Wine gems for your gift list

<em>Photograph by PhotoSG, Fotolia.com</em>

Photograph by PhotoSG, Fotolia.com

The season of giving and consumer spending is fast approaching. Wine sales more than double during the holidays, as does the dollar value spent per bottle. With so many over-valued and under-achieving wines on the market it can be difficult to choose the right gift.

While I have the good fortune to try expensive wines all year round, the number of high-end bottles is so much more prevalent at tastings in the weeks leading up to the year-end break. Here are five gems to look for when shopping for holiday gifts.

Wine gems for your gift list

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: Regal king of Piedmont

The lowdown: The ’07’s continue to impress. Perhaps the best Ascheri Barolo I have tasted to date

The food match: Bourbon Java Steak Tips

Ascheri Pisapola Barolo 2007 (739920, $42.95) will not be punished for unremarkable rust and rusticity. Barolo as it should be, disciplined and indoctrinated in the ways of the Nebbioli. Black licorice meets unsweetened cherry and a whiff of cigar smoke. Double Z notes “if you say silky or velvety your palate is mistaken.” Proper, wicked, excellent.  91-92 (From the VINTAGES November 24th, 2012 Release)

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: If Burgundy is your game, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is the closest second

The lowdown: From a blend of some of Oregon’s greatest vineyard sites & appellations

The food match: Yukon Gold Potato Poutine, turkey gravy, fior di latte

Bergström Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (255935, $49) shimmers red rubies in the glass and emanates as a study in Oregon geology. Colorful silicic material is expressed as strawberry cola, ripe and caramelizing. Even at 14.1% the Cumberland remains elegant and balanced by thunderegg, spherical characteristics and tempered acidity.  9192 (From The VINTAGES May 2012 Classics Catalogue)

The grape: Shiraz

The history: Success measured by billions of dollars in the land of OZ

The lowdown: So often jamming beyond control, once in a while there comes along a Hermitage ringer

The food match: Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Pork Ribs, tomatillo vinegar, chipotle chile glaze

Elderton Neil Ashmead GTS Grand Tourer Shiraz 2009 (271486, $65) named after and produced in honour of Elderton’s co-founder, the GTS is a crushed berry beauty with raven highlights. Kirsch cordial in a cedar mansion dreaming of the Hermitage hills. This Barossa Road Warrior drives in at 14%, takes turns with speed, alternating between northern Rhone peppery, smoked meat and Barossa berries. Leaves the vineyard’s Command in its dust.  92-93 (From The VINTAGES May 2012 Classics Catalogue)

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: The Grosso of Montalcino is still so often undervalued

The lowdown: When Brunello under $50 is this good it should not be dismissed

The food match: Wild Mushroom Ravioli, wild boar ragu, truffle oil

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 (650812, $49) has so much cure “there’s a meat hook in my heart.” Carbon driven molecular complexity of dense, red brick cherry liqueur. Butchery core, clove perfume and late snare attack. 92-93 (From The VINTAGES Shop On Line October 4th, 2012 Release)

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Jerome Quiot’s domain is named for the  “Lazarists” who in the 17th century had a hospice for old, poor and disabled

The lowdown: This is Châteauneuf at the height of lush with so much minerality you might think you have a mouth full of rocks

The food match: Simmered Coq-Au-Vin, roasted root vegetables, buttered salsify

Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Exceptionnelle 2007 (957274, $55) will pop at the open when it appears online November 15th. The pinkish-maroon hue actually deepens with time spent swirled. Lithospheric rheology and isostatic behaviour befitting the appellation puts graphite, earth and pine forest at the forefront. Tremendous length and potential. Exceptionnelle93-94 (From The VINTAGES Shop On Line November 15th, 2012 Release)

Good to go!

Ten best buys from the October 15th LCBO sale

File photograph, National Post

as seen on canada.com

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!

VINTAGES Classics, May 2012 – Six “values” under $69

 VINTAGES Classics May 2012 

April 30, 2012

VINTAGES 

 

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/30/vintages-classics-may-2012-six-values-under-69/?postpost=v2#content

 

The bi-annual fine wine catalogue is “free to those that can afford it, very expensive to those that can‘t.” Have been burning the midnight must, wondering from which discretion inspiration will come, trying to forge a splurge decision on a $100+ icon. A Bouchard or Dublere Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru? Champy Mazis-Chambertin GC? Beaucastel Hommage or CDP Blanc? Messorio, Clos Mogador, Quintarelli Alzero? What about the Vérité Le’s and La’s? Head shake as if oscillating, eye-level hung boxing punch bag. Have now come to my senses. Presenting a shortlist of six under $69.

 

Rex Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (275735, $39) quiet, honest and of a certified sustainable winery represents the best fruit from prized vineyard sources situated around Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It has been said and may be true that early on some vintages at Rex Hill were more promise than delivery. Notes on the 2009 swing the pendulum in this outfit’s favour, “…just a lot of depth and flavor for the money,” “…loquacious and slightly acidic, yet well behaved” and “…focused, satiny and elegant.” Released at $48 US, prices hovered around the $30 mark last summer and if you were to find it now, the average price nets over$40 US.

Rex Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2009

Rex Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009 (119081, $45) gumshoes while the iconic Littorai and Sea Smoke divert attention. Comfortably comparative, unrestrictive $10-15 tag versus our neighbours to the south. Make no mistake, this is deeply hued, 14.4% ABV Sonoma Pinot. Resides in that not yet greedy, none too precious wheelhouse once inhabited by Kosta Browne. Matthew Jukes says the Hobbs RRV owns an “…innate understanding of the celestial Pinot form.” The Scores are RP (92) , WS (91)JR-ST (90) and CT’s (91).

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009

                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poderi Colla Roncaglie Barbaresco 2007 (715763, $49) totes Cru vineyard status and reminds me that Barbareschi offer some of the greatest $50 value. A tangerine site the Roncaglie, “she is my queen,” producing a shimmering wine with Nebbiolo country flourish. Galloni (94+) is joined by Kyle Phillips (**)Michael Franz (93)  and Monica Larner (91) on the butter pat.

Colla Roncaglie Barb 2007

Colla Roncaglie Barb 2007

 

Von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon Post Vineyard 2006 (261982, $65) will fill the “going to California with an aching in my heart” hole in my current wine voyage life. A hovering Zeppelin of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon replete with Left bank lead blown by Pacific winds over Diamond Mountain. Mr. Laube at WS (82) is the sole detracting critical voice so skim his dis off the bottom, along with the (96) hyperbole from W & S, from off the top. The middle ground notes black fruit, high, coarse tannins and a wooden depth of flavour. Priced and continuing to sell near the $75 US mark so a steal by VINTAGES, California standards. Here some more critical thought from WE (93), WN (92), RJ (91), Vinography (9-9.5) and the CT’s (91).

Von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon Post Vineyard 2006

Von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon Post Vineyard 2006

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Serena Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 (149583, $69) the highly clicked Sangiovese will clog the Classics queues. The (97) from Spectator guarantees a lottery effect. A child might ask, “what’s so special about this wine, what’s its magic?” If Brunello is your thing, you have to put in a ballot. Oh Serena, “when I come to lie in your arms, you should not treat me like a stranger.”

La Serena Brunello Di Montalcino 2006

La Serena Brunello Di Montalcino 2006

                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delas Frères Domaine Des Tourettes Hermitage 2009(91652, $69) will be the singularly most requested wine of mortal value from this catalogue. Robert Parker rated it (98). Drop me a line if your ticket comes in.

Delas Frères Domaine Des Tourettes Hermitage 2009

Delas Frères Domaine Des Tourettes Hermitage 2009

Other Wines of Note:

LOUIS JADOT CHEVALIER-MONTRACHET LES DEMOISELLES GRAND CRU 2008 (261032, $399)

JOSEPH DROUHIN MONTRACHET MARQUIS DE LAGUICHE GRAND CRU 2007 (670323, $675)

DELAS FRÈRES LA LANDONNE CÔTE-RÔTIE 2009 (92197, $149)

DELAS FRÈRES LES BESSARDS HERMITAGE 2009 (92205, $149)

PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ HERMITAGE LA CHAPELLE 2009 (973735, $255)

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL HOMMAGE À JACQUES PERRIN CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2009 (985622, $325)

DOMAINE DE LA JANASSE CHAUPIN CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2009 (940379, $85)

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL VIEILLES VIGNES CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE BLANC 2009 (596098, $159)

PENFOLDS GRANGE 2006  (279695, $499)

 

 

Good to go!