This week’s diversion
(with profound apologies to Garrison Keillor)
(and apologies to readers who don’t get the obscure Americana cultural reference)
It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town. Winter unleashed its anger this week and people avoided the artic temperatures by staying home. Sales at the KGBO liquor control board plunged but, no worries, the rate of government-encouraged shoplifting also declined prodigiously.
The cold weather was also responsible for the large number of comments submitted on the communist sounding “choice and convenience for the people” survey. Chairman Ford, while posing with his doppelganger Wiarton Willie, tried to ease fears by reassuring that any change to wine retailing in the People’s Republic will be based his government’s three guiding principles of rhetoric, impulse, and reversal. Not being one to miss a photo opt, Chairman Trudeau added that he would overrule any change that involved a pipeline or did not address wine’s obvious gender inequality issues.
Down at the Tim Horton’s, Jollie LeBlois spoke of this travels and he regaled people with implausible tales of lands where the government did not treat wine as a controlled substance; places where people had a choice, store owners had the expertise, and wine was taxed the same way as other life essentials.
The gathered crowd’s acceptance was intoxicating and Jollie decided to push at the edges. The crowd gasped when he shouted that wine scores “lack meaning.” Tragedy struck quickly with his follow-up claim that good wine sells itself and “the real purpose of scores is to help wineries and retailers move their mediocrity.” Unfortunately for Jollie, gossip spreads quickly and blasphemy transcends denominations.
Recognizing the dangerous work of a cult, Father Suckling, of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual High Scores, ordered Jollie’s detention and administered the standard exorcism of intermittent waterboarding until one correctly identifies the difference between a James Halliday 96 point Australian Shiraz and one that he rates 98 points. Over at the Lutheran church, Pastor Parker provided solace to the confused masses with a stirring and timely sermon on the importance of your ability to believe in what you cannot believe. Under a full moon, Jeb Dunnuck sacrificed a goat in the KGBO’s parking lot “just to be on the safe side”.
With the blessing of these Dukes and Duchesses of Deception, the 100 point scale experienced a resurrection, of sorts. Such was Jollie LeBlois’ 15 minutes of fame. That’s the news from my home town. Where are the women are strong, all the men good looking, and all the wines are rated 100 + points.
GTA wine events
If you live or will be visiting the Greater Toronto Area, there are two upcoming wine tasting events that may interest you.
On February 19, the Toronto Vintners Club (TVC) will present a tasting of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. The Gran Selezione designation was created in 2013 with the objective of providing a category of Chianti that is a step up in quality from the well-known Chianti Classico designation. Gran Selezione wines must be made from estate grown grapes of a single vineyard (or selection of the estate’s best parcels) and must age for 30 months before they are released. Details on this event are available at https://www.torontovintners.org/events.
On February 27, WineTasters will be exploring all things port. This tasting will an introduction to port, featuring the different styles: Vintage Port, Late Bottled Vintage Port, Colheita, Tawnies, and a Ruby. This event is a chance for you to see what you get at different price points, the outcome of cellaring port, and your chance to compare and contrast the five styles of port and determine the style(s) that you prefer. Details on this event are available at https://winetasters.ca/.
At both of these events, you will enjoy great wine, meet friendly people and have a terrific evening. I will attend both events so if you attend please say hi.
If you are a fan of Italian red wine then the KGBO (a.k.a, the LCBO) managed to provide you with two great wines in this release.
First up is the $28 Vinosia Taurasi Santandrea 2013 Aglianico—VINTAGES#: 172692. I think that Campania’s star is rising as the region is doing wonderful things with the Aglianico grape. Yes, this wine has a firm tannic backbone but it provides the necessary structure for the other things going on with this wine. This is a great food wine and a full-bodied wine to sip on a cold winter’s night. If you wish, you may age this for a long time in your cellar. Unfortunately, this is a wine where we are being fleeced by KGBO greed. It would be so nice to be in Italy where I could happily (and legally) sip this wine with grilled meats at a BBQ in the park for the mere price of $21CAD a bottle.
The $19 Viberti La Gemella Barbera d’Alba 2016 Barbera—VINTAGES#: 632372 is a well-made and balanced Barbera. Wines made from the Barbera grape can be overly acidic but this one has great balance. The Vintage Tasting Panel did a good job in describing this wine although the suggested food pairing seems to be somewhat random to me. Based on the locations of the worldwide supply, I am guessing that this wine is made for the North American market. It is readily available in the good old USA at about the same retail price point. A great table wine and a great buy.
The pleasant surprise for me at the tasting was how well the two Portuguese wine we tasted blind showed. The $16 Opta Red 2015 Touriga Nacional Blend—VINTAGES#: 633834 had many of the characteristics of a good Côtes du Rhône. Try a bottle and just might conclude that you have a great value table wine on your hands. FYI, this wine retails for the equivalent of $10CAD in Europe. Do you still think that the People’s Republic of Ontario KGBO provides you with great value and are treating your money with respect? Sure you do…if you think 60% premium is nothing.
If you follow this blog then you know that Spanish wines often perform well in our blind tasting process. The $24 Marqués del Puerto Reserva 2010 Tempranillo/Mazuelo—VINTAGES#: 638767 is a versatile and aged red wine. The oak is a bit too forward for my taste but the style of this nearly decade-old wine will appeal to people’s taste and the wine would be a hit in several settings.
Wines to consider
I think that you will be rewarded if you cellar the $25 Mommessin Grandes Mises Saint-Amour 2016 Gamay—VINTAGES#: 630053 for a couple of years. I like my wines to be less fruit forward and thus my conclusion that time in the bottle will help the fruit integrate with the other components of this wine. Other people will find the lovely wild-strawberry jam fruit profile will be too hard to resist and their bottles will disappear quickly. The posted tasted notes are accurate. Comparable pricing exists in other jurisdictions making the price charged by our government monopoly a fair one.
I had trouble classifying the $27 Faiveley Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015—VINTAGES#: 528018. The ripeness of the 2015 vintage caused many people in our tasting group to guess that their glass contained decent Oregon Pinot Noir. Fans of fruit forward styled red Burgundy will enjoy this wine. The KGBO is charging us 12.5% more this year than they charged for the 2014 vintage last year. Sigh.
The second Portuguese red to consider is the $14 Porta da Ravessa Reserva Tinto 2015 Touriga Nacional Blend—VINTAGES#: 631010. This one is slightly cheaper than the Opta, the fruit is darker, and also has dried characteristics. An enjoyable wine at the price point and is a good candidate for a value based house red wine.
Something weird is going. In this release we see, for at least the third time, the $24 Ardal Selección Especial Reserva 2006 Tempranillo Blend—VINTAGES#: 167700. Our tasting group did not taste the first release (I think in February 2017) of this wine. We did taste the second release (November 2017) and we thought that it was an oaky mess. Apparently, this producer bulk stores this wine and releases it in batches. Based on the bottle we opened from this release, the content is pretty good. Still, I can’t help wondering if I want to buy a wine where there is so much variation. Bottom line is that we liked this wine and if you are looking for an aged wine to accompany grilled proteins give it a try.
Wines that I am avoiding
I guess that I learn the hard way as I am sticking with my quest to find good Argentina Cab Fran at a reasonable price. The $20 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2016—VINTAGES#: 450106 was a disappointment. The lengthy tasting note from Luis Gutierrez says little. The wine is okay, I tired of it quickly, and I see little reason to buy it.
The $15 The White Ribbon Semillon 2018—VINTAGES#: 474031 is a pleasant, simple and boring wine. The Vintage Tasting pannel completely overstates the description of this wine. I am using the leftover contents of the bottle for cooking and it’s fine for that purpose.
Another quest, this one the search for good-value-white-Bordeaux wine, will continue. The $17 Château Lamothe de Haux 2017 Bordeaux—VINTAGES#: 635698 even disappointed the Sauvignon Blanc fans in our tasting group. This is a simple wine that we tired of immediately. The posted tasting notes are very overstated and I cannot comprehend how Wine Enthusiast could rate this wine #55 of their top 100. Seriously? I guess they were on a budget and only tasted 100 wines when they came up with their list.
It breaks my heart to say that this year I will not be buying the $30 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône 2016 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 48884. This wine is a perpetual favorite of mine but the value of the blind tasting format saved me money this year. Our tasting group speculated that their glass contained a “dumbed down Côtes du Rhône” and not the second wine of one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s best producers.