The story so far: It’s late November 2016. In a dank and dark room at KGBO command center, three strategists are in a secret meeting. What is the sole topic on the agenda you ask? Well, that topic is the wines that the KGBO will allow the citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario to buy in the January 21 2017 release. Three Starbuck’s low-fat-triple-shot lattes have been consumed. People are sitting comfortably in their chair. Let’s be a fly-on-the-wall and observe their discussion.
KGBO Person 1: Okay, before we start the meeting let me remind everyone of our guiding principle…”we are the KGBO and we will tell you what you are allowed to buy today”.
KGBO Person 2: [momentarily looking up from his iPhone 7 Plus and removing his earbuds] Dude, I love that theme. I love this place. I love coming to work. Where else can I guy like me sit in a windowless-damp room in a crappy basement, play with their phone during a meeting, AND get to control a market worth billions of dollars?
[Evil laughter spontaneously erupts]
KGBO Person 3: Okay, we’re on the same page, what wines will we hock in the second release of January? The early January release was “smart buys”. When we did that release I was bored as a blind man watching a silent movie. Let’s do something exciting!
KGBO Person 2: Do you have shit for brains? Have you forgotten what’s going down in January? Hydro rate increases, Christmas bills, carbon taxes, we can’t allow exciting. If we take that approach we risk a people’s revolt. They can’t handle exciting at this time. We have to allow cheap. Only cheap! Cheap I say. My vote is for cheap.
KGBO Person 1: Spot on. We stick with the script. We will allow the sheep, I mean “citizens”, to buy cheap in January. We wait for February, specifically Valentine’s Day, and then we play upon human guilt. That’s when we will allow them to buy more expensive mediocre wine!
[Evil laughter spontaneously erupts].
KBGO Person 2: Did I mention how much I love my job? I got to go and charge my phone and my earbuds.
Yes, the focus of the January 21 Vintage release continues to be on value. Reading through the release notes you will notice dozens of sub $15 bottles of wine. My attempt to find wines worthy of my money focused on five wines.
Before getting to the specifics permit me to mention the fun we had performing the tasting for this release. I spent the weekend in Ottawa and was fortunate to get a last minute dinner party invitation on Saturday night. Bottom line is I had lots of input and perspective. One outcome that really has me thinking was the division of wine preferences based on gender (with the ladies preferring one wine and the lads preferring another). It got me wondering whether the wine industry is a bastion of male chauvinism; one that is not intentional and one that is not recognized. I say this because most wine critics are male, they hand out scores based on their taste perspective and sadly consumers buy wine based on these people’s made up number. It’s sad behavior but now I am venturing down the road of crapping on the wine critics. You really don’t care. Let’s save that rant for another day and spend a few paragraphs on wine.
First up for the white was RABL LANGENLOIS GRÜNER VELTLINER 2015 VINTAGES 377457 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=377457&ITEM_NUMBER=377457&language=EN&style=Vintages). Refreshing, crisp, great acidity, clean with melon fruit flavors. This white wine was the one that the ladies loved. They corralled the bottle and kept it for themselves both before and during the meal. They were shameless and somewhat giddy about their greed.
If you buy this wine you’ll be adding $15 to the People’s Republic of Ontario’s coffers. Maybe they will use the money to pave over that pothole on your street. In Europe this wine retails for the equivalent of $10USD (an implicit fair price of $20CDN) so the $15 they want here is decent value. You may recall a Gruner Veltliner wine from the January 9th release, the Nikolaihof Wachau Terrassen Grüner Veltliner (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=85274&ITEM_NUMBER=85274&language=EN&style=Vintages). To me, while $6 more per bottle, the minerality present in the Nikolaihof makes it the better choice. I really regret not having a bottle of the Nikolaihof for the ladies to try on Saturday night. I would have loved to determine if their preference would be the same as mine. In hindsight, this was a real lost opportunity. FYI, there are a few bottles of the Nikolaihof in the KGBO system still.
Second up is GUICCIARDINI STROZZI VILLA CUSONA VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO 2015VINTAGES 172726 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=172726&ITEM_NUMBER=172726&language=EN&style=Vintages). To me this wine had character and weight. It was a wine where I was interested in tasting more. It’s a great winter wine, one that would work with food and one that I intend to return to the KGBO and buy a couple more. This white wine was the one the lads preferred, including me. Maybe my preference was based on me feeling sorry for this wine for the way the ladies ignored. Sitting untouched on the counter this bottle reminded me of an awkward teenager at a high school dance (but that may be me projecting suppressed rejection to inanimate objects again). At $15 this wine is a buy to me. This wine retails for $15USD in the Excited States of America so using my doubling rule (exchange, duties, KGBO markup) a “fair” price would be $30CDN. This wine’s a good value buy.
First up for the reds is the MOJO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 VINTAGES 383539 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=383539&ITEM_NUMBER=383539&language=EN&style=Vintages). To be honest, I would have bought this wine even if the notes didn’t interest me. How can someone not try a wine named Mojo? This wine is what I expected from an Australian Cab, particularly one from the Coonawarra region of that country. Fruit forward and supported by some acidity and decent tannins that build as you drink it. I don’t know whether it will get your mojo working, it will not knock your socks off but it’s a decent wine. At $18 a bottle the price is decent as well. It retails in Australia for the equivalent of $11USD (implied “fair” price of $22CDN).
Next up is the BEYRA VINHOS DE ALTITUDE RED 2014 VINTAGES 408120(http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=408120&ITEM_NUMBER=408120&language=EN&style=Vintages). This wine starts out as being fruit forward (red fruit, likely raspberries) and has decent acidity and tannins to support the fruit. However, what interested me was as the evening wore on (and the wine in the bottle was exposed to more air) the wine changed and got more rustic. After an hour or two, I thought that the wine had elements of the rustic style that we used to find (many) years ago in Portuguese (and Spanish) wine making. Having read what I just wrote I might be old. This observation may not get many people’s mojo working (most of the world hated this style of wine making) but, overtime, this wine’s appeal grew on me. The MacDonaldization of wine making that we have experienced over the last decade can make things as boring as a business meeting. Unless you are shallow, every pretty face doesn’t have to look the same. At $13CDN you cannot go wrong. It’s not a great wine but enjoyable and if you decant it and give it some time maybe you too would enjoy it more. The Beyra retails for $10 in the USA, implied “fair” price of $20CDN in Ontario.
Finally, because I am a fan of the producer, I had to splurge a little and try the CVNE IMPERIAL RESERVA 2010 VINTAGES 424390 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=424390&ITEM_NUMBER=424390&language=EN&style=Vintages). At $39 it may not fit your budget but if you want to experience a Rioja from a top-end producer give this bike a ride. The wine is well put together, balanced, would benefit from decanting, enjoyable now and will be enjoyable 10 years from now. This wine retails for $30USD in the good old USA, making the People’s Republic “fair” price $60CDN.
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Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine. The locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on www.vintages.com. Copy the product number, perform a search with that number and use the find a store feature. Unfortunately, I have to provide you with links to vintages.com as (for reasons beyond my ability to understand) the links that I create to lcbo.com will not work.
Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. The KGBO may be the controlling monopoly but you are the customer.
The next Vintages’ release is Saturday February 4. I typically try to buy and taste the wines that interest me on the Saturday and taste them on Sunday. If you are interested in joining me send me an email and I’ll try to coordinate a small gathering. It would be great to get the views of others that are interested in finding gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO.