vintages release 18 august 2018

The new President of the People’s Republic of Ontario has yet to provide me with the decent-raw-satirical material to enable the writing of a funny story (at least one with a wine theme). The buck a beer quest is the best I have to work with but I cannot make “a buck a beer” any sillier than it already is. If you want to make beer more affordable then take action on something that you control and reduce the crazy levels of taxation. Fat chance.

The government’s decision to turn to the private sector to distribute recreational cannabis provides an iota of hope for lovers of wine. If you care about this issue, the National Post’s Kelly McParland recently penned an article (link) highlighting the contradiction in the manner the government is treating these two substances. Come October, I have to believe that there will be more regulations and restrictions on wine in this country than there will be on weed. O’Canada, God keep our land, glorious and free.

Outstanding wines

If you like sparkling rosé, I recommend that you stock up on the $28 Jansz Premium Sparkling Rosé—VINTAGES#: 37499. The posted tasting notes are accurate as is the conclusion that “this is classy, sophisticated bubbly, fully dry and crisp.” With 9 grams of residual sugar, this wine must achieve its lovely balance with an elevated level of acidity. A really enjoyable sparkling wine that would be appreciated on its own or with food. This wine retails for the equivalent of $24CAD in Australia and is about the same price in the Excited States of America. The KGBO’s (a.k.a., the LCBO) is reasonable.

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The $23 Brokenwood Semillon 2016 Sémillon Blend—VINTAGES#: 657726 will not wow you but it is a decent Hunter Valley Sémillon. This wine also benefits from exposure to oxygen. Time in the glass or in the decanter will help bring out the wine’s complexity (clover, lemongrass, apple, & citrus). There is good acidity as well so it would work with food. An age-worthy Semillon for $23, the same retail price as our friends in Australia pay. It retails for about 10% more in the USA.Brokenwood_Semillon_2016_web

Our blind tasting of the $25 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah 2015—VINTAGES#: 414151 fooled everyone. This is a serious Syrah for $25, one that would benefit from a few years (or many years) in the cellar. The posted tasting notes are accurate with the wine having ripe dark fruit, fine and intense tannins and a fantastic and long fine. Aging a $25 wine probably does not make sense but if you have space this wine will punch well above its weight in the years to come. People in South Africa enjoy this wine for $8 less per bottle but the folks in Europe pay about $3 more a bottle than the retail price in Ontario.                                                                                            wine_109999_web

I can be pretty hard on wine critic James Suckling as I find he often awards big scores to wines of questionable quality. I am starting to learn to seek out wines that receive low scores on his scale, such as the 92-James-Suckling-points $20 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi 2016 Cortese—VINTAGES#: 541854. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I would add that the complexity of the wine includes orchard and citrus fruit and that the wine’s long and intense finish makes this one particularly enjoyable. A good wine to sip on its own and a good wine with food. We pay a little more than the folks in Italy for this wine and our American friends pay a little more than us. A decent and enjoyable buy.

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There are three good Chianti Classico’s in this release. I decided to categorize two of these wines as “outstanding” and one as a “wine to consider”.

The first wine is the $15 Coli Chianti Classico 2016 Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 573444. This wine will not win awards unless one is given out based on price. It is a basic and enjoyable wine with red fruit flavors, good tannins, and a long enjoyable finish. With the level of taxation and mandated yearly markup increase imposed by the People’s Republic of Ontario on the LCBO, it is rare to now find a decent wine under $20. As my friend Bunker would say “Tuesday night pizza wine”.

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If you are willing to pay extra and you are looking for a Chianti with more complexity and character then buy the $24 Lanciola Le Masse di Greve Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 395152. This one punches above its weight with balance and early signs of maturity. The posted tasting notes are accurate. An age-worthy Chianti Classico for a great price. This wine is readily available in the USA at a similar price.

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Wines to consider

The $20 Carpineto Chianti Classico 2016 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 356048 is the third Chianti in this release that you should consider. This is a wine that fits between the two Chiantis discussed above on the quality scale.  A decent Chianti at a decent price. The 2015 vintage of this wine (no longer available at the KGBO) was outstanding. This wine is available in Europe (about $5CAD cheaper) and also available in the USA (about $2 cheaper).

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Fans of Pinot Noir should consider trying the $35 Closson Chase Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016—VINTAGES#: 145888.  Be forewarned of the volatile-acetic nose and taste of this wine if you just pop and pour the contents of the bottle. Those elements go away with exposure to oxygen. Decant this wine for an hour before serving to appreciate the wine’s finesse and complexity. This wine was served blind and I was convinced that it stemmed from Sancerre. The price is rich but if you want decent wine from Ontario $35 seems to be the price of entry.

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If you are looking for a Pinot Noir with more intensity, something to stand up to hearty meats, for example, consider the $20 De Bortoli G.S. Pinot Noir 2017—VINTAGES#: 15511. For the most part, the posted tasting notes are accurate. Yes, the wine starts out being quite “meaty” (intriguingly so) and, with time in the glass, the red fruit flavors and herbs come through. I would not consider this wine to be (as claimed) elegant and sophisticated. I found the wine to be intense and was so much better with food. Pricing information from other jurisdictions was not available.

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The 2015 vintage of the Rustenberg Chardonnay was a top pick from a prior post. This Vintages Release brings us the 2016 vintage of the $20 Rustenberg Chardonnay 2016—VINTAGES#: 598631. This vintage I found to be heavy on the use of oak. “The sound that you make upon first experiencing this wine is the same sound that escapes your mouth when you jump into the swimming pool on a hot day.” The gasping ends when your body gets used to the temperature (or in this case your palate gets used to the oak). The posted tasting notes are accurate including “the judicious toast” but I find this element distracting and not supporting as asserted by the tasting note’s author. This outcome made me sad as the 2015 vintage of this wine was so enjoyable. If you like Chardonnay on the oaky side this wine is a good buy. We pay $2 more per bottle in Ontario than the folks in South Africa but our friends in the good-old USA pay $2 more than the citizens of Ontario.

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The LCBO did not post tasting notes for the $41 L’Expression de Margaux 2014 Bordeaux Red—VINTAGES#: 431734. Instead, they did post a nice story that the wine is likely a wine made by the elite second-growth Château Rauzan-Ségla. Fans of Bordeaux will like and enjoy this wine. It is well-made and well-balanced with classic red fruit, a nice amount of oak, earthy notes and, even though it is only four years old, the wine is showing signs of aging nicely. Buy this wine to bring to a dinner that would be complemented by a nice red wine from Bordeaux. If you have a cellar this wine would age nicely for a few years. Pricing information from other jurisdictions was not available.wine_110001_web

I also can be pretty hard on wine critic Jeb Dunnuck. His palate tends to like powerful, high-alcohol wines and he awards these wines with high scores. Again, I am starting to learn to seek out wines that receive low scores (low on his scale) such as the 92-Jeb-Bunnuck-points $29 Les Amouriers Signature Vacqueyras 2015 Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre—VINTAGES#: 381038. If you enjoy red wine from the Southern Rhone then you will enjoy this wine. Go with the tasting notes and not with the score. The KGBO is premium pricing this wine as it is readily available in Europe at the equivalent of $21CAD.cq5dam.web.1280.1280.jpeg

Wines to avoid

We did not enjoy the $15 Barón de Ley Rosé 2017 Rosé – Dry—VINTAGES#: 117283. Intense red fruit, simple, with an unpleasant candy finish. I don’t know the wine’s purpose as the wine is not enjoyable solo and I struggle with determining why I would buy this wine to serve with food.

For people that like tannic Barolo in their youth, the $40 Gemma Colarej Barolo 2013 Nebbiolo—VINTAGES#: 232447 is an alternative. The wine is classic and basic Nebbiolo. I struggle with the purpose of buying Barolo at this price point. If you are buying a Barolo to age 10 years to its drinking prime then I think that you are better served by purchasing wine from a better producer at a higher price point. If you are seeking out a Nebbiolo wine to be enjoyed in its youth then I would buy something cheaper such as the $28 Castello Di Neive Barbaresco DOCG Nebbiolo—LCBO#: 160143. Maybe the name “Barolo” on the label would impress people sitting around your dinner table but I doubt that would be the outcome. In researching this note, I noted that the KGBO increased the price of the Castello Di Neive from about $23 to $28. That’s a 21.7% increase in price. Do you still care about “a buck a beer”?

 

 

 

sparkling wine pairs well with a large slice of humble pie (4 august 2018 vintages release)

Let’s begin our story with a splash of Robbie Burns.

FAIR Empress of the Poet’s soul,
And Queen of Poetesses;
Clarinda, take this little boon,
This humble pair of glasses:

And fill them up with generous juice,
As generous as your mind;
And pledge them to the generous toast,
“The whole of human kind!”

“To those who love us!” second fill;
But not to those whom we love;
Lest we love those who love not us—
A third—“To thee and me, Love!”

This poem resonated with me as the tasting last Sunday began with two humble glasses. In those glasses was a generous pour of sparkling wine. I was not aware of the content of either glass. I swirled, I smelled, and I sipped. My “friends” who likely “love not us” asked me “which wine do you prefer?”  Without hesitation, I replied “the first”. Of course, the follow-up question was “why?”. “The first is richer and has a fuller body”, I replied with great confidence. “The second is, perhaps more refreshing, but I detect sweetness to the point where the sugar makes the wine less enjoyable to me.”

The tinfoil that hid the wines’ identity was removed from the two bottles and, to the great amusement to everyone but me, the wines were identical. Lesson learned? If you want to humble an asshole wine friend then serve her or him the identical wine at two different temperatures. The second lesson learned? Sparkling wine pairs well with a large slice of humble pie.

Outstanding wines

After the tasting, I made it a priority to acquire an ample number of bottles of the $20 La Chablisienne Le Finage Chablis 2014 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 556340. Once people discover the high quality of this wine it will sell out quickly. The 2014 vintage in Chablis was terrific, the cooperative that produces this wine has a deserved and good reputation, the wine has beautiful fruit, the classic nose of decent Chablis, wonderful acidity, and good length. Incredible value at $20. Our friends in France pay almost as much for this wine as the obedient citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario. If you a fan of Chablis buy this one and be quick about the transaction.

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Are you in need of a versatile value red wine? If yes, maybe you should stock up on the $22  Laurent Gauthier Grand Cras Vieilles Vignes Morgon 2015 Gamay—VINTAGES#: 279059.  This wine has body and complexity with flavors of red berries and plums. It was a decent tannic structure and good length. This wine is fun to drink on its own and plays well with food. The wine would be more interesting with additional bottle age but I doubt that you will be able to keep your hands off of it long enough to find out. The KGBO  (a.k.a., the LCBO) is forcing us to pay a premium as this wine retails for the equivalent of $15CAD in France but our friends in the Excited States of America pay roughly the same price as charged in Ontario.  Try serving this red wine chilled. With the hot weather we have experienced recently, put it in the fridge for 45 minutes and then enjoy.

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Wines to consider

My humble pie wine was the $25 Henri de Villamont Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne Crémant—VINTAGES#: 543116.  I’m including this wine as a “wine to consider” because I enjoyed my initial glass. Buy this wine if you need bubbles in (say) a reception environment and be prepared to move onto something else. If you are like me, the 13 grams of residual sugar will cause you to tire of this wine quickly. Make sure that the bottle is well chilled.

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The $17 Château Les Hauts de Lagarde Blanc 2017 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon—VINTAGES#: 387787 is a good way to introduce yourself to the dry white wines of Bordeaux. I believe that a couple of years in the cellar would add more depth and body to this wine but it is hard for me to imagine someone going to the trouble of cellaring a $17 bottle of wine. The posted tasting notes are overstated but I think that you will find that the wine has pleasant orchid and citrus fruit, some minerality, dry, good, acidity and has some complexity.   My guess is the producer makes this wine for the US market as it is readily available there for about the same price.

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People looking for an entry and aged red wine from Bordeaux should consider trying the $27 Château La Cardonne 2010 Merlot Blend—VINTAGES#: 550244. The tasting notes are pure Robert Parker bullshit. How many “sleepers of the vintage” can there possibly be? Parker thinks that there is a lot of  sleeping go on. And, when it comes to wine, just what is a “sleeper”? Don’t be fooled by his nonsense. This wine is decent and is characteristic of red wine from Bordeaux but the experience you will have from consuming this wine will not set your world on fire. It has decent fruit and it is showing some prized aged characteristics. The main reason to buy this wine is to experience an 8-year-old wine at a price does not break the bank. The KGBO is premium pricing this wine as it is available in Europe and the USA for about the equivalent of $22CAD. But, hey, how else can the government find the funds to pay for the severance payments to all the folks at Hydro One? They get the money from you, $5 for each time you pop that cork.

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The $19 Donnachiara Montefalcione Fiano di Avellino 2015 Fiano—VINTAGES#: 372482 will be loved by some and shunned by others. It’s quite a complex and intense wine for the money. This is not a fun and fruity sipper. I found this wine to be very enjoyable and interesting. I believe that it would be even more enjoyable with food. The LCBO’s pricing is not too bad as the wine is only a little cheaper in the good old USA.

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Have you run out of Tuesday night pizza wine? Then consider buying a few bottles of the $25 Brancaia Tre 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 164715.  I’m not a fan of James Suckling’s high scores but his written comments that the KGBO posted are pretty accurate. The local wine critics are overly effusive about this wine. You buy this wine because it’s nicely put together and would work well with many Italian dishes. To me, the wine is too engineered as it comes across as being technically correct and therefore lacking personality. The KGBO is aggressively pricing this wine as it commonly retails for the equivalent of $16 in Europe. That’s $5 to pay for Hydro One and another $4 for those canceled gas plants.

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Wines to avoid

I am not a fan of overly floral wines so I am avoiding the $14 Castaño Macabeo/Chardonnay 2017 Chardonnay Blend—VINTAGES#: 543793. No one in our tasting group enjoyed this wine. The local professional wine critics disagree completely. It’s your money, give it a go if you want but it’s not a wine for me.

There are noticeable aroma and flavor of dillweed present in the $40 Ontañón Gran Reserva 2005 Tempranillo/Graciano—VINTAGES#: 939736. Again, no one in our group was fond of this wine. Again, the local professional wine critics disagree completely. Perhaps it is worth noting that this wine retails for the equivalent of $22 in Europe. Doug Ford, Premier of the People’s Republic of Ontario, forget this buck a beer shit. It’s wine drinkers that get screwed over in this republic.

 

 

buy me a rosé (21 july 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far:

(with apologies to Luther Vandross)

He works hard to give her all he thinks she wants
But it tears her apart ’cause nothing’s for her heart
He pulls in late to wake her up with a kiss goodnight
If he could only read her mind, she’d say

Buy me a Rosé
Call me from work
Open a door for me what would it hurt?
Show me you love me by the look in your eyes
These are the little things
I need the most in my life

Yeah

You may not know that Luther liked wine and he loved Rosé so much that he referenced this wonderful pink drink in the first take of the recording of this song. Unfortunately, in 2004, Rosé was associated with White Zinfandel. People thought Rosé was cheap and sweet and passed it by when making their wine choice.

J Records expressed the view that the listening public would respond better if Luther changed “Rosé” to “rose”. Luther reluctantly agreed. Upon release, the song was a hit. Sales of roses soared, men started opening doors for women, people in love stared longingly into their mate’s eyes, and everyone openly shared their feelings with each other. Things did not work out so rosy for Rosé. More than a decade would pass before Rosé wines garnered respect.

The story above is, as far as I know, complete bull shit that I just made up. Drafting it provided me with great amusement and I am quite proud that I managed to slip in a bad pun. I took it too far with the bit where Rosé gained respect but at least I waited until the end to give away that the content is fictional.

For reasons unknown to me, Rosé is linked to summer as strongly as champagne is associated with a celebration. Searching the KGBO’s (a.k.a., the LCBO) website for “Rosé” yielded 277 hits. There is a lot of Rosé in the system and, in case you have not noticed,  it is summer. The thought occurred to me that a tasting focusing on Rosé would be both fun and fulfill a useful public service. Therefore, the first part of this post focuses on Rosé. The second part of the post provides comments on two sparkling wines, one white wine, and three red wines that are part of the 21 July 2018 Vintages release.

We identified seven Rosés to taste. and selected five wines from a Vintages release and two wines from the KGBO’s general list to taste. Two wines came from France and one wine each from Canada, Greece, Italy, South Africa, and the USA. The price of the wines ranged from $12 to $28. The desired focus of the tasting was dry Rosé, so wines with residual sugar that exceeded 5 grams per liter were excluded from the selection process. Wines were tasted blind and in a random order. Three Rosés were clear winners.

Factoring in price into the evaluation, the $13 Ken Forrester Petit Rosé 2017 Grenache—VINTAGES#: 553040 finished in first place. Light in color, bone dry, nice acidity, red fruit flavors, and tannins on the finish. This wine is a case buy for your deck, your docked boat, your lunch table or whatever. South Africans are lucky as they can buy this wine for about the equivalent of $5CAD. Our friends in the Excited States of America pay a little bit more than the citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario.

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In second-place, again once factoring in price, is the $12 Marius Rose Pays D’Oc
—LCBO#: 540989. The red fruit is brighter than Ken Forrester and (perhaps) the wine is a little less acidic. The wine has good length and is very pleasant to drink. The Marius is a general list wine. To locate it in your KGBO store, avoid the Vintages section and look in the France section of the rows located in the main part of your store. Your store may also have a section devoted to Rosé and this wine may be stored there. Remember that you can also order wine online and have it delivered to your store for free. In France, this wine retails for about the same amount of money as here in the Republic.

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My plan for cheap Rosé for the summer is to load up on the Ken Forrester and, if that runs out, supplement supply with the Marius. The Forrester may disappear quickly and the supply of wines on the general list typically is strong.

If you are looking for a Rosé with additional complexity then seek out the $25 Alìe Ammiraglia Rosé 2017 Syrah Blend—VINTAGES#: 527788. The Italians know how to make a Rosé with character. The red fruit, acid, and tannins are nicely balanced and there is a pleasant bitterness on the finish. It’s worth the money and you can proudly show up to a dinner party with this wine. This wine was even better the second day, an outcome that suggests that decanting before serving would be beneficial. The $15CAD price tag in some stores in Italy makes me want to board a plane and fly there. Like here, this wine is premium priced in both Quebec and the USA as our friends there pay about the same as people in Ontario.

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The other four Rosés?

The $13 Kir-Yianni Akakies Xinomavro Rosé 2017—VINTAGES#: 71050 is serviceable. It’s a bit fruity, tangy and dry and works well for the money (note that our KGBO raised the price this year by 15% making this wine a great example of how the government uses their monopoly on wine retail to grab and hide tax. I’m sure that you would love a 15% raise in pay. Ask your boss for one tomorrow and let me know how that works out for you).

The $25 Angels & Cowboys Rosé 2017 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 493155 is okay but, in contrast to your other choices, there is no reason to spend the extra money on this wine.

Tasted blind, the $28 Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé 2017—VINTAGES#: 450767 did not live up to the top three and does not live up to the quality of the Rosé that comes from Bandol. If you want good Bandol Rosé then try the $28 Château Salettes Bandol Rosé 2017—VINTAGES#: 557892 that was reviewed in a previous post. It is worth the money. The Hecht & Bannier is not and, if the percent increase in price for the Kir-Yianni Akakies didn’t get your blood to boil, consider that the LCBO sold the 2015 vintage of the Hecht & Bannier for $20. That’s a 40% increase in price in two years.

Sadly, the Canadian wine placed a clear last in our blind taste comparison. The tasting group rejected the $16 Cave Spring Dry Rosé VQA—LCBO#: 295006 on multiple accounts. It’s a wine that I will avoid. In the dry Rosé category, Canadian producers need to up their game. Maybe because of acidity levels, our producers tend to make Rosé with elevated levels of residual sugar. For me, that makes them a hard thing to buy, especially when there are good dry Rosés from other countries that are much easier on my bank account.

Outstanding wines

With our focus on Rosé wine, I do not have a value-priced red wine recommendation from this release. You’ll just have to treat yourself to the $34 M. Chapoutier Deschants Saint-Joseph 2015 Syrah Blend—VINTAGES#: 728501. Complex, balanced, age-worthy and enjoyable now with a good decant. It’s a great example of red wine from Saint Joesph, including having the attributes of animal blood that many wine-geeks value in a wine. Someday try explaining to someone that does not drink wine that you prize the smell of a wet barnyard and dried animal blood in your red wine. In France, this wine retails at around the equivalent of $25CAD. Vive la France! You lucky bastards.

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Wines to consider

This release contains two serviceable sparkling wines. The $20 Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne Sparkling—VINTAGES#: 991562 has a bit more complexity than the $20 Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection Brut Vouvray 2015
Sparkling—VINTAGES#: 168963. The Lapierre’s bubbles are less aggressive than the Moncontour and the Lapierre’s residual sugar comes in at 10 grams versus the Moncontour’s 12 grams. So my nod goes to the Lapierre for a basic aperitif.  The Moncontour would be great in a mimosa. Both are decent choices from a price to quality perspective but neither will set your world on fire.

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We didn’t taste the $20 Redstone Limestone Vineyard South Riesling 2016
Riesling—VINTAGES#: 381251 but, thanks to Doctor C, we did taste the 2013 vintage of this wine. I have low expectations of Niagara riesling as I find the flavor of these wines tend towards a canned apple juice profile and I don’t find the drinking experience to be enjoyable. The apple on this wine is fresh, not canned, and there are other orchard fruits present in the taste profile. Tasted blind, our group was convinced that the wine in the glass was a German Riesling. My prejudice was challenged appropriately. My guess is that the whopping 31 grams of residual sugar (and the LCBO’s medium-sweet classification) of this wine makes it a hard sell to the consumer. But, the acidity level of this wine balances the sugar. The wine would be a great match for spicy food.

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The $30 Emiliana Coyam 2014 Syrah Blend—VINTAGES#: 63891 is a rich and full-bodied red wine. The nose is intriguing, and the wine has good fruit and chocolate notes. I would love to taste this wine 5 to 10 years from now. If you buy this wine for present consumption decant it and serve it with rich dishes like charred proteins. Good value.

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Wines to avoid

Tasted blind, we thought the $33 Urbina Selección Crianza 1999 Tempranillo—VINTAGES#: 482158 was a cheap New World fruit bomb. The flavor profile primarily is cooked red fruit (strawberries). The posted tasted notes are misleading. It is hard to enjoy this wine and certainly not typical of an aged wine from this region. I have experienced mixed results with wines from Urbina. Some have been outstanding and others, like this one, hugely disappointing.

i had a great day in the vineyard (7 july 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far: needs no introduction.

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I’m waiting with great anticipation for the new-raw-satirical material that the new Chair of the People’s Republic of Ontario will provide.

If you care about wine, beer, and liquor retail in Canada then consider reading the article “It’s time for Ontario to step into the present and follow Alberta’s lead on booze” from the National Post. My perspective? Sure Alberta’s system is better than the approach that exists in all other provinces but why not have the open market that exists in much of the world?

The summer months are upon us and the group that gathers to taste a cross-section of the Vintages release is smaller. So, this report is brief.

Outstanding wines

The $20 Marcel Cabelier Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay 2014—VINTAGES#: 485839 represents decent value. Tasted blind, we did not peg this wine as chardonnay. The posted tasting notes are accurate. The wine scored high points with me it has some complexity, is bone dry, low 12.5% alcohol, and has bracing acidity that refreshes and makes the wine food friendly. wine_107334_web

I was starting to think that, with the government imposed mandatory price increases, the days of seeing a decent value wine under $20 were over. Then the $16 Domaine d’Albas Rouge 2015 Syrah/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 562587 comes along. Don’t go crazy as the posted tasting notes overstate the case. This is a decent and rich table wine with enough complexity to prevent boredom. Most importantly, this is not a pop-and-pour wine. The “dirty socks” on the nose blows off with exposure to air and that exposure also enhances the wine’s flavors. This wine needs a hard decant an hour before consumption. You can’t make friends wearing dirty socks and will not make friends with a pop-and-pour approach with this wine.Domaine_d_Albas_Rouge_2015_web

Wines to consider

A staple champagne for me is the $55 Drappier Carte d’Or Brut Champagne—VINTAGES#: 726281. My palate is totally biased towards this producer and I buy their wines at the KGBO (a.k.a, the LCBO) and the SAQ when allowed.

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Not willing to pay $55 for a decent bottle of champagne? Then consider the $44 Gardet Cuvée Saint Flavy Tradition Brut Champagne—VINTAGES#: 924654. This wine appears regularly in Vintages releases. It punches above its weight and represents decent value in the entry-level champagne category.

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I think that the $27 Lavau Vacqueyras 2014 Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre—VINTAGES#: 104927 needs some time to come together. Fans of fruit-forward wines can drink this now as the structure is sufficient to support the ripeness of the fruit. But, this wine would be much better with at least 3 years of bottle age. Five or more years would be better. The posted tasting notes are accurate.Lavau_Vacqueyras_2014_web

I bought the $23 Barón de Ley Reserva 2013 Tempranillo—VINTAGES#: 958868 because I have tasted the producer’s Gran Reserva and thought it to be excellent. Often, I enjoy the Rioja Reservas as much, and sometimes (because of less time spent with oak) more. Not this time. Tasted blind, few pegged this wine as one that came from Spain. To me, the wine is made in an overly commercial style. It’s purpose would be a wine that is versatile, one that you could bring to a party and it will appeal to many people.

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Wine for wine geeks

Our blind tasting of the $45 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2017—VINTAGES#: 931006 proved to be controversial. The tasters did not pin this wine as being Chardonnay nor was it unanimously liked. The wine is very rich, with tropical fruit flavors (guava) and a fair amount of oak coming from fermentation in the barrel. The wine also has some bitterness on the finish, an attribute that I found pleasant.  My struggle with this wine stems mainly from its price. From at least 2009 to 2014, the KGBO sold this wine for $33. The 2015 vintage in South Africa was excellent and the price for that release jumped 33% to $45. My guess is that the price stayed there because of the cult-like status that the wine achieved with that vintage. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good wine. I admire Noble Estates (the agent) for recognizing and developing a brand and getting paid for it. I have no doubt that the wine will sell out, I will buy one or two for aging as I am curious about whether the wine will improve with some time in the bottle.

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Wines to avoid

The $25 Clarence Dillon Clarendelle Red 2014 Bordeaux Red—VINTAGES#: 28837 was a big disappointment for me. My experience with previous vintages of this wine created an expectation that I would experience a decent wine. I tried two bottles. The first bottle tasted flat…little fruit, limited structure, short length. It was like a bottle of wine that was open a week ago. Basically a nearly dead wine. Thinking that my experience may have stemmed from a bad bottle, I returned the bottle and opened its replacement. Same result. This is not a good wine. I guess that I enjoy contradicting Mr. Suckling who claims the wine to be “a solid Bordeaux for the money”.  Good grief. This wine was one of the KGBO’s “wines of the month”. There’s a lot of it in the system.

 

 

breaking up is hardie to do (23 june 2018 vintages release)

There once was a fellow named Norm
The Canadian wine scene he did storm
His lips were too quick
His hands, way too slick
Now his actions leave many forlorn

I have to thank Cal, a fellow Vintage Conservatory member, for coming up with this post’s title.

I’m late with this post on last Saturday’s release but hopefully in time to assit you in deciding on a wine or two to buy to help you celebrate the birth of the People’s Republic of Canada.

Many of the wines in this release disappointed the tasting group. In particular, the white wines we sampled were underwhelming. If you need to acquire decent white wines, I suggest that you refer to previous blog posts. Prior Vintages releases had much better wines and many are still avaiable.

Outstanding wines

Fans of Fino Sherry will find a solid wine and good value in the $17 Sánchez Romate Fino Perdido Sherry—VINTAGES#: 542746. This wine, made in a full-bodied style, will please a Sherry lover. It comes in a 750ML bottle at a great price. The citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario pay the same price as the folks in the U.K. and, for reasons unknown, about $10CAD less than the people in Spain.

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Another good example of the quality of the 2013 vintage in Tuscany is the $30 Palazzo Vecchio Maestro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 348532.  They did a good job on the posted tasting notes. The Sangiovese wines of Montepulciano do not get the respect they deserve and therefore represent good value to the consumer. This wine retails in Europe for the equivalent of $25CAD so the price here is not too bad.

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If you want to try a wine that reflects the Sicilian volcanic soil where the grapes are grown then give the $23 Tornatore Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio 2015
Nerello Mascalese—VINTAGES#: 487090 a try. The tasting notes are accurate and this wine has complexity to boot. A lot going on for $23.

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Wines to consider

The $28 Château Salettes Bandol Rosé 2017—VINTAGES#: 557892 is a lovely wine. This wine has complexity and the wine’s elements are nicely in balance. Yes, it will cost you $28 and you refuse to pay more than $15 for a Rosé. Okay, fair enough, but if you are consider splurging then give this one a try. Knowing that you are not paying any more than the people in France might make you feel better about your decision.

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Wines to avoid

I confess to not being a fan of Chilean wine. Yes, the wine often sells at an attractive price point but the winemaking style typically results in wines that are dense and concentrated and, because of that, generally I am not a fan.

The wines from Chile were this release’s theme and we tasted two examples.

I mistakenly hoped that the altitude and the volcanic soil would add interesting dimensions to the $18 Antu Syrah 2016—VINTAGES#: 675371.  Instead, the wine in the glass proved to be a typical intense Chilean Syrah. If you like this style of wine, I’d suggest pairing the Antu with an equally intense dish. I doubt that the tasting notes suggestion of BBQ would suffice in flavor intensity. A stinky cheese, such as gorgonzola, might do the trick.

Similarly, the $28 Montes Outer Limits Zapallar Coast Pinot Noir 2015—VINTAGES#: 568600. An intense and fruity Pinot Noir and a style that I just don’t find appealing.

I hoped that the $18 Hope Estate Sémillon 2016—VINTAGES#: 551549 would be a screaming buy. The basis of that hope was the words that described the wine as being classic Hunter Valley Sémillon, that the wine has good acidity, low (11.5%) alcohol, and a price that is the same as that charged in Australia. Sadly, we found something odd in the flavor of this wine that was not enjoyable.

I may have finally accepted that wine critic Jeb Dunnuck and I are not compatible. Jeb likes the $26 Gassier Château de Nages JT Costières de Nîmes 2014 Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre—VINTAGES#: 736876. I found his comment that compares this wine to the style used in Northern Rhone to be nonsense. We tasted this wine blind and our group thought it must be a Chilean Syrah as it is another intense-dark-and dried-fruit-forward wine.

The fruit-forward theme of our tasting day continued with the $19 Terrissimo Beaumes de Venise 2014 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 537886. This wine has an abundance of red fruit flavor. The fruit is out of balance with the rest of the wine. The wine is drinkable but, for me, not overly enjoyable.

The $18 Montemisio Offida Pecorino 2016—VINTAGES#: 542811 is an odd wine. The wine lacks acidity and finishes with bitterness. I normally like some bitterness on white wine but this one crossed the line.

i am also committing to achieving a balance of twits in my cabinet (9 june 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far

We find ourselves on Ottawa’s Parliment Hill where Prime Minister Trudeau is about to start a press conference. Large flags of the People’s Republic of Canada drape the setting. The Prime Minister is accompanied by British Columbia’s Premier John Horgan, who is sitting to his right. Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley has taken a seat to his left. All three leaders have beaming smiles on their faces.

Justin Trudeau, wearing a custom Gucci suit and having groomed his hair to a wisp of imperfection makes love to the cameras and begins his address.

Today, I am announcing a significant breakthrough in the debate to build the Transmountain Pipeline and my government’s approach to its construction. A key component of my government’s policy is to “protect the environment and grow the economy”. You have heard me and my ministers repeat this statement countless times. Yes, it is my government’s mantra yet some people have questioned what this phrase means. Today I will also provide clarity on that. The multi-billion dollar purchase of the Transmountain Pipeline from Kinder Morgon by my government was necessary to achieve the multitude of objectives that I will achieve with this project.

I need to go “off the record” to provide you with some background information.

[murmurs of excitement echo through the press core]

You will remember that I held a meeting last month with Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The agenda of that meeting included Canada following the U.K.’s lead on banning the plastic drinking straw. Well, Gerald Butts and I were in my hotel suite the night before that meeting discussing this matter. We had a long day and we were kind-of tense and Gerald decided that some herbal remedy was in order. He rolled a big one with this potent strain…Gerald, what’s the name of that strain again?

[Inaubible response]

Pineapple Thai, that’s it, that shit is wicked. Anyway, we were puffing on this joint and I was sipping BC Pinot Grigio through a straw and, in a flash I had a brilliant insight. It dawned on me that a straw and a pipeline have a lot in common. Then Gerald and I came up with the idea that we could build the Transmountain oil pipeline with recycled drinking straws. This is the reason that I refused to join the ban on straws. We can now go back on the record.

First, permit me to address how the construction of the pipeline will protect the environment. Everyone knows the tragic consequences of the use of plastic drinking straws. Therefore, it is important to find ways to recycle straws and my government will show the world that Canada is a leader by constructing the Transmountian Oil Pipeline with used drinking straws.

This will require hundreds, maybe a few thousand straws. That’s a lot. So, the supply of these straws will not only come from Canada. I am also announcing that my government has reached an agreement with several other countries. These countries will send their used straws to Canada along with $.01 payment per straw.  The funds Canada receives from these straw-offset credits will go towards the purchase of Scotch Tape that we will use to connect the straws. Canada prefers the type of straws that have those flexible elbows (you know, like the straws used in hospitals) as the pipeline has to go around a mountain and I’m also told that there are a few big rocks along the way. The pipeline will have to go around these rocks. We need bendy straws to do that but like duh.

I will now address how my government plans to grow the economy. In addition, to the Transmountian Oil Pipeline, my government will also begin construction on the Transmountain Wine Infrastructure Transportation System.  Similar to the Transmountain Pipeline for oil, the TWITS will make BC wine more accessible to the rest of Canada. This wine pipeline will twin the oil pipeline and is very suited to construction with recycled drinking straws. Why? Well, for example, one straw could be used to transport BC Riesling and another straw would contain BC Chardonnay. And, let’s not forget the yummy BC Pinot Gris that I personally love. We will devote extra straws pipelines to “PG” as one or more of those pipelines will terminate in my office. Add a pack of Sweet-N-Low to BC PG and a couple of ice cubes and you have perfection in a glass.

I’m am proud to be the leader of the TWITS and Premiers Horgan and Notley are also proud to be leading TWITS too.

[Horgan and Notley glance at each other with very uncomfortable expressions on their faces]

Finally, the people of Canada know my passion for equality and today I am also committing to achieving a balance of TWITS and non-TWITS in my cabinet.

I will now take questions.

In related news today, the share price of 3M surged on the NYSE from the expected demand for Scotch Tape that will be needed to construct the Canadian pipeline projects. One analyst pointed out that Scotch Tape will not only be needed to connect straws together in order to form a pipeline but also to provide strength to the overall structure by binding individual straw pipelines together. The share price of companies that manufacturers duct tape also surged on this observation.

In news that is equally-believable, CNN reported that they discovered that Colonel Sanders was PETA’s biggest supporter, the Pope has endorsed the work of the devil, James Suckling denounced the 110 point wine scoring system, and Bill Clinton supports the #METOO movement. Okay, the last thing is true but everything else is just a story. Wait, the Suckling part of the story might be true too. He might go with the 100++ scale instead.

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Onto the serious business of wine and the June 9 release. Don’t forget that many wines are available for online ordering and delivery to your local store is free of charge.

Outstanding wines

The $29 Osoyoos Larose Pétales d’Osoyoos Red 2014 Red Blend—VINTAGES#: 276741 is a French-styled Bordeaux blend. I particularly enjoyed the tannins in this wine and the ripeness level of the underlying fruit. This is a well-made wine that is not the $40+ one normally has to pay to get a Canadian wine of this quality. If you live in Alberta then you can buy this wine for $25. That’s a 16 percent premium we pay to the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO). Ugh.

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Fans of the Chenin Blanc grape hit the payload in this release as there are three that are worth your hard-earned money.

Let’s start with the budget-friendly $16 L’Avenir Far & Near Chenin Blanc 2017—VINTAGES#: 556365. The flavor profile lacks complexity but the acidity is good as is the length of the wine. There is also some minerality. A good $16 for your dock or deck or to accompany your weekday meal. In South Africa, you can source this wine for the equivalent of $7CAD and in Europe, you can pick it for $12.wine_106761_web

The $30 Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016—VINTAGES#: 12724 ups the price but also ups the quality. This is a really good Chenin. The tasting notes are fairly accurate except there is a lot more going on in this wine than the brief description implies, including tropical fruit flavors, minerality, nice use of wood, good acidity and wonderful length. This would be a great food wine and also very enjoyable solo with the company and assistance of a good friend. Unfortunately, if you want this wine you’ll have to put up with the KGBO’s gouge factor. This wine retails for the equivalent of $21 in Europe, $24 in BC, and $25 in La Belle Province. Still not convinced? Well, the KGBO charged $23 for the 2015 vintage of this wine last year. This is shameful greedy pricing here in the People’s Republic of Ontario on this release. They may not be able to sell this wine at this price. Maybe we should wait for a price reduction.Bellingham_2016_The_Bernard_Series_Old_Vine_Chenin_Blanc_web

Ask that friend to source his or her own Chenin Blanc from the release and hopefully, he or she will bring a wine from France’s Loire Valley (the original home of Chenin Blanc I believe). Specifically, the $31 Bourillon Dorléans La Coulée d’Argent Sec Vouvray 2015 Chenin Blanc—VINTAGES#: 541532. This wine oozes quality. It is mineral-driven and hits all of my sweet spots. It retails for the equivalent of $20CAD in Europe and about $25CAD in the Excited States of America. This wine is also worthy of a place in your cellar.Bourillon_Dorl_ans_La_Coul_e_d_Argent_Sec_Vouvray_2015_web

Fans of dry Riesling should pick up the $23 Muré Signature Riesling 2014—VINTAGES#: 538421. With a wonderful petrol dominated nose, tropical fruit flavors and minerality this is one versatile Riesling. High acidity that would work well with food. Collectors could also cellar this wine as some age will increase the wine’s depth and weight. Wine from a good year and a good region and a good producer, how can you go wrong? I bet you were thinking “price”. Well, this wine is actually priced higher in Europe. It’s a good deal here.  Ren__Mur__Riesling_Signature_2014_web

Are you in need of a good Italian red house wine?  If so, then the $22 Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 176776 might fill that ticket. We have tasted many 2013 Chiantis over the past several months and most of those wines showed really well. The professional wine critics rate the 2013 vintage high and I can see why. The posted tasting notes are accurate. An affordable wine to enjoy on its own or use it to wash down your favorite Italian dish. This wine retails for the equivalent of $19CAD in the USA and Italy. A decent wine at a fair price.

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Are you looking for a value-priced and good Rosé? Then stock up on the $15 Muga Rosé 2017—VINTAGES#: 603795. This is a bone-dry Rosé with good fruit flavors and some complexity. There are tannins that provide some structure, which I really enjoy in a Rosé. Open a bottle to enjoy on your deck or serve this wine with your lunch. There is sufficient acidity to make this wine versatile with food.  Our friends in Spain guzzle this wine for $12CAD.wine_106836_web

If you have read previous posts then you would not be surprised that a 2015 village Beaujolais made the cut. The $25 Château du Chatelard Cuvée Les Roches Morgon 2015 Gamay—VINTAGES#: 558528 delivers as described (I would add that there are mineral undertones) and is worthy of 5-10 years in your cellar. This wine retails for $22CAD in France.wine_106844_web

Wines for collectors

On day 1 the $29 Benegas Estate Single Vineyard Malbec 2013—VINTAGES#: 547331 was awkward. On day 2 it fooled most of us to think that the wine was from Bordeaux. If you are interested in cellaring a few bottles of Malbec this wine is a pretty good choice. If you want a high-quality Malbec to enjoy now then make sure that you give this wine a few hours in the decanter before serving. cq5dam.web.1280.1280__71__web

We didn’t taste the $94 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 711317. That frankly should be a crime. We did, thanks to Joe R, taste the 2001 vintage of this wine.  Beaucastel is a wine built for the cellar and the 2001 we tasted sang beautifully. The 2015 and 2001 vintages have similarities so I know that the 2015 needs about 20 years to shine into a wine that will be really special. This is one of the world’s most collectible wines, one that the KGBO has priced consistently through the years.  You would pay about $70CAD for this wine in France and about $97CAD in the good-old USA. The price here in the People’s Republic is a decent one.

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The $40 Castello di Gabbiano Bellezza Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 652438 is good right now but it is also worthy of a spot in your cellar. This is a well put together Chianti with red fruit, the right amount of wood, and earth and leather notes. Enjoyable now but would be even better in 5 or more years. This wine retails in Europe for the equivalent of $49CAD. The price here is excellent.

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If you have room in your cellar to store a $20 wine then consider the $19 Château Nozières Cuvée Ambroise de l’Her Malbec Cahors 2014 Malbec/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 276055. The posted tasting notes don’t describe the awkwardness of this wine at this time. If this wine was a person, it would be a 13-year-old male, whose voice has just changed, trips over his own two feet, and who outgrows his clothes monthly. Yet you see potential. Give him 5-10 years and I think that the boy becomes a nice young man.

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Wines to consider

There are wedge issues and there are wedge wines. The $19 Janare Senete Falanghina del Sannio 2016 Falanghina—VINTAGES#: 556787 is a wedge wine. If you served to it guests, half may be intrigued by this wine and the other half hate it. The tasting notes are surprisingly accurate. Yes, the wine is both bitter and sweet at the same time. Rosso’s rating of 3 glasses is the highest that reviewer awards. My initial reaction was I did not like this wine. I gave it a second chance and warmed up to its appeal. You might love it, you might hate it and, for sure, it will generate conversation.

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Wines to avoid

Washington State produces some of my favorite wines and, unfortunately, they are kind of pricey and hard to get. I keep searching for value plays and I keep failing. The cheaper Washington State wines tend to be fruit bombs and the $26 North by Northwest Red Blend 2014 Shiraz/Merlot/Cabernet—VINTAGES#: 551424 is yet another unpleasant example.

While the residual sugar indicates a completely dry wine, the $22 Marchesi di Barolo Gavi di Gavi 2016 Cortese—VINTAGES#: 155382 gives the impression of unpleasant sweetness on the finish. We found this wine to be simple, overly fruity and overpriced.

The $16 The Goatfather 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 11072 is an awkward, disjointed, and unpleasant wine. It must be the name and not the contents of the bottle that makes this one a “long-time favorite of Vintages customers.

I’m not a fan of dill and tend to avoid that flavor in the food I eat. So, when a wine has dill in its taste and smell profile it’s not for me. That’s why I am avoiding the $45 Viña Arana Reserva 2009 Tempranillo Blend—VINTAGES#: 368373.

 

jammy mc jam jam (26 may 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far

After abandoning his mentor, wine-critic Jeb Dunnuck sits down to write his first solo review. Since wine blogs are rare, Jeb expects to make big money in this activity. He is dealing with the jitters and writer’s block and is attempting to give himself a pep talk.

Jeb, you’ve done this hundreds of times while that abusive-asshole Parker watched your every move. You don’t need him. You can do this without him. So just smell and taste this Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan and then write down the first thing that pops into your head. Here goes…swirl..smell…swirl…taste and what pops into my head? And that thought is “jammy mc jam jam.” Jammy mc jam jam, WTF Jeb! You can’t use jammy mc jam jam in a wine review. Who the hell will buy a wine that is jammy mc jam jam?

Okay, time to regroup. I need a break. I know…I’ll stare at myself in the mirror for a few minutes. What do you see Jeb? Oh, yes! I see my my my hair. Gosh, I love my hair. I might love my hair more than I love wine. My hair is so sexy…wait that’s it sexy…that wine is sexy not jammy. And, it is not “mc jam jam” either. Only the purest fruit goes into making jam. So, that wine is sexy with purity of fruit. And, because the grape is Carignan, the wine has spice and pepper. The price? Less than $20! The wine is a steal too. Instead of “jammy mc jam jam” my review of this wine will be “This full-bodied, ripe, sexy red has incredible purity of fruit, no hard edges and classic notes of blackberries, plums, spice and pepper. It’s a screaming deal.”

Screw you Robert Parker Jr. There’s a new kid in town that knows how to use WordPress.

In related news, upon hearing that the location of last Sunday’s tasting was moved from the Muddle Bunker beneath King Street to a nearby patio, the three would be premiers of the People’s Republic of Ontario issued the following statements:

Ford: “We will respect the taxpayer by slashing taxes on white and rosé wine. Heck, we will eliminate all taxes on everything! This will, of course, be funded the same way as all our other election promises, which is a complete and total secret but trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

Wynne: “Sorry, not sorry the tasting had to be moved. Our government has worked hard to triple the price of electricity and make air conditioning so expensive more events get moved out of more basements. That’s the real reason Dalton canceled those gas plants in Oakville, which had nothing at all to do with buying back those juicy Oakvillian votes.”

Horwath: “If elected premier I will immediately hire 1,000,000 more civil servants to retrofit every basement in Ontario with a skylight to let in more fresh air and sunshine. No tasting will ever have to be moved again!”

Thanks to big John C who wrote the last part of our story.

Noteworthy Toronto Area Wine Events

If you will be in the Toronto area in June and are a wine enthusiast or someone that wants to meet nice people and learn about wine then consider registering for one or both of the following June events:

The Toronto Vintner’s Club will hold a tasting of Washington State Rhone Blends on Tuesday June 19. Information is available at www.torontovintners.org and you can register for the tasting by clicking here.

Toronto WineTasters will hold a tasting that contrasts Niagara Chardonnay against Chardonnay from Burgundy on June 27. Details are being worked out and they will soon be posted on WineTasters website (www.winetasters.ca).

I typically attend the events of both clubs and if you sign up please seek me out to say hello.

Onto the observations from the wines we tasted and are presently available from the People’s Republic of Ontario’s liquor control monopoly the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO).

Outstanding wines

The $27 Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2017—VINTAGES#: 416511 likely will fool most tasters into thinking that they are enjoying a decent quality Chablis (and that’s a good thing). The posted tasting notes are accurate, the wine is very enjoyable alone and would work with food. The price is the same as our friends in the good old USA pay. If you like Chardonnay and $27 is in your price range then I think you will enjoy this really good wine.Vasse_Felix_Filius_Chardonnay_2017_web

It strikes me that the 2015 vintage in Beaujolais is shining brightly as good quality Beaujolais has appeared frequently lately at the KGBO. The one is this release is the $24 Stéphane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Moulin-à-Vent 2015 Gamay—VINTAGES#: 368134. It’s a lovely wine at this price point, would age for a few years nicely, and would benefit from time in the cellar.  wine_106589_web

Looking for a white wine to sip on your dock or your deck or your patio? Then consider the cheap and cheerful $15 Nuragico Justu Vermentino di Sardegna 2016—VINTAGES#: 541516. The posted tasting notes are accurate. A good value wine.

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Like most red wines, crow is a dish that is best served chilled slightly. My dish of crow is that typically I am not a fan of wine from the Antinori group. But, I must say that the $30 Villa Antinori Riserva Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 540971 is a good-quality-well-made Chianti Classico. We tasted the wine blind and thought that the wine was showing some characteristics of age, an attribute that adds to its appeal. An enjoyable wine and, like all good Sangiovese, a wine that likes hanging out with food.  This wine is about $24CAD in Europe and $32CAD plus tax in the USA. clone_wine_93419_web

In need of a house red? The outstanding value in this release in the house-wine category is the $19 Luis Cañas Crianza 2014 Tempranillo Blend—VINTAGES#: 336719. I think that you will find this wine to be very versatile, lovely to drink, and really easy to go through multiple bottles. wine_98072_web.jpeg

Wines for wine geeks

The $67 Cowhorn Syrah 21 2013—LCBO#: 421411 is a terrific opportunity for the wine geek to experience a quality Rhone blend from Oregon. These examples are rare in the Excited States of America much less than in the People’s Republic of Ontario. You will particularly enjoy (or at least I did) the elevated levels of acidity and the relatively low alcohol (13.4%) that one typically does not find in this wine’s cousins from France and elsewhere. A real treat.cq5dam.web.1280.1280

Do you want to show your friends that really good Pinot Noir can come from a place in France other than Burgundy? Then rush out and buy the highly enjoyable $64 Alphonse Mellot XIX Sur Vin Les Herses Sancerre Rouge 2014 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 535864. This is a serious Pinot Noir and another example of a rare wine in these parts.

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Wines to consider

If you are a fan of New World Pinot Noir then consider the $27 Cloudline Pinot Noir 2015—VINTAGES#: 159970. Pinot Noir from the New World tends to be more fruit forward, a style that has wide appeal. I enjoyed the acidity level of this wine and thought that the fruit and acid made this wine a good candidate for your dinner table. It’s a little pricey (it retails in the Excited States for about $21CAD plus tax) but it’s an opportunity to taste an entry-level-Oregon Pinot Noir from a good producer.

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Fans of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon should consider the $27 Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec—VINTAGES#: 559872. To me, this is an intense wine that is crying for a charred-protein partner. It likely would be a home run in that setting. Remarkably, this wine only received a score of 91 points from James Halliday, the Australian Santa Claus of wine scores. James gives bilge water scores of 94 points so I’m guessing that someone at the winery pissed him off. This wine retails for $22CAD in Australia and $28CAD plus taxes in the Excited States. A decent bargain.

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Fans of red Burgundy should consider the $23 Roche de Bellène Cuvée Réserve Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015—VINTAGES#: 299859. For the tasting group, this wine suffered from comparison as we enjoyed this wine with aged Burgundy from 2007 and 2005. Still, this wine’s pedigree came through. Red fruit, good acidity, good length. You can enjoy this red wine now and my guess is that it would improve with a few years in the bottle. I find that Burgundy is a wine region that is hard to navigate and knowing that Roche de Bellène typically puts out wine that punches above their price point is comforting.

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If the $27 Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Sauvignon is outside of your price range and you are looking for a cheaper wine to pair with that fatty-charred protein then consider the $16 Marrenon Versant Nord Luberon 2015 Syrah Blend—VINTAGES#: 537969. The wine is too intense for me to enjoy on its own but likely would work with food. The price is similar to that charged in Europe.

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The $18 Château Saint Roch Le Rosé 2017—VINTAGES#: 557900 is a decent Rosé. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I would add that the finish has a nice hint of tannins that I like to experience in a Rosé. You can drink it alone or serve it with food. I just wish the price was lower. This wine retails for $14CAD in Europe and that would be a fair price here.

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Wines that I am avoiding

I found green vegetable elements dominated the $19 Domaine de Matabrune Bourgueil 2015 Cabernet Franc—VINTAGES#: 196865 (in particular green bell pepper).  This attribute is enjoyed by some people but it’s not my cup of tea.

The $19 Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2015 Carignan—VINTAGES#: 343509 is “jammy mc jam jam” but the fruit is pure and Jeb has really nice hair.

if an athlete can give 110 percent then I can award a wine 110 points (12 may 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far:

The health of Robert Parker Jr. is failing. With a worn-out liver, gout that makes his feet resemble tree stumps, a prostate gland the size of a softball, and an exhausted palate, the Godfather of wine scores knows his end is near. He has gathered his wine-critic team to make a change to his wine scoring legacy.

Robert Parker: I don’t know how much time I have left. I’ve come to a decision and we need to talk.

Luis Gutiérrez: Boss, you are from a single vineyard, sourced from a plot
planted on a stony alluvial terrace, which suits your variety. You avoid green aromas and flavors in your reviews and lace them with spice, tobacco leaves and red fruit notes, but without too much overripeness or excess oak to try to cover the herbal tones. Every one of your years were great vintages, with moderate yields. Your thoughts were planted ungrafted and are organically and originally farmed. Those thoughts were harvested quite early and fermented with native yeasts. Your contributions could not fit into a 5,000-liter oak foudre. When people hear the name Robert Parker they think Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, even Carmenere, all the noble grapes. They think that “I need to try this one”. They think this because of your perceptions of the wine. They respect the complete ripeness of your varietal, the lack of vegetal aromas and they most appreciate the high alcohol. You are a subtle, austere, serious in a (good) Bordeaux way (think Lafleur) with hints of tobacco leaves and spices. You achieve superb balance in the palate, and you feel very young, with ultra-refined chalky tannins and good freshness. This is the style I like, what your readers like, but it’s very hard to get, and it’s possibly unique.

Robert Parker: Jesus Luis, give it a rest. You promised me to stay off the blow. Be quiet a moment. I will rest and then I will tell you why I asked you to come here today.

[Parker closes his eyes and breathes deeply. The others look on in concern.]

Robert Parker: Just like everyone knows Al Gore invented the internet, everyone knows that I invented the 100 point scale. Robinson uses a 20 point scale and that snotty Rosso uses a four glass scale. NO ONE understands a score of 17.5 points and “two glasses” who the hell knows what that means? Now a score of 96 points that is something that has meaning. That little-shit Galloni copies my 100 point scale but he learned it working for me. No one does the 100 points like me.  I’m the best at the 100 points. The best.

[The group look at one another and nods in agreement.]

Robert Parker: Since I invented the 100 point scale I can make changes to it and, to ensure that I have a legacy, we must make changes.

Jeb Dunnuck: We are all ears. What changes are necessary?

Robert Parker: We scored too many wines at 100 points. We have awarded hundreds, maybe thousands of 100 point scores in the last few years alone. How do our readers distinguish between two wines that have both received 100 points? Jeb, you are the worst offender…you hand out 100 point scores like they are a candy bar treat on Halloween.

Jeb Dunnuck: That’s the last straw. I can’t take the abuse any longer. I’m young, I’m pretty, I have a nice smile and really really nice hair. Goddammit I quit! I’ll take my talents and my 100 point scores and write my own blog. There’s big money in writing wine blogs.

[Dunnuck storms out of the room.]

Robert Parker: [Not missing a beat] From now on we will score a wine at 100 points, a 100+ points, and a 100++ points. We can also use 100++- for those wines that don’t quite make it to the level of 100++.

Neil Martin: Isn’t that a four-point scale? What’s the difference between our new scale and Rosso’s scale?

Robert Parker: Jesus Christ Neil! Are you dense? I told you already that no one understands fucking glasses. They like 100++ point wines, not 3 fucking glasses.

Neil Martin: That’s it! I too quit. Galloni wants me…Galloni here I come.

[Martin storms out of the room.]

Robert Parker: Monica, you understand, don’t you?

Monica Larner: Yes darling. Now rest and know that your legacy will be safe with me.

In related news, today James Suckling awarded the 2016 Château Très Difficile 110 points. In his review, Mr. Suckling stated “if an athlete can give 110 percent then I can award a wine 110 points.”

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If you are not a wine geek then you probably didn’t find this post’s story to be funny. If you are a wine geek then you probably didn’t find this post’s story to be funny.

Observations on the wines we tasted from the 12 May 2018 release that are currently available at our beloved wine monopoly the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO).

Outstanding wines

The $17 Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2015—VINTAGES#: 328559 represents great value. This is a well constructed and delicious Chardonnay that will find a place at your table or on your patio. It has some complexity, tropical fruit and nut flavors, the right amount of wood, and decent acidity. A great value wine even though it sells for the equivalent of $9CAD in South Africa and $12CAD in Russia. Yes, our government policies result in us paying nearly 50% more than the happy folks living in Russia. Back in the U.S.S.R., you don’t know how lucky you are. Sigh.

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The $20 Château Le Grand Verdus Réserve 2015 Merlot Blend—VINTAGES#: 388330 drank nicely straight out of the bottle. A nice Merlot blend wine with fruit, tannins, and oak in good balance. A decent value wine at a price point comparable to the amount paid by Europeans. This wine likely will age for those interested in cellaring the wine.

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The smokey $25 Abbona Papà Celso Dogliani 2015 Dolcetto—VINTAGES#: 193730 is perfect for BBQ season. A well constructed enjoyable wine that has weight and character. You can believe the posted tasting notes on this one. I typically avoid wines made from the Dolcetto grape but this one’s a keeper. This wine is priced fairly at the KGBO as it retails for the equivalent amount of money in Europe.

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The good-quality-value red wine that we tasted in this release is the $15 Monasterio de las Viñas Reserva Garnacha/Tempranillo/Cariñena 2012 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 166579.  It has an element of freshness, so serve this versatile wine slightly chilled. This is a candidate for your house red wine.

If you lived in Spain you could buy this wine for the equivalent of $8CAD. Close your eyes and imagine a world where you could buy this wine for $8, along with some bread, ham, and cheese and find a sunny bench to have a picnic. Alsa, that activity would be illegal in the People’s Republic of Ontario. The good folks in Alberta can buy this wine for $12. Not a resident of Alberta? Why don’t you try shipping a case to where you live? Oh, yeah, according to the Supreme Court of Canada that an illegal activity too. Damn it.

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Wines for wine geeks

We served the $44 Château des Jacques La Roche Moulin-à-Vent 2014 Gamay—VINTAGES#: 535823 blind (that is, the tasters did not know the identity of the contents of their glass). We wrongly concluded that we were enjoying a decent quality Burgundy. That’s a happy observation as here’s an enjoyable, ageable, quality wine at a fraction of the cost that you would pay for the equivalent quality from (say) the Cote de Beaune. [Picture not available.]

The $57 Terroir Al Límit Vi De Poble De Torroja Del Priorat 2015 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 93450 has all of the sophistication of quality Bordeaux. Yes, I am aware that I am comparing a Grenache blend to a Bordeaux blend. Wine geeks will love this experience. It’s shocking that James Suckling, the king of the high scores, awarded this wine 94 points only. Surely it is a wine worthy of 105 points, at least, maybe 105+.
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Wines to consider

The $20 Parxet Brut Reserva Cava 2014 Sparkling—VINTAGES#: 516021 is a serviceable basic sparkling wine. The bubbles are pleasant, the flavors and aromas are pretty simple, and the acidity provides freshness. The tasting notes overstate this wine and the price is slightly more than it should be for what you get.

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I struggled to categorize the $16 Château Godard Bellevue 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc—VINTAGES#: 426049. On day 2 (that is after the bottle was open for a day) the wine was showing a lot of enjoyable aged Bordeaux characteristics. When we first opened the wine, it struck me as shallow but with exposure to air the wine takes on appropriate weight and depth.

Here’s your chance to spend $16, decant the wine for several hours, and see if you like aged Bordeaux. I’m guessing that the LCBO made a massive purchase of the Bordeaux wines in this release as the retail price here is about what this wine costs in France.

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Wines to avoid

The $18 Allimant-Laugner Sylvaner 2015—VINTAGES#: 538413 comes across as being pretty simple. The posted tasting notes make frequent use of the word “subtle” and that is what this wine is. It’s very drinkable but too delicate to impress and it’s kind of boring. For $18 it’s not worth the money.

To me the $17 Papagiannakos Vieilles Vignes Savatiano 2016—VINTAGES#: 546002 comes across as a confused mess. The tasting notes describe the wine in a kindly manner. To us, the end product was disjointed and not enjoyable. The local wine critics have a different opinion.

The $24 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Langhe Freisa 2014—VINTAGES#: 388660  lacks character and depth. Borgogno is one of the noble names of Piedmont and a couple of years ago was bought out by a large conglomerate. I fear their wine style is now very commercial. Again, our view of this wine is offside of the opinions of the local wine critics.

Our unenjoyable wine experience was duplicated with the $20 Laxas Albariño 2015—VINTAGES#: 21477. We found the floral nose of this wine to be overwhelming and the citrus fruit flavors to be overpowering. Again, the local wine critics enjoyed this wine but our group will be returning the bottle for a refund.

The screw cap and the quality reduction has me worried about wines from D’Arenberg, one of my favorite Australian producers. The tasting notes of the $30 D’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz/Viognier 2012 Shiraz Blend—VINTAGES#: 936971 assert that the wine is impressive and has special value. We could not agree less and feel that this wine is not worth the asking price. I’ll let you guess how some of the local wine critics rate this wine.

 

by not asking permission to call you dick (28 april 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far

The date is April 19, 2018. The scene is the private chambers of Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Wagner has asked to speak privately with Gerard Comeau.

In case you do not recognize the name, Mr. Comeau is the man that committed the “heinous” crime of transporting 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor across the provincial border between Quebec and New Brunswick. You see, in the People’s Republic of Canada (and only in this country) laws prevent transportation of alcohol across provincial borders. There is no doubt that Mr. Comeau broke the law of the land. Equally, there is no doubt that he believes that law is wrong, unjust, and even unconstitutional.

The citizens of the People’s Republic of Canada view this retired grandfather as a hero. For lovers of beer and wine, his fight against an unjust law represents hope. By challenging his conviction and the fine of $292.50 all the way to the Supreme Court our hero may free the proletariat from the repression they have experienced since 1921. That was the year that saw the end of prohibition and the creation of provincial government monopolies designed to heavily tax and control the distribution of alcohol products. Yes, the liquor control boards in this country were created that long ago and they were created because the government believed your consumption of alcohol must be under its control. Does this sound familiar?

A ruling that is favorable to Mr. Comeau gives Canadians a shot at being treated fairly, at having a choice, and perhaps putting an end to the feeling that they are being treated like children. How can this man not be our hero?

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Mr. Comeau, is it okay to call you Gerald?

I’d prefer that your honor. May I also call you Richard?

That would be fine. Gerald, it’s unusual for a Justice to chat with the accused before announcing the court’s decision but, by all accounts, I hear that you are a very nice man. I wanted to make an exception in your case.

Thank you Richard…I hope you asked me here to tell me good news.

I’m sorry Gerald but I’m afraid that I have bad news for you. You challenged your conviction on the basis that New Brunswick’s law was unconstitutional, specifically that the constitution provides for free trade between the provinces. The court will not be ruling in your favor on this matter.

I’m confused Richard the words in the constitution seem clear to me. How can the Justices see the matter differently?

Well Gerald, we feel that New Brunswick has the constitutional right to restrict trade across provincial boundaries when their purpose of doing so is to enable supervision of the production, movement, sale and use of alcohol.

What does that even mean?

Gerald, your government has that law to protect you and, under the constitution, New Brunswick has the right to do that.

Help me out Richard, what is the law protecting me from?

Let me try an example. Let’s say that the beer sold in Quebec has more carbonation than the beer sold in New Brunswick. Yes, I’ll run with that example, let’s say that Quebecers prefer their beer with more carbonation than New Brunswickers are used to. So, if the province of New Brunswick doesn’t prevent its citizens from consuming overly carbonated beer from Quebec then all sorts of bad things could happen.

Such as?

Well, all that carbonation could cause abdominal pain and cramps. The province’s emergency rooms could be flooded and overwhelmed with beer drinkers seeing treatment. Then there’s the fact that all that gas needs to go somewhere. It has to somehow leave the human body and I can think of only two ways that happens in nature.

Richard, are you trying to tell me that you think that the province of New Brunswick is trying to protect me from flatulence?

Yes to protect you and your marriage too Gerald. Everyone knows that excessive flatulence causes divorce. The province of New Brunswick also wants to protect beer drinkers from divorce.

I made a big mistake Richard.

By buying beer in Quebec instead of New Brunswick?

No. By not asking permission to call you Dick.

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April 19 was a sad day for Canadians. Even if Gerald, our David, didn’t slay the Goliath that is our over controlling government he is still a hero in my books. It would be an honor to visit Tracadie and buy this man a beer. I’d even buy him the overpriced New Brunswick version if that choice was his preference.

Onto the wines from the April 28 Vintages release. Don’t forget that you can save time by ordering online and picking up your selections at your local store.

There are many good wines in this release. The theme of this release was “Pacific Northwest” yet the tasting group did not focus their dollars on wines from this region. The pattern of the wines that interest us in a release having little to do with the selected theme is a familiar one.

Outstanding Wines

Wines made by a cooperative are hit and miss. Fortunately, the $24 Vignerons de Buxy Buissonnier Montagny 1er Cru 2016 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 556084 falls into the former classification. The posted tasting notes are accurate. The wine has nice acidity and length. This wine retails for the equivalent of $15-$20CAD plus taxes in France. A good value Burgundy and an enjoyable white wine.wine_106014_web

I cannot say enough nice things about the $25 Château-Thébaud Melon de Bourgogne 2012 Melon de Bourgogne—VINTAGES#: 541458. Wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape typically sells for less than $20, rarely have I found one in the People’s Republic of Ontario that is aged, and the flavor profile usually tends towards honeydew melon characteristics. The Thébaud breaks all these stereotypes. This is an aged mineral-driven wine with nice complexity. Read the tasting notes (they are pretty accurate) and if you like what you read rush to get several bottles. I expect that this wine will sell out quickly. This wine retails in the good-old USA for the equivalent of $20CAD plus sale taxes.wine_106016_web

Wine for Wine Geeks

If you wandered down the Italian white wine aisle of the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) and made note of the prices for a Soave Classico wine, you may conclude that $15 is the typical price for a decent bottle. So who would pay $40 for the Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2015 Garganega—VINTAGES#: 92437?  A wine geek that’s who. This wine is a chameleon. For us, it started the journey with bruised apple, preserved lemon and slate minerals and then changed to stone fruit and ginger. This is a wine that you sip slowly with friends as drinking this wine is an experience that you will wish to share. Don’t decant this wine. Instead, let it develop in your glass. This wine retails for $30CAD plus VAT in Europe.wine_106020_web

Fans of Bordeaux blends that are looking for an aged bottle to impress their friends should consider the $62 Château Musar Red 2006 Cinsault—VINTAGES#: 109413. This is a well made, well-balanced wine that, if served blind, would cause most people to conclude that are drinking an aged Bordeaux. It’s ready now but also cellar worthy. In Europe, this wine retails for about $40 plus VAT so the price here is rich.wine_96892_web

Do you like to piss off and impress your wine geek friends? If so, try to source the $73 Weingut Franz Keller GG Schlossberg Grauburgunder 2014 Pinot Gris—VINTAGES#: 536680. Serve this wine blind and give an award to anyone that can identify that this wine is a Pinot Gris from Germany. It’s a well-made wine but the $73 price tag makes it a novelty wine. This wine retails in Germany for $50CAD plus VAT.

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Collector’s Corner

I categorized the following three wines as wines that may interest collectors. These wines are perfectly enjoyable now and I could have placed them in the outstanding wines category. If you can keep your hands off these beauties then you will be rewarded by the wine spending further time in the bottle.

Lovers of Tuscan Sangiovese know that Brunello Di Montalcino commands the most respect and the highest prices. Not far down the road from Montalcino is the wine region of Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, where Sangiovese is usually blended with a small amount of other local varietals. If you like Brunello or good Chianti Classico then you will also be fond of the wines from Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano.

To supplement and protect those $70-$100 a bottle Brunellos that are sleeping in your cellar considering buying the $33 Carpineto Vino Riserva Nobile di Montepulciano 2012 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 368910. The posted tasting notes are accurate. The LCBO’s price is not bad as this wine sells for about $27 plus sale taxes in the USA. The posted tasting notes are pretty accurate. There is a whole lot to like about this wine.Diapositiva 1

The $31 Álvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2016 Carignan Blend—VINTAGES#: 216291 has many appealing attributes. The tasting notes are pretty accurate and we also experienced cigar and black tea leaves aromas. There is some much going on in your glass that sipping this wine is an experience. Give it some years in the bottle and it will only get better and better.  In the USA this wine is a steal at $20CAD plus sale taxes. If I lived there I would back up the truck.clone_wine_93368_web

If you are a fan of lean white Burgundy then consider cellaring the $63 Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Les Clous Meursault 2015 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 661322.  Yes, $62 is a lot of money for a bottle of wine but not when we are talking about a Burgundy wine. The asking price in Ontario is a good one as this wine retails at similar prices elsewhere. The tasting notes are accurate. clone_wine_84817_web

Wines to Consider

Fans of Port wine will enjoy the $29 Burmester 10-Year-Old Tawny Port—VINTAGES#: 223958. The tasting notes are accurate, there is a lot going on in this wine. My friend Alan G once taught me to look for “grip” when tasting a Port. Grip is more frequently described as structure or tannins. The Burmester has grip and that element makes this port that much more enjoyable. This is a terrific buy for Port fans. Why didn’t the LCBO release this wine when the weather was colder and more suitable for drinking such a nice wine? It’s hard to believe that our friends in Europe can buy this wine for the equivalent of $10CAD plus VAT. Our friends in the USA can source this wine for $15CAD plus sale taxes. If the wine was not so good I’d tell you to avoid it because of how much the KGBO is ripping us off. The price problem is the same at the SAQ in Quebec. Sigh.
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You get what is billed with the $22 Foris Vineyards Dry Gewürztraminer 2016—VINTAGES#: 420828.  The posted tasting notes are decent. To me, Gewürztraminer based wine is too intense to drink on its own. These wines are much better with food and this one would work with the classic pairing of the dishes of India, China or parts of Asia. Retail price of this wine in the USA is $16CAD plus sale taxes.wine_105989_web

Are you a fan of Bordeaux red wine? Do you want a cheap (well, cheap by Ontario standards) wine for that mid-week meal? Then consider trying the $17 Château Saint-Antoine Réserve du Château 2014 Bordeaux Red—VINTAGES#: 434464. This wine will not win medals but, for the price, it represents a drinkable wine with some complexity and structure. We experienced raspberry, spices, and seaweed. A little too fruit forward for my taste but the wine improved with exposure to air. Give it an hour or more in a decanter before serving. This wine retails in France for the equivalent of $7CAD plus VAT. Are you tired of paying the exaggerated KGBO prices yet? Well, if you think that people in Ontario have it bad then consider the folks in British Columbia pay $25 a bottle for this wine. You poor bastards. Shame, shame, shame on the government of BC. What will it take to bring about change in this country?wine_106035_web

I normally do not like wines that are associated with celebrities. Whether the celebrity is an athlete, a musician or an actor the wine is almost always overpriced crap. But the ownership of the Miraval winery by none other than the likes of Brad and Angelina has not tainted the quality of the $24 Miraval Rosé 2017 Grenache/Shiraz—VINTAGES#: 342584. This wine has complex aromas and taste, minerality, great length and tannins, an attribute that I love to find in a Rosé. I hate the shape of the bottle (it looks nice but the shape makes it hard to store) and I wish the wine was a little cheaper but I really enjoy this wine. Typical price in France is $20CAD plus VAT so we are not paying much of a premium here in the People’s Republic of Ontario.wine_105985_web

Is your stock of Tuesday night pizza wine getting low? If your answer is yes then consider buying the $18 Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico 2015—VINTAGES#: 540922. This is a table wine that is more enjoyable with food. I found this wine to be more approachable and balanced the day after the bottle was opened so this wine would benefit from a long decant. wine_106047_web

Need to stock up on a house red wine? There are two good choices in this release.

Your first option is the $20 Casar de Burbia Mencía 2014 Red Blend—VINTAGES#: 392530. If this wine was a little less fruit forward I would have considered it to be outstanding for the price. The wine contains bright raspberry fruit, good acidity, decent length, structure, and balance. The typical retail price of this wine in the USA is $20CAD plus sale taxes so the Ontario price is a decent one.wine_106055_web

Your second option is the $18 Elias Mora 2014 Tempranillo—VINTAGES#: 209650. This is a bold wine with black fruit flavors and good structure. A good BBQ wine.

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Wines to Avoid

The important detail that Jeb Dunnuck omits from his tasting note of the $24 Wines of Substance Cabernet Sauvignon 2015—VINTAGES#: 419770 is that the wine is a confused mess. This is not much to like about this wine, especially considering the price point.

The nose of the $17 Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon—VINTAGES#: 328567 is a turnoff. The wine started off as smelling like Jalapeno peppers, then changed to Ancho chiles, and finally the off-putting smell of green peppers. We found it a hard wine to like.

 

 

one day you just might be the prime minister of canada (14 april 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far

Grandpa Muddle, one of many crusty amateur wine critics, is tutoring his grandson on wine tasting and professional wine critics. Grandpa Muddle, by many people’s standards, would be considered to be a bad grandpa.

Grandpa, did you read the article in the Spheroid and Snail newspaper on why wine critics never give low scores on wine?

The article about why wine scores are always in the range of 86 to 96 points? Yeah, I read it kid and it’s bullshit.

That’s what I thought you would say but doesn’t it make sense that, because there are hundreds of wine choices, people are not interested in what not to buy…they are only interested in what to buy?

Wine critics are like politicians son. Regardless of their political stripes they know if they keep repeating their nonsense that people will eventually believe it’s true. Canada’s Clown Prince could convince people that the Easter Bunny is real and the Twitter in Chief could sell the sun rise as being fake news. Like politicians, the wine critics are out of touch too.

Out of touch?

Yeah, people don’t read their articles and rush off to the KGBO to buy that wine. If the review is from an international wine critic chances are near certain that you cannot buy the wine in the People’s Republic of Ontario. What’s the chances of the KGBO having it as part of their inventory? Pretty much zero. No, people don’t buy wine that way. Some people will wander around the store, browse the confusing product categories, and will buy a bottle from what is available on the shelf that is within their price range. The bottle they pick will be an act of desperation or maybe the bottle will have an interesting label or, worst of all, they will make the purchase because of a “92 points” sticker. Others will try to do some homework, read the Vintages catalogue and plan their purchases based on the comments and scores that the KGBO publishes. And, what will those comments say?

That every wine in the catalogue is a great one. Right?

You catch on quickly. Professional wine critics owe their living to producers and retailers. The local pros are not much better. Local or international, they are beholden to someone. There is always one of them that will say that the wine is okay and that is the review that the KGBO will use to sell their crap. If you want a critic’s help you have to find one with a palate that aligns with yours. That’s hard to do if you don’t know what that person dislikes as well as what he or she likes. Equally important you need to know the reviewer is on the wine buyer’s side, not in the KGBO’s pocket or giving a winery favorable comments because the critic is getting free goodies. How can someone find a trustworthy source of guidance if the reviewer is never openly critical?

[Grinning mischievously] You mean we need to find reviewers that take a critical stand like the comments written by James Suckling, James Halliday, Jeb Dunnuck and Robert Parker?

Now that’s funny. Keep repeating that kido, do it over and over again, and one day you just might be the Prime Minister of Canada.

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Here is a link to the article about wine critics and wine scores if you are interested in its contents. Unfortunately, you will not be able to access the article if you do not subscribe to The Globe and Mail.

Onto the wines released on Saturday, April 14. Remember to save time and energy by using online ordering for the wine that interests you. Delivery to your local LCBO is free.

Outstanding wines

As you will read below, we purchased and tasted several good wines in this release. After reviewing my notes, I concluded that your needs would be served better by not concluding that any wine we tasted in this release was just plain outstanding. There are specific reasons to consider purchasing wines in this release and I will try to elaborate on those reasons below.

Collector’s corner

Collectors seeking value Burgundy to enjoy in 5 to 10 years have a couple of choices in this release. For Burgundy wines, value doesn’t mean cheap; it just means it’s cheaper than many other wines from that region.

White Burgundy fans should consider the $55 Domaine Billaud-Simon Mont de Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2014 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 373548. This is a good but (as reflected in the price) not a great Chablis. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I think cellaring the wine for 5 or more years will be rewarding. We had the opportunity to contrast this wine with the $40 William Fèvre Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2014 (link), a wine that was also very enjoyable. However, the Billaud-Simon is worth the extra $15 and easier to obtain because it is in the LCBO system presently. The price of the Billaud-Simon is about the same as that charged in other countries. Considering the tax and wine markup policies of the People’s Republic of Ontario our price here is a good one.Domaine_Billaud-Simon_Mont_de_Milieu_Chablis_1er_Cru_2014_web

Red Burgundy fans should considering acquiring the $55 Roux Père & Fils Beaurepaire Santenay 1er Cru 2015 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 527994. The posted tasting notes are pretty accurate and I would add that the nose also contains aromas of blood and the taste has elements of spice and earth. It’s a shame to drink this wine young. Age it in your cellar for 5-10 years to allow the flavors to blend and the tertiary elements to develop. I doubt that the drinking window is all the way to 2035 as suggested by the tasting notes. The suggested food pairing also strikes me as silly. There must be a lot of people out there hunting and eating wild game and mushrooms as this pairing seems to come up a lot in KGBO tasting notes. Based on the limited information available, the price of this wine is about the same as that charged in other countries.

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I struggle a little to recommend the next two wines as candidates for cellaring. My internal conflict does not stem from the quality of the wines but from the wines’ low price. You see, it costs money to store wine and when the wine is $22 and $26 a bottle I have to wonder whether it is worth it. But, that decision is yours to make.

If you are looking for cheap wine that will likely reward 5, 10, or more years in the cellar then consider buying the $22 Château Bouscassé 2013 Tannat/Cabernet Franc—VINTAGES#: 743385 and the $26 Château Haut-Monplaisir Prestige Cahors Malbec 2012—VINTAGES#: 462374. Pick the Bouscassé for the rustic nature stemming from the Tannat grape (the winemaker is trying to tame the Tannat by adding Cabernet Franc) and buy the Haut-Monplaisir for the Bordeaux-like intensity that is provided by its Malbec grape.

Wines to consider

The $20 Margan Family Hunter Valley Semillon 2016—VINTAGES#: 493338 is a sipper wine with some complexity. The Vintage catalogue claim that the wine has “notes of freshly peeled corn” struck us as silly. I also found it interesting that the LCBO website cites a different tasting source than that used in the catalogue. Citrus flavors dominate this wine, one that is a bit too fruit forward for my liking. It is, however, quite drinkable and has sufficient acidity to work with food. The wine retails at the winery in Australia for about the same amount of money as we pay here.Margan_Family_Hunter_Valley_Semillon_2016_web

The $18 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016—VINTAGES#: 231282 almost made it to my outstanding wine category. What happened? Well, we retasted this wine side-by-side with the Raimbault Bel-Air Vouvray 2014 that is discussed next. The result was a split in the group’s views.

The Forrester is more fruit forward than the Raimbault. It’s quite yummy, very drinkable, has complexity, good acidity and length. A lot to like here at an agreeable price. A very versatile wine as it would be a crowd pleaser at a reception, has enough acidity and fruit components to serve at a meal and would probably age in a cellar (although I think the screw cap closure would force one to wait many years to see noticeable evolution from the aging process). Again, people in the Excited States (a.k.a, the USA) and Europe pay about the same amount of money for this wine. I think it’s a great buy.Ken_Forrester_Old_Vine_Reserve_Chenin_Blanc_2016_web

The $22 Raimbault Bel-Air Vouvray 2014 Chenin Blanc—VINTAGES#: 205468 is the second Chenin Blanc to consider trying. This wine has fruit complexity and is full of minerality. It should be in my wheelhouse but it is not. What’s the problem? Well, it seems that I am sensitive to ethyl acetate, a compound that I typically describe as iodine (iodine being a common household substance in my wound-filled youth). The less clumsy and not-so-ancient people among the living would describe this smell as nail polish remover. The seven other people tasting this wine swiftly rejected and scoffed at my observation. They loved this wine. Discarding the outlier is hard when that person is me but I have to be mature and go with the majority view that the Raimbault is a wine that you may want to try. I will be seeking therapy for the emotional blow caused by my tribe’s swift and total rejection. There goes another $150 out the window. The price of this wine in the USA is the same as in Ontario.clone_wine_82770_web

The $20 Bertrand Ambroise Lettre d’Éloïse 2015 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 528000 will appeal to fans of Pinot Noir that are seeking a cheap house wine. From Bourgogne, at this price level, I was expecting this wine to be a fruit bomb. Happily this was not the case. This wine, while pretty simple, is very drinkable. The tasting notes are overstated and, while it is common to pair Pinot Noir with turkey, the specificity that the breast of the poor beast be coated with a breading of “mustard and sage” struck me as weird. In Europe, this wine retails for the equivalent of $27CAD. Bertrand_Ambroise_Lettre_d__lo_se_2015_web

The $20 Bartali Riserva Chianti 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 541524 is a great wine for the money. The tasting notes are pretty accurate. This is a classic entry level Chianti. You can sip it alone and this is a great wine for tomato sauce based pizza and pasta. Can’t go wrong at this price. I prefer the $20 Carpineto Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 356048 that we reviewed in a previous release but there are not many bottles of the Carpineto left in the system. The Bartali is a good weekday pizza wine.cq5dam.web.1280.1280__81__web

The $15 Fonte Da Loba Vinho Tinto 2015 Red Blend—VINTAGES#: 532283 is a basic and quite drinkable table wine. It’s a wine to open late in the evening when the volume level of the party is high, you conclude that people’s taste buds are shot and you don’t want to open yet another expensive bottle from your collection. The tasting notes assert that “there is almost a Burgundian quality here.” What crap. Maybe someday there will be some accountability brought to the Vintages panel and the wine retailing process in this province. wine_105813_web

Wines to avoid

The $42 Château Plantey 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 526962 struck me as an wine that has experienced a lot intervention from the winemaker. Some people refers these types of wines as “commercial”; others call them McWines. A technically correct wine is the winemaker’s objective and, like this one, the objective is normally achieved. These wines are safe crowd pleasers and you pay the price for the underlying engineering and the ability to say that you discovered a “good value Pauillac.”  I find these wines to be boring as they lack personality. The posted tasting notes are overstated. In France, this wine sells for the equivalent of $23CAD. At $42, to me, this wine is an LCBO ripoff. There is a lot of bottles in the system so expect lots of stickers and product consultants trying to move this wine.

The $15 Roc des Templiers Plan De Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages 2016 Shiraz/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 539916 is a disjointed fruit bomb. In fact, one person in our tasting group described this wine as “the worst Côtes du Rhône that I ever tasted”. With the low price and the glowing review published by the “Vintages panel” my guess is that this wine is flying off the shelves. Pity.

We tasted the $18 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah 2015—VINTAGES#: 678086 immediately after the Roc des Templiers, which prompted the comment “this is not the worst Rhône that I ever tasted.” However, it is another fruit bomb and another overstated and misleading tasting note from the Vintages panel.

The floral nature of the $25 Weingut Neiss That’s Neiss White 2016 White Blend—VINTAGES#: 523936 was a turnoff for me. Others in the tasting group didn’t mind this attribute. Regardless, at this price point, there are better white wines in this release.

A James Suckling score of 90 should be your first clue to put that bottle back on the shelf. Here I thought scores were worthless. Maybe we can use them to know the wines to avoid. Suckling’s description of the $20 Damilano Barbera d’Asti 2015 Barbera—VINTAGES#: 541771 “raspberry and lemon character” is quite accurate. He just leaves out that it a raspberry jam fruit bomb. Food tames this imbalance slightly but save your money and avoid this wine.

My guess is the vines producing the grapes used in the production of $24 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico 2014 Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 476317 are young as this wine lacks depth. This is speculation on my part as there is no indication of the age of the vines disclosed on the producer’s website. The winery is owned by the massive Santa Margherita winery. It’s not a bad wine. There is just better value in this release such as the $20 Bartali Riserva Chianti 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 541524 that is discussed above.