LCBO Vintages release – July 9, 2011

This weekend’s Vintages release features 90+ wines along with All-Occasion Sparklers.  The sparklers are interesting, albeit more pricy than the quality warrants (except a Roederer Estate Brut from California – unfortunately not the Reserve I wrote about in the last Newsletter, but a wine I recommend at $27.95 per bottle).

As for the 90+’ers, I generally ignore scores as the hype surrounding high-scoring wines at the front line retail shelf is a racket and the 100 point scale, like so many rating systems, seems to be prone to grade inflation. The critic is as culpable as any in this game that feeds a frenzy for wines which all taste the same and which display limited local individuality.  On this point it is interesting that all but three of the 90+ wines are scored by Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate (Robert Parker and team). Expect big, oaky reds…and four whites of variable credentials.

Notwithstanding this rant about the sins of scores, several of my selections are from the 90+ feature.  Call this very good selection by the Vintages team…

There are some value wines elsewhere in the release and while they are somewhat pricey they are good values.

There is a dominant red wine character to this week’s selections, with a strong French/Rhône sub-theme.

France, Northern Rhône – AOC Crozes-Hermitage Blanc Ferraton Père et Fils La Matinière 2009

Monsieur Rhône, John Livingstone-Learmonth, writes this month in Decanter magazine of the wonderful treats to be found in the white wines of the Rhône valley – difficult sale they may be.  Here we have a well-priced example of the case for treats he makes. This wine is dominated by Marsanne – a grape which makes soft, nutty and age able wines – and shows stone fruit and citrus elements on a flinty mineral backbone. The nose is clean but a bit retiring so pour before serving to allow the wine to open up  for your guests.  The finish is clean and long.  Serve with grilled pork chops or a shrimp omelette.

Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

France, Burgundy – AOC Morgon Côte du Py Dominque Piron Les Pierres 2009

Morgon is considered to be one of the serious crus in the Beaujolais-Villages classification.  It is unusually tannic, compared to the lighter wines of the region and it has an affinity for cellaring. The Côte de Py is the source of the best incarnations of Morgon – elevated with volcanic soil, the wines from this climat are distinct and prized.  This wine has fine structure, rich berry and cherry character, spice, firm tannins and tertiary elements of chocolate and smoked meat.  The finish is long.  Cellar for the next 4 -5 years.

Dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle

South Africa, – WO Cape Agulhas Lomond Syrah 2008

This Syrah is concentrated, and full-bodied with expressive fruit, spice, smoke and earth notes. Despite the full mouth feel, this is a pretty wine that has a complex character not unlike a northern Rhône cru. Nicely-priced, this would be a great wine to do a comparative Syrah  tasting with the Saint-Joseph, next.  Serve the two wines side-by-side with a root vegetable-laden beef stew.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

France, Northern Rhône  – AOC Saint Joseph Domaine Vincent Paris 2009

Vincent Paris a well-regarded young winemaker in Cornas who also has a small parcel of old vines in Saint Joseph, the source of this very fine wine.  This is a fruit-forward, supple delight: plenty of cherry, blueberry, black pepper and savoury Syrah elements in a concentrated, medium-bodied package. If you are an Old World Syrah-phile this is a wine you must buy. Pricy for a Saint Joseph, this is still very good value.

Extra dry, red wine – $28.95 per bottle

USA, Oregon – Cooper Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

Cooper Mountain winery is a long-established Pinot Noir pioneer in the northern Willamette Valley, known for its terroir-driven wines.  This Pinot Noir is modern in style with a fruit-forward nose and palate – cherry, ripe raspberry – made complex with smoke, forest floor and spice.  The palate is juicy, the tannins are grainy and the finish is long.  This is an understated, elegant wine that will go well with fatty fishes, such as salmon or rainbow trout.  Enjoy over the next 5 years.

Dry, red wine – $29.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

One runner up this week deserves comment:

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Gigondas Domaine des Bosquets 2007

This wine would have made the top five, except for its lofty price.  The 2007 vintages was exceptional in the southern Rhône and this wine is an embodiment of the things that make 2007 what it has become.  This is a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend with a rustic, big character – ripe blackberry, blueberry, herbes de Provence, spice, and wet earth. The tannins are assertive and need time to become more rounded. Cellar for the next 3 -5 years to allow it to round out to a lush, southern Rhône classic.  Serve with cassoulet.

Dry, red wine – $31.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

 The Collector’s Item for this release is a very fine value:

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2008  

The 2008 vintage was not a solid one with a long, cool spring and a wet summer.  The vintage was late as a result with late-ripening grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon helped by a long, mild fall.  This said those vineyards that followed careful practices for canopy management and yield produced very fine reds such as this.  Terroir Caché 2008 is a concentrated red with still-firm tannins, excellent fruit expression and juicy acid.  I suggest another 2 years in the bottle before serving with a rack of lamb.

Extra dry, red wine – $35.20 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.


California, tasting…

In this posting I highlight the wines from my recent trip to northern California that stood head and shoulders above everything else.  These wines all displayed complexity, structure and concentration, making them standouts.

As I reported in the last issue of WVN, there are distinct climate differences between northern Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  These differences influence both varieties cultivated and wine style: big reds made with Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon in northern Sonoma and delicate whites and reds made with Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and others in Mendocino.

The northern Sonoma area is dense with vineyards and wineries – it is a mecca for weekenders with an immense number of high-quality makers all in very close proximity to each other, a wide array of dining rooms and good-value accommodations.  Because the region is farther away from the bay area than Napa, Carneros or the Sonoma Valley regions, crowds are not a distraction from the tasting experience in this part of wine country.

Mendocino is very rural and the wineries are fewer in number but the tourist experience is special: there is no crowding in the tasting rooms, the character is more rustic and the hosts are welcoming and knowledgeable.

Fritz Winery Estate Dry Creek Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

This winery makes bright, fruit-forward wines with exceptional structure: these wines

are made for food. The Cabernet Sauvignon has a delicate nose of mint, smoke, leather and black currant preserves. Round ripe fruit on the attack is followed by crisp acid and round, spicy tannins.  This is a very food-friendly wine with a long, clean and bright finish.  It is refined with an expressive fruit-forward personality despite 20 months in French oak barrels. Put in the cellar: it will age well for at least 10 -12 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $50.00 per bottle at the winery

Ferrari-Carano Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

At Ferrari-Carano. I'm the one on the right.

This showpiece winery is owned by a successful operator of casinos and hotels in Reno, Don Carano. Despite the over-the-top opulence of the estate, the wines made at Ferrari-Carano are very fine: balanced with finesse, expressive fruit and effective use of oak. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend with 17% Syrah and 3% Petit Verdot.  The nose is elegant with medium intensity showing aromas of cassis, coffee, mint, vanilla and smoke.  The palate shows bright acid, grainy tannins and bright black currant and blackberry fruit.  There is a spicy backbone throughout the palate and a mouth-coating, fruity finish.  This wine is an exceptional value.

Extra dry, red wine – $30.00 per bottle at the winery (available in Ontario through the agent, Authentic Wine and Spirits.)

Seghesio Cortina Dry Creek Zinfandel 2008

Seghesio is a family-owned winery and one of the originals in the region, founded in 1895. From humble beginnings this winery has become known for its Zinfandels, all of which are full-bodied and structured – not fat and flabby as are most of the Zins we see at the LCBO.  Cortina comes in at a whopping 15.4% alcohol yet is wonderfully balanced with a ripe fruit-driven structure. It is made with fruit from 40 year old vines and displays a concentrated nose with ripe blueberry, black cherry, chocolate and smoke aromas.  The palate is full-bodied with bright, ripe fruit, round tannins and medium + acidity. There is black pepper spice throughout the palate and the finish is long with lingering ripe black fruit. This wine will make believers of Zin skeptics. (Note, at the beginning of June Seghesio announced the sale of the its family business to Napa-based Crimson Wine Group, owner of several west coast boutique wineries)

Extra dry, red wine – $36.00 per bottle at the winery (available in Ontario from Dionysus Wine and Spirits.)

Sbragia Rancho del Oso Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

This is one of three flagship Cabs made by Ed Sbragia, former winemaker at Napa-based Beringer. Ed is known for his use of oak… and then some. Befitting his winemaking pedigree, Ed makes his three big Cabs from fruit sourced at two sites in Napa, the first at Mt. Veeder, the second at Howell  Mountain – both very high elevation (1800+ feet) vineyards.  The intent is to make the flagship Cabs wines that will improve with time.  This wine has a youthful nose even after two years in bottle.  It brims with bright red fruit, cassis, smoke and leather.  The attack is round and ripe with flavours of cassis, chocolate, bright spice and smoke on the mid-palate. This wine displays exceptional structure with medium-weight green tannins, medium+ acid on a medium-weight body and a well-balanced use of oak.  The finish is memorable with zesty and bright fruit and spice.  Cellar for the next 15 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $75.00 per bottle at the winery (available in Ontario from Treasury Wine Estates  – formerly Foster’s).

The tasting room at Navarro.

Navarro Vineyards Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc Cuvée 128 2009

Navarro was founded by former Torontonian Jim Bennett in 1973.  Navarro has established its name by making Alsatian-style whites from Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer grapes. This place was by far the best tasting room experience I have ever encountered: the staff were amazingly helpful , engaged and informed, the setting was comfortable and the wines were exceptional in every way. Unfortunately, you will have to visit the vineyard to get Navarro wines: they sell 90% of their production directly, in the tasting room or by direct shipment to club members and mail order customers. The Navarro philosophy is very simple – make good wines using sustainable practices and treat staff, customers and neighbours like family.  The Sauvignon Blanc is made in an Old World style with subtle understatement in the nose and palate. Herbal elements are accompanied by ripe peach, stony minerals and high acidity.  This wine is bright throughout with a long finish.  Quite a change from the big, fruity reds of Dry Creek Valley.

Dry, white wine – $18.00 per bottle at the winery

Navarro Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Deep End Blend 2006

This is one of a handful of Cellar wines not usually available for tasting.  Deep End refers to the deep northern end of the Anderson Valley and is a naming relic from the days of the earliest settlers of the region. The nose is developing with an intense character of ripe berry fruit, forest floor and green beetroot. The palate is very ripe and Old World with assertive ripe berry fruit, grainy tannins, firm body and medium+ acid: the overall effect is an harmonious blend of all the elements. The finish is long and juicy.  This is a beautiful, elegant wine that will develop further for another 7 – 10 years…it is a great value!  See Navarro visitor reviews here.

Dry, red wine – $49.00 per bottle at the winery

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Sparkling  L’Ermitage 2002

L’Ermitage is the tête du cuvée for this long-established branch-plant sparkling winery in Anderson Valley, the winery that first put Anderson Valley on the map in the early 1980’s. It spent 5 years in cask before the bottle maturation. A further 3 years in bottle  before disgorgement delivers the exceptional character of this grand cru style wine. The nose is bright with aromas of brioche, grapefruit, lime and light smoke. The palate is dry with intense flavours and sharp, aggressive mousse. The acid level is high, providing a juicy mouth feel. Complex flavours of lime, grapefruit, green apple and brioche dominate the palate. The finish is long, crisp and clean. Profound is the only way to describe this big wine.

Dry, sparkling wine – $29.00 at the winery (available in Ontario from Authentic Wine and Spirits.)

Goldeneye Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2007

Call this the White House Pinot; it’s been served at gala dinners under three administrations over the past 2 decades. Made from a blend of grapes from the 4 Anderson Valley ranches owned by the Duckhorn  group, this wine is made for balance and style.  It is the flagship P-N in the Duckhorn family of big Anderson Valley reds but it is surrounded by a group of single-vineyard siblings that aspire to greatness. This is a wine with a developing nose of beetroot, cranberry, red cherry and smoke.  Grainy, drying tannins dominate the mid-palate and the mouth feel is distinctly linear and square. The acidity is pronounced and assertive and flavours of cranberry, beetroot, black-pepper and forest floor make this is a classic P-N.  The finish is long.  This wine is a big one and will age well for the next 7 – 10 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $55.00 at the winery (available in Ontario from Rogers & Company.)

This was a very satisfying tasting trip and I recommend all readers try to visit this part of California to experience the varied and exceptional wines that are there for the tasting.

Where the wineries are represented in Ontario I have indicated the agent and provide a hyperlink to the agent’s home page.  In every case you will have to place an order with the agent.  It will be rare exception that any of these wines will be available in the consignment warehouse.  Enjoy!

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

Matches made in the glass

I have been doing a great deal of teaching this winter and there is one area where students have shown special interest: the domaine of food and wine matching.

One of the reasons for this interest is obvious:  my students need to understand the principles, and be able to apply those principles, if they are to pass their exams.  The other reason is, many of these students are front-line staff in upscale restaurants and they need to be able to advise their clients on the wines that will best match their entrée selections – happy customers make happy servers…

Most students understand the classic matches:  Sauternes with stilton cheese, Bordeaux red with prime rib, smoked salmon and Champagne, etc., but they don’t know the rationale for these matches.  Step outside the bounds of the classics and they are generally stumped.

The students I work with are not unique.  Most wine lovers have a small repertoire of food and wine matches they rely on – and the converse: food and wine mis-matches they avoid – but they often don’t have enough experience to go beyond the boundaries of their narrow range of proven matches.

As I teach this material I have found it best to assemble some simple rules to help guide me – and my students – through the amazing realm of matching possibilities.  The goal is to expand our horizons by experimenting and hopefully, in the process, conclude that food and wine, properly matched, can enhance the enjoyment of both.

First, some simple rules:

  • Match the body and/or richness of the food with the body of the wine (such as beef stew with a full-bodied, tannic Aussie Shiraz)
  • Combine food with wines that share the same flavour intensity (try spicy Mexican food with Argentinean Malbec, or spicy Asian food with a pungent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Acidic foods should be served with acidic wines (pasta in tomato sauce matched with a young Chianti Classico)
  • Match sweet foods with sweet wines (such as crème brulée with a chilled glass of Icewine or a Vin Doux Naturel made with Muscat)
  • Chewy meats should be matched with high-tannin wines to allow the protein to soften the tannins (beef brisket with Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Salty foods (olives, certain cheeses, oysters, salted nuts) should be matched with sweet or acidic wines to enhance the food flavours (for instance, stilton cheese and Port, oysters and Muscadet)
  • Pair oily/fatty foods with acidic wines (e.g.  Wiener Schnitzel with Riesling, grilled salmon steak with Grüner Veltliner)

These are some simple rules and they work!

There is a theme to the rules: match weight of food with weight of wine, match intensity of food flavour with wines of similar flavour intensity. Once you have achieved this level of matching refine further to balance texture (e.g. chewy or oily), and other elements such as acidity and sweetness.

Acidity in wines triggers saliva flow and this effect creates the juiciness I describe in many wines. One of the most notable effects food can have on wine is the match one gets when a high-acid wine such as a dry Riesling is properly paired with juicy roast chicken (where acid and fat trump a possible flavour intensity mis-match) or with grilled cold-water salmon (where the acid nicely reduces the fatty character of the fish). Proper matches such as these open doors to wine lovers and even inexperienced tasters begin to appreciate wines that they might otherwise consider too acidic.

if you don’t believe me, try this simple experiment:  open a bottle of extra-dry Riesling that is chilled but not too cold.  Have your entree standing by (for example a filet of grilled trout with some lightly-boiled baby potatoes au beurre).  Sniff, swirl, slosh and swallow a sip of the wine on its own.  Note the juicy freshness of the citrus aromas and flavours.  Note also the intensely-high acidity in the glass and the juices released by your saliva glands.  Clearly this is not a patio sipper wine.  Now tuck into your filet of trout with another sip of the wine.  Now note how much softer the wine is – and how much the flavours and texture of the fish are enhanced by the combination of the crisp and assertive wine and the juices in your mouth.  Sheer bliss!

Here’s another way of looking at matching.  This table provides a picture of the possibilities:

In my scheme green boxes represent the perfect match, an orange box means you should proceed with caution and avoid at all costs where you see a red box.  Note the versatility of sparkling wine (here I refer to a quality traditional method sparkler such as Champagne, Cava, a Crémant from France, or New World delights like the Gloria Ferrer in the last Vintages Release.

I hope this little primer helps you work through the complexities of matching.  More importantly I hope it gives you some cues for your own experimentation.


à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

LCBO Vintages release – March 19, 2011

The feature of this weekend’s LCBO Vintages release is wines from Spain and Portugal.  This should be a veritable feast of high-quality value wines and it delivers to a limited extent.  I found two feature wines that I think will appeal to value hunters but this is no where near the number of values I expected.

At the other end of the spectrum there are a number of icons in this week’s sub-feature: California Icons.  Prices in this group are truly iconic, starting at a modest $44.95 for a Beringer Chardonnay and quickly rising to $339.95 for a 750ml bottle of Opus One 2007.  Some fine collectibles are found in this group but they don’t register on my value scale.

So, the Vintages team blew its budget on expensive Californians at the expense of high value, modestly -priced Iberian wines…my assessment.

For the first time in a while my selections are from five countries, with no runners’-up.  Here are the top five, by a fairly wide margin over number six…all sound values.

Germany, Mosel – QmP Riesling Kabinett Wehlener Sonnenuhr Studert-Prüm 2009

Made from grapes grown on a fabled vineyard on a west-facing, steep slope of the Mosel River this wine is exceptional and it is offered at an exceptionally good-value price. It shows lime, honey, green apple and spice on the nose.  The palate is off-dry with intense grapefruit, honey and  minerals.  The acidity is high so the effect is one of balance and sound structure.  This is a must-buy perfect food wine which will match well with a roasted rack of pork.

Medium-dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

Portugal, Vinho Verde – DOC Vinho Verde Varanda do Conde Alvarinho/Trajadura 2009

Here we have another exceptional good value food-friendly wine. There is a light effervescence on the palate – typical of Vinho Verde – which accentuates this as an appealing and approachable light-bodied beauty.  It has plenty of citrus, honey and green grass on the nose and palate.  The body is juicy and there is a stony backbone to add structure and some complexity.  Great value! Stock up for summer lunches. Serve with avocado salad.

Extra dry, white wine – $13.95 per bottle (Feature wine)

France, Southern Rhône– AOC Tavel Prieuré de Montézargues Rosé 2009

Tavel is the traditional home of south of France rosé and here we have a structured wine that demonstrates where rosé is going: more structure, colour and complexity than the pale, watery, light-weights of the past. This is another wine to buy in bulk for summer sipping and salads.  It displays ripe red fruit, apple, spice, herbs, and juicy acid.  It is well-made by Alain Dugas  – son of the former winemaker at Château La Nerthe in Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe – from low-yield Grenache, Cinsault and Clairette.

Extra dry, rosé wine- $19.95 per bottle

Chile, Rapel Valley – Altaïr Sideral 2005

Sideral is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère – not so odd when you consider that Carmenère was once considered to be a grape related to Merlot.  This is a concentrated and well-structured wine that has very good ageing potential.  It is complex on the nose with ample amounts of stewed plum, spice, blackcurrant, and herbs. The body is full with excellent structure:  intense blackcurrant, smoke, spice, light vanilla and wet black earth. Juicy acid, dusty tannins and a longish finish make for a balanced wine.  Cellar for the next 4 – 6 years and serve with roasted leg of lamb.

Dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

Spain, Bierzo – DC Bierzo Peique Tinto Mencia 2009

Bierzo is a small region is the north west of Spain known for red wines made with the Mencia grape.  Mencia makes wines that are aromatic, fruity and feature firm tannins – some compare Mencia with the character of Cabernet Franc.  The Peique Mencia is made from old vines Mencia and was lees-aged with only limited oak-ageing.  The result is a complex and full-bodied wine for the price with a youthful, fruit-forward, juicy personality. This wine will match well with grilled meats – great for the upcoming barbecue season.

Extra dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle (Feature wine)

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

LCBO Vintages release – February 19, 2011

This weekend was the occasion of another Vintages release – two weeks just flies by, doesn’t it?

The feature wines this weekend were made with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.  We also saw wines for Passover and gold medal winners made in Ontario.  It was quite a diverse selection of features but it was a little light on quality and value.  This fact, aside, there were some nuggets amongst the rubble and I give you my picks, below…

Despite my comment about this release being light on quality and value,  we still have a reasonably solid set of fine wines to choose from in this release, many of them good values.  As a result, once again I have my A-list selections and a short list of B – wines that almost equal the A’s for quality and value.

First the A’s…

British Columbia, Okanagan Valley – VQA Okanagan Valley Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Proprietor’s Grand Reserve Shiraz 2006

This is a single parcel wine from the Osoyoos Lake Bench with 12 months of oak aging on its resume. The colour is deep, brooding ruby and the nose has some wonderful elements of spice, black cherry and violet.  The palate is concentrated and balanced with juicy fruit, medium acid and dry, dusty tannins.  Flavours of black cherry, stewed plum and vanilla dominate.  Match with a beef stew loaded with root vegetables.  I’m pleased to report his wine is priced by Vintages at $2.00 less than its BC price.

Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

Germany, Franken – QmP, Würzburger Innere Leiste Bürgerspital Silvaner Kabinett Trocken 2009

Here we have a correct Silvaner in every way – an intense floral, fruit-forward nose; a palate with  bright acid and ripe stone fruit; a long finish.  There are white flower, honey, ripe melon, lime and ginger notes on the nose and palate, a backbone of stony minerals and a very slight spritz. This wine is distinctive and memorable – a classic for the varietal. Look for the flagon-shaped bottle (known as a Bocksbeutel).  Very food-friendly, this wine.  Serve with charcuterie or grilled veal chop.

Dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough – Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Spy Valley is a source of sound, well-made, value wines. This Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example of the type. The nose and palate are intense and pungent: citrus, grass, gooseberry, white pepper – a great, complex combo.  The acid is crisp and juicy, the minerals are sleek and the finish is long and clean.  This is a very good wine for summer barbecue planning, at a very good price.

Extra dry, white wine- $15.95 per bottle

Italy, Tuscany – IGT Toscana Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni 2008

The only feature wine on my A-list, this is a concentrated blend of Bordeaux grapes with a small portion of Sangiovese.  The colour is deep ruby, the nose has red cherry, herb and plum.  The palate is medium-bodied with flavours of plum, black currant and leather.  The mouth feel is juicy with medium acidity, and grainy, concentrated tannins.  This is a well-structured wine which will accompany grilled red meats to a “T”. Excellent value.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle (Cabernet Sauvignon feature wine)

California, Carneros – Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs 2005

This wine is a cool-climate stunner and is the first run-don’t–walk wine in a long while. I don’t know where to start so I’ll just throw out words that describe the pleasure: concentrated, biscuit, medium-full weight, citrus, chalky minerals, creamy mousse, juicy, intense, long finish…you get the drift.  This is an exceptional value and is a buy-the-case selection.  Celebrate with this wine on its own or serve at special family meals.  It will go with anything.

Extra dry, sparkling white wine – $24.95 per bottle

This week’s B-list (almost A’s…):

Ontario, Prince Edward County – VQA Prince Edward County Rosehall Run Cuvée County Pinot Noir 2008

One of the better wineries in PEC, Rosehall Run makes some very fine Cuvée County wines.  This is a light P-N with a red fruit-forward nose and spice, cherry, cranberry and earth on the palate. Well-balanced and elegant.  Ontario feature wine (Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle.)

Austria, Lagnereserve – Leth Vineyards Steinagrund Grüner Veltliner 2009

Citrus, lemon and white flowers abound on the nose and palate. This is a delicate, spicy, juicy and peppery wine – all true to the expectations of any Gruvee fan. (Dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle.)

France, Southern Rhône– AOC  Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau Château Goudray Cuvée Excellence 2009

Rasteau is a reliable appellation for round fruit and herbal aroma and palate expression.  This one delivers, from an excellent vintage. I suggest cellaring for a year or two.  (Dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle).

The next Vintages release will be out on March 5, 2011.  At that time wines from Argentina and Chile will be featured along with wines from northern Italy.  We’ll see you then.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

LCBO Vintages release – February 5, 2011

Tuscan wines from the 2007 vintage are featured in this weekend’s Vintages release along with some prize winners from the State of Washington and some romantic wines for Valentine’s Day celebrations.

What is a romantic wine, you might ask?  Any wine your lover wants it to be.

In this case the LCBO has covered some obvious bases with sparklers across many price ranges, value-priced Icewines and an attractive Rosé from Bordeaux.

The selection of Tuscan wines is very appealing with a number of excellent values included in a reasonably large cross section of new producers and well-known and popular DOC’s.  Some 7 wines are classified as IGT – Indicazione geografica tipica – meaning they are made from grapes/blends that are not permitted by the more restrictive DOCG/DOC categories.  Some of the best new wines from Italy are classified IGT and wines in this feature bear out that fact of life in Tuscany.

Wines from the Tuscany feature figures prominently in my best value selections – unusual for a Vintages feature…Two Rhône reds also get the nod this week – another unusual development but the wines I recommend are winners from quality producers

France, Bordeaux – AOC Pessac-Léognan Domaine de Chevalier Rosé de Chevalier 2009 2008

A Bordeaux Rosé this wine, made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.  As you might expect from the blend this Rosé is medium-bodied with excellent structure.  The nose and palate are complex showing spice, red and black fruit and juicy acid. The fruit is intense and very fresh.  The finish is long. This wine is ready now and would be a perfect match with grilled salmon.

Dry, rosé wine – $18.95 per bottle

France, Northern Rhône – AOC  Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Belle les Pierrelles 2007

Domaine Belle is a standard-bearer for this appellation and the 2007 is a fine vintage: all ingredients for a wine to test.  To top it off, this is one of the best quality Crozes we have seen in Vintages for many a year, at an excellent price. There is black pepper, smoked meat, blackberry and some on the nose and palate.  The tannins are firm but well-integrated, the acid is zesty and the finish is long.  This wine will improve over the next 4-6 years.  Serve with a roasted leg of lamb.

Extra-dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Vacqueyras Montirius Garrigues 2009

I haven’t selected a red from the southern Rhône for a very long while.  Why is this?  For the past several years the Vintages team has been spending its Rhône budget on lesser appellations with a particular focus on the wines from small caves cooperatives – where they can best exercise their buyer clout.  Montirius is a very fine producer in the smallish appellation of Vacqueyras and this wine is an excellent example of what we used to get routinely from this part of France in the Vintages program – complex, correct and good value.  This is a blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah, both from old vines.  Red and black fruit, garrigue, lavender, black pepper and a hint of chocolate are found on the nose and palate.  This wine is still young and I would recommend cellaring for the next 2-3 years.  Excellent wine/excellent value!  Montirius is biodynamic, BTW.

Extra dry, red wine- $23.95 per bottle

Australia, Tasmania – Jansz Premium Sparkling Rosé NV

Tasmania is a cool-climate zone and is rapidly becoming known for exceptional wines.  Unfortunately production volumes are low so there isn’t a lot of wine that gets out of the Antipodes.  Jansz makes only sparkling wines from the traditional grapes of the Champagne appellation: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This wine has been bottle aged for some 2 years so it has a fine biscuit nose.  The palate is rich with strawberry, lees and citrus flavours. The body is medium-weight and the mouth feel is refined and elegant with delicate and precise mousse.  This is a great wine, demonstrating the lean and crisp character of cool-climate fruit.  A beauty!

Dry, sparkling rosé wine – $24.95 per bottle

Italy, Tuscany – IGT Toscana Brancaia Tre 2007

This wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, all grown in estates in Tuscany.  This is an intense wine with a complex nose of red fruit, herbs, mocha and spice.  The palate is very dry with rounded tannins, juicy acid and a medium body.  Flavours of red fruit, coffee, spice and chocolate lead up to a long finish.

Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

The runners’- up:

Germany, Pfalz – QmP Ungsteiner Herrenberg Pfeffingen Scheurebe Spätlese 2008

Aromatic, intense fruit, honey and some tropical notes characterize this sweet-ish and juicy wine. Balanced, complex, sound value.  (Medium-sweet, whiter wine – $19.85 per bottle)

Italy, Tuscany – DOCG Chianti Classico Isole e Olena 2007

Fruit-forward, balanced and elegant.  Plenty of crisp and bright red fruit.  This is an outstanding Chianti Classico. (Extra-dry, red wine – $26.95 per bottle)

France, Bordeaux – AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol Château des Moines 2008

Right bank, Merlot-dominated, this wine is a balanced, attractively-priced value.  Concentrated fruit, soft tannins, exotic wood, spice and medium acid.  (Extra-dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle)

Italy, Tuscany – IGT Toscana AIA Vecchia Lagone 2007

Almost super-Tuscan in its provenance and blend (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) this wine will age for the next 3 -4 years and deliver complexity and structure way above its weight. (Extra-dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle)

Following the mediocre quality of the last release I take my hat off to the Vintages team for a quality effort in assembling this release…selecting the handful of best values was much tougher this weekend.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.