August 20 Vintage Release

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Hi, I’m back in Canada after spending a couple of weeks in the good old USA (or, as my brother now calls that country, the Excited States of America). In my last email I noted that most of the wines in the August 20 Vintage release struck me in shades of mediocrity. So I did not run out to the KGBO (a.k.a. the LCBO) to buy in quantity.

I did try one wine from that release… a Vermentino from Sardegna: the 2014 Contini Pariglia Vermentino di Sardegna. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/contini-pariglia-vermentino-di-sardegna-2014/455238#.V8nPPvkrLIV. My admiration for the wines of Sardegna continues to grow. I suggest that you read Ian D’Agata’s description of the wine (that is posted on the KGBO website) to see if those flavors appeal to you as much as they appeal to me. If they do, buy the wine, take a sip and see if you can identify the flavors (by then, if you are like me, you will have forgotten Ian’s description). I think you will find the mineral and fruit flavors of this wine will grab your attention. If this wine was a person you would want him or her to visit you and tell you a story or two. At $19 it’s a great buy. I bought my KGBO store out. Supply exists still in the KGBO system. Buy it while you can.

I also recommend the 2014 Louis Tête Coteaux Bourguignons. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/louis-tete-coteaux-bourguignons-2014/448860#.V8pBNfkrLIV. This wine was a Vintage release from April and the KGBO just reduced the price to $15. This wine will appeal to fans of Pinot Noir. Yes, I realize that Gamay is not Pinot Noir but I am willing to bet if you tasted this wine blind you would guess that Pinot Noir was in your glass. Don’t let the KGBO’s description of this wine fool you. Yes, it is light bodied and fruity if you popped the cork, poured the wine in your glass and drank it immediately. Don’t be a sucker and take that approach. Pretty please! Instead pour a glass and leave it for at least 15 minutes (30 would be better). You will then find that there is a lot going on in this wine. Drinking this wine made me feel happy…maybe because I found the wine lovely; maybe because it is a complete steal; probably both. Buy this wine before it disappears. If you are serving this wine to guests decant it for 30 minutes before serving. You don’t need a fancy decanter. Pouring the wine to another container works just fine.

Finally, one of my favorite house wines from the KGBO’s general listing (the wines on the normal shelves of the KGBO, not the Vintage section of your store) is a Rioja from the producer Bordon. I find it amazing that you can go to the KGBO and buy an 11 year old Grand Reserva Tempranillo wine for $23. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/rioja-bordon-rioja-gran-reserva/428060#.V8pD9vkrLIU. A source told me that the KGBO will not be receiving any more of the 2005 (the vintage presently in their stores). It will soon be replaced by the 2006 vintage. If you want and appreciate the extra year of age (at no extra cost) go stock up on the 2005 vintage now. I was also told that the 2006 vintage is small. If you like this wine you may want to stock up early when the 2006 appears on the shelves. This wine is another example of one that benefits from 30 minutes in a decanter.

If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive it please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list. I hope to have time to spend these notes out periodically. I will be traveling extensively until early October. It is unlikely that you will hear from me until then.

All the best

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February 4 Vintage Release

Happy Tuesday!

Our story so far: It’s early December 2016. A day of darkness has descended upon the KGBO (a.k.a The Liquor Control Board of Ontario or the LCBO) command center. Three KGBO accountants have staged a coup d’etat. By offering free pizza, they lured and captured the KGBO’s entire marketing group in the lunchroom. The marketing people, being used to days-long-pizza-eating gatherings, have not noticed that they are detained. Everyone else in the office sees this state as routine. The three accountants’ plan is brilliant. They took control over the marketing function because the recent Vintage marketing campaigns centered on a cheapness theme. Everyone knows that cheapness is the domain of an accountant; drastic action was required in order to not lose territory and influence.

Let’s listen in on their conversation.

KGBO Accountant 1: Okay, we all know our mission statement “we are the KGBO and we will tell you what you are allowed to buy today”. We all know that our service to society is vital. We protect the public from the evils of alcohol consumption, particularly wine; we know consuming good wine is bad and the government must protect people from accessing good wine.

KGBO Accountant 2: You can’t possibly believe that crap. The KGBO is nothing more than a tax opioid for the People’s Republic of Ontario. Queen’s Park is hooked on our cash flow. We need to maximum the check we will send to Comrade Wynne. That’s our real mission.

KGBO Accountant 3: Exactly, and that’s the reason we had to take over control of the Vintages theme from those copycat-sneaky-little-shits in marketing. We need a theme to maximize our February sales; more sales will make Comrade Wynne happy. So, the release date is February 4, that’s early February. Think ahead to early February…at that time of year what’s on people’s mind?

KGBO Accountant 1: [filled with youthful enthusiasm] Oh, oh, oh I know. There’s the Super Bowl that happens in early February. And, everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is in February. I’m thinking a theme catering to Super Bowl Sunday parties and Valentine’s Day.

KGBO Accountant 3: [exasperated] Give me strength! Are you sure you don’t want to go get some pizza? Seriously, the Super Bowl? That’s a minor event. Do you think people still watch the Super Bowl? Hardly anyone watches the Super Bowl. Do you think that normal people get together for Super Bowl parties and bring wine to enjoy with snacks and finger food? That may happen with a small number of freaks. Valentine’s Day? Who cares about Valentine’s Day? Do you think people buy wine for Valentine’s Day? Give me a break. Did I mention that there is Hawaiian pizza in the lunchroom?

KBGO Accountant 2: Interesting observations. Do you have a sales theme option in mind?

KGBO Accountant 3: [banging on the boardroom table] Yeah, we took over to generate some fresh thinking. It’s will be February; people will have time on their hands. There is an untapped market and that market is huge. What do people really want? I’ll tell you, they want. They want to become wine geeks. They want to impress their friends with their wine geekiness. There’s a massive hole in the market to fill I tell you. Millions of people want to be a wine geek.

KBGO Accountant 2: Go on, you have me interested.

KGBO Accountant 3: The idea’s brilliance is its simplicity. We’ll fill pages of the catalog with geeky wine things, jargon, travel destinations and steps a person should take to become a wine geek. We then sell mediocre wine that the citizens of our republic will buy to practice their wine geekiness.

KBGO Accountant 2: That idea is fucking fantastic! We should have staged this coup months ago. Who ever said that accountants can’t be great marketers? Accountants’ rock marketing! We always did and we always will.

KBGO Accountant 1: I’ll leave you two to work out the details. I better source extra security to provide crowd control. Our stores will be overrun with people. We need to avoid death and injury or the next coup it will be the lawyers that take over. God knows that I could be fooled into self-imprisonment by the offer of a week-long lecture on the wonders of the HST.

KBGO Accountant 2: Don’t forget to slide a couple more pizzas under the lunch room door.

Yes, the February Vintage release centers on making you a wine geek. Really? Am I the only person to read this and think WTF? I’ve attended a lot of crappy office meetings in my time and I’m super glad that I didn’t have to sit through the one that came up with this theme.
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Don’t judge me because I am making fun of accountants. A retired accountant is allowed to do that. Just ask Mel Brooks or Russell Peters or Tina Fey. They are all famous retired accountants. Except Tina. I read her book and she never was an accountant. Now I am just being silly. I didn’t mean to imply these people are retired accountants. However, they have all poked fun at identifiable groups to which they belong. So I’m guessing that it is socially acceptable to deprecate a group if you are part of that group. Otherwise, social media will label you a misogynist or a racist or (worst of all) a philatelist. I’m certainly not a racist. I like all races. Well, I’m not being totally honest. I like all races except marathons. I cannot run that far and I get bored.

You are allowed to judge me by my making fun of the marketing group. But, don’t be harsh in your judgment because even people in marketing will admit to their love of pizza.

Enough silliness. I had a lot of help in this tasting. Four of us gathered before the start of the Super Bowl to taste wines from the release; wines that we thought might be interesting. Well, actually three of us tasted wine. The fourth excused himself to seek medical attention for a cold that will not abate. There is a nasty bug making its way around Toronto presently. He made an appearance, dropped off three bottles of wine and left. Do I have good friends or what?

I wish that I could say that the wines in the February 4 release were interesting. Of the 10 wines we tasted (9 from the release and 1 from the general listing) only 2 impressed.

blogfeb2Our favorite white was JEAN BIECHER & FILS SCHOENENBOURG RIESLING 2014
VINTAGES 469767 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=469767&ITEM_NUMBER=469767&language=EN&style=Vintages). I love Alsace Riesling and this wine didn’t disappoint. Stone fruit, minerals, great length, good acidity, food friendly. Don’t let the 10 grams of residual sugar fool you. It’s still considered dry by KGBO standards and the acid and the residual sugar and the wine’s acidity have a wonderful balance. The KGBO is selling this Grand Cru for $24. I could not locate comparative price information in other countries. Suffice it to say that $24 is a good price for an Alsatian Grand Cru.

blogwineThe red wine that was the winner was the CASTELLO DI NEIVE BARBARESCO DOCG
LCBO 160143 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=160143&ITEM_NUMBER=160143&language=EN&style=Vintages). The funny thing is that this $23 wine is part of the KGBO’s general listing (you will find it – year round – in the Italian section of the main shelves in the store). I included it in the tasting in order to compare it to the $31 PIER RIO SORDO BARBARESCO 2009 VINTAGES 360016 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=360016&ITEM_NUMBER=360016&language=EN&style=Vintages). Unfortunately, the Sordo fell short. The wine’s taste drops off suddenly and basically disappoints. There is nothing special going on here. I picked the Castello Di Neive because (a) I can tell a cool story about visiting the winery and (b) the KGBO store I visited had the wine in stock. The Castello Di Neive was the clear favorite of the two.

blogwine2I would have also included the $21 ENRICO SERAFINO BARBARESCO DOCG LCBO 341156 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=341156&ITEM_NUMBER=341156&language=EN&style=Vintages). However, the store I visited did not have this wine in stock. The Serafino is also a general list wine. There is a good chance that you will prefer this wine over the Castello Di Neive. It’s put together with a style that has more finesse. I like the rustic edge of the Castello but admit my preference is based on my mood at the time. Both are house reds for me and the outcome of this tasting has me thinking that we need to explore the general listing in addition to the Vintages release. There are a few gems in that section of the store.

Castello Di Neive retails for $30USD in the Excited States of America so using my doubling rule (exchange, duties, KGBO markup) a “fair” price would be $60CDN. It’s a steal at $23 and the Serafino is a good value buy too.

I’ve used up a lot of real estate so my comments will be brief on the other wines we tasted.

The $13 SCHÖNLAUB PINOT BLANC 2015  VINTAGES 468215 from Germany (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=Schonlaub&ITEM_NUMBER=&language=EN&style=Vintages) tropical fruit flavors burst from the glass. It’s a decent table wine for the price. Too fruity for my taste.

blogwine3The $13 CURVOS LOUREIRO 2015 VINTAGES 471284 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=CURVOS+LOUREIRO+2015&ITEM_NUMBER=&language=EN&style=Vintages). I like Vinho Verde wine in the summer. The wine’s style usually has a little spritz and the wine is great on a hot summer day. I don’t think that I will be stocking up in February but if you are seeking a wine to remind you of summer then grab a bottle now and imagine that you are on a patio.

The $19 GÉRARD BERTRAND CÔTE DES ROSES ROSÉ 2015 VINTAGES 373985 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=373985&ITEM_NUMBER=373985&language=EN&style=Vintages). It’s an okay Rose. Dry and pretty and an okay price. The wine didn’t excite me, however.

My purchase of the $23 CHÂTEAU DU CHATELARD CUVÉE LES VIEUX GRANITS FLEURIE 2013 VINTAGES 207886 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/details.do?language=EN&itemNumber=207886) went like this…

ME: Hi, can you help me find this wine?

KGBO Product Consultant: Sure. What’s the product code?

ME: 207886

KGBO Product Consultant: Here it is…you made a great choice; it’s a really good wine.

ME: Have you tried it?

KGBO Product Consultant: No but it got a 90 rating. That’s a really good score so it is a good wine.

ME: [with a slight body spasm caused by biting my tongue until it hurt] Umm, gee that’s great. Thanks.

This wine bursts with raspberries and little else (i.e., I can’t get past the raspberries). It’s a fruit bomb. Move on. I made a mental note that wine critic Josh Raynolds and I may not be compatible. If the KGBO ever stops providing me with material for satire then maybe I will move attention to my “love” of professional wine critics.

blogwine4The TRAPICHE GRAN MEDALLA MALBEC 2013 VINTAGES 467977 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=467977&ITEM_NUMBER=467977&language=EN&style=Vintages) will set you back $26. This is a fruit forward wine that comes across as being sweet (it is not). It is made in a style that will appeal to many people (the KGBO calls it “smooth”). To me the style is boring and the high-alcohol level of this wine turns me off.

Instead, consider the $30 MENTORS SHIRAZ 2012 VINTAGES 403618 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=403618&ITEM_NUMBER=403618&language=EN&style=Vintages). This is a decent wine, somewhat spoiled for me by the high-alcohol level (it is less noticeable than the Trapiche, however). It is fruit forward and the thing that I don’t like is the high concentration of the fruit’s taste. However, there are other things going on in this wine. The nose has an intriguing whiff of smoke and, while you have to look for them, there are tobacco elements in the taste. Fruit concentrated wines are not something that I seek but if I was having a beef-themed dinner or was trying to impress friends that liked big-and-bold reds then this wine would work.

If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive a copy please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list.

Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine. The locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on http://www.vintages.com. Copy the product number, perform a search with that number and use the find a store feature. Unfortunately, I have to provide you with links to www.vintages.com as (for reasons beyond my ability to understand) the links that I create to www.lcbo.com will not work.

Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. The KGBO may be the controlling monopoly but you are the customer.

The next Vintages’ release is Saturday February 18. I typically try to buy and taste the wines that interest me on the Saturday and taste them on Sunday. If you are interested in joining me send me an email and I’ll try to coordinate a small gathering. It would be great to get the views of others that are interested in finding gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO.

 

January 21 Vintages Release

Happy Tuesday!blogjan

The story so far: It’s late November 2016. In a dank and dark room at KGBO command center, three strategists are in a secret meeting. What is the sole topic on the agenda you ask? Well, that topic is the wines that the KGBO will allow the citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario to buy in the January 21 2017 release. Three Starbuck’s low-fat-triple-shot lattes have been consumed. People are sitting comfortably in their chair. Let’s be a fly-on-the-wall and observe their discussion.

KGBO Person 1: Okay, before we start the meeting let me remind everyone of our guiding principle…”we are the KGBO and we will tell you what you are allowed to buy today”.

KGBO Person 2: [momentarily looking up from his iPhone 7 Plus and removing his earbuds] Dude, I love that theme. I love this place. I love coming to work. Where else can I guy like me sit in a windowless-damp room in a crappy basement, play with their phone during a meeting, AND get to control a market worth billions of dollars?

[Evil laughter spontaneously erupts]

KGBO Person 3: Okay, we’re on the same page, what wines will we hock in the second release of January? The early January release was “smart buys”. When we did that release I was bored as a blind man watching a silent movie. Let’s do something exciting!

KGBO Person 2: Do you have shit for brains? Have you forgotten what’s going down in January? Hydro rate increases, Christmas bills, carbon taxes, we can’t allow exciting. If we take that approach we risk a people’s revolt. They can’t handle exciting at this time. We have to allow cheap. Only cheap! Cheap I say. My vote is for cheap.

KGBO Person 1: Spot on. We stick with the script. We will allow the sheep, I mean “citizens”, to buy cheap in January. We wait for February, specifically Valentine’s Day, and then we play upon human guilt. That’s when we will allow them to buy more expensive mediocre wine!

[Evil laughter spontaneously erupts].

KBGO Person 2: Did I mention how much I love my job? I got to go and charge my phone and my earbuds.

Yes, the focus of the January 21 Vintage release continues to be on value. Reading through the release notes you will notice dozens of sub $15 bottles of wine. My attempt to find wines worthy of my money focused on five wines.

Before getting to the specifics permit me to mention the fun we had performing the tasting for this release. I spent the weekend in Ottawa and was fortunate to get a last minute dinner party invitation on Saturday night. Bottom line is I had lots of input and perspective. One outcome that really has me thinking was the division of wine preferences based on gender (with the ladies preferring one wine and the lads preferring another). It got me wondering whether the wine industry is a bastion of male chauvinism; one that is not intentional and one that is not recognized. I say this because most wine critics are male, they hand out scores based on their taste perspective and sadly consumers buy wine based on these people’s made up number. It’s sad behavior but now I am venturing down the road of crapping on the wine critics. You really don’t care. Let’s save that rant for another day and spend a few paragraphs on wine.

First up for the white was RABL LANGENLOIS GRÜNER VELTLINER 2015 VINTAGES 377457 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=377457&ITEM_NUMBER=377457&language=EN&style=Vintages). Refreshing, crisp, great acidity, clean with melon fruit flavors. This white wine was the one that the ladies loved. They corralled the bottle and kept it for themselves both before and during the meal. They were shameless and somewhat giddy about their greed.

If you buy this wine you’ll be adding $15 to the People’s Republic of Ontario’s coffers. Maybe they will use the money to pave over that pothole on your street. In Europe this wine retails for the equivalent of $10USD (an implicit fair price of $20CDN) so the $15 they want here is decent value. You may recall a Gruner Veltliner wine from the January 9th release, the Nikolaihof Wachau Terrassen Grüner Veltliner (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=85274&ITEM_NUMBER=85274&language=EN&style=Vintages). To me, while $6 more per bottle, the minerality present in the Nikolaihof makes it the better choice. I really regret not having a bottle of the Nikolaihof for the ladies to try on Saturday night. I would have loved to determine if their preference would be the same as mine. In hindsight, this was a real lost opportunity. FYI, there are a few bottles of the Nikolaihof in the KGBO system still.

Second up is GUICCIARDINI STROZZI VILLA CUSONA VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO 2015VINTAGES 172726 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=172726&ITEM_NUMBER=172726&language=EN&style=Vintages). To me this wine had character and weight. It was a wine where I was interested in tasting more. It’s a great winter wine, one that would work with food and one that I intend to return to the KGBO and buy a couple more. This white wine was the one the lads preferred, including me. Maybe my preference was based on me feeling sorry for this wine for the way the ladies ignored. Sitting untouched on the counter this bottle reminded me of an awkward teenager at a high school dance (but that may be me projecting suppressed rejection to inanimate objects again). At $15 this wine is a buy to me. This wine retails for $15USD in the Excited States of America so using my doubling rule (exchange, duties, KGBO markup) a “fair” price would be $30CDN. This wine’s a good value buy.

First up for the reds is the MOJO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 VINTAGES 383539 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=383539&ITEM_NUMBER=383539&language=EN&style=Vintages). To be honest, I would have bought this wine even if the notes didn’t interest me. How can someone not try a wine named Mojo? This wine is what I expected from an Australian Cab, particularly one from the Coonawarra region of that country. Fruit forward and supported by some acidity and decent tannins that build as you drink it. I don’t know whether it will get your mojo working, it will not knock your socks off but it’s a decent wine. At $18 a bottle the price is decent as well. It retails in Australia for the equivalent of $11USD (implied “fair” price of $22CDN).

Next up is the BEYRA VINHOS DE ALTITUDE RED 2014 VINTAGES 408120(http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=408120&ITEM_NUMBER=408120&language=EN&style=Vintages). This wine starts out as being fruit forward (red fruit, likely raspberries) and has decent acidity and tannins to support the fruit. However, what interested me was as the evening wore on (and the wine in the bottle was exposed to more air) the wine changed and got more rustic. After an hour or two, I thought that the wine had elements of the rustic style that we used to find (many) years ago in Portuguese (and Spanish) wine making. Having read what I just wrote I might be old. This observation may not get many people’s mojo working (most of the world hated this style of wine making) but, overtime, this wine’s appeal grew on me. The MacDonaldization of wine making that we have experienced over the last decade can make things as boring as a business meeting. Unless you are shallow, every pretty face doesn’t have to look the same. At $13CDN you cannot go wrong. It’s not a great wine but enjoyable and if you decant it and give it some time maybe you too would enjoy it more. The Beyra retails for $10 in the USA, implied “fair” price of $20CDN in Ontario.

Finally, because I am a fan of the producer, I had to splurge a little and try the CVNE IMPERIAL RESERVA 2010 VINTAGES 424390 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=424390&ITEM_NUMBER=424390&language=EN&style=Vintages). At $39 it may not fit your budget but if you want to experience a Rioja from a top-end producer give this bike a ride. The wine is well put together, balanced, would benefit from decanting, enjoyable now and will be enjoyable 10 years from now. This wine retails for $30USD in the good old USA, making the People’s Republic “fair” price $60CDN.

If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive a copy please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list.

Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine. The locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on www.vintages.com. Copy the product number, perform a search with that number and use the find a store feature. Unfortunately, I have to provide you with links to vintages.com as (for reasons beyond my ability to understand) the links that I create to lcbo.com will not work.

Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. The KGBO may be the controlling monopoly but you are the customer.

The next Vintages’ release is Saturday February 4. I typically try to buy and taste the wines that interest me on the Saturday and taste them on Sunday. If you are interested in joining me send me an email and I’ll try to coordinate a small gathering. It would be great to get the views of others that are interested in finding gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO.

 

December 10 Vintages Release

Happy Tuesday!

My travels through the Excited States of America delayed my commentary on the last release by one week. I have some great friends there and it was a treat for me to visit them.

It’s that time of year. The Holidays are upon us. Panic is starting to germinate. A warm glow is also growing in your heart. This time of year is not just for buying presents for loved ones. It’s not just about lists and queues and crowds and overspending and over indulgence. It’s also a time for peace on earth, goodwill to men (although even as a small boy I couldn’t understand why the song excluded over half the globe’s population).

Like the Grinch, this time of year softened my heart. Could I be too hard on government controlled monopolies? The one that tells me what I am allowed to buy? Should I embrace the season and do a little forgiving?

Hell no.

Sentimentality was cured the evening I tried to read through the 12/10 release catalogue. The sheer number of wines in this release caused anxiety to rise. I had to call it a night. The next day I scrolled through the catalogue with renewed energy. I was determined to count the number of wines. I gave up at 150. In school my teacher taught me to count higher (I think the next number is 151) but as an adult I could not suppress the boredom. I then went looking for wines that excited me and was surprised at how few interested me. I think I’m justified in saying that human forgiveness does not apply to government controlled monopoles over products we need for quality of life.

Let’s start with the 3 wines that I wanted to buy to taste, starting with the sparkling wine http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=386979&ITEM_NUMBER=386979&language=EN&style=Vintages.

This $15 Cava would be a crowd-and-bank-account pleaser. It is not as complex as the tasting notes imply but it is pleasant and fine for a fun aperitif. The 11.5% alcohol level pleased me as I prefer wines with lower alcohol levels. The 14 grams of residual sugar worried me but after tasting it over two days I was pleased that the wine does not have perceived sweetness.

I thought that I would enjoy the $16 Flor de Vetus Verdejo http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=320259&ITEM_NUMBER=320259&language=EN&style=Vintages but I was mistaken. The tasting notes interested me (maybe it was the phrase “tempt the reticent”) and I bought a bottle. On day one, the wine had a distasteful noise of sulfur. It was slight, not as distasteful as a dirty joke at a formal dinner, but strong enough to be shunned. I had high hopes that the wine would be different on day two. My hopes were dashed. The smell was worse, the flavors gone. If I cannot find my receipt the wine will go down the sink.

The wine that excited me most was the $25 Cote Du Py http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=468694&ITEM_NUMBER=468694&language=EN&style=Vintages. It’s not unusual to pay $45 for a wine from this region so as I headed to my KGBO I found myself as excited as Justin Trudeau flying to a photo opt. Unfortunately, day one’s tasting experience was as disappointing as my high-school prom. I poured a glass and, while I really tried hard to like my date, the point was lost on me. I thought this relationship had little hope. After a glass, I corked the bottle and decided that I had nothing to lose by giving it a day.

It’s now day two and I am really digging this wine. If you buy this wine and want to serve it soon please decant it at least an hour before serving. Two or three hours would be better. I’m thinking that this wine would show nicely after five years of cellaring and I’m thinking it’s a bargain.

If you are looking for real Champagne to celebrate consider buying the $43 Gardet http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=924654&ITEM_NUMBER=924654&language=EN&style=Vintages. This champagne punches above its weight. It retails for $40USD in the Excited States (fair value in the People’s Republic of Ontario $40 x 1.3 [exchange] x 1.525 [duties and KGBO “lost margin”] = ~$80CDN).

Have a wonderful holiday break!

If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive a copy please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list.

Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine. The locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on www.vintages.com. Copy the product number, perform a search with that number and use the find a store feature. Unfortunately, I have to provide you with links to vintages.com as (for reasons beyond my ability to understand) the links that I create to lcbo.com will not work.

Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. The KGBO may be the controlling monopoly but you are the customer.

The next Vintages’ release is Saturday January 7. I typically try to buy and taste the wines that interest me on the Saturday or Sunday. If you are interested in joining me send me an email and I’ll try to coordinate a small gathering. It would be great to get the views of others that are interested in finding gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO.

 

November 12 Vintages Release

Hi

In Vintages’ November 12 release the KGBO decided that you were in the Christmas spirit. Our wine-retailing monopoly wants you to rush out to start buying presents. Thus, the focus of this release is on higher-priced wines. Value wines in this release are hard to find.

The white wines in this release were more boring than vacuuming on a Saturday morning. Like the fool I can be, I did talk myself into trying the Trimbach Riesling (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=734517&ITEM_NUMBER=734517&language=EN&style=Vintages) and I now wish that I had my $24 back. The wine has a kerosene nose (that I like) and, to me, the primary favor of sour green apples overpowers everything else. Like watching the U.S. Vice President debate, one grows tired of this wine quickly. The tasting notes “expressive notes of peach show their exuberance…tautness, shot through with lemon purity while the peach delightfully plays around them” are nonsense. I love Alsatian Riesling but Trimbach has become the Gallo of Alsace and their low-end wines like this one are just not worth it. I knew better than to buy this wine because Trimbach has disappointed me before. I was hoping my prejudice would be proven wrong.

The KGBO made me happy by allowing me to buy a few bottles of the Juve Y Camps Pinot Noir Reserva Brut Rose sparkling wine (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=385088&ITEM_NUMBER=385088&language=EN&style=Vintages). I have enjoyed this wine through the years and cannot think of a better way to celebrate a Tuesday than with a glass of this pink sparkler.

I bought 3 red wines to try…

Somewhat reluctantly, I brought the Hedges CMS Red (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=948992&ITEM_NUMBER=948992&language=EN&style=Vintages). Again, I love Washington State wines but unfortunately the good stuff typically does not leave the West Coast of the U.S.A. and the KGBO tends to prefer hocking the crappy fruit bombs that this region is capable of producing. Thankfully, the wine is not a fruit bomb and the $24 the KGBO wants for this wine (considering their aggressive markup) is reasonable (Snowbirds can buy this wine for $10US). I think you will find that the wine has black fruit and coffee flavor and that it has good structure. Assuming that you don’t chug your wine, I would not decant this wine. The wine’s intensity grew in the glass, an evolution that I found interesting and you may the experience interesting too.

If you like good-quality Chateauneuf du Pape then head to the French section of Vintages and spend $30 for a bottle of Perrin Coudoulet de Beaucastel. Perrin makes the iconic Chateau de Beaucastel and if you are willing to part with $90 and wait 10 years you can taste one of the best wines from the Chateauneuf du Pape region. The A7 highway runs North / South in this area. The vineyards for Beaucastel are west of the A7. The vineyards for the Coudoulet are east of this highway. Because the grapes come from the East the wine cannot be classified as Chateauneuf du Pape and you’ll therefore find the wine’s label says Cotes du Rhone. There are other differences between the Chateauneuf and the Coudoulet, including the grapes used in the blends, but don’t let that get in your way of trying a wine as good or better than wines classified as a Chateauneuf du Pape. If you try this wine you will find intriguing floral aromas and a wine that has pleasant red fruit, pepper and nice tannins. This wine retails in the U.S.A. for $23US so the KGBO’s buying power works in your favor on this transaction (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/details.do?language=EN&itemNumber=48884).

If you are a fan of bold wine with flavors of milk and bitter chocolate and dark fruit then consider the Clos de Los Siette for $24 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=622571&ITEM_NUMBER=622571&language=EN&style=Vintages). The KGBO buys this wine every year and I have bought a bottle or two and cellared them for a few years before drinking them. Last Saturday was the first time that I tasted one that was young and I have to say that this wine in its youth is too intense for my palate. I used my Osso corkscrew to recork the bottle and will drink it several years from now.

Onto your Christmas list…

Note that I’ve not tasted this Vintages’ release of the following wines. I have tasted previous vintages of these wines and I’m based my purchases on this past experience. Don’t expect Santa Rickee to be giving these wines away. I don’t know anyone that was that good.

Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf du Pape – $45, decent producer, same price as in the USA, will age for decades if desired (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=959627&ITEM_NUMBER=959627&language=EN&style=Vintages)

Beronia Gran Reserva – $38 (same price as the USA), wonderful balanced wine that you can drink now or age for many years. Take one to your favorite BYOB Spanish restaurant. It will cost you less than $65 ($38 + 25 corkage) and be as good as anything that the restaurant will have on the menu. (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=940965&ITEM_NUMBER=940965&language=EN&style=Vintages)

Fontanafredda Serralunga D’Alba Barolo – $45 for a 2011 Barolo (it sells for $10CDN more in the USA), Fontanafredda is a large producer but they still make decent wine, not wine that I collect but wine that I enjoy. I love the 2011 Barolos now if you are having them with Italian food. Really enjoyable. (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=943290&ITEM_NUMBER=943290&language=EN&style=Vintages). Again, a great wine to bring to a BYOB restaurant.

Finally, for the Aussie Shiraz lover, E&E Black Pepper Shiraz – it will set you back $90 so give this one to someone you really love. I have never tasted this wine in its youth and don’t really have a desire to do so. It needs time in the bottle. Buy one and let me know what day in 2023 you are free for dinner. Have no availability? No problem. I can make any evening in 2028 or 2033 as well. Just let me know your preference. No place to store it? I’m happy to help out there too. Leave it with me and it will be as safe as letting Colonel Sanders babysit your pet chicken. Older vintages only are available in the USA but (based on the price of older vintages) the KGBO’s price appear reasonable. (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=731620&ITEM_NUMBER=731620&language=EN&style=Vintages).

If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive a copy please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list. Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine (the locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on www.vintages.com). Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. They may be the controlling monopoly but you are the customer.

The next Vintages’ release is Saturday November 26. I typically try to buy and taste the wines that interest me on the Saturday or Sunday. If you are interested in joining me send me an email and I’ll try to coordinate a small gathering. It would be great to get the views of others that are interested in finding gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO.

All the best,

Rick

August Vintages

I dove into several of the latest Vintages releases from the KGBO (a.k.a. the LCBO) and there are several wines that I thought I should let you know that I believe are worthy of your consideration…

Kir-Yianni Akakies Rosé – a dry Greek Rose with some structure and character. It’s a bargain at $13. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/kir-yianni-akakies-rose-2015/71050#.V658ZPkrLIU. Great with food. Great alone.

Troupis Moschofilero 2015 – a mineral forward Greek white wine with complexity. I bought some to age as I think the wine will shine with a few years of bottle time. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/troupis-moschofilero-2015/463422#.V659EvkrLIU $17. Also consider the general list offering (i.e., ample supply and available online). $16 http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/troupis-fteri-aoc-moschofilero/392936#.V65-SfkrLIU. Not as complex but a really nice white wine.

I bought several bottles of two different reds. These wines would be fine house wines and I believe that both would improve with some cellar time. The tasting notes on the KGBO website are pretty accurate.

One is the $19 2012 Ferruccio Deiana Síleno Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/ferruccio-deiana-sileno-cannonau-di-sardegna-riserva-2012/455600#.V65_EvkrLIU. Cannonau is what the Sardinians call the Grenache grape. I’m presently intrigued by Sardinian wines. They are good; they are cheap; they work with food; they are hard to find. I’ve drank Cannonau that was 25 years old and it was beautiful. If you like this style of wine then I say that you should buy Sardinian wine when you see it and before it gets discovered.

The other red wine to consider is the Ardal Reserva 2006. It is a ten year old Spanish Tempranillo for $22. http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/ardal-reserva-2006/167700#.V66AZvkrLIU. One of my house reds is the general list Bordon Rioja (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/rioja-bordon-rioja-gran-reserva/428060#.V66BLfkrLIU) a 10 year old wine that you can buy online for $23. If you like the Bordon then you will like the Ardal. The KGBO also has an Ardal Crianza 2010 as well (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/ardal-crianza-2010/167601#.V66Bs_krLIU) , which I intend to try. I suspect that it is worth the $19 the KGBO demands.

If Sherry excites you then buy the La Guita Manzanilla (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/la-guita-manzanilla/337022#.V66CL_krLIU). I love this wine so much I bought a case (it is hard to get Manzanilla from the KGBO). Have a glass with some good olives, charcuterie, nuts…anything salty…the wine is wonderful and a $16 bottle will last a while.

Finally, you’re nuts if you don’t buy the Gardet Cuvée Saint Flavy Brut Tradition Champagne (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/gardet-cuvee-saint-flavy-brut-tradition-champagne/924654#.V66EJPkrLIU). Nuts I tell you. Nuts. I bought 6 and might buy more. It’s delicious and dry and a Champagne and it costs $43; a rare find in this neck of the woods.

The last Vintage release by the KGBO was exceptional. I looked through the August 20 release this afternoon and, to quote Paul Simon, the wines in that release appear to me “in shades of mediocrity”. There is only one that I intend to buy and try. So, buy the good stuff from the prior releases before those wines disappear.

If you cannot source a wine from your local KGBO nicely ask the Product Consultant to do a store transfer. Some get snotty about it and others jump at the opportunity.

All the best