LCBO Vintages release – August 6, 2011

Wines of Chile are featured in this week’s Vintages release.  There are a number of very good values presented in this feature and the selection is wide, allowing experimentation beyond wines made from Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the signature grapes which put Chilean wines on the map: think Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec…

A small handful of “crafted” wines from BC are also featured in this release but none made the grade for value. There were some fine producers – including three of my favourites, Burrowing Owl, See Ya Later Ranch and Laughing Stock – but unfortunately none made the Winesights grade…there was such  heavy competition this release.

This release is rich with value wines at very appealing prices.  I could have recommended 15 wines if I wanted but that defeats the purpose of my focused recommendations, so I have 5 top buys, 2 runner’s-up and 2 Collector’s Items.  The recommendations are notable for a Winesights Reader first: three reds from California on one list!

Nova Scotia, Gaspereau Valley   – Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2010

The Gaspereau Valley is a relatively new region in the Nova Scotia wine sector and has been compared with the Mosel Valley in Germany for its narrow, meandering character. Benjamin Bridge is a small family winery which was founded in 1999 and which from day one adopted a strategy to focus exclusively on sparkling wines. Nova 7 is now in its fourth vintage and this is the first time this Nova Scotia cult wine has been available in Ontario.  It is made in a Moscato style: low alcohol (7%, hence the name), light body, brilliant apple and citrus fruit, slightly off-dry, bright and light mousse and a crisp and clean mouth feel and finish.  Perfect for sipping this wine will also be a perfect match with a quinoa bean salad.

Medium dry, sparkling wine – $25.00 per bottle

Germany, Mosel – QmP Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Hoffman-Simon Riesling Spätlese 2009

From Gaspereau Valley we now move to the real Mosel. This wine is an off-dry beauty with orange, honey, white flower and peach aromas and flavours.  The flavours are intense, the acidity is high and vibrant and the finish is long.  This wine is a stunning value.  Serve with grilled chicken or Chinese food.

Medium dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

New Zealand, Hawkes Bay – Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Gris 2010

Hawkes Bay is a warm zone on the east cost of the north island of New Zealand. The flavours are ripe and the mouth fell round in this great value white wine.  Melon, honey and slight vegetal notes dominate on the palate.  The fruit is fresh and crisp with bright acid making this a very good food wine. Surprisingly complex for the price, this wine will sell quickly.

Extra dry, white wine – $14.95 per bottle

Argentina, Mendoza, – Zolo Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape has a distinctive personality that seems to show regardless of the price of the wine: blackcurrant, mint, leather, mocha and chocolate.  For readers who like this flavor profile, here is a value wine for you at a price which has house wine potential. The flavours are concentrated, the tannins are grippy, the wood is reasonably well-integrated and there is enough structure and body to enable cellaring for the next 3 – 5 years.  Serve with your next prime rib roast.

Extra dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle

California, Russian River Valley– Sonoma-Cutrer Grower-Vintner Pinot Noir 2007

Sonoma-Cutrer has been making wine in the Sonoma region for almost 40 years.  The focus over that time has been on quality estate wines made from the Chardonnay grape.  The wine portfolio has expanded to include some small-lot Pinot Noirs, including this wine, which are normally only available to S-C wine club members.  You will find this to be a medium-bodied, concentrated, juicy wine which will accompany grilled salmon steaks to a perfect match.  The palate is rich with ripe red cherry and raspberry fruit, smoke and vanilla and round, medium-weight tannins.  Drink over the next 3 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $29.95 per bottle

This week’s runner’s-up wines are exceptional values; they are not the most complex wines but they will do yeoman duty as house wines in the waning weeks of the summer heat.

Argentina, Salta – Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés 2010

I have predicted elsewhere that Torrontés will become the next trendy white grape.  For some reason it hasn’t happened yet, largely because the most of the Torrontés wines we have seen recently in Ontario have not been very interesting. This wine delivers what one expects from this grape:  aromatic white flower and tropical notes on the nose with plenty of herbal, vegetal and tropical fruit flavours on the palate.  The acidity is zesty and the finish is crisp and clean.  This wine will be a good match with spicy Asian food – think Curry! Think Torrontés!

Extra dry, white wine – $11.95 per bottle

Chile, Equinox – Anakin Lien Single Vineyard Viognier 2010

This is an exceptional Viognier with oodles of floral aromatics on the nose and tropical, citrus and stone fruits on the palate. It has a spicy backbone, zesty acid and ripe fruit: pretty fine Viognier character at $13.95 per bottle.  This is a great sipping wine or a fine match for grilled ginger shrimps.

Extra dry, white wine – $13.95 per bottle (Taste of Chile feature wine)

We close out this week’s recommendations with two reds from Sonoma County. The first of this week’s Collector’s Items has excellent cellar potential for at least the next 7 -10 years.

California, Sonoma – Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Chalk Hill is the leading winery in the small northern Sonoma County AVA of Chalk Hill. This wine has great depth on the nose and the palate, a truly noble wine for the price. The aromas are ripe and smoky; the palate is concentrated and well-structured.  Flavours of ripe black currant, chocolate, vanilla and forest floor provide for a complex and intense sensory experience. The tannins are sleek but still a good match for the intensity of flavours and texture on the palate.  This wine will evolve well for the next 8 – 10 years.

Dry, red wine – $44.95 per bottle

The second Collector’s Item is a classic Zin from the famed Dry River Creek maker, Seghesio Family.

California, Sonoma County – Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel 2008

In his book The Finest Wines of California, Stephen Brook called the 2007 vintage of this wine the “quintessence of Zinfandel”.  This is a juicy, ripe blackberry, full-bodied gem.  It has a complex palate with fruit, herbs, vanilla, and spice accompanied by bright acid and grainy tannins. The alcohol is high at 15.5% but the flavour intensity and structure give the wine a surprising balance. I recommend cellaring this wine for the next 2-3 years for enjoyment up to 2020.

Extra dry, red wine – $39.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.


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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