases of 6  $34.95- A spectacular setting and a terrific vineyard in both soil composition and solar exposure.  If you want to see how much fruit a Canadian red can show try this blend of Zinfandel and Shiraz.  Note to J.T - check the harvest dates on the PDF for this one on the Great Estates website.
CASTELLO DI AMA SAN LORENZO CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE  348 cases of 12   $45.95  - I’m a big fan of Di Ama but I’ll have to drown my sorrows with a bottle of 2009 Reserva since  I expect I’ll lose out on the charge for this one come Saturday (or Friday, or whenever!). Like the Banfi below, it’ll need some time to tame the tannins.
BANFI POGGIO ALLE MURA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010   110 cases of 6   $69.95 Patience people, patience. Needs at least 7 years to show the best it has to offer.
All across Europe, 2010 was a great vintage. The following four Barolos should provide real pleasure for you.
TENUTA ROCCA BAROLO 2010   239 cases of 12   $36.95 
PRUNOTTO BAROLO 2010   199 cases of 12    $40.95  
FONTANAFREDDA SERRALUNGA D'ALBA BAROLO 2010   200 cases of 12    $44.95  
ASCHERI SORANA BAROLO 2010   111 cases of 12   $57.95  
PICCINI VILA AL CORTILE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2009   299 cases of 12    $36.95 – A nice comparatively inexpensive Brunello to sip while you wait for the 2010 Banfi below to age and come around. Remember, patience is a virtue though!
DOMAINE DE CRISTIA CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012   149 cases of 12    $43.95

Black Stallion Napa Cabernet 2012 - $32.95 – 91% Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance a blend of the Bordeaux grapes this is as close to a bargain as I could find from Napa. But I’ll wait for next release and buy a cab from Washington St. or Chile.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

October 3 Vintages release - a rude awakening

Just back from two and a half weeks enjoying many of the pleasures that Italy has to offer so this week’s release returns us to earth with a thud. A few to choose from and fewer still to get excited about!
ALTOS LAS HORMIGAS TERROIR MALBEC 2012 222  cases of 12 $22.95 – A late season steak on the BBQ? Well then, here’s this week’s rare beef special.  
 CAPE BARREN NATIVE GOOSE GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE   259 cases of 12 $19.95 A nice GSM for roast pheasant or other winged creature or perhaps something porcine.  
 CHALK HILL WINES WITS END LUNA SHIRAZ 2013   598 cases of 12 $18.95  
 TABALI RESERVA SYRAH 2012   398 cases of 12 $14.95 – I expect this to be the best bargain in the release if you like black cherry with your smokey, meaty, sweaty, olive tinged wines.  From vineyards in the Limari Valley in Chile which happens to be a very good location for syrah.
   GÉRARD BERTRAND TERROIR CORBIÈRES 2011   499 cases of 12 $16.95 – The only problem with this is that there are too many Bertrand bottles to choose from in most Vintages sections. As good a producer as he is, this seems a Biweekly occurrence now and runs the risk of brand overload.
  DOMAINE LAFAGE CHÂTEAU SAINT-ROCH CHIMÈRES 2013   1197 cases of 12 $19.95 – Jeb Dunnuck will become a name you see more and more in Vintages reviews. Especially as he reviews other regions besides the Rhone. He might be stretching credibility with this score. 93 points is a lot for this vintage and producer but it’ll serve the LCBO well I suppose.  
 CUSUMANO NOÀ 2012   332 cases of 12 $22.95  - For fans of big, black reds I recommend that you take a few steps off the beaten path and try this blend. Decant or at least open an hour ahead.
 FONTERUTOLI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2012   398 cases of 12 $25.95  - A little fruitier than the reserve, great with tomato and or meat sauces.
 TENUTA SETTE PONTI CROGNOLO 2012   349 cases of 12 $35.95  Further evidence that James Suckling’s palate has gone south. Can’t possibly be this good and I will not waste $35 to prove it.
 TENUTA SAN VINCENTI GRAN SELEZIONE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011   100 cases of 12 $54.95  The latest of the Chiantis dressed in Brunello pricetags.
 Age alert*****Those already in retirement should seriously consider whether they’ll be around to see each of the following wines in its prime.
CASTIGLION DEL BOSCO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010   224 cases of 12 $59.95 A brilliant vintage across Italy and especially the big two – Brunello and Barolo, here is the latest of the 2010’s. By the way, stay tuned for my notes on our visit to the region and the unanimous perception of the LCBO among producers in Tuscany.
 ROCCHE COSTAMAGNA ROCCHE DELL'ANNUNCIATA BAROLO 2010   224 cases of 12 $44.95 – A brilliant vintage across Italy and especially the big two – Brunello and Barolo, here is the latest of the 2010’s.
 LE VIEUX DONJON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2013   149 cases of 12  $58.95 Do you have a vertical to keep alive? Go for one perhaps. This’ll need 5- 10 years to even consider it to be ready to approach.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Vintages Labour Day Release

Labour Day Weekend signals that the end of summer is almost upon us. For the LCBO it usually signals the beginning of better Vintages releases as we get into autumn. Remember that better is generally accompanied by ‘lots more expensive’ with the LCBO. Check the prices to see.

An interesting side note, there is only one wine from Australia in this release and it’s a white. This may have happened in the recent past but I can’t remember when. On to the picks!

MULDERBOSCH FAITHFUL HOUND 2012 222 cases of 12 $20.95 – Excellent, very well done in a juicy, albeit tannic Bordeaux style. I know that contradicts, but the wine is fruity and tannic so they’re the descriptors I’ve got. Best laid down for a year or so based on past vintages.
OLARRA CLÁSICO RESERVA 2009 501 cases of 12 $18.95  - Let the battles begin! A score of 97 points combined with a sub $20 price point almost guarantees fisticuffs. Schedule your Saturday accordingly!

MONTGRAS ANTU SYRAH 2012    2199 cases of 12 $17.00  - A full bodied if somewhat oaky syrah. Look for black fruits, vanilla notes and hints of dark chocolate. While a nice wine this is really no bargain considering how many cases are being bought by the LCBO. For quite some time the 2013 Vintage has also been available at Vintages for 95 cents more. (Update - Now I'm confused! The 2013 and the 2012 are both priced at $17 on the vintages website and as of Sept. 2, all the inventory in store was applied to the 2013, not the 2012. Seems ironic that the Vintages folks can't seem to keep track of different, wait for it, vintages! Shop accordingly.)
DOMAINE LAFAGE TESSELLAE CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON OLD VINES 2013  3494 cases of 12 $17.00 . Think of this Domaine Lafage/ Eric Solomon coproduction as an upper price point Cotes du Rhone Villages and don’t forget that you can oft times get a CdR-V of equivalent quality for under $15.  The Tessellae was designed and built for American tastes (Solomon is the American importer) and is the other Food and Drink Special. It was available at some small Mom and Pop stores south of the border for less than $12. so to call it a ‘special’ might be stretching advertising credibility.  

LE GRAVILLAS GIGONDAS 2013   448 cases of 12 $22.95 – well priced for a Gigondas,  about the same as 2012, but remember there was a poor grenache vintage in the Southern Rhone in 2013 so you may find a different flavor profile than in the past.
BRANCAIA TRE 2012 476 cases of 12  $23.95  - This scores like mad but like so many Italian wines, it shows its best when  served with food.
PICCINI SASSO AL POGGIO 2009   795 cases of 12  $19.95  
BODEGAS ALTANZA HACIENDA VALVARÉS 2011 471 cases of 12  $19.95  - OK
ABAD DOM BUENO MENCÍA 2008 698 cases of 12  $15.95  - Another Mencia for those seeking a red that’s a little different.
SAGELANDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013   299 cases of 12 $18.95  - Nice black cherry attack, loamy mid-palate with a moderately long finish. $9.99, yes $9.99, on  
CALIFORNIA – all three of the cabs below finish a close second to Sagelands in my opinion.
HESS SELECT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 782 cases of 12 $24.95  
J.L. CHAVE SELECTION SILÈNE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2013   75 cases of 12  $33.00 – Rack of lamb anyone? Maybe have a J.L. Chave/ Fess Parker syrah off with the winner getting a coon skin cap.
FESS PARKER THE BIG EASY SYRAH 2012 193 cases of 6 $35.95 Best served with beef jerky while  watching black and white reruns of Disney’s Davey Crocket or Daniel Boone. Or if you’re feeling up to colour, go for Old Yeller. Although I usually reserve a Chardonnay (yellow dog after all) and a box of Kleenex for that one.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA DIRECTOR'S CUT CABERNET 446 cases of 12 $34.95  - Among if not my favourite Alexander Valley/ Sonoma  cabs and priced where it was last year.
CHATEAU MONTELENA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 110 cases of 12 $70.95 –Kaching.
TENUTA DEGLI DEI CAVALLI 2010   240 cases of 6  $49.95
INSPIRACIÓN VALDEMAR GRACIANO 2005 375 cases of 6 $34.95  - Ten years on, this is ready to rock!
VERBENA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2009 247 cases of 12 $39.95
TIGNANELLO 2011   601 cases of 6 $102.95


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 22nd Vintages - there goes another month!

August 22nd brings us another Vintages release, this one featuring ‘Top Scoring’ Wines. Scoring can be a subjective thing so try to find reviewers whose palates match your own and read their notes, don’t just go by the numbers. Also, I am not casting aspersions on their character, but not all taste wine simply to taste it, some may be promoting their own agenda (hidden or otherwise). Ahhh BP, so little faith!
On to the wines!
My opinion is the two WOMs are worth buying especially if you're a fan of steaks on the BarB or rare roasts of beef or lamb (or even a well roasted chicken) come winter time.

FREE RUN STEEN CHENIN BLANC - $13.95 – A tasty, sophisticated change from Chards and Pinot Grigios especially if oysters are on the menu. YTMV.
LIMESTONE HILL Chardonnay - $15.95 – Unoaked and pretty classy for the price.
TRIVENTO GOLDEN RESERVE MALBEC 2012 – 1500 cases  - $19.95 – Three reviews from respected journals – consistent notes – 1 - Lush and intense, 2 - Ripe and rich, 3 - Dark and dense. All over 90 points, you will be getting a real mouthful to go with that steak.
GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR LA CLAPE 1499 cases of 12 $18.95 – Should be good.  I measure all Bertrand wines by  l’Hospitalet from the 2005 and ’07 vintages. Back then at $17.95 that wine was a screaming bargain. Also, if ever presented with an opportunity to try an older vintage (say 2007) L’Hosptalitas do so. It’s almost as good as any Chateauneuf du Pape. The downside is that it is priced accordingly.
TWO HANDS BRAVE FACES GRENACHE/MATARO/SHIRAZ 2012   406 cases of 12  $24.95  - A superior wine especially for fans of GSMs – count me in.
TURKEY FLAT GSM - Five bucks less than the Two Hands and close to if not as good.
WAKEFIELD SHIRAZ 2014   1023 cases of 12 $17.95 – With all the medals festooning this bottle, all it requires is a chrome twist cap and it would look like George C Scott in Patton. Well priced for what you get but this is a common shiraz often carried in Vintages. No big rush to buy here.
BLACK SAGE VINEYARD MERLOT 2012   335 cases of 6 $22.95 – Time for a little Western Canada wine history here. Harry McWatters was among the pioneers of fine wines in BC and as owner of Sumac Ridge Winery was among the earliest to plant vinifera grapes in the Okanagan.  (Side note: My wife and I took my parents to Sumac Ridge for a wine tasting presided over by the legend himself and it was a memorable occasion). Back to the lesson, Harry bought and turned what was once a golf course into the The Black Sage Vineyard and it became the site of premium grapes grown for Sumac Ridge’s upper tier of wines. Success attracts interest and Sumac Ridge was purchased, first by Vincor, then by Constellation Brands (when they purchased Vincor) but Harry always retained ownership of 50 % of the Black Sage Vineyard. When Harry retired from Constellation a few years back the vineyard was divided into two parts. Harry kept his half and Constellation theirs. They also kept the rights to the name. This has led to a rebranding by Constellation to identify wines from this site as they split Black Sage off from the Sumac Ridge line of wines. The loftily priced Sumac Ridge Pinnacle wine failed to make the cut and was dropped as part of this rebranding.  In case you wondered, the popular Stellers Jay sparkling wine did make the cut and I think is now is a brand unto itself.  As for Harry, I think he’s opened his own winery on his half of the old Black Sage Vineyard.
Wine wise, expect black fruit and mocha/ espresso notes here – try a $20 Ontario merlot heads up to see what a difference longer summer days and a desert environment can make.

MICHELE SATTA BOLGHERI ROSSO 2012   299 cases of 12  $22.95 . Good producer, nice wine. Speaking of Michele Satta, my wish is for the LCBO to get the 2006, 2007 or 2010 Piastraia or Il Cavaliere and price them properly (both Satta productions were available earlier this year at the SAQ). That would give us some wines to get really excited about. Dream on, BP!
BALBAS RESERVA 2005   1189 cases of 12 $20.95  - 10 years old, well stored and now ready to be consumed. Tapas time!
CHARLES SMITH BOOM BOOM! SYRAH 2013   221 cases of 12  $24.95  - Another of Charles Smith’s very good midrange wines. It requires a certain level of confidence to order this wine from a snooty sommelier in a ‘serious’ restaurant but don’t let that stop you! Also, for any backyard bbq it’s right at home. Black fruits, white pepper, not OZ nor the Rhone but hints of both.
PENDULUM RED 2011   111 cases of 12   $27.95 – A bit of a kichen sink blend, one review for it indicates it’ll be really oaky, so if you’re susceptible to that, be warned.
DOMAINE DURIEU LUCILE AVRIL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012   199 cases of 12 $47.95  - Consistently excellent producer, expect a terrific, ageworthy wine. Not cheap but what is?
MOCALI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2009   167 cases of 12 $44.95 – Another Brunello that’s ready to drink or hold.
CASTELLO DI GABBIANO BELLEZZA CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE  2010 - 223 cases of 6  $39.95  - Another Brunello in Chianti Classico Clothing?

ROCCA DI FRASSINELLO ORNELLO 2010   199 cases of 6  $37.95 – Label pays homage to the cowboys of the area so I suggest you might serve with rare beef.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August 8 Vintages - Yes it is August but this is not an august release.

Another  HoHum release. The nicest thing I can say is it’s mediocre. The Pacific Northwest is featured. There could be and should be some terrific wines available but they’re not here.  I suppose our weaker dollar combined with the LCBO’s inability to go outside their comfort zone left me with nothing to say except that there might be a few more labels available than past features of this region. How’s that for a glowing endorsement? Oregon, Washington State and BC all get at least a few entries.
Also included is the Loire Region of France. One QPR option to try methinks.
MULDERBOSCH CHENIN BLANC $14.95 - Terrific on its own or better with shellfish.Chalky, mineraly yet with enough fruit to keep you interested.
CLOS LES MONTYS MUSCADET  SEVRE ET MAIN SUR LIE - $13.95 - Terrific value for sipping with cold cuts or seafood or just on its own on a dock. Think Chardonnay, but not quite, and as an added bonus, it's a little frizzante! 
ROLF BINDER HALES SHIRAZ 2012   798 cases of 12 $19.95  -  Good shiraz, OK priced and lots of it.
CHARLES SMITH WINES WINES OF SUBSTANCE CABERNET   448 cases of 12 $24.95  -   Cassis, a hint of herbyness that borders on tobacco, and a soupcon of oak. Smith’s marketing thrust continues with the stark black and white label this time mimicking a periodic table entry. 
MILBRANDT TRADITIONS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   192 cases of 12  $24.95  - $16.99 US from the winery – this is a fine example of Washington State cabernet but like the other Washington St. wines here, it’s no longer a bargain.
 CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   1511 cases of 12 $19.95  - Solid, oaky Washington St. sample. While this wine includes fruit from their Indian Wells and Canoe Ridge vineyards as well as others, one must wonder why one of those specific vineyard offerings did not make the release. This would be the logical release for them, wouldn’t it?
 COLUMBIA CREST GRAND ESTATES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   616 cases of 12 $17.95  - Just below the H3 on the CC totem pole,  this is always a solid performer especially well suited to summer time bbq’s but also winter time roasts.
SEVEN FALLS MERLOT 2012 279 cases of 12 $19.95  - The Seven Falls cab was quite nice. No reason to expect less of the Merlot.
LONE BIRCH SYRAH 2013   179 cases of 12 $18.95  - New one for me…in general Washington likes syrah and syrah really likes the soil and climate there.
 SANDHILL VANESSA VINEYARD CABERNET/MERLOT 2012   111 cases of 12 $19.95  - From a single vineyard in the Similkameen Valley (parallel to the southern Okanangan), Sandhill works with the vineyard to produce this wine.
 MISSION HILL RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012  322 cases of 12  $26.95 – Among the most successful of the BC producers so they must be doing something right.
Both these wines will probably taste different than what you are used to simply due to the reduced Grenache yields in the 2013 vintage in the Southern Rhone. Look for more syrah in both cases - if you try one of these against a 2012  I’m sure you’ll taste quite a difference.
FAMILLE PERRIN L'ANDÉOL RASTEAU 2013   499 cases of 12 $19.95  
ROLF BINDER HALES SHIRAZ 2012   798 cases of 12 $19.95  -  Good shiraz, OK priced and lots of it.
ANTICA MASSERIA JORCHE PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA 2011   249 cases of 12 $21.95 - Match with beef or lamb burgers. 
CHÂTEAU VAL JOANIS TRADITION ROSÉ 2014 563 cases of 12  $15.95
JORGE ORDOÑEZ RIO MADRE GRACIANO ROSÉ 2014   399 cases of 12 $13.95  
BALNAVES SHIRAZ 2009   127 cases of 12 $33.95  - Cote Rotie meets Coonawarra. Or is that Cote Rotie meats Coonawarra? A very bad play on words to highlight the meaty aromas from the shiraz. A well respected Aussie producer, Balnaves Coonawarra shiraz is very good. Most,if not all years, it contains a small amount of viognier as well.
COURTIL - THIBAUT CLOS DES BRUSQUIÈRES CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU- PAPE 111 cases of 12 $47.95  - A small family run operation producing a more traditional style of CdP.
PAOLO CONTERNO RIVA DEL BRIC BAROLO 2010   248 cases of 12 $39.95 – Not unlike Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo can be a love it or leave it wine and certainly one that will age. This is a well priced effort from a great vintage and a good producer if you’re looking for a cellar starter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 25th Vintages Release - Sleep in, nothing to see here.

The last release of July is almost here and it’s time to pull a cork on a nice rosé and quietly consider just where this summer is going so quickly. While contemplating that unfortunate circumstance we can also consider this release - Three features this time around including Chill Out Summer Sippers, Argentina, and Greece. The latter two seem like afterthoughts used to fill up a few pages. As well there is an Ontario winery regurgitation.

There are some good wines here but none that I consider ‘must haves’.

Want to try something unusual? Try the TENUTE MESSiERI VISIONI OFFIDA PECORINO 2012 – Made with the Pecorino grape that is thought to have originated somewhere in the Sibilini Mountains. Note that 15 years ago this grape was planted on 215 acres in all of Italy.  This is not your everyday Pinot Grigio and it bears no relation to the cheese of the same name other than the Italian word for sheep is pecora.
Fielding UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2013 - $14.95 – Always a tasty summer sipper - full, pure Niagara chard fruit in a glass. Well priced for what you get.
 PASCUAL TOSO RESERVE MALBEC 2012   349 cases of 12  $19.95 Solid,  standard Malbec – get that grill heated up. If you really need a sub $20 Malbec, this one will fill the bill.
D’ary’s Original 447 cases of 12 $19.95 – A consistently priced, well made wine from Oz. Big fruit across the palate. Syrah and Grenache.
PAXTON AAA SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2012   575 cases of 12 $19.95  -Biodynamic and certified organic as well as just a bloody good pour.
CHÂTEAU PESQUIÉ TERRASSES 2013   649 cases of 12 $17.95  - From the Cotes de Ventoux this is a wine that used to perform above its price point when its price point was $14.95. Now it’s a tie.We used to pay less than Quebec, now they pay less. How'd that happen? Yes it is a Parker favourite so you’ll be getting lots of fruit.
GRAVILLAS SABLET Cotes du Rhone Villages 2013 - $15.95 - You might want to save yourself  2 bucks and buy the Sablet instead of the Pesquié. Or at least try one of each before diving in. This named village is among the superior viillages of the Cotes du Rhone but not quite up to AOC standards. The village name denotes an overall quality to the vineyards and producers of the area.
 DELAS LES LAUNES CROZES-HERMITAGE 2012   249 $24.95 – Superior syrah – give it some time and serve with rare lamb rack or chops.
TESSELLAE VIEILLES VIGNES CARIGNAN 2013 1293 cases of 12 $17.95 – Plenty of tannins and a big acidic mouthful to be sure. Look for dark fruits and herbal notes.  Very lightly oaked, if at all, as it is 80% aged in concrete, 20% in demi-muids (I presume oak). Not to be confused with the Tessellae GSM, this is another of U.S. Importer Eric Solomon’s productions and it would seem to be built to Parker’s palate.  Jeb Dunnuck certainly continues to propagate Parker’s palate perceptions post Parker’s departure. (all this alliteration is for the Vintages marketing team!)
MIRAVAL ROSÉ 2014   399 cases of 12 $22.95 The Jolie Pitt Perrin profitable pink production returns for another run.  I think this has been reduced in price by a buck or two over last year. It is a well made rosé but the bottle is a bit awkward and there are as good rosés for less. I wonder how many times that bottle and ice bucket fell over when they were staging the image for Vintages?
SAN FABIANO CALCINAIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 ISD 49 cases of 12  $24.95 An ISD with an unusually low price. Will be in very limited supply.
 BODEGAS ALTANZA - LEALTANZA RESERVA 2009 B 12 659 cases of 12  $19.95 Solid, pleasant food wine with some age on it.
 NAPA CELLARS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   949 cases of 6 $26.95 –An OK BBQ wine if grilled steaks are in the offing.
 ST. FRANCIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012    616 cases of 12 $29.95 – Another OK Cali cab.
LADIES WHO SHOOT THEIR LUNCH SHIRAZ, FOWLES WINE 2012   287 cases of 6 $35.95 – Expensive but a good wine. It goes with squirrel and rabbit and I just happen to have lots of both eating their way through my backyard garden. Could it be that some good grillin’ is in the offing? Furry things, you have been warned!
OSOYOOS LAROSE LE GRAND VIN 2010 ISD   84 cases of 6  $44.95 – The fruit is South Okanagan, the winemaking French. It is among the better Canadian wines. Give it a couple of years though.
CAPEZZANA CARMIGNANO 2010 ISD 12 29 $32.95  - In good vintages this is usually a superior wine. Over the next 5 years or so my expectation is that this’ll be very nice. It might be the sleeper of the release. An ISD so not many units at not many stores.

CAPARZO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2008 B 12 149 $44.95 – Still waiting on the ‘10s? This has some age on it and should be ready to go anytime. Decant it. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vintages - July 11, Spain and C - cubed

This week’s release features Spain and Cool Climate Chardonnay. Regarding the former, I thought this week’s Spanish feature would be less attractive than many of the normal Spanish releases found in Vintages. It would appear that I’m not necessarily wrong.  Out of 18 possibilities, it would seem Vintages got only a few strong contenders in the Spanish feature.

 On the C cubed front  (Cool Climate Chardonnay), It is interesting to note that a couple of the chards, although given ample page space will actually provide fewer cases than some of this week’s ISDs. It never ceases to amaze me how LCBO marketers/ buyers can get away with things like this.  Yes these wines are in limited supply. So why waste all that space and customer good will on an item that’ll make the LCBO little money and will barely be available never mind widely available? VSO them or ISD them.  The LCBO motto seems to be  “Unfortunately we sold out of that one but we have this one that is similar (and we have hundreds of cases of it)”. Answering your critics is not necessary if  you’re running a monopoly and Head Office has never been concerned with that down at the cash cow by the lake. They just let the front line Vintages consultants take the heat. 

In summary, there are some whites and roses in this week’s release and not too many worthwhile reds.  

THE WHITES – as you can tell I have become enamored  of the white wines of Ontario  especially the chards now that we’ve gotten away from the oak bombs of not that long ago….

CAVE SPRING ESTATE BOTTLED CHARDONNAY 2013   299 cases of 12 $18.95 
FLAT ROCK THE RUSTY SHED CHARDONNAY 2012   43 cases of 12 $24.95  
NORMAN HARDIE REISLING 2013 - A mix of county and Niagara fruit, this was highlighted on Anthony Bourdain's visit to Quebec (on CNN). Martin Picard gave it a glowing recommendation and I think it's fair to say he's tasted a few good wines in his time.
WESTCOTT LILLIAS UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2013   111 cases of 12 $20.00  - Prefer the unencumbered fruit without the vanilla of oak? Worth a shot. This is a new winery (not just to me, they’ve only been in production for a few years). Worth a try or a visit if you’re in the Niagara area.
BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2012   100 cases of 12 $29.95 – Canadian wine maker’s west coast US property, excellent track record. 
TORO DE PIEDRA GRAND RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2014   216 cases of 12 $17.95     
THERAPY VINEYARDS PINOT GRIS 2013   111 cases of 12 $19.95
SERESIN ESTATE MOMO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013   1007 cases of 12  $18.95 – New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, look for grassy notes.
 DOG POINT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014   1626 cases of 12  $24.95 –More citrus than the Momo.  
  VIDAL-FLEURY CROZES-HERMITAGE 2012   143 cases of 12 $24.95 – Rhone syrah – very good with lamb.  
  DOMAINE TOURNON MATHILDA SHIRAZ 2012   449 cases of 12 $19.95 – An OZ production with some  Southern Rhone sensibilities.
  BREMERTON COULTHARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012    209 cases of 12 $21.95  - Big cabby goodness. Cassis and perhaps a hint of soy sauce. I know, it sounds weird, but there it is.  Don’t get too excited by the score, that’s a James Halliday number.
  GERARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR LES ASPRES   398 cases of 12 $18.95  - An SMG, From Cotes du Rousillon.  
CUNE RESERVA 2010   837 cases of 6 $23.95 – If I buy only one wine from the Spain feature this’ll be it.
Valdemar Fincas Valdecuco Roble 2012 - Expect nice smokiness and fruitiness

MARQUES DE CACERES ROSADO 2014   499 cases of 12  $13.95 or for five bucks more pick one of these  two. 
HECHT & BANNIER CÔTES DE PROVENCE ROSÉ 2014   249 cases of 12  $18.95 
DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE TAVEL ROSÉ 2014   299 cases of 12 $18.95 

HAMILTON RUSSELL CHARDONNAY 2013    112 cases of 6 - $39.95 – Hmmm, seems like the SAQ not only scooped the LCBO and received their allocation sooner but also brought it to market for 10% less!  If you’re near the border or going to be in Montreal (or anywhere else in that province) check the SAQ website to find a store with product and buy this one there. It is a renowned wine from South Africa and traditionally outstanding.  Ageworthy in the short term yet if you stage a blind Chardonnay tasting, one of these might just win the day.  Apple, as well as some tropical fruit combined with subtle hints of vanilla and just the right note of acidity make it a keeper for sure.
Update - I tried a bottle of this wine on the weekend. It is not up to the 2012 as far as I'm concerned. Smokier, slightly woodier, less fruit but got better with  fresh salmon steamed on a bed of dill. The H-R is not a hot weather sipper to be sure.

PEARL MORISSETTE CUVÉE DIX-NEUVIÈME CHARDONNAY 2012   22 cases of 6 $35.20  - A bit of an ‘under the radar’  Ontario wine producer of  mostly Chards and Pinot Noirs. Only 22 cases of 6 though so why bother giving it a quarter of a page?  
TORBRECK THE STEADING 2010  47 cases of 6 $51.95 – Torbreck’s own website calls this perhaps the most important wine in the Torbreck portfolio – no small thing when you consider some of their wines retail for hundreds of dollars. This GSM is usually huge and an interesting wine to compare to a first rate, hot vintage Chateauneuf.
DOMAINE DE SAINT SIFFREIN CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012   199 cases of 12 $44.95 – Powerful CdP, very ageworthy as well.
RUFFINO DUCALE ORO RISERVA GRAN SELEZIONE CHIANTI   348 cases of 6  $44.95  - Another of the new Gran Selezione Chianti Classicos.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Vintages June 27th Release - Ho hum....

Here comes the June 27th release and for this week the main Vintages feature is something called “Customer Favourites”.  Is it just me or are there some odd choices among these customer favourites?  Those that made the recommended list here are prefaced by an F.
Also included are two other minor features. One is the Americas in honour of the Pan Am games. The LCBO will surely love them because our commutes in the GTA will drive us to drink even if we car pool! The other is a Canada Day feature. Both are ho hum.

You can pretty much skip this release completely and not be too upset.
VALENTIN BIANCHI  LEO PREMIUM MALBEC 2013     955 cases of 6   $19.95  - An almost premium bottle of juice. A great big Tuscan t-bone will be the perfect fit for this wine. Some of the proceeds go to underprivileged youth so you can feel good about pulling a cork.
F SUSANA BALBO SIGNATURE MALBEC 2012   866 cases of 12  $19.95 – Solid wine, solid winemaker.
CLAYMORE YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE   335 cases of 12   $21.95  - What do Liverpool football,  Rogers and Hammerstein, Gerry and the Pacemakers and this wine have in common? The song of the same name of course. Nice GSM blend.
F ZONTE'S FOOTSTEPS BARON VON NEMESIS SINGLE SITE SHIRAZ   640 cases of 12   $17.95 – I can understand naming the winery after the original currant field but the name of the wine itself seems pretty juvenile. That said, one expects this well made, modestly priced wine will mature better over the short term than the name will.  Stupid wine name, pretty good shiraz in the bottle tho.   
F ORTAS TRADITION RASTEAU 2013   698 cases of 12  $17.95  - OK wine but to be a customer favourite you’d expect that the wine would be really popular on its own merits, right? So why haven’t we seen one of these for over 13 months and why did we skip the 2012 Vintage and jump  from 2011 to 2013?  Or did I miss it in Vintages?  Perhaps it was a Food and Drink special under a different product code? If that was the case, it was only a favourite because it cost a buck less than this one.
DOMAINE LE CLOS DES CAZAUX LA TOUR SARRASINE GIGONDAS   195 cases of 12  $28.95 – Nice, give it a while though.  
MICHEL GASSIER LES PILIERS SYRAH 2012   349 cases of 12   $18.95 – Just OK.
F RUFFINO MODUS 2012 12 399  cases of 12   $29.95  - Give it some time. Always a pretty good example of a midpriced super Tuscan – typical Tuscan profile, this wine likes food and vice versa.
BADIA A COLTIBUONO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2012   299 cases of 12   $23.95 Organic,  3 glasses from Gambero Rosso, under $25. Worth a shot.
F VILLA MEDORO ROSSO DEL DUCA MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO   498 cases of 12    $19.95  - Worth a buy perhaps but let it rest for a time.
SAN SILVESTRO PATRES BAROLO 2010   279 cases of 12    $29.95  - New to me and Well priced for  a Barolo but be careful because sometimes you get what you pay for.

SPAIN – For Spanish wines this week is probably better than the upcoming Spanish feature. 

BORSAO BEROLA 2011   2997 cases of 12    $17.00   Another of the $17 specials that should really only be $15 and that are $12 to $13.99 in the US. This is a blend of 70% garnacha, 20% syrah and 10 % Cab Sauv, look for a ripe wine with blackberry and cassis notes perhaps with a hint of balsamic acidity on the finish.   
F BRECA OLD VINES GARNACHA 2012   1747  cases of 12    $22.95 $19.95 after all! - This was a favourite at $19.95 and  previous vintages of this garnered a 93 point score from Parker. Look what happened to the price. (Update: Turns out nothing happened to the price after all...although my store has a graffiti type price correction to $19.95 on the WOM poster). Similar quality and profile to the BorsaoTres Picos from last release.
F ARDAL CRIANZA 2005   1299 cases of 12    $16.95  - Solid Crianza with some age on it.    
BERONIA TEMPRANILLO ROSÉ 2013   399 cases of 12   $14.95  - Excellent producer, worth buying a few if you like a nice chilled rose while passing a summer’s day.
KIM CRAWFORD PANSY! ROSÉ 2014   2518 cases of 12  $17.00  - The annual gay pride release but there are many better price/ quality choices among the rose options.  Yes this is another of the $17 that should only be $15 or less wines.    
The Big Bucks
F TENUTA SETTE PONTI CROGNOLO 2012   587 cases of 12    $33.95  - A solid Tuscan, but 95 Points? James, calm yourself!
IL MOLINO DI GRACE IL MARGONE RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007 - 199 cases of 12  $34.95  - Excellent year in Chianti and right in its drinking window. Loves food.
FATTORIA CARPINETA FONTALPINO DO UT DES 2011   249 cases of 12   $37.95  - Annually garners scores in the 91 to 93 range from all reviewers but, like others in this release, will benefit from some time.

F THE PRISONER 2013   279 cases of 12    $49.95  - Oh yes, now I remember this one! It’s the wine with the name that best describes the Ontario wine consumer. I’ve never had a bottle nor seen a bottle in any friends’ houses.  …has anyone?    

Monday, June 8, 2015

Vintages June 13 release makes Dad's day fizzle, and some Italian whites.

Mid June brings another  so so release. The features are Bubblies (reasonable to ridiculous price wise), Dad’s day specials, and Italian Whites. In trying to go beyond Pinot Grigio for the latter, our intrepid Vintages team has come up with 5 other wines. 
From this release, here are the ones that interested me for one reason or another.
Bastide Miraflors Vielles Vignes Syrah Grenache 2013 -  799 cases of 12 - $19.95 – The ‘over the top’ Parker review will have you wrestling for this one - with the adjectives that he used to describe the wine you’d think this was a wine for the ages! Best to temper your enthusiasm and follow the Sol Mandlsohn credo “If you get some, you get some but if you miss it, you miss it.”
CHATEAU Eugenie Cuvee Reserve D’Aiuel Cahors 2011 -297 cases of 12 - $20.95 – One for the cellar. Do not open for three or four years as it needs time to calm the tannins. If you’re still eating beef or lamb by then, this’ll be terrific.
Xavier Ventoux 2012 -709 cases of 12 - $15.95 – Every so often a nice, well priced, sophisticated wine sneaks in beneath the radar. This could be one of them.
NINQUÉN ANTU CHILEAN MOUNTAIN VINEYARD SYRAH 2013   550 cases of 12   $17.95 – Watch for serious vanilla intermixed with chocolate and black fruits. Usually an excellent choice for the price but it’ll need to be left alone for a bit.
VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   547 cases of 12  $17.95 - OK price for an OK Chilean.
ELDERTON HIGH ALTITUDE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013   447 cases of 12  $19.95  - From the Eden Valley region, which if you squint is a subset of the Barossa Zone. This is worth a try if you really like the estate cab but don’t like the estate cab price (this means you Doug!). Site specific vineyard but priced similar to the old ‘Elderton Friends’. I’d try one to see how the new line is panning out.
MOUNTADAM PATRIARCH SHIRAZ 2010   249 cases of 12  $29.95 – Interesting that the Elderton wine above is from  Eden Valley but is indicated as being from Barossa. This Mountadam wine manages to get properly listed as being from the High Eden subregion of the Eden Valley wine region within the Barossa zone.  Someone needs a geography lesson for the Elderton next year. The Mountadam is worth  trying  head to head with an Elderton Estate Shiraz if you have one.
MIALI MATER PRIMITIVO 2010   299 cases of 12  $18.95 – A Zinfandel cousin with a bit of age. Great for BBQs , burgers and the like.
AMBRA SANTA CRISTINA IN PILLI CARMIGNANO 2011   222 cases of 12  $23.95 – A sleeper methinks. Mostly Sangiovese and Cabernet, should be very nice with a little age.
BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2012   848 cases of 12  $19.95  - This has previously been  highly recommended  by me among others. For me, the last couple of bottles that I had were absolute oak bombs – vanilla extract in black raspberry juice. Buyer beware because I’m not sure if my palate or the wine has changed.
SNOQUALMÍE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   447 cases of 12  $16.95 – Organic and well scored from a good producer.  Save yourself at least 5 bucks and take this over the Cali alternatives.
RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   836 cases of 12  $22.95 – An OK Cali alternative.
SILVER BUCKLE RANCHERO RED 2010   359 cases of 12  $21.95 – Any wine that stirs memories of a Ford Fairlane turned into a pickup truck has to be worth a try. Too bad there isn’t some El Camino in this release for a road, err taste test against it.
 (ZUCARDI) VIDA ORGÁNICA MALBEC ROSÉ 2014   449 cases of 12  $13.95 – Organic production, reasonable price.
MONTE ZOVO BARDOLINO CHIARETTO 2014   349 cases of 12  $13.95 – A dryish wine promoting sweet cherry and exhibiting a full mouthfeel.
Pieropan LA ROCCA Soave Classico 2011 -$39.95 - #2 from the Wine Enthusiasts top 100 last year. Expect puckering astringency and subtle fruits.
TWO HANDS BELLA'S GARDEN SHIRAZ 2012    181 cases of 6  $63.95 – Always superior.
PAUL HOBBS CROSSBARN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 167 cases of 12  $62.95. Jumped almost $20 in the last few releases. Yes, you probably can do better for much less.
OPUS ONE 2011    99 cases of 6  $444.95-  Not a chance!
TENUTA SETTE PONTI ORENO 2011    163 cases of 6  $76.95 – I have to ask, why wasn’t I born rich?   If I was, I’d buy almost 6 of these before I bought one of the Opus One.   
J. LOHR HILLTOP CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012    701 cases of 6  $40.95 – A single vineyard produced by  a quality Paso Robles winery.

CASTELLO DI AMA RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009   324 cases of 12  $34.95  - The third Vintages release of the 2009 vintage of this wine. While it has been highly recommended in the past, I found one of the three smaller 375 ml bottles I purchased a while back to be suffering from apparent premature oxidation. Another reader reported similar findings. Bad cork seal? Bad bottle? Bad batch?  All of the above? Perhaps. Before I consider buying more of this I think it’s time to try one from the previously released 750 mls. Done, last day of May and it was suddenly Novemberish so a meal of Osso Buco was in order. The wine was good but this is not a ‘sit and guzzle’ wine for sure. This is an ‘open me, sip me, and taste me change while you’re preparing and cooking something over a period of a couple of hours’ wine. With sufficient air, this becomes a perfect ‘accompany a very good meal’ wine. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 30 - The Southern Rhone and Pinot Noir - and birds, lots of birds.....

The May 30, 2015 release has a real ‘for the birds’ quality to it, what with the migrations, ravens, ducks, chooks and roosters adorning so many of the bottles. Add in at least one angel and one can be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the release was the result of a wing and a prayer?
Regardless, the main feature is one of my favourite wine regions, the Southern Rhone. That feature is balanced by a New World Pinot Noir feature.  Pinot fans are on their own for that one.
Lailey UnOaked Chardonnay -$14.95 – A tasty, crisp sipper for those hot summer days. Great with an avocado and shrimp or lobster salad methinks.
MULDERBOSCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON ROSÉ 2014   503 cases of 12 $12.95 – A favourite rose each year. Cab Sauv, strong strawberry mid-palate and rhubarb on the finish. Also great with the above salad.
PENINSULA RIDGE BEAL VINEYARD CABERNET ROSÉ 2014   299 cases of 12  $11.95  - Price is right. Tried this at Peninsula Ridge last weekend – quite nice served very chilled with charcuterie and cheeses.
GASSIER SABLES D'AZUR ROSÉ 2014   900 cases of 12 $15.95  - An OK dry alternative.
Want to spend a bit more on a ROSÉ? Spring for one of these two ROSÉS.
FAMILLE PERRIN TAVEL 2014   372 cases of 12 $19.95 or Castello di Ama RosaTo 2014. – I’m a big fan of both producers so my BIAs mIGHT is probably clouding my judgement.
REDS from the Release
PERRIN LES CHRISTINS VACQUEYRAS 2012   698 cases of 12 $23.95  -  The Village of Vacqueyras is among the better of the named villages in the Southern Rhone. The producer is consistently excellent – a better than safe bet.
ORTAS PRESTIGE RASTEAU 2010   498 cases of 12  $19.95 – This should be in a good place right now. The 2010 vintage was excellent across the Southern Rhone – consume away! 
DOMAINE DUSEIGNEUR ANTARÈS LIRAC 2011   335 cases of 12 $18.95  - A toss up with the Rasteau above. If this is anywhere as good as say Clos Du Sixte, it’s a bargain.
PIERRE AMADIEU ROMANE-MACHOTTE GIGONDAS 2012   249 cases of 12  $27.95  - another producer that always delivers.
DOMAINE LES APHILLANTHES PLAN DE DIEU CUVÉE DES GALETS 2011  299 cases of 12 $23.95  - Among the more expensive Plan de Dieu offerings ever at the LCBO. Why? Who knows? Last time this wine was for sale it was $14.75 according to the LCBO website, and that was for the 2010, a better Vintage. Watch to see if this goes on sale soon. If it does go on sale a more skeptical man than I might think that the LCBO is guilty of inflating the price so they can show a big, albeit artificial, sale discount.  From the federal competition bureau website:
The misleading advertising and labelling provisions enforced by the Competition Bureau prohibit making any deceptive representations for the purpose of promoting a product or a business interest, and encourage the provision of sufficient information to allow consumers to make informed choices.
The false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices provisions of the Competition Act contain a general prohibition against materially false or misleading representations. They also prohibit making performance representations which are not based on adequate and proper tests, misleading warranties and guarantees, false or misleading ordinary selling price representations, etc, etc., etc.
And, if that does happen, please remember this is a branch of our government breaching the law and doing this (to us)! Where is the ombudsman and where is the Competition bureau of the federal government? But perhaps that skeptical person is jumping to conclusions…..back to the release.
DIAMANDES DE UCO MALBEC 2011   279 cases of 12 $27.95  - The Uco Valley is among the best locales in Argentina for Malbec. A bit of a bad pun on the name
THE BLACK CHOOK SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2013   990 cases of 12 $17.95 - Like your wines to wear more medals than Imelda Marcos had shoes? Here’s the one to pick.
SERAFINO SHIRAZ 2012   279 cases of 12 $28.95  - A new one to me, Halliday’s score is always bloated but even three or four points too high will still give you a 91 or 92 pointer.
South Africa
Boschendal 1685 S & M 2013 - $19.95 -  You’re bound to enjoy this spanking good wine. Aromas of leather make it hard to beat. The flavor profile exhibits a pinch of spiciness but can’t be tied down.  Its concentrated berries will whip your tastebuds into a frenzy and tickle your fancy until you finally succumb to its long, fulfilling finish. (OK, OK, so it’s Shiraz & Mourvedre and not the other S&M but it was still fun writing the review).
PAOLO CONTERNO BRICCO BARBERA D'ALBA 2013   280 cases of 12  $18.95  
CECCHI VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2011   671 cases of 6  $21.95  - In a newer, more fruit driven style.
CASTELLO DI GABBIANO RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011   391 cases of 12 $22.95  - Easy on the score there James. Might not be quite that good but given a bit of time, you’ll enjoy with pasta or steaks.
SAN MICHELE A TORRI CHIANTI COLLI FIORENTINI 2013   449 cases of 12 $16.95  - Been to Florence lately and want to rekindle some memories of it? Here you go.
BARONE RICASOLI ROCCA GUICCIARDA RISERVA CHIANTI  2011 700 cases of 12 $24.95  - Always very solid and even better with food.
TEDESCHI CAPITEL NICALÒ APPASSIMENTO VALPOLICELLA   1000 cases of 12 $17.95 To my palate this is among the better valued Valpolicellas. Made after the grapes have undergone drying for a period of time (hence appassimento) so this is a rich fruit filled wine. It has gone up slightly in price if memory serves me correctly.
RAVENSWOOD BESIEGED 2013   299 cases of 12 $24.95 –Looking for a wine to hold until Hallowe’en? Maybe you’re hosting a showing of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’?  Here’s a scary looking label from Ravenswood. A big, kitchen sink blend of a wine featuring Petit Syrah, Carignane, Zin, Syrah, Barbera, Alicante Bouschet, and Mourvedre. Lots to consider and probably great with something from the BBQ grill.
RUTHERFORD RANCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013  900 cases of 12  $24.95 –Solid, can’t go wrong with this if you’re bringing it to a BBQ party except it is too expensive. Save 5 bucks and buy the Seven Falls instead.
SEVEN FALLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011   892 cases of 12  $19.95 -   Solid and lots of it. Try one, if you like it, get more.
INGLENOOK 1882 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012   167 cases of 12  $66.95  
Bacio Divino PAZZO CALL ME CRAZY  111 cases of 12 $44.95  
FOSSACOLLE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2009   239 cases of 6 $48.95 
BADIA A COLTIBUONO RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009   148 cases of 6   $38.95  
PIETRANERA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2010   347 cases of 12 $39.95 – A 2010   Brunello and under $40 so might be worth a shot. Suckling says it lasts for minutes on the palate. James, you have to learn to swallow!
MARCHESI TORRIGIANI GUIDACCIO 2008   99 cases of 6  $48.95  - The review for this wine reads like it might just be a bargain - if an almost $50 wine can be classified as a bargain!  
Poggio Bonelli Poggiassai 2010 – $32.95 - An ISD, so there’ll be very few cases, this Sangiovese/ Cabernet blend should be very good after a few years in the dark.

and last but not least, the witty and irreverent
Gundlach Bundschu Merlot 2011 $44.00 - Watch their old, previously mentioned on this site,  video to get an idea.