LCBO Vintages release – August 4 and 18, 2012

For those of you who keep track of these things, I did miss the August 4 Vintage release.  Or at least I didn’t send out a Newsletter on the occasion of that release.  I took a break and spent a few weeks at the cottage where amongst other things I drank several wines from my cellar amidst the peace and beauty of the far north east region of Ontario.

I’m back this week to report on some beauties from the last release and also provide my recommendations from this weekend’s release for your consideration.

Team LCBO Vintages seems to be on a roll these days – not only are there some exceptional wines on offer, these wines are exceptional values.

Summer blockbuster wines were featured in this release.  This is a catch-all category that covers most regions and styles.  Also featured was a small selection of single-vineyard wines from Germany.  None of the feature wines made my list:  there was simply too much going for the wines I did select.  All great values, dominated by whites!

Note: supplies are widely good for all the wines listed below, with the exception of the Midi Syrah.  In all cases heck for availability before you head out to buy.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Four Mile Creek Inniskillin Winemaker’s Series Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2010

Inniskillin is the maker which in the mid-1970’s brought Ontario out of the dark ages of factory-made wines, wines made with locally-grown Labrusca grapes, often blended with imported juice.  Inniskillin was the first winery licensed in Ontario since the end of Prohibition and founders Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser were committed to making wines from locally-grown fruit with a particular emphasis on grapes of the Vitis Vinifera genus. This wine is a beauty with a fine fruit/oak balance and it delivers solid structure and complexity.  Look for tree-fruits, citrus and spice along with hazelnut, smoke and fine-grained minerality. The finish is long and all-in-all this is a great bargain.

Dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

California, San Luis Obispo County – Edna Valley Paragon Chardonnay 20o9

Another New World Chardonnay makes the list this week. This wine is made by a producer which is now a subsidiary of E. & J. Gallo but don’t expect factory character. This is a well-made complex wine that sells for an excellent value price. As was the case with the Inniskillin wines above, we have a well-balanced wine with expressive fruit, minerals, bright acid and a long finish.  The mouth feel is full, ripe and lush. A very good wine.

Dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

Germany, Baden– QbA, Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelson Königschaffhausen Trocken Pinot Gris 2011

Baden is the southernmost growing region (Anbaugebiete) in Germany, located  across the frontier from Alsace.  This is a warm zone and enjoys a longer growing season than the more northern regions of Germany. The Pinot Gris wines from this part of Germany rank with the best Grands Crus from Alsace and are known for their full texture, structure and earthy character – I had a 2007 Baden Pinot Gris while at the cottage and was stunned by its complexity and youthfulness, even after 5 years. This wine is true to the regional standard and while it is made from fruit grown across a number of vineyards in the region, it is a very high quality wine, especially at the price. Buy a case and serve with pork roasts and bone-in chops.

Dry, white wine – $13.95 per bottle

Italy, Campania – DOCG Fiano di Avellino Terra Dora di Paolo 2010

Campania is the region below Lazio (home of Rome), making it the northernmost region of southern Italy.  This region is a small production zone for quality wines due to the inhospitable mountainous terrain of the interior.  Fiano is one of the two main white grapes grown in Campania, making wines that are crisp, aromatic and  age able.  The best example of the Fiano grape comes from the high-altitude area around the inland city of Avellino, some 50 km east of Naples. This wine is intense in aromas and flavours with citrus, herbs, honey, earth, lots of crisp acid and minerals.  Serve with shellfish or poached or baked white-fleshed fishes.

Extra dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

France, Midi – IGP Pays d’Oc Domaine les Yeuses Les Ėpices Syrah 2009

Here we have a perfect everyday wine for those who love the spice, earth, blackberry and garrique of Syrah.  This wine has juicy acid and grainy tannins which, along with expressive fruit, deliver a surprising level of complexity and structure for a wine of this modest price. This will be a great wine for end-of-summer barbecues: bring on the steaks, chops and burgers. Note: this wine is almost sold out but there is plenty of supply at the Winston Churchill/Dundas Street location in Mississauga and at the Uxbridge LCBO. It’s worth the drive.

Extra dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle

August 18, 2012 Release Selections

This weekend wines from the Southern Rhône are featured.

This is a region that the Vintages team does not really get, based on a consistent pattern of underperforming wines over the years since former Vintages director, Lloyd Evans, left the LCBO.  Lloyd got it and I still have many Rhône wines in my cellar from the late 1990’s that are now in their prime.  These are stellar wines  made by small producers I bought from Vintages and Classics catalogues that cost a pittance.  Today the only way the LCBO can get the prices it targets is to buy from second-tier caves cooperatives who are only too happy to unload average wines to a big buyer like the LCBO. This is a sad state of affairs when we consider the great small-maker Rhône values that continue to fly under the radar, invariably with no critic scores – these wines don’t need scores.  The producers can easily sell to sophisticated buyers, be they US importers or vacation travelers who regularly visit the south of France from Belgium and the Netherlands.

With that rant let me say this week’s Rhône selection is very good and I recommend several wines from the feature, including one of those rare RDW (Run don’t walk) wines.

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Blanc E. Guigal 2011

Guigal is a leading maker in the northern Rhône appellations of Côte-Rotie and Condrieu, where the wines are among the most sought-after and most expensive.  This family-owned business also makes entry-level negoçiant wines including the Vintages Essentials red Côte du Rhône and this CdR white. The fruit for these wines is sourced in the southern Rhône departments of Vaucluse and Ardèche from a number of high-quality growers and the result is exceptional quality and value for the consumer. This white is a blend dominated by Viognier but with a selection of Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette to deliver an intense complex, refreshing and well-structured wine that punches well above its weight. It has oodles of pear, apple, melon and honey with herbs and almond to round out a pleasing nose and palate. Run don’t walk…buy a case!

Extra dry, white wine – $15.95 per bottle

Hard on the heels of my comment above, I recommend a couple of Cabernet Franc wines to enjoy.  Both are examples of the best this grape can deliver.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara on the Lake Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2010

Dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle (organic and biodynamic)

France, Loire – AOC Saumur-Champigny Les Vignoles Terroirs et Lieu-Dieu de Loire 2009

Extra dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle

I suggest you cellar the Southbrook for a couple of years to allow it to loosen up: it is closed and taut presently.  In the meantime the Saumur is ready with wonderful berry fruit, and tangy acid. Serve with any pork-based dish, roast chicken or Port-Salut cheese.

South Africa, Stellenbosch – WO Stellenbosch Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2009

Rustenberg is a family-owned wine growing operation in the Simonsberg (extreme hilly) area of Stellenbosch with a history that dates from the late 17th century – a true demonstration of the Old World/New World character of this rich wine country! This wine is a Bordeaux blend, with a twist.  Dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, there is a 40% Shiraz component accompanied by small amounts of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  This blend makes for an elegant, full-bodied wine that will evolve in the cellar for the next 5 to 7 years. It has black berry fruit, herbs, spice and a slight hint of smoke and vanilla on both nose and palate.  This is a well-made wine that lovers of expensive Bordeaux reds should check out.

Dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

Finally we wrap up this week’s recommendations with three reds from the Southern Rhône feature.  Each shows the ripe fruit and juicy freshness that we expect from the wines of this region. They possess plenty of acid, ripe tannins, red berry fruits with black pepper spice and aromas of Provençal spices.  The wines of this region are Grenache based with portions of Syrah and in the case of the two wines from Domaine les Grands Bois, 10 -15% Carignan. Enjoy this fall, and for the next 3 – 5 years, with stews and grilled red meats.

The wines are listed in order of my personal preference, otherwise they are of equal quality:

France, Southern Rhône –

AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvée Philippine 2010    

Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

AOC Côtes du Rhône Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvée Les Trois Soeurs 2010

Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle

AOC Vinsobres Famille Perrin Les Cornuds 2010

Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2013.

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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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