Our story so far: It’s early December 2016. A day of darkness has descended upon the KGBO (a.k.a The Liquor Control Board of Ontario or the LCBO) command center. Three KGBO accountants have staged a coup d’etat. By offering free pizza, they lured and captured the KGBO’s entire marketing group in the lunchroom. The marketing people, being used to days-long-pizza-eating gatherings, have not noticed that they are detained. Everyone else in the office sees this state as routine. The three accountants’ plan is brilliant. They took control over the marketing function because the recent Vintage marketing campaigns centered on a cheapness theme. Everyone knows that cheapness is the domain of an accountant; drastic action was required in order to not lose territory and influence.
Let’s listen in on their conversation.
KGBO Accountant 1: Okay, we all know our mission statement “we are the KGBO and we will tell you what you are allowed to buy today”. We all know that our service to society is vital. We protect the public from the evils of alcohol consumption, particularly wine; we know consuming good wine is bad and the government must protect people from accessing good wine.
KGBO Accountant 2: You can’t possibly believe that crap. The KGBO is nothing more than a tax opioid for the People’s Republic of Ontario. Queen’s Park is hooked on our cash flow. We need to maximum the check we will send to Comrade Wynne. That’s our real mission.
KGBO Accountant 3: Exactly, and that’s the reason we had to take over control of the Vintages theme from those copycat-sneaky-little-shits in marketing. We need a theme to maximize our February sales; more sales will make Comrade Wynne happy. So, the release date is February 4, that’s early February. Think ahead to early February…at that time of year what’s on people’s mind?
KGBO Accountant 1: [filled with youthful enthusiasm] Oh, oh, oh I know. There’s the Super Bowl that happens in early February. And, everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is in February. I’m thinking a theme catering to Super Bowl Sunday parties and Valentine’s Day.
KGBO Accountant 3: [exasperated] Give me strength! Are you sure you don’t want to go get some pizza? Seriously, the Super Bowl? That’s a minor event. Do you think people still watch the Super Bowl? Hardly anyone watches the Super Bowl. Do you think that normal people get together for Super Bowl parties and bring wine to enjoy with snacks and finger food? That may happen with a small number of freaks. Valentine’s Day? Who cares about Valentine’s Day? Do you think people buy wine for Valentine’s Day? Give me a break. Did I mention that there is Hawaiian pizza in the lunchroom?
KBGO Accountant 2: Interesting observations. Do you have a sales theme option in mind?
KGBO Accountant 3: [banging on the boardroom table] Yeah, we took over to generate some fresh thinking. It’s will be February; people will have time on their hands. There is an untapped market and that market is huge. What do people really want? I’ll tell you, they want. They want to become wine geeks. They want to impress their friends with their wine geekiness. There’s a massive hole in the market to fill I tell you. Millions of people want to be a wine geek.
KBGO Accountant 2: Go on, you have me interested.
KGBO Accountant 3: The idea’s brilliance is its simplicity. We’ll fill pages of the catalog with geeky wine things, jargon, travel destinations and steps a person should take to become a wine geek. We then sell mediocre wine that the citizens of our republic will buy to practice their wine geekiness.
KBGO Accountant 2: That idea is fucking fantastic! We should have staged this coup months ago. Who ever said that accountants can’t be great marketers? Accountants’ rock marketing! We always did and we always will.
KBGO Accountant 1: I’ll leave you two to work out the details. I better source extra security to provide crowd control. Our stores will be overrun with people. We need to avoid death and injury or the next coup it will be the lawyers that take over. God knows that I could be fooled into self-imprisonment by the offer of a week-long lecture on the wonders of the HST.
KBGO Accountant 2: Don’t forget to slide a couple more pizzas under the lunch room door.
Yes, the February Vintage release centers on making you a wine geek. Really? Am I the only person to read this and think WTF? I’ve attended a lot of crappy office meetings in my time and I’m super glad that I didn’t have to sit through the one that came up with this theme.
Don’t judge me because I am making fun of accountants. A retired accountant is allowed to do that. Just ask Mel Brooks or Russell Peters or Tina Fey. They are all famous retired accountants. Except Tina. I read her book and she never was an accountant. Now I am just being silly. I didn’t mean to imply these people are retired accountants. However, they have all poked fun at identifiable groups to which they belong. So I’m guessing that it is socially acceptable to deprecate a group if you are part of that group. Otherwise, social media will label you a misogynist or a racist or (worst of all) a philatelist. I’m certainly not a racist. I like all races. Well, I’m not being totally honest. I like all races except marathons. I cannot run that far and I get bored.
You are allowed to judge me by my making fun of the marketing group. But, don’t be harsh in your judgment because even people in marketing will admit to their love of pizza.
Enough silliness. I had a lot of help in this tasting. Four of us gathered before the start of the Super Bowl to taste wines from the release; wines that we thought might be interesting. Well, actually three of us tasted wine. The fourth excused himself to seek medical attention for a cold that will not abate. There is a nasty bug making its way around Toronto presently. He made an appearance, dropped off three bottles of wine and left. Do I have good friends or what?
I wish that I could say that the wines in the February 4 release were interesting. Of the 10 wines we tasted (9 from the release and 1 from the general listing) only 2 impressed.
Our favorite white was JEAN BIECHER & FILS SCHOENENBOURG RIESLING 2014
VINTAGES 469767 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=469767&ITEM_NUMBER=469767&language=EN&style=Vintages). I love Alsace Riesling and this wine didn’t disappoint. Stone fruit, minerals, great length, good acidity, food friendly. Don’t let the 10 grams of residual sugar fool you. It’s still considered dry by KGBO standards and the acid and the residual sugar and the wine’s acidity have a wonderful balance. The KGBO is selling this Grand Cru for $24. I could not locate comparative price information in other countries. Suffice it to say that $24 is a good price for an Alsatian Grand Cru.
The red wine that was the winner was the CASTELLO DI NEIVE BARBARESCO DOCG
LCBO 160143 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=160143&ITEM_NUMBER=160143&language=EN&style=Vintages). The funny thing is that this $23 wine is part of the KGBO’s general listing (you will find it – year round – in the Italian section of the main shelves in the store). I included it in the tasting in order to compare it to the $31 PIER RIO SORDO BARBARESCO 2009 VINTAGES 360016 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=360016&ITEM_NUMBER=360016&language=EN&style=Vintages). Unfortunately, the Sordo fell short. The wine’s taste drops off suddenly and basically disappoints. There is nothing special going on here. I picked the Castello Di Neive because (a) I can tell a cool story about visiting the winery and (b) the KGBO store I visited had the wine in stock. The Castello Di Neive was the clear favorite of the two.
I would have also included the $21 ENRICO SERAFINO BARBARESCO DOCG LCBO 341156 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=341156&ITEM_NUMBER=341156&language=EN&style=Vintages). However, the store I visited did not have this wine in stock. The Serafino is also a general list wine. There is a good chance that you will prefer this wine over the Castello Di Neive. It’s put together with a style that has more finesse. I like the rustic edge of the Castello but admit my preference is based on my mood at the time. Both are house reds for me and the outcome of this tasting has me thinking that we need to explore the general listing in addition to the Vintages release. There are a few gems in that section of the store.
Castello Di Neive retails for $30USD in the Excited States of America so using my doubling rule (exchange, duties, KGBO markup) a “fair” price would be $60CDN. It’s a steal at $23 and the Serafino is a good value buy too.
I’ve used up a lot of real estate so my comments will be brief on the other wines we tasted.
The $13 SCHÖNLAUB PINOT BLANC 2015 VINTAGES 468215 from Germany (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=Schonlaub&ITEM_NUMBER=&language=EN&style=Vintages) tropical fruit flavors burst from the glass. It’s a decent table wine for the price. Too fruity for my taste.
The $13 CURVOS LOUREIRO 2015 VINTAGES 471284 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=CURVOS+LOUREIRO+2015&ITEM_NUMBER=&language=EN&style=Vintages). I like Vinho Verde wine in the summer. The wine’s style usually has a little spritz and the wine is great on a hot summer day. I don’t think that I will be stocking up in February but if you are seeking a wine to remind you of summer then grab a bottle now and imagine that you are on a patio.
The $19 GÉRARD BERTRAND CÔTE DES ROSES ROSÉ 2015 VINTAGES 373985 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=373985&ITEM_NUMBER=373985&language=EN&style=Vintages). It’s an okay Rose. Dry and pretty and an okay price. The wine didn’t excite me, however.
My purchase of the $23 CHÂTEAU DU CHATELARD CUVÉE LES VIEUX GRANITS FLEURIE 2013 VINTAGES 207886 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/details.do?language=EN&itemNumber=207886) went like this…
ME: Hi, can you help me find this wine?
KGBO Product Consultant: Sure. What’s the product code?
KGBO Product Consultant: Here it is…you made a great choice; it’s a really good wine.
ME: Have you tried it?
KGBO Product Consultant: No but it got a 90 rating. That’s a really good score so it is a good wine.
ME: [with a slight body spasm caused by biting my tongue until it hurt] Umm, gee that’s great. Thanks.
This wine bursts with raspberries and little else (i.e., I can’t get past the raspberries). It’s a fruit bomb. Move on. I made a mental note that wine critic Josh Raynolds and I may not be compatible. If the KGBO ever stops providing me with material for satire then maybe I will move attention to my “love” of professional wine critics.
The TRAPICHE GRAN MEDALLA MALBEC 2013 VINTAGES 467977 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=467977&ITEM_NUMBER=467977&language=EN&style=Vintages) will set you back $26. This is a fruit forward wine that comes across as being sweet (it is not). It is made in a style that will appeal to many people (the KGBO calls it “smooth”). To me the style is boring and the high-alcohol level of this wine turns me off.
Instead, consider the $30 MENTORS SHIRAZ 2012 VINTAGES 403618 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=403618&ITEM_NUMBER=403618&language=EN&style=Vintages). This is a decent wine, somewhat spoiled for me by the high-alcohol level (it is less noticeable than the Trapiche, however). It is fruit forward and the thing that I don’t like is the high concentration of the fruit’s taste. However, there are other things going on in this wine. The nose has an intriguing whiff of smoke and, while you have to look for them, there are tobacco elements in the taste. Fruit concentrated wines are not something that I seek but if I was having a beef-themed dinner or was trying to impress friends that liked big-and-bold reds then this wine would work.
If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive a copy please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list.
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 http://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 www.vintages.com as (for reasons beyond my ability to understand) the links that I create to www.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 18. 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.