Our story so far: TheWineMuddler(TM) has gone viral. Sensing opportunity for exposure, the politicians aggressively assert their involvement in the tasting of wines from the February 18, 2017 Vintages release. Succumbing to pressure from Ottawa and Washington, Rickee reluctantly agrees to the help of Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Canada, and Donald Trump, President of the Excited States of America. They have traveled to Toronto to help in the tasting. Rickee is thinking “nothing good can come from this.”
Security is tight in the little-known-tasting room beneath King Street in Toronto, the location where the three men are gathered to taste wine. As the street cars rattle on the tracks overhead, let’s listen in to see whether Rickee is right.
Me: Now that everyone’s here let’s get started.
Donald: When do the models arrive?
Me: Ummm…yeah…thanks for making me feel really uncomfortable…it’s just the three of us today. I suggest that we start…
Donald: This is a wine tasting! There’s always models at wine tastings. You should have let me know you don’t have models. Palin isn’t doing anything today. I’d fly her in. When she takes her glasses off and lets her hair down she’s pretty hot.
Me: Guys, let’s try to focus on tasting the wines. We will start by pretending we are at a dinner party. Normal people start a dinner party with something bubbly. Let’s taste this sparkling wine to see whether it is any good.
Justin: What exactly are the bubbles in sparkling wine?
Me: Well, the bubbles are carbon dioxide in the wine. CO2 is a natural byproduct of the fermentation of the sugar in wine. In sparkling wine I think the bubbles are fun; especially if they are small. If you notice these bubbles they are…
Justin: CO2 is the work of the devil. Don’t tell anyone but my government will ban CO2. Has this wine paid its carbon tax? My carbon tax will save the planet. And, the Pandas too. Pandas are cute and deserve to be saved.
Me: Ummm, this tasting is going swimmingly. I’m not a scientist but it might just be a tiny-bit impossible to ban carbon dioxide. For example, when you breathe you exhale and when you exhale you emit CO2.
Donald: I thought inhaling was the problem. Bill Clinton told me so back in ’92. Bill always tells the truth. Unlike lying crooked Hillary.
Justin: You’re confusing weed with wine Donald. Weed is good and carbon is evil. Everyone in Canada knows that. Canadians love weed and hate carbon. As soon as this tasting is over I’m calling Morneau. Canada needs to tax exhaling. We will be leaders in the world by taxing exhaling. We will tax exhaling then phase it out and then ban it.
Donald: Bill’s not picking up.
Justin: Gosh, only a few minutes have passed and attending these tastings is proving to be really valuable to me. By banning exhaling I’ll win a majority in the next election for sure.
Me: Okay, it’s obvious that including sparkling wine in this tasting was a bad idea. Let’s move onto tasting a white wine. I picked this wine because I thought it might have a lot of flavors. When we taste it let’s…
Donald: Did I mention that my tasting abilities are exceptional? I’ve been saying this for a long time. I’m a really good taster. The BEST taster. With me involved in this blog we can make wine tasting great again.
Me: For God’s sake Justin put down the selfie stick and help me to get Donald to focus. Christ this is not easy. [Mayhem ensues as Justin’s selfie stick knocks over a bottle of wine. Meanwhile, a streetcar filled with ambivalent people lumbers overhead. Rickee casts his eyes towards the ceiling with a look as though he longs to be one of them.]
Me: Okay, let’s try to focus. We have to muddle through this tasting somehow. Wines have certain tastes but more importantly, they have distinctive smells. The sense of smell is very personal. It comes from one’s own experience, from the things you have encountered in life, including your childhood. To me, one of the great enjoyments of wine is this experience. Let’s swirl our glass and take a smell. Let me see [pausing to smelling the wine] I get something strange on the nose…maybe a little sulphur?
Justin: I smell abandonment. It’s the smell of an empty street in New York City. The dark and dank streets you wandered as an eight-year old while your mother snorted blow at Scores with Keith Richards.
Donald: You’re all fucked-up Justin. You’re confusing abandonment with disappointment. Disappointment! I’m getting major disappointment on the nose of this wine. Disappointment like the time you told your father that you made your first billion and he says to come back to talk to him when you made two.
Justin: I see your point. Yes, I smell disappointment on this wine but I’m still picking up abandonment. This wine smells of disappointment and abandonment. Like the time when you were ten and your father abandoned you on Lac-Tremblant because he was disappointed you could not paddle your canoe as efficiently as he does.
Me: Holy shit this got dark fast! And sad. Not to mention REALLY specific!
Justin: Do we get to hug and take pictures today? The last President liked to hug me. On the internet there’s lot of pictures of me and him hugging. I look really good in those pictures.
Donald: Kid, I swear if you try to hug me I’ll knee you right in the Johnson. Many people are saying that I am exceptional at kneeing people in the Johnson.
Justin: We had a bromance. I haven’t heard from Barack since he started hanging with Richard Branson. I send him texts daily to try to find out whether he’s okay. I better send one now.
Me: For the love of God guys, get it together! You are supposed to be helping me write my wine blog. Come Wednesday, six or seven people of my readers will visit the LCBO and, if we don’t write this blog to help them, they will buy a shitty bottle of wine. I’d hate to disappoint one person must less six.
Donald: If a store sells shitty wine people will just go to another store where they sell good wine.
Me: You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. LCB means liquor control board. Here everyone has to buy wine at the liquor control board. The stores are run by the government. All the stores here sell the same thing.
Donald: I didn’t realize that I was in Korea. Don’t hold it against me. I get the countries that start with the letter C mixed up. I’m still awesome. Many people are saying that my abilities are awesome. My abilities are awesome except for countries that begin with the letter C.
Justin: I just updated my Facebook status. Can I tag you guys?
Donald: Shit, I have to at least call Kim while I’m here. Do cell phones work in Korea? Bill didn’t pick up because cell phones don’t work in Korea.
Me: Okay, I’ll make ONE final attempt to make this a productive afternoon. Let’s try a red wine. Like white wines, the aromas are very personal. I prize tobacco aromas and flavors in red wines. I picked this wine for us to taste because the release notes indicated this wine has elements of tobacco. Let’s smell and taste it and find out for ourselves.
Donald: What country is this wine from?
Me: Good question. It’s from Spain. I admit that I have a personal bias here because I happen to love wines from Spain. When we write about this wine on the blog you guys can help me be more objective.
Donald: Spain! Spain is a terrorist country. I need to know how this wine got into the country. I will not taste any wine unless it was subject to extreme vetting.
Me: Donald, I think that you are getting your countries that start with S mixed up. Spain is not a terrorist country you might be thinking about Syria.
Justin: I’m getting tobacco on this wine.
Me: That’s good Justin, let’s go with that. Help me out by describing what you are experiencing right now.
Donald: I’m not happy with including Spanish wine in this tasting and I am tweeting my dissatisfaction:
Justin: Cigar tobacco.
Me: Yes, yes I get that too. We are making major progress now. What else? There is also something funky in the smell that I am struggling to identify. Cheese maybe? Or is it meat?
Justin: No not cheese or meat. The tobacco notes are very specific. I’ve smelled them many times. This wine smells like fine Cuban cigars. Growing up, my family went to Cuba many many times.
Me: Excellent. Go on.
Justin: Fine Cuban cigars and the funky smell is [taking another sniff from his glass and raising an eyebrow], well, it’s sweat; body sweat, the sweet body sweat of a megalomaniacal, unjust and imperious dictator; the sweat a child smells as he is rocked to sleep by his cigar-smoking-dictator babysitter while his mother and father are out partying in Havana. I get Cuban cigars and imperious dictator on this wine.
Me: That’s it. I’m out-of-here.
Donald: Will Putin be at the next tasting?
I apologize for the length, but not the content, of the opening story. When this crazy idea occurred to me the story wrote itself. Upon multiple reflections I failed to find a way to shorten it. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Having failed to make you into a wine geek (see the Vintages February 5 release) the KGBO drifted back to their roots of hocking wine using a simple theme. This time that theme is Australian wines:
I had help with last Sunday’s tasting.
My friend, let’s you and me call him “Don Billy”, provided wine, his perspective and his knowledge of Canadian wines. We’ll call him “Don” because he is the head of Toronto’s little-known-seedy dental underworld. Not heard of the dental underworld? Well, what happens is, if your insurance company fails to pay, Don Billy’s enforcers will find you and they’ll make you buy an electronic toothbrush and floss daily. I place my gums at risk just by my mere mention of the existence of this dark side of humanity.
When it comes to Canadian wines, I have my feet firmly planted in 1995. I gave up on them around that time. Don Billy is patiently trying to drag me into this century. And, it’s good thing he persists because the white wine you should seek out in this release is the $20 KEW MARSANNE 2014 VINTAGES 485334 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=485334+&ITEM_NUMBER=485334+&language=EN&style=Vintages). It has aromas of green tropical fruit, spices and mangoes. Don’t serve this wine super cold and it also benefits from some air time. Decant it if you have time. Enjoy the wine on its own or, because of the nice acidity, it will work with a variety of food. Thhe mango flavors had us obsessing over Thai food. After your first or second slip, pause and enjoy the length of time that the wine’s flavors linger on you palate. My guess is subsequent vintages of this wine will be a lot more expensive.
The red wine of choice in this release is the $25 WATERBROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 VINTAGES 90365 | (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=90365&ITEM_NUMBER=90365&language=EN&style=Vintages). I almost did not include this wine in my reconnaissance mission to the KGBO. Why? Well, I love Washington State wines but the description that the KGBO put in the catalog was really dull and boring. Fortunately, I am on Le Sommelier’s mailing list (Le Sommelier being the winery’s agent in Ontario) and their description grabbed my interest. In the words of Kat Edmonson: “lucky you, lucky lucky me.” This wine has earthy flavors, nice red fruit, ripe chassis, its rich, has a nice mouth feel, and lovely lingering after taste (length). You can drink it on its own or serve it with hearty dishes such as beef, braised lamb, grilled vegetable and the like. It retails for $11US in the Excited States of America so you are paying $3 more than my “fair” price using my double rule (exchange, duties, KGBO markup) but it’s still a great wine for the price. If you are in the USA and can find this wine you’re lucky.
The third one you should consider is the $20 FOWLES STONE DWELLERS SHIRAZ 2013
VINTAGES 265967 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=265967&ITEM_NUMBER=265967&language=EN&style=Vintages). Normally I find that cheap Aussie Shiraz wines are over concentrated fruit bombs. But, this one is not. There is still big plum, prune and dark fruit flavors but the wine is more together than I thought it would be and it has decent gripe and spice. What surprised me was that I liked this wine despite the alcohol level of 15%. Normally, that level would be a taste killer for me but somehow that crazy amount of alcohol is integrated in this wine. This wine would work with dishes similar to those described with the Waterbrook. Be careful with the size of the pours. With that alcohol level you’ll say something of regret at the dinner party and wake in the morning with a pounding head. This wine retails for more in Australia so you are getting a decent price at the KGBO.
Before I get to the airing of the grievances, there are two other wines that deserve mention. One is the $19 GRANDES SERRES ROCCA LUNA BEAUMES DE VENISE 2014
VINTAGES 434639 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=434639&ITEM_NUMBER=434639&language=EN&style=Vintages). On its own, I found the alcohol level of this wine to be distracting and unpleasant. But, serving this wine with a Mediterranean-style dish, particularly a dish with some good quality olives, works beautifully and it makes this wine really enjoyable.
Second, is the $15 CASTELSINA CHIANTI RISERVA 2010 VINTAGES 481184 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=481184&ITEM_NUMBER=481184&language=EN&style=Vintages). This Chianti, from a great year has nice cherry flavors and is well balanced. The problem? It dies a sudden death in your glass. It would work at the beginning of a dinner party with cheeses and charcuterie but don’t expect it to last more than an hour or so before it loses it fruit.
Finally, the $27 sparkling wine JANSZ PREMIUM CUVÉE SPARKLING WHITE (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=566828&ITEM_NUMBER=566828&language=EN&style=Vintages) is worth considering as a novelty purchase. Why novelty? Well, it is from Tasmania and you can tell you friends that they are drinking a Tasmanian wine and they will think you worldly and cool. Plus, they will think about Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian devil. It’s impossible not to. If you buy it I’d recommend decanting this wine as the wine’s flavor profiles do not emerge until time has passed in the glass. I think the wine is pricey for what you get.
What’s more disappointing than an approval-seeking son that accumulates a measly billion dollars? Well, that would be buying a wine that just does live up to its potential or the billing. The wines that disappointed included:
PENMARA THE WHITE RIBBON SÉMILLON 2016 VINTAGES 474031 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=474031&ITEM_NUMBER=474031&language=EN&style=Vintages), a $15 low alcohol Hunter Valley Semillon should sing but it’s a simple sipper that would be okay for a hot summer deck.
DOMAINE COSTA LAZARIDI AMETHYSTOS WHITE 2015 VINTAGES 984864 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=984864&ITEM_NUMBER=984864&language=EN&style=Vintages). At $20 from a decent Greek producer it should not had been simple and boring and have off-putting aromas.
L’EXPRESSION DE MARGAUX 2012 VINTAGES 431734 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=431734&ITEM_NUMBER=431734&language=EN&style=Vintages). At $39 it was the most expensive wine we tasted and the worst. The wine is very green and has characteristics of unripe fruit. If you want to conduct an interesting experience buy this wine and the Waterbrook and serve them side-by-side to your guests. I’ll bet you will watch people avoid the L’Expression and ask for more Waterbrook. You’ll look at the bottle the next day and wished that you had your $40 back.
ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006 VINTAGES 244699 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=244699&ITEM_NUMBER=244699&language=EN&style=Vintages). This $16 wine was a big big disappointment for me. I love wine from Bierzo region of Spain and this wine had a nice amount of age. I had visions of buying a case. But, alas it’s not to be. There is a disconnect between the wine’s nose and its flavor. When it comes to food and wine, smelling something fantastic and having its taste not deliver truly is disappointment. This wine also tastes flat and tired. I know that I am risking sounding like a Trump tweet by concluding… So sad!
Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy wines that interest you. The locator on http://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.
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 March 4. I typically try to find gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO by buying them on the Saturday and tasting them Sunday afternoon. If you are interested in joining me send me an email.
The Vintage catalog descriptions of the wines tasted:
JANSZ PREMIUM CUVÉE
TASTING NOTE: A blend that evenly harmonises fruit character, depth of maturity and the vivacious mood of cool Tasmanian acidity, in flavours of apple and pear finishing with biscuity, toasty complexity. It’s long and even, culminating in well integrated acidity.
Drink By: 2017. Score: 91
(Tyson Stelzer, winecompanion.com.au, Oct. 6, 2016)
Medium-bodied & Flavourful
566828 (D) 750 mL $26.95
PENMARA THE WHITE RIBBON
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
TASTING NOTE: Pale quartz-white; a high quality semillon, despite its alcohol in the higher range of Hunter Valley semillon, it has a fresh, racy, minerally drive to the long palate and lingering finish. Great summer seafood style.
Drink By: 2020. Special Value.
(James Halliday, winecompanion.com.au, July 27, 2014)
Light & Crisp
474031 (XD) 750 mL $14.95
FOWLES STONE DWELLERS
Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria
TASTING NOTE: Proclaims its (relatively) cool region from the outset, the savoury/spicy bouquet perfectly reflected in the medium-bodied palate; here notes of sour plum, anise and blackberry come together, oak and tannins providing carefully managed support. Drink By: 2028.
Special Value. Score: 94
(James Halliday, winecompanion.com.au, Aug. 2, 2016)
Full-bodied & Smooth
265967 (D) 750 mL $19.95
CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013
TASTING NOTE: There’s a nice tang to the ripe currant and guava flavors in this fresh and lively red. Drink now through 2017. Score: 88
(Harvey Steiman, winespectator.com, Oct. 15, 2015)
Full-bodied & Smooth
090365 (XD) 750 mL $24.95
KEW MARSANNE 2014
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment
Gold Medal winner at the 2016 Ontario
TASTING NOTE: … This shows lovely, exotic aromas of tangerine, persimmon, spice and some wood. It is medium-full bodied and fleshy – almost soupy – but juicy acidity is the lifeline. Focused and intense with excellent length.
Tasted June 2016. Score: 91
(David Lawrason, winealign.com, July 15, 2016)
Aromatic & Flavourful
485334 (XD) 750 mL $19.95
GRANDES SERRES ROCCA LUNA
BEAUMES DE VENISE 2014
TASTING NOTE: The 2014 Cotes du Rhone Villages Beaumes de Venise Rocca Luna is a terrific value. Made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, it has ample dark, plummy fruits, violets and peppery notes as well as a plump, fruitforward, mouth-filling style on the palate. It’s another high quality, character-filled release from this estate.
Drink Date: 2016-2021. Score: 89
(Jeb Dunnuck, robertparker.com, March 3, 2016)
Full-bodied & Smooth
434639 (D) 750 mL $18.95
L’EXPRESSION DE MARGAUX 2012
L’Expression de Margaux is crafted by a renowned Margaux estate using fruit sourced from younger vines from the same vineyards that produce its top-flight wine. The name of the estate does not appear on the label, but there is no mystery as to this wine’s provenance. It will offer a taste of classic Margaux character and precision at a fraction of the cost of the estate’s celebrated topdrawer expressions. An exciting insight into Margaux – with a delectable hint of mystery.
Full-bodied & Firm
431734 (XD) 750 mL $38.95
TASTING NOTE: The 2010 vintage in Italy was a near-universally successful one, especially for red wines. This Chianti Riserva is still fresh and lively with lifted rose petal floral tones, ripe cherry, raspberry, plum and earth notes. Rich, complex and long with excellent structure – a real value wine from a great vintage and one that over-delivers in a big way. (VINTAGES panel, May 2016)
Medium-bodied & Fruity
481184 (D) 750 mL $14.95
DOMAINE COSTA LAZARIDI
AMETHYSTOS WHITE 2015
TASTING NOTE: Costas Lazardi blends international variety Sauvignon Blanc with the native Assyrtiko to craft this exceptional white wine – considered by many to be Greece’s finest. The 2015 version offers bright lemon and apple tones with spice and tropical banana tones emerging on the close. Fresh and zesty with great balance. Enjoy with creamy pasta, or calamari. (VINTAGES panel, Feb. 2016)
Aromatic & Flavourful
984864 (XD) 750 mL $19.95
ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006
TASTING NOTE: Amazing low price for a classy Bierzo red. Fragrant violets, blackberries and chocolate lead into a lush gush of blackberry, plums, cedar and black cherry flavours sculpted from the menzia grape.
Food suggestion: Roast leg of lamb. Score: 90
(Gordon Stimmell, Toronto Star, Aug. 16, 2013)
Medium-bodied & Fruity
244699 (XD) 750 mL $15.95