Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Saturday Febraury 2, 2008 - Vintages Release

Keeping with their two-tiered release format, the LCBO brings us more wines form two separate, but possibly equal, sources. This time out it’s all about wines that have received scores of 90 or higher (from “outside” sources) and wines that will make your Valentine swoon (these are mainly icewine and dessert wines and some have also received 90+ scores). So let’s first take a look at what uncle Michael is recommending to “wine the heart” of the one you love … and then we’ll peak into the world of 90+.

Truth be told, a lot of the Valentine’s Day special wines are icewines, and icewines of note can be found reviewed on my website ( - wine review section) and through the newsletter. But there are 2 outside Ontario Valentine’s themed releases I’d like to point you in the direction of: 1) Cattier Chigny-les-Roses Premier Cru Brut Rosé ($43.75 - #64907) a Champagne that has more than just its pretty pink colour going for it; raspberry on the nose with ripe strawberry, raspberry flavours that find a way to be a bit nippy on the tongue. The other Valentine’s release should have the LCBO’s good friend Larry Patterson hoping around like a hatter; for years Larry has been trying to rally Ontario’s fruit wineries behind the idea of adding chocolate essence to their wines – and then get the LCBO to carry them. Seems the Rosenblum Winery out of California has beat him to the punch with their Desiree Chocolate Dessert Wine ($24.50 - #61093 – 375ml). The nose is pure chocolate, which follows through on the palate, but the finish is more along the lines of a liqueur instead of the robust chocolate hinted at … but still, who’s kidding anyone, it’s chocolate right? … And who can say no to that.

Moving right along so as not to get too caught up with my chocolate obsession … it’s now time to check out those 90+ wines … that’s not the amount of wines in this release, but instead the magic score we’re looking for. We’ll start with an Australian Riesling – you read that correctly, a Riesling from Oz (they do more than oaky Chardonnay and fruit-bomby Shiraz, you know). This Henschke Julius Riesling 2005 ($36.75 - #945055) has great balance, with its apple-peach zing to its sweetness in the mouth – in fact, the “sweetness” is almost not apparent, relying instead on lots of citrus acidity to carry the show – there’s even a slight hint of floral intrigue on the mid-palate. Then again you could just stick with the tried-and-true Rieslings from the Fatherland: Reichsrat Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett ($16.85 - #60905) – a good price for a 90-point Riesling – it’s everything Riesling should be, and I loved the zingy peach explosion that happens in the mouth. Turning now to the west coast of North America there’s the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2004 ($19.85 - #263418) – this wine has consistently been a winner ever since I tried the 2001 vintage. Soft, supple, red and black fruit intermingle with a touch of chocolate and mocha … you can see why Merlot is getting raves in Washington State. Speaking of good reds, you just knew Australia would have a few in this 90+ category … well you’re right there are three to choose from: The value priced Pillar Box Red 2005 ($17.40 - #685941) – don’t let the simple mail slot label fool you, they are far from just mailing this one it … dark, smooth and heavy (15% alcohol) – black fruit and spice do the dance on the tongue with its partner dark chocolate … and there’s even a holdability-factor of say 5 years or more (Parker gave this one a 91). There’s also the Piping Shrike Shiraz 2005 ($19.75 - #048504), another high alcohol (14.5%) contender that brings rich plum fruit to the table with a sweet, plush finish – very easy on the palate. Those looking for a little more umph in their Oz can check out The Colonial Estate Estrange Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($31.55 - #020172) … lots of plum on the nose and hints of mint in the mouth, very nice – and there’s even a steady stream of black pepper throughout.

It wouldn’t be a 90+ party if we didn’t invite the French, and here they are: the Midi-bargain Chateau de Se’rame Minervois Reserve de Chateau 2005 ($22.85 - #651125) does the trick quite nicely. Black fruit flavours with a touch of spice and cedar … nothing overpowering here, just a nice enjoyable wine for any occasion. With a Parker score of 90+ comes a jump in price (or so I have been told) so I wonder what the Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005 ($42.75 - #67678) would be selling for had it received only an 89. There’s sweet strawberry licorice on the nose, which follows through nicely in the mouth – there’s even some sweet herbs and floral kicking about in the glass.

Finishing off my look at the 90+ focus at Vintages come a real bargain from Spain (go figure): Cyan 12 Meses 2003 ($16.75 - #66936). It’s a great winter warmer at 14.5% alcohol and with its café mocha, espresso flavours mixed in with robust tannins, it’s one you’ll want to savour come BBQ-season; in fact it makes me want to fire up the grill right now, head outside with my shorts on and a spatula in hand. For those not as adventurous, I recommend stocking up on a few of these puppies now, to get the jump on the Q-ing season ahead.

The Best of the Rest …

We’ve looked at what the world thinks are 90+ wines, now let’s look at what potentially could be in next year’s release.

Let’s kick it off by having our dessert first, “Russian-style” as my mother used to say, with this Sherry that I’m head over heals about: Lustau Deluxe Cream Capataz Andres Solera Reserva ($9.90 - #48132) – full on nutty aromas lead to dates, figs and prunes on the palate … and a sweet Sherry finish … this one is pure amber coloured gold.

It’s Uruguay or the highway (say it slowly) – alright maybe I’m getting a little silly here – but this wine really has something going for it: Don Pascual Viognier 2006 ($9.95 - #695031), it’s very Chardonnay-like with oaky-vanilla nuances along with apples and peaches; no barrels were harmed in the making of this wine, but it’s flavour profile suggests some extended lees contact … this one’s surprisingly enjoyable for $9.95.

Out of South Africa comes a beauty of a white that leads me to believe that the signs of spring are just around the corner. A fresh fruit salad nose with nothing syrupy about it – in the mouth it develops a more citrus beginning before turning into a sweet fruit finish … it’s totally springy and enjoyable: Kanu 2006 Chenin Blanc ($11.55 - #907089)

I don’t find myself offering up a lot of South African reds for recommendations, and long time readers know it’s because of the South Africa stink I find in a lot of their wines – it’s as if they make their wines in the same place they make road tar and then through osmosis, well you get the picture … but in this release there are two wines that buck that trend. First there’s the Boekenhoutsloof ‘The Wolftrap’ Syrah / Mourvedre / Viognier 2006 ($14.75 - #626333) – I had a four year old Wolftrap a few months back and it was delicious, though I’m positive it didn’t have the Viognier in the blend … this version still had a bit of the stink, but the Viognier helps fruity-it-up and lying it down for a few years should calm everything right down. The second S.A, wine is a perennial favourite from Fairview, Goats Do Roam in Villages – this, the 2005 edition – ($15.75 - #566851), is alive with fruit on the nose – the dirty arrives on the palate to a minor degree, but it mixes pleasantly with the black fruit and white pepper, sufficiently so that it is not detrimental to the flavours.

If you suddenly have the urge to speak French then you are in luck because we find ourselves in France (Alsace) … and while there pick up a Domaine Allimant-Laugner Pinot Gris 2006 ($16.85 - #61317). Pretty in the mouth with floral and perfumey notes and the bite of a yellow delicious apple, tasty. Another Alsatian pick up should be this W. Gisselbrecht Pinot Blanc Reserve Speciale 2006 ($12.75 - #955872) – floral and perfume hits the nose and this time it is very Gewurzt-like in the mouth – with even a touch of something spicy … the clean smooth finish leave you begging for more. At that price you might wanna think about picking up 2 or 3.

Hankering for a French red, then there are two to pick from here too … Chateau Jean Voisin 2001 ($31.85 - #61804) with good heft and high acidity, this one will require a pound of flesh, if you’re planning to consume early … or you can lie it down and give it some time to settle. Your other option is a little less pricey and more drink now – though a few years in the cellar won’t hurt it at all. Domaine de l’Ameillaud Cairanne 2006 ($14.75 - #660605) with its red fruit and floral nose and smooth enjoyable finish.

Sure our French friends made good Pinot Gris – but these days the Italians are on a role with it. So from Italy comes Bottega Vinaia 2006 Pinot Grigio ($15.85 - #51623) – a light fruity nose with lots of citrus refreshment in the glass. This is what grigio is all about.

If you like your Pinot Noir on the juicy side check out the Byron 2005 Pinot Noir ($33.75 - #704643) from the U.S.A. (California to be exact) – at first it lacks the usual tell-tale signs of Pinot (earthiness) instead it seems more spicy and fruit-driven, by the time the earth shows up to your mouth-party red fruit, cinnamon and oak have already stolen the show.

Chile is showing great promise with Carmenere after finding it in their vineyards and separating it out from the Merlot. The Equus Carmenere 2006 ($12.75 - #55491) is chocolate all the way through with sweet tobacco and herbs supporting silky tannins. This one’s full bodied (at 15% alc.) and very tasty – I would go as far as saying it’s big and meaty, but without the price to match.

We’ll end this tour through the wine world in Australia, as we check out the Glen Eldon Dry Bore Shiraz 2004 ($27.75 - #54197) – this could have been in the 90+ feature because Parker gave it a 92 – in someone’s infinite wisdom they failed to put it there (maybe by press time that will be rectified). This one’s all plumy, blackberry and Zin-like on the nose with a flavour profile that follows suit; there’s also a great chocolate undercurrent and good tannin backbone. Zin-fans might gravitate towards this one more than your usual Aussie Shiraz-ophiles.

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Saturday January 19, 2008 - Vintages Release

In an effort to get more wine onto the market and in front of your eyeballs the LCBO has decided on a new release format – a major release focus (this time Argentina) and a minor focus (Portugal) – it’s like being back at school. The good news is that the Argentinean wines are amazing values, and I have picked out 7 must buys for you. 4 Portuguese wines also make the grade, while 13 other wines from a variety of countries are reviewed; I know you’ll find more than enough to keep you busy and to empty your wallet.

Major Country Featured: Argentina …

Those looking for whites should skip ahead, Argentina is all about the reds in this release – big, juicy, mouth-watering, ageable reds: reds with enough power to knock you on your arse … reds that demand steak (or other red meats) … reds that are BBQ-ready (no better time to stock up for summer), … and reds that won’t break the bank (many are well under $20 and over perform for the price). Argentina is the new home for Malbec – their signature grape – a Bordeaux grape that has fallen out of favour in France and that Argentina is revitalizing … there are also blockbuster Syrah, Cab Sauv, Merlot and even a Tempranillo in this release … so let’s get right down to it.

Argentina is another one of those South American countries that is putting bang for the buck in the bottle (I count them with Chile), but even I was shocked by some of these bargains, so I will be marking exceptional value with a “BFB” (Bang for Buck) in the bracketed section (along with price and cspc number) for those I thought were too good to be true, there are 3 of them, so keep your eyes peeled when you’re making up your list of what to buy.

We’ll start off this Argentinean look with Malbec: El Portilla Elevado Malbec Reserve 2005 ($17.80 - #55418) a whooping 14.5% in alcohol this one’s all red fruit and alcohol, but it’s supremely delicious. There’s a Jean Bousquet Malbec Reserva 2006 ($17.80 - #55244), it’s an organic wine, which is why you’re paying a little more, but it has a red fruit and smooth chocolate elegance to it that I wasn’t expecting in an organic – she’s a real beauty. Here’s the first of my “bang for the buck” recommendations: Saurus Patagonia Select Malbec 2005 ($14.85 - #55459 – BFB) – rich tannins, delicious chocolate, black fruit galore … this one will age gracefully over the next 5+ years or you can enjoy it right now. How about a Cab Sauv – there’s the Lagarda Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.85 - #55186) with its rich tannins, biting mouthfeel along with black fruit and chocolate. Merlot is a staple all over the world (most of it anyway) and Argentina is no different, the Weinert 2003 Merlot ($14.85 - #656371) is a ripe red fruit number with some cocoa and a decent amount of tannins … very nice. Then there’s the Finca El Retiro Syrah 2004 ($12.85 - #928283 – BFB) lovely and smooth, a soft white pepper nose and great red fruit palate … this one’s awesomely delicious and check out that price. Finally, Finca El Retiro has a Tempranillo Reserva Especial 2004 ($14.85 - #57216 – BFB), which just might be the best wine of this release. Sweet black fruit and vanilla-oak nose leads to a silkiness in the mouth with a chocolate-based tannin finish – big and biting – I absolutely loved this wine … and again look at the price. Best of all, every one of the wines listed above you can hold for 3-5+ years. Keep your eye on Argentina for more value wines that I am sure will be coming down the pike.

Minor Country Feature – Portugal …

Too early to talk about dessert? Not when it comes to Portugal’s signature wine: Port. The only one being launched this release is a good one, Quinta Do Noval Late Bottled Vintage 2001 ($24.75 - #677815) … everything you’d expect, red and black fruit, pluminess, spiciness, chocolate – it’s all here. A good white wine comes to us from Quinta de Azeveda Vinho Verde 2006 ($11.85 - #727115) good value in a youthful vibrant white; it’s got a bit of peachy-spritz in the mouth and a crisp acidity that makes it worthwhile for you to pick some up now and wait till the warm weather gets here to enjoy it, if you uncork one now you’ll be dreaming of the hot weather to come – it’s not summer in a glass, but it sure makes you think about it. There are also two tasty reds coming our way: Palestia Vinho Tinto ($14.85 - #59089) with its sweet fruit plumy and yumminess – this one has good oak integration throughout. Finally, there’s the Quinta da Alorna Castelao 2005 ($N/A - #21287), another red fruit sweetie with plenty of oaky-vanilla tones, can be fully enjoyed now or within a few years.

White Wine …

Australia – How’s about we kick off the whites with the king of white – Chardonnay. Actually the real grape king is Cabernet Sauvignon (king of reds anyway) so would that make Chardonnay the queen? Discuss. Anyway, the Richard Hamilton Almond Grove Chardonnay 2006 ($16.85 - #741009) has a vanilla cream nose with a palate that’s all oaky and creamy with apples and pears … there’s plenty of tree fruit in this glass; more yum from Oz.

France – Time to check in with Riesling, this Alsatian Domaine Henri Schoenheitz Classiques 2005 ($16.85 - #62315) is the best Riesling of the release (that includes the German’s) … crisp yet peachy, wonderful in the mouth with its lemony-peachyness, very enjoyable with a friendly mouth-appealing finish.

Italy – Not sure what’s up with these refreshing whites coming to market in the middle of winter, I’d expect more winter hardy, oaky Chardonnays to be hitting the shelves, but what the heck it allows me to stockpile wines so that I am ready come the first day of spring. Bollini Pinot Grigio 2005 ($16.85 - #951319) would be one of those wines in that collection – this one’s fruity and lovely, a clean finish loaded with apples and pears. A real palate pleaser from the country that started the Grigio trend.

Red Wine …

California – Here’s a real red fruit bomb from the Hollywood state, all jammy and very cherry: Jekel 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.85 - #967853) – it’s more of a drink now than a hold wine, but it’s very enjoyable either way.

Chile – Here’s an oddball blend from Chile a Reserve Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (2004) from Marchigue ($13.85 – #48298) – chocolate and blackberry in the mouth and a surprising vanilla strawberry finish – this rarely seen combination is a steal at the price and what’s, more there’s plenty of time in this bottle, a 5 year test lie-down would be interesting … but also buy some to drink now. It’s wines like this that proves to me that Chile is still on top of the value board; with Argentina and Spain a close second.

France – One of my pricier recommendations this release is the Chateau d’Aiguilhe 2004 ($38.70 - #671370) from the Cotes de Castillo in the Bordeaux region. This wine is beautiful; loaded with black fruit, pepper, cassis and blackberries, very smooth in the mouth with a big tannin grip showing off its potential for age-ability. Moving to the Midi region, more specifically Cahors, where they make some of the best value age-worthy wines in the world … and when I say age-worthy I mean 10 years plus. The Chateau St. Didier Parnac Prestige 2004 ($14.85 - #303529) is top-loaded with Malbec (75%) and shows a real difference from the Argentinean versions of this varietal. While the Argentine wines are more fruit forward, the French version is more tannin and acid driven, a wine that will be drinking well long after you’ve consumed your last bottle from South America. Finally, from our French friends, comes a Syrah from the Northern Rhone – a big, bold, peppery number dominated by black cherries in the mouth, the nose is what will really reel you in though, and for $16.95 this Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage 2003 (#572230) is a real bargain.

Italy – 4 reds here worth mentioning: the Castello de Nieve Barbaresco 2004 ($21.80 - #674044) with its cranberry, plum, cedar, herb, spice and touch of red currant … this one also has sustainability so lying it down is no crime. Then there’s the Taurino Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva 2003 ($15.85 - #411892); a more drink now style red (or over the next 2-3 years) with cocoa and coffee flavours and good tannin structure. From Veneto comes 2 of my favourite styles of Italian wine, Ripasso and Amarone. There are 2 Ripassos in this release and both are the same price, but for my money I’d invest in the Delibori Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2003 ($15.85 - #59246) with its richer riper fruit flavours: plumy over pruney and raisiny over grapey – there’s good extracted black fruit and heavy tannins that could see this one lying down over the next 5+ years. The Amarone is good for the price, a plumy, dried fruit and chocolate number that delivers good taste, ageability and value at $34.65: Due Torri Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2003 (#724740).

Spain – Finally, here’s a Spanish gem you’ll want to hang around with: Hacienda el Espino 1707 Variedades 2004 ($13.85 - #673582) – sweet cherries take over on the mid-palate while cedar and vanilla finish it off … I really liked this value driven Spanish red – but then again I seem to be liking the wines from this country.

Now, make your list, check it twice and go get something to warm your soul this Saturday.

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Saturday January 5, 2008 - Vintages Release

Here we are again, a new year and some new wines the LCBO wants to introduce to you. In this report, I’ll tell you about 10 of these wines (3 whites / 7 reds) that I think are really good value. Speaking of value, this release is loaded with them – I guess our friends at the Lick-Bo (LCBO) realize we aren’t made of money and most of us blew our wad over the holidays so you’ll find some great wines under $20, and in some cases under $15, wines that aren’t only tasty but age-worthy as well – from Spain especially (more on that in a bit). For now sit back, relax, grab a pencil and paper – or your Vintages magazine (if you’ve already got your copy, mine came middle of December … I guess uncle Bo wanted me to save some of my wad for January wine-buying – it worked) … now let’s make our list together.

New Year – New Wines (Whites) …

This features best whites come from France, but before I introduce those I’ll jump into the pool with a Chardonnay from Australia, X + Y 2006 Chardonnay ($18.80 - #48561) – this one’s got melon and apple notes on the nose, but the real stars are vanilla and butterscotch, a tad too woodsy for my taste but I definitely see its appeal. Now off to France, where a delicious Sauvignon Blanc takes center stage: Domaine de L’Aumonier Le Touraine Blanc 2006 ($13.95 - #62307) – very New Zealand-like in all aspects except the price … great grapefruit and citrus nose – citrus comes in the form of lemon and grapefruit in the mouth. Now I’m sure I’ll get laughed out of the Wine Writers Circle for this recommendation but hear me out before you begin your chortling, Domaine de Mirail 2006 Colombard ($13.85 - #61606) – not a very sophisticated wine by any stretch of the imagination, but it brought me back to family dinners at home when I was a kid; mom liked (and poured) Colombard because she liked it and it was inoffensive, best of all I got a glass too – it was my first exposure to wine … now, of course, both mom and I know better, but this one’s for mom: to the good old days eating those dinners at the kitchen table, to childhood memories and knowing better now. Cheers.

New Year – New Wines (Red) …

On the other hand, the reds are very exciting this release – nothing from my childhood here, probably nothing I would have appreciated (I was drinking Colombard afterall) - but today for no more than a $20 investments there are some really great wines to be had here. Starting off in California there’s the Concannon Limited Release Petite Sirah – (yet another spelling) ($16.85 - #48629). Very tasty, nice flavours of sweet herbs and cedar, the nose hints at the black fruit and cassis to come in the mouth … the mag recommends “drink now”, but I think I’d give this one a couple more years on its side to give it some time to develop. Off to Argentina where Malbec is becoming the signature grape of that South American country and while they’re trying to get this grape some traction in the world market they’re keeping the prices low. Check out the Dona Paula Los Cardos Malbec 2003 ($12.85 - #48322) – a Malbec specialist. Lots in bottle to enjoy, mocha, chocolate, black cherries, there’s even some pepper, plum and vanilla that shows up to the party, quite a lot of bang for your 13 bucks. Australia delivers a surprisingly good Pinot Noir, Windy Peak 2006 ($19.80 - #48587). Pinot always seems to be expensive, whether they’re worth it or not – this one is: a cherry vanilla nose; while in the mouth, the usual earthiness is suppressed, replaced by strawberry, cranberry and a touch of cedar and spice – quite delice. France gets into the act with 2 fine reds, one pricey, one not. Chateau de Barbe Blanche 2004 ($27.95 - #48066), a Merlot dominated Bordeaux (65%) with a long finish, lots of red and black fruit, with cedar, spice and herbs playing the back up role, and 5+ years of ageing potential. Then there’s the Chateau la Brie 2003 ($13.85 - #61994) – the name suggests enjoying it with soft cheese – but a pleasant nose of cedar and black cherry; starts off a bit harsh but ends pleasingly with a short tannic finish – put away the cheese and grab a chunk of meat, you’ll enjoy it better. From Italy comes a wine made from the Franconia grape (Moletto - $16.85 - #51664) … a pretty red cherry and floral nose that delivers cherries, spice and cinnamon in the mouth; very pleasant with a touch of tannins that’ll keep this one drinking fine over the next 3-4 years easy. I promised you earlier I’d tell you about a Spanish wine that truly delivers for its price point: it’s a Garnacha (Grenache), Shiraz, Monastrell blend called Papa Luna 2005 ($16.85 - #39883) – what a bargoon! The nose is laced with spice, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg – but it’s on the palate that this baby absolutely shines: chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, pepper, mocha … and that’s everything I picked out, besides the red and black fruit support ... each sip brought out more and more flavours that played in my mouth. Lush and incredibly enjoyable – at that price it’s a multi-purchase if ever there was one; and what’s more this one’ll sit in the cellar for a number of years and only get better, will drink well into 2012 and beyond. More from Spain in the Spanish section of this report.

California / Washington (White)

Was going to title the section U.S.A. but the LCBO only brings in stuff from California, Washington and/or Oregon – rarely do we see Florida, Arkansas or Texas wine (although they’re making some pretty good stuff in the Lone Star State). From California come a bargain Chardonnay 2005 from Glass Mountain ($13.85 - #533208) – oaky, buttery and fruity all at the same time – everything you dig in a Cali-Chard with a good finish and nice balance. There’s also a nice Washington 2005 Chardonnay from Chateau Ste. Michelle ($17.70 - #232439) – a good name in Washington wines – a good nose, well-balanced, nice fruit, pleasant long finish and cheaper across the border (or so I am told). If you can’t pick it up in the nation to the south, then it’s best you pick yourself up a bottle here and enjoy.

Australia (White) …

I seem to be on a Chardonnay kick … odd for me actually as I usually find myself to be a Chardonnay-aphobe, but they seem to have the attention of my tongue this release and none more than this Ingoldby 2006 Chardonnay ($14.85 - #47647). Although wooded this one was quite deftly made, using the French oak as support rather than as the main player. This soft and supple Chard has apples and peaches as upfront fruit (peach especially dominates mid-to-end the palate) … not overly woody but great vanilla flavours and smells – and for $14.85 how can you go wrong?

Australia (Red) …

A couple of Aussie reds are worth looking into – the Ashwood Grove 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.85 - #48264) is one, with its rich juicy blackberries, cassis, cocoa and mocha nose, along with a palate that follows while adding in a dash of white pepper. The second is from the well known and highly respected Kilikanoon Winery – their 2005 Killerman’s Run Shiraz/Grenache ($19.80 - #9225) has heavy alcohol (15%) but lots of cocoa, black fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, plum and a good tannin backbone – this one will age very nicely over the next 5-7 years (maybe more).

New Zealand (White) …

I mentioned earlier a French Sauvignon Blanc that was doing a great New Zealand impression – well now it’s time for the real thing. Dog Point Vineyard 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($21.80 - #677450) – grapefruit, gooseberry, cat’s pee and a touch floral on the finish … it’s all New Zealand, the real McCoy – right down to the price.

New Zealand (Red) …

While there are jokes that can be made about “les jeune” and the name of this wine, I should point out that this wine does have a few years to go until it reaches maturity; so be careful when you drink it or you too will be painted with the same obscene brush that went around the room as we tasted the Saint Clair Vicar’s Choice 2006 Merlot ($15.85 - #47472) – tons of cherry (keep your jokes to yourself) herbs and spice on the nose; cherries continue in the mouth with a black licorice and spice finish.

France (White) …

I told you I’m Chardonnay-crazy this time out, but how can you balk at good wine at a decent price. Here’s an old vines Chardonnay well worth its $14.85 price tag; Francois Labet Bourgogne Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2005 (#41319). Easy drinking with good tree fruit and a lemony finish … very tasty – especially because of its long lingering finish.

Franc (Red) …

I haven’t recommended this much French wine in quite some time, but I have two more to pass your way. Donnadieu Cuvee Mathieu et Marie 2005 ($15.85 - #43646) a sweet red fruit affair with good flavours of nutmeg, cinnamon and spices … a real yummer. How about this one from Perrin and Fils, a 2005 Cairanne Peyre Banche ($17.80 - #650960), the name suggests white (blanche) but nothing could be further from the truth. A Grenache-heavy blend with a cherry, beet root nose that also possesses sweet herbs and cinnamon … holdability to spare due to its acidity and tannins balance, but you might want to drink now, especially with those delectable cherries and strawberries in the mouth, there’s also a shake of cranberry and cedar dashed in for good measure.

Germany (White) …

I’m gonna complete the whites (this is the last one) by going to the good doctor for help – Dr. Loosen that is. His perennial favour Dr. L Riesling ($14.85 - #599274) consistently delivers great Riesling in a style we’ve all come to know and love. This 2006 model is apple and peach forward with a sweet pear-like finish … this is the pleasure you drink Riesling for.

Chile (Red) …

Wouldn’t be a complete report without at least one Chilean wine. This is the wine of the month (according to the LCBO anyway): Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($17.80 - #54502) spicy character this one is … eucalyptus, herbs, vanilla and tons of cocoa – bit pricey for this release, but well worth checking out.

Italy (Red) …

Speed freaks will relish the notion of owning a Lamborghini Trescone 2003 ($16.85 - #39842) … not a fast car but a nice Italian wine – the nose is pruney and plumy but the taste makes up for its shortcomings, racing in to save the day with strawberry, cherry and fine tannins. The finish is a little quick, but what do you expect.

Spain (Red) …

I promised one more Spanish bargain and here it is … Raimat Abadia Crianza 2004 ($14.85 - #935460). Each time its passes through Vintages I pick up a few bottles, the reasons are many: first there’s that price, then there’s the age-ability factor, and finally the taste. Lots of red fruit … a beautiful nose and even better palate – this wine never fails to impress me vintage after vintage, and at that price it’s worth a multiple purchase. Now I hope you’ve added at least one Spanish wine to you list – you’ll be doing your palate a favour.

What’s for dessert …

After those heavy Spanish bargains you’ll need something a tad on the sweet side … check out the Muscat of Limnos Vin de Liqueur ($11.85 - #61119) from Greece. Orange blossom, honey and lemon meringue pie on the nose – and quite tasty with peaches and lemons in the mouth and a pleasantly long finish. This is a great way to end off any meal.

Happy Shopping.