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.