The best wine releases of 2012

PHOTO: STEFANO TIRABOSCHI/FOTOLIA.COM

Wine is best celebrated with family and friends and the holidays present so many opportunities to share a glass. Pulling corks (or twisting caps) substantiates purchasing choices made in previous years. Last year I noted on, “a quick reflect back on a year of plasmic vials once voluminous, now in condign as a commitment to memory. ”

The current season’s pours have the palaver or promise and the eviglio of accumulation to thank for the opportunity. The VINTAGES releases of 2012 perpetuate this promulgated philosophy. The year’s buys have migrated to the cellar, to wait there in abstemious behaviour of maturation. They too will one day climb the steps to a welcoming table, set with family and friends.

Here are my favourite under and over $30 wines of 2012.

Under $30 VINTAGES released wines

Under $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

Where: Côtes du Rhône, France

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuveé Maximilien Cairanne 2010 (286336, $21.95) is extraordinary for the appellation. Pitch purple, world-class milk and dark chocolate swirl, creamy silk. The stuff of recent phenomenon, where rocks, dreams and raspberries are crushed and scattered like cake bits over the loam.   91

2. The grapes: Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah

Where: Montsant, Spain

Celler Besllum Besllum 2008 (283515, $15.95) of Cubist Picassan, “cut up, Maria,” heavenly body struts its stuff as an enchantress with an alluring Spanish, violaceous visage. A black cherry, carboniferous quartzite Popsicle for Mr. Jones.  “We all want something beautiful.”  90

3. The grape: Petite Sirah

Where: Alexander Valley, California

Trentadue La Storia Petite Sirah 2010 (291047, $23.95) is massively concentrated out of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, as if it were packed with five centuries of the Italian American experience. Manages 14.9% alcohol with George Bailey-esque, heady grace. Tasted blind I commented, “if this is under $30 it’s an outrageous deal.” “Well whaddya know about that!!!. “ 92

4. The grape: Riesling

Where: Clare Valley, Australia

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2011 (686600, $19.95) shimmers an iridescent emerald-green on gold patina. Cracks like a whip straight in your face with lemon, lime and slate than lowers a sledgehammer of petrified wood. Snake-like Sasak fruit tang and acidity “goes dancin’ in,”  “builds that power” and lingers long after its skin has been shed.  91

5. The Grape: Sangiovese

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2008 (285510, $28.95) is a wow wine. Viscous, sweet nectar, full on concentrated berries and polished rocks au jus. An opus dei call to vinous holiness and sanctity. Rapturous feeling of punch drunk love falls over me after sipping this noble Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile).  92

6. The grape: Chenin Blanc

Where: Loire Valley, France

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2010 (685362, $19.95) perches high atop a parched, molecular hilltop. Bread starter nip promises stuffed pastry filled with friable, early harvest apples. Wonderful, classic and dehumidified Vouvray.  91

7. The grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot

Where: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Lulu Island Meritage (277566, $23.95) just sounds like an Aussie moniker when in fact it hails from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Maybe the most lustrous B.C. red I have ever laid eyes on. Hard not to forbear a crush on its purple profile, hued like a $100, Single-Vineyard Argentinean Malbec. A bit reductive due to its infantile youth but this is appurtenant to the samphire, currants and peppery Merlot scents. Less weight buoys the palate. Bites back in the end. Follows varietal rules of proportion vis-a-vis the dry martini. Massive CVR** complexity from this massif assemblage.  91

8. The Grape: Cabernet Franc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Hinterbrook Rosé 2011 (275818, $16.00) is simply brilliant. Top Ontario Rosé to date. Goes well beyond descriptors like “playful” and “quaffable.” A four-day Cabernet Franc cold soak was the ticket to serious pink success, the choice of grape an engineering master stroke. Hinterbrook’s dark side of the moon. Moody, ambient, rich in tone, lyric and extended play. Rosé needs some mystery and here it is.  ”There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”  91

9. The Grape: Riesling

Where: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2009 (0197186, $21.95) races out of the nuss pit with peerless Bergweiler CVR** Spätlese speed. The late harvest drupe is so focused you would never know how sweet the middle ground really is. Never struggling against circumstance, it slides effortlessly into Spätlese orbit. Searching and finding the German Riesling dream. Sonnenuhr vineyard is here and “the time is right, for racing in the street.”  91

10. The Grape: Chardonnay

Where: Casablanca Valley, Chile

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2010 (738393, $17.95) will be your best IVR* bet for Chardonnay day on May 26. Wild yeasts make cause for a weird resemblance, reminiscent of February’s Furmint. Delicate, expressive and unusual, the mint flint, brioche and smoked pineapple effect leads to thoughts of Blancs de Blancs. A little malo just might turn this into good bubbly!  89

Over $30 VINTAGES released wines

Over $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault

Where: Southern Rhône, France

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (700922, $53.95, SAQ 10817461, $50.50) will dare you to claim any better value from the storied appellation. “Da price boss, da price!” Like I’ve landed on Fantasy Island where Châteauneuf is flowing and it’s always affordable! Kirsch galore, a Rhône cat, sensuous and gorgeous. Goldfinger garrigue, with herbs and acidity so alive and purring. Approachable now, the heavenly structure will see the Donjon through 2025.  94

2. The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Where: Napa Valley, California

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (193763, $99.95) is a flat out brilliant composition by the voice of one who once “traded love for glory.” This Cab reverts back to its singer-songwriter, Napa Valley pioneering form. The ’08 is a crooning balladeer intent to hold out its best in a graceful lucubration of layered, dark fruit, restrained restlessness and a vision of long life. Put the Dunn away and look to be rewarded 15+ years on with as good a California Cabernet as you will ever taste.  96

3. The Grape: Syrah

Where: Northern Rhône, France

Delas Frères Francois De Tournon Saint-Joseph 2009 (17525, $33.00) is both militaristic and the stuff of gushing Renaissance literature. Serious Syrah and foxy, Faerie Queene.  Cardinal colour, striking and dreamy. Augustinian diplomat meets allegorical fantasy. Crushed berries, truffles caked by earth, sol de la foret. Built of elegance and power, “such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew.”  92

4. The Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Where: Napa Valley, California

Dominus 2008 (212381, $145.95) solicits riposte for parry, to buy or not to buy. The omnipotently voluptuous one resides in a tramontane locale, beyond reach and also the pale. A shocking parade of profound, hyper-purple personality. Even if it suffers “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune“, a lucky man this Dominus, “all dressed in satin,” “nor woman neither.” Colour field shockingly crimson and amarinthine, textured with rich and layered brush stroke, as if Red on Maroon. A Lama, “the flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking.” To me this ’08 leans more Ornellaia than Pétrus.  97

5. The grapes: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignan

Ridge Lytton Springs 2009 (982413, $46.95) will live in infamy like the ’92 and ’99. Immediate waft of freshly shucked vanilla bean. Ambrosial, earthy, briary fruit. Precise distillation inclusive of 23% Petite Sirah results in an impossibly lambent cordial. Not to mention you gotta love that Draper perfume. Open the magazine in 10-15 years time for the best read.  93

6. The grape: Nebbiolo

Where: Piedmont, Italy

Gemma Giblin Riserva Barolo 2005 (185025, $36.95) has begun to brick at the edges. Mouth rosewatering acidity binged by sour cherry and shellac. Wisp of Monte Cristo and withered rose only Barolo can smell of.  This Gemma is beautiful like a turning season, like something you know won’t last. For now and no more than two to three more years.  92

7. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise

Where: Southern Rhône, France

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (711317, $89.95) enters no confected, over-extracted or OTT danger zones. The most floral Beaucastel, a doffing of Stoechas Avignon and the omnipresent Rhône garrigue. Persimmon and lavender share time imparting the wine with fumes from les galets roulés of the argilo-calcaireous vineyard beds. Basic hedonism here from such an extraordinary, complex and balanced blend.  95

8. The grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon

Where: Bordeaux, France

Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2008 (581033, $59.00) is possessive of febrile gooseberry imagination. Blows sweet peach and apricot in and out of the glass in alberge de tours waves. “Hungry like the wolf” and his lycopersicon esculentum. A white PL for the ages.  92

9. The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Ornellaia 2009 (722470, $189.95) is more approachable than the unparalleled 1998. A silky smooth and velvety texture puts super-ripe fruit at the forefront. While that ’98 rocked my world, this vintage offers immediate gratification, less dominating hard lines and edges. The balance is impeccable but the acidity is tempered, like the finest chocolate. The window is open now, though it may soon close, to drink beautifully for the next five years.  94

10. The Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara e Altri Vitigni

Where: Veneto, Italy

Remo Farina Le Pezze Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 (171587, $33.95) underwhelms as a no kicker. Needs no Euro hype nor boozy heft to make itself understood. Modish mocha java speaks fluent huttish, communicating by lingua franca vernacular to the initiated. “Goopta mo bossa!“  92

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries. VINTAGES June 9, 2012: Reds

Tuscany

Most of the reds from these 23 tasting notes are hearty enough to help with the summer BBQ season.

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/11/the-wine-diaries-vintages-june-9-2012-reds/

Dominus Napanook 2008 (212357, $59.95) usually displays more finesse than many Napa Cabernet blends but at $60 the flaws in nuts, bolts and chunks stand out. This was a great $40 “2nd wine.” It was solid at $50. No longer has light in its eyes and yet will sell through by week’s end.  88

Easton Estate Bottled Zinfandel 2004 (281501, $39.95) has seen its glory days but persists as a terrific, lively Zin full of ripe berries, bramble and brush. Shows good depth of fruit but no zinsanity. What an amazing wine the original $23, ’98 was. Looking forward to the dregs of this one setting sale south of $30 later in the summer.  90

Macrostie Pinot Noir 2007 (674911, $24.95) is easy drinking with a nice smile that won’t pick the locks. Sweat lodge of woodsmoke and smouldering evergreen spice notes but certainly won’t make you “weak in the knees,” or land you 30 days in the hole.  A slice of humble pie and a seamless transition from Goat’s Halibut en papilotte to a trio of Strawberry and Rhubarb desserts.  87

Shafer Merlot 2009 (346262, $59.95) will always show its long legs best at 10 years old. A fashionista this Shafer, Napa Merlot incarnate. Olive skin, perfume scent, sculpt make-up and total body tone. Sashays down the runway like a supermodel. Lush and possessed of a masculine-feminine dichotomy.  89

Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (111880, $59.95) the paradigmatic Napa trailrunner is positively derivitive, more Marillion than Genesis. Kicks up progressive breccia and calcite aromas, creating energy and power. Chunky liquid viscocity. This one throws many bits at you; berries, currants, crushed fault rock. Less is more. Builds to a crescendo but “whatever rises eventually falls.”  88

Altos Los Hormigos Reserva Malbec 2008 (678987, $27.95) to taste is like sucking on a fig-flavoured Starburst chew dipped in milk chocolate. Heavy juice and cloying welded purple-red dacite.  85  

Anakena Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (208439, $15.95) nimbly bricks iridian and follows well more serious wines. New and improved new world Pinot order. Eastern spice meets Southern Hemisphere lacquer.  86

Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Merlot 2009 (939827, $19.95) flaunts Syrah like pitch, baked earth and a bounty of spicy seasoning. A world party of Merlot on a ship of fools.  Get too close and the alcohol burns up the nasal passage.  “Save me from tomorrow.”  86

Mayu Carmenère 2009 (90035, $17.95) certainly elevates the bell pepper status of this grape with a smoulder of imported coffee beans roasting over a cedar fire. A welcome Carmenère more toothsome and bursting with vim than one would expect. Also an elegance akin to Elqui Valley Syrah.  88

Oveja Negra The Lost Barrel 2008 (273979, $24.95) symphonizes Aussie nomenclature, avant-garde Spanish (Terra Alta) blending and Chilean vitality. Malodorous maw meets sugarplum pudding on a lissome frame.  87

Mitchell McNicol Shiraz 2003 (278572, $45.95) persists with furvor nine years on. Classic Clare Valley blueberry fruit, anise, licorice and pencil shavings. No holds barred, Mitch funky bass drum leads, fills and jazz fusion. Successful if perhaps not conventional Shiraz.  91

Château D’angludet 2008 (133082, $39.00) plays a game of concentration, coupling coup de couer colour and smokey, berry concentrate. Weaves a balance of fruit and acidity, is a bit closed but should be great. Wait a few years.  89

Château Fourcas-Dumont 2001 (280016, $19.95) is stuck on brett overdrive. “Filtered through a cow’s skivies” notes the E-man.  NR

Domaine Louis Jadot Beaune Les Avaux 1er Cru 2009 (932855, $52.95) seems agitated in early life. Nose out of joint and not liking the body language. Maybe five years will allow the flesh to eat away at the anger.  87

Henri De Villamont Prestige Pinot Noir Bourgogne 2009 (84616, $17.95) represents good value, actually. But again, what’s with the dumbing down, double designation? The Villamont is equilibrious, slight of body but well made and will work for food.  87

Ramosceto Lacrima Di Morra D’alba 2010 (277889, $14.95) is not unlike the garage band sparkling red Lambrusco. Tony is so right. If you close your eyes you could be sniffing Gewurztraminer. The lychee, the white roses, the salve. Not so much my cup this Lacrima.  86

Marziano Abbona Pressenda Barolo 2007 (276584, $43.95) strips down and readies for the pop and pour. Ad hoc muscles rolling, flexed and waning, Pressenda enters into an enlightened stage where “hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste.” Drink alongside a muscle shoal, country-soul-tinged Stones record.  90

Pio Cesare Barbera D’alba 2010 (938886, $19.95) of pungent Caciotta al Tartufo slathered on Melba Toast. Of black cherry cordial, Cointreau, orange zest and fennel biscotti. Grainy tannins. Excellent example. 88

Barone Ricasoli Castelli Di Brolio Chianti Classico 2008 (942607, $59.95) grandstands commodious, extracted chroma for Sangiovese. Gargantuan beak of Rosmarinus officinalis, Frantoio olive and ripe blackberries. Polish, discretion and savvy. Everything under the Tuscan sun and more.  For a current splurge.  91

Poggiotondo Bunello Di Montalcino 2006 (276576, $34.95) gifts yet another sub $35 sub-escarpment Sangiovese Grosso out of the vineyard mouth by Tenuta Pietranera. Stands on nani gigantum humeris insidentes, bespoken of an urban diction. Precocious, fruit forward, gold on the ceiling. Onyx gem in the key of black, “a roar at the door.” An oasis of pleasure for present day consumption.  89

Remo Farina Le Pezze Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 (171587, $33.95) underwhelms as a no kicker. Needs no Euro hype nor boozy heft to make itself understood. Modish mocha java speaks fluent huttish, communicating by lingua franca vernacular to the initiated. “Goopta mo bossa!”  92

Fernández De Piérola Reserva 2004 (270579, $25.95) is an oxidized bottle.  NR

Rioja Bordón Tempranillo Reserva 2006 (194753, $18.95) has zest, zing and bling. A freshmaker for ’06, full of mint and Ibex exudation. Needs three to five years to achieve excellency.  89

Good to go!