Four fall back wines for Daylight Savings

Photograph by Albo, Fotolia.comas seen on canada.com

The wine glasses will have retired when the clocks fall back to standard time at 2:00 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, November 4th. An hour no longer needed and cast off, a casualty of war. He may not have invented it, but we have Benjamin Franklin to thank for being the first to indicate the need for the phenomenon. In the United States, a federal law standardized the yearly start and end of daylight saving time in 1918, for the states that chose to observe it. It was mandatory during WWII and today most states continue to observe the so-called, energy-saving measure. Canadians abide, Quel shoc!, save for Saskatchewan which is on DST year round. What’s that all about?

The M.C. Escher tessellating question is this. Is DST an energy conservation proposition or a Saturday night wine suck? It’s both, actually. Like the Escher model, fine wine is a linear, interwoven tapestry without any gaps or overlaps. The fact that DST is part of a never-ending loop likens it to Groundhog Day and the redundant nature of the ritual zaps life, if only for one night, as if there were no tomorrow.

My advice is to make sure your fridge and racks are stocked with whites and reds possessive of good legs that fall back in the glass. Wines of character and depth to carry you through to Sunday’s raffish onset of darkness. On the bright side, that lost hour does mean that when Sunday morning comes you won’t be confronted by first light purdah masked of a folderol, cimmerian shade. Here are four wines to aid in the transition back to standard time.fallbackwine Four fall back wines for Daylight Savings

The grape: Pinot Grigio

The history: 100% PG from the Friuli Isonzo DOC region (in northeastern Italy near the Slovenian border) produced by the cooperative, Cantina Produttori Cormòns

The lowdown: Tightly wound clusters cause varietal deformity due to the pressure they exert on each other. Intense PG at a great price

The food match: Barque Rub Roast Chicken Wings and Thighs

Cormòns Pinot Grigio 2010 (734038, $14.95) is slick stuff, like vitreous and porous silica gel without the talc. Acacia blossom perfume and agave scherzo symphony in a glass. High praise indeed for lowly PG but go Friuli my friend and note the difference. The conically tapered glass bottle adds to the magic and the profile. By way of Mr. C. for my card at Barque88

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Burgundy’s great varietal goes haywire along Niagara on the Lake’s old Stone Road

The lowdown: This racy white has just enough brake to watch its speed

The food match: Homemade Tagliatelle, brown butter, parmesan and sage

G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2011 (258681, $16.95) streaks across and plays a lick on atomic 16 rails at breakneck speed, all the while jonesing for of a slice of custard pie. “It’s sweet and nice” with lead, nuts and spice. The G. might stand for grateful or great, as in value.  88

The grapes: Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre

The history: Gigondas sits one step down from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhône pecking order

The lowdown: Not nearly as serious as the likes of Brusset, Perrin or Montmirail but look at the price

The food match: Boneless Roast Quail, king oyster mushrooms, fresh thyme

Domaine Santa Duc Les Garancières Gigondas 2009 (234989, $17.90, was $27.95) is Grenache-centric so soft, modern and approachable is its MO. The S and M adds just enough volcanic disturbance, smoke and herbal spew to keep it real. Notes of arpeggios and glissades. At the reduced fare its reductive attributes smooth and flesh out hither and yon at the same time. Simmering raspberries with the intention of becoming jam is a delight to sniff and dip a spoon into.  89

The grape: Malbec

The history: From the emerging Uco Valley in Mendoza where the varietal seems to turn from  red to black

The lowdown: Showing very well for an under $20 Malbec with five years of age under its bottle buckle

The food match: Grilled Barese Sausages, tomato jam, smokey bbq sauce

Trapiche Fincas Las Palmas Malbec 2007 (186668 $17.95) with its vanillin, razor-sharp contour of energy is  rich and powerful for the price. The style is big, blowsy and not without a smokey, blackberry charm. A slight electric loss and corresponding increased valence shows that the clock is ticking fast, but for now the pleasure is all ours.  89

Good to go!

Ten best buys from the October 15th LCBO sale

File photograph, National Post

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VINTAGES markdowns begin today on more than 240 wines in selected stores across Ontario. This type of warehouse clearance is nothing new for the fine wine and premium spirits division of the LCBO, but when such a vast quantity of product gets tagged with red stickers, even the biggest monopoly cynics are caught smiling and spied shopping.

The sale is a collective blowout of six to 12-month old release items. Much of what is available may be judged as “machine age wine,” to paraphrase William Thorsell, the Zen-like master of demeanor and one day to be  “czar of public space in Toronto.” A vast majority of product sold by the Hudsucker Proxy is the vinous equivalent to “post Bauhaus, architecture of the box.” Still, for all the rotten tomatoes and urban sub-division, ascetic industrialist plonk there are diamonds to be mined in the proverbial wine rough.

It is important to note that sale item inventory is limited. It would be prudent to check online and better yet, call ahead before driving across town to grab a few sale bottles. Many of the wines have been marked down a second time, making them some of the better deals going. Then there are the trophy wines like the Krug ’95 D’Ambonnay which has dropped in price by $1000. Now only $3500 a bottle!

Keep in mind that my tasting notes and scores were cogitated in line with original VINTAGES prices.

Here are my top 10 picks from today’s sale

Cordella Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 (251462, was, $19.95, now $12.90) puts forth a flavour profile making it a dead ringer for a young Brunello. The initial noisome squall gives way to iron scents and the taste of spicy plums. Very approachable, fresh and vibrant. Great food wine for the here and now.  90 (October 2011)

Township 7 Syrah 2007 (263665, was $25.95, now $19.90) limns in glass as a cool, penetrating Pic Island or Canto XVII colour. Peppery spice and unfettered eucalyptus separate the 7′s actions from California’s rangers, remaining unique unto itself.  BC tree fruit exuding from every sip save for a mutinous, shy, hollow and peripatetic middle moment.  More time should smooth and flesh that fruit.  89 (April 2012)

Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay 2008 (959619, was $27.95, now $19.90) concedes eminence grise; reserved mineral nose, subtle oak, soft, balanced and smooth. Nothing exciting but well made and so easy to drink. Was hoping for a niche superstar but no foul.  87 (October 2011)

Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Meursault 2009 (241091, was $48.95, now $29.90) amalgamates citrus spice, baked brie and potpourri where subtlety is thy name. No mischief from Little Nicky here as Potel’s potential is glimpsed with this groovy white Burgundy.  89 (February 2012)

Domaine De La Bonserine Côte-Rôtie La Sarrasine 2008 (606442, was $49.95, now $29.90) enters my heart on immediate terms of endearment. Superb funk de vache without bretting out. Gunpowder, wet limestone, leather, char and chalk define the wine.  90 (October 2011)

Riglos Gran Corte 2007 (243501, was $37.95, now $29.90) radiates a phenomenal azure/purple colour. A body builder of fermented pleasure, sculpted, ripped, pulsating. Baked pastry, caramelized onion and reduced aged balsamic wax olfactory. What a tart! Delicious stuff to drink now.  91 (October 2011)

Freestone Chardonnay 2008 (249425, was $69.95, now $44.90) trickles melting ice cubes past the gullet, washing it down with searing salty, citrus and cobblestone coolant. A firm Chardonnay, cocksure and concise. I would not turn away a glass of this coolish-climate bonbon.  90 (October 2011)

Take a flyer on

Santa Duc Gigondas Les Garancières 2009 (234989, was $27.95, now $17.90)

Domaine Moillard Beaune Epenottes 1er Cru 2009 (241109, was $31.95, now $19.90)

Ravenswood Single Vineyard Belloni Zinfandel 2008 (672741,was $44.95, now $27.90)

Good to go!

Affordable August Long Weekend Wines

Napeague Walking Dunes

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From the exploration of the Walking Dunes on Long Island to a look ahead at the August civic holiday long weekend, wine persists as the imperative of investigation. Vines are like the barren landscape’s phantom forest of forever shifting powder, speaking of a specific idea, a philosophy, a métier. A forest of pitch pine and oak is buried over by wind driven, walking sands. Truth be told, the pursuit of wine is made possible by ever evolving vines, each unique to its local sense of place.

I go wining like the Montauketts and Bonackers who once worked these fruitful waters. I rake the releases and wine stores to unearth gems like the crabs and clams crawling in Montauk’s living waters.

The dry summer is creating a challenge to crops but the teeming ocean swells alive. Lobster, Fluke, Blue Fish, Scallops and especially crabs are abundant and well-priced. Look for these under $20 values to enliven your long weekend meals.

Soft Shell Crab, Fluke and Delmonico Sirloin

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Alsatian at heart, PG is laying down roots all over the New World

The lowdown: Arguably the finest Kiwi version I’ve found, especially at this price

The food match: Steamed Mussels in white wine, shallot, fennel and tarragon

Spinyback Pinot Gris 2010 (214569, $16.95) of sexy flesh and bone has got a lot going on for the IVR*. River walks through Maori gardens of “ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rose of hay.” Biting chalky, mineral and pear, finding the river and swimming with Notacanthus sexspinis.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Lack of oak in Chablis makes for mineral-driven wines

The lowdown: Quality is rarely high at the under $20 (non-Cru) level. This could be your Wonderwall

The food match: Steamed and Grilled Soft-Shell Crab with lime aioli

Domaine Des Malandes Chablis 2010 (111658, $18.95) is a crisp, fresh, floral and tropical oasis of quality in a sea of mediocrity. The citron pressé, “back beat, the word was on the street” Malandes is endowed of high complexity and complement.  88

The grape: Fiano

The history: Ancient varietal from southern Italy

The lowdown: The unheralded whites of the Campania are one of the wine world’s undiscovered treasures

The food match: Grilled Calamari with garlic, olive oil, lemon, capers and parsley

Terre Dora Fiano di Avellino 2010 (120048, $18.95) is always good company and accompanies warm water seafood with pairing ease. Juicy, bursting citrus and tropical, tree-fruit flavours. This Fiano of one of Terre Dora’s three terrific, single-varietal whites (along with the Greco and Falanghina). This Fiano can knock on my door anytime.  89

The grape: Syrah

The history: Noble, dark as night varietal from the Northern Rhône

The lowdown: Languedoc Syrah tends to need support from Grenache and Mourvedre but this one emulates the northern style, in a top vintage and for a song

The food match: Crispy Pork Belly and parsnip pureé

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2009 (177584, $13.95) is certainly more north than south with its smokey, cured beef and pork perambulations. Depth to raise thoughts of Septaguanarian Hermitage vines of twist and gnarl. A touch of burnt rubber and varnish but all in all a heap of Syrah for under $14.  87

The grape: Garnacha

The history: Big, juicy red of French and Iberian fame

The lowdown: Under $15 Calatayud Garnacha has become a consistent go to value

The food match: Ground Sirloin Burgers with Mahon Cheese

Filón Garnacha 2010 (280602, $14.95) is actually a bit of a misprision because of its black fruit character. Re-enacts Tuscan IGT and the most modern of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tar, asphalt, bitter chocolate and sanguine Kirsch and very, very ripe fruit. Grand oak and tons of wine at $15.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Primate-like cousin to Primitivo from Italy and before that, Yugoslavia

The lowdown: Dry Creek Valley does this varietal like no other; sweet and dry.

The food match: Dry Rub, St. Louis Style Side Ribs

Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel 2009 (463026, $22.95) is so toothsome and bruising you may want to eat it with a fork. A sickly sweet moment is rescued by the DCV terroir. This 15.2% abv elixir of crushed and blended berries is a single-vineyard beauty that begs a question. Why pay $50 for top-tier Zinfandel when you can go Pedroncelli?  89

The Splurge

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Storied producer of more than 200 years located near the famous Dentelles de Montmirail

The lowdown: The best Grapillon since 2001

The food match: Grilled Delmonico Sirloin Steak with cherry tomato, avocado and black beans salsa

Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2010 (981787, $28.95) of inky, jet black pitch is bombastic and confidently announces itself of full extraction. Blueberry compote, macerated cherries, roasted and bleeding elk all come to the visceral mind. Sweet, viscous liquor with acidity and viscous tannin. Needs 10 years or several oxygenated hours to settle in.  91

A wine tour de France

FI:AF

canada.com

The Tour de France is a 22-day, grueling test of endurance. Tasting through 22 French wines may not be the sporting equivalent, but someone’s got to do it. The Tour travels and circumnavigates a path through many of France’s storied wine regions; Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône and Languedoc. The wine tour goes deeper, making stops in lesser known regions like Savoie and Jura. Here are 11 notes with 11 days to go.

Related – more wine recommendations

French wines to look for now

Alsace

Pfaffenheim Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2010 (VINTAGES 996017, $19.95. SAQ 197228, $19.70) looks to wine a stage with its progressive and ambulatory nature like the “Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx. At once steely but also possessed of a creamy, recriminatory lycheeness. A Gewurztraminer island in a sea of mediocrity, less bitter, less off-dry. A comeuppance of residual sweetness and forward thinking expression.  88

Champagne

Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne (959643, $56.95) operates as opulent, bombastic bubbles. Conspiratorial instigator, non-traditionalist and anti-establishment. Cassius to Caesar and to Frazier. Agitated rope-a-doper laden with tropical citrus and guava to belie yeast, smoked nuts, clay and toast. The mousse is persistent if relegated to the ring’s perimeter and the cheap seats of the Colosseum.  Tasted twice.  89

Burgundy

Louis Picamelot Brut Cremant De Bourgogne (161919, $17.95) is continental breakfast at the round table where dry toast cuts a linear radius through pious citrus, namely lemon and grapefruit. A strong-armed, knightly representative for the anthology of the Burgundian bubbles culture. A polarizing character, the lance of the lot 87

Pascal Marchand Meursault 2010 (285866, $57.95) would make for an intriguing tête-à-tête comparison to the Tawse Quarry Road from Moray’s other guy, peer Paul Pender. Marchand’s Chardonnay is multi-layered, zesty and intense. Pear and hazelnut stand out but so too does oatmeal, in an elemental, periodic way. Which leads ne’er the cheerleader MV to comment, “egg salad sandwich.”  White Burgundy with regard to the atom.  90

Domaine Gille Côtes De Nuits-Villages 2009 (210864, $28.95) is cheap talk and wine, for Burgundy that is. Clean, pure Pinot fruit, black raspberry scent. On the border of simple, elegant, well-priced Villages. Will give you the best of its love.  88

Rhône

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (331900, $29.95) fully elicits hedonism from southern France with rakish Guigal typicity. Blueberries baked in an Ortolan pie with essence of Molasses. Bold, brass Bassline of tannic tenderness.   89

Jura

Jean Bourdy Cotes De Jura White 2007 (286427, $24.95) is most unusual Chardonnay. “Nothing in the world smells like this son.” Tis kind to call it an “oxidative” style but truth be in the pudding. Yerba tea, malt and peat each have their moment. Scottish as if Kilgore retired to the Hebridic isle.  86

Savoie

Domaine Edmond Jacquin Altesse Rousette Savoie 2010 (277335, $17.95) is a Big Mig, a jazzy, rarely seen release that trills citrus and spice in a breezy, casual way. Altesse, also called Roussette, seems to me a superior, physiological varietal. Federer workmanlike approach, a rider like Indurain, wins fans for athletic greatness and for acting effortlessly like itself.  88

Jean Perrier & Fils Cuvée Prestige Mondeuse Vin De Savoie 2010 (272112, $14.95) visually reminds me of Portugal’s Bastardo grape and by a nose. There is sour cherry, cranberry and refreshing citrus vitality as if Viognier were supporting Syrah. Perhaps like Pliny’s “vine of least repute” but there is an acme of elegance.  87

Bordeaux

Château Haut-Vigneau 2009 (29678, $25.95) opens the door to the ’09 Bordeaux party with a Tao, raison d’être and talisman’s affordable summoning via the Left Bank’s Pessac-Léognan. Candied coffee, black cherry and tobacco, radish red. Solid PL and worth storing three away for now and to the decade’s end.  89

Midi

Château Du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois 2009 (275578, $12.95) speaks directly of its mineral, Minervois roots. Brillat-Savarin might say this about the Donjon. “Tell me what you drink and I’ll tell you who you are.” The Châteauneuf-du-Pape aspiration of Kirsch with Daube is only deterred in the slightest by an aspersion of cherries steeped in quinine, but of a good kind. A “badger” of a red, fighting like Bernard Hinault and his two black eyes.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!