LCBO Vintages release – November 26,2011

The pre-holiday season Vintages releases continue this weekend with a blockbuster release. The main feature includes iconic wines from around the world, labeled by the marketing mavens as Master Works.

Highlights in the feature include Sassicaia 2008 ($186.95), Krug Brut non-vintage Champagne ($269.95), Far Niente Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($132.95), Château Pontet-Canet 2008 ($129.00), and so on.

These wines may be exceptional but don’t get on my list, even as Collector’s Items.  This isn’t to say they aren’t noble; they simply don’t deliver the value I look for.  Consider using your Sassicaia money to purchase six carefully-selected $30.00 value bottles.  This would seem to me to be a better strategy in terms of maximizing your pleasure.

There are some spirits offered in this release as a sub-release.  These are also priced in the upper reaches of the stratosphere and this is okay for giving, perhaps… or for your ego.  I would prefer to buy a value-priced Armagnac (such as the General List Armagnac de Montal at $49.95) than spend $99.95 for the Castarède XO Bas Armagnac offered in this release.  Call me contrarian, call me a cheap date – I am happy and contented consuming wines and spirits that truly balance quality and price.

All of this is to say that this is yet another big release and despite some of the high-priced products offered there are several fine values which I report on below.

The selections this week can be segmented into two categories: traditional WVN values and higher end special wines that are still exceptional value wines…but wines priced at premium levels. You will have no difficulty figuring out which category each wine fits into.

Argentina, Salta – Terrazas de Los Andes Reserva Torrontés 2010

Torrontés is the white grape of Argentina, known in its best forms for its highly aromatic character.  Torrontés is the catch all name for a number of varieties, all crosses with Muscat.  Because of the diversity of grapes using the Torrontés handle, the wines made with this grape can range from the sublime to the uninteresting.  The wine at hand is from the sublime end of the spectrum.  This wine shows elegance and structure on the nose and palate.  There is plenty of citrus and white flowers on the nose and a crisp, and bright palate of melon, lime , slight grassy notes and spice. The finish is long.  Serve lightly chilled as an aperitif.  Drink now, this wine is meant for early consumption.

Extra dry, white wine – $14.95 per bottle

New Zealand, Marlborough, South Island – Momo Pinot Gris 2010

Marlborough is known for its pungent Sauvignon Blancs and I forecast the region will eventually become known internationally as the home of fine cool-climate wines made from an array of grapes.  I visited the region last year and while there I concentrated on wines made with anything but Sauvignon Blanc; I developed my fearless forecast from that experience.  Here we have a fine demonstration of my thesis. This is a ripe, round wine with brilliant peach, grapefruit, spice and light brioche on the nose.  It was partially aged in oak, on the lees, so there is fine flesh and complexity supporting the ripe citrus and tree fruit flavours.  The body is medium in weight, the mouth feel is luscious and slightly off-dry and the finish shows good length with lingering honey notes.  This wine is an exceptional value.

Dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

Germany, Pfalz – QmP Ungsteiner Herrenberg Kurt Darting Riesling Spätlese 2008

Kurt Darting is a grower in the village Ungstein, one of the better villages in the sunny, dry Pfalz region.  This Palatine Spätlese is a youthful beauty which shows apricot, honey, melon and ripe apple on the nose – very lightly aromatic. The palate is medium dry with flavours of lime, honey, green apple with delicate minerality and bright acid. This wine is very well-balanced.  Serve with roast loin of pork.

Medium dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

France, Midi – AOC Minervois Domaine Pierre Fil Cuvée Elisyces 2007

The first of two reds from the Languedoc, this is a perfect wine to serve with winter stews, roasts and braised beef ribs.  It is a deep ruby colour, almost purple.  The nose is a ripe, stewed black and red fruit blend with the characteristic rustic garrigue that comes form the low brush cover that is the hallmark of this rugged part of France.  The palate is full-bodied, concentrated and structured with balanced acid and tannins.  The flavor profile matches the nose with stewed dark fruits and spice dominating.  The finish is long.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

France, Midi – AOC Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun Cave de Roquebrun La Grange des Combes  2009

This wine is a Syrah-dominated blend with a portion of Mourvédre along with Grenache. The resulting wine has the savoury notes of Syrah, the dark fruit of Grenache and the square structure of Mourvédre – all in a well-made, high-value package. You will find ripe berry fruit, tar, smoke, black pepper, smoked meat, garrigue and slight chocolate on the nose and palate – a complex character for $16.95!  The acid is juicy, the tannins have grip and the finish is medium in length.  This wine will be best after another 2 -3 years in the bottle.  Serve with roasted red meats.

Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle

The runner’s-up this week are premium wines that deliver character and age-ability at attractive prices for the quality.

New Zealand, Wairarapa, North Island – Ati Rangi Petrie Chardonnay 2009

As you drive north from Wellington, you travel through some alpine-like hills with steep, twisty turns, eventually arriving in the Martinborough region which is flat and pretty – very Niagara region-like.  This is a cool zone known for Pinot Noir and, more so now, for Chardonnay. Ati Rangi is a small and highly-acclaimed operation located on the edge of the village of Martinborough.  Most of the fruit used by Ati Rangi is estate-grown but the fruit for the Petrie Chardonnay is purchased. This is the second wine of Ati Rangi, just a notch below the storied Ati Rangi Craighall Chardonnay.  The Petrie is an impressive wine with intense fruit, lots of stony minerals, balanced oak and juicy acid and a long toasty finish.  This is a very classy wine and it is an excellent value at this price.

Extra dry, white wine – $33.95 per bottle

California, Napa Valley – Stag’s Leap Merlot 2007

One of the early success stories in the modern evolution of Napa Valley, Stag’s Leap is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines, including the 1973 vintage which outscored Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion at the famed Judgement of Paris tasting organized by Stephen Spurrier in 1976.  Merlot is an afterthought at this operation as almost all the vines planted are Cabernet Sauvignon.  Nonetheless this Merlot is well-made and is a very fine value. It is intense, solid and well-structured with plenty of dark plum, cherry, spice and smoke on the nose and palate. The tannins are assertive and need some more time to soften.  The concentrated fruit and juicy acid give this wine the bones to further develop over the next 5 – 7 years.

Dry, red wine – $44.95 per bottle

This week’s Collector’s Item is the only feature wine which made the WVN grade this release.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2009

Pricy though it may be, this is a value wine.  The quality of the fruit, the precision of the winemaking, the exceptional character and balance all contribute to a wine that is already showing well but which will evolve further over the next 10 -1 2 years. This is the flagship Chardonnay in the portfolio of Le Clos Jordanne.  It shows character of its place, it has fine complexity on the nose and palate: citrus and tree fruit, honey, spice, bready lees, sleek minerals and delicate toasty oak.  This is an assemblage of understated elements which combine to make an harmonious, definitive statement.  Let no one doubt what can be done in the Ontario wine industry, with the proper tools and resources, placed in skilled hands:  this wine will shut down the doubters.

Extra dry, white wine – $65.00 per bottle (Master Works feature wine)

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

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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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