LCBO Vintages release – December 10, 2011

This Saturday will feature the last Vintages release of 2011.

Befitting the season, the release features sparkling wines and special wines for special holiday dinners.

Compared to releases over the past month or two, this weekend’s wines are more modestly priced.  The strategy is to get the big wines onto shelves early where they will have the best opportunity to create interest and feed the beast that is the feverish Christmas shopper: shop early to get those wines that will make the biggest statement among family and friends.

There are some exceptional value sparkling wines in this release which I will highlight in a forthcoming post.  In the meantime there are also some good value still wines from both the Old – and New World, making this a surprisingly appealing release for the value buyer.

The WVN selections this week cover a diverse range of regions for all palate preferences.  A little more pricy than usual but it is the holiday season…give yourself and your family and friends a high-value gift or two.

Germany, Mosel – QMP Ürziger Würzgarten Markus Molitor Riesling Spätlese 2008

A Spâtlese wine is made with riper fruit than a Kabinett wine and thus typically shows a modest level of residual sugar in the glass. These wines still possess bright acidity so they remain food friendly but in a more approachable way for those who find the sharp, acidity of a Kabinett Riesling too austere. This wine has ripe stone fruit, orange, ripe melon and honey aromas and flavours, all combined to deliver a complex and harmonious experience.  The acid is crisp, the mineral backbone is delicate and the finish is long and spicy. This is an exceptional wine that will age well for the next 4 – 6 years.

Medium dry, white wine – $24.95 per bottle

New Zealand, Central Otago, South Island – Hawkshead Pinot Noir 20008

Many Central Otago Pinots show fine and expressive red fruit but little complexity and sense of place when compared with similarly-priced red Burgundies.  Here we have a more multi-dimensional Otago Pinot and as a result this wine is worth exploring.  It has herbal, earthy, spicy elements which combine with red berry and cherry fruit and round tannins to make for a balanced and well-sturctured wine.  Serve with roasted rack of veal, or holiday turkey.

Extra dry, red wine – $29.95 per bottle (Holiday Cheer feature wine)

France, Bordeaux – AOC Fronsac Château La Dauphine 2008

Fronsac is a right-bank neighbor of St-Emilion, known for high quality, reasonably-priced wines.  Like the wines from its more famous neighbor, the wines of Fronsac are blends dominated by Merlot. This wine includes a 20% proportion of Cabernet Franc which provides a juicy acid and herbal character to complement the ripe plum and spice of the Merlot. There is some modest smoke and vanilla on the nose and palate and the finish is long and juicy.  This is a complex wine which will improve over the next 3 -5 years and cellar well until at least 2020.

Extra dry, red wine – $29.00 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Gigondas Pierre Amadieu Domaine Grand Romane Cuvée Prestige 2009

Pierre Amadieu  is a long-established large  producer (for the appellation) known for wines made in a traditional fashion – old wood, little winemaker intervention. This cuvée is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah grown on old vines at some 4oo metres elevation.  The wine shows depth of flavor, sound structure and complexity.  There is plenty of red fruit, spice, bright acid and firm tannins.  This wine will be best cellared for another 2 -3 years so the tannins can soften and become more integrated.  Very elegant today this will become a perfect match for game or a rib roast when it comes up from the cellar.

Extra dry, red wine – $27.95 per bottle

California, Napa Valley – Clos du Val Merlot 2008

I recommended a Merlot from Stag’s Leap Winery last issue.  This week we have a Merlot from Clos du Val, a short drive south on the Silverado Trail from Stag’s leap.  This week’s wine is a very good value and provides the ripe plum fruit of a Napa Merlot along with ripe tannins, some cherry red fruit, medium acidity and well-balanced alcohol.  This wine is refined and well-priced for a quality Napa red.  Consume over the next three years.

Dry, red wine – $27.95 per bottle

The runner’s-up wines this week are very fine values that just fall short of the top 5 by the slightest of margins.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake Château des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2008

I have written before about the practice of A – B comparisons as a way to better appreciate winemaking and place as defining elements in individual wines.  With this wine and the Markus Molitor Riesling, above, we have perfect candidates to compare New World and Old World Spätlese-style Rieslings.  This wine is an award winner (Gold at the 2011 Ontario Wine Awards) which demonstrates why Riesling is a champion grape in Niagara region. Brightly aromatic on the nose it has lime, ripe peach, honey and spice on the palate.  The sugar is balanced with taut acid, so the mouth feel is lean and zesty. Serve with grilled bone-in pork chops.

Medium dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle (Holiday Cheer feature wine)

France, Bordeaux – AOC St-Estèphe Cru Bourgeois Château Ségur de Cabanac 2004

Each year I seek out the Crus Bourgeois listed in the Bordeaux Futures for one reason: these are the best-value left bank wines in all of Bordeaux.  They may not have the depth of character of the their more famous brothers and sisters from up and down the Medoc but they deliver everything my palate seeks at prices that make these Crus exceptional values.  Of the noble communes on the Left Bank, St-Estèphe sits at the north-most end, next to Pauillac as you travel south. This wine is mature but still has years to go in the bottle – St-Estèphe wines are often the slowest to mature of the wines of the left Bank communes. It shows concentrated fruit, spice, wet earth and coffee notes on the nose and palate and has a robust, tannic mid-palate. This is a very good value for a wine that comes from a very good place.

Extra dry, red wine – $39.95 per bottle (Holiday Cheer 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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