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Jan 23rd Vintages Release – South America Rising – by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

“Ironically, as I write about Vintages Argentine wine feature I am sitting on a veranda in the Apalta district of the Colchagua Valley in Chile, just over the Andes. There is great rivalry between these two South American nations, with Chile being the smaller in terms of population and wine production.  Chile is to Argentina as Canada is the USA, or perhaps New Zealand to Australia. I have been in Chile ten days and tasted 100s of wines, many as a judge at the Wines of Chile Awards. So when I read back over the Argentine notes made earlier this month I am struck by how similar the styles and elements and issues of winemaking. We are always looking to differentiate between the two countries (as the Chileans would certainly prefer) but the similarities are more important when you place South America in a global context.  Both countries are making very ripe, deeply fruited wines and using all the modern techniques of viticulture and winemaking to infuse as much lustre and balance as they can. Both countries are hinged on one or two Bordeaux-originating grape varieties (malbec in Argentina, cabernet in Chile), but are moving rapidly to other main stream grapes like syrah and sauvignon blanc. Both countries are opening up new, cooler regions – Argentina by moving vineyards higher into the Andes and south into Patagonia, Chile by moving to the coast and up the hillsides as well. Both are deep into microclimates, terroir and organic viticulture. But more important perhaps, both countries are energized by a new generation of young, educated , well travelled men and (many) women to make a huge impact in the wine world.  Chile and Argentina can no longer be dismissed by cachet-conscious North American wine consumers as poor Latin cousins.  There is seriously good wine in both countries that is way underpriced given the quality, and as nice as it may be for us to take advantage, those prices must rise in step with quality and reputation. They know they have great climate and soils for fine wine production, and they are moving quickly to take their rightful place in the World order.”

-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

Filed under: Wine, , , , ,

Joy to the World

“Okay, early November is a bit too soon for Christmas carols. In fact, Dec. 21 (which is just about when I start to think about Christmas shopping) would be okay by me as the official start of the Christmas season.  But Vintages is already rolling out the Holidays with an “affordable party wines” theme for its Nov. 7 release.  For the most part, the selection is well chosen, with wines that combine approachability, quality (with a number in the 87–90 point range), and value. All are under $20. I may have issues with the LCBO – including its right to exist -  but when buyers do their jobs well on our behalf they deserve recognition.  In traditional LCBO fashion, it is also a worldly selection (another thing our favourite monopoly does well), so that you can explore new regions and styles with some degree of comfort.  Underlying all this is the fact that winemaking is becoming so good, on a global scale, that the quality and value of wine just can’t help but go up. So it is truly the season of joy to the world for all who simply want a good glass of wine among family and friends. There are a few expensive, notable, and excellent wines in this release – like Italy’s legendary Sassicaia 2006, but it just doesn’t cut it at $180. Not because we are in a recession, but because what’s in the bottle doesn’t measure up. I have rated it 91 points, but at this price it should be a swooning 99. Elsewhere at the upper end, Cliff Lede 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa gets close to justifying its price ($68, 93 pts), as does Le Clos Jordanne 2007 Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir from Niagara ($40, 91 pts). But this time out, all selections in David’s Half Dozen are focused on value and affordability. The party is up to you.”

-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign
Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

 

David’s Half Dozen

Whites
Yalumba Viognier 2008
Yalumba Viognier 2008,
Eden Valley, South Australia
$22.95  92 pts

Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Leyda Valley, Chile
$15.95  90pts

Zenato Lugana 2008
Zenato Lugana 2008, Doc San Benedetto Lombardy, Italy  $14.95  89pts

Reds

Les Vignerons Du Castelas Côtes Du Rhône 2007
Les Vignerons Du Castelas Côtes Du Rhône 2007
Rhone Valley, France
$13.95  90pts

Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Cuvée 2007
Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Cuvée 2007,
Barossa, Australia
$14.95  89pts

Château De Gourgazaud Cuvée Mathilde 2006
Château De Gourgazaud Cuvée Mathilde 2006
Minervois, France
$14.95  89pts

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Turkey with Italian Red?

“You might well ask, given Vintages’ feature release of Italian reds on Thanksgiving weekend. And guess what? It’s not a bad notion.  Consider that cranberryish pinot noir is the classic red match for turkey.  Italian reds have that same nervous acidity, savoury complexity, and sour red fruit, especially if they hail from the northern regions like Piedmont, Veneto and, to some extent, Tuscany.  They may be even better than pinot because they have more weight to stand up to not only the dense turkey meat (especially the dark) but the stuffing and all the trimmings. I suspect several wines from the following will be excellent with Big Bird:  Remo Farina Ripasso Valpolicella, Trerose Vino Nobile Di MontepulcianoLa Spinona Bricco Faset Barbaresco and Malgrà Fornace Di Cerreto Barbera D’asti Superiore… This release, Vintages continues its string of excellent quality, great value German rieslings, young and old.  I can’t believe some of these golden beauts are landing at under $20. Try the idiosyncratic Studert-Prüm 2004 Riesling Spätlese Wehlener Sonnehur… Ontario whites shine in this release, every bit as good quality and excellent value as their international competition.  Look for Flat Rock’s 2008 Unplugged Chardonnay; the shimmering, taut Thirty Bench 2008 Riesling; and the quite luxurious, yet well-balanced, 90-point Inniskillin 2007 Montague Chardonnay that makes the list of David’s Half Dozen. Ever so quietly, winemaker Bruce Nicholson has been moving Inniskillin back to the quality forefront.”

-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign
Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of close to 100 wines in this release.

David’s Half Dozen

Whites
Schloss Reinhartshausen Riesling Spätlese 2007
Schloss Reinhartshausen Riesling Spätlese 2007, Rheingau, Germany  $23.95, 91pts

Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2007
Inniskillin Winemaker’s Series Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2007, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula  $18.95 90pts

Tedeschi Capitel Tenda Soave Classico 2008
Tedeschi Capitel Tenda Soave Classico 2008, DocVeneto, Italy $15.95  90pts

Reds
Miguel Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Miguel Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Do Penedès, Spain  $44.95 92pts

Il Grigio Da San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva 2005
Il Grigio Da San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva 2005, Docg,Tuscany, Italy  $28.95 91pts

Volpaia Citto 2007
Volpaia Citto 2007, Tuscany, Italy $13.95  89pts

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Big Guns Arrive but the Party Is Over

“The Vintages Sept 26 release starts to trot out the iconic triple-digit wines for the Holiday silly season, particularly from Bordeaux and Napa Valley. I suspect they will move slowly. At a recent lunch with a highly placed Vintages employee, our table learned that Vintages has done very well, better than forecasted during the 2009 recession, with high-priced wines the only area to go flat. I love great wine as much as the next person, and understand it. But it’s really difficult to be sympathetic to the unfolding plight. By that I mean wines whose price soars beyond intrinsic value, as measured by quality. If flush enough with cash, I would actually pay $200 for a 98- to 100-point wine, or $100 for a 95 pointer, or $75 for a 93 pointer. This is a personal measure to be sure, and each has his own, but none of the offerings in this release hit these numbers; the closest being the gorgeous Ornellaia, which, at 94 points, sells for $174. I would love to buy it but I won’t, although I might consider seven bottles of Ornellaia’s peppy 90-point cousin, called Le Volte, for the same outlay. It’s easy to both hype very expensive wines and to harp on them. I just have a gut feeling that for the icons of the world the party is over, at least for the current generation. People are smarter now, and less wealthy, and there is just too much excellent wine being made for much less money. David’s Half Dozen selections in each release do often list very high quality, expensive wines, but this time all are spiffy buys are under $20″

- David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of close to 100 wines in this release.

David’s Half Dozen

Whites

Stocco Friulano Doc Friuli Grave 2008
Stocco Friulano Doc Friuli Grave
2008,
Friuli, Italy $14.95  89pts

Ironstone Vineyards Obsession Symphony California 2007
Ironstone Vineyards Obsession Symphony 2007, California  $14.95  89pts

Reds

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Excellence	Ac Costières De Nîmes	2007
Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Excellence 2007, Ac Costières De Nîmes, Rhone, France
$18.95  90pts

Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz Barossa, South Australia 2007
Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2007, Barossa, South Australia
$19.95  91pts

Terra Andina Reserva Carmenère	Rapel Valley 2007
Terra Andina Reserva Carmenère 2007, Rapel Valley, Chile  $12.95  89pts

Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2006 Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza
Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2006, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina  $16.95  88pts

Filed under: Featured Articles, News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Discover top picks and top values from the Vintages September 12th release – featuring Ontario and Portugal

“The September 12th release features the most ambitious and highest quality selection of Ontario wines ever undertaken by Vintages.  It is focused on 2007 vintage, the year that appears to have finally blessed sun worshipping winemakers’ and consumers’ with a hot and more importantly – dry – growing season.  The cover of the LCBO’s Vintages magazine enthuses that it is “Ontario’s Shining Moment: Our Sensational 2007 Vintage”.  The vintage certainly has more ripe, rich wines than normal, but quality – especially balance – remains patchy based on winemaking philosophy and expertise. And there is nothing like tasting all these wines shoulder to shoulder with their global peers in Vintages tasting lab to put it all in perspective. There are several very good Ontario wines but only one has hit 90 points in my opinion, and none make my list of the six best value and most interesting buys in the release. The rest of the release has a few bargain highlights – especially from Portugal – which is the subject of a minor spotlight.  Elsewhere there is not a lot to really get excited about either – a global smattering of mid-priced wines scoring in the mid-range from all over the world. Ontario is not alone. The more interesting subtext is that Vintages is focusing its purchasing on the $15 to $25 range, which of course is where the majority of wine enthusiasts generally shop. The result is a majority of wines scoring in the 85 to 89 range (very good). Our job is to expose the exceptions – both to the 90 pointer great buys, and the troubled underperformers. Please note that due to summer travel plans I was only able to attend one tasting for this release and have only been able to cover about 75% of the wines offered.”  -  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of close to 100 wines in this release.

David’s Half Dozen

Domaine Raphael Sallet Mâcon Uchizy 2007, Burgundy, $17.95, 90pts

Domaine Raphael Sallet Mâcon Uchizy 2007, Burgundy, $17.95, 90pts

Quinta De Ventozelo Touriga Nacional 2005, Doc Douro, Portugal, $19.95, 91pts

Quinta De Ventozelo Touriga Nacional 2005, Doc Douro, Portugal, $19.95, 91pts

Château La Fleur De Boüard 2005, Ac Lalande De Pomerol, Bordeaux, $60.00, 93pts

Château La Fleur De Boüard 2005, Ac Lalande De Pomerol, Bordeaux, $60.00, 93pts

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, California, $21.95, 90pts

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, California, $21.95, 90pts

Finca Flichman Gestos Malbec 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, $15.95, 90pts

Finca Flichman Gestos Malbec 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, $15.95, 90pts

Herdade Paço Do Conde 2006, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal, $14.95, 89pts

Herdade Paço Do Conde 2006, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal, $14.95, 89pts

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Discover top picks and top values from the Vintages August 29th release – featuring Rhône & Zinfandels

“The Vintages August 29 release has two spotlights – Rhône Valley and California Zinfandel – that vibrate the antennae of every red wine fan.  Both fall into that realm of fruity, spicy, exuberant reds that are more for hedonistic drinking rather than fussing with cellars and fine dining.  And even if they are not the cheapest on the planet they are usually fair value.  The reality of the Vintages selections is that once you get pass the amazing Santa Duc 2003 Cairanne(92pts) very few are real standouts in terms of quality or value.  Among the Rhônes I also highly recommend Domaine Montmartel Visan 2007 (90 pts) and Château Mourgues Du Grès (89 pts) as the best values.  Among the Zins Gnarly Head 2007 Old Vine (89) is the most lush and gulp-able, with Grgich Hills 2006 (82pts) being the most bizarre and disappointing.  Elsewhere, the Gretzky wines are evolving well but not quite worth a ticket to the game (the pinot is green and tannic, very at odds with Vintages description).  Exotic tropical whites from Australia and New Zealand continue to offer great bang for the buck, try the McPherson 2007 Marsanne/Viognier (89 pts) and Kim Crawford 2007 Riesling (89 pts).  From Europe there is yet another batch of excellent 2005 Bordeaux, although pricy. The selections from Italy and Spain are middle of the road to disappointing this time around, although Portugal, as usual, has a couple of bargain reds: Quinta das Amoras 2006 (87 pts, $12.95) andRamos Pinto Duas Quintas 2007 (88 pts, $15.95).  To the left are my top picks for quality, value and news value.”

-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of close to 100 wines in this release.

David’s Half Dozen

Whites
Henry Of Pelham Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2007

Henry Of Pelham Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2007 Niagara Escarpment
$19.95, 90pts

Cline Viognier 2007
California
$15.95, 90pts


Reds
Santa Duc Les Buissons Cairanne 2003

Santa Duc Les Buissons Cairanne 2003
Côtes du Rhône-Villages
$17.95, 92pts

Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2006
Napa Valley, California
$21.95, 92 pts

Château Castegens 2005
Bordeaux, France
$18.95, 90pts

Paolo Manzone Magna
Dolcetto D’alba 2007
Piedmont, Italy
$16.95, 89pts


Filed under: Featured Articles, News, Wine, , , , , , ,

Some Gems! Top Picks & Top Values from the Vintages August 1st Release

“In the absence of a strong regional theme, consider this release as an opportunity to buy those styles and regions you usually bypass. Spread your budget around and take some leaps. For example, when do you get to try a fine 17 year old German riesling (Hans Lang), let alone buy one under $20, or a sensational half bottle of Barsac (Doisy-Vedrines) for less than icewine; or a thick and gooey and absolutely delicious Samos Muscat for a $12 pittance.  How about a classic sparkling cava (Pere Ventura Tresor) from Spain that you can crack open with a plate of oysters on the dock, or a tidy, dry Tavel rose (Dom. des Carteresses) to serve with an array of cold meats, or an exotic Australian roussanne (D’Arenberg Money Spider) for a summery citrus salad, or an exuberantly fruity summer red from Southwest  France’s new Fronton appellation (Chateau Laurou). There is small grouping of B.C. wines and I like both the Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin Okanagan cabernets being offered, and on the home front both Angel’s Gate chardonnays are well done. Once again there is a strong grouping of a half dozen 2005 Bordeaux, a vintage which deserves inclusion in any cellar budget. Overall, there is a lot of wine for under $20, with a correspondingly large selection scoring in the 86 to 89 point range.”
-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign
Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of close to 100 wines in this release.

David’s Half Dozen


Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Top Picks and Top Values from the Vintages July 4th Release

“The Vintages July 4th release showcases the return of Oregon pinot noir to Ontario, with –count ‘em – three new labels, all from organically farmed grapes.  During the mid 90s and the heyday of the Pacific Northwest Wine Fairs Ontario was Oregon’s largest export market.  But when the Pacific Northwest Wine Alliance crumbled the shows ceased and the wine pipeline dried up. We turned our focus to our home-grown pinots and scoffed at Oregon’s ever ascending pre-recession pricing. But now, when times are tougher, they are back with three new, fairly priced and quite delicious examples including the Andrew Rich which should be in ample supply as a Wine of the Month. The Oregon selection is complemented by three excellent, expensive icon Washington wines from the Longshadows Project , wherein Washington pioneer Allen Shoup of Chateau Ste Michelle invited top global winemakers to take a turn with Washington fruit. Collectors take note, they all excellent, cellar worthy wines.  The real stars of this release however are the $15 whites and reds below, and few others that didn’t quite make our new David’s Half-Dozen best buys list which will highlights personal picks that offer either great quality, value or intrigue. Enjoy.”

– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

David’s Half Dozen

Collector’s Icon
Sequel 2005 Syrah

Sequel 2005 Syrah, Columbia Valley, USA  $75.00

Collector’s Bargin

Montes Alpha 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L Magnum

Montes Alpha 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile,$43.95/ 1.5L magnum

Summer Sipper (1)
Concha Y Toro 2007 Riesling
Concha Y Toro 2007 Riesling, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, $14.95

Summer Sipper (2)
St. Hallett 2008 Semillon/Sauvigon Blanc
St. Hallett 2008 Semillon/Sauvigon Blanc,  Barossa, Australia  $14.95

Red Charmer
Chateau de Jau 2006 Cotes de Roussillon-Village
Chateau de Jau 2006 Cotes de Roussillon-Village, France, $14.95

Red Cellar Stuffer
Ontanon 2005 Rioja Crianza
Ontanon 2005 Rioja Crianza, Spain, $15.95


Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , , ,

Father’s Day Weekend Top Picks & Top Values from the Vintages June 20th Release

“This is a really interesting release with many 90 point and over wines. There is yet another tranche of ever popular Argentine malbecs, and I draw your attention to Susana Balbo, who I place among the best winemakers of Argentina. Then there are the excellent 2005 Bordeaux. This vintage is very strong, so if you have shied away from the idiocy of Bordeaux pricing in recent years you might want to dip your toe into this pool, all rating 88 to 93 points. I found most of the New World reds to be very good but with few standouts or astounding values, except for the return of the Porcupine Ridge Syrah from South Africa, and the very impressive Ojai Syrah from California.

One of the pleasant little surprises is the demure Swiss red from Cave De La Côte Morges (what better red for a summer eve?). Among whites I loved the underpriced Stags’ Leap Winery Chardonnay from California and the sensational Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz Grüner Veltliner from Austria. The Ontario VQA selection has several very good wines, but only one excellent wine, the exciting Hidden Bench 2006 Terroir Cachet, a Bordeaux blend from the undersung little vintage that could. Enjoy, and OPSEU willing, we will be back for the July 4 release for which tasting is already underway..”

– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

Top Pick Red
Château Franc-Mayne 2005 Saint-Émilion
Château Franc-Mayne 2005 Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux  $59.00

Top Value Red
Porcupine Ridge 2008 Syrah
Porcupine Ridge 2008 Syrah $15.00

Top Pick White
Stags' Leap Winery 2007 Chardonnay
Stags’ Leap Winery 2007 Chardonnay, Napa Valley $29.95

Top Value White
Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz 2007 Grüner Veltliner
Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz 2007 Grüner Veltliner, Austria $23.95

Best Buy Pink
Château Cahuzac 2008 Tradition Rosé
Château Cahuzac 2008 Tradition Rosé, France  $14.95

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , ,

Discover the top picks and top values from the Vintages June 6th release

“If the weather ever does warm up you might be inspired to crack a couple of the rosés in this release. But when the time comes, consider the quieter wines that might best accompany your al fresco meal, not those that aspire to be day-glo soda pop quenchers. Often the best pinkies are the palest, more subtle wines, not the most extroverted and colourful. I was very impressed by Chateau Latour de l’Eveque (89pts, $18.95) which has really pulled up its socks; by Tawse Sketches of Niagara (only $12.50, 89 pts) and Domaine Houchart ($14.95, 87 pts) all in this elegant style. Although, I must also admit really enjoying California’s pillow soft Folie A Deux Menage a Trois ($17.95, 89pts) in a fruitier style.

In this release there are some serious, pricy Burgundies but the only one of real collector interest is the very tidy, sleek Domaine Du Château De Melin La Corvée Des Vignes 2007 Puligny-Montrachet ($59.95, 92pts). Rosewood of Niagara makes a smart debut at Vintages with winemaker Natalie Spytkowski (ex Angels Gates) crafting a terrific value 2007 Pinot Noir ($17.95, 89 pts) and 2006 Riesling ($17.95, 89 points). Gems under $20 from farther flung corners of the wine universe include the Domaine Allimant-Laugner 2007 Muscat from Alsace ($17.95, 90 points, does anyone actually love Alsatian muscat?) and Bricco Rosso 2006 Dolcetto Di Dogliani from Piemonte ($18.95, 90 points) plus Georges Duboeuf Jean Descombes 2007 Morgon ($18.95, 90pts).
– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

Top Pick Red
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill 2006 Shiraz, Australia
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2006, Australia, $24.95

Top Value Red
Tabalí Reserva Especial 2006

Tabali Reserva Especial, Chile,   $21.95

Top Pick White
Francis Blanchet Calcite Pouilly Fumé 2007
Francis Blanchet Calcite Pouilly Fume, 2007 (Sauvignon Blanc), France, $23.95
Top Value White
Pratello Lieti Conversari Manzoni Bianco 2006
Pratello Lieti Conversari Manzoni Bianco 2006, Italy, $18.95

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

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