89 points, the lowest score he ever awarded a confession (2 march 2019 vintages release)

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.

Outstanding wines

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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he was distracting the hijinks of the children (16 february 2019 vintages release)

This week’s diversion
(with apologies to Garrison Keillor)

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town, out near the edge of totalitarianism. Winter ravaged on but the natives take the cold temperatures in stride. In my town, the residents stoically endure the weather in the same manner as they cope with the government controlling their daily activities.

Father Suckling’s exorcism of the anti-high-wine-score demons that took up residence in Jollie LeBlois’ soul resulted in Jollie’s return as a functioning member of society.  As one might expect after such trauma, Jollie began wandering the streets in a zombie-like manner. This lobotomized behavior so impressed LCBO management that they immediately hired the perpetually happy Jollie. Jollie spent his days smirking among the wine bottles, uttering a Rainman mantra (high scores, lots and lots of high scores), while he replaced Robert Parker 94 point stickers with the more consumer-friendly Jeb Dunnick 96+ point version.

With his hard work resulting in soaring sales, Jollie landed a spot on the Vintages Tasting Panel. During his first tasting, he watched in awe as the panel arrived at the groundbreaking revelation that Chianti pairs well with “pasta bolognese or mature cheeses.” Jollie’s contribution was to express the thought that someone should let the folks in Italy in on this discovery asap.

Down at the Tim Horton’s, the TVs blared the latest update from the scandal that is ransacking Ottawa’s Politburo. Pastor Parker (the removal of his stickers putting him in a foul mood) upset the crowd when he stammered loudly that the resignation of Comrade Butts was the equivalent of the school bus driver throwing himself under the bus because he was distracting the hijinks of the children. Father Suckling calmed the situation by purchasing two double-doubles and the gathered crowd then enjoyed a lively debate on whether the coffee was worthy of 96 or 97 points. Restaurant Brands International was forced to print the lower score stickers from Pastor Parker when Father Suckling refused to waive solicitor-client privilege.

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 report on this release is quite late. My apologies.

Outstanding wines

The $19 La Guardiense Janare del Sannio Greco 2017 VINTAGES#: 631085 is my value white wine pick in the release. The flavor profile is more citrus than the stone fruit as stated in the posted tasting but otherwise, the Vintage panel did a decent job describing this wine. The level of acidity is quite nice in this versatile white wine. This wine retails in Italy for about the equivalent of about $16CAD. Locations elsewhere in Europe pay about the same amount of money as we do here in the People’s Republic of Ontario.

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The wine that caused the groundbreaking revelation that “Chianti pairs with pasta bolognese or mature cheeses” is the $19 Renzo Masi Riserva Chianti 2015 Sangiovese Blend VINTAGES#: 969469. This wine will not set your world on fire. It’s a bit rustic, has good acidity, and the typical red fruit and earth that one expects in a decent Chianti. All of these attributes appeal to me and I was low on Tuesday night wines so I bought a few bottles.

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It appears that the $23 Rioja Vega Crianza Edición Limitada 2015 Tempranillo / Graciano VINTAGES#: 638783 is sold out. If a supply appears and you find yourself in need of a well-balanced-value Rioja then consider grabbing a few bottles.  While the 95 point score is ridiculous, the posted tasting notes do a decent job.

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Wines to consider

It appears that the $29 La Regola 2011 Cabernet Franc Blend VINTAGES#: 420653 is already sold out. Perhaps the powers at our all knowing and all controlling monopoly will provide us with more product. I found the presence of fresh green bell pepper in a fully ripe wine to be interesting. Sipping and observing how this wine improved over a three day period also indicates that this wine would reward cellaring. The posted tasting notes are accurate. Fans of Cab Franc-based wines should consider trying this example from sunny Italy. The vintage of this wine that was included in the May 2016 Vintages release retailed for $22. That $7 increment represents about an 11% annual compounded price increase (nearly 32% in total over the 3 years). Someone is being very very greedy and should go confess to Father Suckling. I bet that you are wishing that you could be so greedy in your annual salary adjustment. Go ahead and try. If the KGBO can do it then why not you?

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Wines for wine geeks

I may develop a rule that when I am in doubt on how to categorize a wine I will just call it a geek wine. The $20 Viña Leyda Canelo Single Vineyard Syrah 2015 VINTAGES#: 632703 was the cause of my dilemma. This Chilian wine is a chameleon. Out of the gate, to me, this wine tasted fresh and fruity like a decent Pinot Noir. With time in the glass, the wine took on some of the classic Syrah attributes, including the presence of bacon fat that is often found with Syrah-based wines from the Northern Rhone valley. If you are willing and able to age a $20 wine, my guess is that the Leyda Canelo would reward patient collectors.

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Wines that I am avoiding

I dislike the taste of saccharin in wine, so I am not a fan of the $29 Quartier Pinot Noir 2016 VINTAGES#: 632554. In any event, at the time of writing, it appears that this wine is no longer available.

I have previously fessed up to my sensitivity to what I perceive to be unpleasant sulfur attributes that are present in many Sauvignon Blanc-based wines. To me, the $22 Awatere River by Louis Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2017 VINTAGES#: 492272 has this unpleasant characteristic. I also found it out-of-balance both in terms of elevated acidity lacking support and an unpleasant bitter finish. That said, the local wine critics love this wine. Maybe I am out-to-lunch and should have sent my glass over to them instead of pouring it down the drain. This bottle will be returned for a refund.

gossip spreads quickly and blasphemy transcends denominations (2 february 2019 vintages release)

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.

Outstanding wines

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

please complain that the bread is stale (vintages release 19 january 2019)

This week’s diversion

The People’s Republic of Ontario has launched a survey under the guise of obtaining the public’s feedback on how to modernize alcohol choice in Ontario. It will not shock you to hear that I am a total cynic on this matter.

All political organizations, both public and private, know the importance of seeking stakeholders’ views. The leaders of these organizations also know that the act of seeking is the sole important task; there is no need to act on the input. None. Zero. Zippo. These are feel-good actions and they have the same value as feel-good words. I don’t recall a temporary tax that went away or a neutral tax that was ever neutral.

This feel-good internet survey costs nothing and I suspect that’s what its outcome is worth. A feel-good action that will provide feel-good sound bites. This time the sound bites will be used to support more bumbling actions of Chairman Ford of the People’s Republic. In the end, assuming that you remember the beginning, you will not feel well at all.

I find that many of the survey’s questions to be leading. And (BIG SIGH), I get depressed because I can’t help thinking that many (most?) participants will not have experienced the benefits of a real market, one that is not controlled by government supply management. Here are a few examples to illustrate my point.

How about feeling joy when buying excellent wine from the owner of the little enoteca where they just ate lunch…or legally consuming wine while picnicking in a park…or visiting a wine store that specializes in your favorite Italian wines…or taking advantage of the rich selection of old and young wines that are readily available in markets like Europe, Hong Kong, the UK, or the USA…or, if price is the vice, saved a lot of money buying table wines from a high-volume retailer such as Costco?

If someone has not taken advantage of the lifestyle in a place where the state does not consider wine to be a controlled substance then he or she might think and say that there is no need for change. When you are starving and someone gives you a sandwich, you eat it with joy. You may not even recognize that the bread is stale and, if you do, you would not suggest that the experience would be better if the bread was freshly baked.

Let’s be realistic and not be surprised when change, if any, to the laws relating to wine in Ontario is not substantive and we hear our politicians repeatedly express the modern day mantra that the government “sought the views of the public.” That said, completing the survey will not cause harm so please please please add voices to the chorus calling for privatization.

Oh, another thing, this survey is like elections of old. You can vote it as often as you like. Here’s the link: https://www.ontario.ca/form/alcohol-choice-and-convenience-for-the-people-survey. The survey closes Feb. 1st. Remember to vote early and vote often.

GTA wine events

Before we jump into the details, if you live near the Greater Toronto Area, there are two upcoming wine tasting events that may interest you.

On February 15, the Toronto Vintners Club (TVC) will present a tasting of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Gran Selezione is a new classification for Chianti. It was created in 2013 and the Gran Selezione classification 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 determine your preference for the different port styles. Registration details will be posted soon at www.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.

Outstanding wines

Are you in need of a good house white wine? Then try the $18 Jardin Inspector Péringuey Chenin Blanc 2016—VINTAGES#: 443473. The posted tasting notes are accurate. The wine has some complexity, balance, length and decent acidity. It’s enjoyable on its own or with food. We are paying about the same price as our friends in Europe so the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) is providing us with a fair price. A lot to like for less than $20.

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I really enjoyed the $17 Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 23325. This wine works solo or with food. The posted tasting notes are accurate. The price is similar to what the folks in Italy pay. Again, a lot to like in this one.

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The $40 Marqués de Murrieta Capellanía Reserva Blanco 2013 Viura (Macabeo)—VINTAGES#: 230011 may not be a white wine in your price range but this white Rioja is outstanding. We are being gouged on the price compared to Europe and the USA but we seldom see white Rioja of this quality in the People’s Republic of Ontario. The analogy of a starving person and a sandwich made with stale bread comes to mind.

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Wines to consider

If you are like me and are a fan of sherry then consider the $22 Bodegas Yuste Aurora Oloroso Sherry—VINTAGES#: 609982. This sherry will not set your world on fire but it is a lovely drink at a decent price. The wine critic James Molesworth did a good job on the tasting notes. I enjoyed drinking this sherry solo and it works well with olives, nuts and the typical sherry fare.wine_112540_web

The $19 Borgo Scopeto Borgonero 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 421396 is a nice Tuscan red wine. I disagree with James Suckling’s views that the wine has “the right amount of acid intensity.” To me, this statement is correct if you were enjoying this wine with food. This is a great value wine for your table and one that I would pick to match up with Italian cuisine.

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The $26 Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett 2016—VINTAGES#: 629998 is a good example of why I have a problem with the way the LCBO rates a wine’s sweetness. They use the concept of “perceived sweetness” and you can read about it at http://www.lcbo.com/content/lcbo/en/pages/wine/wine-sweetness-chart.html#.XEtyhnbYrnE. Even by their own published chart, considering a wine like the Bischöfliche with 62 grams of residual sugar to be “medium sweet” is misleading. Yes. the Bischöfliche has lots of acidity but this is a sweet wine. Sweet wines have a purpose and this wine would work with a tart dessert or spicy food. Many (most?) people will have trouble drinking this wine solo.

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Collector’s corner

If you are willing and able to shell out $38 for a collectible Chenin Blanc then consider the Mullineux Old Vines White 2017 Chenin Blanc Blend—VINTAGES#: 556597.  If you pop this bottle now you may detect both a funny nose and after taste. It comes together with time in the glass but I think that time in the bottle is what is needed for this wine to shine. My guess is that a few years in the cellar will result in a wine that provides you with a rewarding experience.

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Wines to avoid

The tasting group was not fond of the $47 Meerlust Rubicon 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Blend—VINTAGES#: 64329.  This wine may come together with cellaring but the fruitiness and tannins that I experienced in the glass did not make me confident that it was worth the effort and risk. The last time that the KGBO allowed us to buy this wine was the 2010 vintage that was released in 2017 and sold for $38. That’s a shameful 11 percent compound price increase. I’m sure that you get an 11% pay raise every year. Right?

I am hoping that the $40 Jean-Marc Brocard Vau de Vay Chablis 1er Cru 2015
Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 159012 is not an indicator of where the price is going with wines from Chablis. In a release in 2014, the 2012 vintage of this wine sold for $30. Perhaps this wine needs time in the bottle to shine but, tasted blind, the contents of the bottle did not impress our group. Many people pegged it for a cheaper Chardonnay from South Africa.

My guess is that there are tons of the $23 Château l’Argenteyre 2015 Bordeaux
—VINTAGES#: 632976 in the KGBO system. The wine critic Neil Martin sometimes does a good job describing a wine. This time his comments are over the top. He also left out “soggy cornflakes” and “poopy diaper”, two descriptors used by people who tasted this wine on Sunday. This is an unpleasant wine to drink. Bad bottle? I doubt it as the local wine critics also did not like what they tasted.

I understand the need to have crowd-pleasing, reception style wines. However, in attempting to achieve that result, wine-makers sometimes over-engineer the outcome. That’s what I think happened with the $18 Château L’Escadre 2015 Bordeaux—VINTAGES#: 630046. The first few sips are fine but I found that I tired of this wine quickly and it made me angry that I spent money on this one even at this price point. The wine was no better on day 2.

One of the comments made after blind tasting the $18 Le Gravillas Séguret Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2016 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 309260 was “this tastes like the cheap stuff that I used to drink in university.” This wine is pretty simple and fruity and my money and I will not part for wines made in this style.

I struggle to enjoy a wine that is fruity and has an artificial sweetener aftertaste. Unfortunately, that’s my perception of the $20 Gabarda Selección 2015 Grenache/Carignan—VINTAGES#: 629139. I’m avoiding this one.

 

the start of i am fat and broke season (5 january 2019 vintages release)

It happens annually. The month previlged month of December greedily hosts the season of human excesses. We spend money excessively. We eat excessively. And, we drink vino excessively. Man, the season of excess is a grand one.

Even grand things must end and the season of excess usually concludes when we step on the scale and check our credit card balance. These events mark the beginning of “I am fat and broke” season. The beginning of I am fat and broke season is much easier to predict than the weather.

I think that the folks at the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) choose the wines to include in the first release in January reflect this season. The selection of wines is the mirror opposite of our weight (we are fat and the number of wines is thin) and they know that you are financially challenged so they pay close attention to making sure that the wines have a low price point. Such is the nature of the 5 January 2019 Vintages release.

Last weekend, the season of excess was still in force so the muddler tasting group was also thin in number. We tasted a few wines only so this report is brief.

GTA wine events

Before we jump into the details, if you live near the Greater Toronto Area there are two upcoming wine tasting events that may interest you.

On January 15, the Toronto Vintners Club (TVC) will be tasting 2009 red Burgundy wines. This event is your opportunity to sample wines from the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune,  including four Grand Cru and two Premier Cru wines. Details are available at https://www.torontovintners.org/events.

On January 23, WineTasters will be featuring cellar-worthy wines focusing on wine gems that were part of previous Vintages releases. This event is your opportunity to taste a terrific cross-section of different varietals, both familiar (Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Riesling, etc.) and lesser-known varietals like Aglianico and Mencia. Details are available at https://winetasters.ca/cellar-starter-wines.

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.

Wines to consider

If you truly are broke and you want a cheap red wine to drown a few sorrows then consider the $13 Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage 2017—VINTAGES#: 631564. Let’s face the facts. This is an engineered “Mc” wine. It is simple and comes across as a tad sweet. If you chill the wine, it would work with a hamburger and it may be the crowd-pleaser that helps preserve your bank account. This wine definitely is a “pop and pour” as the contents of the bottle after it was open for a day were not enjoyable.

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A high amount of acidity is one characteristic of wines made from the Barbera grape. The acidity makes the wine food friendly and the $16 Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera d’Asti 2016—VINTAGES#: 265413 is no exception.  If you like acidic wines you will enjoy this wine solo but I suspect that having food with this wine will enhance most people’s enjoyment. The posted tasting notes are accurate.

From the 2015 to 2016 vintage, we are required to pay $2 more per bottle. That’s a shameful 14% increase in price. I guess that the KGBO doesn’t really care about the broke part of fat and broke season. Release after release, we have seen examples of exorbitant increases in price. What other monopoly has this kind of unmitigated pricing power? I don’t understand why the people of Ontario put up with this abuse.

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The $18 Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico 2015—VINTAGES#: 540922 is a bit of an enigma. Tasted blind, few identified this wine as Chianti (contrary to the posted tasting notes).  The aromas of iron and blood blew off with time in the glass. The tannins also initially were very aggressive. The contents of the bottle were much more enjoyable on the second day that the bottle was open and the wine went practically well with the dal I enjoyed for lunch. This outcome is consistent with the notes that I published when this wine was first made available as part of the 28 April 2018 Vintages release.

If it is Chianti yee seek then check the availability of wine identified in more recent posts of this blog. There is better Chianti at this price point but if you need to buy the Cecchi make sure that you give the wine a good decant before enjoying it.

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The highlight of the wines tasted from the 5 January 2019 release for me is the $17 Solà Fred 2017 Carignan—VINTAGES#: 636258. We don’t normally see the KGBO offering us a single varietal Carignan-based wine. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I enjoyed the full-bodied dried fruit nature of this wine. I think it is a great wine to enjoy on a cold winter night or to accompany a rich meat-based dish.

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Wines to avoid

Okay, to be fair, if you are a fan of Retsina wine then you will enjoy like the $8 Kechris Kechribari Retsina White – Light Dry—VINTAGES#: 581942. If you have never tried this highly maligned style of wine then this may be your chance to give one a try.  In a group setting, the tasting experience will be a conversation starter for sure. The truth is, I don’t know anyone (including me) that enjoys the medicinal pine needle aromas and flavors of Retsina. Thus, I concluded that most people should avoid this one.

 

vintages release 8 december 2018

The satire for this posting is a piece penned by the master.  TheHoseMaster of Wine gives you his unique view on the topic of Christmas giving. Enjoy his funny observations by clicking here.

Outstanding wines

From the 24 November release, the $35 Villa Cafaggio Cortaccio 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon—VINTAGES#: 20966 is a ripe, balanced, and complex wine that is highly enjoyable. The posted tasting notes might confuse you and were a poor choice by the LCBO. If you like “super Tuscan” wines (or want to try one) the Cortaccio is the place to start. While there is value for the money in the $35 price (so much so that I bought more than a case), I am pissed at this year’s $10 per bottle price increase. I have enjoyed previous vintages of this wine and paid $25 a bottle for the pleasure. I can only hope that my extra cash is going to the hard workers at the winery and is not a blatant tax grab by the LCBO and the government of the People’s Republic of Ontario. Shouldn’t monopolies, including government-owned monopolies, have to justify their price increases to their customers?wine_92161_web

Are you curious about aged wine from Bordeaux and do not want to pay an arm-and-a-leg to experience one? If so, then try to $21 Château L’Espérance 2010 Merlot Blend—VINTAGES#: 487868.  Yep, for about twenty bucks you can source an 8-year-old Bordeaux that it drinking really nicely now. I bought a case. This wine retails for about the same price in the USA.

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Continuing on the topic of aged wines of value, the 12 years old $24 Balbás Reserva 2006 Tempranillo Blend—VINTAGES#: 85183 is another potential case buy.  The posting tasting notes are accurate. Be aware the Balbás Crianza 2013 ($21.95 VINTAGES#:437673) was part of the November 24 Vintages release, may be on the shelves near the Reserva, and you may put that wine into your shopping cart by mistake. I have not tasted the Crianza and it may be a good wine too. wine_110253_web

Wines to consider

Are you looking for a decent sparkling wine that will not break the bank? Then consider the $20 Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne—VINTAGES#: 991562. A pleasant sipper, brunch, reception wine. Simply put, it’s a decent wine for the price. It’s a little high in residual sugar, a feature that will appeal to most people, and the wine has sufficient acidity to pull it off.

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From the November 24 release, consider the $25 Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 930966 as your Italian table wine. This is a decent, ready to drink Sangiovese based wine that works on its own or with food. This wine retails for the equivalent of $20CAD in Italy and our friends in the Excited States pay about the same price as we do in the People’s Republic of Ontario. wine_106971_web

Lovers of Oregon Pinot Noir will be pleased with the $49 Aberrant Cellars Gran Moraine Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014—VINTAGES#: 609156. The posted tasting notes are embarrassing laughable. I hope someone exercises basic human mercy and euthanizes me if I ever use the expression “Sumatra coffee beans” in a tasting note. In the glass, you will find a classic fruit-forward, complex, spicey, earthy Oregon Pinot Noir. I think that the wine needs a bit of time to come together and would love to taste this one in 5 or so years from now. You may balk at the price tag but, if you like good Oregon Pinot Noir, $50 is the price that you often have to pay. In comparison, the price in the good old USA is $10CAD more. You are getting a bargain.

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Fans of bold-extracted Australia Cab blends will find the $40 Elderton Ode To Lorraine Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot 2015—VINTAGES#: 976423 appealing. Again, the tasting notes are ridiculous and laughable. Displaying “sagacious tannins” implies that the wine may require psychological counseling and a “phalanx of fruit” are show off words. I mean seriously, who in his or her right mind writes this shit? The Elderton is not a wine that suits my taste but if you are a fan the dark-fruit style of the Barossa Valley and willing to age this wine for a decade or so then you likely will be happy with the outcome. wine_111934_web

Fans of wine from Chablis will be pleased sipping on the $41 Maison Olivier Tricon Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2014 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 557694.  With flavors of apples, pears, and lemons with nice acidity and minerality this wine is drinking well presently. You probably are not happy with the price but this amount is typical for a nice wine from the Chablis region. The wine retails for about the same price in the UK, making the price charged by the LCBO reasonable.

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Are you looking for a different style of Chardonnay? Are you a fan of the oxidized style of winemaking? Then consider the $20 Marcel Cabelier Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay 2014—VINTAGES#: 485839. This is a wine for wine geeks and not all of them will like it.

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Wines to avoid

I keep embarrassing myself in my quest to find a value wine from Argentina that contains the Cabernet Franc grape. I am nearly prepared to admit that one does not exist as the $15 La Celia Reserva Malbec/Cabernet Franc 2015—VINTAGES#: 618280 is a fruit bomb. This may be a style that appeals to you but, for me, not so much.

My quest to find decent value Cab Franc is not just confined to the country of Argentina. This grape found a home in the Loire Valley in France so I had high hopes from the $21  J.M. Raffault Les Picasses Chinon 2015 Cabernet Franc—VINTAGES#: 367011. I found this wine overly fruity and confusing. Just not a fan.

If you are a fan of oaky Chardonnay then the $19 Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay 2016—VINTAGES#: 350900 will appeal to you. To me, the wood is out of balance with the rest of the wine and I can enjoy one glass only of this wine made in this style.

I think that the $20 Villa Cerna Primocolle Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 573501 is trying hard to be something that it is not. Tasted blind, no one in our group thought the contents in the glass was from the Sangiovese grape. Apart from the aggressive tannins, the wine is enjoyable. I am avoiding the wine simply because I did not find it typical to what I expect from Sangiovese grapes. Note that the content of the catalog lists the vintage as the 2012. The website correctly lists the vintage as 2015.

 

 

 

the list of potential suspects is too lengthy to pursue (10 november vintages release)

TheMuddler is eating and drinking in Italy and was not able to taste the wines from the 24 November 2018 Vintages release. His next report will be on the 8 December 2018 release.

Our story so far

News continues to stream out of Ottawa, the capital city of the People’s Republic of Canada. Not realizing that his microphone was on, Prime Minister Trudeau was overheard admitting that an email from an imprisoned Nigerian Prince was the inspiration behind his government’s approach to the recently introduced carbon tax. Trudeau was overheard saying:

Gerald decided that we should help the prince out so we sent him $100,000 and any day now we will get all the money back plus a lot more. It later dawned on us that if the approach of people getting back more money than they paid works for a Prince in Nigeria then why wouldn’t it work for the government of Canada?

Unconfirmed sources indicate that Trudeau’s most trusted advisor, Gerald Butts, called the carbon tax act the Universal Nigerian Prince Act for International Decarbonization. The name was changed at the last minute when Finance Minister Morneau pointed out that the UNPAID acronym would cause people to confuse the carbon tax with the government’s multi-billion-dollar Phoenix payroll system.

In other news of inspiration, TheWineMuddler issued a statement that he too was being blackmailed for his online indiscretions. On his website, TheWineMuddler posted that

Anthony Weiner could learn a thing or two from the remorse demonstrated by Tony Clement. His apology’s complete-and-totally-believable sincerity inspired me to also admit to my tens of readers that I too have behaved badly on Instagram.” TheMuddler further stated that “I became suspicious that my online relationship was not genuine when “she” asked me to replace the Luc Maoni 99 point stickers on my Lederhosen with big bold James Suckling 100 points decals.

TheMuddler attempted to turn the matter over to the police who commented that “while Mr. Suckling is the primary suspect, the list of potential suspects is too lengthy to pursue, and includes an unnamed former premier of the People’s Republic of Ontario. The OPP in an “off-the-record comment” also stated, “frankly, no one gives a shit.

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 November 28 WineTasters event is your opportunity to taste eight 2006 wines from the prestigious region of Cote-Rôtie. Details are available 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.

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10 November 2018 Vintages Release

I can save you a lot of time and money by saying upfront that there is little to get excited about in the 10 November 2018 Vintages release. You can stop reading now, and circle back to my previous posts, if your purpose in reading this blog is to identify decent quality price point wines. Just scroll down to the bottom of this post for one final laugh and skip the rest.

For those of you with nothing better to read, in my last post, I speculated that the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) is ramping up to collect more of your hard-earned money as the holiday season approaches. With this release, the evidence supporting this theory mounts.

For example, the 29 September 2018 Vintages release contained 128 wines and 21 wines (or about 16%) exceeded $30 per bottle in price. The current release, 10 November 2018, contains 130 wines and 56 (or about 43%) exceeds $30 per bottle in price. In case you have not noticed, if you live in Canada and want to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal, or give as a Christmas present, you pretty much have to buy it from your provincial government’s monopoly. We all know that the government knows what it is best, including what wine you are allowed to buy and the price that you must pay for that privilege. This situation is seriously screwed up and I wish that others would grow a spine and speak up for wine consumers and collectors in this province and in Canada in general.

Outstanding wines

I agree with the posted tasting notes of the $17 Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla
Sherry—VINTAGES#: 745448. If you are a fan of, or just want to try a bone-dry-salty-fino sherry this one is for you. It is “an absolute delight”.

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Wines to consider

I would stock up on the $29 Pirramimma Petit Verdot 2015—VINTAGES#: 986752 if the KGBO lowers the price. With the right combination of fruit, tannins, and earth this is an enjoyable wine that would complement a charred-protein meal. Two years ago, the KGBO sold this wine for $21 and they raised the price to $29 last year. That’s a 38% price increase in case you don’t want to do the math. In Australia, this wine retails for the equivalent of $22 CAD and Europeans pay a little bit more than that amount. Do you think that we are getting value here in the People’s Republic?clone_wine_67669_web

If you try the $24 Feudo Montoni Lagnusa Nero D’Avola 2015 Nero d’Avola—VINTAGES#: 523738 make sure that you give the wine a long decant. Fresh from the bottle, this wine is primary with overwhelming attributes of strawberry jam. With some air time, those unpleasant cooked jam attributes die down and the wine’s more interesting characters come through. I enjoyed with wine a lot more the second day that the bottle was open than the first. Galloni’s review that the KGBO posted is over the top and overstated. He doesn’t normally do such things. This wine retails for the equivalent of $18 CAD in Europe and is about $22 CAD in the USA. Again, we are paying a premium.clone_wine_103968_web

As a producer, I find Urbina to be inconsistent in the quality of their wine. I was therefore happy to learn that the $55 Urbina Gran Reserva 1996 Tempranillo—VINTAGES#: 355743 was a lovely aged and balanced wine. If you want to treat yourself or a loved one to a mature wine experience at a decent price this is a great opportunity. clone_wine_50080_web

We blind tasted the $50 Viña Tondonia Reserva 2005 Tempranillo Blend—VINTAGES#: 356337 twice. The first bottle was boring and flat and flawed. The wine in the second exhibited balance, earth elements, complexity, and character. If you purchase this 13-year-old beauty make sure that you experience the latter. If not, recork the bottle and return it to the LCBO for a full refund.

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I am slowly learning about Portuguese wine. I admit to my ignorance and prejudice as I really struggle with paying premium prices for wines from this country. The breaking of these prejudices is another benefit of the blind tasting format. The $39 João Brito e Cunha Quinta de S. José Touriga Nacional 2015 Touriga Nacional—VINTAGES#: 568857 is a wine with character, richness, chocolate notes, and balance. Unfortunately, I choke at the price that the KGBO charges for this wine. In Portugal, this wine retails for the equivalent of $13 CAD. The price jumps as high as $25 in France. How can the folks at the KGBO sleep at night knowing that we are being forced to pay $39 to enjoy this wine? Shameful.

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Wines for collectors

The $108 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2016—VINTAGES#: 183921 is a wine of consistent quality and a favorite choice of many collectors. If you are seeking an ageable, fruit-forward Chardonnay with a very healthy dose of oak then this wine is your ticket. The price is a stretch but it sells for almost the same amount of money in the Excited States of America (a.k.a., the USA). wine_111363_web

We did not taste the $94 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016 Grenache blend—VINTAGES#: 711317 but, thanks to Paul B, we did enjoy a bottle of the 2000 vintage. Collectors know that Beaucastel needs at least 20 years in the bottle to shine. I would not recommend buying this wine unless you play to cellar it for many years. By accounts, the 2016 vintage was outstanding and the price that we pay in the People’s Republic of Ontario is comparable to prices charged in Europe. Our friends in America pay a premium for this wine.

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Wines to avoid

I was really disappointed in the $30 Gordon Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend—VINTAGES#: 950295. This is an odd wine with both overripe and green vegetal notes and a predominance of wood. For the money, I would expect a more interesting and integrated wine. This wine retails for more money in the good old USA. Pursue other options.

This year I am avoiding the $18 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017—VINTAGES#: 231282.  This wine consistently represents great value but to me this vintage is odd. With the wine having searing-out-of-balance acidity and fruit flavors that tend towards the simpler apple end of the fruit spectrum I see little reason to rush out and buy this wine this year. I duly note that, in our blind tasting format, two glasses of this exact same wine was poured and tasted side-by-side. None of us identified that the wine in the two glasses was the same. What was the difference between those two glasses? The contents of the glass on the left (the glass that people found “interesting”) was served quite cold. The contents of the glass on the right (the glass that people found “weird”) was served slightly chilled.  A humbling experience and one that taught the lesson of the importance of a wine’s serving temperature.

The $23 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2015—VINTAGES#: 21253 is an awkward wine. The residual sugar comes across as being too high for me, the fruit flavors are simple pear and apple and there is an unpleasant bitterness on the finish. If you need to buy an Alsatian white wine then consider Schlumberger’s $30 Kessler Riesling 2015—VINTAGES#: 61176. It is a more interesting wine and worth the extra money.

Please don’t believe James Suckling’s score of 95 points that he awarded to the $42 Château Haut-Brisson 2015 Bordeaux—VINTAGES#: 514661. One value of using the blind tasting format is that the contents of the glass are judged without knowledge of the producer’s pedigree or the price of the wine. Our tasting group did not enjoy this wine’s ripeness, dark fruit, and oak. Will it all come together with 5 to 10 years bottle age? Maybe. But I am not risking my $42.

There is nothing technically wrong in the posted tasting notes on the $14 Zacharias Assyrtiko 2017—VINTAGES#: 588814. Those notes just omit that the package is not overly enjoyable, at least in the view of our tasting group.

The $39 Capraia Effe 55 Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 573451 was a big disappointment. The wine in the bottle that we opened was thin, green and probably flawed. A bad bottle? Maybe. I’m not risking it at this price.

We blind tasted the $29 Corte Medicea Atos 2015 Merlot—VINTAGES#: 475996 twice and twice the contents of our glasses failed to please. The posted tasting notes are silly as we found the wine to be disappointing, primary, out-of-balance, heavily oaked and singular. Things did not improve on day two. This wine is not worth the money. Note that the wine critic Luca Maroni awarded this wine 99 points. Talk about absurd. Please ignore such ratings when you are trying to decide a wine to buy. It’s a sad state of affair.

The $15 Castano Hecula Monastrell 2015 Monastrell (Mourvèdre)—VINTAGES#: 718999 is a raspberry jam, sour patch kids candy fruit bomb mess.  This one went straight into the dump bucket. The posted tasting notes are shameful.

 

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