LCBO Vintages release – December 11, 2010

This past weekend saw the last Vintages release before the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. That means the holiday wines you have to select from are now defined with this last Vintages release of calendar 2010.

Once again there were a lot of wines offered in this release…over 160.  Once again also we saw many icons and many wines at pre-recession prices.  Consider a magnum of Cristal Brut Champagne 2004 at $754.95 or a double magnum of the 1999 at $2984.95.  These didn’t make it to my value-wine best-buy list…but there are a great number of best buys, including two value sparklers, on the list and the choice was a tough as ever.

One wine that did not make my list is the VQA Naramata Bench Laughing Stock Portfolio 2007 red.  This wine was one of my favourites when I recently visited the Okanagan.  It was priced at $39.05 at the winery and it sells for $40.00 in BC Liquor Stores.  It is a whopping $54.95 wine in this week’s Vintages release. There are too many taxes and mark-ups in our screwed-up, restricted cross-provincial-border wine trade. This hurts the winemaker and consumer, both. Yes, there are transportation costs but they are a small pittance compared to a price differential of $15.00!  See the editorial in the December 6, 2010 issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail: http://tinyurl.com/2g66d6q.

California, Napa Valley – Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc 2009

This wine has plenty of tropical and stone fruit aromas and flavours to accompany the more typical citrus, herbal character we associate with New Zealand S-B.  This profile reflects the warmer growing conditions in Napa Valley. There has been some oak treatment in the maturation but the wood adds a rich texture and only a slight amount of vanilla – very full in the mouth – with a long finish. If you don’t care for Cloudy Bay this just may be the Sauvignon Blanc for you!

Dry, white wine – $29.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Chàteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Chante Cigale Tradition 2007

This is the entry-level wine from a quality producer, known for good value in an appellation that consumers often associate with high prices (but which are great values compared with Burgundy and Bordeaux).  Made from grapes grown on vines over 40 years old this is an intense and correct wine from a very good vintage. The colour is deep ruby. The nose is complex showing garrigue, spice, red fruit and vanilla.  The palate is concentrated and intense with bright red fruit, grainy tannins, spice and juicy acid.  The alcohol comes in at 15% but the wine has enough bones that the overall effect is balanced.  Great structure. This wine will develop further over the next 2 -3 years and drink well for another 5 years after that.

Dry, red wine – $37.95 per bottle

South Africa, Western Cape – WO Western Cape Graham Beck Brut Sparkling Wine

Several Champagnes and sparklers are included in this pre-holiday release but this one stands out head and shoulders above all – for quality and value.  First, it is made with the classic grapes of Champagne, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Secondly, it is made by a maker known for intense wines.  This is a medium-bodied wine with creamy mousse, citrus fruit, biscuit on the nose and palate and stony minerals.  It is a great value and will sell quickly.  Serve at holiday dinners or open houses.  At this price buy a case.

Extra dry, sparkling wine- $17.95 per bottle

Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Bodegas Franco Espanolas Bordón Reserva 20074

A Rioja Reserva has been aged in cask for at least 1 year and aged an additional 2 years in bottle before it is released for consumer purchase. This is a Tempranillo blend with small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo (Spanish for Carignan).  It is a relatively complex wine that is an outstanding value.  It has spice, smoke, garrigue and black fruit on the nose.  The palate is fresh and youthful with plenty of acid, black fruit, smoke, vanilla and pleasing dusty tannins.  The finish is long.  This wine is ready to drink now and can be aged further.  It will drink well for the next 4 -6 years. This is a food wine that will go well with roasts – beef, pork or veal.

Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Baron de Ley Gran Reserva 2001

I was checking stock at one of the large Vintages store the morning before release date – this big release required an early start for our friendly Vintages CSRs – and this wine was almost sold out, a day before “release”.  A Gran Reserva Rioja is a wine that has been aged in barrel for at least two years and aged a further 3 years in bottle before release. This wine shows its age with a garnet colour in the glass.  The nose is intense with herbal, floral and earth notes along with stewed fruit compote. The palate is balanced and full-bodied with juicy acid, spice, wet earth, plum and vanilla.  The finish is long and crisp.  Very nice, structured wine with youthful notes and still plenty of time to age further.

Extra dry, red wine – $29.95 per bottle

This week’s runners’- up with solid Ontario VQA representation:

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Jackson-Triggs Proprietor’s Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2008

Extra dry, white wine – $20.95 per bottle (this wine has rightfully won several awards for its exceptional balance and complexity in a well-priced package – intense and elegant at the same time)

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Creekside Estate Laura Red 2007

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (very good value Bordeaux blend that will age well for 5 -7 years – a finely-balanced wine with juicy acid, sleek tannins and complex primary and secondary flavours )

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Stratus Cabernet Franc 2007

Extra dry, red wine – $38.20 per bottle (complex, structured and age-able, this is an excellent demonstration of the potential for this grape in Niagara region)

Spain, Penedés – Segura Viuda Cava Brut Reserva Heredad

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $29.95 per bottle (a blend of Macabeo and Parellada this wine is bottle-fermented for up to 4 years, yielding a bright and intense sparkler)

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Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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