LCBO Vintages release – August 20, 2011

This weekend Vintages features wines from the south of France: Languedoc, Roussillon, Southwest France and Provence. You may say this is odd: it’s still summer and we are now asked to buy rich reds more likely to match with beef stew and cassoulet rather than lighter summer fare.  Well, first this is retailing: sell ahead of the season to create new interest and traffic.  Secondly, many of the wines offered are perfect for late summer weekend barbecue meals: steaks, chops and burgers.

Two sub features are also presented this weekend.  The first features wines from the lesser-known, but very good, regions of Mendocino County, Monterey, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara.  These regions vary in climate, topography and grape varieties and these variations are reflected in the wines that deserve at least the attention wines from Napa and Sonoma receive.  I have selected two wines from this feature – excellent wines, excellent buys, both. The second sub feature is aimed at the glitterati who will attend the Toronto International Film Festival in early September:  wines from Champagne.

In my recommendations this week we have a good selection of wines from the New World and the Old World…

California, Monterey County – Chalone Monterey County Chardonnay 2009

Chalone is an old property that built a reputation for fine wines made from estate-grown fruit on its high-elevation vineyards 40 miles inland from the Pacific coast. The property was purchased by Diageo in 2005, a few years after the death of Dick Graff who owned the property through its years of growth and quality. Diageo introduced the Monterey County range of wines and moved down market using bought fruit for the wines made under this brand.  While not of the stature of the Chalone estate wines, this Monterey County Chardonnay is very good value for the money.  It shows cool-climate character: tree fruit flavours (apple, pear, and lime) with light minerality and bright acid.  The wood treatment is understated, providing enough complexity and creamy texture without dominating the nose or palate.  The finish is long.

Extra dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle (California feature wine)

France, Alsace – AOC Alsace René Muré Signature Gewürztraminer 2009

This is the perfect wine for lovers of Asian food:  spicy and intense with slight residual sugar to complement hot, spicy foods.  The nose and palate are rich with honey, lychee, citrus and ginger.  The palate is slightly unctuous but the acidity provides an edge so it has a clean and crisp feel. For lovers of Gewürztraminer, this is a must-buy at a very fine price.

Dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle

Oregon, Willamette Valley – Anne Amie Cuvée A Pinot Noir 2008

Anne Amie is a small producer with extensive plantings of Pinot Noir vines of various clones that date from the turn of this century. The vineyard climate is cool and the Anne Amie focus is on grapes that prosper at altitude with wide diurnal temperature variations: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Riesling.  This wine is a good example of how the New World can deliver Pinot Noir wines that provide more than velvety, red fruit-forward, interesting – but in a not sustainably way – wines we now expect from many New World regions.  Look for sound structure: complex red fruit on the nose and palate, bright, zesty acid, grainy tannins, spice, light oak and a long crisp finish.  This wine will develop over the next 3 – 5 years but can be enjoyed now with grilled salmon steaks.

Extra dry, red wine – $26.95 per bottle

California, Santa Barbara, – Ampelos Santa Rita Hills Gamma Syrah 2006

The Santa Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a cool, windy region which enjoys a long growing season.  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes prosper in this zone where the fruit ripens so slowly that often fruit picked too soon will retain very high levels of acid.  Late picking is the right treatment of Syrah grapes in this climate and as a result alcohol levels can be high.  This wine has 14.3 % alcohol by volume yet the palate is well-balanced with concentrated fruit, exceptional complexity and grainy tannins.  The character of Gamma is Old World with black fruit, pepper spice, wet earth and smoked meat aromas and flavours. Serve now and over the next 3 -5 years.  This wine is a fine match for winter foods such as game, rack of lamb or beef stew with root vegetables.

Extra dry, red wine – $27.95 per bottle (California feature wine – organic)

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Gigondas Dauverge Ranvier Vin Rare2007

I regret to report that the wines of Gigondas are suffering an upward price creep that is sad, but inevitable and warranted. From the strong 2007 vintage this wine is now coming into its own but has enough bones to be a cellar-worthy wine to lay down for the next 5 -7 years.  This is deep, brooding wine which you observe in glass: opaque, dense and purple/ruby. The density continues on the palate with ripe black fruit, gamey, savoury notes, black pepper spice, herbs, brilliant acid, firm tannins and a full body. The alcohol level is high: 15.5% by volume, but the wine is balanced and any heat is balanced by the depth and concentration on the nose and palate. Drink now and over the next 3-4 years.  This is another winter, red meat wine.

Extra dry, red wine – $31.95 per bottle

I also suggest readers consider the following runners’-up.

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône La Ferme du Mont La Truffière 2009

There is no better wine to serve at a summer patio brunch than a chilled white Côtes du Rhône.  Serve with a salade niçoise or a shrimp omelette with frites and green salad and then collapse for a nap before dîner.  Make sure the wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier – this will provide a wonderful combination of aromatics, structure, acid and minerals: the ideal combination for light fare. With this backdrop let me present to you the wine for your Sunday brunch this weekend…a wine that is light, which shows white floral notes on the nose, tropical fruits and slate mineral on the palate.  Delicate, bright and juicy – this wine has been aged only in concrete tanks so it shows pure, unadulterated fruit expression.  We need more wines like this from the Vintages team.  Buy lots!

Dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Stonier Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2009

There seems to be a cool climate theme this week: be the wines from California, France or Oregon… but Australia?  Yes, indeed, Australia.  The Mornington Peninsula zone is located south east of Melbourne, an hour away from centre-city, even with rush hour traffic.  Rolling hills, mists from Port Phillip, cool nights and a long and temperate growing season characterize this place. These are perfect conditions for Pinot Noir grapes.  Rated by James Halliday as one of the top producers in the region, Stonier is also one of the elders in the community, dating from 1978.  The colour of this wine  is very deep, the nose is bright with red cranberry and cherry and the body is mid-weight and elegant. The mouth feel is the highlight of this wine: sleek, structured and bright with juicy acid.  This wine sings and demonstrates the diversity of Australia for those who see only high alcohol, semi-sweet fruit bombs when they think of Oz. This wine is not your stereotype Aussie red.

Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

This week’s Collector’s Item  is another wine from Australia.

Australia, South Australia –Grant Burge Barossa Valley The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2006

Holy Trinity is one of the showcase cuvées of the Grant Burge portfolio of intense and well-made wines.  This wine stands out for its structure: concentrated flavours and aromas of cherry, plum and spice, accompanied by high acidity, solid tannins and a full body and long finish. The palate is complex with the fore-noted intense fruit and spice, along with an earthy, mineral, leather and vanilla context.  Put this wine in your cellar for the next 5 -7 years and serve with red meats to your family and other special dinner guests.

Extra dry, red wine – $33.95 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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