This week diversion
It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town, out there on the edge of totalitarianism. Winter raged on but the locals take the cold temperatures in stride.
The cold weather was not the only subject that caused chatter in the town. The majority of the citizens of Lake Control-be-gon may be stoic Lutherans and Catholics but that does not mean that they don’t enjoy a little drama to heat up their of their daily lives. This was a happy week in my hometown as fate or fortune provided the town folk lots to talk about.
Another scandal hit the Mayor’s office. The Control-be-gon Moon, our local paper, captured Mayor Trudeau’s photo as he dashed from his office to take sanctuary in the church of Our Lady of Perpetual High Wine Scores. The Moon’s front page photo caused Jollie LeBlois to comment to the crowd gathered at the Tim Horton’s that our mayor had the same look on his face years ago when he was the high school hero who fell off his snowboard in front of all the twirling cheerleaders.
Our mayor never got over his difficult childhood. Most of us stop believing that monsters hide under our bed and anxieties lurk deep in our bedroom closet. But, our mayor knows these demons exist and since his childhood, he has relied on the contents of his sock drawer to protect him.
Our major is deeply indebted to his protective socks. The morning of that fateful photo, he bypassed his favorite Desmarais socks, rummaged past his numerous pairs of Bombardier socks, and confidently slipped on his pair of SNC Lavalin socks. Our mayor didn’t choose well; the socks failed him and, not only did monsters emerge from under his bed, those socks didn’t provide Mayor Trudeau with sufficient grip to close the door to his anxiety closet.
Safely in the confession booth, Mayor Trudeau attempted to empty the darkness from his heart to the all-knowing Father Suckling. The confession was going swimmingly until our mayor attempted to mitigate his guilt by stating that “sometimes people draw different conclusions from the same experience.” The unimpressed Father Suckling heard the mayor say this before. Contrition in a confession is like tannins in red wine. Their presence provides the necessary structure to support the other elements. Father Suckling found that the confession lacked this structure and rated our mayor’s performance a scant 89 points, the lowest score he ever awarded to a confession or a bottle of wine.
Deputy-mayor Ford was thankful for the mayor’s woes as it distracted the town folk’s attention from his firing of Hans Blair, the town’s deputy dog catcher. Mayor Trudeau is trying to recapture his snowboarding social status and our deputy-mayor never stopped being the playground bully. It’s rumored that her husband’s firing so upset Lulu Blair that she sought comfort in downing cans of Jeb Dunnick 96+ points rated wine.
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.
My apologies to Garrison Keillor for poorly imitating the storyline of Lake Wobegon, his hometown and to Rex Murphy for blatantly and shamelessly stealing his line about the high school champion falling off his snowboard in front of the twirling cheerleaders.
Before we jump into the 2 March 2019 release, I would like to point out one item and one wine tasting that has seats available still.
First, I am extremely frustrated with the KGBO’s new http://www.lcbo.com. The most aggravating issue is finding stores that have the product you seek. You can work around that problem in two ways. One approach is to type your hometown into the search field that appears when you click on “Check Nearby Stores (you first have to click on the + next to Buy In-store). The other option is to use http://www.vintages.com until the KGBO takes down that site. I believe that the Vintages site will eventually disappear as my understanding is the KGBO will combine their three sites (www.lcbo.com, http://www.vintates.com, and http://www.vintagesshoponline.ca). Having consumers deal with three sites is confusing, consolidation is a noble goal, but so far the KGBOs efforts have made their customers worse off.
Second, if you will be in the greater Toronto area on Wednesday, March 27, you have a terrific opportunity to taste top-quality 2009 white Burgundy wines. The wines are all from Henri Boillot, one of Burgundy’s top producers. This tasting features a comparison of Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet village and 1er Crus wines. Details are available at www.winetasters.ca.
If you are a fan of California Cabs and if you find yourself in need of a decent house red wine then stock up on the $20 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 | VINTAGES#: 38034. This wine is commercial in style, with aromas and flavors true to what one expects from a Cab from California. Remember that most California winemakers try to please the palate of Pastor Parker by evaluating the alcohol and sugar content of their wines. This one is no exception but Chateau St. Jean pulls it off and for $20 you will have a decent house red wine.
Like Cabs but not into Cali-Cabs? Then give the $24 Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 | VINTAGES#: 333229 a try. I find that Wynns makes their wines in an old-world style. The result is a Cabernet that has new-world ripe fruit with some of the finesse that I find appealing in wines from the old-world. This wine would also benefit from time in your cellar. Unfortunately, the KGBO is gouging us on the price as this wine retails in the equally-highly-taxed country of Australia for the equivalent of $15 CAD. The pricing stinks so I will be holding my nose when I buy this one.
Not looking for a Cab and prefer a fruit-forward Pinot Noir? Then taste the $20 Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2016 | VINTAGES#: 632919. This wine has the red fruit flavors one expects in a new world Pinot Noir, fruit-forward but not overdone, nicely integrated oak, and decent structure. A versatile wine at a decent price.
Prefer Gamay to Pinot Noir? Then you may want to try the $20 Les Croix Rouges Juliénas 2017 Beaujolais | VINTAGES#: 634691. This is a fun red wine and the nice level of acidity makes it a wine that would work with food.
It was not that long ago that one could find a decent wine for less than $15. The government-mandated-annual tax and price increases have moved the bar such that it is now hard to find a decent wine for less than $20. I think that you will find the $13 Swartland Winemaker’s Collection Chenin Blanc 2018 | VINTAGES#: 631523 to be a time machine that, from a price perspective, takes you back to a better time. I found that the posted tasting notes to be accurate. Fair warning, a local wine critic found this wine to be wanting. But, the people that tasted this wine blind last Sunday concluded otherwise. FYI, this wine sells for the equivalent of $5 CAD in South Africa.
As the Monty Python troop used to say “and now for something completely different”. Trying venturing away from the ubiquitous international grape varieties and try the $22 Monte del Frà Lugana 2017 White Blend | VINTAGES#: 631051. The posted tasting notes are accurate. With 8 grams of residual sugar, you may detect some sweetness but it’s integrated with the other things going on in this interesting white wine.
Another outstanding blended white wine is the $19 Hugel Gentil 2016 White Blend | VINTAGES#: 367284. This one will appeal to fans of Alsatian wines. Ian D’Agata did a great job in the posted tasting notes that describe this wine. Fair warning, if you are not a fan of Gewurztraminer you may not like this wine. The blend contains just a touch of this distinctive grape. That touch works for me and will work for Gewurztraminer fans but not the grape’s foes.
Wines to consider
Once in a while, I long for the days when I would run into a wine that possed personality that stemmed from the contents of the glass being rough around the edges. Winemakers now strive for smoothness. The outcome, especially for low-end wines, is a boring and unpleasant wine (see my comments on the Campos de Enanzo Basiano below for an example). I love the rustic nature of the $15 Cantina San Paolo Aglianico 2017 Aglianico | VINTAGES#: 473132. This wine reminded me of the days before so many producers made wine to please Father Suckling and Pastor Parker. Sipping this wine and having it with food made me happy so I am buying more. Fair warnings: (1) you may find that the elevated acidity makes this wine a little too hard to enjoy solo, (2) the other people in our tasting group were not fond of this wine, and (3) the local wine critics give this wine a ridiculously high score.
The $24 Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend | VINTAGES#: 288530 makes me angry so I reluctantly place it in the category as a wine you should consider buying. If you taste it you will likely conclude that this wine is quite yummy, smooth, and very drinkable. It’s made to please Father Suckling, who awarded the wine with a ridiculous score of 95 points. Why does this wine anger me? Well, to me it does not have the charm that I expect and I need from Sangiovese. If the palate and influence of these freaking wine critics spoil Sangiovese it will really piss me off.
Looking for a simple white wine? One that, if summer were here, you would sip on your patio? Then give the $20 Izadi Blanco 2017 Viura/Malvasia | VINTAGES#: 586396 a try.
Wines that I am avoiding
It’s with some sadness that I will be avoiding the $20 Kew Marsanne 2016 | VINTAGES#: 485334. The disappointment stems from me enjoying previous vintages of this wine. This vintage I found the use of oak to be heavy-handed and clumsy. To me, the result is a Marsanne wine trying to be a heavily oaked Chardonnay.
You can feel the burn when you taste the $19 Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 VINTAGES#: 128629. That burn stems from alcohol that is not integrated with the other components of the wine. After being open for a day, the wine was dead. Given the other Cabernet Sauvignon choices in this release, I don’t see any reason to buy this one.
The $13 There Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2017 | VINTAGES#: 480764 is alternative to the Swartland Winemaker’s Collection discussed above. I found the Tussock had a strange banana profile to the noise and has an odd distracting finish.
Fans of red Bordeaux should avoid the $30 Château de Barbe Blanche 2015 | VINTAGES#: 48066. The high alcohol burn is evidence that this wine was made to please Father Suckling and Pastor Parker.
What to read an exaggerated tasting note from the Vintages panel? What to taste a cheap wine trying to be smooth? Then try the $12 Campos de Enanzo Basiano Tempranillo 2017 | VINTAGES#: 644484. This is an okay cooking wine and nothing more.