Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vintages Release - March 5, 2011

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on tomorrow’s release because I don’t think there’s anything really exciting here, although there is one really good buy. The release focuses on wines from Argentina, Chile and Northern Italy, but these are really lesser known producers and I wasn’t terribly impressed by the ones I tried.


The Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2010 ($15.95) from New Zealand is back. This producer always does a good job, and while I would normally go with an Ontario Riesling (Riesling is one of the things Ontario does well), this wine represents such good value that it’s impossible to ignore. This wine is a bit more herbaceous than an Ontario riesling, but with lemon zest, and lots of mineral, and just a touch of trademark diesel. Serve with spicy northern Chinese or Thai food.

Also from New Zealand, the Astrolabe Voyage Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($21.99) is back. I think it’s a couple of dollars over-priced, but it’s a very refreshing, unique sauvignon with gooseberry, mineral, guava, and passion fruit, and some background citrus. It has great mouth feel and a long finish, and will work well on its own, or with virtually any seafood.

This was not a great release for chardonnays. I liked the Concha y Toro Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2007 ($19.95) from Chile, but it wasn’t a classic chardonnay and was only the best of a mediocre bunch. It’s quite lean, a little creamy, with some vanilla, mineral, oak and tropical fruit. It would do well with chicken or shellfish.

The Bernard Reverdy et Fils Sancerre 2009 ($22.95) from the Loire was good, but is a bit over-priced. Expect a rich sauvignon blanc with lots of citrus (lemon/lime and grapefruit), mineral notes and a racy finish. Good with soft cheese, or on its own.


The wine to buy in this release as far as I’m concerned is the Mas des Bressades Cuvée Tradition 2009 ($14.95) from the Rhone. Year after year, this producer delivers great value with well-made wine at a great price. Expect blueberry, candied plum, vanilla and black current on this chewy offering, that sports a long finish, and lots of gusto. A great burger wine, but will work well with meat sauce.

Burgundy lovers should cotton to the Maison Roche de Bellene Veilles Vignes Cotes de Nuit-Villages 2008 ($24.95). This is a relatively light, very well balanced wine with lots of beetroot, some cooked cherry and spice, and a surprisingly long finish. It’s priced well as compared to most burgundies. Serve, very slightly cooled, with a pork or chicken dish.

It’s easy to find a good Bordeaux, but hard to find a good one under $20. The Chateau Clement Saint-Jean 2006 just slips in under at $19.95, but it’s the first south of $20 bordeaux I’ve felt comfortable recommending in some time. It’s a slightly lighter style, with a complex palate of earth, cedar, leather, Christmas cake and black plum, and a hint of forest floor. Vintages describes it as austere, but I don’t agree. I think it’s very ready, but it is bone dry. Serve with lean beef or hard cheese.

Regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t recommended an Australian shiraz in some time. That’s because most of the ones I’ve seen lately have either been over-priced or too plummy. I’m a fan of shiraz done well, but I don’t like wines that come across as fruit bombs, with no structure. The Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz 2008 ($19.95) came as a very pleasant surprise. There’s big fruit, with a nose of lavender and black current, and cherry, spice and cassis, and a long finish, but most of all there’s structure so that you can distinguish the opening from the (slightly glycerol) finish. Would work really well with a sweet, sparerib sauce.

It’s not easy to find a good California cabernet under $20, but the Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($19.95) fills the bill. This wine comes from the Alexander Valley (just slightly north-west of Napa) which produces some lovely wines. This is a soft, ready wine with spice and well-integrated black fruit, supple tannins and notes of vanilla. The finish goes on and on. Serve with a decent steak or cheese.

Saint Patrick's Day

I don't claim to have any great expertise on scotch or irish whiskies but, with St. Patrick's Day coming up, I thought I'd mention that my friend Marc introduced me to by far the best Irish whiskey I'd ever had. It's a Knappogue Castle 1995 and the LCBO, alas, doesn't carry it. But if you can find it (I think he got it at a duty-free in the U.S.) buy it. And get me a bottle too.

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