Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saturday January 17, 2009 - Vintages Release

A week after the LCBO showed you their softer side by giving you the Smart Buys break, they now have you looking deeper into your wallet, staring at the dusty bunnies within and pulling out the pocket lint you have left, to see if they can ring more money out of you with yet another Vintages release. Yes it’s that odd time of year where the releases come fast and furious (after all, the LCBO’s Vintages department has been quiet for almost a month - since December 6th - so they have to validate their existence). This time out they celebrate Robbie Burns Day - not being a Scotch fan I will let others advise you there … I will however help you through the Argentinean release and the other wines from around the world. We’ll start off in Argentina then move into selections from the rest of the world … as is often the case full reviews for Ontario wines can be found on my website (www.ontariowinereview.com) - just click on the link. Time to dig deep into that stash of money grandma gave you for Christmas; nobody said your wine obsession was gonna come cheap.

Argentina …
I love Argentinean wine. One reason is that they have taken over the value void vacated by some Chilean wines that have raised their price because of popularity. Argentina makes great wine at affordable prices - though in this LCBO release I did not find many wines that really turned me on, there seemed to be a lot of sameness, it’s as if the LCBO buyer found one type of wine and bought all he could find in that profile. I was able to put five on my list of must gets that give you a little something special; here they are (in no particular order): J&F Lurton Flor de Torrontes 2007 ($13.95 - #0055475) which was refreshing and floral, very Gewurztraminer like. One of my perennial favourites, Clos de los Siete, 2007 ($23.95 - #0622571), black fruit grips the nose along with an appealing spiciness, plum and black cherry grab the tongue and hang on for a long ride on the finish. Las Moras 2005 Black Label Shiraz ($15.95 - #0081125) is nicely jammy with spices, blackberries and herbs. Luna Benegas 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95 - #0107730) is a lovely drink now wine with minty undertones, black and red cherries, dark chocolate, blueberries, herbs and spices and some real bite on the tongue … be sure to notice that dark colour too. Finally, there’s the Santa Ana 2006 La Mascota Malbec ($15.95 - #0093880) smells juicy and tastes the same; lots of fruit, namely black cherry and blackberry along with some spices and herbs - interesting and ultimately appealing.

Ontario … Red …
Angels Gate 2006 Pinot Noir ($18.95 - #0090779)

Australia … Red …
Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2006 ($18.95 - #0090266) - juicy blackberry along with the bite of pepper - good flavour nice easy finish.
McPherson Basilisk Cabernet Balzac 2005 ($17.95 - #0077859) - eucalyptus and red berry on the nose, black fruit flavours, spices and herbs, good price for this very easy going wine; but watch out, it packs a punch at 14.5% alcohol.
Mount Langi Ghiran 2005 Billi Billi Shiraz ($17.95 - #0719575) - chocolate, blackberry and pepper, very ready now though can sit a few years.

Australia … White …
X&Y Chardonnay ($17.95 - #0048561) - vanilla, honeysuckle, a touch of honeydew melon and a splash of citrus - sound good? It is.

France … Red …
Domaine Pardon Fleurie 2006 ($20.95 - #0085001) - great colour, bright ripe cherries in the forefront, raspberry mid-palate and a strawberry finish; this is a red fruit bowl with a sprinkled pepper finish.

Chateau la Chandelliere 2005 ($26.95 - #0091314) - big spice, herbs and black fruit all rolled into one, full tannin compliment here so you’ll want to sit it for a bit.

Domaine Latour-Giraud Maranges la Fussiere 2005 ($30.95 - #0086967) - mainly cherry with big tannins, great holding potential here, and there’s a lovely cinnamon finish.
Domaine Rebourgeon-Mure Beaune 2006 ($34.95 - #0091082) - sour cherry and rhubarb which follows through on the palate along with some cinnamon and spice; the finish is strawberry, earthy, and very long.

Chateau de Treviac 2007 ($16.95 - #0670505) - this one’s got it all, big red fruit, spices, mocha, strawberries and cinnamon; good price too.

Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Cornuds 2006 ($18.95 - #0566844) - this one is very intense in the mouth, yet manages to be quite smooth. Black fruit dominates with herbs and cinnamon spice; there’s an easy drink ability but still with plenty of tannins for holding-power.

France … Sparkling …
Bailly-Lapierre Cremant de Bourgogne 2005 Chardonnay ($21.95 - #0680686) - nose is soft apple and citrus, crisp and clean in the mouth with a nice peachy-apple taste.

Germany … White …
Bernhard Mehrlein Riesling Kabinett Feinherb 2007 ($17.95- #0089581) - racy, fruity (read: peachy), citrus, tart green apple with a hint of sweetness.

Italy … Red …
Castello di Nieve Barbaresco 2005 ($23.95 - #0674044) - sour cherry nose, sweet dried cherries on the palate, nice.

Angio Archeo Primitivo 2006 ($12.95 - #0101410) - this one’s not going to set the world on fire but it is a wonderful quaffing wine at a good price. Plums and light red fruit dominate.

Castiglioni 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese ($23.95 - #0974394) - lively dried fruit, cherry, chocolate nuances and good acidity.

Italy … White …
Patrizi 2007 Moscato D’Asti ($14.95 - #0101766) - nice to see this style of wine at an affordable price. Very typical, grapy and peachy, no surprises here.

New Zealand … White …
Fairhall Downs 2008 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95 - #0990580) - good price for this quality; big on grapefruit and grass, nice follow through on the palate, this is a summery wine, now all we need is the warm sunshine.

South Africa …. Red …
Bergwater Vineyards 2005 Reserve Merlot ($16.95 - #0079475) - sweet herbs, nice black fruit, plums and chocolate … quite a nice wine.

Spain … Red …
Bodegas Victoria Pardina 2005 ($17.95 - #0082453) - fresh black fruit and spice, peppery pleasing palate, very boring label but a lovely wine.

USA … Red …
Chalone Vineyard 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.95 - #0104190) - nice balance and plenty of fruit, blackberry leads the way in this appealing wine.
Liberty School 2006 Zinfandel ($17.95 - #0041095) - jammy and plumy with rum and cherry, herbs and cola notes; alcohol is under control at 13.5%.

USA … White …
Paul Dolan 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($18.95 - #0046334) - lime and lemon with tropical and apple notes backing it up, refreshing, tasty and good acidity on the finish.

Ports and Sherries …
Sandeman Armada Rich Cream Oloroso Sherry ($18.95 - #0962126) - spices and almonds on the nose, marmalade, spices and a nuttiness on the palate; the finish has considerable length with almond being the dominant remaining flavour.
Baraode Vilar Colheita Port 1998 ($31.95 - #0087510) - big wood tannins, high acidity and big cherry flavour.
Cockburn 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port ($16.95 - #0088278) - best value in an LBV in a long time. Cherries, chocolate, spice, great flavour, good acidity, long finish with some cinnamon sweetness.

Grape Guy Top 3 … what I’ll be lining up for on January 17, 2009:
Cockburn 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port ($16.95 - #0088278) - Portugal
Clos de los Siete 2007 ($23.95 - #0622571) - Argentina
Bodegas Victoria Pardina 2005 ($17.95 - #0082453) – Spain

Happy Shopping.

Saturday January 10, 2009 - Vintages Release

For the first release of 2009 the LCBO shows a little class, a little care, and a little concern. They know you’re just getting over the holiday season, they know your budget is probably a little tight, they know that they can’t get blood from a stone, so the wines they are presenting are those value wines you wish they had last month, which means they were kinda holding out on you … proving that the LCBO giveth and the the LCBO taketh away. These are the wines that are deemed “Smart Buys“; and to follow are my recommendations as to which ones really are. After that we’ll get into the selections from the rest of the world … when we get there you’ll find that as per usual full reviews for Ontario wines can be found on my website (www.ontariowinereview.com) - just click on the link. Now here we go, with whatever money you have left here’s what to buy.

Smart Buys …
Plenty of “smart buys” from plenty of countries in this release, we’ll start with Argentina: the Alamos 2007 Chardonnay ($13.95 - #0801571), this is a big Chard for not a lot of dough; tropical fruit along with apple, pineapple and banana, and what’s more there’s a lovely finish. From Australia there’s the D’Arenberg 2007 Stump Jump White ($14.95 - #0922203) a blend of 5 grapes where Riesling takes the lion’s share (62%) of the workload - the typical Riesling flavours really come through while the other grapes soften it up but there’s also a good seam of acidity here. Two reds from Australia also make my Smart Buys picks, including the Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz ($17.95 - #0005199) with its peppery, chocolate and blackberry smoothness; and Pillar Box 2006 Red, a big 15% red monster that’s sweet and juicy on the palate with pepper, blackberry, sweet cherry and strawberry, along with black fruit and firm tannins.

Another white in the smart buy section comes to us via France, Henri de Villamont 2006 Bourgogne Chardonnay ($19.95 - #0525121) with it’s good mouthfeel, nice finish, ripe apples and good toastiness. Staying in France for some reds you’ll find the Chateau Pesquie Terrasses 2006 ($15.95 - #0652313) to be an excellent value with a long spicy finish - but it’s the peppered cherries and smoked licorice that’ll drag you in long before the finish takes hold. The Chateau Pesquie Terrasses 2006Delas Freres Cotes du Rhone Saint-Esprit 2006 ($15.95 - #0729962) is also good value from the old country with its nice dark fruit, cinnamon and white pepper influences.

It’s all reds from here on in. From Canada we get the Konzelmann 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($13.70 - #0112946) with its spices and herbs, blueberries and tart finish. Mark West 2006 Pinot Noir ($23.95 - #0083329), from California, is considered a smart buy by the LCBO - its over $20 so a bit of a hardship at this time of year (with all those Christmas bills soon coming due) but it’s a lovely wine with lots of black cherry, earthiness, nice pepper notes and good tannins. The home of the good buys, Chile, delivers two in the Smart Buy category: Montes 2007 Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere ($14.95 - #0016071) - with pepper, blackberry and mint on both the nose and palate and an exquisite finish of blackberry, white pepper and sweet strawberries. The other wine is a straight Carmenere (Vina Tarapaca 2007 Gran Reserva $15.00 - #0057513) with mint, blackberry, spices, herbs and predominance of pepper.

My last three Smart Buys come from the old world, two from Italy and one from Spain. Italy delivers the Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2006 ($14.95 - #0328997) which is a nice blend of red and black fruit along with pepper, spice and a good tannins backbone … this should be on your list for a multiple purchase, because there is also good ageability here. Something a little simpler from the land shaped like a boot is Il Passo di Sabina Rosso Veronese 2006 ($14.95 - #0101402) it’s plumy with nice black fruit. Finally, Spain is always good for at least one low priced delicious wine per release. This time it’s the Salinas Mo Monastrell 2006 ($16.95 - #0095133) - peppery black fruit and a sweet mid-palate will have you screaming out, “Give me some Mo.”

Ontario … Red …
Konzelmann 2006 Shiraz ($13.20 - #0085118)
Malivoire 2006 Gamay ($17.00 -#0591313)

Ontario … White …
Konzelmann 2006 Reserve Riesling ($15.20 - #0200527)

Argentina … White …
Cristobal 1492 Verdelho 2008 ($14.95 - 0081182) - green apple, white fruit and a touch of citrus.

Australia … Red …
Marquee Classic Artisan Wines 2006 GSM ($18.95 - #0075010) - big alcohol (14.9%) with an array of smells and flavours that wowed me from start to finish. Black fruit, plum, spice, herbs - I really liked this wine but it defied explanation as to why - all I know is that it was very tasty.
Zonte’s Footstep 2006 Shiraz/Viognier ($14.95 - #0072975) - floral, black fruit and white pepper, pleasant and ultimately shippable. Great price too.

France … Red …
Chateau L’Escart 2001 Cuvee Prestige ($22.95 - #0091363) - peppery, black fruit, woodsy, still with plenty of life left in it; can be held another 3 years or so but drinks very well right now.

Domaine des Aspes 2005 Merlot ($14.95 - #0951665) - pretty nose, good fruit, easy drinking, good value.

Germany … White …
Moselland Insignum Riesling Kabinett 2005 ($13.95 - #0072355) - bit of sweetness, floral, peach and petrol is beginning to emerge. There’s also rusty apple and a touch of honey. The finish is long and lingering.

Italy … Red …
Marchesi di Barolo Maraia Barbera Monferrato 2006 ($18.95 - #0748277) - lovely perfumed nose, light red plum and cherry with a slightly herbal quality - nice.

Lebanon … Red …
Chateau Ksara 2006 Reserve du Couvent ($12.95 - 0443721) - very nice spice and blackberry … sweet start with a dry finish, good light tannins.

New Zealand … White …
Distant Land 2007 Gewurztraminer ($19.95 - #0075549) - rose and floral nose there’s an oily yet refreshing mouthfeel with the floral continuing in there too.

South Africa …. Red …
Blue Cove 2006 Winemaker’s Choice Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.95 - #0088823) - sweet cherry, plum and chocolate, very drinkable right now; can be held for further ageing.

USA … Red …
Cline 2006 Ancient Vines Mourvedre ($23.95 - #0066084) - sweet spiced plum, black cherry and chocolate notes.
Zig Zag Zin 2005 Zinfandel ($18.95 - #0039982) - cherry, plum, rum, cola, chocolate, red fruit … very fruit oriented.

USA … White …
Lockwood Vineyard 2006 Chardonnay ($18.95 - #0673731) - vanilla and apple with a cinnamon tinge.

Ports and Sherries …
Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos ($19.95 - #0671115 - Sherry) - very nutty with orange marmalade and an almond finish.
Croft 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port ($18.95 - #0087601) - rich and fruity, cherries, plums, chocolate and spicy … delicious.

Grape Guy Top 3 … what I’ll be lining up for on January 10, 2009:
Croft 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port ($18.95 - 0087601) - Portugal
Marquee Classic Artisan Wines 2006 GSM ($18.95 - #0075010) - Australia
Domaine des Aspes 2005 Merlot ($14.95 - #0951665) – Chile

Happy Shopping.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Saturday December 6, 2008 - Vintages Release

Last release Vintages had their “Premium Product” selection, this time out they raise the bar even further with the Icons release – wines every wine lover or casual wine drinker would have heard of (or heard whispers about). Wines with big price tags and make exceptional gifts; there’s also a bunch of sparkling wines and Champagne’s for the holidays.

This is the LCBO’s last Vintages release of the year and it’s a big one. I missed the regular media tasting a few weeks back so I had to sit in with the in-store consultants and because of the enormity, and limited amount of time, I had to pick and chose my way through the room (over 140 wines alone). Below you’ll find my selections from the ‘So Fine’ section of the catalogue, including the bubbly and Niagara Stars. As usual full reviews for Ontario wines can be found on my website (www.ontariowinereview.com) - just click on the link. What comes next is not for the feint of heart when it comes to wine prices. Now, on with the show:

So Fine – Sparkling Wine …
There are plenty of bubbles to choose from, 13 in total, including a fizzy icewine from Inniskillin (2006 Sparkling Icewine - $69.95 – #086884); but if you’re looking for something bubbly from the region that made it famous there’s the Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Champagne Brut 1999 ($82.95 - #989137), you don’t see a lot of vintage Champagne’s because they’re only made in the really good years and this is really good, with a slightly sweet note and lengthy finish - crisp citrus, apple and quite the buttered toast note … great for, you know, toasting the moment.

As you can see, paging through the LCBO guide, Champagne can get incredibly pricey, why not go for the local alternative with the always impressive and delicious Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Sparkling Brut ($29.95 - #616441).

So Fine – Niagara …
The LCBO has chosen to recognize Niagara as a fine wine producer, and good for them, shining the light where it rightfully belongs, in our own backyard. Some of the wines the LCBO chose to highlight (and that I agree with) are:
Chateau des Charmes 2005 Equuleus ($40.00 – #319525)
Fielding Estate 2005 Meritage ($35.20 - #085050)
Inniskillin 2007 Riesling Icewine ($69.95 - #558288)
Le Clos Jordanne 2006 Village Reserve Chardonnay ($30.00 - #033936)
Le Clos Jordanne 2006 Village Reserve Pinot Noir ($30 - #033894)
Tawse 2006 Pinot Noir ($32.20 - #054809)

So Fine – The Icons …

These are the labels you long for:
Shafer “One Point Five” 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($77.95 - #045476) – big spicy nose, sweet licorice and blackberries on the palate.
Far Niente 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($140 - #539098) – sweet nose, lush palate, big price.

Elderton “Command” Single Vineyard Shiraz 2004 ($96.95 - #716142) – sweet fruit, cherries and chocolate, this one’s lush and lovely and meant to age.

Ornellaia 2005 ($158.95 - #722470) – great wine… peppery, herby, spicy, black fruit oriented, smooth and silky with tons of time ahead of it.
Masi 2003 Serego Alighieri Vaio Amaron ($77.95 - #462812) – of the three Amarone this one had it all, for less … smooth chocolate and black fruit with lots of cherry.

Ontario … White …
Malivoire 2006 Gewurztraminer ($26.00 - #542522)

Australia … Red …
Kilikanoon 2006 Killerman’s Run Shiraz/Grenache ($20.95 - #009225) – peppery on the nose, sweet fruit on the palate.
Taltarni 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.95 - #940692) – very black fruit oriented, juicy and tasty.
Wallace by Ben Glaetzer 2006 Shiraz/Grenache ($26.95 - #047605) – the LCBO breaks the under-twenty ceiling with this “Wine of the Month”. This big (15.8%) alcohol wine keeps the alcohol smell at bay. Look ahead to the Fess Parker (USA) in this report; I think their taste profiles are similar but this one is scaled back and less in your face, and at half the price that’s okay.

Chile … Red …
Estampa 2004 Gold ($17.95 - #047522) – the nose has heavy mint notes with blackberry and strawberry backing it up; on the palate it’s mostly black fruit while the tannins are silky and smooth.
Vina Tarapaca 2005 Gran Reserve Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #081190) – juicy fruits with minty notes on both the smell and taste.

France … Red …
Chateau D’Aiguilhe 2005 ($47.95 - #501205) – a real treat of herbs, spice and blackberries, this one tastes fresh and lively with tannins that’ll last 10 years plus.

Ortas Rasteau Tradition 2007 ($16.95 - #998716) – Red fruit and light nose, raspberry taste with a touch of tannins and licorice.

Germany … White …
Wegeler 2007 Riesling Spatlese ($33.95 - #087452) – fresh and sweet.
Schloss Schonborn 2001 Riesling ($15.95 - #081836) – big on petrol and talc on the nose with peach and apricot in the mouth.

Italy … Red …
Bertani Villa Novare Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2005 ($25.95 - #095810) – plum, chocolate and blackberry with good tannins and a lingering finish.
Zonin 2005 Amarone Della Valpolicella ($54.95 - #086207) – plum and chocolate with a black cherry liqueur note; great on the palate.

USA … Red …
Fess Parker 2004 The Big Easy Syrah ($40.95 - #083212) – you can smell the alcohol coming from this one (15.9%) and also the pepper, which accosts the nose head on; follows up in the mouth with some big and bold fruit flavours a surprising chocolate mid-palate and smooth finish.
Ridge 2006 Three Valley ($29.95 - #652875) – easy on the palate with plums and juicy blackberries.
Silverado Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50.95 - #111880) – big juicy blackberries with chocolate, plums and herbs.
St. Francis 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.95 - #671164) – good value for this juicy black fruit number, which also has good vanilla notes.

Grape Guy Top 3 … what I’ll be lining up for on December 6, 2008:
Fess Parker 2004 The Big Easy Syrah ($40.95 - #083212) – USA, California
Wallace by Ben Glaetzer 2006 Shiraz/Grenache ($26.95 - #047605) - Australia
Vina Tarapaca 2005 Gran Reserve Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #081190) – Chile

If I had the money –without a doubt:
Ornellaia 2005 ($158.95 - #722470)

Happy Shopping.