LCBO Vintages release – September 5, 2015 (WVN 222)

While it doesn’t feel like it outdoors, the start of the fall season arrives next week. After Labour Day everything shifts to acknowledge the changing season –school starts, Halloween candies go on sale, hockey practices begin, winter clothing appears in stores, etc.

This shift includes the food we eat and the wines that accompany those foods. Bolder dishes come with cooler weather and these menus call for wines that have are more assertive and which have more body and structure.

This weekend’s Vintages release contains a number of bold wines that reflect this seasonal shift and some of these make my list. Consistent with wines that match heavier foods, my selection is dominated by French reds

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2013

Long-time readers of WVN know I have been a fan of Hidden Bench since it opened some 10+ years ago. The wines from this place have a consistent intensity, balance and structure that speaks to the terroir, precise vineyard management and high attention to detail in winemaking. All of these make for an amazing consistency across the full range of H-B cuvées. There is another benefit that accrues from the H-B model: these wines are eminently age-able. I have tasted several bottles of several varietals from the 2006-2008 vintages over the past few months and have been very pleased with the way these wines evolve. H-B wines can be enjoyed immediately, because they are held back an extra year before release so they have achieved some early integration and harmony. Further time in bottle yields enormous dividends as the wines achieve wonderful harmony without any loss of the bright, intense fruit expression they had when young. The Estate Chardonnay is an exceptional value when you consider its ageing potential and its price. Look for ripe stone and tropical fruit, lean flinty minerals, taut, crisp acid and oak that is already finely-integrated. The body is full and the finish is long, crisp and clean. I would put this wine up against any $60 dollar Premier Cru from Burgundy

Extra dry, white wine – $28.95 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC Côtes de Bordeaux Château Godard Bellevue 2011

This is a true run-don’t-walk nugget that will likely move quickly this weekend. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that has concentrated fruit, wonderful balance and surprising complexity for the price. It is modest in weight with plum, black currant, spice and herbs on the palate with a slight smoky-oak character. Very fine at an amazing price.

Extra dry, red wine – $14.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône M. Chapoutier Belleruche 2013

Chapoutier is a well-known maker of quality wines, based in the northern Rhône village of Tain-l’Hermitage. This wine is not from the north but is assembled from fruit grown in several parcels in the south. This has all the classic elements of a fine Côtes du Rhône red: bright red and black fruit, modest, smooth tannins, juicy acid, black pepper spice,  Provençal garrigue, and a round, ripe texture that keeps you coming back for another sip. This will not overwhelm you with its complexity – this is wine to enjoy for its harmony and joyfulness. Great value.

Dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle

France, Northern Rhône – AOC Crozes-Hermitage J.L. Chave Selection Silène 2013

Chave is another noble maker of wines in the northern Rhône, best known for his red and white Hermitage wines. The Selection wines are produced by the negoçiant arm of the Chave operation where, according to the family “the goal is not to make great wine but provide a good example of each appellation”.  This wine delivers on the Selection promise: it is a finely-made, refined wine with all the elements of a northern Rhône Syrah.  You will find blackberry fruit, savoury notes, black pepper spice, fine-grained tannins, and crisp acid. The finish is long. This is a beauty.

Dry, red wine – $27.95 per bottle

France, Midi – AOC Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Lafage Tessellae Old Vines Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre 2013

Here we have yet another classic rendering of a southern France appellation, this time from the Roussillon. Correct wines from this region are always ripe and round with intense fruit expression. They are not demanding, are excellent matches for comfort food and they are always good value. Tessellae is a perfect example of the Roussillon case with the added bonus of a dose of Mourvèdre in the blend to give this wine some extra structure not often found in these wines. You will find ripe plum, spice, smoked meat, garrigue and some earth notes on the nose and palate. The texture is ripe and supple and the finish is long.

Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2015.


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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