In Ontario, it’s now okay
To picnic and smoke weed any day
Vino is still verboten
Let’s hope voters have not forgotten
Because the laws need to change right away
I will be visiting Italy in November and look forward to the look on my friends’ faces when I try to explain that one can now smoke pot at a picnic in a park but could be fined if you dare have a beer or a glass of wine with your potato salad. Oh, the fun that I will have. They, like me, will not be able to contemplate such a state of affairs. Lewis Caroll’s rabbit hole truly exists. The Queen of Hearts lives in that rabbit hole, which we now know is located in the People’s Republic of Ontario.
“And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while”
Do you think that John Prime’s “illegal smile” came from a couple glasses of Champagne that he sipped in the park while reading a good book? If you are willing to buy me the $311 bottle of Cristal in the 13 October release, I’ll play the part of John Prime, defiantly open the bottle in a public park, and test that theory.
GTA wine events
Before we jump into the details of the Vintages release, if you live near the Greater Toronto Area there are two upcoming wine tasting events that may interest you.
The October 24 WineTasters event is your opportunity to taste a vertical of eight vintages of Chateau Bon Pasteur that span the years 1996 to 2003. Seats are still available and you can register by clicking on this link.
The Toronto Vintners Club (TVC) is holding their annual holiday party on November 20. This event is your opportunity to sample a wide variety of great wines that were leftover from TVC previous events. You can register by clicking on this link.
At both of these events, you will enjoy great wine, meet friendly people and have a terrific evening.
The $24 Clos de los Siete 2014 Malbec Blend—VINTAGES#: 622571 just shines. I find that this wine is consistently good vintage to vintage and offers really good value. This wine ages well and if you consume it young please give it a good decant. The posted tasting notes are accurate. My sole complaint about this wine is the alcohol level comes across as being a little hot. I blame Robert Parker as he likes that burning feeling in his mouth and the winemakers try to make him, not me or you, happy. High scores sell wine and that makes me a little sad.
The KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) has not raised the price of this wine since at least 2002. The lack of price appreciation likely relates more to the economic mismanagement that the folks in Argentina perpetually endure than the benevolent nature of the KGBO. Our friends in the Excited States of America (a.k.a., the USA) pay about the same price for this wine as we pay here in the People’s Republic of Ontario. Considering our massive government markup fees on wine, this one represents good value.
The tasting group thought that the $20 Primus The Blend 2015 Red Blend—VINTAGES#: 712463 was a value winner. With balance, ripe fruit, and the absence of that nasty eucalyptus notes that one often finds in red Chilian wine, the Primus is a decent choice for a red-house wine. The posted tasting notes are accurate and we thought that this wine was a good buy.
I’m betting that you burned through your supply of Tuesday night pizza wine. If so, load up on the $19 San Vincenti Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 399907. Tasted blind with other Sangiovese wines this one was very appealing. The KGBO must have bought this one in massive volume as we are getting this wine at a great price. It retails for the equivalent of $23CAD in both Europe and the USA.
Have you tasted an expensive wine from the Hermitage region of France? Bull’s blood and bacon fat are typical and highly appealing attributes of these wines. Do you want to experience something similar at a fraction of the price? If yes, run out and buy the $29 Abbotts & Delaunay Cumulo Nimbus Minervois 2014 Syrah/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 561126. The posted tasting notes are totally and shockingly understated. I will not say more for fear that you will get to the KGBO before I am able to secure my fair share. Again, this is a wine that would benefit from a good decant.
This wine retails for 10% more in the Excited States of America, 20% more in Europe, and (believe it or not) is available at almost the same price in New Brunswick. If you think the price of wine is bad in the People’s Republic of Ontario, try shopping in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia or British Columbia. The pricing formula used by the government of Ontario is based on greed and the formula used in these other provinces resembles highway robbery.
The $60 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 154609 stems from a decent producer and a good vintage. It is an enjoyable wine now but (contrary to the assertion in the posted notes of James Suckling) this wine would benefit from years in the bottle as all good Brunello wine does. It is expensive here by European standards (we are paying about an 11% premium) and reasonable based on USA prices (the price there is comparable). A worthy addition to your cellar.
Wines to consider
Are you a fan of wine made from the Malbec grape? Are you tired of simple and cheap fare? If your answer is yes and yes, then consider the $30 Zuccardi Polígonos 2015 Malbec—VINTAGES#: 568915. I swear that the professional wine critic Luis Gutiérrez writes under the influence of crack cocaine and his posted tasting notes for this wine are not an exception. Still, he spends too much time talking about where the grapes are grown and does not convey that there is a lot going on in this wine. This wine needs some time in the bottle for the components to come together. If you are willing to age a $30 wine for a few years then I think that you will be rewarded. If you drink this wine in its youth please give it a good decant. Our friends in the good old USA pay about 10% more for this wine. You may not believe it but $30 for this Malbec is a good deal.
If you are a fan of oaked Australian Chardonnay then consider trying the $35 Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2017—VINTAGES#: 298380. For my palate, this wine has too much oak and it is not a wine that I would buy. However, the oak was not so prominent that I could not appreciate the other attributes of this wine. If you like oaked Chardonnay then I think that you will enjoy the additional complexities that this wine offers. I am offended by the KGBO increasing the price of this wine by 31% since the 2011 vintage. That is a 5% compound price increase every year for the last six years. Raise your hand if you have seen your take-home pay increase at that rate.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the $25 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2017—VINTAGES#: 164228. Many people in our tasting group praised this wine. Further, the local critics love this wine and international critics also sing songs about its virtues. So, I will admit my prejudice toward most Sauvignon-Blanc-based wine as I am overly sensitive to the sulfur attributes that I detect in these wines. That said, the views of others convinced me that, if you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, then you should give this wine a try. The price being charged by the KGBO is similar to that charged elsewhere.
If you are looking for a white wine that is different and interesting then consider trying the $19 Château Vessière Costières de Nîmes 2016 Roussanne/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 541573. I am often not a fan of floral aromas in wine but this one sings a nice tune. This wine is a nice change from the ordinary that one often finds at this price point. A wine that will also work with food. I could not identify a supply of this wine in the USA. It retails in Europe for as little as $14CAD. That’s a 36% premium that is imposed on the proletariat of this republic.
If you are still in the market for a decent Rosé then consider the Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé 2017. The 750 ML bottle sells for $19 and the product code is 373985. The 1500 ML bottle sells for $38 and the product code is 490912. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I would add that the wine has a nice tannin and a slightly bitter finish that I appreciate in a Rosé. In Europe, the wine sells for the equivalent of $13CAD. The good folks in the USA pay about $14CAD. At $19CAD we are experiencing the greedy “too bad, you have no choice but to buy this wine from the government-owned monopoly” factor. That’s a 36% premium, in case you care.
If you are a fan of Cabernet from Italy then consider the $26 Le Mortelle Botrosecco Cabernet 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc—VINTAGES#: 400846. I’ll be frank and say that we have previously found better Italian Cabs at the KGBO at this price point. That said, this is a decent, enjoyable, ripe, versatile wine that you may want to try. We are being gouged on price as this wine sells for the equivalent of $17CAD in Europe. Feel bad? Well, the store that has a supply of this wine in the USA (New York City actually) sells this wine for the equivalent of $40CAD. I am sure that you feel better now.
I find it hard to find a balanced red wine from Burgundy at an affordable price. The $32 Domaine Poulleau Père & Fils Les Mondes Rondes 2013 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 69518 pushed the right buttons for me. The posted tasting notes are accurate and the LCBO marked this one down from $39, making it a terrific buy (the previous price of $39 was on par with European prices). Act quickly as this one will go fast, I think.
Wines to avoid
The tasting group unanimously disliked the overly fruity $32 Schug Pinot Noir 2015—VINTAGES#: 577221. The posted tasting notes are James Suckling at his worst. Other local wine critics like this wine. I don’t get it and on Sunday I was not alone.
The $28 Château Bel Air 2011 Bordeaux—VINTAGES#: 416172 was not warmly received by the tasting group. Even at lower price points, there are a lot of wines, including wine from Bourdeaux, that are better than this one.
If you are looking for good entry level Burgundy please heed the post on the $32 Domaine Poulleau Père & Fils above and avoid buying the $41 Domaine Gaston & Pierre Ravaut Ladoix 2015 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 557777. To me, this wine is way-too-red-fruit forward (that is, not a wine with “lovely” red cherry and strawberries as asserted in the tasting notes). The local wine critics disagree with me on this one, so if you like assertive fruit in your wine you may wish to give this one a try. This type of wine is not for me, however.
Wines from the Cahors region of France are usually made from the Malbec grape. They tend to be dense and tannic, thus requiring age before they are ready to drink. People don’t want to age cheap wine so winemakers are trying new things to sell their wares. I think this narrative might be the story of the $19 Château de Gaudou Tradition Cahors 2016 Malbec/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 560938. We didn’t like the outcome that was present in our glasses.
I have to disagree with the local wine critics that gave the $24 Terredora di Paolo Loggia della Serra Greco di Tufo 2016—VINTAGES#: 983197 high marks. For our group, this wine disappointed us like a school report card of your child who you know can do better. The wine comes across as monolithic and simple. There is better value at this price point.
Speaking of big disappointments, perhaps the biggest disappointment of the tasting was the $30 Carpineto Riserva Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese/Canaiolo—VINTAGES#: 47118. The quality of the 2013 vintage should have resulted in an outstanding quality wine. Further, this producer made an outstanding 2015 Chianti Classico that I loved and highlighted in a prior post. The Carpineto Riserva doesn’t make the grade at $20 much less $30. The posted tasting notes are nonsense. I’m doing my best to suppress my anger.
When you see a Brunello di Montalcino on the shelves of the KGBO for less than $40 it is probably crap. That proved to be the case with the $36 Quercecchio Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 438580. The posted tasting notes of the Vintages panel are shameful and embarrassing. They are almost as embarrassing as forgetting to wear pants to school (not that you have ever done that). If you want a Brunello please spend the extra money and buy the Argiano. If it is a decent Sangiovese yee seek, make me proud and go buy the San Vincenti and confidently serve that one to your family and friends. Tell them that you paid $36 and they likely will not pull out their phones to prove you wrong.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Well, that old saying doesn’t apply in the case of the $25 Palacios Remondo La Montesa Crianza 2015 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 674572. We tasted two bottles of this wine blind and didn’t like the contents of the glass both times. I am quite baffled by the reviews of both local and international critics on this wine. This wine is a confused teenager that may never get his act together. It is fruity and strange and not typical of the wines for this great region. This wine added to my anger and now I feel an urge to yell at my kids, in public. I’m kidding. My kids are grown adults who often need to suppress their urge to yell at me.