The story so far: December and 2016 are not part of history. The excesses of the holidays associated with the Winter Solstice have taken their toll. The citizens’ body-fat index has risen. Their bank accounts balance has shrunk. The KGBO has just a handful of patrons showing up for their January 7 “Smart Buys” release. This release has dozens of inexpensive wines because the KGBO knows that the citizens have little wiggle room between their present and maximum MasterCard balance.
ME: Hi if you have a minute can you help me locate the wine that I would like to buy?
KGBO Product Consultant: Sure I can do that.
ME: I’ve looked up the codes up on the internet and here is a list of the wines that I am looking for.
KGBO Product Consultant: Great. Say, you picked some really good wines. How did you come up with this list?
ME: [thinking…why is she being overly nice? She’s too young to be hitting on me?] Oh, I’ve been around the block a few times. You know I’ve been writing a newsletter about your Vintages releases for many months now. I have tens of followers.
KGBO Product Consultant: [with a noticeable rolling of her eyes] I see, well the first bottle is from Austria and it’s over here.
ME: I’ve also registered a domain and I think that I’ll start a blog.
KGBO Product Consultant: [unsuccessfully, suppressing a major facial tick and is now avoiding eye contact] Oh, that’s interesting. The last bottle on your list is over here. There you go.
ME: Gosh thank you. You saved me a lot of time.
KGBO Product Consultant: You should try this Chardonnay. It’s not on your list but I rated this wine highly, five stars out of five. [pointing to her notes with 5 big stars drawn with a red-ball-point pen]. See.
ME: I really like Chardonnay but, in my experience, I don’t like the cheap ones. To me, the cheap ones are almost always disappointing and I end up using them for cooking. If you want to drink Chardonnay you have to be willing to pay for it.
KGBO Product Consultant: I think this one is different. My BOYFRIEND and I love it.
ME: [feeling a little creepy because, OMG, she thinks that I am hitting on her] Okay, I’ll trust you and give one a try.
[How can I argue with 5 red-pen stars?. Like Snagglepuss, I hastily exit stage left.]
Let’s start (as usual) with the sparkling wine. If you are looking for a fun aperitif consider spending $15 on the Cuvée Jean Philippe Blanquette de Limoux 2014 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=467217&ITEM_NUMBER=467217&language=EN&style=Vintages). This wine has lively bubbles, nice acidity, reasonably low alcohol level, a pleasant yeasty nose and, to me, a predominance of citrus (lemon) flavors. It’s a great way to celebrate Tuesday. This wine retails for $10US in the USA so using the double rule-of-thumb (exchange, duty, KGBO markup, taxes on all of that) you are getting a good price at $15CDN.
This time my typical two passes of the Vintages catalog yielded four whites and two reds that I wanted to try.
First up, is the MAN Free-run Steen Chenin Blanc (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=126847&ITEM_NUMBER=126847&language=EN&style=Vintages). I’m not a fan of wine critics but I am slowing warming up to Neil Martin. In the catalog his description of this wine is pretty darn good. “…well balanced with crisp grapefruit and light honeyed tones, very harmonious with well judged acidity (whatever that means) and a composed, quite elegant finish.” He thinks this is an excellent Chenin Blanc and so do I. You can get this one for $14 and, based on the $7USD price in the Excited States, the price in the Peoples Republic of Ontario is what I would expect to pay here.
The wine that excites me in this release is 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). This wine has great fruit, low alcohol, nice acidity and the plus (for me) is its minerality. It’s a wine that I can drink on its own and it’s a wine that would work well with food. A bottle will set you back $21, a good price as it retails for $14USD in the Excited States (an okay price in the Peoples Republic of Ontario would be $28).
The Chardonnay that the KGBO Product Consultant talked me into trying is the Gérald Talmard Mâcon-Uchizy (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=470427&ITEM_NUMBER=470427&language=EN&style=Vintages). Initially this wine impressed me. It has a nice nose, good fruit and nice acidity. But after a few tastes I changed my mind. The wine’s aftertaste is not pleasant to me and created a feeling at the back of my throat that I don’t wish to repeat. LP, my tasting companion for this release, felt the same way. I have not changed my mind on avoiding cheap Chardonnay.
The enigma of the wines I tasted from this release was the Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=461400&ITEM_NUMBER=461400&language=EN&style=Vintages). This wine interested me because I am a fan of this producer and have collected their reds through the years. The Sulphur smell that burst from the glass was quite offensive and off putting. Time did little to help and, on first tasting on Sunday, I had dismissed this wine as a bad choice. But (you could tell that there was a “but” coming) I revisited tasting this wine on Monday and all that nastiness was gone. The tasting notes in the description are pretty good (pear and grapefruit, good acidity). What can I say? If you buy this $15 wine decant it and put the decanter with the wine in the fridge for a couple hours as it needs lots of air to be enjoyable. I’d have to wonder why one would bother, however.
Onto the reds…
The red wine that I enjoyed the most from this release is the Château La Croix d’Armens (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=468272&ITEM_NUMBER=468272&language=EN&style=Vintages). It too, however, is an enigma. I don’t normally expect a $25 Boudreaux to be much but this wine is very enjoyable. It’s from 2012 and is already developing some leather characteristics that are found in an aged Boudreaux. The local wine critics panned this wine, they hated it and I keep revisiting the wine to try to identify what they found so offensive. Maybe bottle variance (they had a flawed bottle and I didn’t)? What am I missing? Self-doubt ensued. In the end I said “screw them”, I like the wine and so did LP. I think it was her favorite of all the wines we tasted.
Consider buying the $19 Sagelands Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 from Washington State (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=420810&ITEM_NUMBER=420810&language=EN&style=Vintages). It’s a decent but not great wine. The wine has structure and reasonable alcohol levels. I struggle a bit with the berry fruit forwardness of this wine. For me, it’s a little too much but for others this attribute will be just fine and appreciated. I’ve made Hunter’s Stew for dinner tonight and perhaps this hearty stew will balance out that aspect of this wine for me. This wine retails for $10 in the Excited States. So, the price here is okay but not great.
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 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 January 21. 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.