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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 8th, Part One

Loire Valley and Smart White Buys
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Loire Valley is one of my favourite regions. Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé remain world sauvignon benchmarks. Cabernet franc from the appellations around Tours and Saumur define the perfumy cool climate style. Chenin reigns supreme east of Tours and south of Angers, challenged only perhaps by South Africa for its most singular expression, though the Loire wins hands-down on diversity. And Muscadet remains, dollar for dollar, the best value white wine on the planet (if you define best as dry, stony, lean and taut, as I do). The moments when my home Muscadet supplies run dry are very dark indeed.

The August 8th VINTAGES release features a competent but limited selection from the banks of France’s longest, languidly lumbering river, enough to get you started. We reveal our top in this report, along with a miscellaneous assortment of attention-grabbing whites. Next week David leads off on the larger Pacific Northwest thematic and other memorable reds. I won’t keep you any longer; there’s mid-summer sipping to be done.

Buyers’ Guide for August 8th 2015: Loire Valley

Domaine Bonnard Sancerre Rouge 2013

Domaine des Côtes Blanches Sancerre 2013Domaine des Côtes Blanches 2013 Sancerre, Loire, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – An arch-classic, old school, very chalky-flinty example of Sancerre, with fine depth and length. Textbook. Love the dusty texture and ripe-creamy-taut texture, as well as the length.

Domaine Bonnard 2013 Sancerre Rouge, Loire, France ($23.95)
John Szabo – Pinot noir was more widely planted in Sancerre before phylloxera, and is slowly making a bit of a comeback. Attentive viticulture is key, but even still these are light, transparent, fragrant versions without the meat and fat of even lighter-style Burgundy. But that’s their charm: all lace and grace, pinots to drink with a chill. Bonnard’s fits perfectly within the regional idiom, crunchy and leafy.
Sara d’Amato – This light bodied, fragrant pinot noir is an absolutely delightful sipper. Cherry, thyme and dried rose add elegance and intrigue to the palate. Chill slightly for ultimate refreshment.

Bouvet Nv Brut Excellence Crémant de Loire, Loire, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Good Loire chenin sparklers can be great value when they deliver – and this delivers. It is brightly fruity – loaded with chenin’s pear/quince waxy fruit, lemon and a touch of biscuit. It’s light, slender, a touch off-dry with brilliant acidity and fruit on the palate. Quite delicious, penetrating and very good value.

Clos Les Montys 2013 Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie, Loire, France ($13.95)
John Szabo – Lean, crisp, bright, totally transparent and bone dry, in other words, textbook Muscadet. Complexity and length are ultimately modest, but at the price, this delivers everything it needs to and more.
David Lawrason – It is simplistic, but a light, polished, super fresh young Muscadet with green apple fruit, lime/grapefruit and vague stoniness. It’s quite juicy and tart with some bitterness on the finish. Wanted a bit more complexity for a higher rating (87) but at $13.95 who’s complaining.

Bouvet Brut Excellence Crémant De LoireClos Les Montys Vieilles Vignes MuscadetChâteau Favray Pouilly Fumé 2011

Château Favray 2014 Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Upon the pebbly Villiers limestone soils, sauvignon blanc flourishes in Pouilly-Fumé. This dynamite offering from Château Favray exemplifies the region’s characteristic flinty, mineral character, with racy acids that are refreshing as opposed to austere.
David Lawrason – This is from a 15 hectare estate on pebbly limestone soils, owned by a gent named Quentin David who revived an ancient property in 1980 that had been laid low by phylloxera in the 19thC. It’s an excellent buy in a solid, firm and nicely complex sauvignon with grapefruit, green pear, spice and dried herbs. It’s medium weight with taut acidity, some warmth and very good to excellent length. The herbal elements carry well on the finish, to excellent length.

Buyers Guide for August 8th 2015: Smart Whites

Wegeler Sweet Riesling 2012

Rieflé Steinert Pinot Gris 2010Rieflé 2010 Steinert Pinot Gris AC Alsace Grand Cru, Alsace, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – A pinot gris in the opulent, late harvest, distinctively Alsatian style, dense and robust, from the calcareous Steinert grand cru. Fans of exotic, flirtatious fruit underpinned by residual sugar and acid take note. Would be a treat with roasted pork or chicken, or soft cheeses.

Wegeler 2012 Sweet Riesling, VDP Gutswein, Mosel, Germany ($19.95)
David Lawrason – I looked up Gutswein (good wine) and found the following definition: “VDP GUTSWEIN, or regional wines, originates from an estate’s holdings within a region. They are entry-level house wines that meet the general standards prescribed by the VDP and provide a good introduction to the VDP’s hierarchy that inherently links wine quality with origin”. Well this certainly out-performs that definition. It is a lovely, pristine, off-dry riesling with classic Mosel charm, delicacy yet authority. Expect lifted floral, honeyed, peachy fruit with some lemon. Great fruit here; real precision that only the Mosel can really deliver.

Contrade Di Taurasi 2012 Grecomusc’, IGT Campania Bianco, Italy ($32.95)
John Szabo – An utterly arresting wine made from the unique and rare Rovello grape, formerly known as Grecomuscio (no relation to Greco), this has substantial complexity in a decidedly non-fruity style. It’s focused entirely on stony-flinty-chalky flavours on a lean, almost austere, taut frame, not a crowd pleaser by any means. But I love the tension and the quivering acids, and the green herbs and sea salt wash on the long finish. Very original.
Sara d’Amato – This Campanese rovello is a stunner with the potential for interesting evolution. The broad and complex palate is dizzying and offers compelling notes of honey, stinging nettle, parsnip, lime and white tea. Collectors take note!

Domaine Lafage 2013 Côté Est, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is an exotic, bloomy and spicy young white that combines Mediterranean varieties grenache blanc and vermentino. I would have bet on some muscat as well, but apparently it is the vermentino providing all the lemongrass and floral lift. It is very crisp, tidy and well-balanced, with a tart, stony finish. The catalogue says it is “new at VINTAGES” but it was actually on the General List some years ago and was just as good then.
Sara d’Amato – A grenache blanc and vermentino blend perfect for summer sipping. A sure-fire crowd pleaser, this dry, punchy, flavourful white is well-priced enough for everyday drinking.

Contrade Di Taurasi Grecomusc 2012Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013Vicente Gandía Nebla Verdejo 2014Santa Tresa Rina Lanca Grillo Viognier 2013

Vicente Gandía 2014 Nebla Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Attractive tropical notes have been coaxed out of this fleshy verdejo whose bright acidity provides freshness and focus. To boot, you can put your conscience at ease as this 125-year old, highly-awarded Valencian winery is well-known for its sustainable winemaking and social responsibility practices.

Santa Tresa Rina Lanca 2013 Grillo Viognier, Terre Siciliane, Italy ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Located on 50 hectares with a surface layer of light red sandy loam over well-drained limestone base in the vicinity of Mt. Etna, this is great value at $13.95. It’s a sub-tropical, semi-exotic white that combines perfumed spicy viognier with Sicily’s grillo grape of similar aspect. Look for fairly ripe star anise, pineapple, licorice and spicy aromas and flavours.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

From VINTAGES August 8th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014


Southbrook Vineyards

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part Two

Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder
By David Lawrason with wine notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Argentina is featured on this release, and I am newly enthused by goings-on after two visits there within the last year. In fact five WineAlign writers have been there in recent months, and we have published the first article of a comprehensive two-part national series that delves deep into the current state of that nation (read part one here). If Argentina wasn’t confident about what’s going on they wouldn’t be inviting the world to have a look. The nub of the story is that Argentina is evolving into something more than a one-hit malbec wonder.

You have an opportunity to explore this in more detail as 20 producers arrive in Toronto next week (July 29) at Wines of Argentina’s Wine Jam and BBQ at the St. James Cathedral. (Find out more and get your promo code here.)

Before continuing I refer you to a ‘letter to the editor’ by Christopher Freeland of the LCBO in response to my June 27 release commentary on VINTAGES handling of the pre-Canada Day selection of Ontario wines. Please go to Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27 – Part Two and scroll down to the comments section. And yes there is a connection to Argentina.

Mr. Freeland delivers an impassioned and detailed defence of the LCBO’s treatment of Ontario wine, and chastises me for not recognizing everything the LCBO is doing around homegrown wines. Fair enough, but I was not discussing the LCBO’s overall program, only VINTAGES lack of ability to create a meaningful focus on Ontario wine on that pre-Canada Day release.

I repeated the complaint two weeks later around VINTAGES’ Spanish feature, and I will say it again this time, with VINTAGES slender selection of six Argentine wines. Yes, there are already other Argentine wines on the General List and VINTAGES shelves. But why not really make this a feature and give 25 new Argentine reds a shot at a spot? Or 50? The reasons VINTAGES cannot do this are in my original discussion around Ontario wine.

VINTAGES is not being ‘unfair’ to Argentina, Spain or Ontario. They are actually being overly fair to all wines around the world (which makes Ontario wineries crazy). They are limited in what they do because they are in the end the one and only retailer and unable to provide the depth of selection one can find in other major North American markets. If it ain’t at the LCBO it ain’t on shelves anywhere in Ontario – which has underpinned my criticism of the LCBO from the start.

Back to what Argentina is doing now, and how that is reflected on this release. The selection only has one malbec, which indeed recognizes Argentina’s growing diversity. There are two cabernet sauvignons, which is a nod to the importance of this underrated grape, but neither are truly memorable cabernets. There is a Patagonian cabernet franc that is very much worth a look, and it is a variety on the up-tick throughout Argentina. But why no Patagonian pinots, and cab franc from Mendoza? There is a terrific torrontés value, but why not three for the dog days of August?

And none of the wines mentioned so far are above $20, which dismisses legions of premium wines that are available. In limited distribution as an In Store Discovery there is Catena’s excellent icon red named for founder Nicolas Catena. But where are the bonardas, many more great red blends, the biodynamic wines, the unoaked amphora wines from Sebastian Zuccardi, the brilliant French influenced reds from Monteviejo and the other member wineries of Clos de Los Siete, the great cabs and tannats from Cafayate, the syrahs of San Juan, the new lovely roses made from the pais grape.  We just have to wait and hope I guess.

With Sara d’Amato still on vacation John Szabo and I present our value picks from Argentina, as well as other New World and Europe.

Argentina:

Nicolás Catena Zapata 2010

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012

Pietro Marini 2013 TorrontésPietro Marini Torrontés 2013, Salta ($12.95)
David Lawrason – Torrontés is found in most regions but hits its freshest and most exotic heights in the northern province of Salta. Grown at 1750 metres in the Calchaqui Valley this is huge value! It has a billowing aroma of lemongrass, tangerine, spearmint and licorice – very exotic. It’s mid-weight, nicely smooth and a touch sweet, with great acidity and some warmth. Deep chill for garden sipping.

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012, Patagonia ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This hails from a remote, parched landscape (see label) in southern, cooler Patagonia. But cab franc is on the rise farther north in Mendoza as well, both as a blender and stand alone varietal. This is nicely done and every Canadian interested in one of our country’s better red varietals should be having at peek at this Patagonian.

Nicolás Catena 2010 Zapata, Mendoza ($110.00)
John Szabo – Yes this is certainly expensive, but if you’re a serious collector, it’s worth your attention. In the context of impressive, age-worthy wines, it’s comfortably in the upper echelon, made since 1997 from Catena Zapata’s top lots of cabernet and malbec. Indeed, I’d say it has better structure and balance than many similarly-priced wines from the new world, and would give plenty of pause to the classics from the old as well. Tuck this in the cellar for another 5-10 years minimum and then stage your own “judgement”-style comparative blind tasting. It’s rare to say, but I’d prefer a single bottle of this to a half dozen commercial, typically, sweet, over-oaked Argentine malbecs. David Lawrason – Ditto :)

Euro Reds:

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Maçanita 2012 RedMaçanita Red 2012, Douro, Portugal ($18.95)
John Szabo – From the dynamic team of Joana and brother António Maçanita (the latter of Fita Preta in Alentejo and the Azores Wine Company), this is a cleverly made wine with wide appeal. 60% Touriga nacional and 40% tinta roriz combine to make a generous, ripe, fruity and floral blend from the Douro, well within the typical flavour wheelhouse, with added polish and well-managed, succulent, rounded texture. Best 2015-2022.
David Lawrason – Very nicely made modern Douro lacking just a bit of depth for 90 points, but close and still good value.

Carpineto 2010 Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($27.95)
John Szabo – Tuscan cabernet is rarely a detour for me, but I was stopped in my tracks by this concentrated and structured wine from Carpineto. The website provides no real insight (“grown in vineyards considered particularly suited for the production of great wines”, and, “scrupulously field selected”), but marketing fluff aside, I’d speculate that the vineyards are indeed special, as this delivers the type of depth, complexity, structure and length that can’t be manufactured in the winery. Genuinely great wine at a great price. Best 2015-2025.

San Fabiano Calcinaia 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($24.95)
John Szabo – Like the Farnito above, and against all odds, this second Tuscan cabernet in the same release also caused the world to stop spinning for a moment. It’s a hell of a mouthful for $25, full, firm, highly extracted, with immense tannic structure and abundant wood influence. Don’t touch it for at least another 3-5 years, but it’ll never be soft and polished so plan ahead with some salty protein and a decanter at the ready. Best 2018-2028.

López De Haro Crianza 2008

Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2013

Prunotto 2012 MompertonPrunotto Mompertone 2012, Monferrato, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Monferrato is an underrated  DOC region sandwiched between the powerhouse regions of Piedmont and Tuscany in NW Italy. From a leading peimontese producer this is a refined, well balanced if not showy young red with classic, perfectly ripened blackberry, floral and herbal nuances.

Tessellae 2013 Vieilles Vignes Carignan, IGP Côtes Catalanes, Southwest France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Another terrific value from the Roussillon, showing the wild and savage depths of which old vine carignan is capable. I love the scorched earth, the wild, resinous herbs, the dark fruit, the spice notes, not to mention the superior depth and structure at the price. Best 2015-2023.

López De Haro 2008 Crianza, Spain ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a good buy at $15, if you like lighter reds, and Spain’s Rioja reds in particular. Lopez de Heridia is one of the great classic, traditional wineries of Spain, indeed of Europe. That they have delivered a minor classic at this price is a very pleasant surprise. It’s lighter, tight and elegant – quite tender in fact.

New World Reds:

Melville Verna's Estate Syrah 2012

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012

Paxton AAA 2012 Shiraz GrenachePaxton AAA Shiraz Grenache 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Paxton is a leading biodynamic producer in McLaren Vale, with their minimal intervention mantra stated on the back label. This is big and edgy but like so many BioD wines it delivers consistent, complex, profound flavours of excellent to outstanding length. Compelling if not soothing. Should age well for five years.

Blue Pyrenees 2012 Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Festooned with award competition medallions, this bottle hails from the remote, arid and intriguing Pyrenees region 200kms NW of Melbourne. It’s medium-full bodied with great granitic acidity/minerality, fine tannin and juicy, savoury flavours. Excellent length. The medals are deserved.

Melville 2012 Verna’s Estate Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California ($37.95)
David Lawrason – Santa Barbara, with coastal influence at a warm latitude, is one of the great sources of syrah in California. And I find most examples echo the cooler northern Rhone more so than Aussie shiraz styling. This is a classic – full bodied, fairly dense, racy and refined. The focus and length here are excellent.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Next week John and I will return to lead off commentary on VINTAGES, August 8 release, which features the Pacific Northwest and Loire Valley. (I promise not to gripe about lack of selection).  And next week also stay tuned for the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Part 1: Wine to Chill

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014


Pacific Northwest Tasting - Aug 17th

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July 2015)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I have many new wine values to report since the LCBO announced lots of big discounts last Monday. So I have picked 20 wines under $20 that are the best values presently. My list includes nine wines new to my Top50 for you to try plus two more wines already on the list that are on promotion i.e.  have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply or are on sale (LTO), making these wines even more attractive; all this will surely make your summer drinking more affordable.

I have selected eleven wines from Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs). To these I added another nine wines, all with BAMs, that make them good choices as well.

The discount period runs until August 16th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!

Reds

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – An inexpensive red for pizza and tomato pasta sauces. Basic but it delivers.

Vila Regia 2013, Douro Valley, Portugal ($7.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 July – A great BBQ red with a smooth texture and just a hint of oak. Chill a little and enjoy with sausages or burgers.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2012, Chile ($8.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 July – A well-priced Chilean merlot that more than delivers on drinkability with its lively vibrant fruit. Very versatile.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2013 Vila Regia 2013 Santa Carolina Merlot 2012 Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.80 + 7 BAMs) – A clean juicy midweight modern cabernet. Just a hint of oak and enough tannin to give a some grip to the finish.

La Vieille Ferme Red 2013, Ventoux, Rhone Valley, France ($11.45 was $12.45) New to Top 50 – A consistent favourite of mine since it is such a versatile food red; so buy some while it is a $1 off

Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Peloponnese, Greece ($11.60 + 4BAMs) – A dry midweight balanced cabernet that would be great with grilled lamb cutlets.

La Vieille Ferme Red 2013 Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013

Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley Chile ($11.95 + 5 BAMs) – There is an earthy herbal tone to the soft juicy palate, that’s a little sweet on the finish. So try with mildly spicy bbq meats.

Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($13.95 + 8BAMs) – A vibrant young carmenere, that’s firm but not austere. A good example of just how good this grape can be. Try with grilled meats or baked brie.

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012 Ribera Del Duero, Spain ($14.40) New to Top 50 – An aromatic midweight red that has just a touch of oak to add to the fruit complexity. Try with BBQ meats.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia ($16.95 + 10BAMs) – A reasonably priced classic Coonawarra cabernet with excellent length and the structure for a steak .

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012Jacob's Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013

Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($17.90) New to Top 50 – A complex elegant powerful red. Decant for an hour or so and enjoy with a steak.

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95 + 10BAMs) – A very appealing, pretty, and fresh pinot with lots of cranberry and raspberry fruit. The floral nose with just a hint of oak is very classy. Sip on its own or with a some rare roast beef.

Whites

San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Central Valley Chile  (1500mL, $13.95 + 6 BAMs) – A lot wine plus some BAMs for a great price. It’s a basic, clean, fresh sipping white. Enjoy with veggie dips.

Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2013 Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – A basic yet quite fruity Italian white that’s great with grilled calamari.

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape ($9.45) New to Top 50 – Fantastic value for a floral green apple white that’s great with seafood and white meats.

San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2013 K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014 Marqués De Riscal 2014

Marqués De Riscal 2014, Rueda, Spain ($11.85) New to Top 50 – Rueda is currently one of the top places European’s shop for inexpensive dry whites but this region has yet to catch on in Canada; try this and you will see why it should. Great with mildly flavoured seafood.

Trapiche Extra Brut Mendoza Argentina ($11.95 + 6 BAMs) – An excellent sparkling wine with lots of flavour for such an inexpensive wine. Great as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or with seafood or cheesy starters.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($14.45 was $16.95) New to Top 50 – A lively fresh cool climate chardonnay with lots of aroma and flavour and very good length. Try with roast chicken.

Trapiche Extra Brut Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2013 Are You Game Chardonnay 2012 Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012, Victoria, Australia ($14.95 +5BAMs) – An elegant cool climate chardonnay with a sleek fresh fruity palate and just a hint of oak. Try with sautéed seafood.

Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Southern Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95 was $19.95) New to Top 50 – A classic elegant sauvignon that’s pure, fresh and mouthwateringly delicious. Try with seafood.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

Top 20 Under 20There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either in the LCBO Wines section or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

– On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines. I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

– Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

– Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50 (Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list), since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


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California Square Russian River Chardonnay 2012

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part One: Wine to Chill

By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason

Don’t Forget to Chill Those Reds

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

A water-and-ice-filled bucket might just be the greatest wine gadget ever invented. Just a few minutes in one of these simple but magical devices can turn your red wine from a flabby, alcoholic and soupy drinking chore, into a crisp, fresh and fruity thirst-quenching delight. Not only in summer, but throughout the year, red wines are almost always served too warm; anything above 20ºC is a service faux-pas akin to aerating in a blender. For many reds, 12º-14ºC is far better. Most restaurants are guilty of this disservice. All of those open reds sitting out on the back bar in July? Forget them. That goes for January too. Don’t be afraid to ask for the ice bucket when dining out. At home, you’re in full control, so use the fridge, or your own ice bucket, to bring those reds into the best temperature zone to maximize enjoyment.

This report focuses on and handful of reds (and whites), which are particularly sensitive to temperature. The LCBO calls them “Wines to Chill” – the main theme for the July 25th VINTAGES release. David and I have included our top picks that are best with a chill, including whites. Read on to find out why temperature matters, or just skip to the recommendations.

Why Temperature Matters

When it comes to eating and drinking, temperature matters. Cold cheese straight from the fridge, for example, offers only a shadow of its aroma and flavor potential. Warm soft drinks are mostly sugary, aggressively carbonated, and hard to swallow. Chefs also know that any dish served cold, such as terrines, patés, or soups, need to be slightly more salted than the same dish served hot, because your perception of salt decreases at lower temperatures; that’s to say things taste less salty. The interplay between temperature and sensory perception likely occurs by many mechanisms, including the direct action of temperature on sensory receptors, but in any case, it’s clear that people’s taste receptors are modulated by temperature change. Basically, the same foods and wines taste different at different temperatures, so when you’re serving wine, consider the effects, both positive and negative, of the wine’s temperature.

Aromatics

Temperature dramatically affects aromatics. At a chemical level, when a substance is warm, its molecules vibrate fast. When cold, they slow down. In other words, the colder a wine is, the slower and less volatile its aromatic compounds are, and thus the less aromatic a wine will be. At the other end, when a wine is too warm, many of the enjoyable aromatic molecules are so active they’re gone before you can smell them, leaving little but the light burn of alcohol vapors. It’s always smarter to err on the side of too chilled than too warm – cold wine will warm up. The only solution for a glass of hot red wine is an ice-cube, which is not ideal.

Taste and Texture

Beyond aromatics, temperature also affects wine texture and taste. Wine served cold seems more acidic (which makes it more refreshing), fruitier, and more tannic (which makes it more astringent and bitter). This is why red wines are generally served warmer than whites: they contain tannin (the substance in wine that causes the astringent, drying, mouth-puckering sensation), while whites and rosés rarely have any tannin at all. The curious thing about tannin is that you perceive its drying effect more at lower temperatures. That means if you take the same tannic wine and serve it at both 10ºC and 18ºC, the cooler sample will appear more astringent and more bitter, perhaps unpleasantly so. At 18ºC the wine will still be tannic, but much more tolerable. Then when decanted and served with a little salty protein, the tannins may no longer be a significant factor at all.

But many reds grapes have naturally low tannin levels such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Barbera. These wines are more enjoyable when served with a chill, as are most unoaked reds of any variety. You can increase the fresh, fruity aspect without danger of making them too astringent. Creeping alcohol levels across the world is yet another reasons to serve reds chilled to knock down the burn of alcohol. And because the majority of red wines produced today are intended for immediate consumption, that is, with little tannin, you can serve just about every thing in your cellar at least slightly chilled, especially in the summer and with spicy foods. Even your most prized bottle of massive, concentrated red wine is best below room temperature, which for most folks is above 20ºC.

Bottom line: serving wines cooler increases their crispness, fruitiness, and astringency, and decreases aromatic intensity. Serving wines warmer makes them seem more sweet, flabby and alcoholic, less fruity and less astringent.

Buyers’ Guide: Reds To Chill

Remelluri Lindes De Remelluri 2010 Viñedos De Labastida, Rioja, Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a classy, polished, well composed and elegant “second” wine from the respected Rioja house of Remelluri. Made from vineyards in the village of Labastida, adjacent to the historic Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri estate, it’s neither ultra modern nor traditional in style, finding it’s own just balance. I appreciate the finesse and elegance; a very classy wine over delivering by a wide margin. Best at 16ºC, from 2015-2022.

The Good Earth 2012 Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95)
John Szabo – Gamay is a classic candidate for chilling, capitalizing on the variety’s mists of strawberry, raspberry and red currants, and increasing the cut of its juicy acids. The Good Earth’s wines have improved notably since bringing on winemaker Ross Wise (also at Keint-He), and this 2012 is delightful, especially alongside a plate of charcuterie or grilled sausages.

Remuelluri Lindes de Remelluri Viñedos de Labastida 2010 The Good Earth Gamay Noir 2012 Seven Terraces Pinot Noir 2013 Lailey Merlot 2013

Seven Terraces 2013 Pinot Noir, Canterbury, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – Lighter style pinot, like this crunchy, leafy, cool climate example from Canterbury on New Zealand’s south island, needs a light chill to deliver its full message of refreshment.

Lailey 2013 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95)
John Szabo –  Merlot swings both ways, from delicate and elegant to dense and extracted. Derek Barnet’s version leans to the former style, an open, honest, no-nonsense wine with lovely fresh herbal notes, lively red and black fruit, minimal oak and maximum floral-violet character. It’s reminiscent of cool climate malbec, a positive association.

Buyers Guide: Whites (To Chill)

Dog Point Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($42.95)
John Szabo – This is a chardonnay of terrific intensity, so be sure not to serve ice cold (10-12ºC would be about right). Though the lovely, edgy, reductive-flintiness character will shine through at any temperature. A classy example from one of New Zealand’s most reliable and accomplished producers, and fine value in the worldwide context of premium chardonnay. Best 2017-2026.

Jean-Max Roger 2013 Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre, Loire, France ($26.95)
John Szabo – Here’s another terrific Sancerre from the ultra-reliable Jean-Max Roger, this one very floral and mineral, like an essence of chalk dust and sweet green herbs. Best 2015-2020.

Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2013 Momo Pinot Gris 2014 Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne

Momo 2014 Pinot Gris Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – Tone down the impression of sweetness in this rich, Alsatian-style gris with a proper chill. It’s quite unctuous and indeed off-dry with overripe orchard fruit, yet balanced by more than sufficient acids. Length and depth are excellent for the money – a terrific option with spiced-up dishes.
David Lawrason Momo is a second label of Seresin, a prominent organic producer. NZ tends to like its ‘gris’ on the lush side. This has generous ripe peach cobbler, bready, honey and floral notes. It’s quite full bodied, fleshy and warm with some firm acidity. I wouldn’t open it for refreshment in the hot sun, but over an evening meal of chicken, pork – with Asian accents – it could perform very nicely.

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Bubbles last longer in chilled wine, and are perceived as less aggressive. Low temp also hides the pinch of sugar added to virtually all sparkling wines to balance their ripping acids. This is a beautifully balanced crémant, elegant and fresh, with a fine streak of stony flavour, hazelnuts and marzipan, and fresh brioche. And half bottles ($11.95) are perfect for two.

Tenute Messieri 2012 Visioni Offida Pecorino, Marche, Italy ($16.95)
John Szabo – I love the unusual herbal and resinous, licorice, tarragon and citrus zest notes in this pecorino, a wine to take you out of the rut of standardized fruity white wines. Perfect for fresh herb-inflected salads and fish dishes on the terrace, chilled, of course.

d’Arenberg 2014 The Stump Jump White, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a creative blend from one of the iconic producers of McLaren Vale, nicely combining riesling, sauvignon with Rhone white varieties like roussanne and marsanne. It is mid-weight and quite fresh without distinct characteristics, as often is the case with blends. Nicely bridges refreshment and richness, and it has the weight to stand up to grilled foods.

Tenute Messieri Visioni Offida Pecorino 2012 d'Arenberg The Stump Jump White 2014 Crossbarn Chardonnay 2013 Wolfberger Signature Muscat 2013 Miraval Rosé 2014

Crossbarn 2013 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is from Paul Hobbs, a very successful international winemaker born and raised in a vineyard in upper New York State, and currently consulting at Stratus in Niagara.  The oak is very nicely played here – supportive of the peach fruit with leesy/vaguely toasty complexity. It’s mid-weight, serious yet fresh. A style to which more California wineries should aspire.

Wolfberger 2103 Signature Muscat, Alsace, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a dry muscat, a style that Alsace is doing better than any other region. I love the soaring aromas of lavender, spice, shaved ginger, orange marmalade and persimmon. Exotic indeed. Chill well and serve with Asian inspired salads, pad thai. I was reminded of Argentine torrontes.

Miraval 2014 Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is perhaps the best ‘Brangelina’ rose yet (by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). It’s more restrained and lower alcohol than previous years. Very pale pearl pink colour typical of Provence. Lovely soft and pure aromas of red plum, watermelon with vague herbs. It’s mid-weight, very smooth, dry and elegant. A fine afternoon sipper but do not overchill.

Ktima Gerovassiliou 2014 White, Epanomi, Greece ($18.95)
David Lawrason – No austerity measures here. This is a lively, firm blend of malagousia and assyrtiko – two principal indigenous grapes of Greece. It has a quite lifted, exotic nose of lychee, pineapple, fennel and clover honey, with some white pepper. It’s mid-weight, fresh, lively and quite spicy on the palate and finish. Very good value.

Ktima Gerovassiliou White 2014 Jermann Pinot Grigio 2014 Dal Cero Pinot Grigio 2013 Louis Jadot Clos de Malte Santenay Blanc 2011

Jermann 2014 Pinot Grigio, Venezia-Giulia, Italy ($31.95)
David Lawrason – I am dead certain most would never venture $30 on an Italian pinot grigio, but this does not mean the category can’t attain these heights. For a generation Jermann has been a leading producer of Italian white wines. And if you prize, elegance, purity, subtlety and finesse you will love this understated wine.

Dal Cero 2013 Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This was not highlighted in VINTAGES Chillable feature but add it to the list.  It is a quite lovely, light, fresh and pure pinot grigio with apple, florals and lemon. Straightforward, zesty and pure with very good length. Ideal for an Ontario summer.

Louis Jadot 2011 Clos De Malte Santenay, Burgundy, France ($39.95)
David Lawrason – A good buy in serious white Burgundy – and underpriced because Santenay doesn’t have the cachet of neighbouring Chassagne-Montrachet.  It is quite powerful, well-structured and complex with lifted notes of barrel toast, lemon curd, pear puree, candle wax and toasted almond. It is mid-weight, firm and quite dry. Excellent length. Drink over the next three years (maybe longer).

 

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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The Search for Summery Wines

The Caveman SpeaksJuly 14, 2015

By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I get asked a lot for wine suggestions, especially from my friends. Here’s a conversation that I had a few weeks back. Name was changed to protect the innocent.

Carrie: Bill, we want to buy a few cases of wine to bring with us to the country. We’re there for three weeks and I don’t want to stress about wines when we are up there. Can you suggest a few Summery wines?

Bill: What’s a Summery wine? You mean like white wines?

Carrie: You know I don’t like white that much. You keep forcing them on me and yes, they’re alright but that’s not what I am talking about. You know – summer wines.

Bill: No, I have no clue about what you are talking about. You mean rosés? Most people only drink those in the summer.

Carrie: I’ll get a few, sure. But that’s lunch and afternoon drinking. I need good reds.

Bill: Summer reds? You mean as opposed to winter reds? I didn’t realize red wine was seasonal. What are you eating?

Carrie: How would I know? Stop messing with me, you aren’t being any help at all. You’re Mr. fancy sommelier wine critic.

Bill: (Pause) So really what you are asking me is if I were to take a few cases of wine with me to the country, and that’s all I could drink, what would I bring? It’s like that desert island question where if you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be? I always answer German riesling or Champagne. You should bring lots of those.

Carrie: Yes, I remember that German wine. Didn’t we drink that last time at your place? That was yummy, but I can’t remember the name.

Bill: Hey you remembered! That was the 2013 from Selbach Oster. It’s a great pre-dinner wine when you are cooking and when you eat spicy shrimp and other seafood. And if you want a deadly little sparkling wine for cheap, try the 2013 Vouvray from Vincent Careme or the 2011 Reserva Brut Cava from Juvé y Camps.

Selbach Riesling 2013Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray Brut 2013Juvé y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava 2011

Carrie: Ok, you’ve done aperitif, how about one of your pale rosés? You’ve actually convinced me on those.

Bill: Ha! No more sip sack sweet pinks for you! Go for either the Petale de Rose or the Pive Gris. They are my go to pinks these days. For a little more full-bodied rosé, try the 2014 Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel.

Pétale de Rose 2014Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2014Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel 2014

Carrie: Okay, pinks, bubbles and rieslings. What’s good with trout if hubby can actually catch a trout.

Bill: I would go with something crisp. Try an assyrtiko from either Gaia, Sigalas or my lil jewel from Argyros.

Gaia Thalassitis Assyrtiko 2013Sigalas Santorini 2013Argyros Atlantis White 2014

Carrie: Ok, I’ll try them. Now onto the important stuff – the reds.

Bill: Oh yes, the summery reds. Barbecue wines you mean.

Carrie: Exactly.

Bill: You need a few Burger wines. You guys eat Hamburgers don’t you?

Carrie: Of course.

Bill: Sounds strange but you need a red that goes well with ketchup. A red that you can chill a bit and crank it back but with a touch of green that will go well with the ketchup. My favourite ketchup wine is carmenère. Try the Cono Sur or Carmen. They have some torque as well.

Carrie: Now you are actually helping.

Bill: No problem. This is actually fun. So now a few wines to go with barbecue sauce – ribs, chicken pieces, pork chops – stuff like that. I would go new world here – California, Australia. Wines with loads of oak and lots of fruit, alcohol sweetness, especially if your sauce is a little spicy. Take a good zinfandel like the Lake Sonoma Dry Creek Valley or Ravenswood Besieged. They are a little more expensive but worth it.

Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2013Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013Lake Sonoma Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2010Ravenswood Besieged 2013

Carrie: What about steak? We eat a lot of steak.

Bill: Steak wines. You can go wherever you want. I mean any wine with some good tannin that has done some time in oak will do. (Pause) But nothing too serious. Okay I see what you mean now by summer wines. I wouldn’t go Bordeaux, Rioja or Barolo or anything like that. I would go with wines like those zins I mentioned, or for a change try some Rhône wines. Rhône reds are great, been drinking a lot of those recently. Try the Saint Cosme, Signargues from Morel or Les Halos De Jupiter.

Château de Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2013Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2013Les Halos De Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2012

Carrie: Okay perfect, you will write everything down.

Bill: Not everything. I’ll give you a few specific wines and for the rest just find wines you want to try in the same style. But bring an ice bucket, hopefully it will be hot.

Carrie: We keep the whites in the fridge.

Bill: No, the ice bucket is for your reds. If it’s hot out, make sure it is always handy so you can dunk your bottle in it to keep temperature down. Hot red wine is gross, and you always serve your reds too warm.

Carrie: You are such a snob. You make me nervous every time you come over.

Bill: Okay, I won’t bring my own glass with me this time if it makes you feel better.

Carrie: Such a total snob.

:)

Bill

“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic’s reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – July 2015

Super Cool G&T’sJuly 13, 2015

by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Last column I promised to write more about the gin and tonic bar craze. Well summer is here and it’s time to mix up a long cool one with tips from the experts on how to make it perfect.

While the G&T seems a simple two ingredient highball, today there are a multitude of variations and ways to “perfect” the drink. In his 2014 book The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival, Matt Teacher writes about the London Gin Club in England: “Members can rejoice at the large selection of garnishes that have been specifically paired with each of the gins. The variable one has to choose from when selecting the perfect combination include the gin label, the brand of tonic, the accoutrements or garnishes, the form of ice and sometimes the addition of other flavors such as bitters.”

Toronto’s Nota Bene restaurant has a special G&T menu that enables customers to build their own by selecting first from the rotating choice of a dozen or so gins, then picking a tonic and the type of ice from the list. Two of my favourites were Botanist Gin on cubed ice with the house tonic garnished with lime wheels, cardamom and rosemary and Dillon’s Gin 22 on a single large cube of ice with Fever Tree tonic garnished with lemongrass, cucumber and dried hibiscus flowers.

The Botanist Islay Dry Gin Dillon's Unfiltered Gin 22Nota Bene’s owner Chef David Lee was inspired to do a G&T bar after his travels to Spain. On a recent trip to Spain, I too noticed Gin-Tonic bars were all the rage and have been told that “Gin Tonicá” is practically Spain’s national cocktail.

Matt Goulding in his article in time.com, wrote about Spain’s obsession with gin and tonics. “When I tell people that Spain is the best place in the world to drink a gin tonic, a drink created by the British army in India as a defense system against malaria, I’m invariably met with skepticism…. But “gin tonics” (in Spain, they use the English name, but drop the “and” so that it comes out cleaner) have captured the attention of Spain’s chefs, bartenders and alcoholics alike,” he wrote.

Apparently the country is now the world’s biggest gin consumer per capita, with demand increasing at an average of 18 percent over the past five years. I’ve not found anyone who can say why a niche taste became a mainstream mania in Spain, except perhaps that it suits the climate and Mediterranean lifestyle of the country.

The Gin-Tonic bar I went to in the historic centre of Aranda de Duero, north of Madrid, matched brands of gin with different flavours of Schweppes Tonic such as Pink Peppercorn, Orange Blossom & Lavender, and Cardamom & Ginger. I haven’t seen that range of Schweppes tonics in Canada yet but there are a growing number of artisanal tonics available both made here and abroad.

Jack's Tonique (photo: Amenh Tsan)

Jack’s Tonique (photo: Amenh Tsan)

Fever-Tree premium Indian tonic water from the UK is a great brand that blends natural botanical and quinine flavours. Q Tonic from New York claims hand-picked quinine from the Peruvian Andes. In the Atwater market in Montreal, I found Jack’s Tonique, an artisan tonic water concentrate that’s made in Gatineau from cinchona bark (the source for quinine), honey instead of sugar, fresh lemon grass, Sicilian lemon juice, ginger and lavender.

Mathieu Guillemette and Joël Beaupré launched Jack’s Tonique in the spring of 2014 to make the best G&T’s ever. They say their tonic goes particularly well with Tanqueray, Dillon’s gin from Niagara, North of 7 gin from Ottawa and Piger Henricus gin from Quebec. You can find stores that carry Jack’s via their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JacksTonique

This brings us to the question of what gin to use in a G&T. Beyond the obvious – aka your favourite – I’d say switch around depending upon what flavours you’re in the mood for.

In Canada, more and more delightful gins are being made by artisan producers. Ungava made by Domaine Pinnacle in Quebec is flavoured with indigenous Canadian botanicals of our far north such as Nordic juniper, Labrador tea leaf, crowberry, cloudberry and wild rose hips. Piger Henricus gin from Quebec features parsnips as its secret ingredient along with juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon peel and cardamom.

Ungava Canadian Premium GinPiger Henricus GinGeorgian Bay GinParlour Gin

Dillon’s in Beamsville, makes their Unfiltered Gin 22, by passing vapour through 22 botanicals. Georgian Bay Gin vapour infused with wild juniper, earthy angelica, lavender and more is bright with juniper and clean fresh botanical notes.

Alberta’s aromatic and well spiced Parlour Gin from Eau Claire distillery has the traditional juniper notes along with hints of rosehip, Saskatoon berry, mint, coriander and citrus that finish with cinnamon and ginger spice.

Victoria Gin, hand produced in small batches on Vancouver Island and distilled from ten botanicals (natural and wild gathered) is packed with personality. With Vancouver’s triple distilled Yaletown Gin, juniper and coriander jump forward in the bouquet.

Victoria GinYaletown Craft GinThe London No. 1 GinSipsmith London Dry Gin

London is the home of gin – so naturally there are many lovely ones to recommend from the mother country. The London Gin #1 is instantly recognizable by its distinct azure blue colour and sophisticated palate. Sipsmith London Dry Gin is a relative newcomer that’s beautifully crafted. Broker’s Premium London Dry delivers a delightful well-balanced style that’s value priced.

Death's Door Gin Broker's Premium London Dry GinNew to Canada from Wisconsin is Death’s Door Gin, with a focus on just three botanicals: juniper, coriander and fennel seeds.

The final step to a great G&T is the glass itself. Regarding that, bartenders are increasingly recommending serving G&T in a balloon shaped glass with plenty of ice and a garnish tailored to the flavours of the gin to best enhance the experience. (The balloon shape gathers the aromas of the drink at its opening.)

The gin and tonic has been raised to an art form. One that delights and refreshes the palate, far removed from its medicinal past.

Margaret Swaine

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on: Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits

Editors Note: You can find Margaret’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great spirits!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 11 – Part Two

Cool Chard and Hot Reds
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The annual three-day homage called the i4c – International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration – is almost upon us, this July 17th-19th at various venues across the Niagara Peninsula. The 5th edition of the i4c features some 60 wineries, about half from Canada and the other half representing cool pockets of chardonnay from every continent. And Ontario is poised to show very well in the international context. The VINTAGES July 11th release supports the event with a feature selection of wines that will be poured over the weekend; David and I have previewed our favourites in this report, along with our top red picks.

If you plan on attending this excellent affair but haven’t made your plans yet, consider joining the WineAlign luxury bus trip to the signature event of the i4c weekend on Saturday night, the World Tour Grand Tasting & Dinner (details below). The really keen can taste all 121 chardonnays – the only event where every wine in attendance will be cracked – while chatting directly with winery principals and jostling for position with respected writers and sommeliers from home and abroad, including keynote speaker Matt Kramer from the Wine Spectator.

I’ll be waist-deep in chardonnay all weekend, starting first thing on Friday morning over three fascinating panel discussions for the “School of Cool” at the White Oaks Resort. I’m tasked with prodding panelists, keeping passions under control, and discourses on track for topics as potentially explosive as “Does Minerality Exist?”, or as much discussed as “The Taste/Aroma of Cool [chardonnay]”, and as misunderstood as “All That Sparkles”, a discussion on the effects of lees ageing, longevity of bubbles, oxidative vs. reductive handling and much more. It will be as serious as it sounds, with panels loaded with perspectives based on hard science and deep experience, from researchers, professors, winemakers and journalists. Too geeky, you say? Apparently not. The 350 tickets available tickets are already virtually sold out, so act fast if you want in.

Will Ontario Chardonnay Perform?

The i4c was born from the belief that chardonnay in Ontario performs consistently, and well, and from the desire to share that news with the rest of the world. But boldly, the group who dreamed up the idea wanted to show their wines alongside the best from every other cool(ish) place on the planet, not in isolation, confident that the home team would not be routed. Although it’s a celebration not a competition, such events inevitably invite comparisons. In light of the impressive chardonnay flights the WineAlign cru experienced in June at the National Wine Awards – for me among the most convincing flights in the entire competition – and many more recent tastings of local wines, I’m confident that Ontario chardonnay will impress in this international context. Most of the wines at the i4c are from two strong but very different vintages, the giving and voluptuous 2012s, and the tighter and more finely tuned 2013s. Price and value are relative equations, but again I say with confidence that if regions like Burgundy and California were producing wines of the same quality and price as is Ontario, in the $20 to $40 range, there would be worldwide street parties. As it stands, I suggest you come and party in Ontario. And note that this is pure pragmatism, not flag-waving.

Buyers’ Guide to Cool Chard

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Dix Neuvieme Chardonnay 2012Pearl Morissette 2012 Cuvée Dix-Neuvième Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($35.20)
John Szabo – Those familiar with the wines of François Morissette already know the idiosyncracies of his range, crafted with minimal intervention and very low sulphur. No effort is made to mask the ripeness of 2012, and this is as texturally rich, full-bodied and creamy as it gets in Ontario, appealing on its depth of flavour, the sheer weight imparted by both full ripeness, and the exceptional length. It’s a different paradigm for Ontario chardonnay, but one that works, and which should be part of the panoply adding depth to the region. Despite the oxidative feel, the wine is stable and should continue to age, and move though several phases of evolution.

Flat Rock 2012 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)
John Szabo – Just starting to open nicely, Flatrock’s Rusty Shed 2012 is a lovely, elegant, seamlessly integrated chardonnay, deftly oak-influenced and texturally very attractive. Best-2015-2020.
David Lawrason –If you like your Ontario chardonnay with more opulence and generosity then look to the 2012 vintage, and Flat Rock’s easy going style. This is a rolling and ready to drink chardonnay with complex slightly reductive/flinty notes, lemon, toasted almond and generous green pineapple/pear fruit.

Le Clos Jordanne 2012 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($40.00 Winery)
John Szabo – Winemaker Sebastien Jacquey crafted a beautiful 2012 Claystone, managing the warm season by picking at precisely the right moment, not too late, retaining crucial vibrant acids, and then adding back flesh and weight with long ageing on the lees (at least that’s how I see it). This has a lovely, slightly nutty profile, terrific, lemony acids and a pleasantly yeasty-toasty finish. New barrels, it seems, were in the small minority. With Jacquey now gone from Le Clos, all eyes are on the winery’s future.

Henry Of Pelham 2013 Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95 Winery)
John Szabo – It’s delightful to see this top tier wine crafted with such restraint and delicacy – I suppose it’s the confidence that comes with 30 years in the business that allows you to let the vines and vineyard speak most loudly. Wood is indeed a minor, integrated component in the overall flavour profile, which is focused more on ripe pear and orange-citrus fruit, spiked with sea salt and gentle old wood spice. The length is excellent – there’s genuine presence and depth here.

Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2012Henry of Pelham Speck Family ChardonnayCave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2013 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2013 Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2012

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Cave Spring has been making good whites for so long it’s easy to take them for granted. Angelo Pavan’s slim, taut style is right in the wheelhouse of the 2013 vintage, which may be the best of the decade for whites so far. Add in maturing vines and the brand is only getting even better. Great value in Chablis-esque chardonnay.

Hamilton Russell 2013 Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($37.95)
David Lawrason – From a classicist and pioneer of South Africa’s most exciting chardonnay region, this is full bodied, quite powerful and complex. It’s a riveting chardonnay that holds your attention from start to finish, sip to sip, glass to glass. Although you may want to serve it with grilled seafood or poultry rather than pour it as a summer sipper.

Bachelder 2012 Oregon Chardonnay Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($29.95)
John Szabo – Thomas Bachelder’s 2012 Oregon chardonnay is showing very well at the moment, representing the Willamette with style. What really beguiles is the sensation of sapidity and salinity, not to mention the great length. At the price, it is an excellent value, although it might be a touch soft to go long distance – ’12 was very warm – so enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Best 2015-2020.

Buyers’ Guide to July 11 Reds

Uccelliera 2012 Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Tuscany, Italy ($31.95)
Omaggio A Gino Friedmann Lambrusco Di Sorbara 2013 Uccelliera Rosso Di Montalcino 2012John Szabo – A full, ripe, ambitious Rosso with evident depth, density and pleasant salinity, from one of Montalcino’s best. Drink 2015-2022.

Omaggio a Gino Friedmann 2013 Lambrusco Di Sorbara, DOC, Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($14.95)
John Szabo – Pale pink in the Lambrusco di Sorbara style (Sorbara is the sub-biotype of the large Lambrusco family of grapes), this is all strawberry shortcake and red currant jam on the nose, but just when you were expecting a sweet palate, this enters bone dry and sharp, like a welcome session of electric shock therapy. Tart red fruit/cranberry flavours linger. Hardly a monument of complexity, but a great charcuterie wine to be sure, and the classy package looks far more expensive than the $15 price tag.

Beyra Vinhos De Altitude 2012 Red, DOC Beira Interior, Portugal  ($12.95)
John Szabo – A thoroughly satisfying wine for $13, from the granite inland mountains of central Portugal, zesty, fresh, fruity, with enough roundness to please widely, and enough cut to please the punters. Serve with a light chill.

Tawse 2013 Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Gamay is maturing into a bona fide variety in Canada, with the recent National Wine Awards highlighting the strength of this variety in our coolish regions (results coming soon). This is a lovely light yet serious gamay with classy, pure aromas of strawberry/cherry compote, fresh herbs, pepper and a touch of salami\like meatiness.

Buena Vista 2011 Pinot Noir, Carneros, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This intense and surprisingly complex pinot once resided on the LCBO’s general list (sorry to see it moved off to more sporadic distribution). But it is here for now, and worth grabbing a handful as a current grilling season pinot, as its now showing just a touch of maturity. It’s a California pinot with French leanings. The winery was purchased fairly recently by Boisset of Burgundy.

Beyra Vinhos De Altitude Red 2012Tawse 2013 Gamay NoirBuena Vista Pinot Noir 2011 Valentin Bianchi Malbec 2013 Dominio Del Plata Crios Limited Edition Red Blend 2013

Famiglia Bianchi 2013 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.95)
David Lawrason. I am increasingly impressed by Bianchi’s reds – there is a just a touch of more restrained Euro classicism in era where many peers are going for fruit opulence and generosity at every turn. This is a dense, spicy, concentrated young malbec that could age nicely for five years.

Dominio Del Plata 2013 Crios Limited Edition Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina ($14.95)
David Lawrason. They would do better to state that this a tannat on the label (90% tannat and 10% syrah). This variety is showing fine potential in Argentina, bringing structure that malbec often lacks. The colour is deep, the nose is brooding with some iron and dried ripe berry fruit.  It’s full bodied, dense and balanced, and great value at $14.95.

WineAlign i4c Bus Tour Details

i4c Bus TourYour evening begins with the Grand Tasting – the only public tasting event that showcases all of the wines of the i4c. Taste your way through the realm of Cool Climate Chardonnays, self-explore at the ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ station – an interactive palate profiler, and sip bubbly and slurp oysters at the pre-dinner reception. Then, join Chef Paul Harber of Ravine Vineyard Restaurant and Chef Craig Youdale of the Canadian Food & Wine Institute and their dream team of vineyard chefs for a family-style feast Ontario-style. After dinner, enjoy the “Après Chardonnay” bar featuring the Ontario winemakers’ favourite RED wines, the popular Craft Brewery bar, and dance under the stars.

We feel we’ve put together a fantastic evening. The cost of the i4c tasting and dinner alone is $150 + taxes. Add on the expense of driving from Toronto to Niagara and you’re already well north of $200. By joining WineAlign you’ll not only get round trip luxury transportation, grand tasting & dinner; but you’ll also get reserved seating, a souvenir T-shirt and a Summer of Chardonnay Passport, for $225.00 all in (incl’ taxes, fees and gratuities). And you don’t even have to drive.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

All-in Price: $225

Bus Itinerary:
Depart Kipling Subway Station: 3:15pm
Pickup at Burlington Go Station (Fairview & Brant): 3:50pm
Arrive at i4c, Ridley College, St. Catharines: 4:45pm
Depart i4c: 10:30pm
Arrive at Kipling: 11:45pm

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

From VINTAGES July 11th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews
VINTAGES July 11th Part One – Spain’s Diversity

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011


Argentine Wine Jam & BBQ

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What’s New at the LCBO – July 2015

Between our VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide and Steve Thurlow’s top picks from the LCBO Wines, we have the whole store covered each and every month.

Tour de France, Portugal, Spain, Ontario …
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The French section of the LCBO has been refreshed with several new wines for around $18 from Bordeaux and the Rhône. I have picked four that I recommend plus some new well priced selections from Ontario and New Zealand. The LCBO has also added to the Portuguese and Spanish sections, so  you can find several new wines in your local store to try.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated. I have selected eleven new wines that have refreshed the system out of the 70 or so that I have tried since I last reported. Some are on shelf already; the rest will arrive over next few weeks.

Anyway, I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal, then sign in to WineAlign to check on inventory at your local LCBO which should be set up as your Favourite Store in Find Wine at WineAlign.

You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to reviews of great value wines!

REDS

Quinta Do Valdoeiro Baga, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah 2011 Bairrada, Portugal ($12.95) – A fresh lively blend of the indigenous grape baga with two other grapes. Try with roast meats.

Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 Chile ($12.95) – A pure flavourful organic cabernet for a great price.

Chateau Fort Lignac 2012, Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($18.95) – A dense oaky modern Bordeaux ready for fine dining now or into your cellar for later.

Quinta Do Valdoeiro Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 Chateau Fort Lignac 2012 Lavau 2011 Chateau Haut Langlade 2012 Chateau Tour Carmail 2011

Lavau 2011, Cotes Du Rhone Villages, Rhone, France ($12.90) – A very youthful 2011 Rhone red, lively with mild tannin.

Chateau Haut Langlade 2012, Montagne Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, France ($19.95) – A juicy red Bordeaux with some cellar potential but great now with roast meats or mature cheese.

Chateau Tour Carmail 2011, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France ($19.95) – A classically styled Bordeaux that has a traditional French feel to it; balance, oak and length are all good.

WHITES

Fasto Verdejo 2014, Rueda Spain ($11.30 + 6 BAMs until July 18th) – Rueda is the hot category for inexpensive fresh dry whites in Europe these days. The wines from this region are made from the verdejo grape. This fresh pure dry white should help the cause in ON. Try with seafood, chicken and mildly flavoured veal.

Long Weekend Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($12.95) – A well priced fresh aromatic juicy white from Fielding Estate; good for sipping but fine also for seafood or chicken appetizers.

Fasto Verdejo 2014 Long Weekend Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 2014 Banero Extra Dry Prosecco Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2013

Banero Extra Dry Prosecco, Veneto, Italy ($14.05) – This juicy fresh prosecco is well priced with nice clean lines, a soft mousse and explosive flavours. It is also kosher certified.

Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($15.90) -A crisp classic kiwi sauvignon for a good price. Sautéed seafood or creamy goats cheese would both be good food matches.

Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara ($23.95 VINTAGES Essentials) – An elegant nervy very typical Niagara riesling. A very versatile food wine.

*****

We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check our my list of Top 50 wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated list in our WineAlign’s Top 20 Under $20 report.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


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Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay


International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 11th – Part One

Spain’s Diversity Uncorked (Sort of)
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Spanish wine continues to surprise, challenge and often delight both the palate and the pocket book. In May I spent a week in the Catalonia region, first in Priorat then in Penedès and Barcelona with its umpteen thousand restaurants. I had expected to be wowed by Priorat (about which I will write in depth soon) but I had not expected to be so impressed by the range, diversity and quality of the sparklers, whites (in particular) and reds emerging from other Catalan DOs (appellations) like Conca de Barbera, Costers del Segre and Terra Alta. And to think that such diversity, and such greatly improved winemaking, is being replicated in regions large and small from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and south into the centre of the country as well.

This VINTAGES release aims to showcase Spain’s regional and varietal diversity, and provides some decent value wines en route, if no stunning “must buy values”. But I would love to see more specialized regional releases from Spain. When was the last time VINTAGES mounted a feature solely on “France”, or “Italy”? Never! Spain’s regions need to be embraced the same way as Tuscany or Bordeaux or the Southern Rhône. And it certainly has enough regional diversity to provide several features over several months.

I have heard from two reputable sources that VINTAGES put out “a call” for Spanish wine submissions and received about 1,400 applications (on paper). Less than 50 were actually sampled, and only 15 were purchased (that’s just over 1%). The first shocker is that so many Spanish wineries want access to the LCBO/Ontario market; the second is just how ridiculously limited VINTAGES offerings are, with no other available retail venues for the wines. (See last month’s rant about Canadian wine for the reason why).

So yes, Spain is a brave new world for wine exploration and if you are curious you should seriously consider travelling there to grasp its vinous depth. Never mind that it is one of the most historically rich countries in the world. And that the food is fantastic as well, reaching far beyond stereotypes of paella, jamon and tapas.

WineAlign Bus to I4CThis week John and I offer our recommendations from the Spanish release, while Sara vacations and tastes in the south of France. We also offer other white wine finds. Next week John leads off with chardonnays coming to VINTAGES and the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration July 17-19. We have a handful of seats remaining on the WineAlign bus to the Grand Tasting & Dinner on July 18. John Szabo will be joining the group for dinner, so you can compare tasting notes at the al fresco feast.

Spanish Cavas and Whites

Juvé & Camps 2011 Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava, Penedès, Spain ($18.95)

David Lawrason – Fine character and complexity here from one of the most highly regarded producers of Penedès. It is aged 24 months on its lees before release. It shows a generous, complex nose of baked peach, hazelnut and dried flowers with a touch of lees. Nicely fresh but has some substance as well.
John Szabo – Another terrific Cava, on the more mature, richer side of the spectrum, for use at the table rather than aperitif hour.

Gramona 2006 Iii Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava, Penedès, Spain ($49.95)

John Szabo – This was a brave listing by the LCBO, a $50 wine in a category that rarely exceeds $20. The wine, however, is absolutely superb. This has all of the class and complexity of great traditional method sparkling wine, crafted in artisanal fashion by Jaume and Xavier Gramona, the fifth generation of a family business established in 1881. If you thought Cava was trapped in the cheap and cheerful bubbly category, this will change your mind.

Juvé & Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava 2011 Gramona Iii Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava 2006 Finca Las Caraballas Verdejo 2013 Pansa Blanca 2014

Finca Las Caraballas 2013 Verdejo,Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, Spain ($16.95)

David Lawrason – This is an organically produced, fairly deeply coloured young Verdejo. Not from Rueda but is made in the proximity. It is almost overripe with yellow plum jam/raisiny fruit, fennel, nut shell and waxiness. Quite full bodied, very smooth, with great flavour depth.
John Szabo – This will be a polarizing wine, already golden amber and clearly made in a highly oxidative style. But forget the standard paradigms. Is the wine good? On that score, the wine succeeds. This is like a juicy, overripe mango that has fallen from the tree, sprinkled with sea salt and a squeeze of lemon and tangerine. For the price, it’s worth the punt to expand your horizons.

Alta Alella 2014 Pansa Blanca, Catalunya, Spain ($14.95)

David Lawrason – Pansa Blanca is a local name for the xarel-lo grape, one of three used in Cava. This still wine version is produced by Alta Allela, a leading organic producer. It is very brightly made – no organic funk here. Expect fairly reserved, almost overripe yellow plum, mild fresh mint and spice.

Spanish Reds & Fortified

Cune 2010 Reserva, Rioja ($23.95)

Bodegas Ochoa Reserva 2007 Cune Reserva 2010John Szabo – Traditional Rioja is one of the great wines of the world, and CVNE (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España), a grand old Bodega in the heart of Haro in the Rioja Alta, is one of the protagonists. Since 1879 they’ve been crafting wines like this Reserva, finely balanced, mid-weight, firm, nicely chiseled. Although drinkable now, this will be much better in 2-4 years, or hold until the mid ’20s without issue.
David Lawrason – This is quite refined, well balanced young Rioja from a classic, traditional producer. The nose shows fairly generous, soft aromas of cherry, vanillin, cedar and burlap/earthiness. It’s mid-weight, fairly tender yet generous.

Bodegas Ochoa 2007 Reserva, Navarra  ($24.95)

David Lawrason – This single vineyard tempranillo-cabernet-merlot blend has an engaging, very lifted nose of rosemary/mint, blackcurrant with meaty notes and some soya character. It’s mid-weight, elegant, dense and lifted with vibrant acidity.

Peña 2010 Roble Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain ($21.95)

John Szabo – A mid-weight, balanced, lively, saliva-inducing tempranillo, with light, dusty tannins and firm acids. This works nicely on a gastronomic level.

Maetierra Dominum 2007 Quatro Pagos, Rioja ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This is a ‘vino do pago’ or estate wine, assembled from four separately vinified sites (quarto pagos) belonging to a winery called Maetierra Dominum. It’s based on tempranillo; a mature Rioja showing lifted meaty, smoky, spicy and dark cherry notes. It’s medium-full bodied and quite dense, with some liveliness and further ageing potential.

Tomàs Cusiné 2013 Llebre, Costers del Segre ($15.95)

David Lawrason – This is a fresh young tempranillo (called llebre in Catalan) from an inland region of Catalonia. It has a lifted, spicy, peppery almost Rhonish nose with violets and generous wood spice. It’s quite soft, a touch sweet with some warmth (14% alc) and generosity.

Peña Roble Crianza 2010 Maetierra Dominum QP 2007 Tomàs Cusiné Llebre 2013 Chapillon Siendra 2011 Gonzalez Byass Del Duque Amontillado Viejo

Chapillon Siendra 2011, Calatayud ($14.95)

David Lawrason – This is from Bodegas Langa, the oldest and largest family winery in the interior, high altitude region of Calatayud. It is 80% old vine garnacha spiced with cabernet, merlot and syrah. The nose is almost sweet with violet/pansy florality, chocolate and ripe plummy/blackberry fruit. It’s open-knit, dense, soft and a bit sweet.

Gonzalez Byass Del Duque Vors Amontillado, Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum, Jerez, ($38.95)

Antonio Flores, Gonzalez-Byass

Antonio Flores, Gonzalez-Byass

John Szabo – Terrific to see this back on our shelves, an outstanding old Amontillado, one of my favourites from the excellent Gonzalez-Byass range. VORS means a minimum of 30 years of age, and the first whiff is “like opening the door of an antique shop” according to capataz Antonio Flores, in a fireworks display of complexity. The palate is explosive, powerful, yet still suave and smooth, with tremendous length. Needless to say, value is off the charts.

Other International Whites

Salomon-Undhof 2013 Kremser Tor Grüner Veltliner, Alte Reben, Kremstal, Austria ($21.95)

David Lawrason – From a classic Kremstal-based producer dating back over 200 years, this is a bright, rich and quite fruity young grüner – a bit softer than some, but it has polish and freshness. Expect gentle aromas of yellow pear/plum fruit. It is great to find this quality at the $20 mark.
John Szabo – If you like wines with a sense of place, you can’t go wrong with this genuine old vine beauty. I love the substance without excessive ripeness, and at 13.5% declared, this hits a fine balance. Give it another year in the bottle to really come together.

Domaine Des Baumard 2011 Clos de Saint Yves Savennières, Loire, France ($34.95)

John Szabo – For some inexplicable reason, the top wines of Savennières have never achieved the prices of other great whites from around the world, but they surely should be counted among them. This is ultra-classic chenin blanc with its honest, wet hay, barley, wheat cracker, and honey flavours, very generous texturally but shapely and firm, but more importantly, chock-full of sapid, salty mineral character. It’s the sort of timeless wine you can enjoy now or in a decade, or more. Best 2015-2026.

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara 2013 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95)

David Lawrason – For several years now Tawse Sketches Riesling has been punching above its weight. Not in terms of complexity and structure, but in delivering effortless, super bright, balanced, sippable riesling with textbook fruit, florals and just enough minerality. The excellent 2013 white vintage in Niagara adds to its cachet. A great buy under $20.

Salomon Undhof Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner 2013 Domaine Des Baumard Clos Saint Yves Savennières 2011Tawse Sketches Riesling 2013Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Vieilles Vignes 2014 Reinhold Haart To Heart Piesport Riesling 2013

Gerovassiliou 2014 Malagousia Vieilles Vignes, IGP Epanomi, Macedonia, Greece ($23.95)

John Szabo – I reckon you might as well have your introduction to this variety from the man who literally rescued it from near oblivion in the 1970s. Gerovassiliou is still the reference for Malagousia in Greece (and thus the world), and his 2014, a full, rich, fleshy, abundantly fruity wine, drinks like top end viognier.

Reinhold Haart 2013 Haart To Heart Piesport Riesling, Mosel ($19.95)

John Szabo – A terrific Mosel riesling to buy by the case, from one of the great producers in Piesport. I’d swear there is some declassified “GG” (Grosses Gewächs, or grand cru) blended in here.

And that’s a wrap for this edition. WineAlign has set new readership records in recent weeks, during a traditionally slower season. We thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm. We hope you are enjoying some down time during our not-yet-too-hot summer.

Cheers!

From VINTAGES July 11th, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011


International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27 – Part Two

Canada is Bigger than Canada Day
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

As VINTAGES releases its token selection of new Canadian wines this week ahead of Canada Day – all ten of them among 120 new releases – John, Sara, Michael and I plus other WineAlign critics are in Niagara judging over 1400 Canadian wines at the National Wine Awards of Canada. I have never been one to overplay patriotism as a reason to drink Canadian wine, firmly believing that quality must be the driver of its success. These annual awards are a significant tool to that end, helping winemakers benchmark themselves, and providing consumers with the names of those wines that stand out. We will certainly be displaying the winners in the weeks ahead. Your inbox will be buzzing with the news.

But I am disappointed that VINTAGES, during Canada’s national week, has not greatly bumped up its Canadian representation. Why not devote an entire release to Canadian wine? There are certainly enough very good wines out there from B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Well here’s why it’s not happening. The LCBO has a template that prescribes how many wines, from which countries/regions, get released every two weeks. And it’s really all about store/shelf management – keeping the same number of SKUs in the same locations within the same stores week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Arguably it is for the shopping ease and familiarity of consumers, but it’s more for the convenience of unionized staff. Heaven forbid they would have to create a new, enticing display of 100 great new Canadian wines on Canada Day. Much easier to plaster big very expensive posters in the window and call that a promotion.

I am not blaming any individual within the LCBO, except perhaps its leadership. The LCBO’s intrinsic and historic inflexibility is one reason that the Canadian wine industry – and those of all other countries in fact – are crying for some form of privatization. A model that will allow at least a tripling of SKUs sold within a network of stores that includes supermarkets, cold beer and wine stores, fine wine stores and regionally dedicated shops (these all exist elsewhere in Canada). A network that will allow the elasticity required to manage the ebb and flow of a product so wonderfully diverse as wine.

This summer I am more hopeful than ever. We are on the eve of major change in Ontario. By September ex-TD Bank chairman Ed Clark, mandated by Kathleen Wynn’s Liberals, is supposed to propose how wine in supermarkets might work. Which of course will be a welcome start when it finally does come about. But as listed above, supermarkets are only one piece of a much more diverse template that is required.

The Ontario wine industry itself is strongly in favour of independent wine shops selling both Ontario and imported wine. This a bold and crucial stance, because as I said, patriotism should not be the only reason that we buy Canadian wine. It must compete head to head in a fair retail environment, and at least some of Ontario’s winemakers have figured that out – often those that do best in the National Wine Awards.

My greatest hope is that Ed Clark also believes this. That he beats back the howls of the vested interests who seek advantage for themselves over what makes sense for the industry at large and the consumers it serves. Wine in supermarkets is a huge first step, but independent stores must soon follow.

As an interim step the existing private retail licenses granted to the large Ontario wineries before 1988 must be re-distributed among the many interests selling Canadian and imported wines. Ontario’s international trade partners cannot, and will not, disagree. When it is proven to work – which it will – many more licenses need to be made available. As many as the market demands. And Ontario will finally join the rest of the globe in terms of natural wine retailing. We are still, as we speak, an anomaly on this planet. And we are widely ridiculed.

We ask you to celebrate Canada Day with a bottle of Canadian wine, but in the true spirit of Canadian globalism, if you decide that a wine from France, Chile or New Zealand is what you want in the moment then do so without guilt. Canada welcomes all. Canada is bigger than Canada Day. Every person contributing to wine production somewhere in the world matters too.

Here are our picks from the June 27th release, plus a couple of recently tasted Canadian selections from VINTAGES Essentials

Canadian Wines

Vieni Estates 2012 Foch Vintage Reserve Ontario Canada ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Canada’s wine industry began with hybrids like marechal foch, and a few remaining old vine versions garner an almost cult-like following (eight were entered in this year’s wine awards). This deep, gnarly, rustic red explains their curious durability.
John Szabo – This is one of the best hybrid wines I’ve come across in long-term memory, great for the back yard or cottage with is smoky, forest floor, resinous herbs and dried plum flavours.

Calamus 2013 Steely Unoaked Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($14.95)

David Lawrason – Unoaked chardonnay is often boring, giving us no reason not to drink pinot grigio instead (which can also be boring). This is a nicely fresh, quite fulsome unoaked chardonnay with ripe pear, florals and honey. Calamus has re-designed its labels and found some new energy  in its wines of late.

Vieni Foch Vintage Reserve 2012 Calamus Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 Sperling Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2013 Malivoire Musqué Spritz 201413th Street Cabernet Merlot 2012

Sperling 2013 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley ($28.95)

David Lawrason – Born and raised on the family’s vineyard in East Kelowna, Anne Sperling is better known in Ontario as the veteran winemaker at Southbrook and formerly Malivoire. She also commutes home to BC to tend Sperling Vineyards. This is a quite delicate, off-dryish gewurz  from estate vines well positioned on a south-facing hill overlooking west Kelowna and the lake.

Malivoire 2014 Musqué Spritz Beamsville Bench, ($19.95)

John Szabo – Lively, fresh, off-dry, and yes, spritzy, Malivoire’s 2014 Musqué Spritz is an infinitely drinkable, aperitif-friendly white that goes down with alarming ease. A great wine to have around the house for the summer, for those impromptu afternoon occasions.

13th Street 2012 Cabernet Merlot, Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

David Lawrason – The 2012 vintage is perhaps the best all ‘round vintage Niagara has seen to date. Having been dealt nicely ripened fruit, JP Colas has delivered a quite lifted complex cab/merlot blend with notes of slightly stewed raspberry currant, herbs, leather, grilled red pepper and fresh herbs.

Culmina 2012 Hypothesis, Okanagan Valley ($39.95)

David Lawason – Since departing Jackson-Triggs when the label was sold to US-based Constellation Brands, Donald Triggs and his family have been carving out an ambitious new vineyard project on the benches of the south Okanagan’s Golden Mile. This is a very serious, sculpted, deep merlot-based red.
Sara d’Amato – From the recently delimited, sub-appellation of Golden Mile Bench, this BC Bordeaux blend has the complexity of left bank Bordeaux but the appealing, generous nature of a new world. Youthful and spicy but with excellent structure for mid to long term cellaring.

Culmina Hypothesis 2012 Malivoire Chardonnay 2012 Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2013 Queylus Reserve Du Domaine Merlot Cabernet Franc 2010

Malivoire 2012 Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

John Szabo – Made from essentially all Beamsville Bench fruit, Malivoire’s 2012 is a typically ripe and flowery, gently oaked, lively and well-balanced chardonnay. Acids are crisp and lively, and fruit is in the ripe orchard spectrum. Lovely wine, well priced.

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95)

John Szabo – Cave Spring’s 2013 riesling is just off-dry but balanced, lively and vibrant, with arch-typical riesling profile – as reliable as they come.

Queylus 2010 Reserve du Domaine Merlot Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($39.95)

Sara d’Amato – A head turning Bordeaux blend from the hands of one of Canada’s most celebrated consultant winemakers, Thomas Bachelder. From rose and violets to blackcurrants and plums, this fleshy but structured palate is swoon-worthy.

International Reds

Finca Sophenia 2013 Reserve Malbec, Tupungato, Mendoza ($17.95)

David Lawrason – This is a very pretty, floral and lifted malbec that doesn’t succumb to oak from the high country at the north end of Mendoza’a Uco Valley.

Château Pey De Pont 2010, Médoc, Bordeaux $21.95

David Lawrason – The 2010 vintage continues to deliver great value among the petits chateaux. With well layered currants, spice, herbs, vanilla and a hint of maturing leather, this is ready to roll and should hold over the next three to five years.

Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec 2013 Château Pey De Pont 2010 Gran Passione Rosso 2013 Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux La Tour Sarrasine Gigondas 2012

Gran Passione 2013 Rosso, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)

David Lawrason – Lots here for $16! This is a very smooth, ripe and easy going ripasso with very good density. It has a nicely lifted nose of plum/cherry fruit, chocolate, some underlying meatiness and herbs.

Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux 2012 La Tour Sarrasine Gigondas, Rhône France ($28.95)

John Szabo – A complete southern Rhône package here, classy and compelling, drinking well now, but should also hold a decade in the cellar quite comfortably. Best 2015-2025.

Il Molino Di Grace 2007 Il Margone Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany. Italy ($34.95)

John Szabo – There’s a lot of wine here for the money; this drinks up there with Brunello costing twice as much. I love the fully mature, earthy, mushroom and wet clay/wood- oxidative feel. There’s a touch of funk here to be sure, but it melds seamlessly with the rest of the ensemble. Best 2015-2022.

Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux La Tour Sarrasine Gigondas 2012 Il Molino Di Grace Il Margone Riserva Chianti Classico 2007 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah 2012 Sileni The Triangle Merlot 2013

2012 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah AC Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France ($18.95)

John Szabo – Here’s a fine value, lively and authentic syrah, floral and very pretty, with elegant tannins and vibrant acids. Very classy, and really well priced.  Best 2015-2020.
Sara d’Amato – Costieres de Nimes’ milder climate sandwiched between the southern Rhone and the Languedoc provides a haven for finicky syrah, allowing it to express itself in all its peppery and floral glory. An excellent value that has crowd-pleasing appeal.

Sileni 2013 The Triangle Merlot, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – Since the late 90s, Sileni has been producing a wide range of wines in the milder climate of Hawke’s Bay. This standout merlot shows terrific concentration and fruit but with a nervy acidic backbone that makes it versatile with food.

Ermete Medici & Figli Concerto 2013And for Something Special on the Patio This Summer…..

Medici Ermete & Figli 2013 Arte E Concerto Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna  Italy ($19.95)

John Szabo – A long-time standard-bearer for Lambrusco, Medici Ermete’s Concerto, made from the Salamino member of the vast lambrusco family of grapes, is a deeply-coloured, very fruity and engaging wine, essentially dry (10 grams of residual sugar) and light-mid weight on the palate (11.5% alcohol). I like the dark berry flavours, the floral and peppery notes reminiscent of syrah done in carbonic maceration. Decent length. Perfect for the charcuterie board (is it a coincidence that the grape is named salamino, after the salami-like shape of its bunches?).

From VINTAGES June 27th, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

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